SLOW CHAT: Fueled by Collective Curiosity and Collaborative Conversation

by Mary Howard

You can read the Wakelet artifact HERE

#G2Great chat celebrates 7 years on 1/6/22. Your chat co-moderators often contemplate new chat designs for twitter style dialogue. This week, we decided to draw inspiration from the continuing challenges of this pandemic and its impact on our shared love for attending National Literacy Conferences. If COVID-19 had not thwarted our plans, #G2Great chat would have taken a break this week to attend the International Literacy Conference in Indianapolis, IN. Unfortunately, ILA shifted from an in-person conference to varied virtual opportunities. We know that this decision was not taken lightly and we are grateful that ILA chose to put our safety first.

Since we had already planned to take this week off, we decided this afforded us a wonderful opportunity to try something new. We had discussed using a SLOW CHAT format in the past, so we thought that this was the perfect time.

WHAT IS A SLOW CHAT?

For those of you who have never participated in a SLOW CHAT on Twitter before, some background information would be helpful:

In a typical chat, we gather at our #G2great hashtag on Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. and share 7 to 8 questions across the night that are answered in real time. If you have ever taken part in our chat, then you know that this format makes for a fast-paced process of reading and responding to questions while engaging in conversations around those ideas.

By contrast, a SLOW CHAT is literally meant to slow down this pace using many variations that may span across one or several days. A few questions are asked at key points during the designated time and educators respond to questions at their own pace rather than during a live chat hour. Our one-day SLOW CHAT began in the morning with initial thoughts from your co moderators I share at the end of this post followed by five questions we posted every ninety-minutes during the day as we checked in across the day. Since we plan to do this again, putting our first SLOW CHAT into action was a wonderful learning venture that we can draw from in the future.

And so, in the spirit of our first SLOW CHAT I give you our first SLOW BLOG with five twitter takeaways that captivated my professional heart.

SLOW BLOG TWITTER TAKEAWAYS

Our deep desire to embrace curious learning in our lives has a much broader purpose. We cannot expect that our children will engage in and beyond our schools as curious learners unless we are willing to model a curious spirit each and every day. Our actions (or lack of) speak volumes.

Engaging in collaborative dialogue with other professionals on a regular basis gives us a lifeline to collegial support. These inspired interactions help us to fine tune, adjust and add to our thinking from both sides as we learn in the company of trusted others.

We make our own learning a priority not just for the sake of learning but in honor of the children that learning is dedicated to. The tipping point is when we carry our learning with us and make professional decisions that will lift learning to the highest heights in their name.

It is admirable for each of us to value professional collaboration, but the goal is to create a culture of collective collaboration that spreads across a school. Every child deserves to experience professional joy in action no matter where that learning takes place or with whom.

We all need a safe space where others support and fuel our learning. While we hope that this comes from within a school, it can also span across great distances. Used thoughtfully, social media can offer a safe haven where ideas, passions and curiosities can flourish.

Last Thoughts

COVID-19 pandemic has altered the landscape of our professional and personal lives in many challenging ways. Yet, there were also many blessings as we have traveled along a meandering path of uncertainty. Conference cancellations have been difficult for those of us who thrive on professional gatherings, but it also nudged us to explore options for learning together. These new learning doors have compounded our unwavering thirst for professional learning in any capacity. Yes, the pandemic altered where, when and in what way our learning happens. But our determination to hold tight to the WHY of professional learning has strengthened our commitment to celebrate our learning through this new lens. Fueled by Collective Curiosity and Collaborative Conversation was the perfect title for our first SLOW CHAT since it reflects a way of life that we are proud to lead on a daily basis.

We want to thank those of you who joined our first #G2Great SLOW CHAT. We believe deeply in collaborative professional JOY and we know that invitational discourse is possible in any form. Here’s to more SLOW CHAT in the future!

SLOW CHAT reflections from your #G2Great co moderators

Guided Practice for Reading Growth:  Texts and Lessons to Improve Fluency, Comprehension and Vocabulary

By Fran McVeigh

Wakelet LINK

Laura Robb is no stranger to #G2Great. She frequently participates in our weekly chats and has been a guest host with principal son and coauthor, Evan Robb, for Schools Full of Readers: Tools for Teachers, Coaches and Leaders to Support Students. This link gives you access to the blog post and wakelet for that book. Laura and Evan Robb coauthored this blog post in 2020, “Breaking the Cycle of Professional Compliance: Teachers as Decision-Makers.” (Link) It was truly a pleasure to welcome Laura and her coauthor David Harrison to his first chat this week.

Routines. Habits. As I drove, I hit my turn signal. It was automatic. I had driven this route for years. More years than I can count (or remember). But I had to reach down and turn that signal off because that’s not the route anymore. Change. It requires thought and a conscious effort. Changing habits and routines is hard. What will make this travel change MORE automatic? More practice!

Teaching.

Teaching also requires thought and conscious effort. Teaching requires so many decisions that teachers need to consciously make. Gravity Goldberg and  Renee Houser tell us that teachers make 1500 decisions per day (Edutopia link). It’s exhausting and yet equally stimulating to make decisions that matter for students. We must TRUST teachers to make decisions that will increase student joy AND student learning.

What is the end goal? Here is Laura Robb’s response. 

What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind?

Teach the children in front of you. Get to know them. Watch. Listen. Have conversations with them. Read their notebooks. Increase their reading stamina with daily independent reading of self-selected books. Respond to their needs by knowing and building on their strengths. Become a responsive teacher who can adapt instruction and interventions to students, knowing that their needs change throughout the school year. Remember, that volume in reading is the best intervention and can develop students’ joy in reading, positive reading identities, and create lifelong readers!

Laura Robb, email.

I wrote this book blurb for Corwin Press after the first time I read Guided Practice for Reading Growth and now after the third reading I believe it to be even more true. 

Book Blurb: Guided Practice for Reading Growth

“What is essential for reading growth?  David Harrison and Laura Robb provide guidelines and tips for schedules, routines, instructional practices and lessons that improve students’ reading skill and self-confidence with proven sustained growth by real students in real classrooms. The authors use the research and their classroom work to provide evidence that students working below their grade level do not need pre-made programs or one-size basals but do need knowledgeable teachers who know their students and align and craft guided practice that encourages students to work hard to meet their goals. This book details how guided practice reinforces and enhances independent reading, interactive read-alouds, vocabulary building and writing about texts in a reader’s notebook. The implementation of the ideas in this book will help teachers develop effective and efficient targeted instruction that capitalizes on teacher knowledge and relationships with the students in their classrooms.”

Fran McVeigh, email.

Three big ideas form the focus of my thinking and understanding about this book based on Laura and David’s ideas, my previous work with middle school students, and the nature of curriculum/intervention plans and resources for middle school students. Let’s explore.

Instruction that meets the needs of students must be carefully crafted and implemented

No one lock-step, one-size-fits-all curriculum works. I see students in middle school and high school who are “not proficient” in reading. I am over-generalizing, but basically that means they missed a cut-off score on some skill area. Some argue that they must ALL need phonemic awareness or phonological awareness if they are struggling in reading. But what of students who have been a part of explicit phonics instruction who year after year are given another NEW phonics program because the last one was not successful and they are now down to literally TIER 6 in phonics programs and have very little time READING but spend much of their time in drills and isolated word work? Students are frustrated, disheartened and tired of “work that makes them feel stupid.”

