Reasoned Understanding of Evidence #sol17

Reasoned Understanding of Evidence

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October 10, 2017

Last week,  Rainer Weiss, the chair of the physics department at MIT won the Nobel Prize for Physics.  This probably isn’t that much of a surprise, though Dr. Weiss said his chances were about 20%,  MIT has had 32 Nobel Prize winners.

What struck me in Ray Weiss’ interview on NPR was that he said what was important was the reasoned understanding of evidence.  A happenstance that Dr. Weiss fears is in jeopardy.

I was thinking that day (last Tuesday) and the days that followed about what a reasoned understanding of evidence might be.  I think of it in light of the fairly substantial amount of evidence we collectively collect regarding students in the fall of each year and in the shadow of examining that data together in our teams.  What does it mean to have a reasoned understanding of evidence?  As literacy professionals we looked at the words reasoned understanding and we take them to mean  comprehension of evidence based on well thought out logic and good sense.

We are fortunate at our school to take the time to carefully construct understandings of the assessment measures,  the results of those assessments, and importantly triangulate that information with what we have found out in other ways:  observation, practice, and other assessments.  We triage results and take the time to return to reflection, recording, and more conversation after our initial meetings.

In the best scenarios and honestly often,  we come to a new understanding of students and a new plan for moving forward, considering what might be the bedrock skill to begin with, miraculously considering all of the variables of planning, grouping, materials, motivation, and sometimes, sheer will.

I read last week that teachers have to make more decisions during the day than brain surgeons.  Some estimates are 1500 decisions.  But these decision,  how to group students, what to instruct whole class,  what to revisit, what goals to set, what questions to ask,  determine the instructional underpinnings of the students in our view.

So when I meet with teachers over the next few days, weeks, months, years,  as a coach and a collaborator,  I want to be a catalyst, a cheerleader, a co-conspirator, a sounding board.  Rai Weiss had a long struggle to that Nobel Prize.  He dropped out of MIT one time and his research on gravitational waves spans 30 years peppered with missteps and false starts.  We might have similar missteps and false starts, however we’ll start together. I want us to say together what Rai Weiss said when he was interviewed last Tuesday after he made that reasoned understanding of evidence,  ” It’s very, very exciting that it worked out in the end.”

Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 9.10.00 PM Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating, maintaining and inspiring this platform.  You can read some amazing slices of life here.

 

 

 

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The Pigeon Lives Here #sol17

IMG_9903The Pigeon Lives Here #sol17

October 3, 2017

Over the course of the last week or so, as the first graders pass by the literacy center on their way to lunch,  I began to overhear one student after another mention “Pigeon”.  I didn’t think much about it, but then the first grade PLC leader dropped by the literacy center on her way back from specials one day.  Here’s her story.

The students noticed you have THE Pigeon in here, she said.  You have to start moving it every day.  

I was confused, but then I remembered that I had purchased Pigeon,  Piggie, and Gerard over the summer and they were gently tucked into the new book shelves surrounding my desk.  I thought they might be popular with the students at the time, but over weeks, they were just blending in for me.  She continued.

We told the first graders that Pigeon comes to check the libraries in our rooms at night and he leaves them all messages.  You have to move him around because now they think he lives in the Literacy Center. 

It makes sense.  The Literacy Center is one big library of teacher resources and leveled text.  I thought, why not?   That very afternoon,  I moved Pigeon to prominently display on the shelf right inside my door.  Do you know what happened next?

Pandemonium!   When the first graders came down the hall that day to go to lunch and the Pigeon- THE PIGEON -was right there looking at them,  the buzz went up and I’m not sure how anyone got to lunch that day.

So… here I am.  The Pigeon has become my own personal Elf on the Shelf.  I try to remember to move him each afternoon before I go home. There he is every morning waiting to be magical in the eyes of some very perceptive six year old.

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I’m grateful today for six year old magic, for first grade teachers who wanted to include me in the fun, for Mo Willems for creating such a wonderful character for children to relate to, and for the opportunity this and so many other days to be part of the world of elementary school.

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 9.10.00 PM I’m grateful to Two Writing Teachers for giving me a reason to think about the magic of my day and then write about it.  You can read more Slices here.

 

 

in sync

FullSizeRender (1)In Sync #why not Wednesday 

September 27, 2017

At the start of a school year,  it takes some time to get in sync… in sync with the routine,  with your new students, and with your teaching team.  These lovely ladies are getting in the groove on day 4!  While dressing alike is probably not that unusual,  showing up in nearly the same dress by accident might indicate that they are on the same wavelength about more than just their fashion sense.

