Posts Tagged ‘Educators’

Class Seventeen – Students thinking about Text/Image Relationship

Today we began again with writing and adding detail. We wrote and then passed our work around so that we could read each others and ask questions. This worked well. Each person (myself included) got their work returned with questions from two people. Then we went back and answered the questions. I think that both Franklin and Adam realized that they were leaving things out that their reader wanted to know. Tomorrow, I’ll ask them to ask questions of their own writing and try to answer them. My goal is to show them, while getting feedback from someone is good, how they can work on adding details to their writing to make it more interesting.

The work on “A Circle of Friends” is going well. I printed out the text for each page last night and today the guys cut them out and figured out where on the page they should go. A couple will have to get formatted to fit in a tall narrow spot and three or four got split between two pages or split to go in different spots on the page. They decided that two should involve the font getting bigger to make the image of the words reflect the meaning of the words. It really showed that they were thinking about the text and the relationship it has with the images. I simply made changes to the digital copy, and asked one or two questions; they did the work and the thinking – SCORE!! I was starting to wonder if this project purpose had gotten lost. Today showed me that it wasn’t and in fact it was better than I’d hoped for.

Tomorrow will be the big push to get all the projects done. In addition to the aforementioned project, Adam is creating a fake Facebook wall and Franklin is performing his reading of “Falling Up” that we will record and show. I hope it can all get done!! Time has really flown for these seventeen classes, I can’t believe that after two more it will be over and I’ll have my Masters – SWEET!!


Class Fifteen – Being a Coach

Today’s class focused on Literacy Leadership. Now I know you might be saying “Wait, weren’t the last Friday’s spent on that?” To which I’d reply “You’ve been reading my blog?!” Then I’d go on to explain that it is a big topic. Today the focus was on not students but colleagues. Being a resource for teachers regardless of title.

To coach is to convey a valued colleague from where he or she is to where he or she wants to be. – Art Costa

I’m not familiar with Costa (you can click his name above to go to his site) but Peter said that he is very careful about the words he chooses. He asked what stood out to us in this quote. To me it is what I emphasized with underline and bold. The goal of the coach isn’t to push or cajole someone to a place of the coaches choosing, it is to be a bridge to help them reach their goal. This bridge metaphor really resonates with me and I use it as an introduction on my resume website.

We discussed a few scenarios in class that made us think about how we would act in a coaching role and were given a prompt to respond to as homework. Here is the scenario to which I am to respond:

Lee has been teaching seventh grade Language Arts for fifteen years and completed his master’s degree in literacy three years ago. He provides reading and writing workshops for her students and differentiates according to their needs. His students are very successful.

Janet has been teaching seventh grade Language Arts for the same amount of time, but her students are not doing as well as others in her department. In fact, her students have made the least gains in seventh grade for several years in a row. She typically teacher with whole class novels.

At the weekly PLC meeting, Janet shares that she is frustrated by her students’ progress. She reaches out to the group for help. Lee is not the school’s literacy specialist, but he knows that his students are successful. He wants to help but is not sure how to go about it.


The questions I’m to answer are: What would you do if you were Lee? How would you act as a coach to support your colleague? Have you ever been in a similar situation? What did you do? How did it work out?

I’ll let you think about how you’d answer before sharing my own. . .

Continue reading

Class Thirteen – Collaboration&Connections

We’ve reached a point where I’m able to refer back to things we’ve talked about: imagery, exploding the moment, making connections, visualizing, the relationship between words and images, etc – in relation to the work we’re doing now. It is satisfying to watch Adam and Franklin discuss if a page needs text or stands on its own, or if text on one page can cover two images and hear them reasoning it out and justifying it. Today they went through, looked at the notes I made for each of them, and took turns writing down the text for every other page of A Circle of Friends. They started out not really talking about it but as it became clear that they had to know what the other wrote they discussed what they wrote and made small changes as they went along. Tomorrow we’ll lay the text out and see what needs to be changed. I pointed out that they started in 3rd person, but Franklin began writing in 1st person. So, it flipped back and forth between 1st and 3rd. Adam thinks it sounds better in 1st, they’ll make that decision together tomorrow.

