On August 24, 2017, our #G2Great community welcomed back Pernille Ripp with open arms. We celebrated her book, Passionate Readers: The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Childwith a thoughtful and heartfelt conversation about what it takes to be a teacher of reading. Pernille is a teacher, she is one of us. She is open and honest about her own personal struggles and shares her celebrations and successes. She lets us into her classroom, and in doing so, we see our own teaching lives revealed.
As I read through my Twitter feed, I imagined that I was part of an extended faculty. A member of a dynamic group of educators who cares deeply about our profession. Teachers who understand that together we are changing lives. We are united by a shared purpose and our conversations with Pernille are a prelude to all the good work that lies ahead of a new school year.
As you read this post, imagine we are in the faculty room, and we are having a good conversation, thinking about the complexities of the work that goes into helping students discover their passion for reading. What is the most important thing to focus on? What should I do to set up a successful year? What do I do if students don’t even like to read?
Establish Reading Rituals…
Nurture Reading Identities…
Create a Reading Culture…
Set Attainable Goals…
Design Learning Environments…
Prioritize Time to Read…
Honor Authentic Choices…
Share Your Hopes & Dreams…
Thank you Pernille, you inspired so many of us to dig deep and share what we know. This chat was a glimpse into your marvelous book, which is a beautiful read that is both poignant and practical. Together we can wrestle with the big important questions, and find solutions through our collective wisdom. Fortunately, there are so many talented teachers to learn with as we begin this exciting new year of learning for students as well as ourselves.
On August 17, 2017 Harvey “Smokey” Daniels joined #G2Great to lead us in a discussion about fostering curiosity through student directed inquiry. We gathered around the #G2Great table and were inspired by Harvey “Smokey” Daniels as he engaged us in so many possibilities around creating a curious classroom.
Curiosity – “Wait, what?” Often we hear this question from our students and we shrug it off – almost thinking they were not listening when they utter those words. If we think about why someone says, “Wait, what?” it is the first sign that they are curious about whatever it is they heard. Something caused them to pause and say, “wait, what?” they inherently in that question want to know more. When we hear kids say this we should embrace it and push them deeper into inquiry. Kids should jot down, at that very moment exactly what it was that caused them to say, “Wait, what?” Schools should be a place where students leave more curious, wanting to go out into the world and learn more. Inquiry breeds curiosity and promotes effort, developing the habits of mind we want for all of our students.
Choice – “Choice matters!” Any of us, adult or children thinkers, writers, and readers just think better when we have a choice about what we are thinking about. We are more motivated to dig deeper and invest more time in topics that we can choose. How do we support the development of lifelong thinkers, readers, and writers? We encourage them to think about, read about and write about topics that matter to them, topics that they are curious to learn more about.
Community – Curiosity and choice go hand in hand with thinking amongst a community. When we embrace curiosity we begin to model and support an environment that functions as a safe community. Students who engage in inquiry, are best supported and encouraged in a community where collaboration and team work is valued. Students who work together learn how to mutually respect and support others and their ideas.
My growing friendship with Brian was an unexpected gift that began when I was perusing new books at Stenhouse and happened upon his book by a stroke of pure luck. The title literally reached out from the screen and grabbed me by the heartstrings so I excitedly opened the preview and began reading the first page of his introduction:
“Today I’m worried. I’m worried because I know too many classrooms where mini-lessons begin with “seed” stories that germinate from laminated watermelons, predetermined conferences that always start with a compliment and end with a next step, and, if it’s included at all, an author’s chair or sharing time entirely driven by the teacher to reinforce a point he or she made during the mini-lesson. Rarely do children reflect on their own writing. And if they do, it’s often to fulfill a teaching agenda rather than a learner’s agenda. When did packaged programs and Pinterest replace children as the driving force of instruction? When did everything start to look the same? (Brian Kissel, page 5)
Brian’s powerful words and two questions made it clear that I had just found a kindred spirit. In typical enthusiastic Mary style, I immediately sent an email with a #G2Great invitation at the forefront of my mind. And so began our first exchange illustrating our shared concern:
Mary: I just found out about your new book, When Writers Drive the Workshop and I must say I’m very excited by your message. I’ve become increasingly frustrated that the heart and soul of writer’s workshop has been confiscated and steadily replaced in far too many schools with instructional boxes that are turning teachers into compliant disseminators. Your book was a breath of fresh air.
Brian: For the past several years I’ve been bothered by the workshop being overtaken by these packaged programs, scripted lessons, Pinterest, etc. Our writers should be the curriculum! So, I really wanted to write a book that puts the focus back on writers and gives teachers permission to trust that their writers can lead the way. I hope that message comes across in the book.
