Tag Archives: Dana Murphy

#DigiLitSunday: Agency


 

digilit

The link up to other #DigiLit Sunday posts can be found at Margaret Simon’s Reflections On the Teche. Please check out what other bloggers are writing about today!

And today’s topic:

agency.jpg

What does agency mean to me?

It means choice.  Yesterday I chose #TheEdCollabGathering created by Chris Lehman (definition one below) and I made sure that I acted on that agency (definition two) by attending sessions live all day.  Barely pausing for conversation, my brain on fire, I moved from one session to the next, each one carefully chosen as a tapestry of confirmation.

Topics I needed to revisit.  Topics I needed to dig deeply into again.  Topics I needed for inspiration and affirmation seven weeks into this new year.  Welcoming learning with friends.  Welcoming new friends in the Twitterverse.  Welcoming a day of JOYFUL learning from my home on a Saturday. (Agenda for #TheEdCollabGathering here.)  The sessions were free.  The sessions will remain free and accessible.  The sessions can be accessed at your leisure. The.sessions.are.well.worth.your.time!  TRUST ME!  Check them out!

agency-two

Evidence of Agency for me yesterday?

  1. That I could choose the free sessions to attend from the comfort of my home.
  2. Attending the sessions, tweeting out and having conversations with fellow attendees, presenters, and colleagues from around the world  . . .                                   and then Blogging about my attendance and learning today!

Interesting?

Yes

Life Shattering?

No . . . er . . . I don’t know YET!

Affirming?

Yes

Inspiring?

Yes

New?

Kind of . . .

I have been working with Webb’s Depth of Knowledge lately. Those four levels that in some circles have replaced Bloom’s Taxonomy.  I don’t think either one is exclusionary and in fact believe that there are some positives in each. Both invite thinking in order to move up the levels.

These Depth of Knowledge levels are available about writing at this Edutopia resource.

Level 1 (Recall) requires the student to write or recite simple facts.  This writing or recitation does not include complex synthesis or analysis but is restricted to basic ideas.  The students are engaged in listing ideas or words as in a brainstorming activity prior to written composition, are engaged in a simple spelling or vocabulary assessment or are asked to write simple sentences. Students are expected to write and speak using Standard English conventions.  This includes using appropriate grammar, punctuation, capitalization and spelling.

Level 2 (Basic Application of Concepts & Skills) tasks require some mental processing.  At this level students are engaged in tasks such as first draft writing for a limited number of purposes and audiences.  At Level 2 students are beginning to connect ideas using a simple organizational structure.  For example, students may be engaged in note-taking, outlining or simple summaries.  Text may be limited to one paragraph. Students demonstrate a basic understanding and appropriate use of such reference materials as a dictionary, thesaurus, or web site.

Level 3 (Strategic Thinking & Complex Reasoning) tasks require higher-level mental processing.  Students are engaged in developing compositions that include multiple paragraphs.  These compositions may include complex sentence structure and may demonstrate some synthesis and analysis.  Students show awareness of their audience and purpose through focus, organization and the use of appropriate compositional elements.  The use of appropriate compositional elements includes such things as addressing chronological order in a narrative or including supporting facts and details in an informational report.  At this stage students are engaged in editing and revising to improve the quality of the composition.

Level 4 (Extended Thinking & Complex Reasoning) tasks may incorporate a multi-paragraph composition that demonstrates synthesis and analysis of complex ideas or themes.  Such tasks will require extended time and effort with evidence of a deep awareness of purpose and audience.  For example, informational papers include hypotheses and supporting evidence.  Students are expected to create compositions that demonstrate a distinct voice and that stimulate the reader or listener to consider new perspectives on the addressed ideas and themes.

As I reflect on my agency and my learning today, I am confident that most of my Tweets fall into the Level 1 category.  I often try to capture exact words – the very essence of the speaker’s thoughts – and that is totally recall.  No doubt. Level 1.  And yet sometimes, I’m pulling in background knowledge or shortening the exact quotes when there are long hashtags and I must cut down the number of symbols.  Is that always Level 1?  Probably not. Is it sometimes Level 2?  Perhaps yes.

And what of this blog post?  Where would it rate?  Ideas from the day are flowing through my brain.  Some pictures are already uploaded. Others are paused.  Too few?  Too many? Which serve the meaning and the understanding of the reader?  Which are examples of MY thinking?

 Right now I think that I am approaching or possibly just peering over the ledge of DOK 3.  Your thoughts?

As I consider all the meaning embedded in Level 4 (Extended Thinking and Complex Reasoning), I believe this is where Katherine Bomer’s thinking lies when she said,

“Capital E, Essay equals thinking!”

A student or adult is agentive and completing that “extended thinking and complex reasoning” when totally engaged in a task of their own choice.  When writing, it may be an essay, a poem, or some great work of literature.  But it’s something the student knows and knows well due to their passionate study.  It may be a study of their own thinking and problem solving as suggested by Burkins and Yaris in Who’s Doing the Work?  when the students are actually working harder than the teachers as they problem solve and persevere in forging their own learning paths when “given the time to do so”.

burkins-and-yaris-nine-mental-process-s-can-use-by-self-takes-time

Jan’s metaphor of shopping was played out in this chart and compared to choosing a just right book.  Students choosing their own books . . . not being handed books by the teacher brings up a question:  “Who SHOULD be choosing the books?”

burkins-and-yaris-eleven-book-process

Tara Smith tweeted out that “agency = knowing how to make choices.” How often do our students struggle with making decisions?  When should they be “practicing” quality decision-making skills? Is that not a skill that should be part of the daily routines during the school day?

Consider how engagement and accessibility play into these four elements.  Jan actually framed and labeled them for the viewers. But at any point there could be a mismatch.  Clare and Tammy would also point out that the mismatches are opportunities for learning and even ownership of their learning. A celebration of learning.  Every data point can also bring hope, joy and agentive power to the students.

clare-and-tammy-assess-two

And what if students were publishing regularly for real audiences?  #TWT authors and bloggers, Beth Moore, Deb Frazier and Dana Murphy literally hit the game-winning touchdown with their sharing and feedback strategies! (It was a Saturday after all-so there was some collegiate football in the background.)  Deb suggested feedback to young writers  on day one, Dana said it could be ‘fancy like “Wow and Wonder”,  “Glow and Grow”, or like “slicers” -1. feel, 2 notice, 3. connection’ and Beth Moore said that someday a student writer  might tell friends about how special their teacher made them feel as a writer. Honoring students and their writing work doesn’t cost a lot of time or money.  Celebrating student learning should be an every day constant.

After all this is “their” learning!   Fewer behavior management systems might be needed if there was more emphasis on “student choice” and so much less emphasis on “compliance” and “silly tasks” but those are both topics for another day!

The intersection of agency, choice, engagement and learning seems to be a good fit for students who are “doing the work” and not passively watching others engaged in the work.  Even kindergarten students want to share their thinking . . . not their fault that sometimes their symbols and/ or work needs translation for our adult brains to make better sense (Clare and Tammy’s story about Zachary) .

But what if the entry point for all students was simply choice?

What if the responsibility and accountability lies with students?

Lucy Calkins reminded us this summer that “To teach well, we do not need more techniques and strategies as much as we need a vision of what is essential.”

What if agency is essential?  How does that change instruction and assessment?

(Did I make it to Level 4 -Extended Thinking and Complex Reasoning? You be the judge!)

#SOL16: Chatting about Mentor Texts


#TWTBlog  had these questions for their #Twitter Chat about “Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts”. Were you there?  Which questions/answers really helped you grow in your thinking about mentor texts?

Twtblog 5.9.16 chat mentor texts

This chat was a culmination of a week long series about Mentor Texts and in case you missed it, here are the links:

“Tuesday, May 3: Reading Like a Writer, Step-By-Step by Elizabeth Moore (that’s me!)

Wednesday, May 4: Student-Written Mentor Texts by Deb Frazier

Thursday, May 5: How to Choose and Mine Mentor Texts for Craft Moves by Stacey Shubitz

Friday, May 6: Digital Mentor Texts for Blogs by Kathleen Neagle Sokolowski

Saturday, May 7: Create Your Own Text by Dana Murphy

Sunday, May 8: When to Use Mentor Texts by Betsy Hubbard” (5/9/16 link)

 

Previously I’ve written about mentor texts here, here, here, here, and here.

So why on earth am I writing about Mentor Texts again?  

Well, there are whole books about Mentor Texts that include ten of my favorites below and Stacey Shubitz’s Craft Moves:  Lesson Sets for Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts that will ship from Stenhouse in June of 2016! (You can preview it here.) And I was just lucky enough, with my friend, Melanie Meehan, to win a FREE copy last night as a participant in the chat!

So, if I have 10 of these 11 books (soon to be 11 of 11) about Mentor Texts, why am I writing about them again?

