Check out Margaret Simon’s blog “Reflection on the Teche” for additional #DigiLitSunday posts here!
A favorite quote of mine is this:
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!
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?
Join Margaret Simon at “Reflections on the Teche” for additional #DigiLit Sunday reading here.
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.
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 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
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?
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!
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?
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)
Digital Design: What is it?
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
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?
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?
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
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.
Family, Comfort, Love, Peace, Fun, Faith, Joy, Reading and Writing
Fun, Learning, Collaborating, Equity, Joy, Reading and Writing
Fun, Family, Reading, Writing, Joy, Faith and Brave Support for a Better World
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!
What is “Fake” news? What is “Real News”?
I have NOT YET taught this but I so appreciate that Margaret Simon has posed this for today’s conversation and you can read more posts at “Reflections on the Teche” here.
Defining the Issue: Fake? Real? Is it that Simple?
I was thinking that this graphic would be black and white so I was surprised to see the green and red that I found when looking for a graphic for “real/fake”. But yet I don’t believe it’s that simple. I wonder if there’s really a range of possibilities inspired by all the “reality” shows and images that now exist in life. (Note: I am deliberately not YET using “True”opposite “Fake”.)
I’m going to work with this topic in an inquiry mode. I really want to see how this grows as teachers and students think through how they understand and truly know whether news/events are “real” or “fake”. I believe that there is going to be a continuum and this chart shows my beginning thinking.
What needs to be explored?
Every newspaper headline could be explored. Any statement by a political figure stated as a fact that sounds totally bogus could also be explored. Or google “John Lewis civil rights hero” or “best president ever” and see the articles that pop up. How do you determine whether they are “real” or “fake”?
What are some criteria to consider?
Source of the information – online (.org or .gov = tend to be real; co. or lo. = tend to be fake)
Who is “reporting”? What information is available about the author?
Who is the “audience”?
Is only one side of the issue presented?
Do the headline, quotes, picture and story support the same conclusion?
Are there “exaggerations” or blatant “lies”? Is the supporting information “credible evidence” or “suspicious photo shopped pictures or unidentified sources”?
Are there discrepancies between “words spoken” and “actions”?
Are there other stories, quotes or pictures that support an opposing view? How credible are those sources?
Will this “study” change readers’ minds?
Doubtful. However, a frank discussion of the rights from the First Amendment may need to also occur. Just because one has the “right” to say anything doesn’t mean that “anything and everything” should be said! Discerning citizens need to have a “filter” or “lens” to dig into statements, articles, reporting that seems to be less than accurate. Maybe the goal is to begin to understand how much of “reporting” seems to have a purpose of shaping the news rather than simply stating the facts.
Personally . . .
I remember following my Twitter feed on Monday, May 2, 2011 to find out that Osama bin Laden was killed. That was where I first saw it reported. I verified with multiple other sources, ever hopeful that initial announcement was correct. However, Twitter is not currently my source of “Real News”. Neither is Facebook. News and social media don’t always mix in my opinion because the rush to be “first” often does not allow for the “paragraphs” that need to address all of the possibilities. Being cautious and a bit skeptical works for me!
How will you determine whether news is “Real” or “Fake”?
It’s time to celebrate! Celebrate the waning moments of 2016. Celebrate the oncoming 2017. Celebrate winter in all its glory. Celebrate family and community and togetherness! I continue to celebrate “Joy” as my OLW for 2016 (how many times do you see that word in the background?) and as I spend this weekend with family! (Check out the other posts on Margaret Simon’s blog, “Reflections on the Teche” found here!)
Today, I celebrate the kids in my life. Short, tall, running, playing, talking, card playing and just down right entertaining. Here’s the long and short of it: 35 inch grandson at 19 months and the 6’11” nephew who is 17!
What are you celebrating?
Check out the links to other DigiLit Sunday posts at Margaret Simon’s blog here.
Craft: What is it?
