Thursday, January 24, 2019

#OneWord2019 - Anew

anew: in a new or different form

I have been watching and reading for years now everyone's #OneWord. I love seeing how someone can hone their focus on just one word for an entire year and how that one word ecapsulates so many things. The word people use seems to fit perfectly with their current situation and flows seamlessly from one year to the next. Take for example, my friend Sarah Johnson's #OneWord2019: Slay. It fits seamlessly with her #OneWord 2018: Rise. How does one do this?

I have been struggling through personal and professional challenges throughout most of 2018. I was feeling pretty good so far this 2019 until last night. Lots came crashing down o me as I lay in front of the fire crying. I hadn't had a day like this in quite a while (weeks is a while for me). What was I to do? Then one word came to me: anew. That's it! Anew. According to Merriam Webster's dictionary, it means in a new or different form. I could rise the next day anew; start new and fresh. I did just that with a 5 mile run, with friends, in freshly fallen snow.

I am working through all kinds of different forms this year. My relationships have changed, my professional career is changing, my housing situation is taking a massive new form (renovation on a budget anyone?). So not only are the various roles I take changing on a large scale, but daily I can change and start new and different. My mindset is powerful and this can guide me through all these uncharted waters.


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Building a Literate Community

Our building is in year two of coming together to determine our reading beliefs. We began this process by using the guidance of Regie Routman in her book Read, Write, Lead.  

In her book she states that, "Coming together as a whole school around shared literacy beliefs and learning is a highly overlooked and undervalued endeavor." We had all staff fill out her beliefs sheet and gathered the results. After that, we brought the top 6 ideas back to staff and had them give us feedback again. We came up with one belief that we all could get behind. Regie says that, "At first it is not unusual for a staff to come to agreement on only one or two beliefs about reading and writing." We were so glad she said this, because we might have been quite discouraged. You can see our belief in the above poster. 

(Matt Renwick has also done this work with his building, and you can read about some it here).

This year, we are trying to encourage the love of reading both in our staff and in our students. We have picture books placed in strategic places for teachers to see: in the workroom, by the copier, by the paper cutter. 

The reading department also started giving book talks around picture books at staff meetings.

Two teachers in our building have started #classroombookaday, inspired by Donalyn Miller and Jillian Heise. They both said  how much love they see in their kids around reading and how this has built such a solid community in their classrooms.

I have also decided to make my reading life more visible to staff and students. I posted pictures of the covers of the books I have read on my door (fire hazard). I want my students to see that I am a reader too!

Our next step is to start discussing what instructional practices match our beliefs. Regie states that, "Instructional priorities begin to shift as staff members gradually come together around shared beliefs." I look forward to this work.

What have you done to develop your beliefs around literacy?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Slice of Life Tuesday #sol18

Winter Nature

My favorite place....all seasons, but especially in winter. Newly fallen snow, crisp sound of the snowshoes, heavy breathing in my chest. Thankful for the opportunity to push my fitness limits, take in my surroundings, and take 30 minutes to myself.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Small group Writing

This summer I attended the Writing Summer Institute. Lucy Calkins was my large group leader and Katie Clements was my small group leader. In both sessions, my thinking was pushed around what small group writing can look like. I shared this information with teachers this month in our literacy PD time.

Strategy lessons: allow you to bring a variety of writers on different levels with a common need, includes all students; taught in targeted ways and push the writers to be independent.

Image result for small group writing

Small Group (Lucy & Katie)
    • 2-3 small groups and 3-4 conferences a day
    • 5-8 min long
    • Brief connection (30sec-1min), where you explain why we’ve gather & Name the teaching point
      • Teacher says, “I’ve called you together because I want to teach you something that is really going to help you.” Here is something for you to do (look at 3 endings and see what these authors are doing) Teacher says about 3 sentences and then gets kids to work.
      • You rally them and then send them off to work. “Get started!” “Good luck!”
    • Teach: (1-2 min)don’t always use demonstration-not your go-to, think about what level of scaffolding the kids need, consider teaching method, maybe have an old anchor chart ready, or mentor text to use
    • Guided Practice: (7 min) coaching, students try the work as the teachers watches: the work is visible. Set Ss up with a lot to do (NOT: find one place...INSTEAD: read your whole piece looking for…) Wait to coach in until ALL are doing some work.
      •  Then T coaches in. Watch-Shove. “Don’t forget to do…”
      • Coaching, not conferring (30-45 sec)
      • Accept approximations
    • Link: (1min) restate the TP, might say when we follow up

 We then watched videos to see this in action.

