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 . . .
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 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?
Three simple letters
One short little word
“For what purpose?”
“Help me understand!”
“For what reason?”
Why . . .
Never confused with my cousins
The other 4 W’s and the H
Who? What? Where? When? and How?
One little word that asks you to DIG deeper!
Requires time to reflect
Requires student work!
An amazing question: Why?
In order to have life-long learners, we must ensure that curiosity is front and center for our students. Students should be asking questions (and seeking answers) every day. (Ask and answer questions – CCR.RLK.1. Standard) Multiple questions. Every day. Wonderopolis may be a source of more student choice and voice in the topics explored. However, even during reading and writing workshop students need to be asking questions. Questions are a source of learning if one is confused, one is clarifying, one is making connections to real life. In student-centered classrooms, student questions should be as necessary as breathing if students are doing the work!
Why this instruction?
The instruction should support high levels of student learning. The use of scaffolds can ease the transition to more difficult strategies or materials, but the ultimate goal is that students will be able to independently DO the WORK! That means they need just in time instruction, that meets their needs, that increases in complexity and has student work and practice at the heart. No boring monologues, no arts and craft instruction, no mindless worksheets. Real questions generated by the students that they can and do answer.
Why this assessment?
Assessment that measures learning, moves students forward, and informs instruction has to be a part of the instructional cycle that has students at the heart or center. Educators must move beyond the “I have to use these assessments” to the ones that are pedagogically sound, that matter to students and provide clear evidence of student learning. That takes teacher advocacy and teacher depth of knowledge of instruction, assessment and curricula. There are no easy shortcuts in education and creating specific, engaging, real-world tasks are not easy but are so necessary for student learning.
The #1 Why: The Ultimate Goal
Not mere regurgitation
But taking ideas,
With the goals of
Shaping the World!
And their own Futures!
How do you use “WHY”?
Why do you do what you do?
Additional posts at Reflections on the Teche
It’s the end of January, the temperature is in the 50’s and it’s also the week of annual district-wide writing assessments. I.AM.SO.EXCITED! This is the week that we celebrate student writing as we score 3rd grade narratives, 8th grade persuasive/argument letters in social studies, and 10th grade persuasive/argument letters to legislators.
I wrote about this last year in a post titled, “Orchestrating Writing Assessments“. Check out the link for the details. It’s an amazing week of learning.
One of the sections of the 1.25 hours of professional development that start the day is about the writing process. I could go on and on and on and on about the writing process and its importance to students and teachers, but I won’t. Instead I am directing you to an amazing blog post by Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris, “What the Writing Process Really Looks Like“. The squiggly diagram of the “real” process is so intriguing that I’m keeping track of my process and will report on that soon (in another post – I believe I need more than ONE data point before reporting – LOL).
A second related post is, “How do we know that students are making progress in writing?” as well as this one, “Do I have to teach writing?” You can also search in the box at the top right to locate additional posts about writing assessment and instruction because, of course, quality instruction would be aligned with quality assessment. This week Two Writing Teachers have a series titled, “Aim Higher”. and it is filled with promise!
Dana opened the series today with a post titled, “Aim Higher: Setting goals for editing” where she effectively describes the individualized editing checklists that she used with 5th grade students! For Throwback week, Betsy chose another of Tara’s posts, “Student Self-Assessment: Introducing the Writing Checklist” and I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention, “Work Smarter: Use Student Checklists Throughout a Unit of Study . . . and Beyond“. You will be inspired to take action after checking out these masterful resources because assessments should not just be summative in nature!
And from the west coast Julieanne wrote about student responses to assessments in “Celebrate: The Power of Assessments, Part 2”, She built on Melanie’s ideas for cutting up rubrics in order to make them more “student friendly” as well as to challenge students to reach for higher levels!
One final thought on assessment: What is the information that you will gain from the assessment that you are planning? Clare and Tammy at Teachers for Teachers have this thought-provoking post, “Redefining Assessment” as they use Lucy Calkins definition “Assessment is the thinking teacher’s mind work.” (Because we should know so much more about these students beyond the score on a test!) What do we know that guides our instruction?
Is writing a priority in your district?
How would an “observer” know?
How have you added to your knowledge of assessments and their use?
Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsy for creating a place for us to share our work.
Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsy for creating a place for us to work collaboratively.
Writing has become a more “urgent” focus in many schools due to the College and Career Ready K-12 Anchor Standards listed here:
What about instruction?