We started the day talking about storyboarding. I showed my example (Exploding!!!) that I wrote for EDU 566 and talked about that I didn’t have to storyboard but that it helped me pick a topic and to slow down a moment like we had talked about yesterday (Class Twelve – Progress). Then they tried it. I suggested things they could try based on previous things they wrote or to look back at the map we drew as a prompt. It was a bit of a struggle to get started but Adam chose a story he’d told me this morning about teaching a friend to dive and their subsequent belly flop. Franklin decided to make up a story but it was not as inventive as his usual stories. To do it again I would give him the opportunity to orally rehearse his story before having him represent it graphically. Once we had some pictures drawn we shared them and then I asked them to write based on the pictures, to slow time down and engage the readers’ senses. Adam got stuck on how to describe how the diving board moved and we sketched it out to try to figure out the best way to describe it. Franklin didn’t enjoy this; I suggested picking one of the squares from his storyboard and focusing on that. He tried but this just didn’t work for him. I’m okay with that though, each strategy doesn’t have to be a gem for every student. I’m just giving them tools to put into their tool box, maybe storyboarding will hang out at the bottom of the box and get dusty, but maybe one day he’ll find a need for it. The strategy worked well for Adam, he even went back to it while writing to figure out some details.

There isn’t much time left in the program, four more coaching day, six more days for me. I wasn’t sure what kind of impact I was going to make in such a short time but I do see it, it isn’t ginormous but it is there and with the four days left I know that the mini-lessons we’ve done will find a place in the projects we’re doing and find a solid home in their tool box.

Class Twelve – Progress

The interaction between Franklin and Adam has been an interesting thing to watch evolve. Yesterday Franklin wanted to go to the library, to which I said absolutely and made time for it. He picked out another Shel Silverstein book (Falling Up) and to my surprise Adam picked one out too (A Giraffe and a Half). Today Franklin read two poems aloud, acting out the first one. Adam read part of his book aloud and asked Franklin to read a part as fast as he could. They each tried. Franklin made a copy of the passage to turn into a rap. Franklin’s unabashed interest in reading (and performing) is having a positive impact on Adam, just as I’d hoped. A little conversation with Mom revealed that this “I don’t like to read” attitude is new since middle school. I hope that this summer’s workshop will change that attitude (and it seems to be already) and will carry over, or at least not slip as far back, once school starts.

The discussion on Theme today wasn’t terrific. They understood it but the heat was making it difficult for all of us. I used the Lorax as an example to talk about theme as we’d just read it yesterday. Adam came up with some good themes, Franklin seemed distracted but participated when I asked him directly. Then we tried to talk about When You Reach Me. Trying to pull a theme out of this book while half way through is difficult. I thought it was a good compliment to the Lorax to show them that the theme isn’t always obvious.

We got out of the building and found a cooler spot to spend SSR and Read Aloud time. As they read or I read, I asked them to make a note of a scene that they could picture in their mind and that we’d try to draw that scene after. Franklin had Read Aloud first and stopped me to point out three different scenes that he could picture. Adam chose one from his independent reading book.We trudged upstairs, grabbed materials and sat on the floor at the bottom of a stairwell where it was deliciously cool. They both enjoyed this activity and when I asked them why we try to visualize when we read Adam immediately said that it helps understand the book and Franklin said that it helps get into the book.

I truncated the explode the moment activity because of the heat. I talked about slowing a moment down, read an example that I wrote, showed some videos of slow motion (see them here and here and here) and talked about real-time and being able to slow it down as you write. I’d like to come back to it because I think it is fun and connect back to imagery.
Lastly they worked on their Fake Facebook walls (Adam’s for Hatchet and Franklin‘s for Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life -he hasn’t had as much time as Adam to work on it) and finished reading A Circle of Friends. Once both of the boys had finished going through A Circle of Friends and talking about each page I went through and put each of their sticky notes containing the brief description they’d given me together on each page. This way they can go through and see what the other came up with and collaboratively choose one or edit them together or come up with something else.

We headed back to the room so that Franklin could perform the poem he’d picked. He did a reading of the title poem from Falling Up to which he added some actions. Then he read another. Looking at the book it looked like he had marked a couple of poems. Back inside Adam shared (as I mentioned already) and while Franklin was transcribing the passage Adam looked at A Circle of Friends and a conversation sprung up between them “How did you know it was money? I thought it was a book!” They were discussing the process in which they made meaning of the images! It was brilliant. Then Franklin took the book and went through and narrated a story to it that was very good, his delivery is dramatic and ‘serious’, the vocabulary he chose and the way he crafted the sentences made it sound like there were words in the book he was reading instead of coming up with them right then.

I’m feeling pretty good about the project. I think that the boys will work well together and they will question each other’s choices in a productive way. I’m excited to get started on the next step.

Class Ten – Yay me!

