#D100BloggerPD: Ditch That Textbook

Thursday, October 11, 2018


     This post is a part of the latest edition of #d100bloggerpd!  This time around we are reading Ditch That Textbook by Matt Miller.  The premise of the book is that textbooks are static and unchanging, and they start to go out of date the day they get printed.  A better alternative is to embrace technology and innovation and teach in the now.  

      About a decade or so ago, my admin had us do a purge of all the old textbooks that we had in our building.  They came from every hidden corner of the building.  No locker or spider webby closet was left alone on the search.  The halls were filled with obsolete basals.  So, I guess you can say that my school district has literally ditched that textbook.  (I really wish I had a picture to insert here.)

     Textbooks aren't really the issue, in my opinion.  I have used some before, and they are not all bad.    (I'm still not a huge fan, though...) But, you do need to be a critical consumer of all educational materials that we have access to.  The ideas he shared in my chapters were more innovation techniques that could be done even if a teacher decided to use a textbook as well.  I think it comes down to purpose and our intentionality as educators.  While my district does not rely on textbooks, I do think that district that do would still get some useful innovation strategies from Matt Miller.

     Since I am a literacy coordinator, I am going to make my chapter summary a bit more of a poetic summary this time around.  I am going to attempt to summarize my 5 chapters in haiku form.  That's right: 5-7-5.  I'll then follow it up with a one sentence summary, just for good measure.


Give students a voice!
Blog. Comment. Reflect. Respect.
Help shape their world view.

     If we allow our students to blog with an audience bigger than their teacher, and we support them with key lessons on commenting and content, then our students will have a global audience to share their world with.


A pen pal reboot...
Mystery Location Calls
Help flatten the world.

      The idea of the pen pals of my past is now replaced by connecting with others around the world using social media, technology, and Mystery Skype, yet I still have letters from my pen pals from 30 years ago.  Think about preserving those connections, too. (OK, that was 2 sentences.) 


Circulate. Question.
Management is management.
 Engage. Time. Respect.

     Classroom management in a digital classroom requires the same classroom management skills in a traditional classroom.  


Airtight plans = Not real.
"Inaction is crippling."
Action empowers.

     If you wait and plan and plan and plan some more so that it's perfect, there will still be obstacles that come your way, so just jump in and try.



I want it all... NOW.
That leads to classroom chaos.
Be intentional.

     More tech is not better tech, just like tech for the sake of tech is not a reason to use tech at all.

     That's it!  Those were my five chapters, summarized in haiku with a one sentence summary follow up.  If you want to read more about his suggestions for innovation, check out Matt Miller's Ditch That Textbook.

Did you want to read more of this #d100bloggerPD series?  
  • Check out Colleen Noffisinger's kick off post here.
  • The post right before mine was actually a vlog from Justin Gonzalez at It Worked.
  • The next post will be from Amy Gorzkowski at Grammar Mamma.  

A Retelling Recounting Summarizing Ladder

Sunday, September 16, 2018


     As a district coach and Literacy Coordinator, I tend to see trends across grades and schools.  About 6 years ago, we saw a trend that kids didn't use the text to answer questions.  We added some strategy lessons to our instruction, and we no longer see that trend.  It's just about noticing and responding.  We are now noticing that we have a common struggle with comprehension, especially with the more complex texts in grades 3-5.  We notice that we teach strategies to decode, and those strategies become habits that lead to the skill of accurate reading.  However, when it comes to thinking about the meaning in the text, those strategies are less often becoming habits of mind for our readers.  They stop and think when we ask them, but not always on their own as a habit.  And, as we all know, reading is meaning.

     For example, as students in our district schools start to read chapter books, we see a common issue.  They start to read longer books without picture support, and they often get all the way to the middle of the book and still not know the problem in the story.  Knowing books and their structure, I know that they just missed it.  But, missing the problem in the story has a dramatic effect on their ability to comprehend moving forward.  Could a more systematic way to introduce how to retell/ recount/ summarize help our students with the most basic form of comprehension?  If we expect students to go deep on a story, don't they need to be able to identify the basic plot first?


Thanks, LEGO.

