I am participating in the Two Writing Teachers March Blog Challenge. If you would like more information about this challenge click here.
Several years ago I learned about the 36 questions to become closer to someone. In the New York Times, the article was titled The 36 Questions that Lead to Love. I am always fascinated by questions. As an introvert, I learned to have a question ready when attending a social event in case the conversation lulled. I prefer to have deeper conversations as opposed to surface level ones.
As part of the challenge this year, I will be answering some of the questions and then you have the opportunity to journal about the question, ask a person you want to be closer to, or answer in the comments.
I have been asked this question many times. I read a book within the last couple of years about a dinner party of all these connected characters. You cannot help but think about who you wanted to be at your table. It is a recommended read from me!
I often think I would love to have one last dinner with my Oma who died in 2000. It is hard to believe that on April 1 it will be 20 years that she is gone. I would want her to cook the dinner though too! I miss her Sunday dinner of roast, gravy, boiled potatoes, red cabbage, and “green stuff”. Green stuff was whatever green veggies made it on the table that week: Brussels sprout, asparagus, beans, etc.
I would like to have dinner with Neil Gaiman and Kelly Link as well. They are both authors I admire. Neil writes in a little cottage. Kelly has a small group she gets together with every week. I would love to hear more about both of these practices. I would love to hear about their processes. Kelly just opened a bookstore too. Lots of reading and writing conversation for sure during that dinner!
I am participating in the Two Writing Teachers March Blog Challenge. If you would like more information about this challenge click here.
There is a magic to teaching and teaching writing.
M= Mentor Texts
A couple years ago in my little apartment, I had a dream. An impactful dream of me up on stage giving a Ted talk. I had some clarity when I woke up and made the notes on my phone. Due to circumstances at the time I accidentally erased them when I reset my phone to factory settings. I have desperately been trying to recall the details and notes of this experience since then.
I remember being on the stage and talking about M.A.G.I.C.
EVERYONE has magic inside of them.I have magic with students and you probably do too if you are an educator. If you are a writer, you have magic with your readers. People are drawn to the light inside of you. It can be annoying at times when people are drawn to you and you are an introvert but it is a GIFT.
Fellow teachers have expressed to me on multiple occasions and school corporations that I can get writing and learning from children that no one seems to be able to. It isn’t a magic spell but there is an enchantment. How do I do it? I don’t wave a wand (although I have my Harry Potter wand!) I am authentic. I see my students. I listen to them. I see them as the little people they are with their own ideas – even a kindergartener.
I am a reader and a writer and I exemplify these behaviors and students can see it. I do not ask them to do anything that I have not done myself already, or am willing to do. This is a mantra I use with adults and children. I do not believe in busy work. I believe in being transparent with students and it makes me happy. They know me, I know them. I listen to what they say and respond accordingly. I am not afraid to ask a question and not know the answer that will come from the students. I want to show students to struggle with new learning.
M= Mentor Texts-
To get to this magic you have to have use MENTOR texts. These are examples of writing you want your students to create. No adult writes a resume without Googling samples of resumes beforehand. You don’t write anything without immersing yourself in that genre. We should we expect any less from children.
A= Authority –
You need to be a writer to teach writing. You don’t have to be published but you have to go through the process or as an educator you cannot help a young writer if they get stuck. You have to know what it feels like. I worked with a teacher that told me she started to write using her own writing prompts that she was assigning to her students. There were some that were not crafted as well as they could be and were hard for her – with 40 years of life experience to draw from. She decided through that experience she needed to modify if she had trouble with the assignment prompt. Then she told the students what she had done and why. It made a huge difference.
You have to be excited about writing. There must be respect and a level of seriousness to the process. When I teach writing I use writing materials from respected writing teachers in the literary world – not the teaching world. I quoted Natalie Goldberg, Anne Lamott, Julia Cameron, etc. I did use a lot of Nancy Atwell too. I told the students my rationale. The students saw my writers notebook. They saw when I was excited about a piece of writing I was crafting with them. In the middle of the process, if the kids made a chart or wrote the group story and it wasn’t exciting then we talked about what we could do to make it exciting for our reader. We read everything like writers. My students knew the goal was for them to be real authentic readers and writers.
Writing lessons like any other need to be planned purposefully. The mentor text to read needs to be right for the writing craft lesson. The prompt needs to align with the book and the mastery objective you want the students to glean from the lesson. There needs to be intention in the routines for your writers to establish and how their words are shared. Intention needs to be there for conferencing. Teacher and student conferencing and peer conferencing.
I wanted my students to write even when they didn’t have to so I set up centers in my classroom for exploration. Books were placed in the classroom based on interest and choice. Writing and book making materials were everywhere. Innovation is also part of this section.
Relationships and a trusting culture are essential for students to write. Writing is hard. You know this to be true whether you write or you resist writing with your students. Sharing your own writing can go a long way to create trust. Writing with kids is a great culture builder.
No matter the level I use the gradual release model. I make sure with my middle school students to always model the I DO portion, especially with writing. Then there is a small section of WE DO so students are able to show me they understand the task. Then it is off for the YOU DO.
I also carry a notebook with me almost everywhere. When I hear a student say something or I read over their shoulder I often will say “That is amazing! I am going to write that in my notebook.” Or I say, “I wish I would have written that sentence.” It is the same language I use when we are reading and I want to record something in the writer’s notebook. Then I write their words down.
Over the course of the month, I will be posted more in-depth posts about each of these sections.
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.
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.
Hope is a concept that has come up several times over the last couple of weeks. At my FABULOUS Jim Knight training for coaching HOPE is an integral part of the IMPACT CYCLE for coaching. It is a HOPE that teachers and students can get better at what they do and learn.
Jim Knight says there are 3 attributes for hope:
You need to aspire to some type of goal
You need a pathway to get there
You have to have agency – the belief you can get there
Anne Lamott also has a new book out called Almost Everything: Notes on Hope. She wanted to write a book about all the hopeful things she knew in a world that is surrounding us with negativity and hopelessness. I picked up this book from my library holds yesterday and cannot wait to dig in. Solinet is another author who has thoughts on hope.
What do you have to say about hope?
I hope to have an impact in my job every day. I have hope that the 8th grader I am teaching to read will continue to grow from his pre-primer level. I hope that the sense of peace and connection that has been nurtured over the past weeks will continue with my fellow coaches.
“Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey toward it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us.”– Samuel Smiles
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.