I know that it’s a total shock to some of my readers, but I must admit that I am a bibliophile. There are very few books that I’ve met that are NOT my immediate friends (except for the fantasy, scifi, vampire type books that I often just AVOID)!

Collecting samples of mentor texts has been helpful in my study of the craft of writing. Each of these books leads me to other authors, books, and even publishers that allow me to deepen my knowledge of author’s craft.  I’ve been a writer, off and on, for decades.  But during that writing time, I have NOT always studied writing.  Instead I was playing at writing and sometimes only “practicing” writing.  I trusted the authors above to choose texts that would surely be magical mentors for either myself or my students.

Recently my study of writing has been more reflective and my goal has been to define the elements that work (as well as WHY) and YET sometimes I STILL totally miss the mark! The books above provided a safety net because I did NOT trust my own judgement of mentor texts. I knew there was no “magic list” and YET I still thought there was often something magical about these books that FAMOUS AUTHORS had placed on their lists of Mentor Texts. Reading through their choices was like Intro to Mentor Texts 101. I could see what they chose and why and try to imitate that.

What did I learn from tonight’s chat?

The chat was just like “Field of Dreams” . . . “Build it and they will come!”

Stars on the Twitter Red Carpet #TWTBlog included:

  • Ralph Fletcher
  • Lynne Dorfman
  • Rose Cappelli
  • Ruth Culham
  • Kim Yaris
  • Jan Miller Burkins
  • Lisa Eickholdt
  • Shana Frazin
  • Cornelius Minor
  • Emily Butler Smith
  • Dr. Mary Howard
  • Tara Smith
  • Catherine Flynn
  • Melanie Meehan
  • Jessie Miller
  • Leigh Anne Eck
  • Lisa Keeler
  • Margaret Simon
  • TWT Team – Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, and Stacey

The storified chat is available here.

But here are a couple of my favorite tweets that I am still thinking about in response to Q5) “Why are teacher-written mentor texts important? How do you use them?” . . .

power of mentor text

power of mentor text two

and this all important one from Dana on Q1 about reading mentor texts:

tweet

The conversations last night were rich. I will be reviewing the storify as I know I missed some. And like any great texts, some tweets will need to be revisited!

Who are your writing mentors?

What are your favorite mentor texts?

How would we know?

slice of life 2016

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

 

 

Beginning the School Year!


welcome

What’s your focus for the beginning of a new school year?

If your students have not yet begun:

What do you know about school, the year, your grade level, your students and yourself as you begin to plan? How do you set your priorities?  What are you planning based on your own personal belief statements?

If your students are already attending, think back to how you began the year.

the beginning

Nobody knows how much you know until they know how much you care.  Theodore Roosevelt

Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.  Anonymous

How important are relationships?

As an adult, how comfortable are you in those situations where you “play” icebreaker activities?  Which ones work for you?  Which ones make you think “Is this really the best use of my time?”

Dana Murphy addressed this conundrum in her post, “The Chicken and the Egg”.  Please go read her blog if you haven’t yet!  The notion of “Significant 72” is critical. Relationships are critical.  But how can relationships, fun and academics all work together during the “Significant 72”?

Obviously in upper grades, this would not mean “boring and endless reading of the classroom rules” for we know that co-constructed roles, expectations, and norms result in increased collaboration and learning.

And then Shaelynn Farnsworth’s post, “Kicking Off Back to School with Camera Fun”, caught my eye because it combined content, learning targets and building relationships within the classroom.  Of course it was also FUN! But I also loved the ideas because they involved some form of “creation”, higher level of Bloom’s or DOK, as well as a source of formative assessment for the students, if I chose to use the student products to not only tell me about the students but also to tell me what my students currently know about 6 word memoirs.

How do you make decisions about your learning priorities?

I see Dana’s thinking about how writing together can build relationships as well as Shaelynn’s “fun” and “technology” as integral parts of first days of school relationship building and setting the classroom expectations for learning.  “It’s all about the learning” would be a mantra of mine! As well as “It’s about ALL learning“. How much do my beliefs and values enter into my decisions?

what matters atwell

Tricia Ebarvia posted this on twitter on 8.15.15 and it’s a quote that I plan to hold onto.  It matches Kylene Beers keynote at TCRWP during the March Saturday reunion as well as the August Reading Institute.  A reader has to read in order to be a better reader. How do students get that time?  How do teachers provide that time?  How do systems protect that time?

Twitter has also provided other sources of inspirations and decision making.  A favorite quote of mine from Dr. Mary Howard is “Tick Tock, Every minute counts and must be designed to make the most of precious available time with students!”

tick tock

Time is finite.  Our minutes with our students are limited.  In order to teach both the reader and the writer, we must make deliberate choices about how to spend that time.

To begin the year I choose:

  1. Quality Read Alouds – where students will choose a word, phrase or sentence that captures their “ears” that they want to linger with. (Relationships will be built as we consider who has similar words and phrases as well as WHY the choice was made.)
  2. Writing about our Read Alouds – what are some of the most important things in my world?  (Relationships will be built as we talk with partners about the ideas in Margaret Wise Brown’s The Important Book.)
  3. Speed Dating with Books – Read a book and share with others in my group about who might want to read it and why. (Relationships will be built as students create To Be Read, TBR, lists.)
  4. To watch and listen (no interrogations) as students talk, read, write, and speak to capture their words and the essence of their thoughts.

 Why does it matter?

Sharon Salzberg says it best, “We learn and grow and are transformed not so much by what we do but by why and how we do it.”

Check out Tara Smith’s post “Begin the Writing Workshop Year by Writing on ‘Day One'”!  It’s fabulous!

How will you begin the year with fun, learning, literacy, AND relationship building?

Slice of Life 25: Are you in the pool?


(During March, I am blogging daily as a part of the Slice of Life Story Challenge!)  Special thanks to the hosts of the Slice of Life Challenge:  StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnna and Beth.   More Slice of Life posts can be found at  Two Writing Teachers .

I had my Bartlett’s out yesterday looking for quotes about writing.  I was hoping to find the source of “Teachers of writing need to write!”  Is there a single author that has been attributed to?

Instead I lingered over some of these quotes and actually added and tagged them in Evernote.

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
—Ernest Hemingway

 

“If a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood.”
—Peter Handke

 

“The first sentence can’t be written until the final sentence is written.”
—Joyce Carol Oates, WD

 

“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.”
—Ray Bradbury, WD

 

“Remember: Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.”
—Ray Bradbury, WD

 

“Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.”
—Robert A. Heinlein

 

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
– Lewis Carroll

I began this blog because I felt very strongly that as a teacher of writing, I needed to be writing. I needed to feel both the joy and the pressure of writing published for the world with that nagging voice, “Is this good enough?”  Will anyone read this?”

Blogs that spoke to me on this same message yesterday included:

  • Our real power – Authentic Writing  – Dana Murphy from Two Writing Teachers (You have to read this one as no summary will do it justice!)
  • To Be a Writer, You Only Need to Do Two Things by Joe Bunting       (and those two are – 1. Write your story.   2. Share your story with the world.)
  • And these quotes from Shana Frazin’s presentation Tips for Conferring with Writers at #TCRWP’s Saturday Spring Reunion –   “Tip No. 1 You gotta get in the pool if you wanna swim.”  “in other words, in order to teach writing, you need to do some writing. (The quote that began my search!)

 

Have you written your story?

Have you shared with your teachers and your students?  The World?

 

“Do I HAVE to teach writing?”


“Teachers Don’t Have Time to Teach Writing” was a provocative post that caught my eye yesterday (01.26.14) on Twitter.  I urge you to read the post in its entirety.  The author, Ashley Hurley, claims to have heard teachers say that they just don’t have time to teach writing more times than she can count.  (It is shocking but I have also heard that statement. Her impassioned post includes numerous quotes from the National Commission on Writing, National Writing Project Newsletter, and Writing Next. However, beyond those quotes is a universal need for students to become literate citizens who can fully participate in a democratic society.  Evidence of this would be found in letters to the editor for a local paper, blog posts, or even conversations in the local coffee shop.

The College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing define what students should understand and be able to do by the end of every grade in each of the ten writing standards.  Further support for writing is found in the sidebar:

  ” . . . students need to use writing as a tool for learning and communicating to offer and support opinions, demonstrate understanding of the subjects they are studying, and convey real and imagined experiences and events.” . . . “To meet these goals, students must devote significant time and effort to writing, producing numerous pieces over short and extended time frames throughout the year.” (p. 16, CCSS, English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects)

Is teaching writing optional?  

No!  Beyond the Iowa Core/Common Core, consider your own state’s definition of “language arts” as it relates to state code and educational requirements.  A quick google search combining “state name” “educational code” and “writing” will provide a look at current and previous expectations for writing. I quickly searched Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois and Missouri to collect information for four states that border Iowa.  I was intrigued by the fact that Nebraska does have a state writing test (I wonder what kind of orchestration is necessary for a state-wide writing test?) and that all five states (including Iowa) have long had writing expectations in state educational code.  What may be new for teachers and students is the fact that writing is important in all content areas K-12.

