After That… A List #sol20

I’m writing along with my slice community at Two Writing Teachers every day during the month of March and Tuesdays year round.  I am inspired today, day 19, by Midwestern Heart in Dixie’s Before That: Wednesday Edition.  She can do a lot in a day. 

After That… #sol20

March 19, 2020

Up way predawn this morning.  Lily doesn’t seem to know that we are still on ‘snow day’ schedule today.  Took Lily for a walk.  The pavement was wet and it was drizzling.  No beautiful stars and moon this morning.  Yesterday’s was so spectacular.  Same sniffs, we picked up the paper on our way in.  So dark outside this morning.

After that, special dog food mix, downstairs to fill the dog bowl, just 1/2 cup.  She’s on a better diet than I am.  Then a little wet food from the refrigerator mixed in, her joint mineral powder and fish oil for her allergies. Clean water.

After that, I read through the text chain from last night’s chat with the other literacy specialist. We’re trying to figure out the changes that are coming in effect early next week for enrichment.  This is going to include intervention still, so it’s a lot to think about.

After that, I read through the 8-10 emails that came through after I went to bed last night.  Have heard from many of the eleven intervention team members.  Still need to hear from four of them.  I’m wondering about that this morning, but it’s still predawn.

After that,  I send a few emails.  I hope these people don’t have their phone near them in bed or their alerts on…  Organize emails in a new folder called distance learning.  Notice that I have over eighty emails in my mailbox.  I like to keep it to less than ten…

After that, I make a spreadsheet of the students receiving intervention.  I wonder again if the coordinators know how many kiddos this really is.  The team sent me the names and the student goals overnight.  One of them already has plans ready.

After that,  Bob scoots next to me to get his shoes from under the dining room table.  I left my shoes in your office.  Don’t want to use my actual office because it’s in the basement and I can’t look out the window in there, it’s too high.

After that,  I make a cup of coffee in my This is Going Well cup.  Wishful thinking perhaps, I do think we’ll get this together.  I smile again at our secretary emailing me right away last night to offer a hand.

After that,  Bob checks in to ask if I’m going into school today.  He interjects some news from the world.  I notice that our neighbor is driving out of their driveway.  I wonder if they are taking advantage of the early grocery hours that start today.

It’s 6 a.m.  now.  Everything I tell you about after that now is just hopeful thinking, but the list includes:

  • making a temporary plan for intervention at each grade
  • watching a video about zoom
  • reading through the district documents I received late yesterday
  • planning on taking a shower and possibly using makeup since I’ll be on view online today
  • Attending two meetings virtually; probably more

What’s that saying?  The people who get things done are the ones that do things one thing at a time.

 

 

Tuesday Morning Collaboration #sol20

Today I write in isolation, but not alone.  I write in the March Slice of Life Challenge, writing each day in March with my fellow writers under the guidance of Two Writing Teachers.  You can still join us, writing is healing and communal.  If you’re reading this, check out this blog about what to do right now. Today I’m inspired by the meeting I should be having right now, but am not…

Tuesday Morning Collaboration #sol20

March 17, 2020

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.   I hope you’re still sleeping, but I’m thinking of you. If we were together, I would have probably brought some soda bread and green napkins.  We would have ‘coffee’.  Well, A. would have had a yeti of tea and M. would have had a iced coffee from Dunkin’.  A. would close the door and say good morning.  She might be empty handed.   Sometimes she waits for a good idea and then writes it on a stickie with a borrowed pen.  M. would open her fancy notebook, 1/2 sized. Her flair color matching her mood or hoped-for mood.  We’d huddle and we smile at each other.  How are you doing? 

I’d have a list in my notebook of things I wanted to talk over with you.  Hopefully, I’d hesitate to see if you had something in mind.  Most times you do.  I’d have my units on the table, my phone, my notebook, my coffee.  Sometimes I don’t write in my notebook until you go away.  Sometimes I draw something in there or on a stickie to illustrate a thought or an idea.  Today I have a few things I want to talk over in this virtual space. What I don’t want to talk over is the reality and uncertainty of our current situation.  So I’m going to ignore it… for now.

