A Preview of March Madness Book Edition #sol20

A Preview of March Madness Book Edition #sol20

March 2, 2020 #sol20

Our new principal brought along with him an enthusiasm for a March Picture Book bracket. He showed me a video of his former school’s reading specialist introducing books in front of a exciting, balloon filled assembly. I was reluctant… mostly to trying to duplicate what he clearly thought was a special moment.

So I said…

I’ll figure out the books, but the assembly is all you.

“Figuring out the books” became the challenge so far. I reviewed some suggested list uninspired about flooding our classrooms with these titles. Having spent this year reading, reviewing, and reading other’s reviews of so many own voice, fresh books, I dreamed of giving our classrooms a mentor text set that would benefit our literacy work long past March.

So I sought out my local expert …

Our librarian

First we talked it out. We looked at the lists available, read many of those books. We agreed to try and make a balanced, fresh list that reflected our students and would be meaningful for most to read and discuss.

So for a week or so we read books…

Many, many books

I wish I had kept track of the number of books I read, reread, and considered. On the appointed afternoon, Barb and I wheeled our suggestions into the conference room with the goal of sixteen books balanced in genre, difficulty, windows, mirrors, and doors.

This was a bigger job than I thought.

We read… and discussed and read some more.

We narrowed it down to around twenty books. Laying them out on the table, we took another look, reading hem to each other, talking more about possible classroom response.

Ready to show our principal.

Am I a little nervous?

The book selection was our contribution. Our principal took up the fundraising. Sixteen hardcover picture books per class was not a small monetary outlay. Sure that these books would be used and loved, we urged him on. Spurred by a vision of a body of mentor text talk that could follow students through our five grades, I was hopeful.

Our principal remained enthusiastic and convincing.

For a while, the prospect was far less that certain.

I made a shopping list for a nearby bookstore… and hoped for the best. Then finally approval!

Flash forward a week, one of our book selection, Hair Love by Matthew Cherry won an Oscar for his screen adaptation. I widely circulated the video through the school with my personal copy of the book and the promise that the book would be in their hands soon.

The books began to trickle in. I posted photos of the covers outside my room. I read one here and there to groups of students. On the day that the books arrived, our students were celebrating Valentines, the afternoon prior to February vacation. Our principal set up the books in our conference room with neat stacks and one front facing display books. Parents in the building drifted in. They had questions.

What will happen to the books afterwards?

My heart fills with the possibilities of these books becoming cherished mentors read over and over.

We gathered up a student from each grade… and then gathered a couple more when the first friends did not want to be photographed. So there in our last moment before vacation, we snapped this photo of promise.

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 2.

A New Way of Thinking #sol18

$_57.jpgA New Way of Thinking #sol18

October 2, 2018

It’s that time of year.  When basic addition results in this equation:  Student Learning Goals +  Data Collection = Teacher Stress and Low Self Esteem.   Now,  I’m a literacy specialist not a math teacher, but these are the types of conversations I heard during the last week.

” We can’t set a goal that 100% of our students meet this goal,  I know students who won’t be able to.”

” I think this student is low on fluency (insert comprehension or spelling)”

The actual truth is that any one or all of these statements might be true, but today I switched my own thinking about these statements.  When we think about the three legged stool of RtI, we might call to mind the tiers 1-3,  classroom instruction, differentiated instruction, or special education.  Those are all means to assisting students in exercising their potential or getting to grade level or even progressing, but what are the real legs of our success.

When we consider who might reach our lofty goals or our measured goals, which students are more likely to succeed?  Perhaps we are asking ourselves the wrong questions.  It is less about the deficits of the students and more about our scaffolds, instruction, and assessment.  When we create a partnership between the students, ourselves, and our resources, we elevate what each might do.

Let’s consider.  First there’s the data. We collect it statically, actively, anecdotally, scientifically, through standards based assessments given with fidelity, and given to us by others whom we may or may not know.  All data is taken at one moment in time by one human in a situation.  Data has power to reveal and occasionally just encourage us to seek more data.

