Saturday, August 12, 2017

Books to Begin the Year

It was a little crazy at first.
Last week I spent some time with my son in his new classroom.  He wanted to organize his classroom library so we pulled all the books off the shelf and began to make a plan.  For me, I usually waver between two beginning of the year plans for my library:
  1. Mix the books up in baskets knowing that we will sort them as a community later.  This gives readers time to start to get to know books.  It is never long before someone can't find a book they are looking for so we have to make a plan.  Let the sorting begin!  This way is messy, but it never fails to create a library the kids will value.  (And books always seem to end up in the right places when they are put away.)
  2. Create some high-interest baskets to start the year.  Making a skeleton collection of baskets to begin the year can help students to see the possibilities for their library.  When I choose this start, I consider books students may have experienced in the previous year, high-interest topics, and some beginning of the year collections.  In this way, we grow the library from a seed instead of starting from scratch.
Both of these methods have proven successful.  We decided to start by looking for some common themes in the books he had in his classroom that kids might enjoy.  This started out to be a challenge, but when we shifted from the books to what we know kids will be interested in reading the process moved along quickly.  As we worked, I began to think about some of the books and collections I like to have at the start of the year for my students.  There's surely no "one right answer" here so I hope you'll share some of your favorites in the comments below.

Making Progress
My goals in the first weeks of school shape my library:
  1. Foster a reader's mindset. 
  2. Create shared community values and norms.
  3. Open the door to learning conversations.
  4. Make the community a risk-free place to try new learning.
  5. Get to know the students' interests and lives beyond the classroom.
Baskets that start the year:
Books About Reading 



Books to Begin The Year


Friendship Basket


You Can Do It



Laugh Out Loud



Taking Care of Each Other



My Story



Creating Collections
Around the Room
You Might Like



What are some of your favorite books and collections you have ready at the beginning of the year?  Please grow the conversation in the comments below.  
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Thursday, August 10, 2017

August Picture Book 10 for 10: Books to Help Us STRETCH

Today is August's annual picture book event:  Picture Book 10 for 10 (#pb10for10).  Stop by our Google Community to share your favorites --- or just lurk.  You won't want to miss it!  

Well, here we are.  It's finally August 10th.  Today picture book lovers around the world will be sharing their 10 must-have picture book titles.  When all of this began in 2010, we were sharing the ten titles we'd have to have in our classroom libraries --- or if stranded on a desert island.  It was just a matter of grabbing my favorites.  Now it has become much more challenging for me.  The years have come and gone, and the group has gotten crafty.  Now lists have themes and common threads.  Participants have learned to do a little math magic and make ten in a variety of ways.  

For me, this is the day that always gets me in back to school mode.  This is the day that I disable my Amazon button and pull out my library card.  This is the day I make a list for the next time I visit my local bookstore.  Of course, reading all of the posts takes more than a day.  

Making my own list is an entirely different challenge.  What can I share that I haven't shared before???  Here are my past lists....

My Past 10 Collections

This year I wrestled for weeks over the possibilities.  I finally decided to share ten books that encourage readers to STRETCH.  Stretch is my One Little World for 2017, and it has served me well.  Stretch has given me permission to tackle things that are hard, to reach for new goals, and to be comfortable with all the discomfort that comes from new challenges.  Here are ten picture books that encourage readers to STRETCH.

What Do You Do with An Idea?  by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom

What do you do with an idea?  You live with it for awhile and see where it takes you.  "I liked being with my idea.  It made me feel more alive, like I could do anything."  Yep, an idea can do that.  Follow that idea.  Stretch.  

What Do You Do with a Problem?  by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom

Let's be honest.  Sometimes it isn't an idea that pushes you to stretch, it is a problem.  There's only one thing to do with a problem:  tackle it.  "When I got face-to-face with it, I discovered something.  My problem wasn't what I thought it was.  I discovered it had something beautiful inside.  My problem held an opportunity!"  Tackle that problem.  Stretch. 

A Small Thing...but Big by Tony Johnston and illustrated by Hadley Hooper.

Often ideas (and problems) seem bigger than we can handle.  In these cases, there is nothing to do but take the first step.  "A small thing, but big."  You can do it.  Stretch.   


