Rebellious Read Alouds: Inviting Conversations About Diversity

Wakelet collection of tweets from the #G2Great chat here

By Fran McVeigh

On Thursday, May 19, 2022, #G2Great welcomed Vera Ahiyya to a twitter chat to celebrate Rebellious Read Alouds: Inviting Conversations About Diversity with Children’s Books. This book had been on my radar since this tweet earlier this year.

As a teacher and author of children’s books, Vera understands both the power and the interest of children in books that spark conversations and Rebellious Read Alouds definitely led the twitter conversation.

Vera doesn’t mince words.

One important word.

“Always”

Six letters.

In response. In affirmation. In solidarity.

Resources such as time is always stretched. But Vera reminds us that we must ALWAYS allow time for heart connections to books. Honoring student experiences and points of view is a critical component of a read aloud. It’s NEVER about checking off a time slot in a schedule.

This post is going to feature many of Vera Ahiyya’s quotes and her tweets from the chat because she adds a new voice to our read aloud considerations. (And some other tweets sprinkled in.) Two sources for inspiration include this pre-chat quote and the book dedication.

Vera’s book dedication answers WHY! Why this book? Why now?

So let’s explore. What is the rebellion?

Why rebel against the quiet? Too often the silent have been ignored or dismissed. Too often the silent have not been seen or heard. Too often silence has covered up the need to share thoughts and to grow ideas. Too often silence has kept students and adults from reaching their potential.

No more.

What is the Goal of a Read Aloud?

One goal is definitely to ensure that students LOVE books. Read Alouds will be joyous. Students will want to read the books . . . over and over!

What conditions are necessary for Rebellious Read Alouds?

Build Community

A community is safe where all students (and teachers) feel valued. They trust each other. They know that their contributions to the class are not only welcomed, but are encouraged routinely.

Provide Time

Another condition is that time is provided in the daily schedule for Read Alouds. Teachers do not have to “Sneak Read” their Read Alouds. Read Alouds are encouraged in buildings with strong reading cultures and leadership.

ALLOW Student Responses

Students need read alouds that allow them time to think, react, or respond. The work is too important to be rushed. Students also need time to take the lead in responses as they develop speaking, listening, reading and writing competence and confidence.

Include Families in Conversations

School communities need to be more inclusive. Families can be a source of input as well as output for developing skills, content, and interest in literacy activities. As their child’s first teacher, they have unique insights into their dreams and the possibilities in front of them.

In Closing . . .

The #g2great chats are now usually six questions with the final question asking for an application of the learning, a shift in thinking, orsome evidence of action going forward. Let’s circle back to Vera Ahiyya’s dedication for this book.

As we consider John Lewis’s words, where and when will you “speak up, speak out, get in the way. Get in good trouble, necessary trouble”? Where will YOU begin?

Additional Resources:

Free resources from Corwin link

Background from Bishop and Hammond link

Sample Text link

The Joy of Reading

By Brent Gilson

For an archive of the Twitter chat check out the wakelet here

A few years ago I walked into the doorway of a very crowded conference room in Houston Texas at NCTE. The room was full with teachers seated on the floor and a friend was sitting right at the front on the floor as there were no chairs left. Presenting were Kylene Beers and Teri Lesesne on a book and reading-related topic. I can’t remember the specifics but I do remember that both Kylene and Teri motioned me to come in and just sit in the space right in front of them. This was the only time I got to speak with Teri in person but luckily over the last few years I got to know her through social media and we shared some joyful conversations about books and reading. When Donalyn told me about this project she and Teri had started I knew it would be a beautiful tribute to readers and reading. As it turns out it has also become such a beautiful tribute to Teri who passed away this last year. 

The Joy of Reading is a beautiful book. Not just in the message but in its carefully crafted layout. Beautifully Donalyn and Teri have crafted a book that invites the reader in and makes the stay welcoming. As teachers of readers, we know that helping to cultivate that joy is one of our most important jobs. Through their wise words and experience, Donalyn and Teri provide the reader with guidance on how we can do this in our classrooms without neglecting the academic “rigor” that so many in leadership call for. 

Donalyn joined the #g2great chat this week to celebrate her friend Teri and their new book. As we got started the first question

As the chat continued we discussed our reading lives. It was eye-opening for me to see so many other teachers, and avid readers were feeling a bit lost in their reading lives. The pandemic continues to have an impact on all aspects of our lives. It is something I often consider with my students. How can I expect their reading lives to bounce back when mine is more of a rollercoaster at times?

I think the chat also showed us that we can and will find our way out of this reading apathy and so will our students. We just need to make more room for joy.

The question becomes, how do we get there? How do we rebound and bring back joy to the reading lives of our students? How do we do the same for ourselves? Teri and Donalyn provide a blueprint for this in The Joy of Reading. Commonsense suggestions to help our students find their joy and help teachers build an environment that cultivates it, a community.

As the chat neared its close we discussed how we could create that authentic reading community. One built on talk over tests. A community that relies on the readers in the room working together, celebrating each other, and sharing books. Too often teachers are stuck between this desire to build a community and the ridiculous things that we are forced to do to assess our students. I remember this summer while taking a grad course the professor talked about the way we find that balance. We don’t attach assessments to our independent joyful reading. We can save that for the instructional reading moments because they will be plentiful.

Students are assessed enough. They need some time to just breathe. To go on adventures through a wardrobe, discover magic in a new land, fight for justice, step into the lives of others, and see themselves reflected in the story. Our students need time to find the Joy of Reading as Teri and Donalyn remind us. It is there. We just need to nurture it. Watch it grow.

Donalyn and Teri have impacted the lives of so many readers and The Joy of Reading in the hands of teachers looking to make a difference will impact so many more. Teri Lesesne was a fierce advocate for reading and reading joy and her legacy will live on through all those working to bring Reading Joy to the classroom.

The #g2great team is so grateful that Donalyn could join us to chat about this wonderful work she and Teri brought to us all.

LINKS

The Joy of Reading Audiobook read by Donalyn Miller (Heinemann, 2022) 

The Joy of Reading by Donalyn Miller and Teri Lesesne (Heinemann, 2022) Book order information with downloadable sample 

Leading Like a C.O.A.C.H: 5 Strategies for Supporting Teaching and Learning

5 St Transcript of All Tweets Here

By Fran McVeigh

ByOn Thursday, May 5th, 2022, the Twitterverse lit up during our chat with Matt Renwick about his new book, Leading Like a C.O.A.C.H.: 5 Strategies for Supporting Teaching and Learning. Matt’s first visit to #G2Great was in 2016 as a part of an Administrator Spotlight “Exploring Seven Big Ideas to Maximize School Wide Potential” here.

Matt’s interest in teaching, learning, and leading is well documented. This book review of Regie Routman’s Read, Write, Lead is one piece of his thinking that dates back to 2014.

That statement still holds true today in the ever changing landscape of social media and contentious discourse about the purpose of school, literacy and the cultures they represent.

Why does it matter who leads? Why do we need to think about different strategies for leading? These two recent tweets from Michael Fullan add depth to our thoughts about organizations and leadership.

Twitter 5/6/2022

What is a leader?

a guiding or directing head, as of an army, movement, or political group. Music. a conductor or director, as of an orchestra, band …

dictionary.com

Guiding head? Directing head? Conductor?

The nuances are vast. Many of us have experienced a variety of leader actions that have been affirming as well as actions at the opposite end of the spectrum that may have been less than supportive or varying midpoints.

Let’s begin with author question 1 and Matt Renwick’s own words.

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

A decade ago, I wrote a blog post titled: “Can a principal also be a coach?”

This was my second year as a head principal for an elementary school. I was finding it difficult to support instructional improvement through traditional evaluation and supervision alone. What else could I be doing to influence teaching and learning?

My previous experience as an athletic coach led me to explore instructional coaching as a viable approach within my leadership position.

Ten years later, I’ve seen the fruits of this labor in a variety of ways:

·   Teachers feeling more confident to take risks and try innovative practices.

·   More clarity around what we are trying to accomplish as a school and why it’s important.

·   Better conversations with and among faculty around our goals and efforts.

I wanted to write this book so other leaders have a set of strategies to apply in their own schools.

Matt Renwick

Who are the leaders in your building, district, community? And what characteristics do they have in common? Matt Renwick suggests that the acronym C.O.A.C.H encompasses their roles. Let’s start with this set of strategies and some tweets that are aligned.

Create confidence through trust

Organize around a priority

One. Priority.

Not 10.

Not 5.

Start with 1 priority!

FOCUS!

Affirm promising practices

You will see promising practices while on learning walks.

Communicate feedback

Begin with strengths. Be posse

Help teachers become leaders and learners

Author question 2 adds more of Matt’s thinking about teacher takeaways.

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

Two takeaways:

·   Schools don’t need to be “fixed”.

·   Leaders should instead focus on their school’s inherent potential for sustainable success.

The first takeaway is a competing response to all the rhetoric we hear around schools as “failing” or “in need of improvement”. This is not helpful language. Students, teachers, and communities hear this and may start to believe it.

To counter this, I encourage leaders at every level to take a step back and first ask, “What’s going well?”