So how do we get in sync in our building, our team, or in our classroom  at the beginning of the year?

Possible idea 1. Spend some time getting to know each other.  Laugh,  talk about TV,  have lunch together,  take a walk, drop by for a chat.  You get the idea.  Don’t make everything all the time about work with your co-workers and with the students.

Possible idea 2.  Give yourself a break.  We don’t need to launch in at break neck speed every single time.  Wait, is that just me?  Take time to get your bearings,  read the environment.  Even if it’s the same old environment, it always seems to change as the new year start.

Possible idea #3  Review. Give a thought and some good conversation to what went really well last year and … what you might do differently.  Reflecting is good for the soul and the craft. 

I might wear my black dress tomorrow. 

 

 

Is That Your Chair? #sol17

desk chair

any resemblance to my actual desk chair is purely fictional

Is That Your Chair?  #sol17

September 26, 2017

We are in the midst of assessment season and my mornings have been filled with benchmark assessment with my team.  It’s a hectic time, but gives me that so-needed dipstick into the reading temperature of the whole school.

In the midst of a busy Monday,  a  confident bean pole of a third grade plopped down in the chair next to me to read a couple of one-minute reading passages.  He looked over to the desk chair I wheeled down from the book room and said, What are you doing with Mr. Jodice’s (our revered music teacher) chair?  I looked around, startled, not understanding what he said at first.  This is my chair from the literacy center,  I said.

The smarty pants gives me a strong stare…Does Mr. Jodice know you have his chair?  With rational words I calmly explain that all of the classrooms have these chairs and Mr. Jodice’s chair was still in his room for him to sail around in.  Given the look I got in return,  I don’t think this intelligent third grader believed me.

I told this story a few times yesterday, even to Mr. Jodice, to smiles and knowing nods about the literal thinking of this young third grader.  On my drive home,  I began to think about just that third grade thinking.

All of us, especially those under four feet tall with a limited (for the time being) world view, have certain expectations and KNOWLEDGE that we know for sure.  My young friend knew for sure that his beloved Mr. Jodice had a chair identical to mine, so it must be his.  Following this logic along,  this third grader (and his friends) have other things that they know for sure.  Things that would startle me or any teacher who might have a different way of thinking. Ideas about how stories go,  ideas about themselves as learners, ideas about … teachers.  Some of those ideas, we should help them change…over time.  We can’t help them change these ideas if we don’t listen to them first.

Thank goodness Mr. Jodice’s chair will be right there in the music room next time my new friend has music.  Some things are the rocks on which we build others.  Maybe that third grader will think Mr. Jodice graciously loaned me his chair.  Maybe he’ll visit the literacy center and spin in the chair himself.  Maybe he’ll notice the chair his teacher sits in at her desk.

Hopefully, what I learned is to perspective take a little better because of that little conversation on a Monday.

 

Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 8.32.28 AMThank you to Two Writing Teachers for inspiring so many of us to write our slices of life weekly.  Thank you to my PLN of amazing writers for encouraging me on Tuesdays and every other day of the week. Enjoy so many more slices here.

We All Have a Story to Tell #IMWAYR

We All Have a Story to Tell

September 25, 2017

I have been thinking a great deal lately about what we ask our students to do daily.  Particularly what we ask them to do that would be stressful, difficult, or embarrassing (see future for Tom Newkirk’s amazing book Embarrassment).  This week and last, this thinking centered around the launch of the writing workshop and everything about new teacher/ new expectations/new peers.  How can we help students (and their teachers) bridge that chasm.  The beginning is the hardest part for so many.

Three books come to mind that ease that chasm in the elementary classroom.  Use these liberally with a healthy dose of “giving it a go yourself.”

In A Squiggly Story,  Andrew Larson explores a early learner’s journey as a writer.  So often students are searching or expecting that stories (for others) just magically come out of the end of our writing tools.  With some excellent peer coaching from his sister, our young author explores the writing process from idea to lead, to peer editing.  A wonderful book for kindergarten and first grade writers.

 

IMG_9872Ralph Tells A Story centers around the problem many writers young and old have… “AHHH! I have no story!”  Ralph looks around and EVERYONE especially the girl next to him is writing away.  He looks everywhere for a story.  When given ideas,  he can’t think how to develop them.  When the teacher calls on him in share,  he tentatively starts…”I was at the park.  An inchworm crawled on my knee.”  Then the questions begin rolling in, and Ralph realizes that he does, indeed, have a story to tell.