Water Princess by Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

Our experiences in our lives will often push us to solve tough problems.  "Dream.  Someday you will find a way."  Don't give up.  Stretch.  


What To Do with a Box by Jane Yolen and Chris Sheban

Sometimes to solve a tough problem, or develop a challenging idea, you have to be able to look for other possibilities.  You have to be able to see things in a way that is different from the way they are.  A box doesn't have to be a box.  "A box is a wonder indeed.  The only such magic that you'll ever need."  Envision new possibilities.  Stretch.  




If You Hold a Seed by Elly MacKay

If you start with a seed, amazing things can happen.  Just plant the seed, and slowly watch it grow.  "If you plant a seed...one day,  your wish will come true."  Plant a seed.  Nurture it.  Be patient.  Stretch.  


Ideas Are All Around by Philip C. Stead

When we can't figure something out, ideas are all around, but we have to be willing to look for them.  "There were lots of seeds, but only one grew.  Planting a seed is always a risk."  Some of your attempts will not work, but be willing to go back rethink and try again.  Stretch.  


She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

It's hard not to love this one.  Like the women in this book, we can't give up on the things we know to be important.  "So, if anyone ever tells you no, if anyone ever says your voice isn't important or your dreams are too big, remember these women."  Persist.  Stretch.  
The Almost Impossible Thing by Basak Agaoglu

A dream may seem impossible, but given time we can find our way.  A dream can't be contained.  "The dream knew only that it was too big for its home."  Don't hide your dream.  Stretch.  


Happy Dreamer by Peter H. Reynolds

Don't be afraid to reach for what seems unattainable.  "Dreamers have a way of bouncing back...and moving forward."  Dream that dream.  Reach.  Stretch.  




You can do it!  
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Monday, July 24, 2017

Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading #cyberPD: The Author in the Room

about the author
interactive read aloud

"Your ultimate goal is to help students become inquiring, inquisitve, and indepedendent readers who seek to understand through their own agency."  
                             -Vicki Vinton, Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading p. 155

This post is a week 3 of 4 in the #cyberPD community conversation hosted here:  #cyberPD Google Community.  Stop by and join the conversation.

The Author in the Room
It's not uncommon, as a teacher of writers, to think about the authors that surround our students.  We search for books that help learners envision the possibilities of writing.  We pay attention to organization, structure, and crafting techniques that will grow our writers.  In reading, the author is equally important, but I'm not sure I have spent as much time being intentional in helping students to see how the moves the author made help us to understand the intended message.

One of the pieces that struck me in this third section of reading was often Vinton refers to the author.  On page 113 she reminds, "As teachers, our goal should be to help students to develop coherent interpretations that are personally meaningful and supported by the text."  It seems a fine line, but Vinton has me thinking about reading to determine the author's message instead of understanding the story.  In this thinking, more attention is given to the decisions the author made to help strengthen their message for the reader.  What are the patterns the author used?  When those patterns were broken, what did that mean?

Thoughts to Grow
As Vinton demonstrates her work in fiction and nonfiction with readers to help them understand how to develop and understanding of the whole (synthesizing) while noting patterns and details (determining importance), she utilizes the interactive read aloud.  Teaching through the interactive read aloud provides a high level of support as readers (including the teacher) work together to create an understanding of the author's message.  Vinton takes careful steps in determining student need, selecting a text, planning her language and determining the level of support needed in this shared experience.

A few takeaways:

Considerations, Cautions, Concerns
1.  Make the Task Expansive (p. 127):  Vinton reminds us to teach into what students are doing instead of teaching them what to do.  She makes an analogy to the "rich tasks" presented in mathematics.  These tasks allow for different entry, a variety of possibilities for solving, and more than one response.

2.   Develop Reader Thinking Around Author's Purpose (p. 130):  Young readers often have a simplistic view of the author's purpose, often thinking the author is "recording something that happened or making something up to entertain her readers (Vinton, p. 130)."  Vinton reminds us of the importance of helping readers to understand the author's intentional decision-making.

3.  Readers Need to Interpret Before They Can Analyze (p. 131):  Readers need an understanding of the whole before they can start looking at the small pieces.

