Thursday, August 28, 2014

Slowing Down

Picture via @DarbyCreekElem
Slowing Down
In my new role as a reading intervention teacher, it would be easy to get caught up in collecting data in these first days of school.  When teachers see me coming, I think they expect that I want to know something concrete or I've come to collect it.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Honestly, the end of year data from last year gives me the perfect place to begin.  It would be easy in today's world of testing to rush right in, but I want to slow down.  Young literacy learners need time to get back to what they know.  They need time to learn new routines, find their places in their learning communities, and reacquaint themselves with their favorite books.  They need time to tell their new stories and time to learn the stories of their friends.  They need time to feel safe in this new place they'll learn and grow. 

Stepping Inside
Quietly opening the door to the first grade classroom I step inside trying to not attract attention.  The students have seen me come in and out a few times already, and are getting used to my arrival, giving it little attention.  It's hard to believe these first graders have been in school for less than a week.  It's writer's workshop and these writers are working hard on their stories as music softly plays in the background.  

Though I came in the classroom to focus on a few of the students I will likely work with in the coming school year to provide extra reading support, I also want to get to know the class.  I glance around to see where the students I have come to sit beside are working, but my plan is to move around the room.  I soon notice Kelsey sitting with an empty paper in front of her.  Though the kids around her are confidently drawing their stories, adding color to their illustrations, and attempting simple sentences, she is just sitting.  I ease my way in her direction, chatting with a few writers along the way, and ask how it is going.  "Is it writer's workshop?" I inquire.  "Yes," she replies.  

"What story are you going to tell today?" hoping that will set her up to tell me something.  She only shrugs and then rests her chin on her hand.  By the appearance of the papers in front of the friends around her, I would guess today's workshop is well underway.  I wait for a bit to see if she is going to add anything, but silence fills the air.  Finally I offer, "There are so many things we don't know about you yet.  What do you want your friends to know about you?"  She shrugs again.  We chat for a bit as I try to get to know her and listen for a story.  As she begins to talk about her dog, a smile finally shines across her face.  I think we've found her story for today.  She decides to write about her dog, but quickly stops as her pencil nears the paper.  I can tell she isn't sure what to do to tell her story.  "Do you want to add words or draw a picture  first?" I ask.  

"Draw a picture," she affirms to me and herself, but she continues to hesitate.  "I don't know how to draw a dog," she confides. 

"I always think about the shapes first," I tell her and together we work through getting started.  

In these first days, I not only want to get to know students as readers, writers, and learners, but I want to get to know them as the people they are.  I want to build rapport with students, but most of all I want them to know they can trust me to help them when they need it.  

In these first days, my goals are simple:
  • Get to know them.  Likes, dislikes, interests, hobbies, family.
  • Learn their stories.  
  • Notice what they choose to read.
  • Celebrate what they already know.
  • Discover the strategies they use as they read, write, and learn.
  • Compare current performance to last year's end of year data.  
  • Determine their comfort with risk.

Knowing Them
It would be easy to rush to collect data and push leaners toward next steps, but there will be time for that.  These days are foundational in building for the important work we will do across the year.  There will be time to take next steps, set goals, stretch as learners, but for today I want to slow down and get to know them.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Advancing Learning Journeys: Digital Student Portfolios Blog Tour

"One realization regarding assessment is that formative and summative assessments are often not separate entities."                                                                  -  Matt Renwick, Digital Student Portfolios, p. 82 

A New Start 
It's that time of year.  On Facebook, my educator friends are sharing pictures of their classrooms set up for the upcoming school year.  There are conversations about spaces, classroom libraries, and goals for a new year.  On Twitter, the conversation has been about first read aloud selections, workshop routines for the beginning of the year, and changes in math practice.  Our minds are spinning with all there is to do, and all we hope to do differently, as we take our first steps in our new learning communities.

That makes this the perfect time to share Matt Renwick's new book, Digital Student Portfolios:  A Whole School Approach to Connected Learning and Continuous Assessment.  If I remember correctly, I was first introduced to Matt Renwick by Susan Dee several years ago in a Google chat.  At the time, I had started collaborating with others in my PLN to figure out Evernote.  Since that time, our conversations have continued and grown so I was honored to be asked to join the blog tour for Matt's new book.

Capturing Advancing Learning Journeys (p. 16 Jossey-Bass, 2011 reference)
As we think about the beginning of the year and start to set routines for ourselves and our learning community, considering use of a digital tool for collecting learning artifacts has many advantages.  In this book Matt reminds us, "[The tool selected to capture learning] is secondary to the 'big idea' itself compiling a dynamic collection of information from many sources, in many forms and with many purposes, all aimed at presenting the most complete story possible of a student's learning experience."

Here's an example of a checklist I created for writer's workshop
observations in the beginning of the year.  I copied the checklist
put it in each child's folder for conferring.
In an education world filled with data, graphs, and charts, it is easy to lose sight of the story of learning - of the journey.  Matt shares classroom vignettes that help to illustrate the way this school community worked together to find better ways to capture the journeys of young learners to document growth, plan next steps and celebrate progress.  (Throughout the book there are links to Evernote notes, screencasts, and examples of the work done in this learning community.)

Here's an example of a student's shift in spacing
after two lessons.  When we took the picture we took
a picture of her new piece with spacing and placed
the previous piece without spacing above to show
the change.  

Digital portfolios allow "the teacher to both respond to the student in the present moment, as well as look back later on artifacts of learning to prepare for instruction in the future. (p. 83)"  In his book, Matt compares performance and progress portfolios.

  • Performance:  "Digital student portfolios have the capacity to showcase [my emphasis] our students as people with ideas, creativity, and passion." p. 32  These portfolios share more personal best or mastery work and lend themselves to being more summative in nature.  
  • Progress:  "Progress portfolios are more fine-grained; the contents collected in these portfolios show growth over time; the ups and downs, the struggles and breakthroughs, that are always part of the learning process."  These portfolios share the steps along the way and may be more formative in nature.

Student Ownership
Matt's equation for engagement would look like this:
access + purpose + audience = engagement.

Connections help students to work authentically and Matt states, "I have found that the most powerful motivator for bringing out the best in student work is a broader audience. (p. 42)"  The examples shared help illustrate this point.

Matt continually stays focused on pedagogy over technology.  One of the pieces I appreciated was the emphasis on student ownership across the book.  For me, Evernote has opened doors to documenting the steps in student learning with purpose, ease, and efficiency.  It has allowed me to keep notes, capture images, and record audio to collect touch points across the year of steps students have made as learners.  It has made it easier to collaborate and share information.  However, I'm continually asking myself if students own this process.

Matt reminds us, "Students should also be invested in the process of collecting, analyzing and reflecting upon the products they produce (p. 15)."  The examples he shares of student work, Evernote notes, and other learning artifacts helped me to envision ways to begin to shift ownership to students.

A New Year
Now that my room is arranged, my first read aloud chosen, and my new website is ready to roll, I am ready to create folders for the students I will work with this year in Evernote.  Matt's book has me ready to spend some time considering new steps for the new year.

Please comment for your chance to win a copy of Digital Student Portfolios.  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Picture Book 10 for 10: Being Brave

Today is our 5th annual picture book event:  #pb10for10.  You can join by linking your blog post here or at Enjoy and Embrace Learning.  Mandy and I will then add your post to our 2014 picture book jog.

It is often a little challenging to link all of the posts to the Jog from both of our blogs without duplicating information.  For this reason, we have a few requests if you're joining the event to make it easier for us to collect picture book lists:
  • If you'd like to have your blog linked to the conversation, just comment with the link (cut and paste your post address in the comments) for your picture book list here OR at Enjoy and Embrace Learning.  
  • You are welcome to comment on both blogs (comments are always appreciated), but to simplify our work in creating this year's jog as a resource, please ONLY LEAVE YOUR LINK ON ONE OF OUR BLOGS.  This will help us to keep from duplicating posts in the jog. 
  • You can also mention us in a link on Twitter using the event hashtag #pb10for10.  However, we cannot guarantee that tweeted links will be added to the jog.  (It gets a little crazy out there!) 
  • If you don't have a blog, but would like to join, there are lots of ways to participate. 
  • If this is your 5th year, please mention this when you leave your link.
My Past 10 Collections
In 2013 I shared 10 Newer Authors/Illustrators I Love
In 2012 I shared 10 Mentor Texts for Young Writers
In 2011 I shared 10 Authors I Can't Live Without
In 2010 I shared 10 Must-Have Picture Books

This Year's Choices
Last year my students were fascinated by books in which the character had to be brave.  They created a brave basket and filled it with books featuring courageous characters.  Sometimes learning, telling the truth, or getting over our fears can be hard.  Sometimes we have to be brave and work through tough times.  I decided this year, I'd share ten titles about being brave.

Don't Be Afraid, Little Pip by Karma Wilson (author) and Jane Chapman (illustrator).  In this story, Little Pip doesn't want to learn to swim in the deep ocean.  She's a bird.  She wants to fly.  While all the other penguins start swimming lessons, Pip tries to find someone who can help her to fly.  Will she be brave enough to learn to swim?

Ruthie and the (Not So) Teeny Tiny Lie by Laura Rankin.  Ruthie loves little things.  One day she finds a very tiny camera on the playground.  When she returns to class, Martin tells the teacher the camera belongs to him.  Ruthie assures the teacher the camera belongs to her.  Can she be brave enough to tell the truth?

Courage by Bernard Waber.  What is courage?  Kids can discover the many different kinds of courage in this picture book.

Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bike by Chris Raschka.  Young children have to be brave to learn to ride a bike.  This book not only teaches the reader how to ride a bike, but also demonstrates the importance of trying again and again.

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig (author) and Patrice Barton (illustrator).  Sometimes we have to be brave in handling the way people treat us or in making new friends.  This is the case for Brian who is not picked for teams, invited to parties, or noticed at recess.

My Brave Year of Firsts by Jamie Lee Curtis (author) and Laura Cornell (illustrator).  You have to be brave the first time you try to do new things.  This books is full of firsts.

Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds (author) and Peter Brown (illustrator).  There's nothing scarier than carrots plotting against you. Jasper loved to eat carrots, enjoying them for breakfast, dinner and snacks.  One day Jasper begins to think he notices the carrots following him.  He starts hearing them at night when he goes to bed. Is it his imagination?  It isn't long until Jasper is convinced the carrots are coming to get him.  Jasper has to be brave.  He begins to work on a plan to stop the carrots.  Will it work?

The I'm Not Scared Book by Todd Parr.  This book talks about times we might get scared and what we can do about it.  It's perfect for starting conversations about how we sometimes have to work to get through situations and be brave.

One by Kathryn Otoshi.  Blue doesn't feel like himself when he is around Red.  Red is a hot head and makes Blue feel bad.  None of the other colors stand up to Red.  Finally One comes along and takes a stand.  He stands courageously up to Red.  Soon others follow his example and Blue learns to stand up for himself.

Nightsong by Ari Berk (author) and Loren Long (illustrator).  Momma tells Chiro it is time for him to fly into the night.  Chiro isn't sure he likes the idea of leaving the cave in the night.  Momma tells Chiro to follow his song.  That night Chiro leaves the cave, but is frightened by the night, the rustling trees, and voices buzzing.  Chiro bravely pushes on in the night.  Will Chiro find his song and gain the confidence he needs to fly in the night.

Still looking for titles about courage?  Getting down to 10 titles wasn't easy this year.  There are many books about being brave and having courage.  You can find more titles on my "Be Brave" board.

Follow Cathy 's board Be Brave on Pinterest.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Innovative Learning Environments: #ileOhio and #edcampILE

Once again this year I attended Ohio's Innovative Learning Conference in Hilliard, Ohio.  The conference was from Monday - Thursday and featured many national and local speakers.  On Friday, the conference ended with a finale.  This year the conference ended in an #edcamp:  #edcampILE.

When leaving an event like this, I try to think of my takeaways.  What did I learn?  How will I change? What resources will I seek?  What questions do I have?  This year, I'm focusing on the questions I am considering as I leave:

Franki Sibberson commented, in recent years "our expectations of kids have changed a lot, but have our classrooms?"  I'm going to be thinking that as I begin a new year in a new position.  Franki Sibberson spoke about Digital Literacy.  We're so lucky to live near so many amazing educations and Franki is one of them.  In her session Franki shared the way digital literacy is just a part of the learning that takes place in her classroom.  She shared what she has learned and how her thinking has changed since first working with digital tools.  I appreciated the way her session shared so many examples of the way digital literacy is a natural part of her workshops in her classroom.  It is obvious kids own the learning in her classroom, but I also was struck my how important connections were in the work they do.  Her message:

How can I make nonfiction more a part of the daily reading we do (and build connections with nonfiction authors)?  Franki shared the ways she is thinking about nonfiction.  She shared series, authors, and new titles:  Nonfiction in Grades 3-6.   I love learning digitally because while Franki was sharing books, I was requesting books.  I was also able to begin to see if I was following nonfiction children's authors.  Of course, I asked those I follow on Twitter if they had other nonfiction authors on Twitter and my list grew quickly.  (Thanks, @colbysharp, @LaurieThompson, @mstewartscience, @loveofxena, @cppotter, @utaliniz!)

How can I collect and efficiently share information about the students I support with classroom teachers?  Evernote or Google?  Google or Evernote?  Evernote AND Google?  This has been my summer dilemma.  For this reason, I was happy to attend sessions by Scott Sibberson about Google Forms and Google Classroom.  I was intrigued by the possibilities of Google Classroom.  It allows teachers to create classes and then easily share announcements and assignments.  I see it as an easier way to share forms or templates with primary learners as it seems to contain less steps in sharing and finding these documents.  Of course, I also began to think it could be used to share documents with teachers.  If I put teachers into a group, I think I could share information about student learning with individuals and announcements with groups.  Hmmm.  

Can Nearpod work for small group reading instruction on occasion?  I went to a session led by Mark Pohlman and Kelly Riley.  They were sharing EduCreations (which I love) and Nearpod (which I know little about).  Nearpod allows teachers to create lessons and then walk students through together.  You can insert video, slideshows, documents, webpages, and so much more.  What I liked was the ability to capture student response in drawing, polls, and other forms.  The app then collects the data and organizes it.   

How do we build connections for students?  At ILE I was able to meet and have conversations with many people I collaborate with digitally in social media spaces and across blogs.  When I think about the power of the connections from Twitter, blogging, and attending conferences like ILE, I have to think about how important it is for me to do these same things for my students.  For this reason, I create a learning hub, a class Twitter account, and set up student blogs.  How do I continue to build these connections for students in our classroom community, in our school community, locally, and globally?  

Why isn't more PD like an #edcamp?  There's something about the choice in an #edcamp that I love.  There's something about the collaborative conversation in a true #edcamp style session.  There's something about the diverse experience of participants.  Everyone possesses a different kind of knowledge about a topic, and bringing all of this together into one room always results in smart questions, new thinking, and next steps.   A huge shout out to Craig Vroom, Jacki Prati, and Lori Ludwig (and others involved) in making this day happen.  I'm thankful so many teachers from our building were there to share in the conversations --- you rock!  It's going to be a great year!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Picture Book 10 for 10: 10 Highlights from 2013 (and information to join)

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What is Picture Book 10 for 10?
On Sunday, August 10th, Mandy Robek, of Enjoy and Embrace Learning, and I will be hosting the 5th annual Picture Book 10 for 10 event. Several summers ago we began a conversation about the picture books we just can't live without and August's Picture Book 10 for 10 event was born.

In past years several communities have come together for the event:  Nerdy Book Club members, Kidlit bloggers, Twitter educators (#pb10for10), classroom teachers, media specialists, college professors, authors, parents and picture book lovers of all ages.  In the first year we had over 40 blogs participating in the event.  Last year that number grew to 128 participants.  Yep, we were a little overwhelmed. Each year these posts are compiled into a picture book resource for the children’s literature enthusiast and the new teacher alike.

This year, Mandy has been busy getting ready for her move from kindergarten to second grade. She has been wrestling with picture books for weeks. I'm wondering what 10 picture books are on her mind as she makes this transition. What about you? Many of you have expressed interest in joining our conversation. We're hoping you'll share your favorites on Sunday.

Picture Book Possibilities
If you are considering joining, you may be interested in looking through examples from previous years. Last year, I wrote about Picture Book 10 for 10 for The Nerdy Book Club and highlighted 10 examples of previous selections. To help you get started, this year I thought I'd feature ten posts from last year's event.

Past Events
You don't have to come up with a catchy theme, you can just share your ten favorites. Stop by past events for more examples. Participating blogs are compiled into a virtual magazine-like resource on Jog the Web.

Past #pb10for10 Jogs:

With the help of Julie Balen we added a nonfiction picture book event in February.  

How to Participate
On August 10th we will be hosting our 5th Annual Picture Book 10 for 10.  I’m anticipating many creative lists again this year, a few lists for secondary teachers, several “must have” titles, and books to fill your shelves.  Save your money and get your library cards ready!  

If You’d Like to Participate:  

  1. Contact Us:  Contact us on our blogs, on Twitter (@mandyrobek or @cathymere), or by e-mail to let us know you are joining this event.  This way we can try to be sure we don't miss anyone on the day of the event.  This is helpful, but not necessary.
  2. Grab a Badge:  Add the Picture Book 10 for 10 Badge (above) to your blog.  
  3. Choose your favorites:  All you need to do is choose ten picture books you cannot live without for whatever reason.  Believe me, that's not as easy as it sounds.  Here are some tips that might help (Choosing Picture Books and More About Choosing Picture Books).
  4. Write Your August 10th Post:  Write a post telling us about the 10 books you cannot live without.  Share your post on August 10th and link it at Reflect and Refine:  Building a Learning Community or at Enjoy and Embrace Learning.
  5. No Blog?  No Problem:  If you don't have a blog this might be the perfect time to start one --- or you can find alternate ways to participate here.  Mandy and I are not huge rule followers so feel free to adjust as needed.  
  6. We do the rest:  Then Mandy and I will link your post to the other posts in a Jog for 2014.  (Exercise without leaving our couches.)