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 7.50.23 AMFirst, I’m excited by the work A. has been doing with the ‘narrative task’ and creative writing in her room.  She’s excited too.  I’m sure she’s told you about it, but can we just talk about how it works and how we might expand it and will it work again next year.  I do love these books we chose for the Book Madness… I want to get the other Boston Marathon title.  Wait, back to the idea.  She began with Girl Running, taking four scenes after she had read and loved it with her class and let them ‘blow up’ the scene.  I wish I had some samples of her students’ writing, but I kept the photo copies of the spaces where she stopped.  I would stop at those pages and talk about why they are good.  Yes, they do illustrate the story arc. What a strong reinforcement!  She chose the rising action where Bobbie was crouching behind the forsythia right before she joined the race.  Then she chose the place where she revealed she was a woman runner.  We probably look these over and talk about presenting them to the students.  Would we ask them where this was on the story arc?  Would we let everyone pick the place where they want to write?  What guidance might we add to the narrative task?  What if we paired this book again for the compare and contrast using Her Fearless Run or The Girl Who Ran.  I’ll bring out Drawn Together. I hear that this book is a student favorite.  This book requires some interpretation by the students.  I want to hear what your students were thinking.  A. used this book as well.  I wasn’t there for this lesson.  We might look through the book together and think about how to present it.

I’ll mention how the newer teachers are struggling with the MCAS unit I drafted.  I will admit that some of it is my fault.  It needs some revision between the calendar and the day-to-day.  I’ll talk about some coaching I’ve done there and what I hope to do in the future.

Our time’s getting short but I want to share this idea that I saw on twitter. Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 8.10.55 AM Did you see that retweet I posted about using the Snack Attack video for character change in the essay?  Remember when we hoped that some videos might be used on the state tests?   Even that year we did the PARCC.?  We could show the video.  Love it and then think about character change.  What if we did that work in start-and-stops with table groups or two partnerships together?

Our time is past over as usual.  There’s so much to share and talk about.   I read City Spies yesterday, but don’t really want to promote a mystery in fourth.  It did have a strong story arc with lots of attempts.  It would be interesting to see how the students mapped it and what they thought the climax was.  That’s always so tricky.  I saw that M. read Coyote Sunrise.  I love that book, great character change, but it’s so sad.  What next?  I am thinking about reading the historical fiction book, They Bicycle Spy.  I know you have already read it, but I was wondering if I could create a mentor arc of another historical fiction for talking it over with the other teachers.

Have a great day!  Glad we had this time together…

(Un)Solicited Reviews #sol20

(Un)Solicited Reviews #sol20

March 9, 2019

What happens when a second grade class of book reviewers find out that I don’t have the latest book in Jory John and Pete Oswald’s series, The Cool Bean?  They set out to convince a literacy specialist in the best way they can… they write a stack of book reviews.  So here straight from the second grade is the reason that I (you) should run out and buy this book.

This was pretty convincing until I read this line.

Why are you still reading this go and buy this book!!!!

It’s difficult to say what I love most about this situation and why after nearly a month, these reviews are still traveling back and forth in my teacher bag.

Another thing that I like (in) this book is that after they were nice to Little Bean he starts to be kind to other(s). Another reason I think this book is good is that there (they’re) get(t)ing along again… it teaches you that everyone is cool and sometime people are nice and kind.

Straight from my teacher bag into my heart and into my mentor text files.  These second graders don’t know it yet, but they have the makings of some literary essayist.  Quick retell, character traits, lessons learned, they are putting it together.  So is their teacher.

These showed up on my desk silently one day without notice.  Just a sweet little stack of writing gems.  I know you wish you could read them all again and again as well.

Here’s one final picture to tide you over.

For the month of March , I will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge (#sol20) sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. I will be slicing each day for 31 days inspired by my work as a literacy specialist and coach, my life, and my fellow bloggers.  This is day 9.

What You Do Matters #sol20

What You Do Matters #sol20

After a couple of weeks of meetings and professional development days, I had spent many, many days in a conference room.  I was out of sorts.   It occurred to me that I need balance.  Late last week I sought to fill my tank up with time with students.

On Wednesday morning, I joined a fourth grade for their weekly Creativity Project time.  Writing away in the presence of their energy and the sound of their pencils flying across the page, I thought this is the way to start the day.  

The rest of that half-day morning,  I read Hungry Jim aloud to a second grade studying folktales.  Great for prediction, this story got this class talking, gasping, and laughing.  Can’t wait to go back and read Where the Wild Things Are, so we can compare. I rounded out that day with Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon, and character analysis in two third grade rooms.  How do we know someone is confident? 

Then this morning,  excited by Hair Love‘s amazing OSCAR win,  I shared out the video to the classroom teachers.  In third grade, we had planned to start our Baby Literary Essay boot camp.  However we put off  Those Shoes for one day to celebrate a picture book’s life in the world.  After watching the video with our ‘love lens’, we watched to consider what we could write about this wonderful story.  Used to discussing books with this teacher and myself, most students chatted during the second showing and were ready with thoughts as soon as we finished.  Some however were hesitant.  I don’t know what to say.  I don’t know what I noticed, quiet voices around the room asserted.

Letting those voices echo, their teacher jumped in.  Mrs. Kennedy, will you write down our thinking. 

Their original thinking is in blue ink.  So many traces of evidence backing up their theory that Zuri’s dad is the kind of person who doesn’t give up.

Even those soft I-don’t know voices filled the room with thinking as we continued.

We went back to do some gentle editing together, adding names to replace pronouns, thinking about how we might shift sentences, and then crafting a simple conclusion together. It was the end of this exercise that stopped me in my tracks.  The teacher turned to the students and said, look what you did,  we wrote a literary essay together just that quick.  The room buzzed with student talk. That went so fast.  Our whole writing time is finished? That’s a lot!  

But then, their teacher said something.  She said she put me on the spot by asking me to do the writing.  She said,  that Mrs. Kennedy,  she’s the kind of person who say, Wait, what?  and then says,  Sure, ok!  

Wait… I am?  I guess so.  Just like that, every tank in the room filled in one hour… including mine.

 

Congratulations to Matthew Cherry for his Oscar will for the animated short film based on his book, Hair Love.  I showed the class the video available on YouTube from the television show, Sunday Morning.  Thanks to my writing group, #100daysofnotebooking for filling my tank with writing for the last forty-some days.  As always, I am indebted to the amazing leaders of Two Writing teachers and all my encouragers in that group who have given me the air beneath my wings so many times.  

The Truth about Teaching #sol19

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The Truth about Teaching #sol19

October 29, 2019

This morning, I had a plan, a plan to join some third graders as they began to explore persuasive writing and speeches.  A wonderful new book on my desk, I began to reread to plan out my stop and talks.  It occurred to me after I had read about ten pages that this particular book wasn’t really going to work.  #hatewhenthathappens   All my other persuasive text for the most part were loaned out.  What to do? 

I dug out another book.  Screen Shot 2019-10-29 at 1.52.47 PM

Truthfully,  I’ve been thinking about a way to use it.

I arrive at the class with a sharpie, my big notebook, some index cards, an anchor chart and this book.  Ok, kiddos, I say.  You were writing opinions yesterday right?  (mediocre answers) . So today,  let’s see how this author tells us his opinion.  

The book is amusing, full of side comments by the bears.  5 pages in I ask,  what kind of book does this seem like to you?  The kids look at me incredulously. Perhaps they think their thinking isn’t quite right.  Finally a brave students says, it seems like informationalYep, I said, the author is telling us a lot of facts about bearsWonder why?  Let’s see if we can figure it out.   We finish the story and I ask again, what was the author hoping we would do?  Again, hesitantly they say,  he wanted us to know about bears and teach other people.  Why? I asked.   Silence… then… he wanted us to help the bears.  Why?  So they would have food and some place to live.

Then I ask them, is there something you could teach me about that would make me care more about it?  Some students stayed on the bears.  But two stole my heart.

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So Grandpas don’t get embarrassed.  

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People should close their trash cans so plastic doesn’t go into the water and turtles can be safe. 

They may need finesse, but I’d say these people know how to have an opinion.

As I circle the room, one student is writing facts down about guinea pigs.  Hmm, I say, are you thinking people should own guinea pigs?  In my old school, I had a guinea pig.  You did?!?!  the table group erupts.  We should have a class pet!

We sat down as a group to have a chat about the opinion we should have a class pet.  First they want to discuss what kind of pet. Rattlesnake, monkey, dog, cat, guinea pig. They think about the pros. We can pet it when we are sad.  It will be something to talk to.  It will make kids want to come to school more.   And then,  one student says, there are reasons why we shouldn’t have a pet.  Sure, I say.  What?  We have to clean up after them.  People are allergic.  Counterargument.  Not taught, just caught. Messy, all over the place, student led learning.  Do you think we can really get a pet? they ask.

 

Total Effort #sol19

Total Effort #sol19

Just arrived. I’ll set up

I sent this text this morning, but it could have been sent most mornings over the last 20 years to be honest.  Wildly overcommitted… today.  But today, the overcommitment mentioned above created a sandwich with a very satisfying day of professional development for our staff.  Each grade level, an hour and a half of deep discussion, planning, and trying it out.  It’s a perfect combination.