A woodworker has many tools that may range from hand tools like chisels. planes and mallets to power tools like saws, drills, and presses that can aid the process of turning out finely crafted projects.
Is the craft in the “Doing” or is the craft in the “Final Product”?
In writing there are many sources of craft. Some of my favorites are:
Lester Laminack, and
Stacey Shubitz to name just a few.
So many sources of craft information exist. Do I need craft information along the way as I draft or do I need the information as I revise and improve the clarity, anticipate a reader’s questions, and add additional information to make the work more interesting? I believe that writers need both skills. The more that a writer knows and anticipates in the drafting process, perhaps the revision will become less burdensome.
What is a teacher to do? Where should the teacher begin?
Many strategies and craft moves can be and are taught, but at some point the choices used by writers will come down to the individual authors. Strategic use of those moves needs to fit within the piece of writing that the author has undertaken. A wide repertoire of moves that fit into a grade level range of writing will come from mentor texts. Those mentor texts are often published texts, teacher written texts or student written texts. What a student will use will depend on the applicability to this piece. Teaching students to “self-assess” and even to “self-reflect” on their use of craft will be important. That’s one of the reasons why I believe these items in a fifth grade opinion writing checklist that students can use are absolutely critical!
Writers make many decisions as they draft and revise about their own writing. Tools with visible examples that students can use when talking about their writing or matching to a checklist or a rubric will put the power of writing choices in the hands of students.
Have you equipped your students to be able to make their own decisions about writing craft? What low-tech and digital tools have been helpful?
How do you make decisions about your own craft moves in your writing?
Check out other #DigiLit Sunday posts at Margaret Simon’s Reflections on the Teche here.
Purpose: The End or the Beginning?
In the process of getting ready for #NCTE16, I was considering not blogging about this topic today. And yet, here I am because of three different conversations this week. I vacillated between:
What’s the “purpose” for assessment?
What’s the “purpose” for instruction?
What’s the “purpose” for digital tools?
- What does the research say?
Doug Fisher and John Hattie both shared this effect size for “Teacher Clarity” in Iowa in separate October, 2016 professional development sessions. That’s well about the “.40” that is touted as a “cut score” and is almost the equivalent of TWO YEARS of learning for students. Therefore, Teacher Clarity is important in instruction, and equally important in assessment aligned with instruction and perhaps has the greatest importance in the selection of digital tools for students.
2. What do teachers need to consider in the planning process?
Teachers spend hours poring over lesson plans and planning for instruction that will meet ALL students’ needs. Searching for the right resources, planning that delivery that will empower students and most of all trying to make learning purposeful and engaging. That’s not easy as some content is hard for students to really “grapple with” for real understanding ans not just rote memorization. However, if the goal is “LEARNING” and is focused on Teacher Clarity, won’t that require the teacher to BEGIN with “What will the students know and be able to Do after they complete this learning? So the teacher process might include some or all of these steps depending on the curriculum that exists and the expectations of any given curriculum.
Each step in the process above has ideas for “possible tools” to use during the planning and / or learning process.
3. But what about the learning environment?
Which classroom promote accelerated learning for students? How and where are students preparing for today, tomorrow and life “after school”?
What should classrooms look like?
4. What tools should the teacher and the students use?
The learning purpose should determine the possible range of tools that both the teacher and the students will use. Will the students ALWAYS have a voice in selecting the tools? Probably not, YET. Should the students have a bigger voice in selecting the tools that will showcase their learning? YES! Students should be
allowed encouraged to showcase their learning in a variety of ways. Learning should not always look like “cookie cutter” factory models.
As I’ve thought about purpose and its role in learning, this is the way that I have viewed it . . . with “purpose” as a critical factor at each level.
But now I wonder if “PURPOSE” should be the circle that houses the other four circles. Maybe purpose really is all encompassing and is the “driver” behind all decisions. So are the learning targets the center and purpose the frame for all learning?
Where do you believe “Purpose” lives in the daily decision-making processes involved in instruction?