It’s Tuesday, time to write, and a topic is eluding me.
I’ve read this quote from Tara three times:
“The very first thing I tell my new students on the first day of a workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth. We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason they write so very little. But we do. We have so much we want to say and figure out.”
― Anne Lamott
What’s my strategy to get unstuck?
This is today’s strategy:
- Read my blog posts from last October.
- Read some other slicer posts.
- And then start writing.
- Write quickly.
- Don’t pause.
What do I wish for students for 2015 – 2016?
- Sense of Urgency – There are no “do overs” so each day needs some strategic planning with specific targets in mind. What is the end goal? Where do we need to end up? And then backward planning . . . Ready, Set, Go!
- Focus on Students – Students First, Students Second, Students Third . . . Get the idea? Students are at the center of every decision. In every classroom. In every school. Every.Decision! (and even knowing when to abandon the plan from sense of urgency because it does NOT work out for students!)
- Focus on Volume – Increase Teacher and Students’ Volume of Reading and Volume of Writing – Everyone needs to read and write more. This will require a focus on literacy, as well as speaking and listening and thinking. Teachers will model reading and writing daily. There will be evidence of living both a readerly and writerly life! And the reading and writing will be like Gold – not like a curmudgeon!
- Joyful Learning – Not reading like a robot or due to assigned drudgery! Creating an energized hub of activity – Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening and Thinking Joyfully! Happiness will ooze out of the corners of EVERY room! How do you celebrate meeting goals? How do you celebrate writing? How do students become the leaders in your classroom?
- And Lastly, Choice – Students will have choice in what they read and write daily. Being engaged in joyful literacy workshops daily means that teachers aren’t assigning chapters and questions or daily prompts. In real life, where are end of chapter questions or daily writing to prompts? When is the last time that a teacher completed end of chapter questions or daily writing to prompts? Readers and writers resent “made-up” busy work activities that are counter-productive to the items previously listed such as joyful learning, focus on volume, focus on students! Students know when the work is a waste of time!
As mid-terms, October, and/or the end of the first month of school approach,
What do you wish for your students?
What are you planning for?
Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Thank you, Anna, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Stacey, and Tara. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.
My final post about #ILA15. A clever way to make the first International Literacy Association Conference last – start blogging before I arrive . . .with eager anticipation and continue blogging after I return home . . .reluctant to “end” the experience (This is my 9th post about ILA!).
Hmm. . . just like commencement.
Definition 1: a beginning? or
2: a ceremony in which degrees or diplomas are conferred on graduating students?
It all depends upon your perspective or point of view.
If you attended #ILA15, you have probably also returned home by now. You have more bags of “stuff” than when you left. Probably also a new book or two to read. You check the calendar. Time is fleeting. Depending on your location, the end of summer could be near.
You decide . . .
How will you put your learning to use?
Will I be able to “name” your learning by your actions?
1. Do your students have voice and choice . . . and are they both inspired and empowered every day to be lifelong learners (the will and the skill)?
2. Do you look into the eyes of students, listen to their voices, and watch their actions (and not just on standardized tests) in your quest to find out what they know and what they need next?
3. Do you model what you “preach” as in, do you REALLY lead a readerly and writerly life? Do you communicate how reading and writing have transformed your own personal life with evidence of its authenticity?
4. Do you truly provide the necessary supports so that ALL children in your care THRIVE every day at school? (No inadvertent shame?)
5. Do you still have a list of things you MUST learn YET this summer in order to be the best possible teacher, coach or leader next year? Have you asked anyone for help so that you don’t have to take your learning journey alone?
If you answered “YES” to all five of those questions, then you can choose one fun book and then one professional book to alternately read until your TBR (To Be Read) stack is depleted.
If you answered “YES” to four out of five of those questions, then you need to prioritize your learnings YET for this summer and get busy “learning” about 30 hours each week.
If you were in neither of the two categories above, you need to think seriously about Why you teach? Who you serve? and Your beliefs about education? Only the brave at heart can truly teach ALL students. It’s not an EASY job. Continue at your own risk because the students do not get “Do overs”! Their lives are forever in YOUR hands!
Choose your adventure! It’s all up to YOU!
Which path are you on?
How will you know if your students are successful?
