Tag Archives: community

#SOLSC and #DigiLitSunday


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This week’s theme for #DigiLitSunday is “Slicing our lives”.  Head on over to Margaret Simon’s “Reflections on the Teche” for additional posts.

Slicing our lives is what many bloggers do each Tuesday throughout the year.  But when March arrives (whether like a lion or a lamb), it’s time for the “Story Challenge” where bloggers write each day of the month.  So that’s 31 consecutive posts to write as well as to respond to fellow bloggers in the community!  This year is the 10th annual SOLSC so that’s a whole lot of stories.

Why Slice?

It’s an opportunity to write stories every day and live a more writerly life . . . in public. Sharing stories allows us to build a community of writing friends.  Perhaps in the first year of slicing, you only read the posts of those persons who post just before and after you.  But after a while, you branch out and look for those who write about similar topics, teach the same grade, have similar jobs, people you follow on Twitter or those you have met in real life (IRL) or face to face (F2F).

What is a community?

It’s often considered to be a group of people joined together for a common purpose or passion.  Today I celebrate both the Slice of Life Community and the DigiLitSunday Community. Friends from around the world that I rely on when I’m looking to learn more.  Friends that I often meet in both the blogosphere and the Twitterverse.  Friends with whom I enjoy spending time!

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Members of both communities that I have met face to face at NCTE and/or TCRWP Institutes or Saturday Reunions include:

  • Margaret Simon
  • Tara Smith
  • Carol Versalona
  • Julianne Harmatz  (We even presented on a panel together at NCTE15!)

Slice of Life Community members that I have met face to face at NCTE and TCRWP (Institutes and / or Saturday Reunions)

  • Stacey
  • Dana
  • Betsy
  • Deb
  • Michelle
  • Melanie
  • Lisa
  • Catherine
  • Paula
  • Glenda

Slicers that I have met face to face at TCRWP Institutes or Saturday reunions:

  • Sally
  • Erika
  • Phyllis
  • Lanny
  • Dayna

Slicers that I have met face to face at ILA or NCTE:

  • Clare
  • Lynne
  • Rose
  • Elsie
  • Jennifer
  • Leigh Anne
  • Linda
  • Ramona

Slicers in my neighborhood that I see at local/Iowa events:

  • Kathy Scuitema
  • Deb Day

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Slicers that I am looking forward to meeting:

Everyone of you that I have not yet met.  I so enjoy reading the “About” section of blogs to see where you are from and whatever additional information you provide.  I have gone with you to quilt shows, Africa, France, to family events, to dinner and have so enjoyed learning with and from so many talented writers!

My life is richer for all the slicers that I know around the world IRL (F2F) or online!  Thanks for being so generous with your time and stories! I’m honored to have so many great “blogging mentors” in my life!  Thanks to so many of you for stopping by, reading and commenting.

(And my sincere apologies, in advance, for anyone I’ve accidentally left off the list.  I started it two days ago and I’ve been checking my blog posts and my ILA, NCTE, and TCRWP notes to try to be as accurate as possible.  However, the mind is the first thing to go . . . with old age!)

slice of life

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Lanny, Lisa, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum and the #SOLSC that runs from March 1 to the 31st. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

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#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?

#SOL15: March Challenge Day 24 – Community


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Thank you, readers, for your reading, your likes and your comments throughout this month of slicing.  There is a real sense of community among slicers especially when you consider this definition

a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

The good news is that all the “slicers” are winners even though Dana will anounce the “one” commenting winner later today.  Those that read 60 posts this last weekend are richer for their reading and those that have written 24, heading to 31, consective days of posts are richer for their writing.  We have shared laughter, tears, fear, joys and had FUN this month.

Some of us will extend this fun this weekend as slicers, courtesy of Tara, gather after the TCRWP Saturday reunion.

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Will you be there at TC?  See Tara’s slice here for more info!

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Check out the writers, readers and teachers who are “slicing” here. Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsy at “Two Writing Teachers” for creating a place for us to share our work.  So grateful for this entire community of writers who also read, write and support each other!

Is Our Writing Improving?


How can we measure writing so students, parents, the community, and the teachers know that students are improving?

If this is our definition of assessment, we have many options for measurement.

writing assessment

If I am a student, I can use rubrics, checklists, my personal goals and feedback from peers, teachers,  and those I communicate with through blogging, etc. to talk about what qualities are present in my writing now that were not there earlier in the year.  This could be in the form of a summative reflection that is posted with two or three papers/writings that I believe demonstrate my growth and that I would have annotated with those specific qualities for a quarter or semester or across the entire year.

But what keeps a student writing on a daily basis?  How does a student know that this week’s writing piece is better than the last piece?  Or that this piece really was the perfect match for the audience and purpose?  I believe that students need feedback to not only be able to “improve” their writing but also to have the language to explain what they are doing to others. Excitement about a topic can carry a student for several days, but at some point the enthusiasm may wane as the task of rewriting or revising becomes laborious.

John Hattie believes that feedback needs to include these factors:

“• focus on the learning intention of the task
• occur as the students are doing the learning
• provide information on how and why the student understands and misunderstands
• provides strategies to help the student to improve
• assist the student to understand the goals of the learning”  Source 

So a learner would need to know the task/goal, be able to explain what he or she is learning and have some strategies that enhance his/her understanding of the work.  The checklists in the new Units of Study in Writing, from Lucy Calkins and the many, many talented folks at Teachers College Reading and Writing, would help meet those criteria especially if the students are involved in daily writing workshops that allow them to continually stretch and grow and there is a safety net provided by the teacher and peers.

Is this the only writing format that meets these criteria?  No, other rubrics such as 6 Traits + 1 within a writing workshop model could also set up this learning and feedback environment for students.  These environments would include clear writing targets, models and strategies for students to continually plan, reflect and self-assess.  When working well, these classrooms are better than well-oiled machines; when not working well students might be saying, “I don’t know what to write.” or  “What do YOU want me to write?”

How does that all fit in a writing workshop?  Very, very carefully as a teacher combines both student-led and teacher-led activities to increase student independence!  At the end of the mini-lesson, the teacher may ask the students to go ahead and begin an example of the task/work at hand before they even leave that comfort of the writing circle.  A few students may stay for a quick conference and/or a more specific “check-in” with the teacher.  A student may have put a post it up on a strategy chart to mark the specific work that is his/her goal for today that will improve the narrative (adding action, adding dialogue, or adding thoughts).  The teacher will circulate and may have a “mid-workshop” interruption where student work that is “on target” is quickly celebrated and shared.  Students may quickly meet with writing partners to see if they are “still on course to meet their goals.”

This is an example of “knowing specifically what a student needs to do” to meet the learning target in kindergarten – first grade writing.

K end of unit one writing

The student will have a “collection” of writings in a folder that will be evidence of learning.

What will the parents and community members see?  They will see examples of early writing in a unit and later writing.  They will see “student revision” in work and evidence of student thinking.  Parents and community members will not see traditional “percentages” for grades.  They will see comments that delineate what the student CAN do.  The students will be able to tell their families what they have been working on and how that has helped them be more powerful writers.

And the teachers . . . How will they know that “students are improving”?  Teachers may have to take a step back because the “day to day work” may cloud their view when they think of overall growth for all students. But student growth, when students are writing every day in writing workship for 45 minutes to an hour, can be seen after three weeks (Lucy Calkins, June 2013 TCRWP Writing Institute).  Will it be easy?  Heck, no!  But will easy provide results that will help your students meet the demands of opinion, informational and narrative writing?

What are you waiting for?  February is the month to “Fire Up” student writing in your classroom.  Your students will love writing with you!

What questions do you have?  What do you need in order to get started?

Information about the K-5 Units of Study

Public Perceptions of Writing


How are YOUR students doing in writing?  How do you know?

A few years ago the National Writing Project commissioned a public opinion survey entitled “The 2007 Survey on Teaching Writing.” The results are reported here and one quote is also included directly below.

“Americans believe that good writing skills are more important than ever, but they fear that our schools and our children are falling behind. Two-thirds of the public would like to see more resources invested in helping teachers teach writing. And 74 percent think writing should be taught in all subjects and at all grade levels.”

The good news is that the Common Core State Standards do include writing standards that cover ALL subjects and ALL grade levels.  Those College and Career Ready Writing Anchor standards are:

Text Types and Purposes

  • CCRA.W.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
  • CCRA.W.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
  • CCRA.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

Production and Distribution of Writing

  • CCRA.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • CCRA.W.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
  • CCRA.W.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge

  • CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
  • CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
  • CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Range of Writing

  • CCRA.W.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Last year #TeacherWeek reported that “80% of the U.S. population surveyed think that writing well is more important than 20 yrs ago; 75% think schools should put more emphasis on writing.”  Both of these percentages continue to climb steadily upward.

Do you know the answers to these questions?

  • Are ALL teachers teaching writing in their content areas?
  • Do teachers use the same common language when teaching writing?
  • Do students know what the writing learning targets are?
  • Do parents and community members know what the student writing learning targets are?
  • Are the same rubrics used across multiple content areas and multiple grades?
  • Do students write for a variety of purposes, across content areas, throughout the day?
  • Are students making progress in meeting the writing anchor standards?

Who have you shared those answers with?

What would your community say about the progress that the students in your school are making in writing?  How would they know?

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