Author Archive: franmcveigh

#SOL17: Voice


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What is my voice?

Am I the calm in the midst of the noise that flows and ebbs, varying in intensity as measured by decibels and heated emotions?  When needed, I am a place of refuge so you can rally and move on.

Am I the voice of encouragement?  Go ahead take a risk. I will stand with you shoulder-to-shoulder because I know that you are an amazing source of strength.  When needed, I will coach you through the work.

Am I the voice of an advocate for those who don’t yet have a voice?  Those who are too young, too weary, or too worn-down-by-daily-trials. When needed, I will help you name the faces that are behind your work.

Am I the voice of reflection?  What have you tried?  What worked?  What didn’t work?  What do you see as your next step?  When needed, I will serve as your mirror?

Am I the voice of radical change? Is it time to chart a brand new course?  Strike out in a different direction?  Try something brand new?  Take a leap of faith?  When needed, I will help you brainstorm many possibilities.

Am I the voice of maintaining the status quo? Continuing on the current course? Knowing that it is not effective but not yet ready to abandon it? 

Definitely not that indecisive!  Maintaining the status quo has seldom been my focus!

So what’s it all about?  

What is voice?

I was shocked, dismayed and flat-out discombobulated when I googled, “What is voice?” and the first page of responses was about finding my range or my singing voice.  What’s up with that? Of course, I didn’t specifically say my writing voice or my speaking voice in my Google query.  I was interested in the broad strokes.  What will “THE Google” say?  (But “voice” is one of the 6+1 Traits of writing!) So this is now my stunned, a bit shocked, and quite skeptical voice continuing on . . .

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A continued search (or rabbit hole) led to the source of “voice” from the Latin word vocare which means “to call, or invoke”.  So to call or, using some of the verbs above

“express … declare, state, assert…proclaim, announce, publish…vent, utter …”

So many ways to use my voice.  But my exploration was not yet over.  The source of “vocation” is also vocare.  In the midst of our work our voice is often called out because it is the underlying WHY of our passion.  When our passion is teaching, it is what we “are called to do”.

Does “voice” matter?

More and more teachers are expressing that they have little or no voice in what is taught in their classroom.  Content is dictated by a combination of curricula, standards, pacing guides, assessments and/or textbooks.  All of those are part of the WHAT that is current reality across the country.

But . . .

If I am a voice

of calm,

of encouragement,

an advocate,

of reflection,

of radical change . . .

And I am a reader, writer, and a thinker who believes in literacy for all,

The highest possible quality for all,

How do I use my voice to  speak up on behalf of students and teachers?

How do you use your voice?  

Which voices do you use?  

What is your major role?

Does your “day role” ever create conflict over your voice during the “rest of your day”?  How does that affect your voice?




Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.                                                                                                                          slice of life 2016
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#SOL17: Beginnings


Beginnings:

I’ve had a few. (Especially on this post today with technology gremlins!)

More than 50 “First Days of School” as a student, teacher, principal, or literacy consultant.

As a Mom, so many firsts, so much joy, pride and love.

As a Grandma, every visit is an adventure with new accomplishments.

I was in search of song lyrics and found these “Top 10″ but they didn’t include the melody that was bouncing in my brain.  Was it a real song or a “#wanttobeasongIthoughtIknew”?

“Where do I begin to tell the story?”

With two parts to my new “Beginnings”, life will be busy.  The first is going to focus on

Screenshot 2017-09-12 at 8.09.14 AM.png

No Eye Roll.

No, “Duh!”

No, “Really, Fran, is this just another excuse to read more books?  Buy more books?

This acronym is complicated!

R-Readers,

E- Everywhere, Taking

A-Action,

D-Daring to Dream

 

My Plan

As I’ve refined my thinking and yes, my writing in the last few weeks, I have faced many surprises. One of the biggest was that I was going to continue to focus on being a reader. The reality is that I’ve been reading for a very long time because I was reading before kindergarten. Yet, I propose to pay more attention to the craft I encounter in daily reading in order to continue my exponential growth as a writer. I don’t have reading or writing notebooks that cover decades of ideas.  Instead, I have bits, fits and dozens of beginnings where I waste precious time falling down rabbit holes as I try to remember where I wrote something. I have now made the conscious decision to move to an electronic notebook. I believe attainment of the bigger goal of being “Writers Extraordinaire” means that we all must be thinking “wide-awake readers” as we construct the meaning behind the words, pictures, videos and texts of the present and the future. Reading as a writer is SO different from the way I used to devour texts.

Reading (and Writing) is not just a school task.  Literacy requires life-long learning. Readers need to continue to choose to read long after they walk out of a school building, video conference or job site.  More careful attention to the world around us will result in a more informed citizenry everywhere in the world – not just in the U.S. With every technological advance the world shrinks and we need to stay connected with our colleagues around the globe to continue to grow as literate citizens of the world.

Joy surrounds us when we are “lost” in the pages of a book.  But even beyond the pleasure of exploring new worlds is the responsibility to think critically and consider sources, biases and points of view.  Thinking often demands taking action – both a right and a responsibility to apply our literacy skills.

As I work on this plan, I am “Daring to Dream” and using my #olw “Brave” to dream big for everyone everywhere.  I don’t know exactly what I will be doing myself but my goal will be to empower others on this journey as I continue to promote literacy for all citizens everywhere.  Current possibilities include:  more writing, adopting a classroom, and always more work with writing.




(Revision Note:  There were so many possibilities for this acronym.  Perhaps you prefer other word choices that better fit you . . .

R – Reflective, Reflection, Responsibility

E – Empower, Empowering, Encouragement

A – All,  Access, Actionable

D – Dare, Dream, Do, Denial)




The second part of my “Beginnings” is focused on Retirement.  August was bittersweet this year when I did not return to a classroom or to professional development in a building.  But I’m looking forward to exploring the opportunities listed in the acronym below (plus “Grandma activities”) that arrived on a retirement card last week. While not the same 8-4 schedule, I will be returning to independent literacy consulting work later this fall and I’m excited for the adventures that await!

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What are your new beginnings?

What new chapters of your life are you exploring?

Where are your literacy journeys taking you?




Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.                                                                                                                          slice of life 2016

 

 

#SOL17: Memories


13 years ago this weekend . . . 

“Are you driving?” Sherry asked.

What an odd question?

“No, I just pulled into Hy-Vee to get some groceries.  What’s up?”

And I knew.

“Please, don’t tell me!” 

I just wanted to hang up the phone.  

I didn’t want to hear it.  

NO, NO, NO!

And the tears streamed down my face as I learned that Dad had passed.

Peacefully

Without undue suffering

Yet

Suddenly and Unexpectedly!

To this day, I remember where I was parked at North Hy-Vee that afternoon.

It’s a section I have never parked in since.  

Not tempting fate.

The sun was shining.

It was a relatively nice day.

Done with work.

Planning to buy a few groceries before heading home.

Immediately shifting gears . . .

A dying phone battery.

Phone calls to make.

Returning to work.

Using a land line and a cell phone.

Calling.

Leaving messages.

Calling

Asking questions.

Calling

Asking, “Are you driving?” when using cell numbers.

Calling

Barely able to say the words.

Numb. Shocked. Confirmed.  

Yet short on details!

Making lists of more phone calls.

Already exhausted.

Where do I need to be?  When?  What’s next?

I’m in limbo.

Half-way between my family farm home and my family home.

Is someone with Mom?

Which direction to go?

Plans to make.  Plans A, B, and C.

Not ready?

No longer an option

A hurricane is headed for Southern Florida

So Sherry is not yet on her way.

I want to return to the childhood days,

My treasured days,

As the best gift to my dad on Father’s Day!

The easy days of childhood.




Fast Forward to the present . . .

2017:  What a year!  And it’s not over . . .

If I could turn back the hands of time?

I would definitely rewrite March and April. Those days when I wanted to huddle under the quilt and cry for all the changes in our family.  Too many losses, way too fast!

I often come back to this quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Moving forward may seem to be at a turtle’s pace but forward motion is ALL that is required.  Some days it’s not necessary to measure the miniscule change.

Does it ever get easier?

Saturday I stopped by the family cemetary (after a neighbor’s funeral – age 91).  A few minutes of conversation with Joey, Grandma, brother Joe and Dad . . . and aunts, and uncles and so many more!

Was it missing the opportunity to say an Earthly “Good-bye”? 

Was it not knowing how or what to say?

Was it the shock of the “suddenness”? 

Taking comfort in our memories,

And remembering the JOY, the LOVE, and the many celebrations.

Never taking a single moment for granted.

Precious life!  Precious time!  Precious family!




Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.                                                                                                      slice of life 2016

#SOL17: “Write, Write, Write!”


august

Day 2

and they chanted,

“Write!  Write!  Write!”

On Day 2

a classroom

filled with second graders

chanted,

“Write!  Write!  Write!”

Forming a community,

Working on routines,

And,

YET . . .

“When is writing?”

and

“Write!  Write!  Write!”

Filled the air waves.

This writing teacher’s heart is filled with joy.

A classroom of second graders

On Day 2

Excited,

Yes,

Even Anxious,

to

Write, Write, Write!




If your students come to you this year filled with a passion and joy for writing, how will you maintain and extend it?  

If your students are not YET filled with a passion and joy for writing, how will you create a love for writing?

And special thanks to the kindergarten and first grade teachers who helped these students find JOY in writing!

Thanks to the teacher and 2nd graders for being a part of my teaching life this week!




Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.                                                                                                      slice of life 2016

#SOL17: First Day


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The bus turns the corner.

My last check to see that everything is in my car.

One picture down.  It’s kind of gloomy.  No sunshine for this auspicious day.

The brakes squeak as the bus pulls to a stop in the road.  I hear the stop sign pop as it is extended.  “Smile!  Just one more picture!”

He takes three steps, turns, and looks.  I snap the photo. He starts up the steps.

I’m sure it’s blurred.  Tears stream down my cheeks.

This would not be the day to take a lousy picture.

I watch as he walks down the aisle and chooses a seat.  Third row. Behind his friends.  He looks happy but he was so quiet this morning.  Only the top of his head is visible from outside the window.

The driver looks down.  Closes the door and the bus lumbers down the road.

  I hop in my car.  Five miles and I will be at school for my son’s second “First Day of School” picture.  It’s 1995.  The First Day of School. No digital pictures.

As a teacher, how do your own personal “First Days” impact your attention to detail in your classroom?

What are you planning for this year?  Why?




Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.                                                                                                      slice of life 2016

#SOL17: August


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What’s your future?

Lazy days of summer continuing?

Shear panic as school soon starts?

Last days of vacation?

A room to assemble?

Weeks to go?

Days?  Hours?  Minutes?

According to Your Students:

Is school their safe place?

Is school a friendly place?

Is school a kind place?

Who is welcomed?  Who is not?

Who are the heroes?  Who is not?

What do we read?

What do we write?

Whose interests are included?

Whose ideas are reflected?

Who matters?  

Will you bravely include ALL?  




Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.                                                                                                      slice of life 2016

August #TCRWP Reading: Day 5


The icing on this week’s #TCRWP Reading Institute was the final keynote by Jennifer Serravallo.  Seeing Jen in Cowin Auditorium, back where she was once a staff developer, was amazing.  The main metaphor for her speech was SNL – Saturday Night Live –  and when in her life she has been different characters.

But this tweet has really sparked interest.

(And I did not look to see who else tweeted it out!)

How much professional development does it take to LEARN something new?

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You can explore the source yourself here.

And at “What Works Clearinghouse” here.

Surprised?  

Does that fit into your knowledge base?

 

August #TCRWP Reading: Day 4


Keynote:  David Booth

Reader

Author

Researcher

Today’s learning is a view of notes via my Tweets

Title Slide:

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Principles:

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What was “Between” the Principles?

The Humor.

The Stories.

Real conversations with Students.

A genuine person.

So many rich quotes:

  “The hardest thing about teaching is understanding that a teacher’s world is not a student’s world.”

“When kids see themselves reflected in texts they think, ‘I am here’.”

“Kids who choose what they read double their understanding in their reading.”

“We read what matters in spite of complexities.”

“Read a novel once a year.  Use it to build community.”

We have decisions to make and we have to begin with our principles or non-negotiables before we can begin to make decisions about

“What to lose?  What to keep?  What to adapt?”

We need to deeply understand the interconnected relationships between our students, their families, their communities and their literacy lives.  We must be respectful of their time at school and leverage the high-return actions that grow literate adults who read, write, speak, listen and think successfully in the world.

Laughter, learning, fun, talk.

Maybe we need to take ourselves just a little less seriously!

Thank you, David Booth, for those important reminders!  

“What will you lose?  What will you keep?  What will you adapt?”




Additional Information about David Booth:

Professional Speaking

Stenhouse

Till All the Stars Have Fallen

David Booth Goodreads

The Dust Bowl – Kirkus Reviews

August #TCRWP Reading: Day 3


“We’re done for the week!” announced Natalie Louis.

And I knew I had the first line of my blog post!

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(To think I thought it was going to be, “I don’t need a roller coaster, I teach kids!”)

The questions Natalie had just addressed were:

How do I get better at the Mini-Lesson so it’s a super-duper imprint on the brain?

Like a tattoo instead of a sleep mark?

And the answer was,

Demonstrate LIVE how to get ready for a mini-lesson from the UoS

What will this look like? What are the steps?

  1. Read the teaching point out loud.
  2. Ask what it means?  Bumble around
  3. Practice delivering the teaching point.

(Warning:  It may take more “practice”  before you are ready to say the teaching point out loud to your class.)

4. Go back and Read the connection (Tip: Read the bolds out loud) 

5. Teaching – Read the bolds out loud (Ask questions as you think of them out loud)

6. Active Engagement – Read the bolds out loud 

7. Link – Read bold out loud (Do you need any materials?)

How do you practice Mini-Lessons?  

How do you check your time frames?

