A Little Love for Lester Laminack

Saturday, April 11, 2015

     Here I go again...  Another photo opp with a famous literacy leader.  :)

     +Anne Kruder and +Felicia Frazier had signed up to go to a workshop about writing, but I was unfamiliar with the presenter.  I heard he was a prolific author, but I do not have any copies of his books.  But, those ladies are SUPER SMART.  If they know this man, then I need to go see him.  So, I registered for Lester Laminack.  My son woke up with a fever that morning, and I almost did not go, but knowing how intelligent Anne and Felicia are, I figured out a way to go for most of the conference.  And boy, were they right.   I have a lit coach crush on Lester Laminack now. 

Lester's Thoughts on the Common Core

Everyone who talks about the Common Core is offering their interpretation.  It doesn't mean they are right.  
Side Note: That includes well intentioned literacy coaches like myself.

The 4 corners of the page, on a literacy level, means to stay on the page.  That could mean to support our own thinking with text examples, or close reading text to create deeper understanding.

The words "close reading" are not in the Common Core.
(BTW, I have heard this A LOT.  It's true.  I checked.)

Close reading means many things to many people.  It is probably not this, though.
Lester modeled a first grade close reading for us.  It reminded me of my son and daughter, so I snapped a shot the next time my son did it.  Lester's face was closer to the book, though.   I guess my son needs some help with close reading.  :)

If we only focus on text dependent questions, then we are going back to AR type questions.  Let's not go back 20 years.  Use the text to support ideas, not to answer a question and move on.

CCSS is a huge step in the right direction, compared to No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.  

If you drink the Kool-Aide, then you won't see flexibility.  Be careful when drinking the Kool-Aide for the next big thing.  
(This is where I was shouting in my head, "Balanced Literacy!!!  Everything has a place!!!  Balance!)

He talked about how, over time, things have gotten blown out of proportion and given too much focus for the wrong reasons.  Big books, leveled books, nonfiction focus, close reading... Things become a FOCUS rather than a piece of the bigger puzzle.  So true.  

Lester Laminack feels that the Common Core is really saying make everything reading and writing intensive, but make reading and writing reciprocal processes like addition and subtraction.  Use one to teach the other.  Use what you are teaching in reading, and flip it to writing too.

Lester's Thoughts on Read Alouds

This part of the day has really made me think about the scaffolds and supports that we give our kids when they read.  He mentioned how he had gone to see a movie (Black Swan), and was totally blown away by the ending.  So, he took two different friends to see it.  One he had prepped for what he wanted them to notice, and one he didn't  The one he didn't enjoyed the movie more, because they were able to make their own meaning.  

This really struck me.  How often do we give our students very specific lenses to read?  How often do those lenses make it impossible for them to focus on what they want to focus on?  Are we allowing our students to think independently while reading, too?

I started a whole teacher book club to test this idea out.  More on that in another post...

After the talked about Black Swan, he also said that the first read of a read aloud should be a "Movie Read."  You read it like a movie, with no stop and jots, no think alouds, etc.  You just read it for enjoyment, and let the kids process it on their own.  Then, when you revisit it (say to close read it with a lens) you model those strategies.  Leave the kids hanging a bit, and let them explore their own meaning.  

He also said something that I really feel makes Balanced Literacy work all that much more effectively.  He said that we should look in our rearview mirror and look at what we taught in reading, and use that to teach writing using anchor texts.  I think we do that a lot at Hiawatha, but sometimes it isn't exactly in our rearview mirror.  Perhaps we need to let the concepts sink in a little more before we can expect to see them in our writing, too.

Closing Thoughts

     Sadly, I had to leave at lunch to take my son to the doctor.  Ear infection.  Ugh.  I hope he comes again so that I can experience the work with picture books!!!  That seriously would have been my favorite part- digging through our favorite pictures books to find anchor texts for writing.  That is right up my alley. 

     I started writing this post over a month ago, but the Slice of Life Challenge distracted me from finishing it.  I was reminded when he tweeted the cover of his next book, which will go into much more detail the ideas I described here.

     He also right at the beginning of the day that I'd like to close with.  It really resonated with me.  He said that many of our readers just jet ski through a text.  They stay at the surface.  I find that so frequently with the students at our school, and most commonly the ones who are at grade level and above.  I can't wait to read his book and perhaps change my instructional practices a bit, hoping that our readers dive in, rather than just skim the surface.  

     Until then, time to fill my Amazon wish list with his titles...

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I have been thinking so much about all of these things since leaving his talk on Friday, too-- it was just SO good... so rich... so many things to think about. I particularly like this line: Things become a FOCUS rather than a piece of the bigger puzzle. I hope your little one feels better!