Sunday, May 15, 2016

DigiLit Sunday: Refresh -- What's in Your Professional Book Stack? (6th Annual #cyberPD)

Today's post is part of the #digilit Sunday conversation hosted by Margaret Simon.  This week's topic is "refresh" --- and, Margaret, I finally managed a post.  :o)  (See below for links.) 

#cyberPD
As the school year begins to wind down, I'm beginning to feel the excitement of having a little extra time for summer learning.  One of my favorite ways to refresh in the summer is to join professional conversations around literacy --- and, of course, one of my favorites is #cyberPD.  This year will be the 6th annual #cyberPD conversation.  Each year, Laura Komos, Michelle Nero, and I collaboratively host a virtual professional reading conversation across blogs.  The community has grown over the years and is now nearly 200 members strong.

Each year one professional book is chosen to be read by the #cyberPD community.  During the month of July, the book is discussed across three weeks.  Each week participants read and discuss a different section of the selected book.  Past titles have included (revisit conversations here):

Share Your Stack
To prepare for the event, during the month of May participants will be sharing their professional reading stacks.  Participants can share their stacks using the Twitter hashtag #cyberPD and post in our #cyberPD community under the "share your book stack" tab.  Michelle, Laura, and I will then take a look at the stacks and choose one title to be discussed by the community in July.  Though the event doesn't start until July, we like to make the selection at the beginning of summer so participants know which book to save for the conversation.  The selection announcement will be made June 4th!

As usual, my stack is way too big.  There are just so many books to be read...
Also on my list (but not on Goodreads):



I'm going to be busy!  This doesn't include the children's literature I want to read --- and I have to make time for some personal reading.  Oh my!

Join Us
What's in your stack?  I hope you'll share your professional reading plans with our community and join us in July for the conversation.

Anytime:  Join #cyberPD Google Community
By May 31st:  Share your book stack
June 4th:  #cyberPD book announced
July:  #cyberPD conversation  (3 weeks, with one reflection each week)



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.  

Saturday, April 16, 2016

National Poetry Month: Poetry Madness Event

I'm pretty excited about the latest idea from our reading ambassadors.  Last month our reading ambassadors promoted the March Book Madness event hosted by Scott Jones and Tony Keefer in our school.  Our building focused on the Picture Book Challenge, though some students did vote in the Middle Grade Challenge as well.  The whole school was buzzing as the book brackets started to narrow to the final match-ups.  

Yesterday I stayed after school to complete our "Poetry Madness" bulletin board.  At our March meeting we began talking about what we wanted to do for our final weeks as ambassadors M said, "April we always have poetry writing.  Maybe we could do something with poetry."

"Yes, April is National Poetry Month," I added smiling. 

There was a pause and then T spoke up, "I love poetry.  Maybe we could do something like March Madness with the poetry."  

The room started to rumble as one ambassador after another jumped on board with her idea.  Before long it was determined that we would each bring a favorite poetry book if we had one to our next meeting and choose books for a "Poetry Madness" challenge for our school.

Last week students arrived with their poetry books.  Our media specialist, Jill Merkle, had collected a stack of favorites for the ambassadors to review.  Being a poetry fan myself, I brought some of my favorites to the meeting.  The first part of the meeting was spent talking about the poetry we brought and then reviewing the other books.  Toward the end of the meeting each ambassador took six post-its and began selecting their favorites.  Each post-it was one vote and ambassadors could use more than one vote on a poetry book they really liked.  We then selected the sixteen books for the competition based upon their votes.  We seeded these books for the challenge.  

Following the model of March Book Madness, voting will begin on Tuesday.  Our board is people/life poetry vs. nature/pets poetry.  I'm a little excited that one of my favorites, Forest has a Song by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, is a number one seed in the brackets.  Let's hope my favorite does a little better in this event than my favorite did in the March Madness Picture Book Challenge.  (Yes, I'm still a little sad that Wolfie the Bunny didn't win.) 

Next week, our reading ambassadors will begin to talk about the poetry books and our event with the students in their classrooms during morning meetings.  We'll be running advertisements for voting on our school news each week.  The poetry books selected have been placed on reserve in the library for students to read as they visit the media center.  During the final weeks, the ambassadors hope to read one poem from each of the remaining books to their classrooms.  What a great way to celebrate National Poetry Month!  

