Saturday, February 6, 2016

Calling Them Out or Lifting Their Voice?

Until you know me, I'm a bit quiet.  Of course, I'm not sure my friends who know me well would ever say that about me.  The larger the group, the less I know the people, the more foreign the topic, the more likely I am to stay quiet.  We have students in our classroom who are the same way.  There are students who prefer a conversation one-on-one.  There are students who might, just might, talk in a small group.  There are students who don't feel comfortable sharing in a large group.

Recently I stumbled upon Alfie Kohn's article:  "Your Hand's Not Raised?  Too Bad:  I'm Calling on You Anyway."  In his article, Kohn makes the argument that calling on students who haven't volunteered is "a way to shame a kid."  As with all of Kohn's thinking, it really made me stop and ponder for a bit.  There are students who never wish to talk in a large group, and there are a variety of reasons why this might be so.  Should we just call on students who offer participation or those who are so interested that they just shout out their thinking to the group?  I'm not so sure...  

Calling on students who haven't "volunteered" is a tricky business.  We have to really know our students and no child should ever feel pressured or put on the spot.  I've had students I would never have called on in the large group.  These are the students I knew an eye glance or a quiet conversation later always seemed a more comfortable way to talk about our learning.  These are students I was always ready for the moment I knew I needed to listen.  The reasons students don't participate are many.  I'm guessing, as well, these may differ if you are 6, 12, or 16.  Students don't participate for a variety of reasons:  disengagement (sorry, Alfie, I know there's probably a better word), confusion, shyness, and feelings of not belonging only touch the surface of reasons why they may not participate.  

For a minute, however, let's think about the other side of this coin.  Let's think about those students who are rarely heard in our learning communities.  Let's understand we must really know our students here.  We do really need to think hard about the reasons a child may not be participating.  Let's agree that we must work hard to build strong communities that support one another: where listening and turn taking are essential practices.  Let's note Kohn's point that no child should ever be "forced" to join a conversation.  

However, for a minute, let's also ask ourselves about those quiet students who get lost in the sea of voices who push to rise to the top.  Let's, just for a minute, agree that their voices matter too.  In looking at different perspectives on calling on students Kohn adds, "A smiling, 'gentle invitation' ('Chris? I notice you haven't spoken for awhile. Would you like to chime in here?')—and periodic reassurances that anyone may choose to pass at any time—is completely different from a nonnegotiable demand that everyone must answer."  A few months ago I started working with a small group for interactive writing.  There were a few students unfamiliar to me, and Bella was one of them.  She didn't make much eye contact with me and didn't seem comfortable joining our discussions.  Other students monopolized our discussion and I'm not sure she could have entered the conversation if she would have tried.  I would talk with her briefly by herself as she came and went.  Eventually she would come whisper her thoughts in my ear and agree that I could share them.  Each day I noticed she worked harder and grew a bit more comfortable.  We'd smile knowingly at each other.  I'd quietly comment or gesture toward something she was attempting.  Now - every once in awhile - she is sharing her thinking with her peers and I love to see how quiet they get to listen to her.  I think this careful work helped her to know what she had to say mattered and helped to lift her voice.  

There is reason to pause as we read this article and think about the learning community we are nurturing.  He reminds us, "Ideally, moving beyond hand-raising or cold-calling is part of an ongoing project of creating a democratic, caring classroom community, one in which students are helped to feel a sense of belonging and given continuous opportunities to make decisions, individually and collectively."  I love the vision of first graders requesting responses from one another without my insertion into the conversation.  Maybe someday I'll get there.  (I really appreciate the work of Peter Johnston's in Opening Minds as I think about helping students develop agency, building dynamic learning frames,  and building strong communities.  See a few quotes at the bottom of this post.)  I agree with Kohn that students should really own conversations and their voices should be heard more than mine.  However, I'll continue to consider his assertion that calling on students who haven't volunteered is not something we should do.  I feel we have an obligation to gently nurture our communities to allow equal value of every child's thoughts in our classrooms.  

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Join February's Nonfiction Picture Book Event #nf10for10

Our February Nonfiction Event
The calendar just marches on!  It's hard to believe it is already time for February's Nonfiction Picture Book 10 for 10 event (#nf10for10).  This year will be our 4th annual nonfiction event.  I know I'm excited to see the selections and posts about favorite nonfiction titles.

The event will be Friday, February 19th (because 1 + 9 is 10...yes, I know the one is in the tens place, but let's play along with it).  For me, this is always a book gap filling event.  Each year it seems there is a greater emphasis on nonfiction picture books for young readers.  I'm always working to catch up on these titles.  Events like the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge (#nfpb2016) hosted each Wednesday by Aly Beecher, help me to learn more about these books.  For me, our February 19th community picture event, brings to the front some "must have" nonfiction titles for young readers.