Grades K-2

Grades 3-5
4th grade #4 writing workshop beginning to 6:34 (this is a gold mine for using with intermediate teachers, you could watch small groups, conferring, mid-workshop teaching point and share time…I wish there was one for primary).

With our intermediate teachers, I also reminded them of having writing seminars, which I explained with the help of this post from Two Writing Teachers.

 Our teachers then began the work of looking across student work to determine appropriate groupings.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Conferring with a focus on the writer, not the writing.

Our monthly literacy PD time this month was focused on conferring around narrative writing. We began the time by reflecting on how narrative writing changes as we move up the grades. Teachers shared what they noticed and commented on how beneficial it was to see the different levels of writing in one space.

Then we jumped into conferring. This summer Katie Clements was my small group leader at the summer writing institute. She immersed us in practicing our conferring language to focus on the writer, not the writing.

During a writing conference, we are not telling students how to “fix” their writing or what they should or should not do to make this particular piece better. Rather, we are aiming to teach them a transferable strategy they might use in any similar piece of writing. Give tips and teaching points that could push writers in all kinds of writing.

I used writing samples from the Units of Study, as well as, our teacher’s own student samples to practice this work. We reviewed the moves in a writing conference: Research, Decide, Teach, Link;  then we shared our compliment and our teaching point.

We looked in the If…Then book to help revise our teaching point to ensure it moves the writer forward, not just this piece of writing. For example:

Instead of…

Your ending just drops off. You should tell more about how the boy felt when he found his mom.

Sometimes it seems like your ending just trail off, and they aren’t as powerful as they could be because of that. Writers know that the ending of a story is the last thing with a reader will be left. Today, I want to teach you one tip for writing an ending that is particularly powerful. Writers ask, “What is this story really about?” Once they have the answer, they add dialogue, internal thinking, descriptive detail or a small action that ties back to the true meaning.
Instead of…

You should reread to add paragraphs.

A paragraph is a signal to our reader. It says, “Halt! Take a tiny break. Do you understand what is going on here? OK, keep going.” It alerts your reader to changes in scenes or new dialogue. I want to teach you that writers use paragraphs to indicate a new time event, a new place, a new time or when a new character speaks.
Calkins, Lucy. (2013) If…Then…Curriculum: Assessment-Based Instruction. Heinemann. Portsmouth, NH.

Our teachers took turns rephrasing their conferring language to mirror language from the If…Then book so that we were pushing the writer and not just fixing the writing.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Planning & Reading MiniLessons

Once a month our elementary teachers meet with me as I help facilitate new learning around literacy.  Our building goal is centered around writing this year. To help support this goal, I am centering the new learning around writing, in particular, around the new learning I experienced out at Teacher's College this summer.

My small group leader, Katie Clements shared with us a way to get teacher's to plan a 10 minute minilesson in 10 minutes. As some of you might know, the lessons in the Units of Study books can be very long, as they are designed to have professional development embedded right in them. This can be overwhelming for teachers, though. When listening to Lucy Calkins this summer, she said if you take 60 minutes to plan a 10 minute lesson, it really is  not going to be 5x better than if you spent only 10 minutes. I completely agree, but how could this really be done in a time efficient manner? 

I walked our teacher's through the same process Katie walked us through. 
  • First you spend about 1-2 minutes reading the teaching point. It is crucial that you know the what and the how of the lesson before you plan.
  • The next 5 minutes are spend getting the flow of the lesson. How does it start? Will you gather students or have them stay at their desks? Will they need to be by their partner? If you do gather, what will they need to bring? How does the teaching go? How will the active engagement go? What will be the link?
  • The third step is to rewrite the lesson teaching point, if  necessary. This takes 1-3 minutes. I find this is rarely going to be the case, as the teaching points in the Unit of Study books are so crystal clear. However, our 5th grade teachers found that in one of their  narrative lessons, the teaching point asked students to use both foreshadowing and flashbacks. They found this was too much at once for their students and crafted two minilessons, one for each literary technique.
  • Lastly, spend time filling in any parts you might need (1-2 min). Do you need to cross out parts? Add in more authentic language to make it sound more like yourself? Bring in some of your own examples?

We spend 30  minutes together during this month's literacy PD time. Our teachers' picked a partner. They each chose to plan an upcoming lesson, in succession. They then taught each other the lesson to try it out. Most teachers were very pleased to have two lessons planned and have heard the language in this short time. They now have a strategy to be efficient in planning their writing lessons.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Summer Writing Institute: Grammar!