Oh yes, my wonderful new friend… that message came across loud and clear! Early in our #G2Great chat with Brian, our first conversation resurfaced in a Twitter exchange:
Brian’s words should strengthen our resolve to reclaim writer’s workshop in honor of our writers. As I write celebratory words of an unexpected friendship, I reflect on our #G2Great chatand find six Brian-inspired Driving Lessons to gently nudge us to return writers to a rightful place of honor in a writer’s workshop model envisioned by great minds so many years ago:
Driving Lesson 1: Keep the Writer in Your View
If we hope to reclaim a writer’s workshop in the spirit of these great minds, we must begin by relinquishing a death grip on lessons created by those who do not know our writers. A quick google search of the words “writer’s workshop” puts an unlimited array of resources at your fingertips. But do we ever pause to consider if this plethora of questionable grab and go ideas and tools are worthy of our writers? Lesson scripts are plentiful in this day and age, but Donald Grave’s vision that we must teach the writer should highlight our obligation to reach higher by being responsive to the writer in front of us.
Driving Lesson 2: Be Present in Writer Moments
Brian reminds us that one of the most important ways to be responsive to the writer in front of us is to truly listen to the thinking we readily and willingly invite in the course of writing. We can only glean from the wisdom each writer brings to the writing table by paying close attention to little voices that rise joyfully above our own. When we are willing to step into precious learning moments that occur within the writer’s workshop experience, we acknowledge that our silence can make room for in-the-head writerly wisdom – wisdom that can lead us in unexpected directions we may never have considered before.
Driving Lesson 3: Respect Writer Perceptions
The first question we should be asking is, “Who is the writer in front of me?” The value of reflection, both from the writer’s and teacher’s perspective, was a recurring theme across the chat. Reflection allows us to see the writer from all sides using both a cognitive and emotional lens. How our children perceive of themselves as writers will play an essential role in the instructional process. In the course of listening we begin to understand the writer through their writing, their words and their actions during the writing workshop experience as well as across the entire learning day. The writing is the vehicle but the writer is our inspiration and instructional motivation that moves us into action.
Driving Lesson 4: Embrace Writer Instincts
Why is it that goal setting is often viewed as something we do for the writer rather than using the writing experience as an opportunity to turn thinking inward. When we use their writing as a source of goal-setting inspiration, we can help children notice new possibilities as they emerge so that they can take ownership of this process. We support this thinking by acknowledging in the moment understandings that can move children from where they are to where they could be. When we actively engage writers in learning from the mindset of a writer in action, we can co-collaborate a journey of unique student-inspired step by step moves that will allow us to merge both their needs and interests.
Driving Lesson 5: Celebrate Writer Journeys
The word ‘choice’ came up repeatedly in each chat discussion. Brian reminded us that we not only need to ensure that choice is seen as an integral part of the writer’s workshop model in general but that we broaden our view of choice. When we explore choice from a broader scope, we can begin to consider how to offer our writers choice in not just what they write but also where, how, and with whom they write. Choice is a critical ingredient as it actively engages the writer in a writer-centered view of writing where joy ignite new thinking. But this will only occur if we welcome our writers to the decision making table.
Driving Lesson 6: Release Writer Potential
Our final lesson begins with another important question, “Why do we write? First and foremost we write for written expression within a safe environment where we can explore who we are and what we think and feel. But an inspired exchange with Courtney Kinney illustrates that we also write to share our ideas with others in ways that could actually change the world we live in. When we beckon a wider audience, we increase the potential for social change within and beyond our school walls. These shared experiences can give our writers the confidence and desire to use their words in powerful and purposeful ways.
As I write the closing words of this post, I can’t help but smile as I reflect back on my passionate exploration that led me to Brain and his amazing book. What began as a shared concern about the current state of writer’s workshop has since become a collective commitment to at long last put the writer back into writer’s workshop. We are inspired by Brian’s wisdom and his devotion to children. This devotion is evident with his book dedication to Tameka, a child he describes as his most important teacher who “taught me that writers must drive the workshop.”
Brian’s Twitter page quote by Isaac Asimov further reflects his spirit of resolve:
Your words are ‘planting the seeds that will flower’ into amazing young writers who reside in the writer’s workshop our children deserve Brian…
Thank you for reminding us that our writersare the curriculum!
Writer’s Workshop Learning Images Brian shared during #G2Great
More inspirational tweets from our #G2Great friends
This post is dedicated to the vibrant #G2Great Professional Learning Network, (PLN) because we are a community of educators who are unafraid to try new things, to learn, to mix it up and push ourselves forward in the name of our students. In that spirit, this post is beginning where our chat ended with our future technology goals. To boldly step out of our comfort zones and meet learning at the cutting edge of the 21st Century.
Our last question initiated BIG GOALS for future learning…
Global Read Aloud is an opportunity to connect and learn around story with a digital backdrop. According to Katie and Lindsay, “In this age of digital tools and multiliteracies, there are increasing demands of students to collaborate in order to consume and produce multimodal texts in online spaces.