For the Toolbox 
1.  Help Readers Learn to Attend to Patterns:  "Notice and question patterns, then keep reading with those questions in mind, using them, in effect, as lines of inquiry that lead to the deeper layers of a text (p. 115)." 

2.  Value the "MAYBE" Statements:  "In addition to deliberately using the word maybe to help students stay in that 'Yes and...' creative-thinking mode, try to also use words like could and might when talking about students' ideas (p. 130)."  

3.  Value Confusion:  "Invite the students to see if they notice any places where we might need to figure something out that the writer hasn't fully explained (p. 151)."  (Vinton charts "confused/understand," reminds that being confused helps the reader to see there is something to puzzle out.)

4.  Use Text-Specific Questions:  "Text-specific questions are more oriented toward process than products - that is, they're ot intended as comprehension checks as much as gauges of understanding - and the answers they invite are often not found in the text, which is why I call them text-specific versus text-dependent (p. 156)."  

Questions
As we near the end of this book, I'm finding I am wrestling over a few questions:

  • How does this work impact independence?  (Most of what we have seen our interactive read aloud examples.  What are students taking away that helps them to deepen their understanding of self-selected texts with independence?)
  • How does this work look different for emergent, beginning, transitional and fluent readers?
  • If this is a grade 3-8 way to think about supporting readers, what is essential in grades K-2?









Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading #cyberPD: Deeper Thinking (week 2)

"Create a culture of where multiple ideas can exist side by side, without needed to find consensus (p. 105)."
                              --- Vicki Vinton, Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading

This post is a week 2 of 4 in the #cyberPD community conversation hosted here:  #cyberPD Google Community.  Stop by and join the conversation.

Building Deeper Thinking
In our district, we use Fountas and Pinnell's Benchmark Assessment to take a closer look at our readers.  Not only does it allow us to look at the way readers sustain their reading by providing a picture of accuracy, self-correction, and fluency for problem-solving a new text, but it also provides a window into a student's thinking by taking a closer look at comprehension within the text, beyond the text, and about the text.  It is not uncommon to find students who are able to talk about their literal understanding of the text, but have difficulty moving to the more inferential thinking required in thinking beyond the text.  It is often challenging for readers to consider the author's purpose in sharing particular information to deepen the understanding for readers.

Thoughts to Grow
In chapters 5-6 of Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading by Vicki Vinton, Vinton helps us to think about the ways readers move from figuring out the basics of a text to more complex thinking.  In these chapters, we are able to listen in as she talks with large groups about determining the basics in a text and moving to more complex ideas.  In these examples, the community works together to solve the challenges of the text and come away with a deeper understanding.  The group uses a variety of thinking strategies to understand the complex messages the author conveys.  Vinton shows us the way the basic information (literal understanding) is necessary if students are to walk away with the deeper understanding of the text.  Vinton reminds us, "Readers have to know they're confused or don't know something, and students who continue reading without actively connecting details or being aware of what they don't know often wind up lost in books that are supposedly just right for them (p. 62)."  

Considerations, Concerns, Cautions
1.  Readers Can Get Lost in Books (p. 62):  Readers often get lost in books because they don't realize they are confused or missing important information.
2.  Be Thoughtful About Scaffolds (p. 72):   Be careful to determine the appropriate scaffold, or if one is needed at all.  Scaffolds can take the opportunity away from students to do the work of complex thinking according to Vinton.
3.  Don't Wait Until the End to Discuss Theme (p. 87 & 90):  Instead of waiting until the book is over or just considering what a character learned, open the conversation to theme up as students read so they can weigh new information, the questions they have about a text, and new possibilities as they deepen their understanding.

