As I reflect on this chat I am struck by four takeaways that can shape what professional learning might be. These learning opportunities are always there for us when we know what to look for…
Learning Opportunity 1: Always Say YES
We can always say yes to learning. It begins when we define and envision what our professional learning ought to be. Once we know what we need, there are ways to incorporate 21st Century technology to our learning lives.There are virtually limitless resources available to us, and makes our learning lives relatable to our students. We can take what might be a negative learning experience and make it purposeful. Our learning is what we make of it:
Learning Opportunity 2: Set Meaningful GOALS
Learning is synoomous with growth. Intellectual growth does not just happen to us, it requires our care and attention. Each day we can challenge ourselves to learn more than yesterday. We can decide to engage the learning process with an open optimistic hearts. In the end there is no finish line for learning. Our teaching degrees grant us admistion but our training goes on throughout our lives:
Learning Opportunity 3: Create Community
We are smarter together than we are by ourselves. The more connections we make with each other the greater the learning reward. When we learn collectively we get the benefit of each other’s perspective. So read, talk, write, and create community:
Learning Opportunity 4: More is MORE:
Choice is an essential part to learning. We can find ways to open up pathways for teachers to get what they need. Personal responsiblity, open communication, and becoming personally vested in the learning lives of ourselves and our colleagues is how our profession will continue to evolve:
Thank you Rich, we appreciate the innovative conversation that your work inspired. I think the best way to close out this post is with your remarkable words of wisdom:
The idea of differentiating instruction to accommodate the different ways that students learn involves a hefty dose of common sense, as well as sturdy support in the theory and research of education (Tomlinson & Allan, 2000). It is an approach to teaching that advocates active planning for student differences in classrooms.
Differentiated instruction can, for many educators, be a Pandora’s Box of sorts. We know there are powerful outcomes when we commit to research-based instructional moves that enrich learning for all kids, but if we’re honest, we also worry about the burden and hardship.
Every educator understands the cost of thoughtful, careful instructional planning based on close observation of the kids in their care. We know it, and at the same time we must admit that for many of us, we dread it.
It’s clear the time, energy, additional research-reading that must take place for an intentional approach that “advocates active planning for (all) student differences…”
This week’s #G2Great chat was the perfect antidote for our teacher fear of all that differentiation entails. We begin, I believe, by reflecting on the very questions guiding the chat tonight; the profound, rudimentary bits of an indomitable approach to teaching that’s committed to personalized instruction for all our kids.
Mary Howard shared, “Differentiation reflects our commitment to see each child through a lens of their uniquely individual learning/emotional needs.”
When we’re able to start from that understanding, that teaching kids is as simple as celebrating their uniqueness, we allow ourselves and our beloved students room for genuine growth. When we’re able to begin with an inclination to see and celebrate all our students’ endowments, we start with promise and not privation. When we choose to think of differentiation as a “student-centered” mindset then we open up the possibility that every day holds tremendous possibility and opportunity for joy. Joy in discovering the unique assets (and needs) of each child in our care.
The tweet from Julie and Missy below captures the idea that it takes a belief or a single thought to lead to an action. Being aware of our own beliefs and developing an awareness of whether that belief will lead to an action or not is critical in making a change. We need to be honest and aware of our beliefs to ensure that they are going to make a positive impact and lead to change that will support students in our care.
The challenges that come with change require us to be flexible and willing to understand our perspectives as well as the perspectives of others. As leaders, as educators there are so many aspects of our work that are beyond our control. It is critical to remember that while some things may be beyond our control we are truly in control to the way we respond to any given situation or change. Flexibility requires practice, each time we encounter a challenge connected to changes we can use that as an ppportunity to practice flexbility. Flexibility in our responses and perspectives can help us navigate a journey to improvement in the name of our students.
We will always find what we are looking for, so we need to be certain and intentional in what we see when we look at our students and our schools. Approaching students from a strengths perspective, by looking for what they are doing rather than a deficit model provides a window into what a students can do. This provides an opportunity for learning the very next thing that is within their grasp. Viewing challenges as opportunities for growth and learning with a lens on a particular student, class, school or district opens up potential. This is Unmapped Potential!