If you are interested in learning more about Global Read Aloud: “The premise is simple; we pick a book to read aloud to our students during a set 6-week period and during that time we try to make as many global connections as possible. Each teacher decides how much time they would like to dedicate and how involved they would like to be. Some people choose to connect with just one class, while others go for as many as possible. The scope and depth of the project is up to you. While there are official tools you can use such as Skype, Twitter, Write About or Edmodo, you choose the tools that will make the most sense for you. Teachers get a community of other educators to do a global project with, hopefully inspiring them to continue these connections through the year. “ – Pernille Ripp
Twitter provides a unique social learning environment, It gives a space for intellectual engagement through live interactions with others. Katie and Lindsay underscore the importance of Twitter in their book, “Twitter provides students with a digital space to connect with other readers and authors to share and discuss books.” However, due to its organization and fast pace, Twitter can be daunting. There is a solution. Tweetdeck is a web-based tool that helps users to organize their Tweets into more manageable columns. It offers many useful features such as enabling users to “pre-tweet” or schedule tweets ahead of time. This is especially useful when planning and facilitating Twitter chats.To learn more, watch this video.
Understanding why a goal is important is essential, answering what you will do to accomplish the goal ties it to an action. This article offers 15 dynamic ways to make reflection a habit of mind in the classroom. In their book, Katie and Lindsay remind us that, “In the 21st Century, information is updated and readily available in real time.” Collaboration, and reflection begin with us. Teachers who lead by example, are the ones who will give students experiences that will help them grow to meet their potential.
If you visit Kate Messenger’s blog, you will see that she has created a platform to connect readers and authors through FREE Skype visits. Technology offers virtually limitless opportunities to provide access that would otherwise had been impossible. All we have to do is step out and take a risk and try. In Katie and Lindsay’s words “It is through the struggle that we learn. Additionally, the struggle provides you with thoughts and ideas to share with your students…”
Flipgrid allows teachers to create video discussion platforms. There are so many creative ways to incorporate this technology tool that are too numerous for this blog post! The important thing about Flipgrid is that it is a tool that amplifies student voice from pre-K to college aged students and beyond. It’s ok to start small with this technology, but the important thing is just to start. We need to start because we are educators, “As teachers we have the responsibility to equip our students with the tools that they need to fully participate in our interconnected, global society.” – Stover & Yearta
Thank you for writing this book Katie and Lindsay. It is an incredible resource that teachers need to have in their hands so they can put your ideas to work in their classrooms. I especially love that at the close of your book you extend an invitation to keep the conversation going through Twitter. That’s just what you did, and now we have even more resources and ideas to explore. That is is what learning is all about, and we are educators who fully embrace a learning lifestyle. We are flexible thinkers who are fueled by a collaborative spirit ready to take the next step forward together.
LInks to share…
From Pencils to Podcasts by Katie Stover Kelly and Lindsay Yearta
On July 27, 2017 #G2Great welcomes guest hosts Lindsey Moses and Meredith Ogden to talk about their book, “What are the Rest of my Kids Doing? Fostering Independence in the K-2 Reading Workshop. The title of their book is a question that is often raised when we start thinking about reading workshop and how we manage what happens after the minilesson and before the share. This is where the magic happens, because when students read independently they are growing as readers. Student independence is a critical piece of a successful reading workshop that must be supported by meaningful work that students are doing independently.
Small group instruction and conferring are essential components of reading workshop, with that in mind we have to ensure that students are engaged in independent work that is meaningful and supportive of literacy learning. In their book, Lindsey and Meredith shared the importance of not only establishing routines, structures, strategies and learning opportunities but also revisiting these in order to extend or deepen the experiences. In reading workshop, Lindsey and Meredith suggest working from a goal of “independence” from the first day and then continuing to build independence while revisiting structures and strategies to extend or deepen children’s experience with independent work.
In planning for meaningful independence during reading workshop Lindsey suggests that teachers look at and review every center, routine, worksheet if any and ask, “ What purpose does this serve in my students’ literacy development?” The answer to this question will help to shed light on how well the independent reading time is utilized. Purposeful Learning Experiences is the term that Lindsey and Meredith use to identify experiences that support literacy development and have real purpose for supporting independence. The chart below shows examples of different experiences from real classrooms and identifies what is a Purposeful Learning Experience and what is not a Purposeful Learning Experience.
During reading workshop it is critical that we ensure the experiences that students have during the independent work time is meaningful. Students must be engaged in reading, this is the time where they are practicing the skills and strategies they have learned or are still learning. If we were to fill this precious time with mindless worksheets or activities that do not have a positive impact on literacy learning we are just wasting time. These experiences fail to cognitively engage our students in the important work of reading and thinking. On the surface, it may appear that students are engaged in the classroom at the moment however when students are not engaged cognitively they will not sustain this engagement over the long run. We have to look honestly at everything we are asking students to do and ask ourselves the question that Lindsey poses, “ What purpose does this serve in my students’ literacy development?” The answers should help us to ensure that students are engaged in Purposeful Learning Experiences during independent reading time.
If you would like to learn and read more from Lindsey and Meredith check out the links below!
What Are the Rest of My Kids Doing? Fostering Independence in the K-2 Reading Workshop (Heinemann)