How will you know if you are successful?
What’s the next step on your learning journey?
(Didn’t attend ILA? Would you like a quick summary? Here’s the ILA view!)
This slice was inspired by a post by Erin yesterday here and will give you a preview of what my slices will probably look like for the remainder of March! THANKS, Erin!
I will wake up in NYC.
I will enjoy breakfast at the Lucerne.
I will pack a lunch to take to TC for the Saturday reunion so I shan’t miss a single minute of learning or fellowship.
I will ride the subway to TC.
I will go early to pick up a flyer listing the sessions.
I will be at majestic Riverside Church for the opening keynote.
I will listen raptly to Lucy Calkins, Patricia Palaccio and Kylene Beers and many others.
I will join approximately 3,000+ friends both new and old for Saturday reunion.
I will be making choices about sessions – 125 free ones to choose from.
I will be wearing comfortable walking shoes for the miles I will travel.
I will be learning from some of the best in the field of literacy.
I will be tweeting and blogging back where I really began tweeting and blogging.
I will joining “Slicers” at the Kitchenette.
Will soon be here!
What will your tomorrow bring?
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!
After a very, very family-filled holiday break and ten days without using my laptop, it’s back to “thinking” about professional development for the next two work days. But I would be remiss in moving straight to the list of upcoming events, if I did not slow down and consider the data from last year.
Top 10 posts on my blog (by number of readers):
In rereading those entries, I found that eight of the ten were posted in late June – September with only #3 and #5 before that time frame. Interesting for me to note that all of the top 10 were about reading and writing and not necessarily about “resources” which was my original thought for this blog!
Book chats on twitter or in blogs during 2013:
- Units of Study in Writing (Lucy Calkins and friends – Teachers College Reading and Writing Project) #tcrwp
- Falling in Love with Close Reading: Lessons for Analyzing Texts – and Life! (Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts) #filwclosereading
- What Readers Really Do: Teaching the Process of Meaning Making (Vicki Vinton and Dorothy Barnhouse) #wrrdchat
- Notice and Note (Kylene Beers and Robert Probst) #NNN
- Teach Like a Pirate (Dave Burgess) #educoach
- Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Learning (John Hattie) #educoach
- Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction (Jim Knight) #educoach
My Twitter Video from 2013 (Have you tried this at #visify? https://www.vizify.com/twitter-video):
Goals for 2014?
Still pondering where my focus will be! As a teacher/learner I found that 2013 was a year of growth in deeper understanding of reading and writing and the reciprocal nature of both. Continuing to write and “practice” author’s craft while I listen more to the learners (students and teachers) will also remain on my radar! Stay tuned for more specific 2014 goals!
What are your goals?
I was totally fascinated by Mary Ehrenworth’s closing, “The Common Core Asks Us to Teach Higher Level Comprehension: Performance Assessments and Learning Progressions” on Monday, July 1 on the first day of the Reading Institute.
We began with talking with a partner about assessments that were currently in use in our districts and then Mary began her presentation that was filled with student examples containing both writing and video evidence of reading comprehension.
Mary did caution us to not make running records be the “know all, be all” for every kind of assessment. They are perfect for matching students to books but perhaps not the tool that should be used for measuring growth in comprehension. And especially not to measure growth in comprehension that would be aligned with the Common Core.
In a nutshell, here is the framework Mary proposed:
“Reading Performance Assessments
1. Formal, grade and school wide Information and Argument writing (K-10)
2. Use checklists to set goals and raise levels
3. Reading notebooks
4. Calibrate expectations across grade level and try making a checklist”
Mary wrote this list during the presentation on a piece of paper under the document camera complete with subheadings (no power point here) so errors in reporting would be mine.
A specific reference to Hattie, his book Visible Learning, and the power of specific feedback had me revisiting my notes from our #educoach book study in the summer of 2012. How do students get that feedback? I now know that in writing, the learning progressions authored by Lucy Calkins and the TCWRP staff will provide just that feedback in the form of the checklists available.
Two more gems from Mary:
“Rubrics are for teachers; checklists are for students.”
“If you can say it on a checklist, kids can do it. If you can’t say it on a checklist, kids cannot do it!”
The use of a Reader’s Notebook as a performance assessment was new to me. Having specific goals in terms of checklists or a learning progression would enable both the teacher and the student to “see” progress in deepening comprehension. Having targets would also ensure the likelihood of student success. The premise is both exciting and exhilarating in the forward march to meet the increased demands under the Common Core.
Are you using a Reader’s Notebook as a performance assessment? How might that be used to document increased student comprehension? (grades 3 and above)
Your thoughts are greatly appreciated!
It is officially summer! In Iowa that means that the temperature and humidity are creeping up!
What are you planning for this summer?
I am fortunate to have been accepted into the June Writing Institute and the July Reading Institute @TCRWP (Teachers College Reading and Writing Project) at Columbia University in New York City. As Eva Gabor said in Green Acres, “New York is the place for me!” (You will recognize me as I will probably look and act more like Eddie Albert!)
So what will my focus be for those two weeks (and beyond)?
1) Read: I will be continuing to read the new Units of Study by Lucy Calkins and all the authors at #TCRWP. They are phenomenal. I am already rereading parts because they are so well crafted. Other books are downloaded on my iPad including The One and Only Ivan and Teach Like a Pirate (#educoach twitter chat book study beginning July 10 at 9 pm CST).
2) Write: I will, of course, tweet from #TCRWP. I believe that one day with Lucy Calkins in January was the source either four or five blogs. I cannot even imagine how much I will have to share after 10 days with Lucy and the #tcrwp tweeps on their home turf!
And then there is this other little thing called #teacherswrite. It begins on June 24th and the goal is to write and share every day. As @azajacks said last week, “I am putting my money where my mouth is!” Time, or lack thereof, cannot be an excuse. In order to continue to grow as a teacher of writing, I need to write more. (Intrigued? Information about #teacherswrite can be found here http://www.katemessner.com/teachers-write/ ) Check it out yourself!
3) Continue to grow my technology skills! I have a love/hate relationship with technology as I have used/owned my own personal technology for more than half my life. When it goes well, it is a blissful honeymoon. But when the computer exercises its control, my frustration level rises faster than the temperature!
I need to explore more tools to help teachers increase their efficiency and effectiveness. I think I was one of the last people to know about Read and Write (Google extension that requires Google Chrome, Google Docs, etc.) and its quick conversion of spoken words to text. Eliminating the need for a scribe sounds both efficient and effective to me!!! Three or four tools that are VERY user friendly are exactly what I need to use well before I share with teachers!
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And in the interest of full disclosure, the three items on this list came from a blog I follow at http://chartchums.wordpress.com/ that was posted on June 17th. Check it out! Their explanations were much more eloquent than mine. (And borrowing ideas matched my fortune cookie: “Imitation is a sincere form of flattery.”) Their blog and book are fabulous. Both have totally expanded my view of how “charts” can make learning “visible” for students. Their charts are a perfect match for gradual release of responsibility that results in student independence!
What are you going to plan to do this summer to improve your knowledge of ELA?
And the Common Core?
Record your plans below! Let’s encourage each other to meet our goals!
My plan is “learning.”
For the Wednesday Twitter chat for #educoach, I was thinking about my learning goals for 2013. I began with a variety of words including some that had been included in previous posts. I stopped with “patience, listen carefully, and use questions to help others and myself reflect.”
After reading Arizona MS principal Jeff Delp’s December 31st blog about “today” (blog has been taken down), I decided to change my goal to “learning” – one word. I believe that I will be able to have “evidence” of my learning if I use patience and wait to hear what others are saying. Then when I listen carefully as I listen with my mouth closed, I will also be able to “learn.” And finally, as I use thoughtful questions to help others and myself reflect, I will have additional evidence of my own learning. (In order to help improve student learning, I am a firm believer that I must also be a learner. That means I will be modeling learning behavior as well!)
Last night, on the #educoach chat, participants were sharing their “Edu-lutions” for 2013.
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Still thinking about one word to describe 2013 or your goal for 2013? Here are two more ideas.
1) Check out Principal Mindy Higgin’s blog from August about promoting reading at
2) Check out @principalj (Jessica Johnson’s) December 31st blog with her own reading resolutions available at
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Are you interested in making a “one-word poster?”
What is your plan, resolution, or edu-lution for 2013?
When it comes to “learning,” my self talk the past two weeks has revolved around these conversations.
“Wait, wait, wait.”
“Keep your mouth closed.”
” LISTEN! ”
“Listen with your mouth closed.”
“Don’t fix. Don’t tell. Just listen.”
And it has been incredibly hard. Increasing “wait time” is a cheap and economical way to provide students with the opportunity to really tell me what they know. If I interrupt their thinking, I do not let them respond to the task at hand. If the task was “easy” for the student, he or she would already be at an “independent stage” and really would NOT need me as a guide or coach. I could move on to work with a student who needed assistance.
This has been an eye-opener for me!
It’s so easy as an educator and a Mom to be in a perpetual “fix-it” mode. After all, I have years and years and years of experience in a variety of educational and Mom (including step-mom) roles.
However Vicki Vinton reminded me in her blog post (please read it here) To Model or Not to Model: That is the Question that “Less = More.” If learning truly is the goal, I cannot be the person doing all the work. Sometimes that means I have to stop, wait, close my mouth and listen to the student.
Wait time for our students is so powerful when the classroom is a trusting, student-centered environment. It isn’t about 25 sets of eyes staring at Joey who didn’t even hear the question. There are no “eye rolls” from exasperated peers because “Would anyone like to help Joey out?” is going to be the teacher’s followup question. That is a non-example of wait time.
Respectful, thoughtful wait time is the result of students working collaboratively as the teacher checks in with partners to see what strategies they have tried or are currently using. Yes, there is a lot of work to be accomplished this year, but I cannot rush through teaching without providing opportunities for the students to literally show and tell me what they know. Simply “waiting” to hear each student voice (scaffolding with questions,prompts, or cues AFTER listening is acceptable) results in both formative data to guide my instruction and evidence of STUDENT learning. That doesn’t happen when the teacher is busy telling.
Why is this important? Why does it matter?
After references to Ellin Keene’s new book, Talk About Understanding, from Vicki and my retired, but still voraciously reading, friend Darlene, I’m actually reading a book that doesn’t have the words “Common Core” in the title. Observations of teachers revealed trends in talk that resulted in these behaviors:
- “Cut students off before they have a chance to fully develop their thinking
- Accept students’ first thoughts without probing for deeper thinking
- Move on before we label students’ descriptions of thinking (i.e., naming for them what they’re doing) so that the thinking can be transferred
- Segue from modeling to student responsibility too quickly”
In order to really talk with students, we must “WAIT” and allow them to both use their voices and interact with the meaningful, real-life tasks they are presented. Instead of rushing to complete the task, please stop, WAIT and LISTEN for the student evidence that will inform instruction as you see and hear them collaboratively tackle the task before releasing them to independent work. Remember, Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey would BOTH tell us, modeling does not have to be the first interaction. It may be better served later in the the learning period as a demonstration during the “debrief” so learning is at the forefront with student talk as evidence of student thinking and learning.
So yes, sometimes “Teacher Silence is golden!”
Thank you @melaniemeehan1 for the suggestion of tying wait time into the self-talk.
What do you think? Agree? Disagree? I would love to hear your thoughts!
(As I write this post, I am going to practice CCR Anchor Writing Standard 1, “Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.” )
As I reviewed the blogs listed here on my page as well as the ones on my google reader, I thought about the power of technology. I eagerly look forward to catching up on my “online blog reading” in order to see what is happening with many friends that I know in the virtual world. I have found that a “support system” exists that helps me increase my own understanding of literacy and the bigger educational world. This post takes a look inside some of those blogs that are a part of my own support system that range from a Twitter chat group and some of its specific members to a blog from work that greatly influences my literacy specialist work to a blog that makes me think about how students should be using blogs for real world writing. The topics and content may vary but blogs are powerful sources of learning as well as reflections of learning; just check these out!
1) #educoach The #educoach Twitter chat takes place at 9 pm CST each Wednesday night. The chats are co-moderated by @KathyPerret @PrincipalJ and @shiraleibowitz. Because all three are very talented leaders, I am including all of their blogs under number one #educoach . The reasons for reading them are uniquely different and important! (Yep, cheating already!)
A) Kathy Perret’s “Learning Is Growing “ blog is a place where she records her reflections and new learnings. In the “About” section, Kathy explains that the name was inspired by the book Mindset by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. Kathy is an aspiring elementary principal who currently serves as a Reading Consultant for NWAEA in Sioux City, Iowa. As I reviewed Kathy’s blog for specific posts to recommend I noted that the archives extend to August 2010 with 70,829 hits recorded. This seems to be a blog with a great following! Favorite posts that extended my thinking included: “Discover Writing” posted on July 14, 2012, “Angry Birds” – A Lesson in Assessment FOR Learning posted on February 15, 2011 and “ Think-Pair-Share Variations” posted on March 21, 2012. These three posts represent thoughtfully written articles for teachers that include the background theory, actual implementation steps, and resources that would benefit a teacher implementing the strategies in a classroom.
B) @PrincipalJ’s blog is “Reflections from an Elementary Principal. Jessica Johnson reflects on her practice, her learning and connects with other school administrators as an elementary principal in Wisconsin. Favorites of mine include: “Ready for the First Day of Bucket Filling!”(Sept. 2012), October 3, 2012, “Do my teachers know how amazing they are?” that was about nominating a teacher for a state award who didn’t feel she was a viable candidate, and “The decision to go school-wide with Daily 5” posted on February 9, 2011 that details how Daily 5 began with one second grade teacher the previous year. With blogs dating back to 2009 a reader could find many topics that would build upon his/her own understanding of life as an administrator or lead teacher in any building.
C) “Sharing Our Blessings” is Shira Leibowitz’s blog shared in her own words “because for Educators and Parents, Counting Our Blessings Just Isn’t Enough.” Shira is a lower elementary principal in New Jersey. A special favorite of mine is the post “Who’s Afraid of Principals?” posted 10.09.12 that so aptly conveys a student vision of adults and reminds adults to stop and think about the perceptions of our students! Posted on 04.22.12 is “The Learning Walk Shuffle” which details an evolution of learning walks to the current foci of differentiation and student engagement. That is one post that I have reread multiple times! “A Team of Coaches” posted on 02.13.12 provides information about the specific roles of the math, Hebrew, science, educational tech, enrichment, media and literacy, and literacy and learning strategies coaches found in her building. All of these coaches work together as a coaching team to support meaningful professional learning. Shira talks frankly about professional learning required to design and support all students and teachers.
2) Quick Reviews and Ideas is a blog by @ksteingr (Kristin Steingreaber) who is the media director at Great Prairie AEA (Ottumwa and Burlington) where I work. The purpose of this blog is to connect students with new media resources. Teachers and/or students will be interested in the reviews. The October 24th post is a review of the book, The giant and how he humbugged America by Jim Murphy. Publisher information is included as well as why this may appeal to students in Iowa: “Hull claimed that he got the idea to create the giant while on a business trip to Ackley, Iowa” (page 47). Curriculum connections to books from the National Council of Social Studies are also included in the book reviews found in the October 21st post as way to increase reading within curricular areas. The blog archives list 53 posts for 2012, 56 for 2011, 67 for 2010 and 78 for 2009 as further evidence of the long standing tradition of book reviews. Busy teachers will appreciate that the reviews are succinct. Looking for a specific title? There is a “search” available on this blog that allows one to focus on specific titles and/or topics.
3) This last specific post “Ideas for Integrating a Student Blog into Your Curriculum” by @penilleripp is a “Must Read/Follow” because it includes education musings, technology and lessons as well as Pernille Ripp’s Life as a Teacher. Need ideas on how to incorporate student blogging in order to make writing as authentic and as meaningful as possible without it becoming another homework burden? If yes, then this is the post you need to read. Thinking about student blogging? Then this is the blog for you to follow. Mrs. Ripp has 150 posts archived for this year alone which could greatly inform any reader looking to add to their own knowledge of technology and writing. Any teacher who is considering student blogging will find additional resources and food for thought on this blog! And what are some common concerns with student blogs? Check out this post of Pernille’s. (Updated: Also source for Global Read Alouds)
So this was quite lengthy. Did I support my claims that these were great “must follow/read” blogs? Was the reasoning valid? Was there sufficient and valid evidence? Where could I have improved my argument?