      It's like when my daughter builds a LEGO house.  She sometimes doesn't want to find the green base, so she builds without it.  While the house initially looks good, as she makes it bigger, it tends to break.  Without the green base foundation, it isn't as solid.  She also can't add those "crafty" details to the house that make it unique, like fences and gardens and other people visiting. Is the ability to retell/ recount/ summarize like taking the time to find that LEGO base?  If we do that, will their overall comprehension of the story be able to do deeper and be stronger?  I personally think it will be, and if we focus on that in K-2, then our 3+ students will be able to build LEGO skyscrapers when they read their novels.  :)

     This is a problem I have witnessed in our upper graders.  4th and 5th graders who are analyzing character traits and motivations, but fail to notice the historical setting that would actually shed light on those motivations.  Or books with multiple plot lines, but because they don't think to identify those multiple problems from the start, they get all confused.  Or, as students get into book clubs, the simple act of not calling a character by their actual name in conversation that leads to confusion by the entire group.  These three scenarios all fall into basic areas: setting, character, problem, solution.  How can we support that?

***Sidenote: There are many reasons comprehension might break down.  Text level, genre, length, background knowledge, context, etc.  Even if we teach retelling/ recounting/ summarizing until it becomes a habit, those factors will still make comprehension change for readers with each text.  This blog post focuses on RL2 because that has been the focus of our common assessment work.  To read more about comprehension in general, you should check out Jen Serravallo's Understanding Texts and Readers.


     Our district is working on common assessments, and we have talked a lot about a vertical alignment of grades as we teach to the Common Core standards.  We prioritized the standards that we want on those common assessments down to the ones that we feel would best support kids as they moved across grade levels.  In addition to early literacy focus on running records and sight words, the comprehension assessments we created in primary focus heavily on RL2: the ability to retell/ recount/ summarize.  But, in isolation, each grade level might not see their smaller LEGO brick piece to the bigger LEGO house.  Each grade level supports the next on our common build.  (Sorry, we speak in LEGO at our house.)

     A common assessment on retelling/ recounting/ summarizing as the grades go from kindergarten to third grade will not help if students just focus on it for the assessment.  The true power to focus on meaning has to start with a consistent few minutes after a read aloud, a consistent few minutes during a reading conference, a consistent few minutes during partner routines, etc.  As students read, they need to think.  Our instructional sequence has to include the ability to read the words, and the expectation that we think about what we have read. 

If your goal for students is to pause and think about the meaning in a book, both while they are reading and after they have finished a book, consider for a moment how your instruction currently supports that goal.

Do kids read the words on the page fluently and independently while they read?
Do kids think about what the words mean, what they mean together as a text, and how that message connects to their world?

To be readers, they need to do BOTH.

     The following are instructional supports that could be used to support thinking during/after reading in K-3 classrooms.  I suggest below a simple suggestion of giving a minute or two after a read aloud, but they could be used in many other instructional ways.  The point I am trying to make is that we should work together as teachers, and expect more, as the texts our students read grow in complexity.  But, if we expect more, we have to model it and give them time to explore those new ways of thinking with explicit strategies taught in mini lessons, and give time for purposeful practice (like after a read aloud or during independent reading) to transfer.  The images below are sort of a ladder to keep in mind as our students progress from Level A/B/C books to level O/P books and beyond.

If in kindergarten, after most every read aloud, we stopped for a minute or two to model our own thinking or give time to think and connect about:
Many texts at this level don't have a problem and solution, 
so keeping them categorized as "events" will be flexible enough 
depending on if you read a leveled text, or a higher level story book.

If in first grade, after most every read aloud, we stopped for a minute or two to model our own thinking or give time to think and connect about:
You'll notice the space to draw.  Modeling your thinking about
the way you would draw is also an important strategy kids 
in first need.  This will also support their ability to illustrate their own narratives.

If in second grade, after most every read aloud, we stopped for a minute or two to model our own thinking or give time to think and connect about:
Here, as we expect those components of a retell in order, 
so it becomes a recount of the story.
We also expect that the problem, events, and solution support each other.

If in second/third grade, after most every read aloud, we stopped for a minute or two to model our own thinking or give time to think and connect about:
This is my favorite way to summarize, and we should start introducing it in 2nd,
because as kids start chapter books, their recounts could turn into chapter books themselves. 
It works will all levels of text that have a problem, and also helps plan for narrative story writing.
When I confer with kids who know SWBST, that's how I start all my conferences.
If you want to read more about this strategy, check out 
When Kids Can't Read/What Teachers Can Do by Kylene Beers.