On Professional Development Friday we talked about Best Practices. What are they? How do you recognize them? As we began to discuss these questions Peter (co-director of the program) pointed out that we were all talking about qualities of practices rather than specific practices. Then he laid out some things to think about when planning instruction:

    • Be intentional – know what you are teaching and why you are teaching it and why you are teaching it that way
    • CREATE motivation
    • BE GUIDED by assessment
    • CUSTOMIZE to meet needs
    • INVITE meaningful Applications
      • (context of real world, of their world)
    • ENGAGE in rich (meaningful) text
      • (Broad definition of ‘text’)
    • PROVIDE sufficient time and space

All of these things speak to me, the ones that grab my attention most is “create motivation”, “Invite meaningful Applications”, and “Engage in rich text”. Without motivation, you will get crappy work, or at least work that has been done to the barest minimum and will have NO IMPACT on the students’ LEARNING! Which is the whole point, right? Meaningful Applications with rich texts. This will create Motivation. If kids aren’t aware of how and why what they are doing fits within the real world (or their world, which isn’t always the same as the real world) then they are going to roll their eyes at you and whine “why are we doing this?!” I have made it my mission as a teacher to never hear this question. It is part of my larger mission to be transparent with my students about my teaching methods and motivation.

Providing learning experiences that relate to the real world (though school is real too) is important. As an ETEP student I interned at King Middle School in Portland, Maine. It was amazing. So amazing that as soon as I was hired into a teaching position I started lauding the Expeditionary model to everyone and anyone who would listen (read more about EL). Eventually the admin got on board and sent the 8th grade team and some related arts teachers and the curriculum coordinator to attend a two-day workshop at King, provided paid summer time to plan an expedition and made a five-year plan to bring the school into EL. This past year we pulled off our first Expedition (see the Truth Posters, read the Press coverage). The seventh grade went to the King workshop last year and are planning their first Expedition for the upcoming year. It is very exciting and has led to fantastic learning experiences and demonstrations of learning.

Related to this are the three Influences on Learning:

    • Environment
    • Texts and Materials
    • Instruction

As this list appeared during the PowerPoint, I really focused on Environment, which to me includes a sense of community and the culture of the class and school. Before class I went to the Registrar’s office to get a copy of my English Degree. I want to display it in my classroom as a subtle way of showing that education is valued. I’m proud that I have my BA (my MA Ed will go up too) and believe that education is important. I think that kids will see it, look at it, and ask me about it providing me an opening to talk about their thoughts on education and it’s importance.

The sessions on specific stages of literacy development were good, strategies were shared and I always enjoy that.

Back with Team Awesome we split up and looked at our last lesson plan and talked about planning for Monday and gave each other feedback. I found this very useful. Emily asked me great questions that made me think about the big picture plan – something we’ve both been struggling with. I also found it helpful just to talk about what I’m doing and how it’s going, yes I blab on and on here but a live interactive (ahem you could comment on this post and make it more interactive!) audience is so much better. Hearing what she is doing and how it is going and trying to help her answer the questions she was so invigorating (really? am I that geeky about teaching? . . . um yes I am!). This is kind of professional development that makes me wish time would hurry up so I can get back in the classroom.

Though this discussion I realized something: I have good ideas about helping kids! Go me!

It feels a bit weird to say that, I don’t feel that comfortable patting myself on the back like that. I like to think that I’m a good teacher, but I cringe at the idea of saying it out loud for fear of the reaction it would bring. “I’ve only been teaching for three years, how good could I really be”, but within those three years I’ve watched and learned and listened and experimented and pushed myself and my students and my school to be the best we can, and before those three years everything was leading up to me becoming a teacher; working in a teen group home, the 1:1 behavior specialist work I did, the classes and discussions and choices I made have helped shape the person and teacher I am. So it isn’t just those three years, it is also the path through life that I took to get here. Just like readers bringing all their schema to a text, teachers bring all their life experience to their teaching.

Day six – Literacy Leaders

Literacy leaders hold tremendous potential for shaping and changing the world. – Mary Ellen Vogt

Fridays are professional development days – no students. The first 2/3 of the class was spent discussing the idea and practice of Literacy Leadership. I was introduced to the International Reading Association (IRA), something I should have heard of but hadn’t. The site is a wealth of information (a bit overwhelming at first) but Peter pointed us to two specific pages. The first was the Professional Standards as set out by the IRA. The second was a description of the role of the Reading Specialist.  I’ll comment on the standards once I’ve had a chance to read through them. The role of the Reading Specialist we spent some time on and is broken down into three areas [this is copy and pasted from the site]:

