7/31 Why Not Consider Debbie Miller & Marie Kondo . #sol19

For the month of March , I will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge (#sol19) 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 7 of 31.  

 

IMG_15107/31  Why Not Consider Debbie Miller & Marie Kondo #sol19

March 6, 2018

I am a product of a Debbie Miller Reading with Meaning age.  I don’t mean the 2nd edition.  I mean my 2002 coffee-stained, dog-eared, autographed copy of the original  Reading with Meaning.  I was a devotee way before I really knew who Lucy Calkins was.  It takes a while for those east coast ideas to get out to the prairie.  What Debbie Miller taught me, among many other things, was that our working/teaching/learning environment was important.  Much like Lucy Calkins calls it a laboratory or a workshop, Debbie Miller created a culture for thinking and learning that included tablecloths, child height tables, pictures in frames, curtains, lamps, and rugs.  Those things are fairly standard in classrooms today, but in my early teaching, having tables instead of desks was pretty unusual outside of kindergarten.photo from Reading With Meaning by Debbie Miller

In those early days of my reading (and writing) intervention,  I planned with teachers about not just the mentor texts, the book bags, and partners, but about music during writing, soft natural lighting, and pillows.  School became a much more comfortable place.

Flash forward nearly twenty year and I still have lamps and comfortable seats, colorful book bins, and pillows.  I still consult sometimes with teachers about table arrangements and places for students to do their work.  I think with them about how many anchor charts we have on the walls and how accessible the books are for the students.

I’ll write longer about books in classrooms in another post, but today, Marie Kondo… So unless you’ve been away from social media, you’ve probably heard of Marie Kondo, the new guru of tidying up.  To oversimplify her process,  she teaches to respect your space, keep what you love and use, and let the rest gently go with a thank you.

So how does this gentle tidying up connect with Debbie Miller’s warmth and  Lucy Calkins and colleagues’ workshop?  Making the literacy center purposeful, lovely(ish) and easy to access.  Asking myself and others are these materials useful for our students and for our instruction.   I touched each book in this literacy center.  The rough figure for what books came out on the other side is around 12,000 books rough estimate. I think I recycled or repurposed another 1,000 or more books.  I read each book, thought about its merit and grouped it with liked books so that teachers could take them away and use them easily.   The process took approximately five months.

Now the book are organized by type, by use, by genre, by reading level.   I considered their groupings and where those would be located. Their titles are easy to see and they are ready to go out in the world.  The literacy center has been tidied up.  It might take a little more for it to be warm, cozy, and inviting.  I haven’t forgotten what I’ve learned from Debbie Miller.

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Next step, an open house, a welcome from the books to their users.

Thank you to Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan for inspiring this transformation both in me and in the literacy collection through your personal work and through your transformative book,  It’s All About the Books.  sk

 

 

 

 

 

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Time Well Spent #sol18

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Time Well Spent #sol18

July 17, 2018

One day last week,  I spent the day in a classroom with a teacher reorganizing her classroom library.

 

LOTS of Books

There were lots of books there.  I estimate that this teacher had 800-1000 books in her collection acquired from inherited books left in her classroom by the previous teacher, her childhood or friend’s childhood books, recent acquisitions, and gifts.  Her books had been leveled into general themes and reading levels.

Game Plan

Make a gathering place for each reading level band:  A/B,  C/D, E,  F/G,  H/I,  J/K,  L,M, and above. Then possibly sort into narrative and information books.  Finally group in loose themes to create book bins of twenty or so books.

 

Begin at the Beginning?

This is my sixth or so library overhaul with a classroom teacher in the last two years.  My goal is to have some ideas but to give the teacher lots of room to think through her collection his or herself.  I initially try to start in the middle of the collection.  As a first grade teacher, that would have been around a F/G level  using Fountas and Pinnell’s Guided Reading Level by Month Chart. She had many unleveled picture books in subject categories, so we began there.  That project was four hours in this classroom.  Two things contributed to its length.  She was evaluating texts as she went.  What to keep and what to purge. I might have kept all but the most glaringly obvious mismatches and then weeded at the book bin sort.  Eventually we developed a rhythm going along that she looked quickly through and made a brutal cut and then I leveled and reread some books suggesting uses for a few such as mentor text for certain aspects of reading or writing and book progressions.