For the Toolbox
1.  Thoughtfully Select Texts:  "For a problem-based approach whose end goal is meaning, you'll want to choose a text based on two criteria:  Look for a text that's relatively accessible at the word level but is complex because the writer conveys information and meaning indirectly and that presents the specific kind of problems your students could use practice grappling with (p. 65)."
2.  Craft a Teaching Point:  "At the beginning of a problem-solving session, you'll want to offer an initial teaching point that sets students up for the thinking work you'll be inviting them to do (p. 67)."
3.   Notice and Name the Work Students Do:  "Noticing and naming is, thus, a form of feedback --- and a powerful one, at that.  It helps build students' sense of agency and identity as readers, makes the invisible work of reading more visible, and by employing generalized language, turns one student's thinking into a strategy (p. 73)." 
4.   Probe Student Thinking:  "Asking students not only what they think but how they arrived there, [opens] the door wide enough for them to show you both what they're able to do and what they still may need to learn (p. 77)."  
5.   Value Open Ended Thinking:  "Students need lots of time to talk about their reading, not to present ideas as claims as much as to collaboratively generate and grow them (p. 101)."  

By allowing students to integrate strategies as the text requires and remain open to possibilities readers can work toward a deeper understanding of the text.  It seems, in a problem-based approach, there is a seamless integration of the comprehension strategies that support a reader's understanding:  connecting, predicting, questioning, visualizing, determining importance, and synthesizing.  No one strategy stands alone, but instead readers are asked to adjust based upon the demands of the text.  The teachers role is to determine what students are able to do, name it, and look for the next steps needed for readers to gain a deeper understanding across texts.





Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading #cyberPD: Week 1 Better Late Than Never


"Considering and constructing an understanding of a text's meaning should be the purpose of reading, rather than practicing strategies or skills or meeting a particular standard."   
                                        -Vicki Vinton, Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading

#cyberPD:  Week One Reflection
Well, I'm a little late to the party.  I've been out traveling America's beautiful northeastern states and got a bit distracted.  In this time, I did manage to read the first four chapters of Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading by Vicki Vinton.  I'm excited to finally be joining the conversation.

Building Our Toolbox
Having spent many years beside readers, I find myself continually puzzling over the many opinions about reading instruction.  Listening to a variety of perspectives, and being willing to weigh them, helps to provide new insights.  So many people find themselves a vocal proponent in one camp or another.  In my opinion, this is always the problem.  Reading isn't all one thing or another, instead, it is a difficult process that some master in what appears an effortless progression while others find themselves pushing against obstacle after obstacle.  To complicate these challenges, everyone is different.  If there was "an answer" to teaching reading, it would have been discovered long ago, but every reader brings different experience, different strengths, and different needs to this learning process.  Teaching reading is always ultimately about knowing our readers.

As reading teachers, placing ourselves in one camp or another can be a detriment to our readers.  Instead, we work to grow in our knowledge and expand our toolbox to better meet the needs of the readers we sit beside each day.  Reading to determine the meaning of a text requires an integration of skills, strategies, knowledge, and thinking.  "Reading is also highly complex because it involves a slew of cognitive, linguistic, and sociocultural processes that all must somehow work together, often simultaneously (p. 3)," Vicki reminds.  As educators, our beliefs can shape the way we support our readers.  It seems that our goal has to be bigger than being college and career ready, becoming literate matters to our very existence.

Thoughts To Grow
Reading Vinton's book gave me much to ponder.  In this first section Vinton shares her thinking for a problem-based approach to reading.  To me this means entering a text with a sense of inquiry, a willingness to puzzle through and question the meaning.  To me, this means keeping reading focused on the whole of meaning instead of isolated skills.  To do this, Vinton reminds that our focus has to stay on our readers.  We have to know our readers, allow them the space to grow, and provide opportunities that will help in next steps.

Considerations, Concerns, Cautions 
In the first section Vinton cautions about:
1.  The "Skillification" of Reading (p. 5):  the focus on isolated skills and pieces of reading instead of the complex thinking required to determine the author's message.
2.  Over-Scaffolding (p. 10):  Vinton's concern that we may over-scaffold for our readers, instead of giving them the opportunity to productively struggle with the text to puzzle out the its meaning.  (I'm wondering if we over-scaffold for texts instead of supporting readers next steps.)
3.  Reading Isn't Extraction (p. 17):  Reading really isn't just about finding answers to text-dependent questions or staying within the four corners of the texts.  Reading isn't simply extracting meaning from the text, but is instead a transaction between the reader and the text.  This implies that what the reader brings to the text does truly impact meaning.