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Power of End of Workshop Sharing

Recently, as I listened to a group of first graders share their learning, I was reminded of the importance of leaving space for this time at the end of our workshops.  

The music started to play and students gathered in a circle on the carpet.  When the music finished and everyone was sitting together, the teacher called on the first student to share.  I walked over to sit in the circle and listen for a bit.  Before the share had ended, four students had been able to share their work and thinking from their learning time.  

When I had my own classroom and visitors would come to my room, I was always a little disappointed to see them leave before the share.  In my opinion, by not staying to see the share they would miss the piece that demonstrated whether the lesson had worked.  Had students been able to take what was discussed and move into the workshop to give it a try?  What did learners understand? 

We can't overlook the power of possibility in the moments we share with our learning community at the end of a lesson.  It's easy as the clock ticks to not make time for the share, but this time is essential for our learning to grow.

Share allows us to:

  • Check in with students:  Though digital tools allow us to see more of the work students do during their independent learning times, talking with students about their work during workshop allows us an opportunity to hear their thinking, consider their process, and think about next steps.  
  • Reinforce the learning of the focus lesson:  Having students share can give us an opportunity to allow students to share attempts at new learning with peers.  It can also provide the opportunity to clarify, reinforce, and restate points from our lesson within the context of student work.  
  • Build a common understanding (and common language):  By coming together as a community to talk about our learning, we can create a common understanding and build common language around new concepts.  Students often will share with peers important discoveries that can then be used to build an inquiry.  These lessons are always more powerful and carry more weight when shared by a peer instead of directed by a teacher.  
  • Stretch the lesson:  Often during independent work time students stay in their comfort zones, and don't reach for the next step.  Share time allows us to build a bridge between students' attempts and the next steps in learning.  Sharing also allows us to hear from students who are pushing past the current understanding and working to socially construct learning at a higher level of understanding than might have been possible without utilization of this time.   
  • Showcase new possibility:  By allowing time to share our learning, students can see new possibilities through the work done by their peers. 
  • Celebrate learning:  Share is the perfect time to celebrate new discoveries and new steps in learning.  By lifting learners who have pushed to the next level, we open the door for others learners and shine a spotlight on the importance of our time spent learning.    



Thursday, March 24, 2016

Read Aloud for the Joy of It

Last Thursday night I joined #g2great Twitter chat around read aloud.  Steven Layne led the discussion in a chat hosted by Dr. Mary Howard, Jenn Hayhurst, and Amy Brennan.  Check out the #g2great team blog for In Defense of Read Aloud:  Sustaining Best Practice (7 important considerations for read aloud.  The chat has me thinking about one of my favorite things:  read aloud.  So...  

At the end of the day, I stop by Nichole Berkey's classroom to drop off information for one of our reading ambassadors.  Nichole's room is always a favorite stop at the end of the day.  When you walk in the door there is a sense of calm as students gather together on the carpet.  Nicole is perched on a stool with students surrounding her feet, a book open as she reads page after page of the current chapter book they are reading.  Her third graders hang onto every word.  Every time I walk into her room I want to just sit down on the floor and join them.

Since moving to a reading intervention position in my building, read aloud is one of the things I miss the most.  I miss starting our day with a read aloud, reading aloud after lunch (that was always my favorite), and the days when our classroom managed to end in a read aloud like Nichole's (that was always tricky).  I miss peppering in poetry.  I miss the read aloud's sprinkled across the day in the opening moments of our workshops.  I miss the community that is built around the books we experience together.

As a teacher, I found that read alouds could support many of our learning conversations and anchor our thinking.  It's a gift to be able to use the author's words to support teaching and learning, but this chat reminded me that there is also a caution:  there still should be places in our day where we just read aloud for the joy of the story.  There should be places where we just sit back, without interruption, and enjoy the book for pleasure - where the words fall off the page and into the ears of children, where we laugh, gasp, and wonder together.

The #g2great chat and follow-up post had me thinking about some of my favorite read alouds.  I decided to create a Pinterest board of favorite read alouds.  These books never let me down with a group of children.  I'll continue to grow this collection when I get back to my books at school.  (It's spring break so these are the ones I remembered.)  I hope you'll share some of your favorites in the comments below.

Follow Cathy 's board Read Aloud on Pinterest.