What does writing instruction look like?

It was difficult to use the information garnered from searches to get a clear picture of writing instruction from the five states I was reviewing.  Due to the state writing assessment, Nebraska had more information than the other four. Current beliefs and pedagogy would certainly predict that instruction might include some measure of gradual release or “I Do, We Do, You Do” that is prevalent in the literature and widely supported by the likes of Doug Fisher, Nancy Frey, Kelly Gallagher and Jim Burke.

Many teachers, at a variety of grade levels and content areas, provide free-writing or “journaling” writing time where students are permitted to write on a topic of their own to show what they know.  George Hillocks, Jr. reported on the results of six types of writing instruction in 1987.  He summarized the free writing research as:

“Free writing.  This approach asks students to write freely about whatever concerns them.  As a major instructional technique, free writing is more effective than teaching grammar in raising the quality of student writing. (Effect size = .16) However, it is less effective than focuses of other instruction examined.”

If free writing is an opportunity for students to write while the teacher does “other work” and is not connected to writing instruction, modeling or practice, then it may not be the best use of the available instructional time.  Furthermore, if “free writing” is the ONLY writing time allocated daily, students will probably not make much growth in writing because of the low effect size.

What  writing instruction is needed?

Writing instruction must include clear models of the criteria and expectations for writing.  Sources for student writing include #tcrwp, the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, National Writing Project and Appendix C of the Common Core.  Writing also needs to include choices for students.  Students should NOT always be handed a topic to write about; nor would students necessarily be allowed to ALWAYS write on a topic of their own choice.  Sometimes, especially with an on-demand prompt, the student may be required to write on a topic that the teacher has specified.  Students who have not had a lot of writing practice or who do perceive themselves as successful writers will struggle with choosing topics and staying with a topic when writing.  Teachers will need to explicitly teach the steps of the writing process as students engage in drafting, conferencing, revising, and editing their work.

But one constant for writing instruction is that there will be INSTRUCTION!  Merely writing “more” will not help create better, stronger and longer writers!  In fact, it may be possible that students could write “more” without ever improving the “quality” of their own work!  Improvement would result from writing that incorporated the thinking from a demonstration or mini-lesson coupled with collaborative “we try it” work that provides students with a safety net as they practice new learning / skills!

How do we provide enough writing opportunities for writing across the day?

First, we begin with writing in all content areas every day.  We add writing to reading as a measure of student understanding, not as a worksheet to be filled out.  “Two Writing Teachers” is hosting “Writing About Reading Blog Series” this week.  A new blog will be posted every day with possible options for writing about thinking while reading.  Today’s blog (linked above) by Dana Murphy features three different approaches:  

  1. Lifting a Line
  2. Character Web
  3. Visual Note Taking

Check them out.  All three approaches include a picture of student work as another model. A twitter chat is planned for Monday, February 3rd using the hashtag #TWTBlog and more information is available in the link in this sentence.  While you are reading about those approaches, consider whether some of them would be appropriate across a wide range of content reading across the day. (Summarizing is not the only skill that students need to work on!).

Second, there must be common language about writing in all content areas (K-12).  A focus on common language is present in the Common Core and it may be a unifying factor for students, parents, and teachers. Teachers need to work collaboratively across all content areas and grades to increase their comfort level and knowledge through the use of peer to peer conversations focused on improving the quality of student writing and writing instruction.

Third, there must be models of the expected level of writing at the end of the grade level.   Annotated models with specific feedback about the use of writing techniques is very beneficial to students and writing models are on the list of research-based practices in Writing Next. Also plan to include scaffolds where needed to connect speaking and listening, reading, and writing skills.  Some students may need more auditory models prior to working to accelerate their writing skills.  Begin collecting student examples to use as models. Garner permission from the student authors to use them in demonstrations.  These models need to be collected across all content areas as writing expectations should not be different by content areas.

Fourth, teachers must write as well.  Teachers need to know and understand the struggle embraced by our students on a regular basis.  That knowledge and understanding comes from writing alongside the students.  Teachers cannot continue to “tell” students to write or to write like “Author X.”  Teachers must also provide models of high-quality writing.  Students need to see quality science writing from the science teachers and historically accurate writing from the social sciences teachers as just a few examples.

What is one thing that you can change about your writing instruction TOMORROW?  How can you provide the instruction that will help students meet the demands of the Common Core and prepare them to be reading, writing, thinking citizens?  Where will you start?
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