Sunlight and Flowers #SOL18

Day 3 of Jim Knight coach training was yesterday.

There was a slightly different mix of coaches at this training. I drove into the city this time which was pretty stress free and the drive was full of sunshine.

We used feedback cards after Jim established a procedure for them. Red/Yellow/Green cards can be used with students to show answers really quickly and can also build community. Jim Knight said, “There is power in a collective response.”

A lot of the conversation was around relationships.

We learned how to use several data collection measures which are awesome and actionable. I have used several over the years but these were deep and focused.

One of the specific strategies we talked about was creating a learner-friendly culture. Bill Stickland opened a school that has beautiful things everywhere you look, a building that is full of sunshine and fresh real flowers.

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He believes that change can only happen if you see change, including your surroundings. I have the book on hold at the library and am looking forward to it coming in.

Many of the conversations throughout the day continually reminded me that little things matter to ALL people. The thoughtful note, the smile, the nod, the acknowledgement of you being in front of someone…and the sunlight and the flowers.

How do you make your learner space inviting? This could be a writer space or a teaching space. What are your sunlight and flowers? Enjoy them today and share with someone else.

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Workshop Wednesday Recap

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Last Wednesday I hosted Workshop Wednesday during team times. The invitation was specifically sent out to the English teachers but everyone was welcome as always. The email informed the staff the topic was Independent Reading. This meeting is voluntary so I always let staff know ahead of time so there is no surprise. I was pleasantly surprised myself when my content teachers showed up as well.  Their attendance really showcases how dedicated they are to the new reading culture in our middle school. 

Last year there was not consistent Silent Sustained Reading, Independent reading, or choice reading. It doesn’t matter what the label was, but there was not enough time or support it seemed to pull it off.

It was decided with the new block scheduling this year there was time to implement Independent reading time. Now is the time where teachers have tried various components and how to differentiate for their classes and students.  I am so proud that all of the teachers who keep the choice piece sacred. All the decisions made were around that central idea.

The purpose of the meeting was to celebrate reading in our building and the culture they are all perpetuating. It was also to make lists of what was the reality of the reading time and what we want to make consistent across the school. To make a school wide definition decided by the teachers – not anyone else. 

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It was a great discussion about conferencing, book talks, reading identity, first chapter Friday and what it looked like and sounded like in their respective classrooms.

We talked about what they needed and how to make reading spaces more inviting.

There was celebration about reading memories, students asking for more reading time, and books disappearing because the students want to read them so badly.

Taking inspiration from THE ART OF GATHERING by Priya Parker,  I had my version of “15 Toasts”. I had silly plastic champagne glasses with sparkling water. Everyone had a toast to make in the area of  a reading memory or the first memory they had of reading. One teacher shared she sat in the back of her third grade classroom because it was where the bookcases were and she could snatch books and read no matter what subject was being taught. There was one book that she loved so much she stole. She still has it! After the meeting she came to show me the book!

I also incorporated the Google Jamboard which I had never used before. It is designed to be used on an interactive white board but I just used the post it note function for everyone to share something exciting going on in their classrooms. I hope to foster some relationships between teachers to visit each other’s rooms and share ideas that are working. 

Here is the shared Jamboard

I am excited for the conversation when I can get all the stakeholders together and make some decisions for the achievement of our teachers and the students!

Snowy Morning #SOL18

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The first snow descended yesterday as I drove home from work. The tiny flakes sprinkled my windshield and melted from the warmth of the car. It continued to happily come down throughout the evening. Dinner was pot roast and homemade bread which made for a perfect evening.

This morning the roads are shiny reflecting the lights of the cars as they plug along. The blue sky was light just before the sun came all the way up. The grass looks like it has powdered sugar sprinkled on it.

Snow makes me happy

Winter makes me happy and the coziness it brings.

As I pulled into the parking lot it rained leaves to remind me that we are still in fall, not yet winter.

#happy moment

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Simply Tuesday #SOL18

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My refrigerator masquerades as a freezer in my office. It likes to pretend. This is normally helpful for quickly making my Diet Coke cold or keeping “emergency” lunches on the days I forget to pack my sustenance.

However…

It is not a good thing when you forget you had an extra can of DIET COKE in there overnight. When you open the fridge to enjoy the frosty beverage you find frozen coke all over the bottom and a bulging can that looks like something from a horror movie.

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Then you kick yourself for being in a hurry the afternoon before and not remembering to take the can out of the fridge to avoid this situation.

Oops…I am more upset I lost a can of Coke rather than the mess!

#SIMPLYTUESDAY

 

 

 

Reluctance and Reading

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I am a reluctant reader….sometimes.

My students are reluctant readers…sometimes.

Unfortunately, some students are labeled RELUCTANT READERS as their primary reading identity and it needs to stop.

In the realm of education, the phrase reluctant reader gets thrown around a lot. I believe there is some truth in this phrase. I also believe that some students have not found the right text to make them into a reader.

I say text purposefully because it isn’t always a book. It could be a blog, a graphic novel, tweets, articles, etc.

Different factors make up our reading identity. Reluctance a small part of a reader’s identity no matter how old you are. I have an inbox of school emails that I am reluctant to read. I can procrastinate for as long as I can but I have adult deadlines. I have put some of this reading in my bullet journal and there are arrows moving certain tasks to the next day for DAYS. Can you relate?

I have to read a 20 page article for a meeting on Thursday. Am I reluctant? YOU BETCHA!

I too am a reluctant reader.

Am I a reluctant reader all the time? Absolutely not. Neither are our students, and we need to stop saying it.

I can be a reluctant reader for book club too – a book I am supposed to like that I am not enjoying as much. Can I appreciate the character development? Yes. Can I talk about it and notice the positives? Yes.

This is not the only factor that gets a bolded capital label for students. Reading level is another issue. These factors are part of the process of how we become a better reader. We need to remember to look at the whole child, not just numbers.

Labels can be helpful and dangerous. I am trying to find the new balance for where I stand.

Most of the time, I would rather be reading. That is part of my identity too.

What are your thoughts?

 

Genius Hour Update #SOL

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Yesterday I met for a second time with my 7th graders who are participating in Genius Hour. The 45 minutes was the highlight of my school day.

This is what it looked like:

  • The students finished their analog planning on the sheets
  • Whip Around Share Out
  • Assignments were given for each group of what they need to do before next Monday – mostly research.

I am super excited about the projects and how they are shaping up!

Here is a sampling of the projects:

  • Two students are planning The Random Happiness Project
  • Two students are planning a motivational presentation to be broadcast for the entire school
  • One student is making a People of Michigan City presentation to show what our community really looks like
  • One student wants to raise awareness of elephant poaching and to give people 3-5 action steps of what they can do to help

Notes:

  1. It is interesting that one of the most talkative girls is having trouble narrowing her big picture idea to an actionable list. She wants to jump in with both feet and no plans! It is very telling for her process. A place I need to intervene.
  2. The buzz of work, while the time was clicking away, was energizing. You know that buzz when great ideas are flying around the room – THAT was what my room sounded like yesterday at 11a.m.
  3. Two projects sounded the same when they did their “elevator pitch” in the whip around but we unpacked it and came to realize the end results were different: one focus was truly happiness and the other was motivation. The audiences were different as well. It was a great discussion about focus and intent.
  4. I need to take some pictures of the students. We were so busy I forgot! They are so excited about this time and I hope to capture that feeling in their expressions.
  5. I am loving this process because it is teaching students to be lifelong learners which is a basic philosophy I have had since I started teaching.

What is exciting you about education today!?

Are you a Genius? #SOL18

 

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#Thisitheyear

This is the year I will start programs for students.

I started Genius hour yesterday with a group of 7th graders.  My school moved to block scheduling this year which allows the opportunity for remediation and enrichment with students during an Impact time. I am taking advantage of this time opportunity!

I conducted a writer’s workshop a few weeks ago which was successful and took place during a consecutive 5 days. Genius hour will take place over 6 weeks. The group of 10 students meet once a week to work on their projects.

I introduced the concept to the students last week and they were able to sign up. No one had heard about the idea before I spoke about it but they were very excited it was inspired by Google. I told them a few facts and then listed several ideas of projects that could think about.

Genius hour is time for students to pursue a personal interest, make something, and share it with the world. It could be a program, a blog, a game, a video, or anything they imagine. It can solve a problem or showcase a study.

Yesterday’s agenda:

  • Video 
  • Brainstorming
  • Joined Google Classroom
  • Read aloud: The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spears
  • Discussion about perseverance and making things that don’t look like what is in our heads
  • Students took 16 personalities test

 

Cover art

This is another video I found helpful about general concepts about Genius Hour.

Results of day one:

  • One of my students wants to make a motivational video to share because she feels it is needed. She is thinking about staging it like a TED talk.
  • Several students are thinking about starting programs or clubs for their fellow classmates
  • Several students are thinking about starting fundraisers for local community organizations
  • One student is thinking about a photography project.

They are all THINKING and wanting to CREATE! It was a glorious day and I cannot wait to see what the end of 6 weeks looks like!

What have you created today, no matter how small?

 

Mentor Text Monday!

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Any Amy Krouse Rosenthal book is a great read aloud but this book is FUN and is really a springboard for creative thinking.

After reading Yes Day, students will create and write about the events of their special day.

The endpapers of the book provide some brainstorming ideas:

  • Not Gonna Happen Day
  • Never Day
  • International symbol day
  • Talk Backward Day

I have had kids create ICE CREAM DAY, READ DAY, and EAT DAY!

Happy Reading! Happy Writing!

Workshop Wednesday: Questioning

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Questioning

 

DOK (Depth of Knowledge) is a scale for questioning I utilize with teachers and students.

Level 3: Strategic Thinking Characteristics

  • Requires deep knowledge
  • Students encouraged to go beyond text
  • Students asked to explain, generalize, or connect ideas
  • Students must be able to support their thinking, citing references from the text or other sources
  • Items may involve abstract theme identification, inferences between or across passages, application of prior knowledge, or text support for analytical judgment about a text

 

2 Strategies for increasing the rigor and use of questioning

  1. Have students write their own questions relevant to the content of the class using DOK question stems.

Not only is this a great creation exercise for students but it also hyper focuses their attention on the content and what is important to know. The students find out quickly that higher level questions are not always the easiest item to write!

DOK 3 Sentence Stems

  • How is ____ related to ____?
  • What conclusions can you draw _____?
  • How would you adapt____to create a 
different____?
  • How would you test____?
  • Can you predict the outcome if____?
  • What is the best answer? Why?
  • What conclusion can be drawn from 
these three texts?
  • What is your interpretation of this text? 
Support your rationale.
  • How would you describe the sequence 
of____?
  • What facts would you select to 
support____?
  • Can you elaborate on the reason____?
  • What would happen if___?
  • Can you formulate a theory for___?
  • How would you test___?
  • Can you elaborate on the reason___?

 

Questions and ideas should be the ax that breaks open the frozen sea within us.

-Kafka

 

2. Plan your questions ahead of time and WRITE THEM DOWN

No matter how many years you have been teaching this is a strategy worth trying. If you formulate several questions before the lesson using the higher levels then your mindset is changed and you will move forward from the higher level questioning rather than go back to more knowledge or surface level questioning. When we meet students where they are we sometimes rely too heavily on the knowledge-based questions or DOK 1 that only have one answer.

 

My teachers are working on this concept today! I hope that you find it helpful or at least a reminder of a practice you haven’t thought about in a while! As a coach, I have offered to visit classrooms and script just the questions the teachers are asking so we can analyze them later. We often don’t realize the questions we are actually asking!

 

Happy Teaching!

2 Strategies to Increase Happiness!

Permission and Gratitude

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Kim Strobel is a Happiness Consultant that I was excited to hear speak on Sept 15. Her company is called Strobel Education and she talks about a variety of topics.

There were two big takeaways from this session which is relevant to today because there are things that are already starting to unravel! It is too early in the school year for that jazz!!!

 

Increase Your Happiness – Strategy 1: Permission Slips

This one actually comes from Brene Brown – to write your self a permission slip like when you were in elementary school and going on a field trip.

So right now…on a post-it note write:

I give myself permission…

 

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Increase Your Happiness – Strategy 2: Gratitude

On a different post-it note write 3 things you are grateful for – right now! The research shows 3 is the magic number – just like in writing.

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What are your permissions to yourself and your gratitude list?