Monday, March 21, 2016

Simple Changes in Language

I still remember the overwhelmed feeling of my first year of teaching.  At that time, I distinctly remember telling myself to hang in there as surely by year three I'd have it figured out.  HA!  Here I am at year twenty something, and I'm still always working to figure it out.  The challenge, I believe, becomes that teaching is a people profession.  Children are always different, and different children have different needs.

This year, I've found myself looking hard at my teaching yet again.  As I work to support readers I have been really trying to figure out how to change my language to help the readers I support move toward independence.  I've changed a lot of aspects of my teaching with this group this year as a result of observations I have made.  I've worked to improve my language, my prompting, and our use of time.  Still I have felt that some of the students I support over-rely on adults when they read.  

Recently I read, Tripwires, The Prompting Funnel, and Letting Students Do the Work by Kim Yaris and Jan Burkins.  In the post, they said, "Typically, when a child encounters difficulty when reading, we are inclined to say things like,  'Does that make sense?' or 'What would sound right?' We worry that these prompts intervene too quickly, telling students what they need to do before they’ve had a chance to self-monitor and think for themselves about what they need to do."  This statement really made me pause.  Could my challenge be that simple?  Could a simple change in my language make a difference for my students? 

Last week I went back into my groups changing my language.  I changed two things:  
  • More wait time (I'm pretty good at wait time, but I extended it --- and made no eye contact with students who were solving --- just kept a little ear on their attempts)
  • When students needed support I started with a much higher level prompt:  "What could you try?"  (this higher level prompt often worked)
These two changes seemed to make a difference.  In another recent post, Jan & Kim created an infographic titled:  Who's Doing the Work.  You should check it out.  It was this statement within the infographic that I have hung onto across my work with readers this week:  "Ladders vs. Scaffolds:  Scaffolds only support us when they are in place.  Once the scaffold is removed, we are in no better position to reach a high place without the scaffold.  Instead, let's give students ladders they can fold up, take with them, and use anywhere."  I think I'll be thinking about both of these statements for awhile as I work to create ladders toward independence for the readers I support.  

Friday, March 18, 2016

Thinking About Assessment: Shifting Our Conversations

Take a moment to look at this picture.  What do you think you see?

I'll wait...

At first glance, one might think this is a photo across a pond or a lake.  The sun reflects off the water from the distance.  It might surprise you to know that this water isn't really supposed to be here.  This is our backyard after melting snow is followed by too much rain.  Any time we get too much rain our backyard floods and our sump pump works overtime.

Collecting Information
In education we collect a lot of data.  As an intervention teacher, I use Fountas and Pinnell assessment data, Rigby assessment data, Concepts of Print, Hearing Sounds in Words, Developmental Spelling Assessment, running records from books, observation notes, and other forms of assessment to find out information.  Classroom teachers use a variety of assessments as well to determine assessment needs and monitor progress of students across the year in reading, writing, math and content areas.  

In our building, one assessment we look to often is our Fountas and Pinnell benchmark assessments.  These assessments give us much information about our students as readers.  Our literacy team meets each time teachers complete benchmark reading assessments.  As a team we look at the data to be sure we are properly supporting students.  These conversations focus on students we are currently serving in intervention and those we have been watching.  These conversations are always preceded and followed by conversations with classroom teachers because data only tells one story.

Changing Our Question 
Changing our question from "what do we notice" to "what questions do we have now as a result of this information" can shift conversations about information obtained.  Recently our team met to discuss the latest nonfiction assessment information entered by teachers.  As we looked at the information we started by looking at the levels reported at the benchmark for readers.  However, it wasn't long until we found ourselves considering accuracy scores, fluency scores, and comprehension scores.  It isn't long until we find ourselves moving from what we notice to the new questions we have.

To make instructional decisions we need to widen our lens looking for patterns, commonalities, and differences.  Then we need to zoom back in again.  If the picture above was taken from greater distance you'd make new observations.  If you walked around in our backyard at the time, you'd ask different questions.  If you looked at pictures of the same space across time, you'd ask even more questions and likely come to better conclusions.  One data point, one piece of information, is never enough; it's a starting point.  Collecting information should push us toward asking new questions about what we notice.   It should push us to look a little more closely, to dig a little deeper, and consider other pieces of information.  Shifting our conversations from what we notice to the new questions we have can move us toward action.  

