Saturday, August 30, 2014

Professional Learning Communities...Understanding Perspective

I am so excited this year for our Professional Learning Community time each week.  We finally have a schedule that screams...COLLABORATION!!!  Everyday each grade level team has an uninterrupted common time for 50 minutes AND the best part....wait for is not during lunch! AND did you hear me say...EVERYDAY! So once a week my principal and I facilitate a meeting during this time.  Right now we are focusing on what we have learned about students so far that you can not see in data, examining our current students' data, and looking at three year trends from classes we have had previously.  The goal of this is to filter out a focus from discussions and from teachers power to determine their own instructional needs as a learner and to connect this thinking to what the students need.

One of the challenges of looking at data, while keeping students in mind, is being uncomfortable.  As a literacy coach, I have found that by grounding thinking in a resource or in student examples, this takes the focus off the teacher and they become more comfortable in sharing thoughts that are more vulnerable and honest.  To open one of our PLC times, we placed a picture at every seat.  As the teachers walked in, immediately they began to pick their seat by the picture they connected too.  Immediately you saw the teacher hat come off and the learner hat come on.  In order to work together and move forward, we wanted to understand quickly the journey the teachers had been on in regards to data.  We asked the teachers to share a data thought, data feeling, or data connection to the picture they were sitting in front of.  I have known that no one reads a book the same that has to apply to data right? There is no right way, correct way, your way, or my way in collaboration.  The more we share our journeys and gain perspective and respect for our journeys, the more energy we will have to immerse ourselves in something passionate.

So...look at the pictures...what data feeling, thought, or experience comes to your mind?
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"Sometimes after looking at how my students performed on a state test, there is always that one student that I can not get off my mind.  Did I do enough? What did I miss?"

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"This police officer is a woman.  We need to remember not to stereotype gender roles when looking at data."

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"Every child is on a road to grow a year for a year.  It makes me sad that for some students that whole road is uphill."

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"It is easy to get pulled in to data.  Remember to see the light."

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"I need this collaboration time with everyone.  Sometimes I feel like I am on an island."
After gaining perspective and for some...blowing off steam :), we then appreciated our journeys as a group.  We made instructional timelines to see our journeys so while we examine our data we can refer to the context in which the data occurred.  What fun to hear my colleagues acknowledge the amazing journeys they have been on...oh the places we can go!

Both of these activities gave us permission to be who we are, appreciate our work, and become grounded to make decisions for our PLC times this year!  Did I already share that I work with amazing teachers??? :)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Reading doors move "next door"

Best advice I was given as a new teacher..."the first thing you do is meet the custodian and the school secretary, they have all the answers."  True...very true!  But someone was left off the list...the fire marshall.  In our township, we can not decorate our doors.  So...we are moving our reading doors "next door" or "next TO the door".

This is my reading door next to my real door! Can't take credit for this idea! I borrowed it from someone on Pinterest.  Don't remember who...but thank you to them!  Can't you see iRead phones popping up all over a building! 
After reading, Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller, I reached out to our school.  I encouraged them to send a message that reading was important before the first day of school even began.  I wanted them to think about not only influencing our school culture in explicit ways but in implied ways as well.  To start the school year everyone in the building was encouraged to be a reading role model and share their reading lives.  We started something similar last year but this idea would crank it up a notch.    The response to being the lead readers in our school has been mixed.  Some teachers were anxious to share their reading lives in a good way, but others were reluctant because they felt they had not read enough or had only read children's books to their own families.  I have had several conversations that being a reading role model in a school can also mean sharing your family's reading life as well.  What a wonderful role model...reading to your own children.  The buzz has been contagious and I know wheels are turning.  Excited to see what teachers come up with for open house day!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Week 3 of #Cyber Pd: Reading in the Wild

 I am excited to join the numerous bloggers that are wildly reading, Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer's Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits.  All of these reflective participants' thinking and wonderings are collected by Michelle at Literacy Learning Zone.

"I hate nonfiction, Mrs. Miller. It's so boring.  It's all about dead presidents and whales, she said." (page 178)

While reading the story Donalyn shares about Ashley, a girl that reads four to five books a week and is open-minded to reading almost anything, I realized that this is a powerful entree into dialogue about a current issue that is causing many teachers to rethink our basic assumptions about non-fiction in the classroom and for readers.

To increase students' nonfiction reading skills, access, and motivation for reading, Donalyn nudges us to consider several activities for non-fiction texts in our classroom. (page 180) One activity she suggests has been on the discussion board in our district and while teachers are planning...Pair fiction text with nonfiction on related topics.

After reading a book like this, I always need to ground my thinking in something I am currently thinking about so the big ideas do not get lost in the noise.  This activity pairs nicely with Anchor 9.  In anchor 9 of the Common Core, students are being pushed to analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.  The big questions that I have found myself reflecting on:

When you pair the two text, what is your purpose?

Are you bringing these two texts together to build background knowledge or are you providing an opportunity to compare approaches by building meaning off of two texts?

I know the goal is not to master a text.  The goal is to use strategies, conversation, and writing to justify/analyze/synthesize at a higher level and to use the text as the common ground of that thinking.  I am not selecting paired text for convenience.  I need them to be paired together to strengthen and develop meaning because no text provides meaning alone.  They are meaningful in connection to another.

Look at this standard closely by grade level.  

Compare-contrast adventures and experiences of characters in familiar stories
With prompting and support, identify basic similarities in and differences between two texts on the same topic (e.g., in illustrations, descriptions, or procedures).


Compare-contrast adventures and experiences of characters

Identify basic similarities in and differences between two texts on the same topic (e.g., in illustrations, descriptions, or procedures).


Compare and contrast two or more versions of the same story (e.g., Cinderella stories) by different authors or from different cultures.

Compare and contrast the most important points presented by two texts on the same topic.
Compare and contrast the themes, settings, and plots of stories written by the same author about the same or similar characters (e.g., in books from a series)

Compare and contrast the most important points and key details presented in two texts on the same topic.
Compare and contrast the treatment of similar themes and topics (e.g., opposition of good and evil) and patterns of events (e.g., the quest) in stories, myths, and traditional literature from different cultures.
Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.
Compare and contrast stories in the same genre (e.g., mysteries and adventure stories) on their approaches to similar themes and topics.

Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

A conferring point that would stem nicely from my new thinking: Do I give students time to "act on their curiosity" when reading a paired text?  Do I  allow them time to divert from their next stack and either immerse in the topic or research for answers?  I need to take time to promote this text set as an extending inquiry opportunity because "through wide nonfiction reading, students build background knowledge content knowledge, increase confidence, and discover authors and topics that feed further reading and independent investigations." (page 182)

I have some examples of text sets in previous posts:

Text set...built around wonder
Text sets...built around character

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A school year fueled by recovery...

I have not blogged in almost a year and am refueled for this coming school year.   I am refueled, not because I have not blogged, read many blogs, or commented, but due to spending this past school year focused on recovery...returning to a normal state of health, mind and strength for myself.  I found that I needed silence in our busy world because words were beginning to lose their meaning. I felt as if I was juggling topics and beginning to chase noise without grounding ideas in my beliefs.  During this recovery,  I found myself listening more and not reacting.  I realized speaking does not always heal or solve problems.

During this "education recovery", I realized I was not driven by fear.  I had not become afraid to venture out with new ideas and was willing to nudge the status quo.  I found with silence, my beliefs were not losing focus.  I did realize that I was driven by the need for approval with evaluations, being there for every teacher I support, working with families in our RTI process and SLOs.  I found that I was trying to please everyone.  I had forgotten that was the one key to failure.  I also realized I was driven by unnecessary stress.  Stress worrying about things that I could not change.  I had to find focus.

Now,  11 months later...I have found I was focused but was letting the noise of our education world interfere with my silence.  I found myself this summer ready to venture back into the blogging world and making this a part of my new "refueled" reading and writing life.  

I am in the literacy coach role again next year.  Even coaches need time to keep calm...and teach on! :)