Students bring their experiences, perceptions, and knowledge to the equation; their mindset for learning, their challenges behaviorally, emotionally, and experientially.  The students bring whatever situations they were in and experienced before we were their teachers.  All of those things are mostly beyond us.

We, however, bring to the equation our considerable experience, our research, our knowledge, our colleagues, our ingenuity, our compassion, and our considerable grit.

So we, as educators, have the largest margin for change.  Honestly, we are the only things we really can change.  So let’s do it.  How?

Updating our toolkit.  Toolkits will vary by teacher, grade level, student population, and content.  When you think about your primary presenting difficulties of your students, think what would be helpful?  If students are having difficulty writing leads, perhaps shorter lessons on just leads,  author mentors of leads in the genre you are writing, different ways of presenting lead including visual and auditory, short and more extensive.

Updating our mindset.  I don’t know what is in your heart or mind, but we can all use a little (lot) can-do spirit, not just for ourselves, but our students.  When I began thinking about writing this, I imagined that our general difficulty with goals for students is far less about what we think about the student capacity and far more about what we consider about our own abilities as educators.  That’s a very hard truth and I also imagine some will not agree.  However,  if I truly believe that everyone’s capacity for learning is fairly limitless, then I also should believe that my ability to learn to assist that capacity is limitless as well.

Digging in.  A very large part of success is actually failure.  While I could Malcolm Gladwell here,  perhaps it is true that we just have to keep attempting different approaches until one works and then again when we set a new goal with a student or that approach times out.  I’m not going to lie here.  Those attempts and the generation of those ideas are exhausting.  That’s when we should help ourselves to the following tools:

Data collection – it will tell us what is working and how it is workin

Our colleagues in real Life– Our colleagues have had difficulties and ideas.  They have attempted things, read things, and are fully prepared to provide us with new perspective, fresh legs, and encouragement.

Our virtual colleagues are invaluableDebbie Miller, Lucy Calkins, Clare Landrigan, Tammy Mulligan,  Jennifer Serravallo, and I are in constant communication.  Sometimes that communication is one sided.  They tell me things from their writings, their blogs,  their tweets.  Occasionally,  I actually hear them speak or speak to them directly.  Along with them,  I have a cohort of practitioners who encourage me through social media.

So there you have it.  It’s not them,  it’s us… but in a good way.  We have power.  Power to adapt,  to grow,  to change, to attempt.  To speak truth.  To fail.  To notice and definitely to succeed.  I love a scene in the movie Eat Pray Love  where she’s encouraged to cross over, attraversiamo.  Just give it a go.  What’s the worst that could happen?  My darlings,  what is the best?

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The Voices in My Head #sol18

main-qimg-7a46ec5dc79bcac79744edd8eaecf8f0-c  The Voices in My Head  #sol18

May 1, 2018

I have a lot of great mentors.  Some of them have never met me.   I walk among giants, but occasionally those giants are on a podcast, a tweet, or in a book.  Those giants have changed everything about the way I approach education, coach, interactive with students, conferring, and see myself as an educator.   Here are some of my favorite voices.

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The Heinemann Podcast accompanies me to work each morning and sometime home as well.   I listen to mine on a podcast app.  This podcast is a great way to try out professional texts and kick the tires before you buy.
static1.squarespace.jpgColby Sharp  is how I want to blog when I grow up.  Colby’s quick patter and teacher heart can direct you to your next read aloud.   Just looking around his room in the videos makes me smile.  An amazing advocate for kids and books,  follow him on twitter and youtube.

 

 

 

In addition,  The Nerdy Bookcast,  The Children’s Book Podcast, The Yarn.
Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 5.28.08 PM.pngTwo Writing Teachers have changed the way I teach, I coach, and write.  Ok,  maybe just my volume has improved. 🙂

So many blogs that I follow.  Tweets that I read.  Books that I read.  They all add up to wonderful mentors that encourage me, challenge me, and teach me.

Tom Newkirk says we only have to get 5% better each year.  By the end of our career, well, amazing things can happen.  Today,  I’m just going to try this one thing I read…

 

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