Instruction can be so much more for students. The lessons Laura and David provide in Guided Practice for Reading Growth can be used “just in time” for student practice that they need NOW. Not after a data team meeting, but NOW to allow students to make accelerated growth without waiting for the roulette wheel to spin up their name at a pre-designated review.

David’s stories and poems are an excellent catalyst for instruction. The lessons Laura crafted are easily replicable by teachers. There are two sets that teachers are encouraged to make their own. Trusting that teachers know the students best, there is a set for partner discussion and a set for shared reading which lead to student writing. Talk. Writing. Part of the reciprocal action cycle of reading.

And then the finale. Part III in the text is “Next Steps for Guided Practice and Growth in Reading.”  The beauty of adding in fluency practice that is self-selected and performed by students is tantalizing. Maximizing efficiency and effectiveness with teacher data-based decisions about how to structure time and resources to meet student resources is teacher autonomy at its best!

Choice and agency are necessary for students to grow as readers.

Independent reading is a daily expectation in this structure. Students are allowed to choose texts that align with their interests. Teachers are encouraged to choose texts that students will find engaging.

Fluency practice as presented in this text is never reduced to reading rate, but instead, is all about the interpretation and the love of language. Empowering teachers. Empowering students. Empowering student learning. Empowering student progress. Empowering students as leaders. And again, providing practice opportunities for students to do the work themselves and choose their own reading materials!

Student reading identities matter.

Students have to find both the joy and belief in their own ability to read. By middle school and high school this is not easy. Some students have already fake read the same book three or four years in a row. Other students are quite good at shrugging off the “I’m too busy to read. Check out my activities” excuses. We’ve known about the importance of reading and writing identities but often not had the time, energy, resources or support necessary to grow identities. Successful and powerful reading and writing identities that respect their age, emotional maturity, and are worthy of both student and teacher time and attention. Choice and scaffolded instructional times provide opportunities for student identities to grow and mature.

This is further emphasized in the authors’ responses to the remaining questions.

What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices?

The first big takeaway is to use formative assessments and relentless kid watching to identify students’ strengths and build on these strengths with guided practice lessons. Guided practice lessons are short, focus on what students need, and invite them to do the thinking and work that can improve their reading and enlarge vocabulary. The next big takeaway is that volume in reading is an intervention that can bring students reading below grade level into the reading life and develop their reading identities.

Laura and David, email.

What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have on the professional world?

My work with fifth grade students entering school reading at a kindergarten to early second grade reading level pushed me to rethink reading instruction and intervention.  Besides having them read self-selected books every day for about 20-minutes, I began developing guided practice lessons using short texts to engage them in deep thinking, meaningful discussions, and writing about reading. Another goal was to enlarge their vocabulary and background knowledge, and watching short videos prior to reading worked well. Students loved them, but if a few needed to revisit the video, it was easy for them to watch it a second or third time on their own or with a small group. With award-winning poet, David Harrison, writing the poems and short texts for the guided practice lessons, students can read culturally relevant texts on topics they suggested through surveys conducted in grades five to eight 

         David and I hope that teachers of grades 4 to 8 will integrate guided practice lessons into their instructional reading. Once teachers try the lessons, there are guidelines in the appendix for developing their own guided practice lessons. To support teachers as they get started with developing lessons, David Harrison wrote extra poems and short texts that are in the appendix; there’s also a list of magazines teachers can mine for short tests and lists of poetry collections to investigate. The goal is for teachers to intervene as soon as they observe students require extra practice and gradually release responsibility for learning to students.

Laura Robb, email.

In conclusion, just as students need carefully crafted instruction, with choice and agency as well as support for reader and writer identities – so do teachers! Guided practice is a simple, yet practical way to provide students with opportunities to joyfully develop into lifelong readers who can and do read.

The Last Word: What would you like teachers to know?  David’s response


Five Kinds of Nonfiction: Enriching Reading and Writing Instruction with Children’s Books by Melissa Stewart and Marlene Correia

You can access our chat Wakelet artifact HERE

By Brent Gilson

“I know lots of writers who love to create characters and invent imaginary worlds. But for me, the real world is so amazing, so fascinating, that I just want to learn as much as I can about it and share it with other people. That’s why I write nonfiction.” -Melissa Stewart

When I was a kid I did not spend a lot of time reading novels. The occasional Choose Your Own Adventure would be thrown into the backpack to read at home but generally, I was a reader of nonfiction. My grandpa was an avid bird watcher. I remember going to visit and just thumbing through his collection of books learning about the species of birds that would frequent his yard. I have the clearest memory of my other grandparents giving me these little binders full of fact files on different animals, I toted that around with me everywhere. The Komodo Dragon file was my favourite. My earliest Scholastic Book Fair memory is buying this sweet dinosaur book and giving out the stickers to my friends. Spending time learning about ecosystems in this giant book full of beautiful art and fold-out pages is another memory that I can picture as clear as it was yesterday.

The librarian at my school often had to remind me to return the Arms and Armour (Canadian not a spelling mistake) book. I think I checked it out more than any other book in elementary school. I would study the different swords of different areas and their armour. I would imagine what the battles could be like. I was not limited to facts; nonfiction books were the passport to imagination for me in those early years. I wrote stories of knights battling dragons, I studied their swords. These nonfiction texts jump started my fiction reading. They were more accessible, more engaging to the young reader than just pages of text. Beyond that, I learned. I built background knowledge of history and the world. In a time when disinformation is at an all-time high arming our kids with knowledge as they enter the world should be a top priority of teaching and utilizing nonfiction text provides a structure that is both engaging and informative.

As a middle school and high school teacher, I have noticed a decline in the drive to consume nonfiction that my elementary students had. I imagine it is a combination of the “I know it all” attitude the teenagers often proudly display and the fact that with academically heavier courses they no longer see non-fiction as an escape. Either way I want to get back into nonfiction in my classroom and after last Thursday’s chat, I know Five Kinds of Nonfiction: Enriching Reading and Writing Instruction with Children’s Books by Melissa Stewart and Marlene Correia provides a wonderful structure to get teachers started.

We ask our authors to reflect on three questions that will offer readers insight for their thinking. Melissa and Marlene respond to our first question:

What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have in the professional world?

MS: As a children’s book writer, I developed the 5 Kinds of Nonfiction classification system for myself. I hoped that if I could get a stronger sense of the breadth of the nonfiction market, I might have better luck crafting the kind of writing publishers were looking for.

When I shared the system on my blog in 2017, the response was tremendous. To date, that post has received more than 500,000 hits.

At first, I was surprised that the system resonated with so many people, but then I began to see its broader uses in a school setting. The table below from p. 49 of 5 Kinds of Nonfiction: Enriching Reading and Writing Instruction with Children’s Books, highlights that different categories can be used in specific ways during literacy and content-area instruction:

So that’s one of the book’s main messages. When students are familiar with the characteristics of the five categories, they can predict the kind of information they’re likely to find in a book and how that information will be presented. And that understanding can help them identify the best books for a particular purpose as well as the kind(s) of nonfiction they enjoy reading most.

MC: For me it was a realization over 15 years ago during a professional development workshop, where I was asked to list all the texts I had read recently. I quickly came to the realization that most of what I read and used was nonfiction (news articles, professional journals, recipes, etc.) That’s when I first began thinking about my own classroom collection of books and how few nonfiction titles were available. But, at first, I didn’t think my students would really want to read nonfiction. I was convinced, as many educators are, that they preferred fiction and stories.

I conducted a small-scale action research study that proved my assumptions wrong. I had students in my class choosing nonfiction over fiction at the library every week. From then on, I took a more deliberate approach, and my own interest and love for nonfiction expanded. I met Melissa, was impressed by her work as a researcher and author, and the rest is history.

My hope is that other educators and librarians will use more nonfiction, from all 5 kinds, in their instruction and in their book collections.

Melissa and Marlene give us more insight with the second question:

What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices?

MS & MC: Many educators have a natural love of stories and storytelling. They fill their classroom libraries with fiction and focus their literacy instruction on stories because they assume that kids feel the same way.

But as these charts show, many children think differently. They prefer expository nonfiction—writing that explains, describes, or informs in a straightforward way.

How can you transform these info-loving kids into passionate, motivated readers? Hand them an expository nonfiction book on a topic they find fascinating. Marlene created this terrific Book Match Survey to help teachers, librarians, and parents do just that.

To show students that your honor and respect all books and all reading, be sure to include all 5 kinds of nonfiction as well as fiction in literacy and content-area instruction. Read nonfiction aloud. Feature it in book talks, book clubs, and whole-school activities. 5 Kinds of Nonfiction provides tips, tools, and strategies to help you share and celebrate nonfiction with students.

In our final question, Melissa and Marlene give us a sense of direction:

What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind?

MS: It’s so important to meet students where they are in terms of their natural reading preferences. Once they have a solid foundation, they’ll develop the confidence to stretch and grow and blossom as readers. They’ll begin to explore new topics, new formats, new writing styles, new genres. It’s exciting to support students on this journey.

MC: Nonfiction has the potential to deepen student learning, fuel their interests, and cultivate their curiosity about the world. All students can LOVE reading! It takes getting the right book, in the right hands at the right time.

Nonfiction on Display: Melissa Stewart Dishes on the 5 Kinds of Nonfiction

Thanks to Melissa and Marlene for sharing their thinking about 5 Kinds of Nonfiction. Check it out as you consider what kinds of texts you are reading. You may surprise yourself.

The Next Step Forward in Running Records: Getting to the Heart of Effective Instruction Through Deeper Qualitative Analysis

by Fran McVeigh

Entire Wakelet Can Be Viewed at this Link

The #G2Great chat was electrifying on 9/23/21 as the Twitterverse welcomed C.C. Bates, Maryann McBride, and Jan Richardson for their chat around their new book, The Next Step Forward in Running Records: Getting to the Heart of Effective Instruction Through Deeper Qualitative Analysis. Dr. Jan Richardson is no stranger to #G2Great as she hosted on July 28, 2016 for The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading. This new text has so much information about running records that it would be ideal for a study by partner teachers, teams of teachers, or even a full faculty building level study. In the educational world, C.C. Bates, Maryann McBride and Jan Richardson have a total of over 100 years of experience that they honed as they wrote this text and their wisdom is found on every page.

Many educators are totally stressed by the role of assessment in their lives as they try to survive and even hope to thrive during these pandemic times. So let’s begin this post with the authors’ response to WHY they wrote this book.

1) What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have in the professional world?

We felt running records were falling short of their potential. Often times we would see teachers calculate the accuracy rate and ignore the analysis of other behaviors including errors and self-corrections. We hoped the book would provide opportunities for professional conversations around how running records can be used to make instructional decisions. The book incorporates questions we have received from teachers nationwide. The book addresses these questions and provides guidance on why running records are important, how to take, score, and analyze them, and connect the analysis to individual, small, and whole group instruction. Finally, the book provides insight into specific challenges that are uncovered through a detailed analysis of running records.

Email correspondence with C.C. Bates, Maryann McBride, & Jan Richardson

There is so much to consider when using Running Records. They are simplistic in design: a written response to what the student said out loud while reading. That “inside out” view of student processing. The deeper meaning comes from the qualitative analysis with the changes in instruction coming from a study of student patterns and teacher reflection on instruction over time. To hear that teachers would often only calculate the accuracy rate is disheartening.

I would be remiss to not state my own personal bias. Running records informed my life as a special education teacher, as a classroom teacher, as a curriculum coordinator, and as a literacy consultant. The information gained from running records analysis has the potential to transform instruction for students. The information gained from teacher analysis of their own TOLDs would be reflective action research that could also change a teacher’s self awareness. Running records are powerful in the hands of a thoughtful, reflective, research-oriented teacher.

Let us continue. This post is going to identify five key points about running records from The Next Step in Running Records that were amplified by the chat.

Know your purpose for running records

Running records would typically be classified as formative assessments. This process: take a running record, score, analyze, and then connect to individual, small and whole group instruction. All of this information is used to then guide the teacher’s decision making in developing an instructional plan that includes choosing a book for instruction, choosing the next steps in letter and word work, as well as the next steps in vocabulary, language and strategic action. Other decisions include the type of passage to be used: a cold passage (never read before) or a reread of a passage that the student has read once before.

MSV is not the order of importance

MSV is the alphabetical order of three areas. Let me repeat that. MSV is the alphabetical order of the three areas.

It is not the order of importance.

There is synergy in the crosschecking that occurs often almost simultaneously between these areas. V or Visual is a priority for “phonics instruction” because it deals with attending to the print that is in the text in front of the students. Letters. Sounds. Decoding the words. Visual information is about the print (not the illustrations). The print is often the first area that many teachers consider when they want to know if phonics instruction is working/ sticking. V or visual information is important and many critics of balanced reading instruction claim that “phonics is last in instruction” because visual is last one listed in MSV. But the listing of MSV is truly alphabetical order.

(Note: I spend a lot of time on analysis of the visual information processing to ensure that phonics instruction is meeting the needs of students.)

MSV is an analysis of student reading behaviors

Why analysis?

What are some of the the key student reading behaviors?

“V or visual information stands for the ways in which children draw upon the alphabetic principle or the connection between letters and sounds. V also includes children’s use of orthographic patterns and their automatic recognition of high-frequency words.” (p. 23) Visual information does NOT include pictures/photographs.

M is meaning and is a focus on constructing understanding whether at the paragraph, sentence, phrase, or word level. The author’s use the example of a child reading “The house is brown” for “The horse is brown” where it does make sense at the sentence level but not the text level if the child is reading about horses. We do want student using both visual and meaning simultaneously and these types of miscues can easily be clarified as words that need to be studied in the middle (/u/ and /r/) as the beginning and endings are correct.

S is structure and deals with the language and the grammar. Some miscues occur due to language or grammar that is unfamiliar to students. Coordinating the language and grammar with the visual information in the text is a challenge when the child is working with text that is outside their current areas of cognitive practice.

Monitoring and self-correcting are also windows into student processing. What the student says is important as they attempt to solve a word. Student work in their head and out loud provides data for teachers to analyze.

This was just an abbreviated overview of complex reading behaviors that are detailed in The Next Step Forward in Running Records. These behaviors can be accessed during every running record taken of a child’s reading. What a gift for teachers and students.

A running record is the key to developing a responsive instructional plan

Reading behaviors operate together. They may be analyzed separately as MSV or physical behaviors during the running record but the goal is for the behaviors to work together in order for student processing systems to function effectively. The goal of analysis is to determine which ones and HOW they are being used in order to plan for the next layer of instruction needed by the child. And inn the tweet below, C.C. Bates shares one example of what is NOT an instructional implication.

Pay attention to patterns of behavior that emerge over time

Don’t shortchange running records by just looking at accuracy. Look for patterns over time to inform and guide responsive differentiated instruction.

Let’s return to the words of the authors for a response to question two for takeaways for teachers to embrace and question three with a message from the heart.

2) What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices?

We hope teachers will see that capturing students’ reading behaviors and using the information to provide targeted instruction is time well spent. In the book, we show how running records are an integral part of the instructional cycle. We give suggestions on when to take running records, with whom, and how often. Most importantly we attempt to help teachers move beyond the accuracy rate to deepen their understanding of students’ literacy behaviors and their instructional implications.

Email correspondence with C.C. Bates, Maryann McBride, & Jan Richardson

3) What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind?

This book was a pandemic project. Focusing our energy on a topic near and dear to our hearts kept us grounded and moving forward as we tried to balance our personal and professional lives. Running records do require time, energy, thought, but we believe that children are always worth the effort!

Email correspondence with C.C. Bates, Maryann McBride, & Jan Richardson

Closing thoughts . . .

Are you using running records? If yes, how and why do you use them? If no, why not?

Any passage can be used for a running record that can be analyzed in order to determine the reading behaviors that students are consistently using as well as the next possible steps for instruction. Running records provide a window into a child’s brain to assess their reading behaviors. As a reminder, the word assess comes from the Latin assidere, which means to sit beside. Literally then, to assess means ‘to sit beside the learner.” A running record allows a child to sit beside an adult who listens intently to the child read and watches their reading behaviors. When I am taking a running record, I pull all that information together for analysis of those in-the-head behaviors along with the behaviors I observe during our work together. I believe it is important for an adult who understands the value of a deep analysis to listen to children to determine whether they are applying skills that they have been taught as they read connected text.

Isn’t that what every child in every classroom deserves?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

LINKS:

https://vimeo.com/517580786 – Running Records Webinar by Jan, C.C., and Maryann

https://www.janrichardsonreading.com

https://readingrecovery.clemson.edu – Click on Teacher Resources for more on running records

https://shop.scholastic.com/teachers-ecommerce/teacher/books/the-next-step-forward-in-running-records-9781338732856.html

Why do you need to read and study this book?

The book will help you understand the depth of the previous information as well as these Additional Tweets to Consider about TOLDS (a Teacher Behavior) that are an ENTIRE chapter in the book:

Tapping Into Teacher Empowerment

by Jenn Hayhurst

Click here to view the Wakelet

How do we tap into teacher empowerment? This is a question that I have thought about for a long time. It has been my experience that empowered teachers draw on knowing the curriculum, having an understanding for child development, and a knack for setting attainable goals with students that help their students recognize their own inner stores of power, but I wondered what other teachers had to say on the matter. On September 16, 2021 #G2Great began a conversation about tapping into teacher empowerment, and after reading through the Wakelet it became clear to me that GROWING A CULTURE around empowerment is really the next frontier. 

What if we actively created a culture that was built around teacher empowerment in school?  I imagine that it might be like this, teachers come to school believing that their thoughts and decisions will make a positive impact on the collective good. Every faculty member would know that their expertise would be held in the highest esteem.  From where I stand, teaching is already the best career there is and if it were possible to work in a culture that tapped into teacher empowerment, it would be life changing for our profession and our students.  That is something worth fighting for, and here are some ways we can begin to make a shift towards tapping into (a culture) of teacher empowerment.

Listen to Teachers

Building a school wide belief system stems from an ongoing conversation about how students learn best. Once we have that vision, we can begin to align our beliefs and we can promote a shared voice in the materials that we put into the classroom. One way to promote ownership is to let teachers decide what kinds of materials reflect the shared vision.  Teacher autonomy would stem from having a voice and choice about classroom libraries, based on the needs of their classrooms.

Promote Intellectual Curiosity

It is a goal of many to take a student centered approach to teaching and learning. It is also important  to extend that same stance for professional learning for teachers. Having choice in the kind of professional learning that is received is very empowering.  We need to follow the teacher lead when it comes to learning because each teacher has a different need. Peer facilitated coaching is another way to promote empowerment because having the freedom to visit a colleague and learn collectively is the kind of on the job training that promotes professional growth while tapping into teacher expertise.

Take Action Through Agency

The culture of school does not always jive with the concept of agency. There are so many tasks teachers are asked to complete at school that suck up time and effort. Our focus becomes a checklist of “have to’s” rather than time spent cultivating the craft of teaching. It is hard to feel inspired to take action when obligatory duties take over.  We can strive to make this better. Everyone has to submit lesson plans, but rather than  submitting lesson plans prior to the lesson, submit them after with teacher reflections written in the margins. This encourages deeper reflection while giving administration a better view of what is happening in the classroom.  What went well? What failed? What did you learn? Innovative solutions are out there, let’s devote time and energy to making it happen.

Begin Good Conversations

One tenant of #G2Great is that we believe we move from “good work” to “great work”  in the classroom  (Howard 2012) when we continue to read and act on professional learning. A school culture that embraces a teacher’s desire to learn and try something new is one that is made to tap into teacher empowerment.  Every week, I learn so much from the teachers I work with and the teachers I know through social media. Risk would be a badge of honor, a marker of courageous learners who are trying to outgrow themselves. This would be a culture that would be worthy of the students we teach everyday. 

Never Lose Sight of What is Possible

The culture we live in school is in some part a reflection of ourselves. What if? Two common words that have an uncommon ability to power real change. If you find yourself wanting more, and dream of tapping into your own sense of empowerment; don’t wait, you can make the difference.

 Disrupting the Narrative of “Learning Loss”

by Mary Howard

Revisit our Wakelet chat artifact HERE • Read our “Learning Loss” references HERE

On 9/9/21, your #G2Great co-moderators set our sights on a pervasive educational issue that warrants collective pushback: Disrupting the Narrative of “Learning Loss”. While “learning loss” is certainly not a new phrase, it’s been cavalierly tossed around at an increasing ever-present rate since the COVID 19 pandemic began. I suspect that every educator has been impacted in some way by this disconcerting banter. It was no accident that this week was immediately preceded by a 9/2/21 paired chat eloquently discussed in a post by Fran McVeighTime to Rethink Standardized TestingMore on that later. 

Since the “learning loss” narrative is riddled with problems, it seems fitting to begin by taking a close look at the central theme of those words. My visual reference below was created to do precisely what that phrase does. I wanted to put the mindset of “LOSS” on display, surrounded by synonyms revealed in a simple search. Pause for a moment and contemplate the implications and potential impact this thinking could have on the students in your care during the new 2021-22 school year. 

Go ahead, I’ll wait while you soak that in…

This chart was created using wordclouds.com

Words matter. They have always mattered and can cloud our perceptions in ways that could alter our view without even realizing the inadvertent damage this can have on children. What I find most disturbing are the assumptions that will provoke actions that are likely to accompany a “learning loss” mentality directed at children before we even know who they are as learners and humans. Our actions speak volumes and can alter the beliefs that guide intent and thus what we bring to the instructional process. Even if we do so unintentionally, the potential for harm to students is precisely the same. 

Let’s put this in perspective. I’d like you to imagine the children who will walk through your door every day across this school year. Which of those children will be labeled as unsuspecting victims of “learning loss”? How many of them will we put at an academic and emotional disadvantage from the onset? What is the likelihood that we will dub some children in need of ‘interventions’ and then relegate them to the fix it room to recover what we deem has been lost? What is the long-term cost when we view our children through a lens of loss? If these questions don’t make you uncomfortable, then we have an even bigger problem since each question illuminates lingering inequalities that continue to be perpetuated in our schools even as I type these words. And that is simply inexcusable!

Now let’s contemplate how “learning loss” is determined as children enter our schools. To do this, I’ll turn to our chat topic last week: Time to Rethink Standardized TestingI’ll make this point using three quotes we shared this week as well as a connection to our chat the previous week. These two interrelated topics shared in consecutive weeks are the perfect pairing as one impacts the other:

This summer my email in-box was inundated with disturbing justification of “learning loss” in point-of-sale pleas. Each espoused a “learning loss” narrative in a connective trail leading to standardized tests and varied suspect numerical data as proof of the impending crisis. The vast majority were advertising a program using the lure of test scores in a carefully worded marketing ploy. This is meant to convince educators that their program will rescue them from doom and gloom and magically make “learning loss” a thing of the past in record time. Sadly, many will fall for this sales pitch hook line and sinker and happily write a check sure to “save” them from the embarrassment of declining test scores. How can we not recognize that our chronic obsession with test scores is a tragically low bar to define our so-called success? Where is our concern for the children beneath the test score fallacy and malicious marketing mix? Why aren’t we challenging the status quo that has long plagued us and harmed our children in the process? I think those questions are all worth deeper thought.

Now let’s contrast this disturbing prospect with a quote by Regie Routman from her incredible book, Literacy Essentials: Engagement, Excellence and Equity for All Learners (Stenhouse, 2018). As you read this quote, think of the dramatic perspective shift her wise words bring to mind that are a complete contradiction to “learning loss”.

The singular emphasis of Regie’s words is on the learning needs of children based on our professional responsibility to them, not a data-fueled marketing agenda or quick fix one-size-fits-all solutions at every turn. Regie is asking us to put learners first by making responsible instructional decisions grounded in our knowledge of literacy and our knowledge of students while using meaningful assessment informant we collect across every learning day. Teaching with urgency is not about selling a program. Focusing relentlessly is not about promoting standardized test scores. What Regie is asking us to do is the very heart and soul of responsive teaching rather than a flawed product pitch where the end justifies the means.

I actually paused as soon as I finished typing the expression above: “the end justifies then means.” It’s always important to me to I weigh my words carefully so I wondered if it really fit the point that I was trying to make. My desire to be very clear motivated me to check with Merriam-Webster where I found this definition:

“used to say that a desired result is so good or important that any method, even a morally bad one, may be used to achieve it.”

Yep, that fits my intended meaning to perfection!

Now that we’ve taken a good look at “learning loss” from two contrasting angles, I’d like to turn to #G2Great wisdom in the form of passionate chat tweets this week:

MORE #G2Great TWEET WISDOM

Before I share some advice and closing thoughts, I’ll share one more visual with a different frame of mind. Take a moment and think about the distinction between our initial chart focused on “LOSS” and my new chart highlighting “GAIN” with a new set of synonyms surround it. Consider what impact this shift from LOSS to GAIN could have on how we view children and our professional responsibility to each of them. 

This chart was created using wordclouds.com

How do these GAIN words make you feel? How does this contrast from how our LOSS words made you feel? What would the impact on our children be if GAIN drives your view, your intent, and your actions? What would the impact on our children be if LOSS drives your view, your intent, and your actions? The language we use can enhance or diminish all that we do because our assumptions impact our beliefs and ultimately lead to daily decision-making – for better or for worse.

…and we, my friends, are in a profession where we reach for BETTER (not worse).

Put another way, I’d like to borrow from Brent Gilson’s recent post: Perhaps Radical Change Comes from Radical Hope. His message about radical hope as a way for us to counteract the “learning loss” narrative comes through loud and clear:

“What am I doing to help my students showcase their GENIUS, facilitate JOY, carry ourselves with EXCELLENCE and ignore the noise of those who are looking to profit off a pandemic?”

And so, in closing, I’ll leave you with three important guidelines that will support you as you refute the “learning loss” narrative in the coming year so that we may honor the children who enter our schools. These are not meant as broad suggestions but to offer a powerful and purposeful starting point that could have a tremendous impact on how we approach all that follows:

Leave Your Assumptions at the Door

Each day when children walk into your classroom, make it your priority to look for the glimmers of brilliance they carry into our learning spaces with them. We have been blinded to those glimmers for too long that fuel assumptions on preconceived notions of flawed data, skin color, nationality, zip code, school-induced labels, or even past perceptions of other teachers. If we truly put children first, then we celebrate what they bring to the learning experience rather than how we believe that they should fit into a rigid grade level mold. 

Use Student Strengths as a Celebratory Guide

With this in mind, we accentuate those glimmers our children bring to the learning experience on a daily basis with a fervor that drives all we do. The “learning loss” narrative is the epitome of a deficit model that we must steadfastly refute. Rather, we embrace a strength-based model where what children can do when they enter our schools each day becomes the collective stepping stone leading to the new thinking that we support and further strength in a myriad of ways. In other words, we meet children where they are and shift our view to focus on possibilities over limitations.

Acknowledge Children as Our Best Teachers

I have gratefully attended the ‘University of Kids’ for the last five decades where I’ve learned more from children than any other professional learning endeavor. I have long honored action research as way to put children in the learning driver’s seat so that I may learn from them. I recognize that those children who baffle me most have the most to teach me and so I invite that teaching in. As a curious kidwatcher, we capture noticings and use them to make responsive decisions in honor of our children. When we pay close attention and give children an active role in our instruction-assessment merger, they will always gives us signs that point us in the right direction.  

We owe it to children to counter the “learning loss” narrative so that we may instead focus on making our classrooms a place where we believe in and value every child.

It is an educational imperative that we all embrace the belief that our children deserve nothing less!

MORE #G2Great TWEET WISDOM

Recommended References for Disrupting “Learning Loss”

What ‘learning loss’ really means (it’s not a loss of Learning) by Rachael Gabriel: http://wapo.st/3ter54y

Can we stop telling the ‘corona kids’ how little they are learning? by Rachael Gabriel: https://wapo.st/3svnZIu

The concept of “Learning Loss” is Complete BS by Teacher Tom https://bit.ly/31DZk9P

Learning Loss-Myth or Reality (Check) by Kathleen Brown: http://bit.ly/3bYQNEh

My Learning Loss Formula by Russ Walsh https://bit.ly/3thnZ0c

Build back better: Avoid the learning loss trap by Yong Zhao https://bit.ly/3drePbW

Learning Loss is Just Educational Halitosis by Peter Greene https://bit.ly/3uYKmrA

The “Learning Loss” Pandemic and it’s Cures by John Merrow (via Diane Ravitch)  This tongue in cheek post is meant to drive a sad reality home https://bit.ly/3fxW1sV

Henny Penny Discovers Learning Loss by Russ Walsh https://bit.ly/3acp01T

Previous #G2Great Article Chat

Is Learning “Lost” When Kids Are Out of School? by Alfie Kohn (We spotlighted this article on #G2Great): Article: https://bit.ly/32bgVqw #G2great post: https://bit.ly/3x56oKZ

Webinars

Anti-Testing Activism During a Global Pandemic (Webinar): Panel: Oren Pizmony-Levy, Denisha Jones, Ricardo Rosa, Robert Schaeffer Ceresta Smith, Amy Stuart Wellls http://bit.ly/3vCVk77

The Educator Collaborative Gathering Closing Keynote – Learning Loss or Found: Tools to Move Beyond Deficit Thinking Post-Pandemic with Chris Lehman, Keri Orange-Jones and Elizabeth Lacy-Schoenberger (NOTE: Session starts 33:00) https://bit.ly/3aaJAzX My facebook notes https://bit.ly/2QIYOpd

Towanda Harris podcast with Elizabeth Lacy Shoenberger: Is the Learning Lost or Found and My FB podcast notes: bit.ly/3eEf6aM

Vimeo Video: What Shall We Do?

Blog Posts

Sarah Norsworthy: The Myth of Learning Loss: A Construct of White Dominant Culture

Brent Gilson: Learning Has Not Been Lost

Brent Gilson: Perhaps Radical Change Comes from Radical Hope.

“Time to Rethink Standardized Assessment” (Ravitch, Zhao, and McDiarmid)

By Fran McVeigh

Blog Link for the post used in this chat. – Wakelet link for archival of tweets

Thursday, September 2, 2021 found #G2Great fans gathered around the Twitterverse to discuss Diane Ravitch’s blog from April 2021 where Yong Zhao and William McDiarmid shared their thinking on Standardized Testing. This was the first of a two part chat series that concludes next week with a media study of a topic currently under debate: “Learning Loss” so tune in again next week as well.

Let’s consider the “setting” for this blog post. April of this year. 14 months into the pandemic. A world-wide pandemic. Hopes. Fears. Vaccines becoming available although not yet available to all. And yet, simultaneous pushes for “a return to normal” and “a time to create a new normal.” Definitely a time of uncertainty, perhaps ripe for change. Perhaps ready to return to the known, the familiar.

Words matter. I’ve used that succinct phrase here and on my own blog as post titles here and here. Words matter because the meaning and power come from the words authors choose to use. Or even from words they deliberately choose NOT to use. With the Six Traits +1 of Writing (Voice, Ideas, Presentation, Conventions, Organization, Word Choice, and Sentence Fluency), word choice seems to be just one of seven factors, but in reality it impacts all the other traits to some degree. The words authors use are often equated to be a sign of level of education or intelligence.

I am venturing to guess that there is little doubt about my feelings about this topic. Consequently my choice with this article was to view the frequency of words in the post by Zhao and McDiarmid as a starting point of my personal study. Which words did they repeat? So how did I do a frequency study? I used technology to copy and paste the entire post into worditout.com, and this word cloud was automatically generated. As with any word cloud, the largest words appeared most frequently. This cloud uses five different colors of ink in varying sizes to show levels of frequency for words.

I literally breathed a sigh of relief to see that “students” was the largest word as I admired its placement in the center of the cloud, and then “testing” was second and “standardized” was third. Because those two words were in the title that actually confirmed the content of the post. The biggest yellow words stood out next: “educators,” “learning,” and “high-stakes.” The descending order quickly became trickier. Red words that next stood out were “skills”, then “knowledge,” “Zhao,” “families,” and “many.” I’m not going to go through all the words but I did list out about thirty of my favorite words that I found in the cloud. Before I continue on, I invite you to think about this question: “What words in the word cloud seem interesting to you?”

Did you choose nouns? If yes, “educators, families, tests, talents, opportunities, counterparts” might be some on your list.

Did you choose verbs? If yes, “marginalized, reduced, nurture, mastered, disrupted” might be words that catch your eye.

Or were there words that just created a sense of wonder? Maybe these caught your attention: “especially, consequently, perhaps, although, more, significantly, some.”

High-stakes standardized testing

Standardized Assessments . . . What do you think of when you hear that phrase? I immediately think of the old, old, old, Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, #2 pencils, and ovals that are to be “completely filled in.” That led to my vote for this visual to be a part of our slides for the chat. I see the broken pencil as frustration. Over the administration. Over the time spent assessing. Over the delays in assessment results. Over the inappropriate uses of the results.

Because this was an article study, this blog post is perhaps a bit different from other posts and significantly different from posts featuring books and authors. However, my study of the words brought me to the conclusion that there were three key ideas in the blog that also surfaced in the chat.

  1. Impact students
  2. Has failed educators
  3. Has disrupted learning for families and communities

Dear Reader,

Although those words are displayed above, they may not have been the words that you felt were emphasized. Thank you for sticking with me through this post as I demonstrate the examples that happened to show me these results. Please continue reading to follow my thinking as I share my processing of the words above and the tweets from the chat that impacted my thinking (and see exactly how many words I also use from the word cloud.)


High-stakes standardized testing impacts students.

If I begin with the littlest students, kindergartners entering school this year may have attended pre-school in the lowest numbers in the last decade. Many missed out on play dates, family events and interaction in their neighborhood and community.

First graders may be more fortunate. Some had a kindergarten year in a classroom with masks and social distancing. Some had hybrid classrooms with some instruction online and some face to face. Some others had a year of online instruction. What will first grade bring? It’s impossible to predict but bumpy rides are ahead and no one solution is possible because of the complexities of the previous year.

And second graders . . . those children who left school in March of 2019 for “a couple of weeks” who never returned for the final days of kindergarten. What were those final days like? What was first grade like? And now how will second grade look? Students who have and will now have three consecutive years greatly impacted by the pandemic.

And then students in grades three and up . . . They too have now known three years of disruption and three years of different learning. Soon we will hear from testing companies about their view of learning during the pandemic. But I want to take this opportunity to remind you of two important words: achievement and learning. Achievement tests give us comparisons of grade levels and stanines and percentiles that are often used to sort out students into categories of students dependent on the rate of growth in skills that are progressing on a scale. Learning, and in particular life-long learning often encompasses: curiosity, creativity, communication, leadership, critical thinking, adaptability, and listening.

How are students impacted?

High-stakes standardized testing has failed educators.

High-stakes assessments have promised to be the “end-all” in education reform. Unfortunately, I believe that they have done the opposite. They’ve sent us down rabbit-hole after rabbit-hole of broken promises, tired rhetoric, and trust-breaking programs as “Everyone” tries out their own experiments in improving school. But what if we take a step back and consider those who have been successful? What if we reread Dr. Gholdy Muhammad’s work to study histories of success? (Cultivating Genius chat here)

As a “Mid-Westerner”, I love New York City. This statue and its nature as a gift from our friends in France fascinates me. And these words are mesmerizing.

Many teachers whose classes began in August are already tired and poor. They are “yearning to breathe free”; free of the tyranny of standardized test requirements. Free of a six foot stack of test-prep materials. Free of local, state and federal requirements that feel counterproductive to learning. Outdated measures of learning. Disruption is needed.

High-stakes standardized testing has disrupted learning for families and communities.

When media touts the failure of schools and students by reporting FAILING data such as NAEP reports of students not meeting proficiency, it’s hard not to believe the 100th presentation of said data. However, NAEP in particular never talks about “proficiency” in any of their descriptions of their performance levels. That one sneaky little word added in makes it easy to be derailed and question the efficacy of schools in general. And then what happens? Check out the following tweets.

In conclusion with a challenge . . .

Thank you for indulging me in my wandering and wondering about words in this post, “Time to Rethink Standardized Testing.” In 2012, EdWeek stated the cost of testing to be at $1.7 billion per year. (link) Five years later Penn State reported that the same dollar figure was used for primary assessments. (link) Unfortunately, the EdWeek article was their quoted source even five years later. Testing/ Assessments are expensive.

Find out how much assessments cost your district. Actual cost. And then look for the hidden costs. How much instructional time is lost to test prep, test administration, and assemblies with promises of rewards for student improvement? What is the cost of stress for students, teachers, administrators, family and community? How much time is lost in item analysis to find out there was only one item for that skill so it may not even have been a lower performing skill, but just an inattention to detail? And then honestly answer these question: What is the cost benefit for students? How do these assessments help the students become more effective citizens? What have the teachers learned from the assessment that they did not already know?

And then take your answers to your administrators and folks in charge.

It’s time for change.

And testing/assessment needs to be at the top of the list.

Spotlight on Nawal Qarooni Casiano – Our Collective Strength: Children As Curriculum

Read Nawal’s beautiful #31daysIBPOC piece HERE and revisit our chat Wakelet here

Written by Educator Spotlight Guest, Nawal Qarooni Casiano

If I close my eyes, I might picture us all sitting on the ground, kneeled or cross-legged, poised and ready with the materials needed to weave. 

Together, as a group of educators committed to children and supporting their success in the world, we include our contributions over the next hour, one by one in rapid fire online answers, all to generate a substantial whole. 

That whole might be considered here, in the Wakelet, and if you’re like me, you might imagine the result as a green and grey kilim, patterned and wonky with charm.

That’s how the #G2Great chat felt for me. I was honored to be asked and humbled to be highlighted. And I was thrilled that folks had another chance to read the piece I wrote for #31DaysIBPOC, an incredible blog initiative hosted by Dr. Kim Parker and Tricia Ebarvia in a May movement to feature voices of Indigenous and teachers of color as writers and scholars. 

But perhaps more than anything, the experience of the chat reminded me of what I’ve always known- that strength lies in community. That each of our unique experiences and ideas affect one another. That we learn from those around us. And that this too, is true for our students and classrooms.

While I couldn’t keep up in live time with all the brilliant tweets that came through, I grabbed several I loved below. For example, I initially appreciated a pivot to thinking about caregivers and what they would want to learn and know about their students. I adored the idea of ensuring positives from the pandemic’s remote learning could be integrated into this year’s endeavors. And I wanted to underscore this little list about centering students and their identities while being flexible with how they share learning. 

And then, I lost myself in the phrasing of ‘raw materials’ here, where I thought yet again about students as the curriculum. It requires a shift in thinking – that educators are facilitators of student learning and growth – as opposed to the sole contributors of new knowledge. 

Halfway through the chat, we discussed names and identities. I have written widely about my experience with the whitewashing of my name, and appreciated so much this tweet about ensuring our brown students don’t solely ‘find themselves’ in adulthood, followed by another about asking unapologetically about name pronunciation despite potential embarrassment. 

I adored these responses about authenticity for the audiences of our work – not just due to a teacher assignment- and no single ‘right’ answer, which ultimately lead to spaces where students feel they can be truly free to make mistakes, learn, and grow.

And lastly, I felt incredible pride and excitement when all of our colleagues talked about encouraging translanguaging and including audio recording as part of the writing process to ensure accessibility, and the amazing gift of hearing the author’s voice. I loved the book recommendations, from En Comunidad and Rooted in Strength to Life, Literacy and the Pursuit of Happiness, from Octopus Stew to We Got This – all very important additions to my understanding of teaching and learning.

But what I felt more than anything by the end of the hour was a validation for what I already knew. Throughout this incredible chat with dozens of educators all across the country, this is what I confirmed:

We are stronger together. Our collectivism matters. We are what we are seeking. 

A FINAL WORD FROM MARY

August 26, 2021 was a very special day on our #G2Great chat since it was the initial launching of our Educator Spotlight with our first guest, Nawal Qarooni Casiano. I can’t think of a better person for a new beginning that we plan to continue in to the new year between author visits and varied topics. Anyone who has the great honor to know Nawal knows the passion, dedication and joy that she bring to all she does so it seemed fitting to celebrate her on our chat first. Nawal took over every aspect of our #G2Great chat including choosing a reference, writing questions that would guide the discussion, leading the chat, and writing the beautiful words that you read in this post.

Those of us who know Nawal also know that she is humble so while she included nine tweets from our chat, she did not include include any of her own beautiful responses to each of our questions. I’d like to take that role by including her tweets below.

Thank you Nawal for sharing your gifts with our #G2Great family.

LINKS

Culturally Nourishing read aloud list – family stories about food (while learning about other cultures too)

Names resource list (community building) 

Phenomenal Teaching PEBC podcast: Planning for Culturally Nourishing Learning

Jasmine Warga’s The Shape of Thunder is About Difficult, Beautiful Things

Catch my piece in #31DaysIBPOC, a project Celebrating Educator Voices of Indigenous, Black, and People of Color 

Recording, Revision, Repetition: Empowering Multilingual Writers

Reading Between the Brushstrokes: Cultivating Curious Thinkers Through Curious Conversations About Art, my piece in the Reading Recovery blog

(she | her | hers)

t: @NQCLiteracy

p: 347.225.5637

w: nqcliteracy.com

Start Here Start Now: A Guide to Antibias and Antiracist Work in Your School Community.

By Brent Gilson

For a record of this amazing chat you can check out the Wakelet archive here

This week the #G2Great team had the honour of welcoming Liz Kleinrock (@teachandtransform on IG and @teachntransform on Twitter) to come and chat with us about her work and new book Start Here Start Now: A Guide to Antibias and Antiracist Work in Your School Community. It was a fantastic chat filled with a ton of great conversations around these important concepts. As I took time to look back over the chat the idea of the importance of two things really stood out to me as we consider teaching with an Antibias Antiracist lens. These concepts were recognizing and honouring identity and building a community. Before we dive in here are some words directly from Liz.