For the Toolbox
1.  Teach with the Whole in Mind:  "Thinking involves putting the pieces together, rather than taking them apart, [which] allows you to see connections, relationships, and patternss of interactions (p. 4)."
2.  Use a Problem-Based Approach:  "Let the text set the agenda by putting you in a problem-solving stance where you read not to practice a strategy or skill or to answer a text-dependent question, but to wrestle with the 'real problems' these texts pose (p. 11)."
3.  Shift from Complex Texts to Complex Thinking:  "I propose that rather than using problematic Lexiles and vague rubrics that contain circular reasoning, we assess a text's complexity by how much a reader has sto figure out that the writer conveyed indirectly (p. 22)."
4. Utilize the Components of Balanced Literacy (The Literacy Framework):  "For planning instruction focused on readers, you'll want to use variations of the components of balanced literacy:  read-aloud, shared reading, small-group work, and independent reading, plus word study (p. 23)."
5.  Bring Creative and Critical Thinking Together:  "With a problem-based approach to reading, however, we can create situations that position and invite students to think both creatively and critically in ways that will prepare them to deal with the problems in our complex world (p. 36)."

It seems to me, that what Vicki is talking about is putting readers first in our teaching.  Instead of teaching a standard because it is time, a book because we've always taught it, or a strategy because of some preset order, that instead we keep our focus on the reader and provide opportunities for real thinking around real texts.




Monday, July 10, 2017

The Countdown to August's Picture Book 10 for 10 Event Begins

Dear Mandy,
This morning I woke up, looked at my watch, and realized it is July 10th!  July 10th means it is only one month until my favorite school year kick-off event:  Picture Book 10 for 10 (#pb10for10).  I then opened up my Twitter account to find a link to your announcement post, a nice walk down memory lane about how this event began.  You see, I too remember reading your post about the books you were considering for your classroom collection.  I remember wishing I could step into your classroom to see which books you knew had to be a part of your classroom collection.  As we went back and forth about our favorites via Twitter and your blog, we both began to wonder about the books other teachers thought were "must-haves" for their classroom library --- and an event was born.

This year will be the 8th year to take a peek into classroom libraries everywhere and share our favorites.  I'm so excited!  I always look forward to seeing the recommendations of other educators, librarians, parents, and picture book enthusiasts around the world.  I'm sure by now you already have your books picked and your post is nearly written.  (Keep in mind Tony Keefer has had his post written since last year.  He's always ahead of the game.)  True to form, I'm still weighing the possibilities.  I know that in the next month I will change my mind about my topic and the books I will share at least ten times.  Two days before the event I'll be frantically making decisions.  So many good books....it's so hard to decide.

Yes, it's true.  I'm a bit offline right now.  I'm busy enjoying the beauty of the northeast, but know the possibilities of the books I might share continually swirl in my mind.  I'm so grateful you reached out and started this conversation about books all those years ago.  I'm also grateful so many of our friends and colleagues have jumped in to join us in celebration of picture books year after year.

I know you will not disclose your list before August 10th, even to me, your co-conspirator, so I'm counting down the days until I get to see which books you know are must-haves for your readers this year.  I'm hoping our friends will join us once again on August 10th to share our favorites.

Counting down the days,
Cathy


Here's how you can participate:
  1. Grab a Badge (just copy the URL address of the one above or take a screenshot)
  2. Join the #pb10for10 Google Community
  3. Choose Your Favorites:  All you need to do is choose ten picture books you cannot live without for whatever reason.  In the first days of this event, everyone shared their ten very favorite titles.  This still works.  You will notice, however, that many past participants choose some type of theme to determine their selections.  We'll leave this up to you.
  4. Narrow Your List to Ten:  It isn't easy, is it?  We've seen some crafty ways to get around that number.  
  5. Write Your August 10th Post:  Write a post about the ten books you cannot live without.  Share your post on August 10th and link it to the Picture Book 10 for 10 Community.  
  6. No Blog?  No Problem:  If you don't have a blog, this might be the perfect time to start one --- or there are a million digital ways to join (see post below).  Of course, now with the Google Community it is quite easy to just post your favorites directly into the community without a blog.  We will also be tweeting from the #pb10for10 hashtag.    
  7. Comment:  On August 10th (and maybe for a week --- there are a lot of posts) take some time to read posts from other participants.  Please comment on at least three. 
So...