Here are a few examples from past participants:

About #nf10for10
In 2010 Mandy Robek and I hosted our first picture book event.  In 2013, Julie Balen suggested we add a nonfiction picture book event that worked the same.  Participants choose 10 - well, usually 10 (they're a crafty bunch) - nonfiction picture books to share.  On the day of the event, we'll ask that you visit the Google Community site to add your nonfiction link to the 2016 #nf10for10 tab.  We will also suggest that you leave the link on one of our blogs in the comment section, just in case we have to move again.
  • What:  10 nonfiction picture books you can't live without.
  • Hashtag:  #nf10for10
  • Who:  Anyone interested --- educators, media specialists, librarians, parents, and book lovers.  
  • When:  Thursday, February 19th
  • Where:  All posts will be linked on the 2016 #nf10for10 page of our Picture Book 10 for 10 Google Community Site.  
Start sorting through your collections to find your favorite titles and join us in one month as we share 10 nonfiction picture books we just can't live without.  Feel free to grab the #nf10for10 button and spread the word.  

In the meantime, please feel free to browse our home.  Send a request to join our community.  If you have participated in the past, we'd love it if you would add your old posts to the correct tab in the community.  We are hoping to recreate the resources the best we can.  

Sunday, January 10, 2016

DigiLit Sunday: Join the Digital Maker Playground...Reader Response Focused

I'm curled up on the couch by my sliding glass doors watching a rainy snowy mix fall to the ground.  I pull my blanket a little more tightly around me as the wind outside whistles.  This is the perfect day to play on the playground.


Have I gone crazy?

This is the perfect day to play on, not any playground but, the Digital Maker Playground.  The playground opens January 19th and we're hoping you'll join us.  The Digital Maker Playground isn't your typical professional development opportunity.  Instead it is a place where learners join together from around the globe virtually to consider, and work through, the new possibilities in literacy thanks to digital spaces.  This opportunity allows you to work from wherever you'd like, in times that work best for your schedule, while still connecting with others around a common goal.

Last year, as we explored digital tools, this virtual space hosted learners from around the world.  Our community includes members from states such as Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maine and Wisconsin.  We were fortunate to have friends join us from Australia as well.  The playground is open to members around the world.

Our Focus:  Reader Response
This year, I'm once again hosting the Digital Maker Playground (#P2Lmooc) with Julie Johnson.  Our focus on the Digital Maker Playground will be around reader response.  We're looking forward to digging into reader response to deepen our understanding and open our eyes to new possibilities for our students.  It seems reading used to be an act of solitude, but digital tools and spaces have opened new possibilities for readers to extend their thinking beyond the text and connect with other readers.

There are four makes in this year's session, followed by time for reflection on reader response.  There is roughly two weeks between each make.  A focus will be selected for each make and community members will be asked to play around and respond digitally to a text.  Participants will have about two weeks to complete each make.  All digital artifacts will be shared in the Google community.

You Might Want to Know:

We hope to see you on the playground!

*Hilliard City School educators can receive credit for this course.  Sign in on PD Express.  If you have questions, please contact Julie or me.  

As part of a continuous collaboration among educators interested in digital learningMargaret Simon hosts a weekly Digital Learning round-up on her blog:  DigiLit Sunday.  Stop by Reflections on the Teche.  

Sunday, January 3, 2016

DigiLit Sunday: Organizing Google's "Shared with Me" Drive

Dear Google Gurus,

Today's post is a call for help.  

In the last several years, I've become a Google fan.  I honestly can't imagine life without Google (shhh, don't tell them).  My favorite piece of the Google family is Google Drive.  I love its capabilities.  It's been a long time since I word processed something on my computer based software.  Google Documents give me the ability to create, collaborate, and organize my documents.  I appreciate the ability to work with others and to receive feedback on my documents.  I appreciate the ease of sharing and the flexibility in making documents private, limited, or public.  I appreciate being able to go back in the history to look at revisions.  

However, any trip into my shared folder makes me crazy.  The longer you use Google drive the harder it becomes as documents upon documents pile up in a long list.  I've learned to organize my personal documents into folders in my personal drive, but seem to have little control in what others send to me.  Additionally, I always worry about messing up someone's document.  

I know someone out there has already solved this problem.  I'm hoping you'll share the answers with me.  
  • How do you handle documents that are shared with you?
  • How can I organize my shared drive?
  • Do I have any ability to tag, sort, move, or delete?
Please help!  


As part of a continuous collaboration among educators interested in digital learningMargaret Simon hosts a weekly Digital Learning round-up on her blog:  DigiLit Sunday.  Stop by Reflections on the Teche.  

Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Favorite 2015 Posts

Yesterday I shared the reader favorites of 2015.  Today I thought I'd highlight my favorite posts of 2015.  Here are a ten posts you might have missed:

Growing Independent Learning Time with Our Youngest Readers:  How do we grow the amount of time our youngest readers are able to sustain independent reading?   This post discusses some ways we can work to grow this time for primary readers.

Close Reading with Primary Children:  I always catch my breath a bit when someone says "close reading with primary children."  I'm continually wrestling with whether this is an appropriate practice for our youngest of readers who still need to feel the words singing in their ears.  I'm continually wrestling with how much we slow reading down for those who are still trying to make figure out print.  We have to be careful with our youngest readers who are still finding their way into the world of literacy.  What do these readers need to know about reading closely?  What does it look like for our youngest readers?

Shared Reading in the First Days and ALWAYS:  Sometimes in our busy teaching worlds, we can overlook the power of shared experience.  Shared reading still has much possibility and provides new opportunities for supporting readers.

Reader's Workshop:  Listening for the Gems:  Ever start a lesson and you weren't really sure where you were going exactly?  Ever think, I want students to know this --- but what is the language we need?  When this happens, I like to throw things out to the students who seem to continually come through with the gems that help us to continue to move forward.

Intervention and Classroom Instruction:  Side by Side:  Supporting readers in their classrooms has opened new doors for students, but it also comes with many new questions.  What does working side by side in classrooms with students who need intervention look like?  What works?  What do we need to remember?

Keep It Moving:  Moving around our classroom during learning times is essential.  This post talks about the benefits of teachers moving to students instead of having students come to them.

Before They Arrive:  This post might be worth a reread as we come back from a break.  What are the things we need to think about --- and maybe rethink about --- to set up strong learning environments?

Digital Tools:  New Possibilities for Assessment:  How has assessment changed because of digital tools?

Have a Core of Apps:  Getting started with technology?  Choose a "core" of apps to help take those first steps.

Keeping Small Group Notes in Evernote:  I'm still working through the challenge of keeping small group notes in Evernote.  Here's one way I've discovered to keep track of small group instruction.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Building Reading Cultures: Our Reading Ambassadors

November books we were reading.
C looks at me and inquires, "Can I make a book recommendation for the news?"

"That's a great idea," I agree wondering how in the world we will accomplish it.  To make matters more complicated, we had less than fifteen minutes left in our meeting.

I can tell by the look in her eyes that C, a quiet fifth grader, already has a plan.  Walking to the computer I log into my VoiceThread account.  C sits down, pushes the video button, holds up her book, and records a recommendation for The City of Ember by Dallas Middaugh.

Before the meeting is over, she has placed her review in the news and helped two younger students create their own book recommendations.

Reading Ambassadors
Since moving from a classroom to working as a reading intervention teacher I've had to rethink community.  I've had to move from thinking about my classroom community to considering the school community.  Last year, I hosted a Slice of Life club in March for first through fifth grade writers who wanted to step up to the challenge to write everyday for a month.  I joined the first grade team in hosting Poetry Place for our school community in April.

This year I decided our school needed a group of students to inspire readers.  Students applied for the position of Reading Ambassador.  I wanted a group of students that would keep the book buzz going around school.  I also wanted a group that had readers who were already committed to reading and a few that were on their way.  From our applicants, I selected one student from each class in grades 1-5 to represent their peers.  We meet two times each month after school and help with reading events in our school.   Our meetings always begin with --- you guessed it --- reading.  We read for a few minutes, share our books, and then get busy with the business at hand.

Some of our projects include:

  • Growing our reading lives (talk about books we're reading, keeping book lists, etc.).
  • Building the buzz about books.
  • VoiceThread book reviews for our school news.
  • Creating reading posters.
  • Making book trailers.
  • Building a blog with our sister school for book recommendations.
  • Recommending books in our library for other readers.
  • Supporting our "free little library" in front of our school. 
  • In January we'll be working with our media specialist to get ready for the upcoming Caldecott Award announcement.

Readers as Leaders
During our first meeting in October, I decided to ask the students what they thought an ambassador should do and their ideas were amazing.  They had much better suggestions than I would have ever thought of myself.  In a recent blog post:  Going Schoolwide with Reading Engagement, Matt Renwick, reminds us that students have to have ownership in these groups.  His metaphor, "I know what to do with the new marker:  When ready, hand it over to students," is essential to remember.  

When C took over the computer I had no idea how we would make recommendations work, but in the push of a button she was able to lead us through the tricky part.  I'm looking forward to seeing where our ambassadors will lead us this year.