Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Forest Has a Song & So Does Amy LV

Today I'm sending happy thoughts to Amy Ludwig VanDerwater (@amylvpoemfarm) as her new book, Forest Has a Song:  Poems is released!  Today is the day it steps out into the world!  I have ordered my copy and can't wait for it to arrive.

If you haven't visited Amy's blog, The Poem Farm, you'll want to stop by.  The first time I came across Amy's blog was when she was writing a poem a day for a year.  Yes, for 365 days she wrote poems.  At the time I was trying to post a picture each day and couldn't keep up with that.  I had no idea how she came up with a poem every day, but she did.  I was in awe of her perseverance --- and in awe of her poetry.

I've continued to follow Amy's poetry on her blog.  At The Poem Farm, Amy not only shares her poetry, but often the thinking behind her poems.  She often adds photographs and audio recordings of her poetry as well.  As a teacher, I find there are so many resources available on her site.  One of my favorite resources is her "find a poem" page.  This page allows visitors to search for poems by topic or by poem technique.

If you are a teacher, a poet, or a writer, you may also want to stop by Sharing Our Notebooks.  On this blog, Amy features a variety of people who share their notebooks.  It's interesting to see the crafting process of others.

As you can see, Amy keeps very busy.  I'm so grateful that she is willing to share all of her thinking, collecting, and writing with us.  I was so happy to finally have the opportunity to meet her at NCTE in November.  Today, I wish her all the best as her new book is released to the world.  I'm looking forward to having her poetry resting on the shelf in our classroom.

Congratulations, Amy!!!

This post is cross posted at Merely Day by Day where I am participating in Slice of Life Challenge.  

Thanks Stacey and Ruth:  Two Writing Teachers
#slice2013   26 of 31

Sunday, March 10, 2013

My First Ed Camp #edcampcbus

EdCamp Columbus

I probably should've taken a picture.  Let's face it, there are important events in our lives that should be documented with photographs:  our first steps, our first lost tooth, our first car, our first paycheck --- and our first edcamp.

On Friday night I was reading posts for The Slice of Life Challenge and following conversations on Twitter when I saw a tweet about Ed Camp Columbus.  A friend had told me that #edcampcbus was coming up, but I hadn't really been able to find any information.  I went back through the tweets of those I thought might be promoting the event, and still couldn't find it.  So on Friday night at nearly 10 o'clock I notice a tweet about the event which was to be held Saturday morning - yes, the very next morning - at 9 a.m..  My calendar happened to be free so at nearly midnight I registered for the event.  Crazy, huh?!

What is #edcamp?
For those of you unfamiliar with #edcamps, they take place in cities across the United States.  When a place for the event is found, and a date is chosen, everyone gathers to learn one from another.  EdCamps really have no set agenda, participants arrive and begin listing what they'd like to talk about on the board.  Sessions are then formed for those wanting to have common conversations around a topic and rooms are assigned.  These aren't really formal presentations like we often experience at professional conferences, but more informal conversations around a topic.  Sessions seemed to always include those in the know on a topic and those wanting to know more about a topic.

Edcamps are FREE professional development so what did I have to lose.  On Saturday morning I got up, grabbed a Starbucks, and headed to the other side of Columbus.  I wasn't sure what I was in for, but I was quite sure I wanted to find out more about EdCamps.

My day was full of learning:  
Using Evernote to Capture Student Learning:  In this session a group of us gathered to talk about Evernote.  As you know, I am a huge fan of EN.  We shared some of the ways we're using EN to follow the learners in our classrooms.  We talked a bit about applications that work with EN.  I discovered that you can share a notebook and collaborate with it if one person has a premium account.  I'm planning to give that a try on Monday.  I shared this resource for getting started with Evernote.

Data and Assessment and The Need for Translation:  In this session there was a wide range of participants:  teachers, administrators, instructional coaches, and technology coordinators.  This group discussed the need for being more vocal about the way our students are being measured.  The question was asked, "Why is there a need to quantify qualitative information?"  I couldn't help but wonder why we are using old ways of measurement (standardized tests) for new world learning.