Pull out your library cards, load up your Amazon accounts, or better yet - plan a trip to your local bookstore on August 11th because you're going to be unable to resist checking out (or purchasing) a few new picture books.  We hope to see you on the 10th!

A Few Historical and Informational Posts:

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

It's Coming! July's #cyberPD Event Schedule

Last week we shared our selection for July's #cyberPD book talk.  We're excited to have selected Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading by Vicki Vinton for this year's conversation.  (You can hear her talk about the book here.)  This will be the seventh year for our virtual book group which reads and collaboratively discusses a professional book each summer.

2016:  DIY Literacy:  Teaching Tools for Differentiation, Rigor, and Independence by Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts
2015:  Digital Reading:  What's Essential by Franki Sibberson and Bill Bass
2014:  Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller
2013:  Who Owns the Learning by Alan November
2012:  Opening Minds by Peter Johnston
2011:  Conferring:  The Keystone of Reader's Workshop by Patrick Allen


July's Professional Book Chat:  #cyberPD
  • Week of July 2nd:  Into & Section 1:  Chapters 1 - 4, digital response by 7/6
  • Week of July 9th:  Read Chapters 5 - 6, digital response by 7/13
  • Week of July 16th:  Read Chapters 7 - 8, digital response by 7/20
  • Week of July 23rd:  Read Chapters 9 -10, digital response by 7/27

How to Participate
  • Join the #cyberPD Google Community to connect and receive updates 
  • Read the selected chapters each week 
  • Respond digitally to each section by the Thursday of the assigned week 
  • Thursday - Saturday take time to reply to at least 3 participant responses

Ways to Respond
  • Respond on your blog and link your post to the Google Community or
  • Post your thinking directly in the #cyberPD Community or
  • Create a digital response and post it in the Google Community 
  • You can also share thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag #cyberPD 


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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Maintaining Ownership in Personalized Learning

If you follow my blog, you know I've been giving Pinterest a hard time lately.  I miss being able to socially bookmark with people in my network I trust.  Often when I log into Pinterest I find a bunch of pins this "personalized" website thinks I want to see.

The truth is....they're almost always wrong.

The same is true with Facebook.  Most of the promotions they send my way are often items I've already purchased, merchandise I'd never consider, or links of little interest (don't get me started on virtual school posts that make their way into my feed).  Let me step off my soapbox to get to my point:  the only person that can truly personalize for YOU is YOU.

So....is "personalized" learning what we want for our children?

I continually read posts from people who are adamantly against personalized learning.  Their argument is that big business wants to personalize for students.  Like these advocates, I share their concern.  When I see Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg want to help personalize learning, I get a bit apprehensive.  As an educator, I've seen programs where students sit down and the app "personalizes" for them.  I've watched them robotically work through menus with new levels pushed their way.  I've sat through sales pitches in which companies hope to sell content that is collected and given to the learner.  When I think about the way we live, the jobs that will be available, and the possibilities that abound, I don't consider this enough for our children.

Personalized learning, to me, isn't about programs that try to use algorithms to determine next steps for children.  Personalized learning, to me, is personal.  It's learning that allows learners to assess their own understanding, determine their own goals, and design their own learning.  Personalized learning changes my role as a teacher.  It doesn't make me one stop in a rotation of "personalized programming products," but instead shifts my role to a co-learner in our classroom, albeit one with experience who can sit beside students as they design their next steps.  As I like to say, I'm now "coach on approach" for the learners in our community.

