i am participating in the #CyberPD online discussion for the final week. It is an opportunity to think and write about “DIY Literacy: Teaching Tools for Differentiation, Rigor and Independence” by Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts.
Chapters 5 and 6
In the previous chapters, we learned the what-how-and-why of the four teaching tools: bookmarks, demonstration notebooks, micro-progressions and charts. I loved how Chapter Five focused on emphasizing the importance of the student's role. Kate and Maggie talked about ways to ensure students take ownership of their learning.
When the authors talked about the tools, they were explicit about how students could be the active agents. Students make the choices based on where they are.
As a teacher often confounded by details and logistics, I could definitely relate to Chapter Six, which was appropriately headed Nuts and Bolts. One small detail (or lack thereof) is all it takes to derail a lesson. What I want to do after reading this chapter:
I am participating in the #cyberPD online discussion for the second week. It is an opportunity to think and write about DIY Literacy: Teaching Tools for Differentiation, Rigor and Independence by Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts.
Since the start of reading the book, I was struck by how intentionality permeates every page: the tools, the thinking, the visuals used and the examples demonstrated. It made me stop and ponder about how I have used learning tools in the past and how I plan to in the future. I need to focus on not just the how and why but also how to ensure that students value, and use, tools as resources. Intention needs to be kept in the forefront.
The issue of memory as a factor in interfering with learning is addressed in Chapter 3. It made sense when Kate and Maggie pointed out how much we expect our students to learn and retain. It is a challenge to get learning to stick when there is so much vying for the brain’s attention. I liked how the authors pointed out that often, students “default to what is most comfortable”. Yes, that makes sense.
I have been part of a knitting group for almost a year. Countless times I went home and could not recall what stitch I was supposed to do or how to do it. Even when I found YouTube tutorials, I found myself leaning to the safe and easy because I was successful. As an “emergent” knitter, I also admit to avoiding particular stitches or moves that I knew may be challenging. I was defaulting to my comfort zone.
This year, I hope to work on keeping the tools “alive” in my students’ minds. I like how Kate and Maggie suggested different ways to ensure that students are actively using the tools. I am wondering if I can incorporate movement when using teaching charts? This is something I want to explore.
Kate and Maggie note that the term rigor can be defined as performative and as an action. It reminded me of Kyleen Beer’s statement: “Rigor is not an attribute of a text but rather a characteristic of our behavior with that text.” This definition also echoes the language we use in Reading Workshop when we talk about “active thinking”. My struggle in the upper grades is getting some students to actively think independently and consistently. I was excited to see examples of both micro-progressions and demonstration notebooks that explicitly show students what rigor looks like.
That is, we can create a learning climate where students see the steps needed to tackle the tasks in front of them rigourously and believe that they can have success along the way --- a learning climate that clearly shows what is gained by putting in the hard work to tackle something challenging and achieve something great.
I am rereading the fabulous A Mindset For Learning: Teaching the Traits of Joyful, Independent Growth by Kristine Mraz and Christine Hertz. The authors write about creating a joyful community of learners through the teaching of traits that promote a growth mindset: empathy; optimism; persistence; resiliency and flexibility.
I want to incorporate the habits of the minds with my small groups and create a synergy with the tools described in DIY Literacy. The language, I envision, will fit in well with the teaching tools. Students need to embrace flexibility in their use of strategies: show persistence in not giving up; display optimism in trying their best; and resiliency in bouncing back. The teaching tools can be used to inform, model and demonstrate the traits.
You have to continue to try, a lot of the time. (p. 57)
I have included the video below because the themes of repetition, autonomy and control resonated with the quote from Kate and Maggie that ...over time a reader must own the moves of reading and writing (p.39). The video was shown at an ILA2016 session presented by Kelly Gallagher.
If you are in need of directions, to anywhere, my friends and family know not to call me. I am the weak link in any map guidance. Although the GPS has made life easier, I still get lost.
I am particularly weak in reversing my routes. I used to rationalize that going backwards was difficult because everything looks different in its opposite view. It is a challenge for me to find my way back from an exam room in a doctor’s office to the waiting room. Whether emerging from an elevator or subway station, or approaching a street intersection, I end up going the wrong way most of the time.
My excitement about attending this year’s International Literacy Association (ILA) conference in Boston has vied with concern over my unreliable internal compass. How will I navigate the convention center? How am I going to find the sessions in a timely manner? How will I get unlost and stay relatively composed (well, maybe I should say regain my composure)? To make things worse...I discovered some of the sessions are in another building.
I found myself echoing the questions I ask my students: what is a strategy that will help you? What can you do? Have you tried…? I needed to find tools and use them. Here was a real-life experience that demonstrated the importance of strategies.
I also realized (as I am in the middle of reading A Mindset For Learning: Teaching the Traits of Joyful, Independent Growth by Kristine Mraz and Christine Hertz**) that I can use self-talk to stay grounded. I will rely on optimism and persistence. More importantly, I will go for resilience which will be sorely needed. In the back of my mind, I will reassure myself that I will come out of the weekend with a story to tell. I can do this.
**I love this book. I love the writing and its central theme of promoting joy and independence in the classroom.
I am excited to be participating in #cyberPD for the first time and having the opportunity to discuss DIY Literacy: Teaching Tools for Differentiation, Rigor and Independence by Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts. I was eagerly awaiting its arrival for months. Here we go with Week One.
Ch.1-2 and Bonus Chapter
What struck me right away is that the authors understand how hard teaching can be. Despite a teacher’s efforts, planning and strategy instruction, sometimes it just is not enough. There is a breakdown for some students in their learning. This is a hard realization.
I liked how Kate and Maggie identified three obstacles to learning: memory, rigor, and differentiation. It is concise and made sense. Their reasoning provides the anchor for using “a concrete, practical visual tool” (p.3) that will enable students to remember, connect and grow.
WIth some of my first grade students, it was a challenge for a few students to apply, on their own, the strategies that were modeled, discussed and practiced. I also had one or two students who would proudly tell me that they didn’t need to use any strategies. I identified with the authors when they stated: “We hope they need us less, not more. We hope that they become flexible problem solvers…” (p.3). Yes! Independent and...self-monitoring.
It really helped to see how all the tools (teaching charts, bookmarks, demonstration notebooks and micro-progression of skills) create “stickiness”. I have talked to my students about how strategies help learning stick but it has been a struggle.
It is hard to see as a Literacy Specialist, but some of our students, especially in the upper grades, are “done” with reading strategies. They apply strategies because of teacher expectations or requirements. There is a disconnect with their reading because they are not actively thinking. Reading is something they have to do. I can see the teaching tools being a bridge for these students. I love how Maggie and Kate talk about joy. “One key to experiencing joy is working hard and seeing that hard work pay off.” (p. 9). I want my students to experience joy in learning.
The Bonus Chapter helped me see what was possible. It addresses the What-How-Why of strategies. It walked you off the ledge of intimidation and left you feeling that “I can do this”.
Thank you to the organizers of this discussion: Cathy Mere, Laura Komos and Michelle Nero.
I don't know how two years passed since tending to this site. But, let's just move on. It is time to dust off the site and begin again.The reader in me is thrilled with beholding a new page and setting out on a new journey.
"I should have been able to do better."
(taken from "The Vigilante Poets Of Selwyn Academy" by Kate Hattemer)
The main character Ethan references the above quote by poet Ezra Pound who, at the end of his long and controversial life, looked back on his work - his legacy - and notes this regret.
The sentiment resonated. It is how I felt about the past year. A nagging sense of falling short kept overshadowing all that had been achieved. There had, of course, been many achievements. Those success stories paled though, against the glaring spotlight of "I should have...I need to... Why didn't I...".
And I know this line of thinking is a teacher trap. Perfectionism rears up to distort and taint high expectations. I kept repeating the "yet, not yet" mantra to hold the darkness off but....
It is "these days of gloaming" that Thomas Newkirk describes so vividly in his wonderful "Holding on To Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones". It is these periods that makes you question everything that you do. I recognized that moment Mr. Newkirk writes about when he observed a classroom and noticed two boys playing in the sandbox and totally ignoring the teaching that was going on. He says that he "was so grateful, so relieved, to see those boys—who could care less about writing—in the sandbox. This, after all, was a world I knew and could live in." (p.169). I knew that feeling.
That is the imperfect world I know. I am so grateful for Tom Newkirk for acknowledging the silences of teaching and writing about the language for difficulty.
In Hattemer's novel (which I would recommend), Ethan takes the Pound statement as a battle cry. He challenges himself and others to do better because they should. In Newkirk's book, he advises teachers to embrace and celebrate the many small moments that occur. It is these small moments that will create the needed light. By living within the small moments and staying with them, I think I will do better.
I am grateful for:
* the comeback of green.
* the blooming of our yard's first flower - despite nightly dips into the 30s.
* White fluffy clouds splattered on a deep blue sky.
* No gray. No gray. No gray.
* School vacation!
"What?" I detected a note of panic in my voice.
The man at the photo counter explained again, "Didn't anyone tell you that we don't offer one-hour developing services for disposable cameras any more?"
Uhm, no. "But, I need these done. Today." I told him as if the outcome could change. "It's a school project. The students took all these pictures. We're a little behind schedule. They need to be uploaded tomorrow." Just to clarify, I added, "On the internet." I noticed that I was tapping my fingers on the counter. Like a crazy customer.
"No one does it anymore…CVS, Walgreens, Rite-Aid. We can send it out -- but it will take at least a week," he reiterated. I took back the five cameras. Yes, five. Not counting the two I left accidentally behind at school.
Driving home, I reasoned, it made sense. Of course, disposable cameras would be impacted by all the changes in technology: cell phones, digital cameras, and ipads. But, you would think they would post signs or tell the poor customer at the register. I vowed I would email all those drugstore companies and demand changes on behalf of all the other unsuspecting buyers. I berated my own obliviousness.
The next step, once home, was to grab my laptop and find an alternative solution. Yes! A warehouse store. I called. The good news: they could do it in a hour. The bad news: they no longer put the pictures on a CD. A few weeks earlier they had removed the machine that allowed the CDs to be made.
"What? How will I be able to upload the pictures on the computer?" Why did I use disposable cameras? It seemed like such a good idea. Let the students take them home. After all, it was a special project. We don't have digital cameras/devices at school. Wouldn't it be cool to have lots of pictures? Now I found myself caught in the cursed in-between of film technology.
"No, I don't have a scanner. My school doesn't have a scanner!" I don't know why I felt I needed to tell the store this. It then hit me that I was going to have to take pictures of the pictures with my cellphone. Before all this though, I needed to sign up and pay for a membership at the store so I could drop off the cameras.
At school, I handed out the photo envelopes and asked the students to select which pictures they wanted to submit. Over the course of the day, several students came to me confused. Each pulled out the strips of negatives that had been included. "What are these?"
"Obsolete," I said, holding the strips of an earlier time.
An Elementary Literacy Specialist, Reader, Quiet Follower of Teacher/ Education Blogs.