Interestingly in this sort,  our ages became an obvious difference in selection.  There were many books in her collection that I had used as a teacher or parent.  Of course these books are twenty-some years old now.  For her, they all seemed ancient.  She cut nearly all of them.  While jarring at the time, it might not have been a bad move.  Many things have changed about our teaching,  our read aloud, and the way books draw students.  Unless I saw some emergent storybook potential in these books,  her decisions stood.

Picture Book Sort Tip

Think who will read?  Why read?  What is this books potential use?

End of Stage 1

At the end of stage one,  all the books were divided into reading levels.

Reading Level Tip

You might not sort all of the books into reading levels.  Some might be freeform in a very appealing sort of their own perhaps series or topic.

General Library Regroup Procedure

  1. Divide all the books into Reading Level.   Some you won’t be able to, in that case, approximate.  Use a strategy here, either pitch as you go or create a pile to look at later.  Don’t let that pile get too big, twenty books no more.
  2. Categorize those leveled books into subsets.  She used narrative and information.  In the bins I made for the book room,  I just used general feel of going together.  The teacher says I’m loose with those categories.  I might be.  It’s nice here to start thinking about categories that are going to go across levels for partner reading, leveling up, or whatnot.  Some categories that work might be: pets, dinosaurs, problems, favorite characters, or funny.  This is a good place to consider mentor texts at levels and emergent storybooks.
  3. Make a decision about how high your library should go.  As is common,  her library skewed high.  She had many books in the above level M category and very few at Level A/B.  Perhaps she won’t need those kinder levels in her class, but it’s something to consider.  She ultimately decided to offer to upper grade colleagues high level books that she didn’t think held an appeal to first grade.
  4. Notice what is amazing about your collection.  This about book progressions.  A student wants to read Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  Would Diary of a Worm be a first step? What books are glaringly missing?  I definitely need more Fly Guy.  This may take some thinking.  This doesn’t have to happen today.  You can look at a level a week during the year as your kiddos use them and adjust or make a buying/finding plan.
  5. Create sort system.  This could be bins of certain colors, color dots, bin numbers, labels or names.  The point here is to make the subject the focal point, not the book level.  However at first grade,  book level will be important.
  6. This is the tricky level.  Live in the library.  Watch how the students select or don’t select books.  Notice what draws them, what books they request.  Find a way to let students create book bins of their own with their partner or as a group.
  7. Resist the urge to buy a lot now.  Borrow library books.  Try out new series or characters.  Scouring blogs and bookstores.  Ask colleagues.

 

So in the end,  these 1,000 books took about six hours to sort, categorize, and weed.  She had some glaring gaps in her library.  Information books, some series,  book pairs, book club offerings, some levels.  Knowing that she can borrow some from the book room, the library,  and begin her acquisition plan.  My assistance is available for the next teacher, but I believe hers is as well.  I did pocket the Icky Bug Alphabet book from the rubbish pile and saved Mossy from oblivion by comparing it to A House for Hermit Crab.

 

Special thanks to Clare and Tammy and their amazing book, It’s All about the Books for inspiring this teacher and myself to rethink libraries.

 

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Book Rise #sol18

IMG_1510Book Rise #sol18

June 19, 2018

Yesterday morning, way before school began,  the literacy center buzzed with the activity of the first grade teaching team chatting, planning, reading, and laughing as they plotted for the book selections they would reveal to their students today.  Yes,  three days left at school and these teachers are helping their kids shop for new books.  A cart was located and the four teachers with 600 or so books divided by reading level in the subtlest of ways made their way down to the first grade hall  chatting away about how the kids would shop for their book rise.

Just three weeks ago when I proposed this book rise plan to teachers,  I think it is fair to say that it was met with skepticism.  Our school has 500 or so students and that is a lot of books to move through the building to 26 classes,  remain there for the summer and then mid-September make their way back to their home base.  But the principal and I had a vision.  A vision fueled by those book-writing, coaching troublemakers, Clare and Tammy. Student would be excited to show their reading selves to their rising teacher.  Their rising teacher, in turn,  would have ready-made book bags for the launch of workshop. The teacher would get a glimpse into their individual students’ end of year reading lives and their reading joys.

Back to yesterday morning.   As I arrived in the first grade wing,  the hall and the classrooms were abuzz with excited talk about the books the students were choosing.  Quick discussions ensued to encourage just perusal not full scale reading of the books.  Teachers noticed which books were being taken and which sections we needed to supplement with more books.