I replaced her original characters because of copyright concerns...
Insert Piggie and Gerald in your mind. :)

     As you look at those, you probably see the same graphics used, but applied in a slightly more rigorous way.  Our expectations change as text complexity changes, but that doesn't mean we start all over again.  When I was making these visuals, I consistently used the graphics that one of our first grade teachers had used while making a 5 Finger Retell poster for her team.  While all K-3 teachers don't use the 5 Finger Retell because the books they read are not the same complexity level, the pieces are the same.  Thanks Amelia Workman (@theWorksInFirst) for letting be build on your original work.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  
     I think that the act of retelling itself is important, but that could occur in someone's head once they know how to do it.  It does NOT need to always be done on paper.  For a common assessment, having children do some word/phrase/sentence level writing is not unheard of if it aligns with your purpose.  But, exercise caution.  Adding a short discussion to the end of a text is very different than expecting a written summary after every book kids read.  Please do not go overboard.  We want children to be able to retell/ recount/ summarize. That does not mean that we have to kill the joy of reading by overusing the strategies above.  We just want that habit of thinking to form.

     Reading is not just decoding.  How can we support making meaning as teachers?  A great first step is talking across your grade levels to see how you support each other instructionally. We are #bettertogether.



Writing Summer Camp With Jennifer Serravallo (Week 1)

Monday, July 2, 2018


     This summer, the wonderful Jennifer Serravallo is hosting a #WritingSummerCamp via Facebook.  Each week is devoted to a different genre of writing, and each day she teaches us a mini lesson from her The Writing Strategies Book before she challenges us to write for 10 minutes to try it out.  By the end of the week, we have a finished piece!  

     Last week, she helped us write a narrative story.  Each day she took us through the process wheel (found on page 13 in her book).   

The strategies she had us try last week were:
3.24 Wonder, "What if?..." (Generating and Collecting Ideas)
  • This is a great strategy for writing blurbs of possible stories.  

5.8 Uh-Oh...  UH-OH... Phew.  (Choosing and Rehearsing)
  • LOVED this one.  It's her take on the story arc.

6.32 Writing Through a Mask (Rehearsing/ Developing)
  • OK, maybe this one was my favorite.  It challenged me to think a bit differently about my story, and the point of view that I tend to write.  Forcing myself to rehearse it from different points of view helped me quite a bit as an author.

10.12 Moving Quickly (or Slowly) Through Time (Drafting)
  • I loved her use of mentor text with this one!

9.31 Considering Sentence Length (Revision)
  • I found her modeling of this strategy using her own writing to be especially effective.

Symphony Share (Publishing)
  • Check out the sentences shared on the Facebook group.  They were great!


     What a week!  I really liked all of the strategies.  To be honest, I struggled a bit with ideas on Monday.  I tend to have trouble writing fiction.  But, these strategies helped me!  By the end of the week, I was an author.  Not a great one, but an author nonetheless.  :)

     If you want to join this week, she is guiding us through poetry!  Just go to The Reading and Writing Strategies Book Community on Facebook and follow along.  All the videos are recorded, so you can go at your own pace.  :)

     Here is my story...

Lifeguard Sealy

The waves were crashing all around me in the giant wave pool at the Dells.  I was standing with both feet on the ground, yet the rubber souls of my pool shoes did little to keep me secured in my spot.  Every time a wave came, I would be gently pushed deeper in as I shrieked with joy. I’d then wipe my goggles clean and wait for the next one, each time a little farther from the shore.  

    Each time a little farther from Sealy.

    Sealy, my stuffed arctic seal, was watching me from our table.  I didn’t hide him in the bags with our clothes and sandals. Instead, I made a low tower of towels and put him on top, giving him a view of me splashing around, as if he were a lifeguard on duty.  I just wished he could swim with me, too, like he does everything else. Plushies and pools just don’t mix.

    After I had splashed around for a long time, I remembered Sealy again.  I glanced across the room towards his post, but didn’t see him on the towels.  I moved my goggles to the top of my head, thinking perhaps it was the foggy plastic keeping me from seeing him.  It wasn’t. Sealy was gone.

   I ran through the waves towards the table, sobbing and shouting his name.  Sometimes I forget that stuffed animals can’t really hear us. I still tried.  Tears streamed down my face, and it was hard to tell what was water dripping from the waves, and what was spilling from my eyes.  A difference seemed to be the taste of salt on my lips, and the feeling of panic that now filled me. I just can’t lose my seal.

    I looked in the swim bag.
    I looked under the table.
    I looked on the ground under the tables around us.

    No Sealy.

    I asked my brother to help me look.  My seal wasn’t by the slides, or the rafts, or the beach chairs.  I sat down on a chair, put my head in my hands, and sobbed. My best friend was lost.

    Suddenly, my mom appeared above me.  Under her arm was a little white face wearing a pair of my spare goggles.  He glanced down at me, as did she.

    “Sealy!” I shrieked with joy, and my mom looked at me with a confused expression as I reached for him.