It’s also messy.  Here’s a small story of today’s mess.  Our staff developer has worked with us for two years.  This is her first year with the primary grade teams, but she is well known to me.  We planned out the skeleton of this learning day last week.  As a team, we work well together and are willing to give most lessons with most students a try at the drop of a hat.

A small story about that attitude.  Often this drop-of-a-hat planning requires a quick trip to the literacy center for any number of books, office supplies, grand conversation notebooks, mentor texts, or notebooks.  Today, we got the idea (her, not me) that we should use an actual Big Book instead of a document camera or a picture book.

Aghast,  I said,  I didn’t purchase any of these books.  They’ve been here forever… I’m not sure.  But we were committed to Big Books, so she began to riffle through the collection.  Finally, she began to sort books out onto the literacy center floor and I noticed that they were books that we probably both used when we first started teaching.  Ones that we remembered fondly, but haven’t looked at in quite a while. See where this is going. 

So we brought the books back to the training room and lined them along the chair rail around the room.  I noticed then that they were all by a particularly famous author of guided reading texts, all decades old.

One by one the teachers encouraged by us, picked up a book to read and then fairly quickly returned them to the shelf. This book is weird, they said.  Hmmm. We read a few.  They were odd in that out of date sort of way.  The two of us undaunted, chose one to read ourselves and demonstrate to the class. (First Grade) . The book was filled with animals, when one laughed at the other, the other would threaten to eat them and then do just that.  Page after page of one cantankerous animal being eaten by a slightly larger one. That dog can’t eat the cat. said one very astute first grader.  As you might guess at the end of the story, the alligator gets the hiccups and much like that little old lady, all the animals rejoin.  In the end, all the animals go happily off with each other.  Crazy, inappropriate book.

The students were astounded that we offered up this crazy tale, but by page 2 were reading along noticing word endings and becoming more and more fluent.  All of us enjoyed the reading, not because the book was great, but because the company was.  A passel of first graders, some enthusiastic teachers, a moment of time, and a sketchy plan with a purpose.  A almost perfect combination.

How does this relate to my wild overcommitment or my last minute searching and planning?  Perhaps this is what they mean by not letting the good get in the way of the great.  We didn’t need a perfect book, a perfect plan, or even a perfect amount of time.  The readers showed what they knew,  we gave them a chance to try out their skills, and the two adults (and perhaps the observers) had a jolly good literacy experience.  Next time, a teacher will try these ideas out.  That teacher might have a better plan.  She might have the tools all perfectly set out.  He might have a better book. (I hope so… I’ll be buying some this week).  Or maybe they won’t.  Maybe they will get the idea to try this on their way to school,  they will read through a book they have quickly, plan out a lesson in ten minutes, and artfully deliver some magic all before lunch.

I hope so.

I’ll be wildly overcommitted tomorrow as well, but if you have a wild idea to try, I’m all in.

Test Day #sol19

Test Day #sol19

April 23, 2019

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Today is state test day for the third graders.  I would like to say that it’s just one piece of data.  I would like to say that it’s insignificant to my work, our work.  I would like to say that I haven’t been thinking about how the students will do.  I cannot.

I’ve been thinking about test day for over a month.  Every literary essay we craft with the students makes me consider if we’ve helped them own the narrative tasks.  Every time they misstep in character work or parts of speech or planning for writing makes me consider every way I’ve coached teachers and students in literacy.

If you asked me outright,  I would say that what I see in student writing, in independent thinking, in character analysis by NINE YEAR OLDS has been nothing short of amazing. Yet, on the practice test, they asked the students to write a story from the perspective of a rat instead of a snake and they were thrown.  I understand the test creators may ask point of view questions for students to show how they understand character development in relationship to stories.  Perhaps the students are thrown because the stories are not as complicated as the ones they read every day.

As I arrived at school, I realized that we worry about the state tests a few days coming up to them, on the day as student ( and their parents) react to them, and on the day that the scores arrive.  These tests are our currently reality.  We should think about how questions are asked of students and how students respond to them.  We also should continue to teach literacy in the context of life skills and citizenship, connections and inferences,  deep thought and collaborative talk.

I hope that all we as a staff have facilitated for our students will shine in these assessments.  However,  if it doesn’t, perhaps we should consider not just our presentation, but the test design. Allowing ourself time to teach students how they will be tested now and throughout life.  Contemplating how to respond to tests and how to succeed.

For now,  I wish all of us a peaceful, productive day.