Here are a few of the characteristics I see as essential in personal learning:
  • It's Learner Driven:  Learners truly know what is next, set their own goals, and design their own path.  
  • It's Collaborative:  True learning never happens in isolation, but is part of a larger conversation.    Learners know the experts in the room (and outside of the room), reach out to peers for feedback, and have opportunities to learn alongside others.  Learning is part of a bigger conversation that is taking place in the community.  
  • It's Authentic:  Learners have the opportunity to solve real problems, ask genuine questions, and seek new understandings.  They are able to select their own books, choose their own topics, and follow their own interests.  
  • It's Connected:  Thanks to the internet, learning no longer happens in isolation.  Students now have a platform to share their work, reach outside of their classroom, and connect with other learners, authors, and experts.  
  • It Allows for Creativity:  While paper, pencil, markers and paints are certainly still important tools in creating, digital opportunities now allow for new ways to share our thinking with others.  
Is personalized learning what we want for our children?  I guess it depends on how you define it.  If it is spending our day handing students devices with programs that feed information to them, then I wonder as well, but if instead, it is creating learning environments in which children truly own their learning then it is absolutely what I hope we will continue to work toward.  

Thursday, June 8, 2017

In Case You Haven't Heard: #cyberPD Selection

The calendar has turned to June and, as educators, our attention has turned to our bookstacks.  This is the time of year that we can catch up on professional reading, children's literature....and of course a few pleasure reads.  ;o)  It's also the time of year our #cyberPD community starts thinking about its selection for our summer booktalk.  This will be our 7th year collaborating and learning together.

We began, as usual, by sharing our summer bookstacks.  That was dangerous!  It always results in adding more books to my stack.  You can check them out in our #cyberPD Google Community.

By now I know you've probably heard, but just in case --- and because I'm just thrilled about it --- I wanted to share the good news.  This year's #cyberPD selection is....

Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading by Vicki Vinton.


If you'd like to participate in our July conversation, stop by our #cyberPD Google Community and join us.  You can also follow the events on Twitter using the hashtag #cyberPD.

Find Out More:


Stay tuned.  We'll be sharing our July schedule and more information in the weeks to come.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Wanted a Good Visual Bookmarking Site: Goodbye, Pinterest.


Wanted:  A Good Visual Bookmarking Site 

Here's why....

As someone who loves to read and learn online, I began using bookmarking sites early in my transition to digital material.  My first go-to site was Diigo.  I loved that you could annotate and tag the links saved.  Then along came Pinterest.  I'll be the first to admit that Pinterest creates a lot of dangerous educational possibilities.  There are a million worksheets and pins that don't necessarily lead to best practice.  Of course, one of the things I've learned over the years is that it isn't the tool that is the problem, it is often the way we use it.

The Way It Used to Be
I didn't like Pinterest for its "make and take it" possibilities, but instead for the ability to save the links I had found and bookmark them.  Through Pinterest, I was able to collect articles, links, books, and resources.  Making boards around topics proved a helpful way of organizing for me as I built boards that included Literacy 3.0, Many Faces of Children's Literature, Rethinking Learning Spaces, and many others I repeatedly return to for reference.

I didn't just love Pinterest for its ease and visual appeal in bookmarking, but I loved it for its social bookmarking capabilities.  I started following friends I knew would curate smart links.  I knew I could count on friends like Jill Fisch for great book titles, Franki Sibberson for smart literacy links, and Michelle Nero for tips on best practice in reading.  I knew I could count on these connections, and many more, to bring strong content to my attention.  In addition to being able to take advantage of the curation of peers, I was also able to collaboratively bring information together.  For example, through #cyberPD we formed groups that shared bookmarking abilities that matched our topic of study.

Goodbye, Pinterest
Across the years, Pinterest has slowly tried to bring more promotional material into the feed and "personalize" links that come to my attention.  Instead of seeing the links friends are curating, I now see promotional links and links Pinterest thinks I want to see.  Dear Pinterest, I don't need worksheets for guided reading (because that isn't guided reading anyway).  I don't need cut out icons for "interactive notebooks" (because I haven't figured out what is "interactive" about that).  What I need is to be able to see the educational material my friends share, but I no longer easily see the links they are collecting.  I know I can count on these people for good content, but I can no longer find their links among the promoted and selected links.

So....goodbye, Pinterest.

For these reasons, I'm planning to begin to move my bookmarking to a new site.  I'm looking for something that is visual, tag-able, organizable, and can be social.  Any suggestions???

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Let's Get This Started #cyberPD: Share Your Stack

As the calendar nears summer, I'm starting to think about my professional learning plan.  Summer is the perfect time to catch up on reading, collaborate with others, and change course for the upcoming school year.  Of course, summer also means #cyberPD.  This event is always at the top of my summer learning list.  This year will be our seventh year of learning together as a community.