I attended Mary Ehrenworth’s choice session on Grammar! Demonstrations, Inquiries, and Extravaganzas. This session was packed and the energy was high. I know, right? High energy around grammar?! I think we were all excited and anticipating some words of wisdom from Mary, as she invests herself in this topic and has written about it.
Image result for powerful grammar by mary ehrenworth

The session began by Mary sharing with us some recent research around the Stages of Grammar Acquisition.

Stages of Grammar Acquisition
  • Recognition: very unlikely students will do things in writing they have not said orally or seen in text
    • Spoken, lots of power in our spoken languguage especially if it mirrors academic language as this builds academic capital. Think about the words you are using in your oral interactions with students.
    • Read aloud, literary language is very complex, and the way to boost this in our kids is to read aloud.
      • 80% of the words you know are learned by the time you are 6
      • Social Language is very simple. It lacks sentence structure
    • Independent Reading
      • Sometimes a grammar acquisition deficit is really a reading problem
  • Approximation
    • Ss will be in this stage the entire time they are with you. This is a new concept to me, as I think I am always looking for mastery.
    • This is where students will be doing “it” with support.
    • Embrace this (ex. 1st graders use end punctuation in narrative, but not in information because that got hard). This also aligned with what Cornelious Minor told us about kids using technology. Their cognitive load is focused on learning the technology, therefore, some writing moves may slide.
    • Sometimes we fix this with damaging fixes. Ouch!
  • Mastery
    • You will know by looking at their on-demand writing. Simulates high stakes writing.
    • What are they beginning to master more? Look for this as your students continue to grow and move out of approximations.
  • Slippage
    • Process of learning and unlearning happening at the same time. What? This actually happens.
  • Code Switching
    • For example, 5th graders unlearn how to see “i” is not capitalized. The code for capitalizing I has been rewritten.

Some more about slippage and code switching...

Encoding: This is how we spell. It is the patterning in our brain, as our brain remembers the thousands of times we have seen a word. It cycles through these times and then retrieves what it believes to be the correct spelling.
Where this can be a problem is when you show students two examples of something as they learn, but only one is right. Now there brain encodes this. (think DOL). Now think of this in math. Would we do this as students begin to learn multiplication? Circle which is right: 2 x 4 = 8 or 2 x 4 = 10.  Now both are encoded in those students’ brains.

Fragmentation: You unlearn it. Wow. I had no idea.
For example, by 3rd grade, students have sight words spelled right. The knowledge of sight word spelling goes down after that. Students unlearn them. Mary suggests that you have students reprogram their phones to not allow “bcc”, make sure it is “because”. Have their phone automatically make the “i” capital.

Next she moved into spelling.

Types of Spelling Work
  • High Frequency Words
    • Said, their, because (use word instead of gdocs, because it is proprietary)
  • Spelling patterns
    • Words their way, initial consonants, final consonants, short vowel, lack of transfer when they don’t find those words in their reading and writing
  • Technical Vocabulary (Iroquois, Constitution, Photosynthesis)

Mary said that spelling is important, but it is not correlated to intelligence.

Lastly Mary asked us to consider our attitudes towards grammar. Then shared some methods.

  • Demonstration: Do this with any grammar that is worth a writing workshop lesson.
  • Inquiry: This is for things that are interesting, but not good for a writing lesson.
    • Do this in revision stage, in the same genre they are writing in.
    • Use mentor texts, for example where dialogue tags go.
      • Frog & Toad, Invisible Stanley, anything by Cynthia Rylant
    • Inquiry Center: use real books, don’t photocopy, as Ss need to see they can find them on their own
    • Do this for 20 min, then have Ss look in their own writing and try it out.
  • Interludes & Extravaganzas
    • Grammar boot camp, maybe with 2-3 days left before a break
    • Ss choose something they want to study, they make teaching tools for other kids.
Mary had a group of kids study this video as a mentor for how they wanted to teach homophone.

Don't worry about teaching the technology, the students will figure this out. It can be a highly motivating  way for students to be in charge of their own grammar learning.

She encouraged us to think about grammar minilessons, and also think about the ways we would teach those grammar lessons with our colleagues. You could use this as your guide, or rearrange it, or add or delete items. This is important work to do with your teams.

This session was so full of amazing information. Mary moved through it so fast, as she tried to give us as much as she could in the short amount of time we had. I hope my reflection did it justice.