    “Did you think Sealy was lost?  I’m sorry, Keira, but he was sitting on our table, and lots of little kids seemed to think that he was their new friend.  We can’t leave him out like that. So, I put on your extra goggles, and we walked around watching you together. We can't replace Sealy.  We need to be more careful.”

    My mom dried my tears, and I sat with Sealy for a while, snuggling his little plastic nose against mine.  Relief washed over me like a wave in the pool, and the water seemed to call me again. I looked back at my mom, straightened Sealy’s goggles, and handed him back to her.  

    “Sealy wants to watch me go down the waterslide.  Make sure he seems me splash into the water!”

    I ran off, happy to be reunited with my best friend again.  He’ll make a better lifeguard in the safe hands of my mom, anyway.


    

Roz Taught Me

Saturday, April 21, 2018

     This post is a celebration of the things that Dr. Roz Linder taught me before she left us this past winter.  I'm still so saddened by the loss of her joyful spirit, but the gifts she gave freely to the world are still visible every day.


     I first saw her in person with a group of writing leaders from my district.  We went to a workshop in Chicago in 2015, and gathered before a woman who inspired us to become better writing teachers.

 

     Roz's workshop happened at the beginning of my professional sketchnoting experience.  I brought a pad of paper and markers, and "sketchnoted" her session.  I had been practicing my sketchnoting skills as a reader for private use in a journal.  Roz actually complimented my notes, and when I got home I thought, "Perhaps I should share these with my staff."  Since then, I always sketchnote at conferences and share the notes via Twitter for my coworkers back at school.  Because it became easier to use my iPad, Roz remains the only conference I have ever sketchnoted on paper.  But, you could say that she helped me formalize my plan of sharing my learning with others.  Thanks, Roz.

 

     One of the things that really resonated with me from that particular conference was the idea of establishing context when writing an essay, and then the idea of strong evidence based responses.  She helped me find my direction when coaching teachers in writing, and in strengthening my feedback with students.


     Over the years, I have still found myself talking about the little cards she passed out at that workshop, where she had us know the pieces of an essay, but then use those pieces flexibly depending on the card we randomly received.  She really helped me open my mind to how to promote non-formulaic writing.  I still have the card I used to write an essay that day from Roz.



      Writing with Voice is NOT a Unicorn, but Roz really was.  She was passionate, and intelligent, and joyful, and kind.  She was a blessing to the world, and we will miss her.


#sol18: We Did It!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

#SOL18: March 31st

We Did It!


 

     There were days when it seemed like the mountain was too hard to climb.

     There were moments when staring at my computer, idealess, seemed like a new way of life.

     There were times when I thought, "Yeah.  That was a good run."

     And yet here I am!  It's March 31st, and I did it!  I blogged every day in March for the Slice of Life Challenge.  I almost did it last year, but missed a few days.  This year, not only did I write every day, but I visited classrooms in our district to blog with them, and I read the posts of the student bloggers pictured about almost every night.  

     We did it.  We did it.  WE DID IT.  

#sol18: Easter Basket Wishes

Friday, March 30, 2018

#SOL18: March 30th

Easter Basket Wishes


     Does the Easter Bunny take wish lists when filling Easter baskets?  Also, do adults get Easter baskets if they fill out a wish list?  Here goes, just in case the big bunny wants to fills a basket of goodies for this kid at heart.  I won't be greedy.  I'll keep the list to 5 items.  

1.  Matching pairs of socks for my kids.  I really don't want to fold all those mismatched socks.

2.  A new pair of sunglasses, just in case I never find the 4 pairs I seem to have lost

3.  Milk chocolate candy that does NOT contain any type of marshmallow or crisped rice

4.  Stamps.  I still need to mail a bill, and I ran out.

5.  Those mint chocolate candies that used to be in my basket as a kid.  Such sweet memories!

   I've got my fingers crossed!

#sol18: Lonely at Starbucks

Thursday, March 29, 2018

#SOL18: March 29th

Lonely at Starbucks



     After school I decided to stop and meet some coworkers at Starbucks.  I was running late, so they were already there.  I figured I would just pop in for a late latte.  Or perhaps a tardy tea.  Or a detained decaf?  That's crazy.  I don't do decaf.

     I parked my car and went in.  I opened the door, and scanned the room.  They were nowhere to be seen.  That's impossible.  They should be already here.  Isn't this Lyons?

      I then realized that I was at the wrong Starbucks.  I suppose when there are so many in one area, there is a danger that you can go to the wrong one.  LaGrange and Lyons start with the same letter.  Yeah, it makes total sense that I would mix that up.  Or, I just need a good night's sleep.

      Hey, at least I had a cinnamon almond milk macchiato to keep me company as I stood there, lonely at Starbucks.