Each summer the #cyberPD community chooses a professional book to read and discuss in the month of July.  The event has certainly grown since its first year which began with less than fifteen people, but the community has remained collaborative.  You can join the conversation and see past years' discussions in our #cyberPD Google Community.  Here are the books selected since 2011: 
Share Your Stack
The first thing we need to do is choose our book.  

To help do this, we are asking the #cyberPD to share their book stacks.  Before May ends, please share the professional books you hope to read this summer.  Participants can share their stacks using the Twitter hashtag #cyberPD and post in our #cyberPD community under the "share your book stack" tab.  Michelle and I will then take a look at the stacks and choose one title to be discussed by the community in July.  The selection announcement will be made June 3rd!

Let's get this started!!

Here's my stack of professional reading....





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Saturday, February 11, 2017

Time for Reflection: A Gift to Ourselves

Leaving the classroom, the coach and I walked side by side.  She had just finished teaching a lesson with young writers about growing stories.  "I wish we had time to talk," she lamented.  Unfortunately, she needed to be in another classroom and I needed to be in a meeting.  I paused taking in what she had said.  As teachers, we hurry about our day-to-day work without the time to step back to reflect.  It was at this moment I realized that our conversations with colleagues around the work we do are a gift we rarely seem to find time for in our daily busyness.

The Need for Reflection
The need for reflection struck me again the other day as I was waiting on a friend for lunch.  The restaurant was quiet, and for the first time in days, I felt like I had a few minutes of unscheduled time.  I paused and just started thinking about the week.  It wasn't long until I found myself taking a few notes, reflecting on a few interactions across the week, and planning a few next steps.  Honestly, I was amazed at what had been accomplished in less than ten minutes as my friend entered the restaurant and joined me.

It seems in our world, especially in our teaching worlds, it's hard to find time to pause and reflect.  As teachers, our lists remain long so we move from one task to another.  As teachers, it can be a challenge to pause when we are busy working alongside young students with little break in our day.  I'm going to be so bold as to say I think we even feel guilty when we take the time to pause and reflect.  We are always on a path of doing.

That day at the restaurant I don't think I would have paused had I not been given a few unexpected minutes.  We talk all the time about reflection; we understand its power, yet we rarely carve time to pause.

Collaborative Conversations 
As I work alongside instructional coaches and teachers, I'm continually struck by the power of pausing to reflect.  Often in our side-by-side work with colleagues, we do the work inside the classroom; because of time constraints, we settle for moments of demonstration teaching, observation, or quick touches of learning, but it is the deep dive into focused conversation that helps us to grow in our practice.  It is the small reflective conversations before and after our time together we struggle to make the time to have, yet it is these very conversations that lift our work.

While I am trying to be more disciplined about taking the time for personal reflection, it is when I am reflecting with a colleague that I learn the most.  It is in these conversations where new thinking pushes against what I understand.  It is in these conversations that my words are sent back to me in a way that brings fresh understanding.  It is in these conversations I find new perspectives.  It is in these conversations that I find strength for next steps.

As I sit beside coaches and teachers, I've come to realize that the short pre and post conversations we often skip, are truly a gift.  As I observe collaborative conversations I'm always struck by what both people take away after a few minutes in reflective conversation.   Our work is too complex to do it alone.

Whether it is sitting quietly for ten minutes or finding a colleague to bounce around a few ideas, I'm trying to find ten minutes each day for a bit of reflection.  Instead of thinking about it as a something I have to do, I know it is a gift I give to myself.

A Bit More About Reflection
Watch It:  



Live It:  
  • Take time to reflect (find the white space in your day to think, time to journal, talk with a friend)
  • Grab your favorite notebook (or app)
  • Apps for written reflection:  Google, Google KeepEvernote (organize notebooks, tag, type, audio, insert images, and you can write --- but that feature is still very limited), Noteshelf App (set up notebooks with paper-like turns, write, type, insert images), Notability (for fans of handwriting.)  
  • Daily Habits  (set reminders for your reflection time...)