What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have in the professional world?

“There were a number of motivators for this book! The biggest one was connecting with teachers all over the world who were struggling to get started with shifting their classroom practice to center antibias and antiracism. I also noticed that there are many books and resources that exist in the theoretical space, but fail to connect with how the ideas show up in daily classroom practice. Teachers constantly hear what they’re not supposed to do, but need examples of concrete actions to try in the classroom.”

As we started the chat the first question really caused me to pause. How did that fit with my own teaching? I have made identity a real focus over the last few years. I remember being in an IREL session last year when either Dr. Sonja Cherry-Paul or Tricia Ebarvia mentioned that Identity needs to be more than a unit, it is more than a one and done. Identity is such an important part of who we are, who our students are, that we must give it the time it deserves.

Looking back on my own years in school I don’t really recall ever being asked about my identity. I don’t recall doing any webs or sharing around what made us unique. This was not a unique experience I came to find out as answers to that first chat question rolled in.

Other responses mentioned not fitting in because they were “band kids” or only the jocks were recognized because academic success was not seen as valuable. More reported just kind of existing, “no one really paid attention to me, I was quiet.” As I reflected more personally I remember how much my identity was tied to being my father’s son. And I was the kid who wore shorts in the winter. But as to my identity we did no work to address and honour that. Now I look at my classroom and the work I am doing and others do to honour identity and build community and I have hope that more students in more classrooms will be seen and honoured for what they bring to their individual communities.

As we do this work we often are prompted to look at our practices in the classroom. Which ones affirm and which ones erase?

It can be uncomfortable to unlearn practices that are proven to harm and even halt student progress and our ability to form community. We need to embrace that discomfort. We cannot let discomfort allow us to ignore harmful practices. Taking steps to improve to better support our students is important and also can been seen as a task “too large”. Liz reflects on this in our prechat questions.

What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices?

  1. ABAR doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming. 
  2. Implementing an ABAR lens doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch.
  3. Students are ready and willing to do this work.

“Students are ready for this work”

Liz Kleinrock

So we have started to build a community, now what? I think one of the great things about Start Here Start Now is that it is full of manageable steps and work that we can do at whatever point we are at in our ABAR journey as educators. Like the title suggests we just need to start. As teachers reflected on this question the focus around their students became clear.

As teachers we advocate for all kids and doing so with both Antibias and Antiracist lenses we can also address the systems that so often tries to have all kids conform to one shared identity erasing their individual characteristics.

What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind?

There is an access point for EVERYONE when it comes to antibias and antiracism work. The journey looks different for everyone. How this work will manifest itself in your classroom will and should look different from other classrooms, because you need to be responsive to the needs of YOUR students.

Again Liz brings us back to our focus needing to be our students. Start Here Start Now is a great place to… start. If you have already been doing Antiracist Antibiased work there is more to learn. If this work is new to you there are communities supporting each other in the learning. You must take the first step.

I often tie in my own thinking in the classroom to working out. When you add a new exercise it is often uncomfortable, you don’t always do it right and you might be a bit more sore than anticipated the next day. However, you keep it up and it becomes more familiar, you get better at it, and you become stronger. Too often when doing Antibias and Antiracist work teachers, especially white ones, struggle with the discomfort and the struggle proves to be too much. Don’t take the easy way out.

Start Here Start Now A Guide to Antibias and Antiracist Work in Your School Community provides the reader with the support to work through the discomfort. It includes strategies and tips to make this new work less intimidating.

As I wrap up I think back to the beginning of the chat as we discussed identity. Adults sharing how little of themselves was really present at school. I can’t help but think if our teachers really knew how little we felt seen they would be devastated. The world has changed since I was a kid but the problems of racism, bullying and indifference to the suffering of others still exists. Liz has provided us a place to start. A path to help us to better see our students as the whole humans they are and how to course correct when we or our students make mistakes.

I am so grateful that Liz brought this book into our professional libraries. As a team we are so grateful she joined us for the chat and we are grateful for the community of learners that join us each week. There is important work to do. Find people to support your learning. If you want to learn more from Liz and support her work please be sure to check out the links below.

Book: https://www.heinemann.com/products/e11864.aspx 

IG: https://www.instagram.com/teachandtransform/ 

Website: https://www.teachandtransform.org 

Article: https://www.learningforjustice.org/magazine/antiracist-work-in-schools-are-you-in-it-for-the-long-haul 

Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/teachandtransform

Phonics In Perspective: Taking a Closer Look

by, Jenn Hayhurst

To access the archive of the chat please click here.

For as long as I can remember there has been an ongoing public debate for how to teach children to read. The “Reading Wars” asked teachers to take a side – are you pro phonics or whole language? Not even a global pandemic could silence it. If anything, it has only gotten worse. Nowadays it is: are you for the Science of Reading or Balanced Literacy? While that may all be well and good for selling newspapers, or getting “likes” over social media, it does little to elevate teacher knowledge or practice. The best way to do that is to engage in a good conversation rather than rigid one-sided debates.

On August 12, 2021 the #G2Great team hosted a chat to take a closer look at how to keep Phonics in Perspective. Teachers from all over came together to share their knowledge and experiences for phonics instruction. We discussed what we know to be true, we listened with the intent to understand, and aspired to build on our existing knowledge base to grow our instructional practice.

What we know to be true

Phonics learning is a strategy that helps readers to match spoken sounds to letters in an effort to decode. Phonics knowledge also helps readers identify common patterns embedded within syllables, this is helpful for both reading and spelling. Teachers of young children know that phonics instruction is important. When it comes to teaching children to read, nothing should be off the the table. Reading is a very complex process, one that requires teachers to differentiate instruction based on the needs of the students in front of them. This is a basic truth that many commercial programs fail to acknowledge and I think that is why so many programs fall short:

Listening to learn and grow instructional practice

During the chat I found myself reflecting on what others had shared about how to keep phonics in perspective. I returned to the Wakelet and gathered some tweets that really helped to clarify what I learned to grow my instructional practice. One takeaway I had was the importance to make room for transfer of learning to occur. Making room for transfer can happen when students: participate in word sorting, interactive writing, shared reading, or independent reading of decodable or more authentic texts. Then my thoughts turned to how important it is to bend the curriculum in order to make room for lots of component work. Finding ways to integrate interactive writing, shared reading, guided reading, and conferring to phonics learning will give students so much repeated practice for their learning of phonics as well as many other important strategies. I also though about the reading writing connection and how that promotes opportunities for phonics learning during reading and writing workshop. Again, I found my thoughts returning to the need to differentiate because reading is complex and there is no one simple “right” way to teach children how to read.

Teachers already know what side to take when it comes to the “Reading Wars” debate. There is no alternative but to be on the side of students, and that means integrating phonics instruction and honoring student centered decision making. Throughout this post many smart educators discussed how to embed phonics instruction for their students in meaningful ways. I am truly so grateful to be able to learn from so many talented and experienced teachers.