A few students make the trek down to the book room where the main collection lives.  These students knew exactly what they were looking for:   a specific Nate the Great to continue on their series reading, a book about snakes, a book with a dog protagonist.  Some of these books came from the literacy center collection and a few came from my personal stash.

In other grades and classes throughout the school,  students have been making book choices as well.  Yesterday morning,  I conferred with some third graders about the book glimpse they were giving their fourth grade teacher. We discussed novels that they were currently reading and what they wanted to read next.  Chats were had about mysteries, biographies, book-alike novels.  Some students honestly revealed much about their future thinking, their engagement in book choice, and  their reading lives even to us who have been working with them daily.

img_1473In the library,  students came for a book talk on broadened book choices.  With their help of our librarian,  the students with their teachers,  heard about new series to love, book-alike to their much read popular book cousins, and new characters to love as they rise to a new grade.

Throughout the school during the last week,  skepticism began to change to acceptance.  My hope that some of that evolved to enthusiasm.  I know that there was an abundance of student enthusiasm.

img_1471On Thursday,  those books will travel in their bags with those readers to their new class. Their new teacher will read one of his/her favorites to her new students. Then those carefully chosen books will wait patiently there until school starts in August. We will have to wait until fall to see if the vision really arrives at its fruition.  Will those kiddos arrive in their new classroom, those familiar chosen books will be waiting.  Can’t wait to see the reunion.

img_1716-1Slicing along with the Slice of Life community each Tuesday.  Read more amazing slices of life at twowritingteachers.org

Nudge #sol18

trh_nudge_artwork_wide-b9839d2a82c441c2574e4ae46edcb263fc5bfc03-s700-c85.jpgNudge  #sol18

March 14, 2018

A nudge is a gentle push in the right direction. This thinking is informed by a few things.  I’ll let you in on them in the beginning.  I am a big fan of podcasts.  This podcast,  Nudge:  Ted Radio Hour/ NPR, was recommended to me by a member of our fourth grade team.  It’s a longer podcast nearly an hour, but can be broken to shorter stories.  These stories contain snippets of Ted Talks and discussion with their subjects:  Richard Thaler, the author of Nudge and Carol Dweck, the author of Mindset.  I also have been considering the change model outlined in the book Switch.

So what does the author of Nudge say about change?  If you want to encourage people to do something,  make it easy.

The authors of Switch claim change is hard.  There are two systems at play in all change for folks:  the emotional system and the rationale system.  That’s why people can make a big decision like marriage, but have difficulty with diets.

I believe I am a professional nudger and change agent.  It’s a wonder that anyone ever talks to me.  My husband says about me pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. I would say,  hear that tiny voice over your shoulder that says give it a go. What’s to lose?  

It’s true I want change.  Sometimes the educators and students I work with do not.  That’s not it actually.  It’s partially that they don’t understand what change might do to improve  their instruction and they believe that what they are currently doing is working for their students.

It’s might also be about risk.  Risk is hard to take,  difficult to try.  Risk is messy.

The book Switch poses the miracle question,

“Suppose tonight, while you slept, a miracle occurred. When you awake tomorrow, what would be some of the things you would notice that would tell you life had suddenly gotten better?

Two things about this.  The changers have to see a problem, something they want to change. Then the changers have to be able to envision what better looks like.    Clare Landrigan wrote in her blog a few weeks ago about her own miracle question,  If successful we will…  That envisioning, drawing the light on what we view as success,  might be all we need.  That glimpse of what is wanted draws us toward it.

Here is my formation of this question,  What is the first small sign you would see, that would make you think “well, something must have happened,  the problem is gone“.  This question doesn’t ask you to describe the miracle itself,  it asks to identify the tangible signs that the miracle happened.  I also like this question,  When was the last time you saw just a little bit of the Miracle,  even if just for a short time?

That’s what I look for,  that little bit of the miracle,  the bright spot.  My friends,  if we are going to change anything,  students’ writing volume,   reading engagement,  curriculum,   school culture,  we have to start with that bright spot.  We have to recognize them, understand them, keep them in our field of view.

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img_1716To my writing community of Slicers,  thank you.  To Two Writing Teachers and all involved,  thank you for creating this community.  This day 14 of a 31 day Slice of Life Writing Challenge.  Read some amazing writing here.

 

 

 

Eavesdropping 101 #sol18

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Eavesdropping 101 #sol18

March 10, 2018

I never really thought much about eavesdropping until I had the pleasure of listening to Sarah Weeks last weekend at the TCRWPW reunion.  She actually recommended eavesdropping as the way she gets great snippets for her writing.  She told a wonderful story about eavesdropping on a proposal (turned down) at Starbucks.  This story and the idea of eavesdropping got me thinking,  not about proposals but about listening in.  So here’s some of the ways I eavesdrop.

Unabashedly

Meetings are a wonderful place to listen in.  During professional learning communities,  and others just listen in.   I admit readily in this company that this silence can be a challenge.  However, when  successful,  opportunity abound to learn something.  Nine times out of ten,  it’s something I had no idea about.  These tidbits could be things teachers are already trying,  things their worried about, how assessments work for them, and what they are hoping for with their students.   It’s mostly fair.  They know I’m there,  I try to blend in.  Most of the time it works out.

Random Snippets between Educators

This is slightly sneakier.  The act is unintentional.  I’m waiting… at the copier, for the bathroom or I’m walking down the hall, to the parking lot.  Lots of times, the educators include me in the chat which technically isn’t eavesdropping.  Also,  the conversations aren’t all that secret since we are all in public and they know I’m there.  I see what they are copying,  what their reading.  I notice what they ask each other about.

Random Snippets between Kiddos

Mostly this just helps me know about them.  What they like, what they read,  what they play,  who they chat most with.  Sometimes though,  I get real gems.  What they ask each other help in. How they support each other… or don’t.  When I have them turn and talk,  I get a full blast of whether I got the teach across.

Other Peoples’ Coaching

This is one of my favorite things, but I don’t get much opportunity to do this.  My current favorite humans to do this with are Tammy Mulligan and Clare Landrigan.  They are wonderful at coaching kiddos and their teachers.  If I had my notebook with me right now,  I’d drop some of their knowledge right on you.  For now,  follow Clare’s blog,  she’s pretty transparent about her coaching.

I also encourage people to eavesdrop on me.

When I am having a chat with a student

Definitely not so much for what I’m saying, but what the kiddos say.  This week I got a chance to plop down at a table with a bunch of coloring kindergarteners.  They were making books, but not stories.  As I began to talk to them about making these drawing collections into stories,  their teacher began to listen to me and more importantly to them.  The stories they created were wonderful treasures.  We didn’t miss out on the moment.

I love conferring in other peoples’ classrooms.  I’m pretty good at chat and I just chat up one child after another about whatever it is that they are working on.  It’s difficult for a teacher to get around to everyone every day, but when I am there, she can hear a snippet and run with it later.

Working with a small group

Usually,  when I work with one kiddo,  other friends around us hear.  Even when I’m quiet,  I’m not all that quiet.  Sometimes,  I gear my talk to the table, or a nearby friends that wouldn’t chat me up himself.  This works best in that active engagement or link.  Most of the time,  a review of focus lesson might ignite some thinking.

Talking to other teachers

Collaboration time for me in generally 1:1,  but sometimes people drop by or hear something and join in.  Hearing others’ questions or attempts can ignite a spark .

The Usual

I do like listening to nearby restaurant tables, people in line, folks in the waiting area… anywhere.  I haven’t taken to writing it down, yet.

Eavesdropping is noticing.  Noticing what matters to folks.  Noticing what people talk about day to day.  Noticing what is important.  Noticing leads to thinking.  Thinking leads to innovation.

img_1716 Still working on my writing every day in March thanks to the Slice of Life Story Challenge sponsored by Two Writing Teachers.

View from the Balcony #sol17

BalconyA View from the Balcony

May 2, 2017

I’ve been rushed lately or at least I feel rushed, like my to-do list is too long and I’m just racing through the days.  But today something slowed me down.  Today I was able to take in a view of our intermediate classrooms from the balcony so to speak.  I accompanied some consultants that were taking a quick view of our intermediate literacy block.  It was amazing to watch the reading workshops in action without having an agenda… or a role to play.   Clare referred me to an idea called ‘ watch from the balcony, lead from the floor’.   Think about how much we could learn, observe, think about when we just move through the classrooms and watch.

So today I moved through the intermediate classrooms in our building for just an hour or so during their reading workshop.  I moved quickly not staying too long in any one spot, but returning to see a little minilesson, small group, and a little independent work.  Most of these rooms, I’m in every single day.  During those days,  I have a purpose, a mission, goals.  Today,  I just watched.  Just looked.  The teachers were interested in what the consultants noticed.  No one asked me what I noticed, so the gems are my personal treasure.

I knew you all were amazing teachers but today I noticed…

Your students are listening.  They’ve learned the talk of reading workshop.  They can turn and talk, and really turn and talk.

You teach with ease.  You’re light on your feet.  You’re enjoying yourselves.  You know your stuff.

Everything in your rooms shows who you are as a teacher.  You treasure your anchor books you’ve shared.  You have a place for students to give feedback to you and each other.  You’re sharing yourselves with your students.

There’s trust.  The students trust you,  you trust them… and you all trust me.  No one hesitated for one second when I came and went from your room.  You smiled, the students smiled.  I smiled.

My smile was real.  I see the work that you’ve done.  The work that you’ve done with your students.  The work that we’ve done together.

I feel filled up.  I hope to take more of these side trips and I’m going to make sure you can take them too.

content driven literacy #sol17


IMG_6218“Without systematic attention to reading and writing in subjects like science and history, students will leave schools with an impoverished sense of what it means to use the tools of literacy for learning or even to reason within various disciplines.”  
Pearson, 2010

Brain Friendly Content Driven

March 29, 2017

I want to slip literacy, reading and writing, into content instruction the way spiralizers are slipping zucchini into my Italian cooking or perhaps the way I used to slip carrots into my meatloaf. With time is in short supply and content learning literacy is dense,  it’s critical  to slip parallel literacy in content teaching or content learning into literacy workshop.

When I first arrived at my K-4 school, I had much more experience in the primary grades.  In an effort to tie intervention to authentic work in grades 3-4 and provide support to struggling readers, I began to assist during content area instruction.  Initially,  I just shadowed the teacher and scaffolded the content literacy. Soon we began to collaborate on many different aspects of literacy in content area.

The most straight forward and the most difficult is providing rich text that is accessible to all students regardless of reading ability. Without too much detail, we have found much success with Newsela, which provides content at many reading levels.  We also use and save Scholastic News at many reading levels.  Often stories will appear in one grade level and be simplified in lower levels.  These are easily moved seamlessly between whole group, small group, and intervention. Wonderopolis is a daily and also searchable site for many ideas that student might research.  Try teaching them to use tags as described in Still Learning to Read.  I am also fascinated by the idea of creating a digital bin as demonstrated by Clare Landrigan here.  We continue to search out, share, and save content reading materials.

As with our informational reading,  the use of simple note taking organizers generated by students are  best.  We use box and bullets for main idea and details throughout grades 1-4 with gradients of detail.  Applying lessons we have learned about informational reading to content during other times of the day, scaffolding students to use techniques they have learned in reading workshop, frees up that working memory for content which many students are unfamiliar.  Using multimedia in primary sources, visual records,  and video assists students in accessing content and scaffolding vocabulary.

We began to explore ways for students to respond to content learning.  Inspired by the work of Beers and Probst in Reading Nonfiction  and Sunday Cummins’ Close Reading of Informational Text, we first tried paper and pencil tasks such as one of our favorites called Did You Know?  It’s a simple format based on the pages of this book,  Did You Know? We originally created the projects for our third grade study of the American Revolution.  This can be adapted to any science or social studies topic.  Here’s the simple sheet we created here.  We quickly moved with some students to google slides.  We like creating video presentations using QR codes to archive presentations.   These are also helpful for students to review content or share content with absent students.  We found these templates to be especially supportive for our more fragile learners.  Content area is a place where technology can be leveraged in a way to balance the accessibility of materials for all students.  Recently, we have begun experimenting with Seesaw as a digital portfolio tool with easy access for parents.

Remembering to keep the structure of how to read, of writing, and response to reading from workshop present in content instruction,  we can reduce cognitive overload for students and facilitate the access of content for all students.  Blurring the edges of content vs.  workshop can support student learning as well.  Reading aloud content connected texts, using historical fiction, informational books, and internet sources for small group work, and using the same nomenclature across all the parts of the day, strengthens students schema, capacity, and competency.

 

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thanks to Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis for first introducing me to content literacy.

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for 10 years of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  This is day 28 of 31.  Access many, many wonderful blogs here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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