  • Instruction—The reading specialist supports classroom teaching, and works collaboratively to implement a quality reading program
  • Assessment—The reading specialist evaluates the literacy program in general, and can assess the reading strengths and needs of students and communicate these to classroom teachers, parents, and specialized personnel such as psychologists, special educators, or speech teachers
  • Leadership—The reading specialist is a resource to other educators, parents, and the community

Reflecting on these areas and the Literacy Specialist in the school I work in confirms that we are doing good work at Shapleigh. Our Literacy Specialist is awesome. She is very supportive of teachers and student needs and will work with either or both to brainstorm strategies or talk about books. She also has been working with teachers to implement our reading program by modeling in the classrooms, offering professional development, and collaborating with the staff on changing/tweaking the program. She also monitors SRI scores and plays a big part in standardized testing administration and analysis of the data from those tests. Through all this work she is a constant resource for me as a new teacher for bouncing ideas off, asking for advice about students, and of course books!

The last 1/3 of class we spent in our small group – wait I just have to say that I wish I could teach at a school with this group of amazing people, we could change the face of education – of course we’d only teach English, Spanish, and History (I don’t think we have any math or science teachers in our group but the Humanities would be covered!) – engaged, caring, curious, helpful, nice, excited, collaborative, open-minded people that I feel lucky to be able to work with for this short time.  So anyway, back to our regularly scheduled blog post. . .

In our small group we talked about the Instructional plans we’d drafted based on the IRI and our observations of our students (if you missed an installment you can read about all that here: Day three – the IRI and Day Four – Goals) It was helpful to talk about what we had come up with and clarify all the questions we had. After a group hashing out session we paired up and went through a protocol that helped us assess our Instructional plan.

This is my favorite kind of professional development. Sitting around a box of munchkins (Thanks Jenn!) talking about teaching and books and strategies and asking questions about what we’re doing and how long the case study has to be (2-4 pages if you’re wondering) and getting ideas and getting energized about what we do, what we’re doing, and what we’re going to try. This type of loosy-goosy, kind of unstructured but still focused discussion is what I benefit most from. I can chime in or sit back and just absorb it all either way I’m learning and growing as a teacher and person – so thanks again group (we really need a team name!).

If you wonder where I find some of the cool websites I’ve mentioned (ex. you might check out my twitter feed, it is all (okay mostly) education based.  I usually just re-tweet what others post about links and articles and advice.

Coat of Arms

In preparation for EDU 639 I had to create the above “Coat of Arms” Each section had a specific item that needed to occupy the space. I also had to explain my choices, which follows:

Section 1: Mythical Beast-Egyptian Sphinx (Greek Sphinx would eat those who gave wrong answers!)

The Sphinx asks difficult questions that make the person being asked to think carefully and often differently. I urge students to think by asking them questions. I urge them to think by developing their own questions and questioning skills.

Section 2: Symbol – Ying-Yang = Balance

Walking the line between covering the required content and teaching skills students need to be, not only good students, but good people is a challenge. Making the delivery engaging but keeping the focus on the content, not the technology is a challenge. Not spending all my time working and having a life outside the classroom can be challenging. That is why working to strike and/or maintain balance is so important in every aspect of  my professional and personal life.

Section 3: Color(s)

Green=Growth In the Language Arts classroom a definitive endpoint in learning is hard to find. Much of what is done is skill based and therefore practice and honing and deepening the skills is what we work on. In 8th grade, 99% of the students will not master the skills they’re learning/practicing. That is why growth is important, I want to see a progression and improvement in students.

Blue=Calm, Peace, Technology The first two words associated with this color, calm and peace, speak to my demeanor and the culture and environment I foster in the class. Technology also speaks to the environment. I am a technophile. I am on the tech leadership team. I am the go-to guy on my team and floor when it comes to technology. I view technology as a powerful educational tool for learning and engagement.

Yellow=Joy, Cheerfulness, Energy These three words describe my feeling about what I do for a living and my attitude towards the content I teach.

Section 4: Character (real or fictional) – Harold (and his purple crayon).

His creativity came out in very simple actions, “I need a moon so I’ll draw one”. Sometimes we try to do things the hard way. As a teacher I feel that simplicity is often the best, but not always the first thing you think of doing. Harold does not have that problem. To emphasize the idea of simplicity Harold appears in this section alone.

Section 5: Word – “Community”

Collaboration was one of the other words I initially thought for this section. I chose community because it encapsulates collaboration but so much more too. Community implies a common bond between it’s members that goes beyond the common goal behind collaboration. It is a safe place where people can be who they are, have their strengths celebrated and challenges supported; this is what I strive for in my class. It is rainbow-colored to celebrate diversity.

%d bloggers like this: