Sunday, September 29, 2013

Literacy Connection: Celebrating with Ruth Ayres

"It's a journey we are on.  We are always taking steps, backing up, starting again."  Ruth Ayres

Celebrate!  It's a word one can easily get behind.  Ruth Ayres came to Central Ohio's Literacy Connection to share her thinking about celebrations in writing.  (My "Celebrations" Storify collection of tweets is here.)  Ruth reminded us that celebration is the very thing that ties us all together.  In her example, she talked about the stitches on a quilt.  These stitches keep the quilt together much like celebrations hold the work we do as writers together.  Ruth shared five important messages about celebration:

  • The writer is more important than the writing.
  • Writers celebrate throughout the process.
  • Learning, growing writers are the goal.
  • Personalize writing process is important to writers.
  • Everyone has a story to share.  

Celebrating Process
It seems that one of the advantages of celebration is the opportunity for implicit teaching.  In these early days of workshop it is not possible to "teach" everything young writers need to know.  However, if we celebrate the small steps of writers, students may begin to see the way authors work.  This is also helpful as writers don't always have the same process, and young writers need to know this.

Ruth reminded us to "honor growth" by finding the little steps along the way.  She asked, how do we honor the growth of writers in different parts of their journey?  When you have two pieces of writing sitting side by side from two writers in very different parts of their journey, how do we honor each?  This really made me pause to remember to not just celebrate the writing that matches the strategies we are learning or the pieces that look just like first grade pieces should, but also to honor and celebrate the next steps of writers in earlier stages of their journey.

Most of all, celebrations help us to shift our thinking toward what children can do.  Celebrations help us to look at next steps and begin to see the places where young writers are trying to step into new understandings.

Ruth talked a lot about partnerships.  As I listened I realized much of her thinking about partnerships also is true about our time sharing and talking about our writing.  For me, share time is essential to our workshop.  There isn't a day that we do not take time to share at the end of our work together.  It is, in my opinion, one of the most powerful places to create a common language about writing, to share next steps, to learn to work like a writer.  However, it is also the part of the workshop that I struggle to improve.  How do I help students to give other writers supportive feedback?  How do we move beyond "I like" language to "I noticed you..." language?  How does ownership remain with the community and not just through my orchestration of this time together?

Share Should (adapted for share from Ruth's thinking about partnerships):

  • Give specific feedback 
  • There's energy there 
  • They lift each other up
  • The writing being lifted up 

Students need to know, "We are a community that talks about this.."  I'm thinking this focus on celebrating writing may help to make these changes.

Ways We Currently Celebrate
Listening to Ruth I realized I do more celebrating of product than process.  (Yes, surprised me a bit.)

Changing Celebrations
These are a few ways I want to change celebrations so they are more about steps in the process.  

  • Celebrating Writers:  celebration the steps of all writers --- moving beyond steps of first grade writers to steps of each writer across the process.
  • Graffiti Wall:  Stella suggested a wall where great lines and words from student writers are collected
  • Tweeting Writing Process Tips:  taking words of student writers as we confer and tweeting their smart thinking about the writing the process
  • Celebrating Self:  not really sure how this goes exactly, but Louise Borden reminded me that writers celebrate their own small steps in lots of ways.  How can I help students to find their own celebrations?  

How do you CELEBRATE young writers?  

Thanks to Ruth Ayres for an inspiring and energizing day of learning.  

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Finding the Power of Twitter

Recently I had lunch with a friend who asked, "How do you manage Twitter?  How do you keep up?" I hear this question a lot from people who have a hard time understanding what everyone loves about Twitter.  I'm sure when people ask me the question they are really asking, "Why are you so crazy?"

Twitter takes time to learn and love.  I'd consider myself a Twitter addict but, even though I love it, I find it hard to get back into the flow after being away for a few weeks.  It takes time to get back into the conversations.

Twitter Threads
Twitter runs in threads, but the threads are all intermixed.  When I first started using Twitter I worked hard to find the threads.  I made Twitter lists of people who often tweet about the same topics.  When viewing your Twitter feed it is not uncommon to have a tweet about literacy beside a tweet about technology under a news tweet.  You know what I mean.

Grouping like accounts under a topic and then reading in a list view can help conversations to connect a bit more.  I also learned to use the "conversation button."  This button lets me view a tweet and the other tweets in the conversation.  Twitter has also started using a blue line to show you conversation connections.  I'm not sure what I think of this yet, but it all helps tweets to make a bit more sense.

