Saturday, November 10, 2018

Don't' Wait

This morning, as I opened my drawer to grab a shirt out of my dresser, I heard a loud crash.  Looking at the carpet I realized the glass globe given to me by one of my families years ago had fallen and broken.  I've always loved it with its inscription: "Faith makes all things possible.  Love makes all things easy.  Hope makes all things work."  The gift became more special each time I had another one of the children from this wonderful family.  Inside the glass filled with water, an angel held up a small child.   I was devastated to see it on the floor shattered in pieces.

The truth is, I noticed the glass globe on my dresser was leaning precariously earlier as I got up out of bed.  It had one of its three legs reaching out over the side.  Instead of fixing it right then, I made a note to get back to it later in the day.  It would have taken two seconds, but for some reason I felt compelled to wait.

Isn't that how it is?  Sometimes we can see the next problem just at its very beginning but we wait because we think we are making something out of nothing, perhaps we mistakingly believe we have plenty of time, or find ourselves unsure how to even begin.

My grandma used to say, "A stitch in time saves nine."  She's so right.  Sometimes if we'd fix our course earlier - or just move the globe back onto the dresser - we would save ourselves hard work later.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Three for Your Library: Three Books for Emergent Readers

Recently I was talking with a group of teachers about the challenge of having books in our classroom library for the range of readers in our communities.  Specifically, the concern was around our youngest readers who might be taking their first steps.  This, of course, requires a multidimensional solution that involves read aloud, shared reading, and some time side by side.  Providing opportunities for readers to listen to stories, participate in reading books together, and work through books just on the edge of their learning can be a bridge to reading for our earliest readers as they provide a familiar text readers can revisit.

When thinking about books for our classroom library with emergent readers, I like to consider picture books that, once read aloud, a child might be able to reread independently.  I look for books that have simple structures, repetitive language, and/or strong picture support.  This week I created a collection to share with the literacy coaches as we took a closer look at emergent readers who are still gaining an understanding of story, still developing concepts of print, and just finding their way in the world of reading.

Here are three favorites for Emergent Readers

The Monkey and the Bee (The Monkey Goes Bananas) by C.P. Bloom and illustrated by Peter Raymundo.

This book tells the story of a monkey who tries to eat a banana until bee comes along.  Bee causes some problems.  The two aren't getting along too well until Lion comes along.  Lion changes everything.

The simple, repetitive text with strong picture support is the perfect book for emergent readers to revisit to begin to pay attention to the print on the page.

Three Ways You Might Use It
Community Conversations:  Friends take care of each other.    

Anchor Text:  This book provides an opportunity to look at how character action can give us clues to what a character is feeling.  

Mentor Text:  This book provides the perfect opportunity to talk about the way pictures can help tell a story.  In just a picture we know the story takes a major change.  Additionally, the author uses simple labels to draw the readers attention to particular parts of the story which can be used as a model for our youngest writers.  



Be Who You Are by Todd Parr

If you have emergent or early readers in your classroom, then you certainly want a lot of Todd Parr books in your library.  I honestly had a hard time choosing one to share here today.

The title of this book speaks to everything the book is about.  Parr reminds everyone to be who they are.  This book celebrates the many differences in our world.

Three Ways You Might Use It
Community Conversations:  This book is perfect for talking about identity with our youngest learners.   

Anchor Text:  This book's message is clear from the beginning.  Readers have an opportunity to, not only talk about this message, but to think about the details the author uses to make his point.   

Mentor Text:  I always love an author who also illustrates his/her book as that is how our youngest authors work in our classrooms; they too write and illustrate their stories.  Parr's simple use of shape to draw pictures is perfect for helping our youngest writers get started.  Additionally, his use of color is always a favorite topic of conversation.  



The Okay Book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal illustrated by Todd Lichtenheld

This book has a million possibilities.  In The Okay Book, Amy reminds readers that there are a lot of things we do that we enjoy, but may be just okay doing.  The repetitive language and strong picture support make this an easy book for young readers to read independently once they have heard the story read aloud.

