#G2Great: Reflective Readers with Travis Crowder

By Fran McVeigh

Wakelet Link for All Tweets

On Thursday, January 23, 2020, Travis Crowder shared his wisdom with the #G2Great community around his new book, Reflective Readers: The Power of Reader’s Notebooks. The Wakelet link above will yield hours of clarity, direction and awareness of reading selves which are at the center of reflection. Because being REFLECTIVE is the heart of this book, this post begins with Travis and his reflections.

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

Since I began teaching, reflective thinking has been at the heart of what I do with students. As my instructional practice moved from traditional to a workshop approach, I found myself asking students often to look back at their reading and their reading lives and write what they noticed— new understandings, beliefs, feelings, and the changes they saw in themselves as readers and thinkers. Without even recognizing it, these ideas became the foundation for action research I was doing in my classroom.

I wrote this book to share my thinking with colleagues who are intrigued by the critical literacy work we do, as well as educators who are wanting to see shifts in students’ reading lives. I stand on mighty shoulders. My work with readers is heavily influenced by other educators who have learned alongside their students. I hope that teachers will take my ideas and place them beside their own. I don’t see my work as a replacement of the work teachers are already doing, or a program; instead, it’s a model of thought, one that has helped me move my readers forward. It has deepened their thinking, helping them see how they’ve grown in their personal reading lives. I hope that it will help the professional world look at reflection differently, and hopefully, engage us in a discourse that will ultimately make our students grow into confident and more capable readers. 

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

First, it’s important to know that response and reflection are not synonymous. They serve different purposes in the life of a reader. Second, it’s important to have a balance of them in the classroom. When I started writing about reflection several years ago, I noticed a beautiful dance between response and reflection— the ebb and flow, how one naturally moves into the other. So often, writing about reading stops at response, and although responses to texts are paramount, reflective thinking is what moves kids into deeper analysis. Last, I want teachers to help students read better versions of themselves. We teach in a climate where kids have forgotten what it means to connect. But we can remind them of their sentience. With books and time to respond and reflect, we can help them see the models of the world that await them in stories. And over time, I truly believe they will impact their world. 

So what did we explore during the chat? Three key items emerged as I perused the Wakelet and revisited my notes. Those items are: clarity, direction, and reading selves. You know your own practices best. Will you begin with reflective work in your own reader’s notebook or with the work your students are doing in their readers’ notebooks?

Clarity

The chat began as does Reflective Readers with a discussion of what “reflection” is and isn’t including its relationship to “response”. Both response and reflection can include personal thoughts but it really depends upon the depth of the work which can be readily accessed in a student’s writing in a reader’s notebook. This notion of similarities and differences between response and reflection led me to making a personal T chart to compare the two in order to help me both define and understand them. A response is often tied directly to the surface facts or elements of the story, character, or plot lines. A reflection usually reveals more thinking that connects the text and the reader. As I explored this idea for several days (remembering that I see the questions in advance), I considered my past experiences and opened up my own reader’s notebook. Response, response, response. That is what seemed to be expected in many classes and in work that requires text evidence. Multiple choice tasks. Tasks with “right” answers. . . Those all led to responses. Reflection came in when I spent time digging into a specific topic/theme and compared texts or how I personally connected texts in novel ways. How does clarity of REFLECTION help you to deepen your own understanding?


Direction

Where does our reflection lead us? The direction of our thoughts depends on our reading, our texts, the time and space that we provide for reflection, and our goals and values. Reflection cannot be rushed. Reflection provides “the contour to our experiences, and forms the geography of our thinking.” (Crowder, T. Reflective Readers. p. 6) Students can document their own growth and change in their reflections as Travis so beautifully shares the frames in his portrait gallery of students. Do you want to up the game for students? Frame their work. Provide frames or mats to showcase the importance.

Reading Selves

What are the habits of readers? What are the most important habits of readers? Your values influence your answers. One inarguable habit would be that one needs to read and read a lot. Volume of reading matters. It may have a different effect at different stages in life, but reading is at the core of being a reader. But is reading a lot sufficient to be a reader? I would argue that it is NOT sufficient. Instead it is the reflective thinking that develops additional life-long reading habits.


Just as we began with thoughts from Travis and myself, the conclusion will circle back to Travis’s message from the heart and my final thoughts about Reflective Readers.

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

The professional text that is at the center of this chat is a culmination of my thinking over the past several years. It is not a program or prescription for readers; instead, it’s a way of thinking about kids and their reading lives. More than anything, this book is the story of my literacy work with young people. I value the stories they bring to the classroom, the things that make them who they are, and I want them to see reflection as part of their story— of their reading and their learning. Giving students opportunities to respond and reflect with tools like hashtags and Tweets give them another lens through which to see their reading. They aren’t the only tools, though. I’m confident that the things that you do in your classroom to help your students tell the story of their learning are brilliant. Placing them beside my thinking will only strengthen what you’re already doing. And placing my thinking beside yours will nudge my readers, too.

Is reflection only for school days? I think not because I believe reflection is a lifetime pursuit. That is why this topic and text has fascinated me. I have to both respond and reflect on my own reading before I can ask students or teachers to do the same. Our own practice with responses and reflections will guide our learning journey as we develop our own portrait galleries. When we value competent, confident readers for today and tomorrow, our students will develop into the reflective readers that we need!

Additional resources:

Benchmark PD Essentials: Reflective Readers: The Power of Reader’s Notebooks (Link)

Travis Crowder Blog (Link)

Twitter:  @teachermantrav

Fran’s T chart comparison of Response/Reflection . . . After Reflection

Fran’s T-chart that evolved with reflection on Clarity, Direction & Reading Selves

#G2Great: Kids These Days with Dr. Jody Carrington

Wakelet chat archive here

By Brent Gilson

Connection is the word of Dr. Jody Carrington. Recently we had the honour of her joining us on the #G2Great chat to discuss various topics that are covered in her amazing new book Kids These Days: A Game Plan For [RE]Connecting With Those We Teach, Lead & Love. This was Jody’s first Twitter chat and it was a gift to learn from her.

At the centre of Jody’s work is the concept of connection and reconnection. What to do when that connection is lost and how to help rebuild. As the chat began the first question set the tone.

I am grateful for both this book and the chat as I was able to go back and reflect as the last few days in the classroom have really required me to dive back in and find some inspiration. Monday was a really hard day. Apparently it is the talk of the school as I have had other teachers come by to see if I was good. In the end, there was an incident where a student was disrupting the room and things really went sideways. On reflection, it was all about connection-seeking but I saw it as attention-seeking. Parent meetings have been had, meetings with admin on how they can support me and meetings with the student. I kept coming back to the same question though, “How can I help you? What do you need?” The student didn’t know at that moment. They were having a hard time even seeing that their behaviour was problematic.

Today we started fresh everything was going well. As students read through a great short story and practice using Notice and Note to support their thinking around the text the student looked up and said “I am bored, this is taking too long I need a break.” This might not seem like connection seeking but after a week of nothing but “I don’t know” I took this as a huge step forward.

Instead of saying, “ok let’s just finish.” I acknowledged that the assignment was a bit longer than I thought when planning. I offered for them to take a break and come back to it later. There were no disruptions just connection. The student felt seen and heard and escalation was avoided. Hopefully, some trust was built. After this happened today I sat back and just pondered how a different reaction Monday might have helped us avoid the blow-up that occurred. Connection.

The first time I listened to Dr.Carrington present I connected with this idea of the Light-up. It has always been something I thought important in the classroom. I want every student to feel as though I am excited they are a part of my community because I am. This light-up can be a simple smile for those who need it and a bigger reaction for those who need that. I have always felt the light-up needs to be differentiated. There is no one size fits all. This was reflected in the amazing answers we received throughout the chat.

So often we (educators and parents) get stuck on behaviours but forget to look at the cause. I am so grateful for the work of Dr.Carrington as she asks us to focus on the cause and look at the behaviours as a result of lack of connection. The light-up can facilitate that connection. It is sort of like leaving the porch light on. When you pull up to a house and the lights are off you tend to take the hint. If we don’t indicate to our students and kids we are happy to see them we have to consider they might be getting another, unintended, message.

There was so much that we talked about in the chat, so please check the Wakelet that is linked above. I wanted to end with some of the responses to question 7. As we go forward, what are the next steps? How do we help our students learn to self regulate? To get the lid back on after it is flipped? How do we show the light-up? How to we, as the adults, learn to move past the behaviours and provide a safe place to find the connection again?

As I go forward I need to take my own advice when days are a bit bumpier than planned. Deep breaths and looking for chances to connect. Going back to the start if I had done these (not always) simple things I could have avoided the lid flip. I could have avoided the embarrassing power struggle for me and moment for the student. When we act with connection or reconnection in mind, we are putting the most vulnerable among us first. We are looking at our students as connection seekers, not attention seekers

I can’t recommend Dr. Jody Carrington’s book enough. Check out the website that is located here and find her on Facebook where most Sunday nights she hosts a live video chat. We would like to thank Dr. Carrington for joining us and leading this amazing discussion. The work she is leading is so important, and we are so grateful she took the time to share with us.

#G2Great Five-Year Anniversary Chat: WHAT IF?

by Mary Howard

As I sit at my computer basking in the glow of our fifth #G2Great anniversary, I feel a wave of celebratory joy washing over me for collaborative conversations past and yet to come. I still vividly recall the January 8, 2015 maiden chat that launched a long history of inspired conversations. This memorable beginning marked the day I joined Jenn Hayhurst and Amy Brennan for a ten-week discussion of my book, Good to Great Teaching: Focusing on the Literacy Work that Matters (Heinemann 2012). It seems fitting that I captured the spirit of the book that gave birth to our chat in my fifth book anniversary blog post: 10 Lessons Teachers Taught Me About Good to Great Teaching.

While our #G2great chat began as a short-term proposition, we soon realized that it was so much more than we had anticipated. Within a few weeks, #G2Great transformed into a passionate quest to create a long-term space for shared dialogue that is now entering year six. As our labor of love grew, our team also grew and we welcomed co-moderators Fran McVeighValinda Kimmel, and Brent Gilson. I am so lucky to be surrounded by dedicated educators who are also dear personal friends.

As I glance back at five years of #G2Great chats, the magnitude of our collective impact comes to life in glorious numbers with 234 chats including brilliant authors, student voices, topics and series and 187 blog post reflections that honor each one. These chats now lovingly reside in our Wakelet home soon to be joined by new authors, student voices, topics and series in the coming year. We couldn’t have imagined that someday we would celebrate five years of anniversary collaborations detailed in a rich history:

Anniversary Blog Posts

Year 1: 1/5/16 (Blog Post launch); Year 2: 1/5/17 The Gifts of YOU; Year 3: 1/4/18 (Curiosity Crew collaboration); Year 4: 1/10/19 (Curiosity Crew collaboration)

Anniversary Wakelet Artifacts

1st Anniversary chat; 2nd Anniversary chat; 3rd Anniversary chat; 4th Anniversary chat

This impressive collection of conversational collaborations communicate our deep belief in the power of professional possibility so it’s no accident that “WHAT IF?” became the theme of our fifth anniversary. When I first sat down to write this post, I planned to frame my thoughts around our seven WHAT IF chat questions. But as I perused our five-year history of passion-fueled dialogue, seven new WHAT IF themes began to naturally emerge that seemed to support and extend those chat questions with interrelated WHAT IF ponderings.

And so, in honor of a five-year joyful journey, I offer seven WHAT IF queries we have explored across five glorious years within our #G2great community of professional wonderers:

#1: WHAT IF we valued time so much that we filled our day only with the most effective practices? 

One of the most common themes in our chat history has been to explore professional beliefs we hold dear and how we bring those beliefs to life in our own learning spaces. We demonstrate what we value by giving those values a place of honor in each learning day. We acknowledge that this requires us to let go of those things that usurp time for what we know is most essential. In doing so, we embrace our role as thoughtful decision-makers who view each precious minute as a gift we offer our children. We do this not for some but for all children so that equitable practices will become a reality in every classroom. In the spirit of Good to Great Teaching, we say “No” to the literacy work that doesn’t matter so that we can say “Yes” to the literacy work that does. This is the heart and soul upon which #G2Great was founded in 2015.

#2: WHAT IF we viewed ongoing professional learning as our instructional superpower? 

We are blessed to teach at a time when research offers a readily accessible guide to support that instructional decision-making. Unfortunately, access to research wisdom is not enough as we cannot transform research into practice unless we are aware of the research and its implications and then willing to apply it in our daily practices. The most effective schools create research-based exploratory opportunities as a collective priority rising from a culture of respectful collaborations. Imagine what would happen if every teacher had access to a professional bookroom and that those books were used to inspire invitational conversations between knowledge hungry educators supported by literacy coaches who gently nudge daily learning in action. When teaching and learning work in tandem and teachers embrace their responsibility to seek and enhance their own learning, whether it is supported in schools or not, anything is possible.

#3: WHAT IF we promoted research-informed resources that nurture professional ownership? 

Sadly, scripted programs, packages and fidelity-fueled boxes have gained a stranglehold on this profession and created a whole new generation of compliant disseminators in training. If we are ever to become knowledge driven educators who make choices based on our growing knowledge, we must prioritize resources that are designed to support rather than dictate that knowledge. Our actions demonstrate unwavering commitment to those research beliefs but this in turn assumes that any resources we bring into our classroom will serve to enhance our vision for increasing the volume of reading, writing and talking. This obligates schools to financially support classroom and school libraries. We thus encourage volume inducing practices that maximize student inquiry and engagement and instructional opportunities that match rather than conflict with the vision we claim to embrace. If belief drives practices that draw from research and this is then supported by meaningful resources, our students will always reap the benefits of those efforts.

#4: WHAT IF assessment informed child-centered understandings vs. labels that dictate?

Over the years, our understandings about instructional practices have grown by leaps and bounds while the quality of assessments that could support those understandings have barely budged. We find ourselves standing squarely in the center of standardized testing, grading obsessed activities and a fascination with color-coded spreadsheets that label learners with highly questionable computer and speed-driven data. Formative assessment seems to have taken a backseat even though we recognize that assessment-informed instruction is critical. A startling number of teachers have never listened to or conferred with students or taken and analyzed a running record. Over time, we have watched schools pay homage to numbers that reflect a blip on the assessment radar screen, as our responsibility to living breathing children in front of us gets lost in a sea of numbers. Knowing that this assessment-instruction merger is the only way to move past our data blind spot, we make a commitment to do so.

#5: WHAT IF the daily schedule was seen as an opportunity rather than a ball and chain?

Balanced literacy and each of the instructional components that fit within this comprehensive professional perspective have been a common discussion individually and collectively. We consider this an especially important topic at a time when the very term “balanced literacy” is undeservedly on the firing lines by those who are riddled with misconceptions about what it even means. This is particularly relevant at a time when schools are seeking to control the daily schedule with a piecemeal view of teaching rather than how those experiences work in support of one another. While #G2Great chats have looked at the “pieces” that make up a balanced literacy framework, it has been the interplay between them that has always been at the center of our dialogue. Our conversations highlight this interplay while moving us to contemplate how to create a more flexible scheduling design so that one can support, extend and build on the other.  

#6 WHAT IF we believed that lifting the collective voices of our students was a professional imperative? 

#G2Great chats have championed the belief that students have much to say. We have honored this belief by lifting student voices into the #G2Great professional air through varied #chats that have put students in the talk seat. Over the years, #G2Great has promoted fifteen student-led chats ranging from the elementary grades to college freshmen. We have celebrated our students not just for who they are but for who they could be if given a platform for sharing their ideas in and beyond our chat. We believe that our willingness to honor students for all that they bring to the learning experience adds to our professional wisdom and that those voices can then extend beyond our four walls and into the world. We invite student voices because we are committed to the idea that we have much to learn from them and that listening to what they have to teach us demonstrates our belief that they are equally valuable members of our community of learners.  

#7: WHAT IF every schoolwide decision began with, “Is this in the best interest of our children?

Interventions have been a common #G2Great discussion within and across our chat, even when that wasn’t the main topic. Every chat we have ever had in the history of #G2Great focused on our belief that instructional equity is our responsibility. We know that this is only feasible if we put the unique needs of each child first by avoiding quick fix solutions and practices that widen rather than close the existing gap. We have celebrated Tier 1 as the first line of defense and expressed our concern that our intervention journey will be a blurry one when our focus is on identification over enriching our instructional practices across the learning day. We know that the only way that equity will become a reality in our schools is when we are able to ensure that each child has access to rich opportunities across the day from one side of the building to the other so that excellence is business as usual. In short, we support the notion that every decision we make is informed and guided by our commitment to children and their ultimate success.

Putting What If into Visual Perspective  

As I paused to think back to these seven shifts, I realized that our chat has really been grounded in how we can move from NOW to NEXT. In the quiet of my thoughts I was drawn to something my very wise friend Heidi Mills said in an incredible #G2Great chat with principal Mike Oliver. As these thoughts swirled in my head, I captured them by creating the visual below. This image reflects the #G2Great spirit and what we have always stood for: 

CLOSING THOUGHTS

#G2Great was created in celebration of collective professional learning and the merging of voices that give us a sense of shared direction. We are committed to creating a space where passion-fueled conversations allow us to stand up for the rights of our children to enter classrooms that represent the learning opportunities they so richly deserve. This is particularly crucial at a time when our values are being called into question by reporters and non-educators as the Twitter we love has morphed into mudslinging directed at practices and people we admire. While it is tempting to jump into the fray, we opt to expend our energy engaging in courageous conversations because we know that speaking up is more productive than engaging in ill-informed verbal fisticuffs on the social media battlefields. We will continue to maintain that stance with our sights squarely centered on our children and research informed practices that support our efforts on their behalf. 

As we look ahead to 2020 and beyond, we contemplate how we can continue to grow as professionals and colleagues. We are grateful for the courageous conversations of the past five years, but we also know that we could be even more courageous in the coming years. We make this commitment not only for ourselves as professionals, but also for those of you who join our #G2Great collaborations in honor of your students. We are so grateful to each of you for engaging in shared conversations that inspire us and we thank you for your unwavering dedication to our children…

After all, they are the very heartbeat of #G2great