Author Archive: franmcveigh

#SOL17: Inspiration


The #SOLSC will soon be here. One of the most amazing sources of inspiration is Sally Donnelly’s padlet here.  It’s a treasure trove of writing ideas!

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What will I write about every day in March?

Narratives continue to be my personal struggle.

Poetry is always a “fall back”option.

Checking the “Call for Slices” for quotes/inspiration is another option.

Personally, where will my inspiration come from?  I’m beginning with rereading the posts in the chart from another slicing year..  Do I want to reconsider the formats?  What about the topics?  What if I rewrote from another angle?  All of these ideas are circulating in my brain. In the spirit of being “BRAVE” (my #OLW17), I plan to have fewer pre-planned posts and truly practice more extemporaneous daily writing.

What is your plan for Volume and Stamina for the #SOL17SC?  

How are you preparing?  

What will be your measure of success?
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Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Lanny, Lisa, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

#DigiLitSunday: Relationships


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Check out Margaret Simon’s blog “Reflection on the Teche” for additional #DigiLitSunday posts here!

A favorite quote of mine is this:

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Relationships are critical for teachers and students.  Relationships are critical for increased learning.  Relationships are critical for grounding students in a community of learners working together.

But are relationships enough?  Are they the end goal?

Learning classrooms with teachers and students working in tandem to curate, innovate, and create require a great deal of trust and autonomy.  That trust and autonomy is not created in a vacuum.  It is also not created without a great deal of  hard work. The relationships are important, yes; but they are not the end point.

Learning that beats the odds and exceeds the possibilities requires a community of committed learners, choice, and trust. A teacher will be the director or facilitator of the learners and the community, but should not always be “at the helm” directing every single minute.

How important is community?

Communities are important because they allow people to bond together through common interactions, experiences, and work to meet a common goal.  A community can be physically together in a classroom or even together on a Twitter or Voxer chat.  The goal of a community is to bring people together to achieve that common goal.  Valued relationships keep communities together.  Perhaps some communities outlive their usefulness but the value of shared experiences helps them deeply understand each other.  That community can also come from books.  Books that show “me”.  Books that show “people like me”.  Books that show people “who are NOT like me”.  Books that help me understand people “who are NOT like me”.

How important is choice?

Name the last three things that were JOYOUS for you?  Were they required?  Did they include elements of choice?  You can read about the benefits of “Choice” from many of the #BowTieBoys blog posts referenced in Jason Augustowski’s blog.  Jason writes about the fact that education is one of the few fields of work where the customers are NOT routinely consulted about and given input into their work.  Why not?  Why are students assigned mindless task after task instead of being given respectful choices about how to share their learning?  Where can choice be included?  Providing choices to the students where only two “pieces” are read by everyone in the class.  The rest of the books, stories, articles, songs, or videos are student-selected from a list curated TOGETHER in the classroom community.

How important is trust?

Trust is a two way street that is so dependent on relationships.  It may well be that I will trust you solely on the basis of our relationship.  However, in times of stress or confusion that relationship may falter if respect for the individual or his/her beliefs becomes an issue.  Will the trust hold?  In the presence of community and choice, trust will be maintained.  In the absence of trust the community will slowly wither away.  Without choice the trust vine will begin to shrivel up as well.  How is trust maintained?  Within a community the possibilities of positive interactions and sincere communication allow trust to flourish and doubt to die off. Trust that students will do the work that they need to in order to provide evidence of their learning.  Trust that students will build upon choice learning within their community to extend trust to others outside their own circles.

Relationships between teachers and students are critical for learning environments but relationships alone cannot be expected to maintain sole responsibility for the benefits that will come from a well-developed culture of community, choice, and trust. Teachers benefit. Students benefit. The research shows that relationships are critical. Please provide time to nourish learning by building strong communities with choice and trust!

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Do we REALLY want students to be critical thinkers?  

Then how are we encouraging “critical thinking” every day in our classrooms?  

How are we REALLY encouraging independent thinkers and workers?

#SOL17: Heart Mapping


As a reader I have many “Fan Girl” moments. The list of favorite authors is even longer and my “TBR” stack has collapsed upon itself. So it’s time to write.  Pick up the book. Test out some of those post-it marked pages and try it on.

But wait . . .

I signed up for the webinar.

Please, oh, please

Procrastinate until  the webinar.

And that gem . . .

The idea of waiting

WAS

BRILLIANT!

Have you noticed?

One of my all time favorite topics is writing about my learning!

Ahhh, you have noticed!

Thanks for traveling this learning journey with me!

As a result of my learning . . .

A Heinemann PD webinar with Georgia Heard,

I created a heart map with some of the best quotes.

Not an assignment.

My choice.

A way to collect and perhaps savor some ideas that I heard.

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And now I know that this is bigger than a topic list.

It’s bigger than just writing any old ideas into a heart shape.

It’s about REAL writing.

Writing that comes from my heart.

(Crap . . . can’t fake it . . . Must make it real . . . Writing!)

It’s about “an ache with caring”.

The passion to write comes from the connections I have to that topic that I have chosen …

Learning

Thinking

Writing

Checking out Mentor Texts . . .

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“Heart Mapping” Webinar with @GeorgiaHeard

So many REAL reasons to write . . .

To Think,

To Dream,

To Play,

To Share,

To Dare,

To Capture Thoughts . . .

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I don’t just write to persuade, to inform or to entertain. (PIE)

I reject only having three reasons to write.

I write for many reasons.

Most of all, I write for me.

I write about ideas that matter to me.

Why do you write?

Plan:  To create a heart map after PD to hold onto favorite quotes or ideas. That visual learning map of the important parts that I choose to store visibly so I can return and unwrap their precious wisdom. My Learning Map.

Text Based Questions (Close Reading of my Webinar):

Phase 1:  What are Heart Maps? When would I use them?  Why would I use them?

Phase 2:  How does the design of a Heart Map support its use?

Phase 3:  How will students be able to use Heart Maps to increase their passion for writing?

How can models of Heart Maps result in crafting authentic, personal writing?

slice of life

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


Additional Information about Heart Mapping:

Georgia Heard’s website

Heinemann

#DigiLitSunday: “Possible Sentences


Join Margaret Simon at “Reflections on the Teche” for additional #DigiLit Sunday reading here.

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Kylene Beers and Bob Probst are both speakers that I can listen to time and time again I’ve seen them at ILA, NCTE, and Kylene more than once at #TCRWP.  One strategy that I participated in that has stuck with me is “Possible Sentences”.  As a workshop participant, it went as Melanie Swider of “Two Reflective Teachers” described here although the session I attended was on a different date.

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How can students more “authentically” USE vocabulary words and do more of the vocabulary “heavy lifting” in understanding and owning the words?

Possible Sentence Basic Process:

The teacher chooses vocabulary words.

The students, doing the work, predict and use the words in sentences.

*Then as a class, all the sentences are compiled and then questions are generated for each sentence.

Students read.

Students return to their sentences and questions to revise them based on the understanding of the topic after reading.

How could we start using “Possible Sentences” in Book Clubs or in Content Area classes and add in some meaningful, very purposeful, use of technology?

Here’s what I proposed for our first learning practice:

You can go to the actual documents through the links below and save your eyesight:

Google Drawing Student Task Card link

Google Drawing Teacher Card linklink

Tools:  NewsELA article, Wordcounter.com, Google Drawings cards, Google Docs – Response

Are you using “Possible Sentences”?

Have you added a technology component to increase student collaboration?

What tools did / would you use?

#SOL17: Words


Recognize this?

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I saw a three letter word.

Then a five letter word.

I shuffled the letters around.

I could use six letters.

Whoa!

Check out the point total.

A silent, mental, fist bump.

“Oh, YEAH!”

“48 points!”

Then I tried just again to add in that final seventh letter.

Greedy. . .

I wanted the bonus from playing all the letters in one word.

It did not work.

Once more. . .

No Go.

I quickly pulled out my six letters.

Arranged them

Pressed the send.

Pushed the button to say, “YES, I want to play this word.”

And then a scream of anguish.

“NOOOOOOOO!”

I had played “enslave”

On the wrong “e”.

Not 48 points

A mere 18.

Attention to detail.

Real life importance of “word placement”.

A game I lost by 5.

And should have, could have, won by at least 30 points.

“Can I have a redo?  Video instant replay?  Do over?”

word

The difference between absolutely no “extra point tiles”  or two “DW” tiles . . .

The difference between enslave for 18 points or 48 points.

One of my favorite pastimes – “Words with Friends”.

One of my most frustrating pastimes – “Words with Friends”.

Where do you learn your “Life Lessons”?

slice of life

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

#DigiLitSunday: Vocabulary


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Additional DigiLit posts can be found at Margaret Simon’s blog, Reflections on the Teche.  Check them out here!

I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing “feral” posted in a variety of tweets and blogs over the last year.  I know what I thought it meant but before writing this morning, I decided to “see” what a definition really looked like!  Here’s what I found!

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What if our students were encouraged to have feral vocabulary experiences?

Would that be too extreme?  

What if students were thinking users of vocabulary?  

That was the premise of a session led by Katy Wischow (@kw625) at the 89th #TCRWP Saturday Reunion that was summarized in this post.  Vocabulary is complicated.  It cannot all be taught through context.  But when do we KNOW that a student really knows a word?

I believe that it’s when a student owns the word and uses it in his/her writing and quietly sit and wait for the teacher response after the word is found. It’s also when the student says, “Ms. M, I tried out “plethora”.  I think it works; please check it out for me!”

I gained an even deeper understanding of vocabulary at #NCTE16 with a presentation by Valerie Geschwind, Shana Frazin, Katy Wischow, and Char Shylock summarized here.

What do you believe about vocabulary instruction?

Does it “WORK” for all students to “study” the same words on a list?

When it comes to Vocabulary, I have more questions than answers.  If I am a “wide reader”, I have exposure to more words.  I can still remember my first exposure to “supercalifragilisticexpealidocious”!  Such a fun word that over shadowed the plot in “Mary Poppins” for days!  And words like “loquacious”, “accolade”, “capricious”, and “ubiquitous” add fun and joy to my life!  None of those words were ever on a vocabulary list for me to memorize or write in a sentence!  (Just sayin’.)

What words do you like to USE?  

How do you collect and use new words?

Bonus:

For those of you who coach others or provide PD, here’s an example of a Vocabulary Hyperdoc created by members of our literacy team for our local coaches designed to help teachers reflect on their vocabulary instruction and assessment practices.   (Content + Technology)

 

#SOL17: The Story


The ball swishes through the net as the buzzer sounds.  A sigh of relief as the two points are recorded on the scoreboard.  The basket was a buzzer beater.

Final score 25 to 17.

The last second score was icing on the cake.  Another two points in the book for a seventh grade athlete.  Kids who had been running up and down the court chasing and being chased by the opposing team.

Proud Great Aunt.  My great nephew’s team wins again!

A never-ending third quarter that saw each team make only one basket.  So much energy expanded.  WAIT.  Delete that.  Wrong game. Memory mix up. Wrong details supporting the 8th grade B game. Three different games now in my memory bank.  Time to focus.

Visiting with my sister, my niece, my great niece. Receiving a hand-written note from Autumn. Enjoying the ambiance of a junior high gym, whistles blowing, athletes competing, and fans cheering.

Where do I start?  What is the heart of my story?

THE PROCESS TODAY:

I ran through the events in my mind.  I collected ideas without a single keystroke or graphic organizer.  I began to sift the details with mental rehearsal.  Decision made.  The beginning point is the basket that ended the game.

And then doubt sets in . . . And the questioning . . . Do I really want to begin with the end of the game?  The final three seconds?  Then what will be next?

What is the important part of my story? 

The important part is that I write. I write at my keyboard while my coffee is brewing.  Intent on capturing the words that I rehearsed as I hit the snooze alarm.  It’s Tuesday. It’s “Slicer Day”. I need to write a story so I’m rehearsing a story.  Not across my fingers. Not across pages.  But in my head.  Cross-checking the most important facts.

BUT, what about that  note from Autumn?  She’s three.  It’s the first writing she’s given me.  Her name – carefully printed across a small piece of paper.  Written with love. Received with love.

Some days I just HAVE to write!  

The words come pouring out. The screen fills.  Then the doubt and worry arrive.  Delete, fix up, fancy up the piece.  But it all begins with the writing.

How can I teach writing without writing?

How do I understand that there isn’t one perfect prompt?  One perfect process?  One perfect story map?   . . . If I also don’t know the joy, the agony, and the freedom of writing?

Why am I writing?

I want to win the writing game.  I know it takes practice.  I know it takes time.  Writing.  Writing.  Writing. Slicing to continue to improve my narrative writing.  (But while I write I continue to think, to study and reflect on my process. I can’t turn off the teacher side.)

Today.  Flash drafting. Metacognitively reviewing my process. Recording my thinking. And yet sometimes, it’s all about “the doing” – Just writing!

slice of life

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Lisa, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

 

#DigiLitSunday: Digital Design


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Join Margaret at Reflections on the Teche

Digital Design:  What is it?

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I love this word cloud as the words that I immediately see that match my definition and / or understanding are “text, creativity, photoshop, palette, copy, and color.  There are many more words to explore but those immediately aligned with my thinking.

But visually, is digital design

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A. The creation?

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B. The messiness/uncertainty of creation?

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C. Where “old school” and digital meet up?

Because it is a phrase, dictionary.com has no definition for “digital design” so I resorted to asking “the Google” “What is digital design?” and choosing answers to browse.

This one made the most sense:

“Digital design is the branch of graphic design that uses computers, graphics tablets and other electronic devices to create graphics and designs for the Web, television, print and portable electronic devices.” (Reference.com)

Graphics, pictures, the use of white space . . . the purpose of all of these is to deepen understanding.  “A picture is worth a thousand words.” And yet when does a teacher need to proceed with caution . . .

  • If the quest for a picture to add to a page of 10 words takes 2 hours, is that time well spent?
  • If the quest for a specific background takes three days of writing workshop while the student searches for the “perfect app”, is that time well spent?
  • If the idea is never revisited, revised, or re-framed but now becomes cemented into a constant image, is that the goal?

When is design the goal?

I love this quote from Deb Frazier’s first grade classroom:  “If the tool is telling you what to do, you aren’t in charge of your learning. You tell the tool what to do!”  See this blog post for the context.

Isn’t this the ultimate goal?

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The best of all worlds, expressing yourself! 

When do you need words?  

When do you need graphics and/or video?  

When do you need both?  

When does the “cost benefit” in terms of time/energy of design outweigh its use?

#SOL17: Choose Kind


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Be Brave; Choose Kind!

You are you!

It’s your right.

Choose how to express yourself.

Choose what to express.

Choose when to express.

Think long and hard.

Consider the consequences of your speech.

Consider the consequences of your action.

Consider the consequence of inaction.

Choose wisely.

Is listening to concerns viewed as “agreement”?

Is listening to another viewpoint viewed as “forsaking the views of others”?

You.

Your choice.

Be brave.

Choose what is right for you.

Choose your venue.

Choose your action.

Choose your speech.

But don’t forget that you don’t have to go it alone . . .

Ask for help

Ask for validation

Ask for a listening ear

But above all,

Choose Kind!

Brave, my #OLW.

Sometimes Brave is Quiet.

Sometimes Brave roars.

But above all, Brave is Kind!

slice of life

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Lisa, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

#DigiLitSunday: Balancing Goals & Needs


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When teaching, goals and needs often become blurred due to perspective.  Whose goals and needs are the basis for planning, instructing and assessing?  When are student voices heard?  When are parent voices heard?  When does the community have input?

Today’s topic seemed like an easy one:

Balancing Goals and Needs

YET

This morning I had a lengthy conversation with Mya over coffee.  Her needs seem simple:  food, water, shelter, hugs and kisses, time to play.  How many of those do I define?  How many of those does she define?  I laughed last week as she went nose to nose with an opossum and it was not playing.  As Mya barked, the opossum snarled back.  Not the quiet, placid Mya who walks among the deer without a sound.  Not the quiet Mya who allows Harry the cat to tell her what to do.  So I’ve been wondering what are Mya’s needs and what are her goals?

On this foggy Sunday morning Mya has no need to head outside.  She’s curled up on the love seat napping.  She’s already had her breakfast, her treat, a bit of conversation and she’s now in her own little world.

Are her needs met?  Are her goals met?

Conversation with Mya about basic needs is quite simple.  If either her food bowl or water bowl are empty, she comes and tells me.  Her nose on me is quite telling.  No words are needed.

And when she’s ready to play. OMG!  YES!  She’s bouncing. Or she’s patiently waiting.  That stare.  Those eyes!

And of course, I’m well trained.  When she’s standing, nose against the door, tail wagging, it’s time to open the door for her!

Are her needs met?  Are her goals met?

Because we live in the country, Mya has a LOT of unsupervised, unstructured time outside.  No pen, no fences, no boundary fencing. I like to think that her time outside gives her the opportunity to be an independent free spirit.  (Mya is a Lab and loves recognition for her skills.)

What about balancing my goals and my needs?

My initial draft of this post included a list of goals and a list of needs.  As fast as I listed something in either category, I was deleting it and moving it to the other side.  And then . . . . there were the list items that HAD to be in BOTH categories!  Ay, yi, yi – not productive!  Way too much thinking!

Last week I had the pleasure of learning with and from Cassie Erkens (@cerkens) author of Collaborative Common Assessments:  Teamwork. Instruction. Results. One important point she made was that we must understand the DNA (Desires, Needs, and Assets) of ALL students.

Do we even “know” that information about our students?

So that long conversation with Mya led me to realize this morning over coffee that it doesn’t really matter whether I can specifically IDENTIFY all my goals and needs.  Instead living my life so that I BALANCE my goals and needs in service of being brave and remaining a life-long learner is important.

At home:

Family, Comfort, Love, Peace, Fun, Faith, Joy, Reading and Writing

At work:

Fun, Learning, Collaborating, Equity, Joy, Reading and Writing

In life:

Fun, Family, Reading, Writing, Joy, Faith and Brave Support for a Better World

goals-needs

Can you tell what I am working to “Balance”?

How do you balance your Goals and Needs?  

How do you make sure that all voices are included?

Check out the posts at Margaret Simon’s “Reflections on the Teche” for more ideas / thinking about balance!

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