Three Ways You Might Use It
Community Conversations:  This book provides a door into conversation about things we are still learning to do or things we love that we may not have mastered.  

Anchor Text:  Like the text about, this book's message is clear from the beginning.  Readers have an opportunity to discuss those important details the author has shared.  

Mentor Text:  I really love this book for early writing possibilities.  Our youngest authors can see themselves writing a book just like this. 

Like these?  Here some other favorites:  
(and please share your favorites below)




Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Hilliard U: A Great Day of Learning and Conversation

Today was Hilliard University.  It's always such a great day of learning and collaborating.  The only hard part is being everywhere!  There are so many interesting sessions that happen across the day as teachers share their passions and expertise.  Today I was lucky to spend the morning with new teachers in our district talking about shared reading with Nicolette Landon and Andrea Waselko.  Lots of great questions and plenty to think about.

Later in the day, I was able to join Danielle White and Claudette Mullins to talk about author studies.  We shared ideas around author studies in a Padlet.  This allowed us to share information but, more importantly, get information from other participants in the session.  This way of crowd-sourcing expertise added a layer to the conversation.  Please feel free to add to the Padlet.   In this session we discussed

  • benefits for literacy learners
  • what readers can learn
  • what writers can learn
  • ideas for planning and digging deeper 
  • possible authors for deeper study (included many conversations around digital connections) 


Power Up with Author Studies
Made with Padlet


Later that day, I had the opportunity to join Tonya Buelow to talk about classroom libraries.  I always learn something when I listen to Tonya and loved this quote she shared from Stephanie Harvey and Annie Ward, "Build a library for the readers you expect; customize it for the readers you meet.”  From Striving to Thriving: How to Grow Confident, Capable Readers. Here's the resources we shared today:



Classroom Library Reboot

Thank you to everyone who joined the conversations.  Your participation in the conversation really took these topics deeper.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Team Magic: The Power of Partnership

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
"Highly effective teams know what we're working on, why we're working together (what our team's mission and vision is), and how we'll work together."  - Elena Aguilar, The Art of Coaching Teams
If you've ever been on a dream team you're going to know what I'm talking about in this post.  A dream team is the kind of team where you look forward to ANY opportunity to gather around the table and talk about the work being done.  A dream team is the kind of team where you know EVERYONE has your back.  A dream team is the kind of team where you can toss around tough challenges and new thinking without fear.  Across my teaching career, I've been lucky to be on a number of teams.  I learned a little something in each one of them.  Along the way, I've sat beside teachers who were amazing team members.  I think I learned a lot by watching the way they worked with the rest of the team.

This past month, I've had the privilege of joining teams across our district as they dig into the literacy data we have collected since the beginning of the year.  The goal for teams has been to take a look at the information collected, add what they have learned in side-by-side opportunities, consider the reading and writing work learners have been doing, and find the story for their literacy learners.  These meetings provide an opportunity to look for patterns, plan an instructional focus, determine next steps, and figure out how we will monitor growth.  They also allow an opportunity to harness the power of team in thinking about literacy learners who might have greater need.  

It's interesting to watch teams work together.  As I've sat beside teachers, I've come to realize that the team's relationship with one another is equally important to the work they are doing.  I'm fascinated by the teams that just seem to find a rhythm and go.  I've been thinking about the characteristics that make these teams work and here are a few things I've noticed:

They believe in doing what's best for kids.  Teams who work well together seem to have an understanding that we're here to do what's best for kids.  Their conversations stay focused on learners. These teams don't spend time blaming kids, parents, or past teachers for where a student might be, but instead look for strengths and next steps for learners.  These teams seem to think know they can make a difference.  

They respect one another.   This seems obvious, but it makes a big difference.  Maybe it is more than respecting one another, maybe it is members understanding their role in taking care of the people around them.  It seems these team members know the strengths around the table and reach out to learn from them.  They also hold carefully to turn-taking and listening to one another to consider new ideas and perspectives.

There is great trust.  I have to say in my month of sitting beside a variety of teams, I've been struck by the trust some teams have with one another.  Our work isn't easy, and I've heard teachers openly share their struggles with their team.  On strong teams, these statements aren't judged in any way.  As teachers, we've all been in tough places.  Instead, these statements are met with understanding, careful listening, and tender problem-solving.

I have to say this month of working alongside teams, I've become intrigued by those who seem to have some magic as they come together.  I think I would have once said a team needs to have common beliefs, but honestly I've sat beside teams who have very different beliefs, but are still able to have very powerful conversations.  I think once upon a time I would have said teams need to have similar strengths, but I have learned through my own participation on teams that different strengths make for a powerful team.  In these magical teams, it seems that everyone steps toward common understandings as their time together unfolds.

For those with this magic, savor it.  For those still searching for this magic, I hope you find it.  Having been on teams where there is a synchronicity, I know I will always do all I can to make that happen in my future teams.  The work is too hard to not have people around me to support the work I do, to push when I need a push, and to help me over tough spots.  I'm grateful for the team members along the way who have shared their magic with me.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on characteristics of strong teams.  How have they impacted you in the work you do?  What do you think makes a strong team?  How do you see your role on a team?





Thursday, November 1, 2018

Three Picture Books to Hope

A few years ago I stumbled upon this poem, Brave New Voices, by Aminah Iro and Hannah Halpern.  I'll let these brave voices speak for themselves.   


The last week has once again found me questioning the direction in which we are heading.  In times like these, I'm grateful for picture books that help me to hope.  (This trailer seems timely.)




Three Books of Hope
Come with Me by Holly McGhee and illustrated by Pascal Lemaître.  

A young girl learns how her part matters in the world.  

Three Ways You Might Use It
Community Conversations:  This book reminds that two people are stronger than one.  A great book for conversations about being our best selves in our communities.

Anchor Text:  This book provides opportunities for discussion of problem and solution.  It allows readers the opportunity to think what a character says and does to show change.

Mentor Text:  As a mentor text, this book offers an opportunity to see the way an author can weave a common phrase through a story to strengthen their message.


The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by Rafael López. 

In this book, a young girl works to find her place in her classroom.  She doesn't see how her story fits in with those around her.  At first she remains quiet, but soon finds that sharing her story is the first step toward belonging.

Three Ways You Might Use It
Community Conversations:  This book allows opportunities to talk about story, identity, and understanding the perspectives of others.  As the author says, "...where every friend has something a little like you - and something else so fabulously not quite like you at all."

Anchor Text:  Jacqueline Woodson crafts a beautiful message through making intentional decisions about the way to tell this story.  How does the author help us to get to know the challenges this character faces?

Mentor Text:  This book allows young authors the opportunity to look at the way little details can tell us more about the story.  She uses carefully selected details to create a sense of belonging.


Dreamers by Yuyi Morales.

This book tells of the journey of a mother and child who take tremendous risk to follow their dreams and seek something more.  It tells the story of immigrants who hope to find a new life and the power of books in achieving the unimaginable.

Three Ways You Might Use It
Community Conversations:  This book opens conversation for taking risks and following dreams.  It also allows the opportunity to see the challenge of starting in a new place.  It also helps to open the conversation for the way writing and reading help us to find our own voices.

Anchor Text:  This book provides an opportunity to talk about the challenges characters face and the ways they work to overcome them.

Mentor Text:  This book helps to show the way the careful selection of words can enhance a story.  Though the book is written in few lines, it tells a powerful story.  Additionally, the author's note in the back speaks to the stories behind our writing.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Just Read Aloud



Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
It seems we have gotten very good at taking a picture book, snippet of text, or poem and using it to help teach a mini-lesson.  We've learned to use the stories authors write to help readers learn how to think, how to dig into a message, how to consider new perspectives.  Picture books often support our teaching of big ideas in reading providing a shared conversation for our communities.  We've also learned to use the work of authors to teach the young writers ways to craft a piece of writing.  By taking a closer look at the moves authors make, we can help our writers to see new possibilities.

There certainly is authenticity to bringing in books and texts learners would want to read.  It makes the work real - and enjoyable.  However, I was reminded yesterday, as we walked into a fifth grade classroom to find students spread around the room listening to their teacher read, of the power of just reading aloud.  Students were all around the room as the teachers voice carefully shaped the words in the story.  Some were laying on the floor, some on stools, and some nestled tightly around their teacher.  The students were spellbound and didn't even to seem to notice as we entered.  It was just after lunch and the story seemed to be pulling the community back together in shared experience; the teachers words sometimes creating audible gasps as they listened to the new chapter together.

In many classrooms, it isn't be uncommon to have 3-5 read alouds in any given day.  Teachers find time to read from a variety of texts to support the learning happening in their communities.  In all of those opportunities to read aloud, we want a portion of that time to be just reading aloud.  Just peeling the layers of story.  Just letting the words whisper into the ears of all those listening.  Just letting the story sink into the hearts of the listeners gathered together.  There should always be a time to just read aloud.  Every day.



You might enjoy...


Saturday, October 27, 2018

You Don't Need "Buy-In" If You're Listening

Buy-In
Listening.

We can learn so much from just taking the time to listen.

In today's ed world, it's not uncommon to hear the words "buy-in" thrown around education tables or written in educational blog posts.  Every time I hear these words put together, I want to grab them out of the air and throw them away.  The truth is, if we need "buy-in" we must not be listening in the first place.

In education as in other professions most shifts in practice, changes in the way the work is done, or new initiatives, are set in motion as a result of a system challenge, a detected problem, or new information.  The best decisions that are made are made through careful listening and responding (not reacting).


We're Not in Sales
When I was in my twenties, I went to purchase a car.  As I walked around the lot, a salesman approached.  "Can I help you?" he inquired.

"Do you have any blue cars like this one?" I asked pointing at the model I hoped to purchase.

"What?!  You're going to be picky about color?" he blurted.

Well, we were done.  I was buying my first new car and if I wanted to be picky about color, I was going to be picky about color.

Fast forward, a decade or two (okay maybe three), and I stood on a different car lot (never went back to the other one ---- and I've bought a lot of cars since then) admiring a white car they had showcased.  The salesman came over to ask, "Do you like white?"  Okay, there's some great irony here, but I'm a little put off that he asked me about the color first.

"I'm just checking out this car," I answered.  I really wasn't in the market for a car, but I couldn't help being drawn in by all the bells and whistles this car had for its price.  I went back to looking at the car's interior, reading its information, and then stepped back to take a bigger look.

"I think you do like the white," his voice interrupted my thinking.

The truth is, white is my least favorite car color --- and now I have a lot more criteria when I am car shopping.

Salesmen want to sell us something; maybe they want to sell us something we don't even need.


People First
Leaders shouldn't be salesmen, but servants who serve the people they work alongside --- this never should require "buy-in."

In education, people lead from a variety of places.  The most important work is done in classrooms alongside children.  In listening to professionals closest to the daily work with learners we can discover much.  What works?  What are the challenges teachers are working through?  In my work, I have the gift of being beside teachers to listen.  I work alongside teachers in classrooms, sit beside literacy coaches as they grow conversations, attend team meetings as teachers discuss student work, join professional learning opportunities, engage in conversation, and work to really listen to my colleagues.  Educators know what is working, what is hard, what is needed. If we listen there are patterns across conversations, ways to support educators with the challenges they wrestle with in their learning communities.  This isn't easy work we do --- and it is so much better when we do it together.

Instead of "buy-in," leaders should remember to...

  • Listen In:  Instead of looking for "buy in," listen in.  Pay attention to what people are saying.  What's working?  What are the challenges?  


  • Share Information:  Communication is essential.  


  • Be Responsive, Not Reactive:  It is easy to look for quick fixes to challenges that arise, but if we are careful to respond instead of react we can have a greater impact.