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Power of Three Little Words #dublit16


The Power of Their Words
As a classroom teacher, I always tried to watch my words.  I always tried to measure their frequency with student frequency.  I'm not saying I was always good about it; I'm saying I tried.  There was the continual sound of Charlie Brown's teacher droning on in animated films, "Wah, wah, wah," playing in the back of my mind.  I didn't want to sound like that to my students.  There are lessons I remember teaching in which I know I spent too much time talking.  Talk helps students to learn, and I always felt their talk really made the difference.  

As an intervention teacher, I find myself challenged continually by this thinking.  I don't have the same time to move from explicit to implicit in my short lessons with students.  I don't have the same time to wander through conversations.  If I'm not careful, it is easy to fall into patterns where I am doing most of the talking.  When this happens, I know that I am doing more telling and owning more of their learning.  

Words can be powerful.  The language we use can support learners and help them to develop agency.   However, some words are stronger than others in supporting our learners.   I was reminded of this recently as I joined educators for a Saturday of learning at the Dublin Literacy Conference as I listened to speakers across the day.  Here are short phrases I took away that could open up dialogue for students:  


Kylene Beers and Bob Probst:  "What Surprised You?"
Kylene Beers and Bob Probst, spoke about Responsive and Responsible Reading of Nonfiction.  In their session they reminded us of the importance of dialogic talk that opens conversations for students instead of monologic talk that checks for understanding.  In their conversation they shared three simple words to start conversations about reading, "What surprised you?".   These three words carry much power in turning conversations about reading over to students.  Kylene reminded us that rigor didn't reside in the text itself but, instead, in the the interaction between the reader and the text.  

Amy Ludwig VanDerWater:  "Let Poetry Speak"
One of the highlights of my day was spending time with poet, Amy Ludwig VanDerWater.  In her session, Our Wisest Writing Teacher, she reminded us of the power of poetry in teaching writing.  I'm going to say that I struggled a bit more bringing Amy's words down to three I took away.  She had so many smart things to say about poetry --- and students children humans souls.  Amy reminded us that poetry speaks to children and helps them to see they are not the only one.  I had so many phrases I pulled from her session (some three words, some not):  poetry as gift, poetry as a diving board into writing, poems teach us about writing, poems teach us about language.  Of course my favorite lines were her closing lines, "Poetry is enough by itself.  Poetry places unforgettable images in the hearts of our children."

Kristin Ziemke:  "Tell Me More."
Later in the day, I attended Kristin Ziemke's session,  Read the World: Literacies for a Digital Culture, where three words caught my attention again.  Kristin shared that we are moving away from fact recall curriculums, toward search curriculums;  I might even venture to say we are moving toward curriculums that position students to create.  The room was packed with teachers as Kristin demonstrated ways to build intention as we talk with students about reading images for understanding.  Kristin put a video of Michigan's governor, talking about the Flint water crisis, on the screen.  After viewing we talked about what we noticed.  One teacher shared her response.  Kristin listened to the response, paused thoughtfully, and inquired, "Tell me more."  Her words really asked the speaker to dig a little deeper into their thinking, and to share that with the learning community.  I was once again struck by the powerful simplicity of three little words.  

Magic comes in threes.  Perhaps thinking of three words to elevate student learning across our day is worth consideration.  Of course, the magic of the Dublin Literacy Conference wasn't just words; it was learning, laughter, friendship, conversations, community, and guests from afar.

Kristin and I had a little fun as she signed my digital copy of her book at the conference.  This picture was taken by Marisa Saelzler and posted by Kristin on her Instagram account:


Thinking More About Words?  You might like:

  • Karen Syzmusiak returns to her blog with, Powerful is Not Perfect.  In her post, she shares powerful words from Kristin Ziemke: word to set us free.  
  • Nicole Kessler, also returning to her blog, just wrote about Classroom Language as she reflected on the power of open ended questions.  
  • Changing My Frame, a post written to consider the work of Peter Johnston in my classroom.  
  • Speaking of Peter Johnston.  These books changed the language I use with students (and - ouch - it shifted my talk at home).  
  • Don't let the cover of this one fool you.  We're reading Using Discourse Analysis to Improve Classroom Interaction in a course I am taking with Dr. Melissa Wilson at Ohio State.  I appreciate the way the authors have us thinking through our language and the contexts of interactions to improve our language.