Developing Student Ownership:  In this session several teachers shared how they have set up units of study in which students work through at their own pace.  They explained the benefits, as they saw them --- and the challenges they've faced.  This session had me really working to define how I view student ownership.  What are the parts of the learning process should students own?  How do we set up our environments so students can own the learning?  What is our role in student ownership?

Rockin' Around the (Google) Docs:  Wow!  I didn't know you could learn so much in a 50 minute session.  Danielle shared some ways to use Google docs in our classrooms.  She shared Doctopus, Flubaroo, and other ways to effectively research, collaborate and create using Google Docs.  I learned ways to research, search for images and annotate right within the doc.  Oh, the things we don't know.

Each session was an interesting and thoughtful conversation.  What struck me the most was the community of learners created in that moment.  Some had come because they had heard about the event on Twitter, some had come because they heard about the event in their districts, but all came to participate, learn, and share their knowledge.  Though I took away much from each session, I also gained a few more connections, some time to talk with teachers I know from other districts, and a few more friends to follow on Twitter.

To top it all off, I won a free year's subscription to Simple K12.  Not bad for a day's time.  Thanks to Gahanna schools for the use of their beautiful Clark Hall facility, Dwight Carter, Toby Fischer, and the many others who helped make the day a success.  I can't wait until #edcampcbus 2014!

Tweetdoc of #edcampcbus 2013

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Exclamation Mark!

Have you ever had one of those read alouds where you had the class from the moment you started to read?  Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld is just that book.  From the moment I opened the book to begin to read until I closed it at the very end I had my class hanging onto every word.  I'll let the characters tell you a little about it:

?:  Have you read our book?

!:  You really should!

?:  Do you like Amy Krouse Rosenthal?
    Do you like Tom Lichtenheld?  
    Have you read their books?

!:  You should!  You really should!  

?:  Do you like books about friends?
     Do you like books with happy endings?
     Do you like books with fun characters?

!:  We're fun!  We're a lot of fun!  You should read our book!  I was so lonely until I met question mark!  Question mark helped me to be me!

?:  Did I really help you to feel better?

!:  Yes!  You are the BEST friend a punctuation mark could have!  Yes!  Yes!  Yes!


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Is "I Can" Enough?

I've tried to write this post a hundred times.  I can't find the words.  I can't find the voice.  I'm not clear enough about my own thinking to share it with all of you, but I'm wondering...  

So I've decided to write this post as if you and I are sitting down with a cup of a coffee.  I've decided to ask you the questions that I am pondering right now daily.   I hope you'll take time to read it, think about it, and share your thoughts with me.   

I Can Statements
In an effort to help students take ownership of their learning there has been a move toward "I Can" statements or learning targets.  Many educators are using them with success (How I CAN Statements Can Work for You, How I Am Using Those I Can Statements, Writing I Can Statements).  The belief is, if children understand the focus of the learning and have a clear goal, achievement will be improved.  We've had many interesting conversations about this very topic in our school.

Learning targets are designed to help students understand the expected outcome.  Whether they are class statements or individual statements, they focus students on what they should be able to do in the end.  When I think about these statements, I think they often require me to be clear about my expectations for students.  If I'm clear about my expected outcome, my lessons are likely to be focused to what I want students to take away from them.  As I've learned about these statements I have also found myself asking:
  • Are learning targets enough?
  • Do "I Can" statements and other targets put student attention on the thinking that will help them grow as learners?
  • How do "I Can" Statements fit into the curriculum?
  • How many "I Can" Statements are too many? 
  • How do we write effective "I Can" statements?  
When I search "I Can" statements, here are some of the first ones I find:  
  • I can use ordinal numbers (first, second, third) to order objects.
  • I can use exclamation points when I write.
  • I can say the beginning and ending sounds of words. 
Did you ever play the Sesame Street game, "One of these things is not like the others."?  Here are four more statements I found.  Think about how they are different:
  • Math:  I can add to 10. (applying)
  • Science:  I can investigate balance. (analyzing and evaluating)
  • Language:  I can use exclamation marks when I write.  (applying)
  • Social Studies:  I can use a compass rose to show direction.  (applying)
Language for Learning
Language is important in learning.  Will Richardson just wrote an article for ASCD, Students First - Not Stuff, in which he discusses student learning during these times of technological advancement.  Richardson asks, "What if we focused on developing kids who are "learners" instead of trying to make sure they're "learned"?  In other words, are we asking our students to know or to understand how to learn? Are we shaping learners who are able to figure things out in a world where so much knowing and learning are right at their fingertips?  In a push toward standardized assessment, are we creating standard children?  Is that really enough?

I'm going to be honest right now and tell you I likely lean toward a constructivist philosophy of learning.  I think learners construct their own knowledge when given authentic opportunities to learn.  Spending years learning about inquiry has solidified this for me.  For this reason, I think the language we use with children is key in shaping students who take on a learning mindset.  Language is important in creating agency and in shifting students away from thinking they have to be right and toward thinking they can figure things out.

This model was shared by 
Overbaughand Schultz, Ohio Dominion University
"I Can" in Context
Though I want students to have ownership of their learning and their achievement, I keep wrestling with "I Can" statements.  Let's consider this scenario using the revised version of Bloom's Taxonomy.  Gardening is something I enjoy attempting each year, but honestly it rarely goes well for me.  Let's say my statement is, "I can plant a garden."  The "I can" in my statement assumes application, but can I plant a garden that produces healthy vegetables?  This "I can" statement assumes as I learn I will be able to apply information to plant a garden.  Honestly,  I can plant a garden.  I can till our garden, plant the seeds, and wait for the plants to grow.  However, I must confess my garden rarely produces the quality of vegetables I hope it will.

Let's say instead of an "I can plant a garden," I ask "How do I produce healthy vegetation in my garden?".  I think the "How" changes my frame my mind.  My goal is still to plant a garden, but now I'm wondering how do I plant a successful garden.  Soon I'm wondering:
  • What steps help to create a garden that produces healthy vegetation?
  • How do I prepare the soil for gardening?  
  • Do certain plants grow better in certain conditions?  What do my tomato plants need (for example)?
  • How do I keep plants healthy as they grow?  
Which will help me to improve the quality of my garden?  For me, "I Can" suggests I will do it, but "How do I" suggests I'm going to figure it out.  "I Can" suggests I own the result, "How do I" suggests I own the process.  Now that I've asked "How," I'm going to have to read, research, ask experts, and experiment.  By setting out to understand "how" I'm going to have to understand, analyze,  and evaluate.  In the end, I should be able to create a garden with better vegetation.

Is "I Can" Enough
I think of "I Can" statements in much the way I think of goals.  I've been using goals in my classroom for quite some time and it is a process I'm always trying to improve.  We set goals in our classroom because I want students to own their learning.  Some of the quickest shifts are made in learning when students own it.  I'm constantly trying to figure out the best way to word these to get the desired outcome.

Recently Barry Weaver, an educator who supports gifted students in our building, came in to work collaboratively with our classroom to support mathematical reasoning and thinking.  I explained where we were in this process, that students often searched for the answer quickly and weren't always able to rethink and talk about their understanding.  He came into the classroom with this learning target, "I can think creatively or differently (analyzing, evaluating, creating)."  You can imagine the difference this created in the way students went about their work.  It wasn't enough to just solve it.  Were there other ways to solve it?  Can you show different ways to solve it?  What if his target would have been, "I can solve word problems using addition and subtraction (applying)."?

Building a Learning Mindset 
I suppose "I Can" statements may be used as a way for students to measure progress.  It seems to me "I Can" statements, though perhaps useful in measurement, are not as powerful for learning as the deeper questions that guide our studies.  If we want students to be learners in today's technological world we want students who can ask questions and find their own paths to learning, understanding, and creating.  

While these types of targets may show measurable short-term progress, I'm wondering if these kinds of statements result in shaping the kinds of learners who can communicate effectively, think creatively, and work with innovation.  Yes, we want students to understand where we are headed and to be involved in the ways we measure (see Bud Hunt's post on Data Dashboards for some interesting thinking on this), but do we want them spending more time measuring than creating?  Do we want them applying their learning or using it ways to evaluate, analyze and create?  In our classrooms are we producing students who can take tests today or shape our world tomorrow?  I'm just wondering....

Recent Reads about Shaping a Learning Mindset: