Sunday, January 31, 2016

Balance

Thank you to Margaret Simon for hosting DigiLit Sunday. Please visit her site to read how other educators are using digital tools in their reading and writing workshops.


Balance...we all want it.  Usually when I think of balance, I think about my home life vs. my school life.  How do I make sure that one isn't overpowering the other?  When I focus on school and balancing curriculum and student interest, I end up having more questions than answers.  Our latest digital endeavor has done just that for me.

As part of our Digital Maker Playground, Cathy and I are encouraging teachers to try some of the reading responses with their students.  Our first make was to respond to  Last Stop on Market Street with a visual image.  Maybe (ok, definitely), I was a little too sure of myself.  I thought it would be easy.  My kids have been using digital tools.  They've been responding to their reading and getting better at it.  I gave them some choices of how they might respond.  They could look at characters, theme, setting, favorite quote, or choose a different lens if that's what came to them.  We read the book together and talked about it.  The kids wrote and sketched in their reader's notebooks as I read and then I asked them to do a quick write about their thinking after we read.  Together, we created a list of apps they might use to create their images.  I did everything I should have, right?

Apparently, I missed something.  I imagined my students thinking deeply about their responses, looking for images that would symbolize the meaning they gleaned from the book.  I could tell from our discussion that they had been moved by the book and that they understood some of the deeper messages.  However, some of the work I was seeing, did not show that understanding.  I noticed a few different things happening in my room.

  • Students were quickly searching for images that demonstrated a literal understanding.  
  • The response became about the tool.  At one point, there were 8 kids crowded around the book, jostling to take a picture of the text so they could use ChatterPix.  (ChatterPix is a great tool by the way!)
Something was out of balance!  

First, my students haven't had enough opportunities to look closely at images. In fact, we've done very little.   In Falling in Love with Close Reading, Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts talk about the importance of using visual media to help kids understand, make inferences, synthesize, and analyze.  I can't expect my students to do this kind of deep work without giving them the necessary skills.

Next, I think they may have been more successful if I would have layered the steps we took.  It might have been better if I had modeled a response and thought aloud about my process with the students with a different book.  Then, I would have had students share their images with a partner and talk through their thinking before they created a final product.

Lastly, I think it would have been better to add more detail to our list of apps that would work well for this  project.  

So, tomorrow, I slow down and try to bring more balance to this project.  I'll begin by sharing an example of my thinking from a different book and the response I composed based on that work. I'll make transparent why I chose the image I did.  Katie Muhtaris and Kristin Ziemke's Amplify shows a wonderful Priority Anchor Chart.  At the base of the triangle is content.  I think it will be important to spend some time helping my students develop their thinking and articulating the message they want to convey.  They can then go back and revise the work they began on Friday.  I am hoping that by stepping back and giving my students more time, their responses will be more reflective.   I'm anxious to see how their work changes.  

From Amplify by Katie Muhtaris & Kristin Ziemke





Tuesday, January 26, 2016

My Inspiration: Slice of Life Tuesday







Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Tuesday.  Please visit their site to read other Slice of Life stories.





My day consists of two different jobs.  Half the day is spent with fifth graders who are full of energy.  I co-teach with the intervention teacher as half of our students have IEPs for reading and writing.  The other part of my day is spent with teachers as a literacy coach.  And then there's the time I spend with adult learners after school.  I am inspired every day.

I am inspired by my students who work through the hard parts, who take risks, sometimes stumble, yet always rise above.  They make me think hard, but the work is very fulfilling.

I am inspired by my colleagues who are willing to try new things and ask questions.  Our jobs are difficult but rewarding.  We are preparing kids for careers that don't even exist yet.  It requires us to think outside the box; imagine what's not been done before.  I so appreciate those teachers who work through their fears and step out to explore new experiences with their students.

I am inspired by my writing friends.  I  believe so strongly in the power of being a writer myself.  It is through this work that I can refine my practice with my students.  My writing group plays an important role in my writing life.  We've established a community where it's safe to share and we are comfortable giving each other valuable feedback.  I always leave those gatherings feeling energized.

And then there are the people who I only know through online conversations.  Many of them are teachers who write. The blog, they share their thinking, they ask questions.  Their energy and love of learning inspire me every single day.

Each group feeds my soul professionally and personally.  Their work touches me, encourages me, and propels me forward.  Each is an important part of who I am as a teacher, coach and friend.

Who inspires you?



My Inspiration - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Digital Maker Playground 2: Join Us!

Thank you to Margaret Simon from Reflections on the Teche for hosting DigiLit Sunday.  Please visit her blog to see how other educators are integrating technology into their reading and writing workshops.






Who doesn't like to play?  Cathy Mere and I are hoping that you'll want to join us in our next Digital Maker Playground.  Last year's experience, open to everyone, was such a good experience, that we wanted to continue the fun.  We had participants from different states and countries. The collaboration was wonderful as we all learned so much from each other.

This year's playground focuses on reader's response.  Digital tools give students more options than ever to respond to their reading.  Responses are no longer just contained in reader's  notebooks.  Photography, video, sound, text...these all become components of students' responses.   One of the best things about this opportunity is that you can participate virtually.  If you live close by and want to come to our live workshops, you can do that too.  Our first workshop is this Tuesday from 4:15 to 5:45.

So, consider joining us.  Our first make will be a photographic response to the Newberry winner, The Last Stop on Market Street.  You can find directions in our Google+ community.  If you haven't joined us, then head on over.  You can also get more information from Cathy's Smore poster.  Share your makes on the community.  You can also share on Twitter using  #p2lmooc .


Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Power of One Little Word

Thank you to Margaret Simon for hosting DigiLit Sunday.  Please visit her site to read about how others are integrating technology into their reading and writing workshops.


It's been a wonderful week of celebrating One Little Word.  My students took this project seriously as they thought about their word.  For some, their words came to mind immediately.  For others, they had to let their thoughts marinate and solidify until they came upon their special word.  As I listened to their thinking and watched them work, I was very impressed.

I asked them to create some kind of visual digitally and then share their image/video as well as some kind of writing to explain why they chose their word on their blogs.  Here are just a few.







You can read more of our posts on our Kidblog site.  


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Slice of Life...My One Little Word


Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Tuesday.  Please visit their site to read other Slice of Life stories.  



This word surprised me in the middle of the night.  When I went to bed last night, I had settled on a word.  When I woke up at 3:00 AM, this word came to me and I knew it was my word.  

Cultivate...to foster the growth of.  

When I hear the word cultivate, I think of my garden.  I spend lots of time amending the soil, clearing it of debris, and prepping the beds in order to have the best environment for my plants to grow.  I want to give them a nourishing space where my vegetables and flowers will flourish.  The time I spend cultivating my garden results in great harvests later in the growing season (OK, usually great harvests, sometimes great weeds sneak in there too).

And then I think about my professional career.  There have been certain people who just make me feel smarter when I am around them.  They make me think more deeply, ask questions, and reflect on my practice.  They inspire me to be a better person and educator.  

I watch them closely, wanting to know their secret.  How do they create those relationships with others?  I realize that they relate to others in a specific way.  Their words and actions "foster the growth" of others.

They cultivate.

It was the perfect word for me.

As a coach, I want to cultivate an environment where teachers  feel respected and see me as someone who sits beside them and lifts their work as opposed to someone who is there to judge them.  I want to empower teachers through my words and actions.  I want to be the person who inspires.

As a teacher, I want to cultivate a space where my students can be the best they can be.  I want them to feel the rewards of sticking with something even when it's hard.  I want them to feel safe to take risks.  I want them to know that I will always be on their side to help them be successful.

In my personal life, I want to be the wife, mom, friend, sister, daughter who cultivates trust, safety, warmth and support to the people I love the most.

Cultivate asks me to look beyond myself and focus on lifting others.  It asks me to focus on "we" instead of "me."  

I'm looking forward to this year and finding where cultivate takes me.



Sunday, January 3, 2016

Helping Students Find Their One Little Word

Thank you to Margaret Simon from Reflections on the Teche for hosting DigiLit Sunday. Visit her site to see how other educators are incorporating technology into their classrooms.


The Internet is abuzz with One Little Word posts and images.  I still don't have mine pinned down, but I'm getting closer.  Now that I'm back in the classroom, I want to give my students the opportunity to find their One Little Word.  It seems like the perfect way to begin our day together when we meet tomorrow.

So, what is important for kids to understand about One Little Word?  I find for myself, that my OLW sets my course for the year.  Last year's word, Quiet, was a gentle reminder to slow down and center myself when life seemed out of control.  I added some new habits because of my word.  I began to meditate and do yoga on a regular basis.  I took a break from some of my professional obligations in order to make more time for taking care of myself and my family.  It was a good word for me.

I want my kids to take time to think about their OLW.  For some, the word will fall in their laps immediately.  I've had those years. For others, it may take a day or two and that's ok.  Words have been swirling around inside my head for several days now and I know the right word will land soon enough.

To help my students prepare, I created this Google slide presentation.  I added some guiding questions to help them begin to do some writing in their writer's notebooks.  I imagine that I'll see a variety of sketching, webbing, list making, and narrative writing.  After they choose their word, I'll ask them to represent their word in some way.  This is where choice comes in.  Some students may choose to create a painting or sketch on paper, while others may choose to create a digital representation.  They may write a poem or write a play that demonstrates their word, which they can record. I will ask everyone to post their final work on their blogs so that they can get feedback from others.




I am looking forward to the creativity that I'll be seeing in Room 204.  If you ask your students to share their One Little Word, please share you link with me in the comments.  I'd love to connect our classes.

If this presentation will help you, please feel free to use it.  You can access it above or via this link:  https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/14ciLEycQYkaf0wT7YuRLdpejxoHgeNW-PyMRzPYzy-U/edit?usp=sharing

Happy 2016!



Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Power of Story



A little peek into our brainstorming



“Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving.” -Madeleine L’Engle






I  love Tuesdays.  Tuesdays provide a break from my regular hectic schedule.  Every Tuesday morning, the literacy coaches in my district meet.  It's our time to talk about district initiatives, share what's happening in our buildings, and just generally support each other in our jobs.  I always leave our meetings feeling energized for the upcoming week. There's something about hanging out with others who "get you" and welcome those conversations that push your thinking.  

Once a month our large group breaks into smaller focus groups.  Our group's task today was to meet with the district web designer, Kelly, to discuss the new literacy website.  This is no small task, but gather 6 women who like to think big, and the task can soon become pretty daunting.

Our ideas were flowing as Molly jotted our thinking on the white board. It wasn't long before purple ink filled the board, our lists becoming longer and more complicated.  One idea spurred another idea, which led to another idea.  Where would we even begin?  You could feel the enormity of the task settle in on us.

And then Kelly asked us a simple question.

"What if instead of creating a typical website, we created a space where we could tell teachers' stories?"

Tell teachers' stories?  It was brilliant!  We all know the power of stories.  Stories bring us together.  Stories ground us. We learn from each other's stories.    Don't we begin our year by asking our students to share their stories?   These stories become the foundation of our writing workshops and make our community stronger.

Teachers have stories to share too.  We don't hear them often enough...stories of celebration, stories of frustration and being in over your head, stories of determination and success.  Each and every story is integral to who a teacher is.  They are important and they need to be told.

Kelly's simple question changed our all-been-tried-before website idea into something dynamic.    We tossed around more ideas, decided on a place to start and created a plan to gather stories.  We ended our meeting with a sense of purpose and excitement.

Kelly was able see what we couldn't see.  Sometimes it takes someone with a different lens to sort through the mess to find the gem that's buried deep inside.  She sat back quietly, took it all in, and helped us find our story.





Please stop by Two Writing Teachers to read other Slice of Life stories.