For decades, we have understood in principle that kids need to talk about their reading. But in practice, we have been slower to develop a broad repertoire of classroom structures that stimulate, facilitate, guide, and assess that kind of abundant intelligent talk. Laura Robb to the rescue once more. (xiii)
Laura Robb to the rescue indeed. In 249 pages of brilliance, she offers a treasure chest of powerful practices that are sure to promote the abundant intelligent talk that will lift student voices into the learning air in celebratory harmony. Laura’s book beautifully organizes 35 powerhouse lessons into six thoughtful categories of student centered dialogue:
Whole Class Discussions
Our #G2Great conversation with Laura reflected a clear shared commitment for engaging students in meaningful reading and writing talk. But Laura lives and breathes this commitment in her own work in classrooms and through her writing. After the chat, Laura shared four key ideas with me via email that she hopes our #G2Great family will take away from this experience And so as I reflect on her email message and her #G2Great chat tweets, I’d like to depart from my traditional chat overview by merging Laura’s messages and tweets into four Conversation Inspirations. These will offer a professional guide as you generate the abundant intelligent Laura-inspired talk our children deserve:
Conversation Inspiration 1: Create a Culture that Celebrates Student Talk
I’m hoping teachers re-evaluated the importance of talk. Talk is an oral text, and students do a great deal of thinking, considering, and refining to craft a response others can understand. I see talk as a prelude to meaningful writing. (Laura Robb’s email message)
My reflection: Our first step is to take professional responsibility for this process. We cannot create an instructional setting where student-centered talk is valued by students until we are willing to hold this process in the highest esteem. Before we can create an environment where the high quality talk we desire for students becomes a habit of mind, we must acknowledge our role in this process. When talk is viewed as a professional must then it will become the WHY that drives us each step along the way to this rich collaborative dialogue. Laura reminds us that this is not an occasional event to be scheduled at key intervals in the day, but a non-negotiable daily priority that permeates the very air that we breathe across every learning day.
Conversation Inspiration 2: Celebrate the Talk Journey with the Gift of Time
It’s important to know that it takes time and practice for student-led discussions to run smoothly and achieve depth of thinking! The gift of time, practice, and debriefings are crucial. (Laura Robb’s email message)
My reflection: In order to create the powerful discourse we deem worthy of our students, we must first build a strong bridge between teacher supported and student engaged talk. We begin by creating a safe and supportive environment that will nurture the kind of engaging talk we want for students. Within this safe environment we can then offer the instructional models to demonstrate each step of the talk process. These scaffolded supports allow us to show our students what rich dialogue looks like, sounds like and feels like so that we can begin to relinquish responsibility to them for accountable talk. With productive and meaningful talk always in our sights, we heed Laura’s wise reminder that we cannot rush this supportive phase. Conversation Inspiration 3: Hand over the Reins of Student Ownership
When students lead discussions, they have multiple opportunities to observe peers reasoning process as well as valuing multiple interpretations supported by the text. (Laura Robb’s email message)
My reflection: This release of responsibility allows us to create a forum that will support the kind of real life conversations we want students to have with their peers. These authentic conversations are grounded in ‘passionate and intense’ talk that we want students to continue to have with others long after they leave our classrooms – the very kind of conversations we have in our own lives. Once we have set the talk stage with support, we then begin to step back and allow students to craft the structure of these conversations so that they can assume control of the decision-making process. We trust our students to make these important decisions based on the foundation we have put into place as our role shifts from a supportive one to that of facilitator as we use these experiences to fine-tune and extend learning. Conversation Inspiration 4: Value the Talk Process Through Your Actions
Don’t grade talk. Talk is thinking out loud and writing is thinking on paper. Talk should always precede writing. Teachers can model various journal responses that can be assessed and have students write a paragraph that explains their position or defends a point of view. I don’t grade readers’ notebooks as I view those as exploratory thinking that students can refine, adjust, and change. Out of notebook writing can come assessment projects.(Laura Robb’s email message)
My reflection: I opened this overview by emphasizing that we must begin by valuing the talk process as we make it integral to every instructional day. We maximize our framework by stretching talk across all content areas but this is only the beginning. We are cognizant that all we choose to say and do will send a message to students about how we view these experiences as we allow these conversations to grow with students. In other words, our day-to-day actions and how we treat the talk experience with the respect it deserves will impact students most. Making time and space for student-centered talk is important but we must also show in every aspect of our practices that we value an organic process for meaningful dialogue. We do this by choosing not to apply a grade to this process-based practice, by creating experiences worth talking about and by celebrating that students assume increasing control. We acknowledge that student-centered talk cannot be relegated to a list of narrow questions that revolve around trivial conversations. Above all we trust students to reach ever higher as their conversations begin to take on a life of their own and we honor this transformational student-driven process each step of the way.
Read, Talk, Write reflects Laura’s commitment to the role student talk plays in the learning process. We are grateful for her deep belief in the power of literary conversations and her support in helping us to envision this process through her very wise eyes. In the closing words of her wonderful book, Laura extends each of us an invitation to join her on this journey so that we too can breathe life into abundant intelligent talk. Laura’s vision of daily student engagement in literary conversations is sure to inspire dedicated educators everywhere to thoughtfully craft rich student-led dialogue across the learning day:
You are the key to developing highly literate students. And when you make learning meaningful for students with literary conversations and writing about reading, you keep students at the center of instruction, inspiring them to read, think, talk, and write– and continually improve their reading and writing expertise. (page 236)
We accept your invitation Laura and we will carry each of your conversation inspirations in our back pockets as we put your words into action where it matters most – in high impact talk infused classrooms across the country!
More inspired tweets from our amazing #G2Great family