Recently in the third grade in a school near here,  a teacher read this book and produced this wonderful anchor chart. IMG_9871

I can’t wait to see what happens next in that class.

The last book,  Bear Has a Story to Tell leads to my favorite advice for writers and other learners in response to “I don’t know”.  It answers the age old response,  I forgot,  with what would you say if you remembered.  It’s important in all story generation to have the conversation first.  As Lucy Calkins and others so beautifully state in the Crafting True Stories unit for third grade writing,  we should help our students visualize possibilities, instead of initiating writing,  we should initiate dreaming.

Dream away,  writers.  Dream away.  bear has a story to tell

So Many Questions #sol17

Screen Shot 2017-08-29 at 7.57.05 PMSo Many Questions #sol17

August 29, 2017

Yesterday we had our district-wide kick off.  Today we had our ‘kick-off’ staff meeting.   In my thinking, they both centered around questions.  Questions we should ask ourselves to prepare for our year.

Yesterday, our def Poet speaker, Regie Gibson,  rallied us to distill our contribution to society (our students) into one word.  One word to convey all that our essence brings to the proverbial table of our classrooms.  My word came to me quickly.  Many, many individuals say this about me.  Sometimes I suspect it isn’t a compliment… to them.  To me,  it is my core strength.  This thing gets me to rise in the morning, work long through the day, and continue year after year.  The district sent us a wordle of the collective words.  It took me a few minutes to find my word.  It’s not the largest or the next largest.  I wondered if any one out of those other hundreds of educational professionals said the same word.  Then I thought it’s my word.  I know what it means to me.  I have a good idea what it will mean to the teachers,  students and parents that I will cross paths with this year.  I feel good about that.

Today, we watched a video of Dean James Ryan of Harvard University delivering a commencement in May 2016.  He says it much more eloquently that I do. My teacher and parent friends will enjoy especially the first question,  “Wait!  What?”.   Of course, this goes to understanding.  The second questions figures prominently in our current teaching, I wonder why.  This question prompts our curiosity.  The next question helps unstick the stuck,  Couldn’t we at least… Offering a gentle, gentle nudge, a place to begin. The fourth question, How could I help? is the basis of all good relationships.  This one thing is a strength of mine,  the ability to help.  The subtlety of the question is important.  How could I help?  Giving the recipient the opportunity to maintain the control of the situation and your assistance.  The last question is echoing in the blogs I follow,  the books I read,  my reaction to current times, and my own musings.  What truly matters (to me)?  When we understand this one thing, we can share so much.

So there you have it on a Tuesday.  Some questions to ponder as you celebrate a new year.  I hope that they will keep you up in a good way,  light your path,  and spark your conversations.

 

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This slice of life is inspired by many more found here and by Two Writing Teachers who may in fact have changed everything I think about myself as a learner, as a writer, and as a member of a vast community.

The New Norm(al) #sol17

The New Normal

LETS.jpgAugust 22, 2017

The weeks before school start are a blur of activities.  One of those activities this week was to join a new PLC group.  The members of the group are very familiar to me, but we haven’t worked together in this configuration or these roles before.  As in most PLCs, one of our first tasks was to set our group norms.

Usually group norms are “low hanging fruit” as my current principal would say.  Easy things that make sense when you are working in a group.  Be respectful,  give everyone a voice, come prepared.  But today, in this moment something nearly magical happened.  People started speaking about things they hoped they would do.  Things that are challenging sometimes for them.

Some of the ones I loved best were gently spoken from heart and tenderly received by the group.  One person hoped we would be flexible.  One said that we should embrace our changing school and the contributions that all of our many new teachers bring with them to our work.  I am particularly enthusiastic so I said that I hoped to give wait time in the way I do with the students so people had time to fully complete their thinking.  

There were a lot of suggestions involving being positive and assuming positive intent in others. And then for me, it all turned a corner.  Some one said stay focused on the work and then… seek to understand.  All of my Seven Habits thinking came back to me and I thought, yeah,  this is it.  Seek first to understand, then be understood.

Then I thought of the secret sauce of this group… synergy.  We are so much better together than the individual intentions of our separate selves.  This is what makes me look forward to meetings,  to chats,  to days,  to weeks,  and to years with these people.

Here are the rest of our norms to encourage our work and perhaps yours too.

 

-Be OK with messy (embrace mistakes)

-Stay in the present

-Embrace change

-Emphasize the process

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Slice of Life and the Slice of Life Writing Community is a product of the nurture of Two Writing Teachers.  Read some amazing blogs here.