There are specific grade level standards that further illuminate the expectations for the end of the grade for each of the 13 years that students are in school. Materials can be found for both instruction and assessment at all grade levels. As a critical consumer, you can sift through those resources to find the ones that provide authentic writing opportunities for ALL students and a plethora of evidence of student growth.
What about assessment?
Checklists with a variety of “levels” describing writing for students can be found here. Are the checklists aligned with the Common Core writing standards outlined above? Do you have different standards that need to be aligned? Districts using standards-based reporting systems also have several variations of checklists or rubrics designed to measure “growth”. Can you tell if a student is “making progress” from this checklist?
. . . Student Role in Assessment?
However, a system of measurement would be remiss if it did not provide student self-assessment of writing progress. That progress can be captured in the children’s own words as in Dana Murphy’s blog here: “What Do You Know About Being a Writer?” The words of kindergartners remind us that reflection on learning needs to begin early – In kindergarten!
Are all students developmentally ready for writing when they enter kindergarten? There are many levels that can be “named” for early writing stages. Waiting for “readiness” is not the answer. Lack of quality writing experiences prior to school is also not an acceptable excuse.
Building a need for writing is critical from the first day of kindergarten. How and when can and should the student be writing? The end goal for the kindergarten year is “writing” and will require both instruction and practice each and every day of school. However, quality writing instruction can and should accelerate student writing because kindergartners are encouraged to “draw and write” all year long.
Will EVERY student go through every stage?
Perhaps not. Maybe splitting out so many stages really just slows down the learning for students.
Will it be hard work?
Will it require change?
Do kindergarten writers deserve quality instructional opportunities that engage them in authentic learning?
Consider this: “Revision may seem like something older kids do, but really kindergartners revise in the block center so why not in writing?” -Lucy Calkins (TCRWP Saturday Reunion, 10.18.2014) Check your beliefs at the door. Open your eyes and mind to the standards to see which ones are “Mission Possible” for kindergartners.
Are teacher beliefs holding students back?
Is growth about counting the levels or writers who who read, talk, and do the real work of writing EVERY day?
Once students are sure that they have stories to share, they will be able to write those stories! Once writers are TAUGHT at all grade levels, writing quality will improve. No more assigning writing. No more teaching writing.
Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsey for creating a place for us to work collaboratively.
What is professional development?
Does your answer include a focus on student needs to drive decision-making, and student learning as the basis on which professional development is planned, implemented and evaluated? If your answer also includes a focus on Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, please keep reading. Leadership is also an important principle of professional development, whether it be the instructional leadership of the principal or the teachers within the building. Simultaneity is another important principle to continue as no one action in school improvement occurs in a vacuum. Participative Decision Making would be a final principal for ongoing sustained professional development designed to improve student learning.
Do those principles sound familiar?
In Iowa, they form the chevron at the top of the Iowa Professional Development graphic pictured here.
What are the core beliefs in this model?
o All students can learn.
o The purpose of professional development is to increase student achievement.
o Professional development should be collective learning by all teachers and administrators with an emphasis on improving instruction.
The cycle of professional development includes many familiar steps:
- Collecting/Analyzing Student Data
- Goal Setting and Student Learning
- Selecting Content
- Designing a Process for Professional Development
- and a mini-cycle that includes Training/learning opportunities; Collaboration/implementation; and Ongoing Data Collection/formative assessment
Cycles – Training/Learning, Collaboration, Formative Assessment . . . . .
With a focus on tight alignment between curriculum, instruction, and assessment, this model parallels many Professional Learning Community cycles including the functions of data teams. The “name of the organizing framework” is not nearly as important as checking to ensure that all elements are present within any professional learning group! Leadership needs to focus on how and when collaborative time can be provided so teachers can work together. The training includes modelling and gradual release of responsibility as the participants take over the leadership role.
Additional ideas from the Iowa Professional Development Model include:
To be able to transfer new learning into the classroom, teachers need multiple opportunities to see demonstrations, plan together, work out problems, rehearse new lessons, develop materials, engage in peer coaching, and observe each other.
Often, learning opportunities need to be interspersed with classroom practice so that questions that arise from early implementation efforts can be responded to in a timely manner.
. . participants are provided with multiple demonstrations of the teaching strategies within the model . . .[and] multiple
opportunities to practice the teaching behaviors. . .
Professional development must be designed to be sustained over time. The initiative must be designed to last until implementation data indicate that the teachers are implementing accurately and frequently and student performance goals are met. (Joyce and Showers, 1983, 2002; NSDC, 2001; Odden, et al., 2002; Wallace, LeMahieu, and Bickel, 1990.) https://www.educateiowa.gov/sites/files/ed/documents/IPDM_Guide.pdf