Who is learning and how do we know?
Are the students learning?
How do we know?
What can they tell / show us about what they can do NOW that they could not do before instruction?
Is the learning important enough that the student will use “this” the rest of his/her life (beyond school)?
Am I learning?
How do you know?
You can search my blog for the following topics and see my learning:
Shouldn’t our learning be public?
Shouldn’t we have multiple pieces of evidence about our learning?
(Hint: It does not have to be a number.)
How are you sharing your learning?
What is your “Burning Question”?
Learning a new device has kept this post brief, but I conquered “Where do downloads go on a chromebook?”, inserted a picture, and posted it all with this new chromebook!
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.
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?
Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsy for creating a place for us to work collaboratively.
Warning: This is a serious slice!
Who is the most important person or group of people at school?
That answer might depend upon your point of view. When referring to the standards, this would relate to
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6 – Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
Two other anchor standards addressed by this post are:
Pre-assessment: When you hear “school shooting”, what are your first thoughts?
Jot down your ideas. Hold onto your thoughts. Last week I reread Snowflakes Fall. I was introduced to this book in Patricia Maclachlan’s Closing Keynote for the 2013 #TCRWP July Writing Institute in New York City. Revisiting the back story was both riveting and tearful!
Here’s what Random House says about this book:
“In Snowflakes Fall, Newbery Medalist Patricia MacLachlan and award-winning artist Steven Kellogg portray life’s natural cycle: its beauty, its joy, and its sorrow. Together, the words and pictures offer the promise of renewal that can be found in our lives—snowflakes fall, and return again as raindrops so that flowers can grow.
MacLachlan and Kellogg, who are longtime friends, were moved to collaborate on a message of hope for children and their families following the tragic events in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012. Kellogg lived in Sandy Hook for thirty-five years—he raised his family there and was an active member of the community. With Snowflakes Fall, they have created a truly inspiring picture book that is both a celebration of life and a tribute to the qualities that make each individual unique.
In honor of the community of Sandy Hook and Newtown, Random House, the publisher of Snowflakes Fall, has made a donation to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund. Random House is also donating 25,000 new books to the national literacy organization First Book in the community’s honor and in support of children everywhere.”
The audience / purpose for this book was to “provide hope for children and their families.” While reading, the reader has the option to use the words and illustrations to determine if that goal of “providing hope” has been met. A conversation about the book would reveal exactly which techniques worked best for any one reader with different readers choosing different sentences, phrases, or pictures.
What was the impact in homes not just in CT but across the nation?
To say that was a “tough Christmas” is a gross understatement. Thousands of children sent snowflakes, many parents hugged their children tighter, other parents thanked their teachers, and schools were told to put school safety personnel inside their school buildings to make sure that children would be safe. Yet what of those children who wondered if their own parent-teachers were safe in their neighborhood schools?
Is safe even possible?
Last Friday, the national news was again electrifying. A student shooting in a school cafeteria in Washington State. Two students died. The shooter is dead. Headlines immediately begin to “determine the motive” and “analyze the background” of the shooter. “Well-liked” was one descriptive phrase repeated about the shooter in headlines during the first 48 hours following the tragedy. Sound familiar? Immediately the press began to report that the police response was different “because of Columbine.” That struck a chord with me as I had just spent the past two weeks reading Dave Cullen’s Columbine. At Columbine the police were criticized for failing to take action sooner – and in particular, needing to enter the building sooner! That text, Columbine, was the reason I was “rereading” Snowflakes Fall because I was looking for hope and faith in a parallel situation. When I hear school shooting, I think of two: Sandy Hook and Columbine. Yet as I read Cullen’s text, I questioned my memory of Columbine.
- “How did I have the facts so wrong?
- What was the point of view of the news reporting as the event and subsequent weeks played out?
- What images played over and over on the news?
- Which pictures were replayed for the one, five and ten year anniversaries?”
There were times that I wanted to stop reading the book. It was horrifying and mesmerizing at the same time. I needed to know what came next. I could not stop, yet I also had to take breaks and could not just read straight through the book. I wanted to ask,”What were you thinking?” “How could you not know?” for starters. Here’s what Dave (@DaveCullen) says about his book:
“I spent ten years on Columbine. I was driven by two questions: why did they kill, and what became of the survivors? My big surprise was that most of what we “know” about Columbine was wrong.
It wasn’t about the jocks, goths or the Trenchcoat Mafia. The killers didn’t even see themselves as school shooters: their primary focus was the bombs. To understand this tragedy, the key is letting go of our concept of “the killers.”
Spend a few chapters with Eric and Dylan, and you’ll discover two starkly different boys. Their personalities were poles apart, like the motives that drove them. Eric Harris was monstrous; Dylan Klebold was a revelation. The survivors proved equally illuminating. Their stories are surprisingly uplifting—a refreshing contrast to Eric and Dylan. Thousands faced the unthinkable, most overcame it, often in extraordinary ways. I was amazed by their resilience.” (Source: http://www.davecullen.com/ )
Why was I reading Columbine?
My friend and co-worker, Dyan, told me about the book. She thought I would like it so she handed me the book to read. Dyan has participated and followed “Rachel’s Challenge” for years. While reading the book, we had many texts and phone conversations that included:
“Bombs? What bombs?
“How could I not know about 100 bombs?
“How could anyone else not have known about the plan?
“How did two teenage boys keep their planning a secret for over a year? REALLY, A secret?”
“Whoa! All that “stuff about psycopaths . . .”
“Feel so sorry for Linda who lost her husband. Does anyone worry about the teacher’s family?”
OR the rant about “How could they have covered up Dylan and Eric’s past records? What were the police thinking?”
The purpose of this book was to tell Eric and Dylan’s story about why these events transpired and follow up the survivors in the years since Columbine. It was to report the facts as accurately as possible, correcting the record and not to sensationalize or villify anyone. The point of view of this text was totally different from Snowflakes Fall which was written to be shared with young students. Facts were verified with hundreds of sources credited.
How often have there been deadly school shootings?
An interactive look at that timeline with 18 dates marked with deadly shootings is available here. That timeline includes details on each of the eighteen deadly shootings in the 15 years since Columbine. That data is shocking to me. Even more shocking was the number of times that adults were also killed. Maybe the emphasis has been on the students who have not yet reached adulthood, that full “potential”, but what about the devastation for those families of teachers who also lost their lives?
Is this a new issue?
When I quickly submitted a google search for “School Shootings in the US”, the first response was Wikipedia. Yes, not necessarily the most accurate but incredibly sobering! The first “firearm discharged in a school” in the US happened in 1764. The next occurred in 1850 and then the time frames between shootings decreased and the locations were all over the country. (540 references are included for the article labeled “List of School Shootings in the United States”. Mathematically, the risks of being shot at school seem low if the total years and the number of students, staff, and schools are all considered. Yet that would not be a consolation if any situation involved you or your loved ones. Multiple Standards. Multiple resources: a digital timeline, online references, Snowflakes Fall and Columbine (Multi-media and two books). Different approaches. Different styles. Circling back around to the initial question.
Who is most important at school?
Please pay attention when someone needs help! Don’t wait for them to ask!
Is there a bigger picture to school shootings?
How does the pain and agony of the student or adult reach that breaking point without family or friends noticing? That’s an issue for mental health professionals, law enforcement officials and forensic investigators to continue to explore. What can we do? We can continue to make sure that each and every person is a school building is valued day after day after day! Thoughtfullness. . . Compassion . . . Caring . . . #YouMatter
Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsey for creating that place for us to work collaboratively.
When I think of flowers, I think of all the possible varieties, colors and locations where they can be. Some plants need a lot of care while others seem to flourish with little or no attention necessary. Some flowers grow in rocky areas courtesy of birds and other animals that have left the seeds behind.
This weekend I had the pleasure of observing moonflowers on three successive nights. They are gorgeous white trumpet-shaped flowers that bloom ONE night for approximately 12 hours. Here is a picture of one blooming.
(Moonflower courtesy of Julie’s garden)
Many schools have been in session for awhile during this 2014-2015 school year. Other schools are beginning today.
What flowers will grow in your classroom?
What care will you provide to ensure that all are growing?
How can they all “BLOOM” and reach their full potential?
How many will bloom all year long?
How can we share the “blooms” with parents, family members and our entire community?
This post was also influenced by the book Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden.