Fantastic Four Fireballs
Fantastic learning continues and today’s countdown of learning is from Thursday at the June TCRWP Writing Institute.
From Simone Fraser’s session, there are at least three different ways to teach grammar.
- Interludes and Extravaganzas
As teachers, we need to reflect:
Who is doing the work?
Who is doing the most talking?
Do we always use the same group size? Or do we vary whole group, small group, partners, 1:1?
Do students really have enough “work” to really understand?
When do students become more independent?
Which method leads to the best transfer?
If you are only using one method, which one would you add to your repertoire?
From Marie Mounteer and our Interactive Writing session,
When making choices, we always want to go back to purpose.
When making choices, we always want to go back to purpose.
When making choices, we always want to go back to purpose.
The WHY? is critical.
Marjorie Martinelli’s message in her choice session was exactly what I needed to hear. When we consider any practices in our writing workshop, we need to consider these three lenses:
We were looking specifically at writing centers, routines and rituals, and anchor charts, but these three bulleted ideas can frame our discussions about classroom environments, all parts of the writing workshop, writing process and even genre work. Reminding ourselves of the WHY or purpose behind our work is always a great beginning to review our goals and purposes in order to keep our eye on how all students can have increased access, agency and independence in writing.
Katharine Bomer knocked it way out of Cowin Auditorium with her keynote titled, “With an Air of Expectancy: Teaching Writing with Belief, Hope, and Respect”.
Which one is more inviting? Which one is more inclusive?
They aren’t the same. Just as learning and achievement are not the same.
But this is my favorite and what every teacher needs to remember:
““Let us become ambitious about believing kids and lifting them up… let us see their knowledge, their experience, their languages as gifts. All kids.”
What are you remembering?
What are your big ideas?
What will you DO as a result of your learning?
What’s the key word connecting today’s “Fantastic Four Fireballs”?
Bookended by our Thursday and Friday evening dinners . . .
are over 16 pages of notes, hundreds of storified tweets, pictures galore and thousands of words. Words Matter. Words matter whether spoken or written. Words in the heart matter as well. As a #TCRWP aficionado stunned by the passing of Deputy Director Kathleen Tolan this weekend, I celebrate my learning about small group reading instruction last summer with Kathleen even though I still yearn for more. That gritty, passionate, talented, brilliant and sometimes “pushy” Deputy Director would want us to carry on . . . Make the students in front of you YOUR PRIORITY! FOCUS on students!
FRIDAY at #NCTE16
The Heinemann Breakfast on Friday honoring the Legacy of Don Graves was a star-studded celebration. I felt like the red carpet was rolled out to recognize the literacy superstars in the room who all had stories to tell that encouraged us to roll up our sleeves, pay attention to students and get to work. From Penny Kittle’s, “When Don asked me to do something, I did it!” to her credo “NCTE is a place to settle your soul” we were entranced! Katherine Bomer reminded us that “Writing to discover what we care about is brave and that writing is a way a student’s voice comes into power and reminds us that we are all human.” Allison Marchetti and Rebekah O’Dell shared that their “mentor text drop box – a way to organize and access mentor text – represents the generosity of Don Graves.” This breakfast was a family breakfast that reminded us of who we are and where we are going together. ( Heinemann Podcast Link)
Charts as Tools for Conversation, Advocacy and Action (Martinelli, Schwartz, & Luick)
The focus of this presentation was on the purpose of charts, ownership and environment, reflection and action. The two words that I heard over and over were “purposeful planning”! This is embodied in sketching out the steps to check clarity, the vocabulary used, and the ability of the chart to act as the teleprompter for the teacher. Of course, a crystal clear teaching point helps!
One caution was to make sure that students’ voices were included in discovering learning together . . .students could contribute definitions, examples, and even make their own tools to use. Tools that begin in the minds of teachers become ideas that can eventually be handed over to the students. (Isn’t that what transfer is REALLY all about?) I’ve heard many, many, many TCRWP staff members say that when we introduce a tool, coach and provide support for a tool, we MUST have a plan for the tool to go away. Graphics in a chart are really meant to be replaced by pictures or names of your own students. Or even better, by students who make their own charts because they know the purpose and that’s good for teachers, students, and LEARNING!
Vocabulary Matters! – Valerie Geschwind, Shana Frazin, Katy Wischow and Char Shylock
How do students ever learn enough words to improve their vocabulary? How do students become invested in their OWN learning? Who’s really doing the work in vocabulary learning?
Step 1. Listen carefully.
Step 2. Wait.
Too often when students say things that are untrue or unbiased, teachers jump in. Instead of the teacher teaching 24/7, maybe students should teach us so that they have the skills that they need for the rest of their lives!
Step 3. Think. What do we know ( or What do we think we know) about …”
Step 4. Audition what you know. Try it on. Is this idea never true? Sometimes true? Always true? (or True for me? True for us? True for you?) Set up a place or way for students to go do this!!!
Step 5. Revise and rename. What assumptions changed?
Step 6. Spread the word.
This presentation included opportunities for us to think about shifting our beliefs, taking note of vocabulary words, increasing our word curiosity and consciousness and “settling our souls in teacher church”. Shana Frazin told us that “English is her superpower and Hebrew is her kryptonite.” If we think of a word in another language, how does that add to our repertoire? How does working with “categories” help students access MORE words. And then Katy illuminated some FUN, JOYOUS ways to find a few minutes to incorporate vocabulary work. . . in a closure – share, in a mid-class tip, in spare 5 minutes before the bell rings or even a simple conversation like . . .
“Wow guys, you are doing such fascinating work with characters… let’s talk about…. which would you rather be, character A or character B and why?”
Some activities take time:
- Sentence game
- Grid game – person and question
- Play with words – Beck’s Bringing Words to Life (Would you rather? How much would you like to ? Which is more important to ? When/ how should you?)
- Word sorts – content words for open or closed sorts
- Other work – paintings or artwork.
Vocabulary work that has student learning and ownership as the goal WILL stick with students. Vocabulary work that has “correct answers on the quiz” as an end goal . . . NOT so much!
The Power of Low Stakes Writing with Ralph Fletcher
Advice from students
“Use top shelf adjectives and verbs”
Like a big balloon…
Audience (beyond the teacher)
A sense of fun and adventure
Teachers who value
Invention, originality and voice
So what happened to the big beautiful balloon?
Student Choice increases energy and excitement to make the balloon soar.
Test prep brings the balloon back to the ground.
There is a battle between freedom and discipline
But teachers do have choice and must be
BRAVE to bring choice back with any of these . . . (and also low-stakes)
- Free Choice Fridays
- The Writer’s Notebook
- Class Writer’s notebook- Students inspired by what others write
- Classroom blogs
- Slice of Life Challenge
- Open Cycles – where students chose the topic and genre
- Need writing green belts – tap into the writing Ss are doing
- FERAL writing
- Study Driven Writing (Source Katie Wood Ray)
Recklessly wonderful writing.
Students choose to work on writing because
The ideas of writing give them energy.
Multiple Layers of Literacy Learning –
(Amy Brennan, Dani Burtsfield, Jill DeRosa, Kim Gosselin, Jennifer Hayhurst, Kathryn Hoffman-Thompson, Marissa Moss, Stefani Nolde, Erica Picarole, David Schultz, and Kari Yates)
What do you think of when you hear professional development? Who is it for? This session included conversations about learning for teachers, parents, and students. Learning, fun, and choice are necessary ingredients for multi-dimensional opportunities for all to grow! Summer school included learning for teachers and the students!
Advocating for Revision in Reading: Meaning Making as a Journey, Not a Destination – Ellin Keene, Matt Glover, Dan Feigelson and Kathy Collins
Students who are reading and writing A LOT know a lot. Ellin had an example of a six year old who understood the use of metaphor. Students who read and write have the tools to share their thinking at deeper levels than we may have considered. How do we help them revise their thinking? Sometimes it means the adult must close his/her mouth in order for the student to take the lead! Students need to learn to be comprehension decision makers! Students have to be flexible thinkers and not seekers of “right” answers. Building a “Reader’s Identity” is a desired outcome, not a letter of a level! What are the characteristics of a reader that you admire? That’s a different question than those that are typically part of a story inquisition! Product and process do matter so
“Privilege all texts”
” Our attention shows what we value!”
“Show reading identities.”
“Elevate the book.”
“Elevate the readers of the book.”
Dear Reader, Are you still here with me?
At this point we were off to the #HeinemannPub reception for the #TCRWP Reading Units of Study Libraries, the #StenhousePub reception for authors, and then dinner with #G2Great Voxer cousins! Many miles of words and ideas heard, considered and studied!
So what caught your attention on this overview of Friday’s learning at #NCTE16?
When were you nodding your head and saying, “YES”!
Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Lisa, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.
And a “Paul Harvey – the Rest of the Story” video here . . . How Friday ended!
A common theme in these four sessions that I attended at #NCTE15 was the importance / necessity of involving students in their own learning. (It’s a connection that I could make about ALL of my #NCTE15 sessions in retrospect.)
1. Bring Students into the Conversation: Goal-Setting, Tool-Making that Supports Transfer
#TCRWP Staff Developers: Valerie Geschwind, Marjorie Martinelli, Ryan Scala, Amy Tondeau began this session with a “Turn and Talk”.
Think of a recent goal that you have achieved.
What were the conditions that helped you to reach that goal?
Motivation is a Result of . . .
- Social interaction
Tools that Support Self- Assessment
- Tools created from Mini-Lessons
Goal Setting with Students and Language that Honors Choice
And then Val introduced the cycle of learning. . . in student language.
- I am working towards a new goal.
- Sometimes it goes well and sometimes it is really hard!
- I need my tool to know each step.
- I am practicing my goal all the time: in every book or in every piece of writing.
- I use my tool as a check-in.
- I can use my goal in lots of places.
- I can teach other people what my goal is and help them do it.
I loved the idea of the three stages. I believe Brook Geller first introduced me to the belief at #TCRWP 2013 July Reading Institute that most “students are over taught and under practiced.” Many students seem to need more practice time with specific feedback and a lot less “teacher talk”. In this case a practitioner is someone who is actively engaged in the doing, who repeatedly exercises or performs an activity or skill to acquire, improve, or maintain proficiency, or who actually applies or uses an idea, a method, or a skill across many scenarios. In other words, our students are the practitioners!
Practice does not have to be boring. There are many methods (see picture below) that can be used to reach “expert” status but the key to this entire presentation was that students would be working on a goal of their own choice and moving from novice, to practitioner, to expert. What wonderful language to put into the mouths of students . . . How motivating and empowering!!!
Caution: These are not stages to be RACED through. They will take time to develop. Students in charge of their own assessment of these stages will definitely be students who know exactly what skills and strategies that they do have in their repertoire.
Be the Force! Help students
- Take on their own learning
- Take on their own change
- Cultivate a growth habit of mind
- See each other as experts
Tools: Checklists, rubrics, progressions, charts from mini-lessons. However, a new look . . . Bookmarks with 3 or 4 choices. Students marked the choice that they were using with a paperclip. Clearly visible!!!! AWESOME!
And then a final reminder .. . .
You’ve met your goal. Now what?
- Maintain your skills
- Teach others
- Get critical
- Set new goals
It was the first time for me to hear #TCRWP Staff Developers Valerie, Marjorie, Ryan, and Amy and I’m definitely looking forward to learning from them during future opportunities!!!
2. Responsible and Responsive Reading: Understanding How to Nurture Skill and Will
Kylene Beers, Teri Lesene, Donalyn Miller, Robert Probst
Of course this was a popular session so I was willing to sit on the floor (don’t tell the fire marshal) because I wanted to be able to be up front and see!
Donalyn’s presentation is here for you to review at your leisure. A very powerful activity included these questions: “What books and reading experiences would form your reading autobiography?” Donalyn explained that: What matters is WHY you chose the book? Insights from these responses lead to deep conversations with students. Convos for Ss
Teri Lesene’s presentation is here. This fact was startling to me! Obviously I need to read more than a book a week!
Kylene Beers and Bob Probst shared a great deal of information about nonfiction reading that has come from the process of writing their new book. This slide is something I want to remember. . . “when I have answers I need to question”.
And this one on the importance of reading.
3. Finding Their Way: Using Learning Tools to Push Rigor, Increase Independence and Encourage Learning in Your Classroom
TCRWP Staff Developers: Mike Ochs, Kate Roberts, Maggie Beattie Roberts
Maggie began this session with many great connections. “We haven’t seen teachers work harder than they currently are, YET sometimes students aren’t working so hard! ” Tools can help students buy into learning. Tools, in our daily life, extend our reach, meet our needs, help us tackle big problems and personally get better! Tools connect, access, build community . . . should change over time!
- Rigor and motivation
- Memory . . . Why don’t we remember things? (short and long term memory) “I’ve taught this 1000 times. I know they learned this!”
“A great coach never achieves greatness for himself or his team by working to make all his players alike.” Tomlinson
And then a typical problem from narrative writing. . . How to stretch out a frozen moment. Kate created a demo page in front of us and told us it was, “Messy!” Lean on a menu of ways, decide the color scheme, and title.
Another tool might be a Micro-Progression. It provides a clear description of behaviors that are expected so students will know where they stand. Middle level is good. Students don’t always have to think they should be at the top level of performance.
Bookmark – 5 or 6 most important things for students to work on. Let students create this for themselves. They can be different!
Mike – Framework for creating tools adapted from The Unstoppable Writing Teacher with a shout out to Colleen Cruz.
Do not plan to use a tool forever. Have a plan to remove the tools. Some tools we will always need (the hammer), some we want to go away/become automatic (steps to hammer a nail) Some tools become references, set aside until needed. Sometimes need an additional/alternate tool. Most writing tools are not designed to be used indefinitely.
Kate: “You find yourself getting as smart as the toolmakers as you use the ‘tools of others’ and you get better as teacher! You don’t want to teach without a sidekick. Your tools can be a sidekick.”
News : Spring 2016 a book from Kate and Maggie!!!! SO EXCITED!
4. Transforming Informational Writing: Merging Content and Craft
Seymour Simon, Kelly Boswell, Linda Hoyt
I think I know this boy!
Seymour’s part was actually titled: Celebrating the Wonder in Nonfiction Storytelling. He began with a discussion of what nonfiction really means. If nonfiction is really “not true” than fiction should be “not real”. There is something about the use of “non” that marginalizes the texts that are labeled nonfiction. After all, who takes anything with “non” in the title seriously?
Not much difference between teaching F and NF. . .
- Who am I?
- What am I?
- What about me?
Mystery, wonder, poem, the universe!
Seymour read aloud many great fiction and nonfiction pairings. One of my favorite pairings was:
Kelly: How Mentors and Modeling Elevate Informational Writing
Mentor texts plus teacher modeling equals quality student writing. When teaching writing, FOCUS! If the target lesson is about leaving spaces between words, only teach “leaving spaces between words.” Don’t teach everything in the world of writing.
Kelly’s example for the text went “something” like this as an example of what NOT to do! “Class, we are going to work on leaving spaces between words today as we write. What does a sentence begin with? Good! Yes, a capital letter. (writes The) Our next word is ‘butterfly’. Let’s clap the syllables in butterfly. How many? Yes, three. What sound does it begin with?”
If the focus is “leaving spaces between words” – that’s the teacher talk!
On mentors and models – read the book once to enjoy, then mine for craft. Use a favorite book over and over and don’t forget to use it for conventions! Here’s an example from Hank the Cowdog.
- Create a culture of Curiosity.
- Provide time for students to ask questions
- Immerse learners in fascinating informational topics and sources
- Focus on content and craft in the writing they see, hear, and produce
- “Float the learning on a sea of talk.” – James Britton
- Teach research strategies
- Teach visual literacy – First grade writing example
8. Writers Workshop Every Day
9. Make sure learners are writing all day long. Write to remember. Write to question. Write to think. Write to express yourself. Write to share your learning. In every subject area.
10. Write Using Elements from Real World Informational Texts (lists, emails, letters, notes, newsletters)
Involving Students Take Aways:
Students can set real goals and self-assess their progress toward their goals.
Students are motivated when they have control and real choices in their work.
Models and tools aid students in moving through a cycle of novice to practitioner to expert.
What are your thoughts about involving students at this point?