This appreciative lens should reveal a variety of strengths, for example:

·   Classrooms with lots of books for independent reading,

·   All students knowing at least one trusting adult who cares for them, and

·   Opportunities to interact with peers with different backgrounds, beliefs, and interests.

The very structure of school – surrounded by books and friends, and supported by caring adults – makes it an amazing place on its own. Let’s start there and build upon it.

Matt Renwick

And the final author question …

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

Celebration is at the heart of learning, for both students and educators.

This is about more than just acknowledging success as learners. It’s important to recognize people’s efforts to improve. These milestones serve as waypoints on our collective journey to schoolwide excellence.

For teachers, you can do this every day with your students and many do.

What I am asking pg principals and other positional leaders in my book is to get into classrooms regularly and first affirm what teachers are doing well. These visits are called “instructional walks”, a practice first developed by Regie Routman in her book Read, Write, Lead. Leaders can engage in instructional walks by simply noticing and naming the instruction happening in classrooms, handwriting observations, sharing these notes with the teacher, and then engaging in a brief conversation about their practice. Instructional walks are strengths-oriented and the surest pathway to influencing instruction.

Essentially, I am trying to operate as a principal in classrooms how I would want my leader to be if I were still teaching: recognizing my important work while facilitating authentic conversations about how we might improve both individually and collectively as a school.

Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an expert on leadership from both a teacher stance and a building principal stance. His study, his reflection, his continued deep focus on teaching and learning and coaching provides the credibility for C.O.A.C.H. as the five strategies that will be the most efficient and effective. Just think, you could get started on those 5 strategies NOW ( as a teacher or administrator) and you would be miles ahead of your current thinking (and actions) by the start of the next school year!

Go!

Be curious!

  • – – – – – – – – – – – –

Additional Resources:

Matt’s website link

Books link

Newsletters link

SLOW CHAT: Professional Reflection as a Stepping Stone to Decision-Making

4/28/22 Wakelet SLOW CHAT HERE • 10/14/21 Wakelet SLOW CHAT HERE

by Mary Howard

On 4/28/22, #G2Great held our second SLOW CHAT in our six + year history. Our first one was on 10/14/21 as we explored Fueled by Collective Curiosity and Collaborative Conversation. This week we took a closer look at an essential topic that is critical to the success of teachers and students and yet often takes a back seat to conversational priorities: Professional Reflection as a Stepping Stone to Decision-Making. The word ‘Stepping stone’ in our title is intentional since the professional change is not a map carved in stone but directional possibilities.

WHAT IS A SLOW CHAT?

We launched #G2Great weekly twitter chat on January 7, 2015 with 340 chats to date. If you’ve attended our chat, you well know that when the clock strikes 8:30 EST, after welcoming hellos the twitter flood gates are opened. A fast-paced conversational playground ensues where tweets literally flash into view at warp speed as reading and responding to questions occurs simultaneously with reading and responding to comments. Even after six+ years doing this chat, your co-moderators know this is an impossible feat. For that reason every tweet in every chat from start to finish is lovingly housed in your honor here:

A SLOW CHAT slows down the frenzied pace by shifting from six questions over an hour answered in real time to three to five questions across the entire day answered in a leisurely timeframe. Since people come and go, this is less of an in-the-moment live conversation than a conversation that happens over time the course of one or more days.

A CLOSER LOOK AT REFLECTION FROM TWO ANGLES

It’s hard to understand what reflection is, until we acknowledge what reflection IS NOT since there has long been an educational push and pull in most things that are valuable in our teaching. Exploring the downside of reflection ensures the likelihood that we will adjust those missteps and ground our conversations around reflection from a positive stance.

What Reflection IS NOT

In education we have a near obsessive professional penchant for taking powerful concepts we throw into a blender so that we can keep only those parts that will be cheapest, easiest, fastest and of course, least effective to apply. We often take that obsession a step further by ‘programizing’ bits and pieces into a box that dictates the HOW TO in a simplified way. In other words, we take a good idea in theory and morph it into a barely recognizable act of DOING in practice as we ignore the very THINKING that is paramount to the reflection process. Thus, we reduce Reflection into a singular act rather than the multi-layered process intended. The powers that be then pat themselves on the back for adding reflection to a so-called list of accomplishments and delude teachers into embracing the shallow heartless remnants of the original by dictating the HOW WHEN WHERE (and shaky version of the underlying WHY, often force-feeding teachers fill-in-the-blank mandated forms as justification.

We would expect that every professional is familiar with the word “reflection” after all these years, but the question then becomes how it is being defined. I find that reflection has become less of a topic of discussion in schools since it’s not a new concept which often means that the depth of understanding that allows us to embrace it as a practice that lives and breathes in every learning day is often missing. The heartbeat of reflection rises from teaching and learning interactions that occur where real children reside, so let’s turn our attention to explore the flip side of this discussion:

What Reflection IS

Reflection is not the one-dimensional process that I described above, but rather a process of layers of practice that work in concert. When I think of reflection supported by research, I think of a multi-dimensional process that include five big ideas:

Notice that I used the same color, size and font for the words Inspiration and Transformation. This was intentional since I see these as bookends of a process where inspiration is our initial curiosity-inspired desire to know more and Transformation is the ultimate goal, or the action that represents the changes that we have made through our next step choices. The other four words support those moves through Observation (looking at our own instructional moves and the impact that it has on our children), retrospection (looking back in time to take a closer look at our teaching), Introspection (turning that thinking inward so that we can contemplate any adjustments that are needed) and Exploration (contemplating new thinking we can apply in the company of children).

The record keeping that rises from this process is essential as it leaves a paper trail of our thinking so that we can begin to notice professional patterns. I also see this process of capturing our thinking in a concrete way as motivators that can invite us to initiate action research where we record these shifts in practice over time to assess and analyze how it is (or is not) having long term impact on children. For me the power of reflection comes when we find ourselves in the cusp of NOT KNOWING and approach that with a deep desire to understand how we can use the unknown as a springboard to professional adjustments we make in the name of children.

Through reflection we can view our day-to-day choices with a sharper lens as we look inward to analyze the impact those choices have on the recipients of our efforts – our children. Knowing that what we do and say each day reflects our underlying beliefs in action that may or may not reflect our intent, we understand that our best teaching comes from taking a closer look at those choices. We acknowledge that the messy and imperfect reality of teaching and learning invites us to make and modify our choices as they unfold. When we use our belief fueled actions to gaze into a reflective mirror, we are afforded a rich opportunity not only to hold ourselves accountable but to use WHAT IS to envision WHAT COULD BE.

I like the unique slant that John C. Maxwell puts on the reflective process:

“Reflective thinking is like the crock pot of the mind. It encourages your thoughts to simmer until they’re done.”

Allowing our thoughts to simmer gives us time to linger in our thinking after the fact, although I would argue that thinking that rises from this lingering is never “done” but rather reflects a professionally perpetual change process. Day after day and year after year, we use what we learn from our reflections in our current teaching to fine tune and elevate our future efforts. And we do this not only for ourselves but for our children.

We are very lucky to have wonderful educators who have joined our chat discussions over the years, so before I slow this post down to its essence, let’s take a look at the tweets shared in the course of our SLOW CHAT:

TWITTER REFLECTION WISDOM

And so, just as I did in our first SLOW CHAT, I’ll close with a SLOW BLOG by sharing five twitter takeaways from our reflection chat that captivated my professional heart.

SLOW BLOG TWITTER TAKEAWAYS

  1. Reflection is a central feature of our professional practices but it requires that teachers possess a depth of understanding about the research support for this process to implement it effectively.
  2. Reflection is a multi-dimensional process that allows us to use our professional decision-making and students engaged in learning as a pathway to explore new understandings and apply that where it matters most.
  3. Reflection can take place in a wide range of ways but to be effective it must be an ongoing practice rather than a one-shot effort so that it becomes a part of the very fiber of how schools enhance our daily instruction.
  4. Reflection can occur in a wide range of ways but there is power in having other sets of eyes that comes alive when we collaborate with colleagues such as peer observation or video taping a lesson for discussion.
  5. Reflection can inspire us to initiate action research in order to use this process to document the impact on learning over time and analyze that for the sake of making far reaching changes in our teaching for years to come.

LAST THOUGHTS

In a question shared during the chat, we included a powerful quote from Debbie Miller shown in the slide above that is a perfect closing point:

“No one has a patent on the truth. Find yours.”

As Debbie Miller said so eloquently, reflection allows us to position our own teaching as a pathway for internal truth seeking. This seems like a particularly relevant point that is particularly crucial as schools are seeking to mandate instructional compliance and there are growing groups that are forcing their own unsubstantiated truths upon the educational world. Add to that the never ending standardized testing that provides a numerical form of flawed truth that is equally unsubstantiated and we have a professional storm brewing as teacher empowerment is under attack. Teachers are understandably confused by these mixed messages that ask us to be compliant disseminators who blindly follow the lead of others. Teachers who are knowledgeable are rightfully resisting that push and pull between what we are obligated to do and what we know to do. They want desperately to hold tight to a decision-making role that is inherent in highly effective teaching. Reflection affords us a way to turn our teaching inward and gaze from new eyes based on our children and then use this to literally transform the day to day choices we make on their behalf…

And that my friends, is the best form of truth seeking I know.