You can and should practice collaboratively.  The “out loud Think Alouds” are critical because delivery of a quality Mini-lesson that sticks with the students takes more effort and thinking than merely reading from the spiral-bound page.  That’s a good beginning!  However, the point is to provide a short, focused intimate lesson.  You don’t get that by reading the lesson word for word.  You also don’t get that from whipping up power point / google slides.  The whole group lessons are designed for delivery straight to students’ eyes, ears and mouths from your own eyes, ears and mouth!

Quality practice can involve rehearsing without students and actual instruction with a room full of students.  You could video tape your mini-lesson and view it with a trusted colleague.  This would require leaving out the “But . . .” commentary and just discovering some of the data that is easily observable:

  • Were all 4 components observed?
  • Was the entire lesson less than 10 minutes?
  • How many times did you hear the teaching point?
  • Was there a bit of engagement during the connection?
  • Did you hear the teaching point in all four parts?
  • Was the goal approximation or master?
  • What key phrases did you hear for each of the parts?
  • What were the last three words?

Audio-recording on your phone could be one step prior to the 21st century skill of video-recording your lesson and/or feedback.

How have you worked on improving your mini- lessons?




What are the parts of a Mini-Lesson at TC?

The architecture of a Mini-Lesson at TC looks like this:

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Source of Session Information:

Natalie Louis

Bolstering Your Nonfiction Units of Study with Mini-Lessons,

Shared Reading and Read Alouds

This was just one small part of my August #TCRWP Reading Institute Workshop learning!

It was an 11 minute demo that was packed with both learning and laughter that will ever linger in my brain!  A demo from a staff developer who was at TC when the architecture of Mini-lessons was developed.  Tips. Gems to be treasured.  Powerful learning!

August #TCRWP Reading: Day 2


My joy of advanced sections during the August Reading Institute at the #TCRWP centers around the thoughtful and deliberate choice of sections to meet my needs.  As soon as I saw this title I was hooked because of the focus on “progressions” and “independence”.  Transfer is always in the back of my mind as well.  If a student doesn’t transfer the literacy work to both other content areas AND life, a lot of time has been wasted for minimal gains.

“Using Learning Progressions and Performance Assessments to Increase Student Skills and Independence” – Kelly Boland Hohne

On Day 1, less than 30 minutes into our first session, we were unpacking a strand.  In a group of five other new friends, digging deeper into the meaning of just one reading strand with this process:

Unpacking  a strand – do 3 things

  1. Study between the levels of the strands and note differences.  What is the key work of this level?
  2. Try to put into own words or use keywords from description.
  3. Try to imagine how that would look in a student’s writing about reading or talk or what it  would look like if the student is doing that work.

I appreciate so many things about the #TCRWP Institutes as the brilliant staff developers each have a different style.  And though my brain felt like it was melting, I was so excited (and yet a bit apprehensive) about digging into this work immediately. As in one strand with gradual release (Teacher modeling, Group Practice) and then a second strand in our group with constant check ins and support (if needed).  All On Day One!  I think this was the point where I tweeted out that I was getting my $$$ worth at #TCRWP.  However, it could also be where I first thought it, but had zero seconds to actually tweet it out!  The pace is not for the faint at heart!

When dealing with the progressions:  Do I have to do everything listed in the level to be “in” the level?   (Have you ever had this question about the rubrics or the checklists?)

No, No, No.   You just need to do more than the previous level.  This is why demonstration texts are critical.  If and when you make the thinking and the writing visible, students can figure out how to rise to the next level.  However, teachers do need to unpack these strands themselves for deep understanding.  Making a copy of someone else’s chart does NOT give you the background knowledge to help a student.  After all you, as a teacher, are more flexible when you understand the tool which is why you need to do this work yourself.

Where might you begin?  Which progressions stand out?

Focus on some key strands to begin with because they are repeated a lot (via Kelly Boland Hohne):

Literal – Envisioning/Predicting

Interpretive – Character Response/Change

Interpretive – Determining Themes/Cohesion

Analytical – Analyzing Parts of a Story in Relation to the World

Analytical – Analyzing Author’s Craft

We worked on these topics in small groups.  Our group focused on “Character Response/Change”, What does this look like across grades?  What would a demonstration piece of writing look like across the grades?  Here’s what the draft of my chart looks like!

Screenshot 2017-08-09 at 4.38.12 AMAs we use the chart, it’s highly probable there will be some revisions.  It’s also possible that there will be continued discussion about “quantity” and “quality” of responses.  Those are some of the common issues in trying to measure/assess learning. The key is to:

 

  • Make a plan.
  • Think about the information you plan to use.
  • Work collaboratively to consider theories about student work.

Making the invisible visible in reading comprehension is a lofty, noble and worthwhile goal.  It CANNOT be handed to you in a book, a set of standards, or even a set of progressions.  The meaning comes from digging into the work.

What work are you doing to build students’ independence?  

Transfer?  

How will you know you are on the learning journey?  

How will you know when you are successful?

 

 

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