Managing Twitter
How do I keep up with Twitter?  I really don't.  I doubt anyone truly does.  There's too much happening and I just don't let myself worry about it.  I catch what I can and know that if something is truly amazing it will come back through the feed again.  It always does.

Here are a few tips that help me love Twitter:
  • Make Twitter lists.  This helps you manage your feed.  When I'm really busy I just go to the lists I know I don't want to miss.  (You can also follow the lists other people create.)
  • Take advantage of wait time.  I spend a lot of time waiting.  Waiting at games.  Waiting in lines.  Waiting for kids after events.  Wait time is the perfect time to check Twitter.  
  • Follow hashtags.  More and more I find myself following hashtag conversations.  These are usually groups of people interested in a common topic.  You can view the conversation whether you are following everyone or not.  Some of my favorite hashtags right now are:  #poetryfriday #1stchat - there's #2ndchat #4thchat...etc. - #edchat #PublicEd #nerdybookclub #slice2013 #rechat.
  • Make your own conversations.  Remember Twitter is about learning.  You will enjoy it more if you comment on tweets people share, if you start conversations, if you ask questions, if you interact with others.  
  • Don't let Twitter own you.  Don't worry if you don't get there every night.  Don't worry if you have missed hundreds of tweets.  There will be plenty more amazing conversations.  
What do you love about Twitter?  What tips do you have for managing it?  

Monday, September 2, 2013

Using Evernote for Forms and Templates

You know I could go on and on about my love for Evernote.  Evernote has made keeping records and staying organized so much easier for me.  It's the best thing that has happened to my personal organization since I forced myself to get rid of my teacher's desk many many years ago. (I've been collecting helpful Evernote articles here.  Evernote:  Capturing Student Learning Journeys)

Thankfully, there are many colleagues working with Evernote now so I'm constantly rethinking its use and learning new tricks.  It seems the eternal question for Evernote comes back to using forms.  How can you make a form in Evernote?  Well, as far as I've been able to figure out in conversations with other Evernote users, you just can't.  Typically I prefer a blank piece of paper to a form anyway as I can shape the note in the way that works for my message, but there are times when a form might just be the perfect thing.  For those times, here are a few possibilities.

Using Forms
Here are a few ways I've learned to create forms and organize with Evernote:

Checklists:  If you can make a check list work, Evernote will allow you to create one inside a note.  This is the only way I have discovered to make a form directly in Evernote.  (Well, you can also make a note with set questions and use it as a template.)  I just create the checklist template and then copy it into individual notes for students.

Google Forms:  I have found Google Forms to be my favorite "go to" form creator.  I can easily create forms for parents, for conferring with students, and for recording data in a user friendly format.  Google Forms will take my information and place it in a spreadsheet where I can move it around and work with it.  Here a quick how-to by Susan Dee.

I typically create a form and then insert the form link into Evernote.  Then as I move around the classroom I can easily click into the form to add information.  After the form is complete I go to the created spreadsheet, highlight important parts of the information, sort it if needed, and then take a screenshot of the completed spreadsheet.  I then place the screenshot in Evernote with appropriate tags.  Often I add it into the note with the original form link.  I'm then able to click on the note during the day directly in Evernote without leaving to go to my Google drive.

Ghostwriter Notes:  Ghostwriter Notes is another app I use for using forms with Evernote.  Ghostwriter allows you to create different types of notebooks for recording information.  With Ghostwriter you can choose your own paper for you notes or use custom paper you create.  When using Ghostwrite I create a note in Word and then take a picture of it.  I then insert this picture as custom paper.  After I have the paper created I can type or write on the notes.  As you turn the page a new page is created and dated.  When finished with the note you can send it to Evernote using your Evernote email account address which is located in the setting of your account.  Ghostwriter pages can be emailed to parents and other collaborators in one easy click.

Noteshelf:  Noteshelf works almost exactly like Ghostwriter, but it allows you to use tags on each page.  This would make Noteshelf a better choice if you wanted to just keep your forms in a notebook without sending them to Evernote.  I find Noteshelf to work with a little more ease than Ghostwriter as Ghostwriter has its glitchy days (though I don't find them enough to keep me from using it).  I also prefer the pen selection in Noteshelf to that of Ghostwriter.  While Noteshelf allows you to create notebooks, make custom paper, and use tags, emailing from Noteshelf to your Evernote account requires a few more clicks.

KustomNote:  Katherine Sokolowski wrote at Read, Write, Reflect about KustomNote in Stumbling Through Evernote.  I had a hard time using KustomNote, but it does allow you to create forms and may work better for others.

If you have solutions to the eternal Evernote form question, I'd love to hear your thoughts.