Teaching Readers (Not Reading): Moving Beyond Skills and Strategies to Reader-Focused Instruction

You can read our chat Wakelet artifact here:

by Mary Howard

On 6/16/22, #G2Great welcomed first time guest host, Dr. Peter Afflerbach as we explored his remarkable new book, Teaching Readers (Not Reading): Moving Beyond Skills and Strategies to Reader-Focused Instruction (2022, The Guilford Press). We knew that his message would inspire critical conversations, so we weren’t surprised when fast-paced twitter style discourse reached a fever pitch with the first question. With the all-too common push and pull in our schools positioning the Reading before the Reader, these conversations are needed more than ever, as reflected in a pre-chat quote:

Dr. Afflerbach repeated this issue in his book introduction and conclusion:

It is time to focus on all of the factors that influence reading development, to examine their power, to understand their relationships, and to realize their promise in nurturing accomplished and enthusiastic readers. It’s time for teaching readers.” (page 4 & 161)

Yes, it is time; in fact that time is long overdue. It’s time for us to widen our perspective and reposition our priorities from the READING to the READER to ensure that our readers do not get lost in the mix of curriculum mandates, standardized testing and a narrowed lens of “The Science of Reading” that suggests the flawed view that there is a single science that has all the answers. Peter Afflerbach shared his thoughts on this subject during our chat.

In his book, Teaching Readers (Not Reading) and generous sharing during our chat, he offers wisdom and research we need in order to understand and reverse the current focus from Reading to Reader. This book is needed more than ever as we are asked embrace the depth and breadth of all of the “sciences of reading” as reflected in this chat tweet.

In each of our #G2great book chats, we ask our guest authors to respond to three questions. We know that understanding the thinking and motivation that went into writing the book we are celebrating can offer insight that will support and extend our thinking at deeper levels. Let’s begin with the first question:

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

I wrote this book to push back on the idea that there is a single “science of reading.” Across my experiences with teaching readers, I’ve understood that reading strategies and skills are essential for our students’ reading success. I’ve also learned that strategies and skills are not all that our developing student readers need. They need motivation and engagement, self-efficacy, metacognition and self-regulation, healthy attributions and epistemic development. Each of these represents “science,” and each should be given full consideration as we teach readers.

I’ve taught and researched readers for over 40 years—my first position was as a K-6 reading specialist in a small rural school in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. Since then, I’ve taught middle school remedial reading and high school English. I’ve directed 2 university reading clinics where practicing teachers are working toward Masters’ certification as reading specialists. And, for the past 3 decades, I researched reading comprehension strategies. I can certainly testify to the importance of strategy and skill, but I know that the thousands of children I’ve worked with need more than strategies and skills to become lifelong, successful readers.

From day one of my first year of teaching, I’ve been interested (and fascinated) by the complexity of factors that influence our students’ reading development and achievement. Our most accomplished teachers know these factors well, and make sure that instruction regularly addresses students’ need for metacognition, motivation and engagement, and self-efficacy. The research on the relationship between these factors and reading development is conclusive—they must be operating for children to reach their potential.

It’s in this era of learning more about the essential nature of metacognition, motivation and engagement, and self-efficacy that we must confront the idea that there is a single “science of reading,” and that effective strategy and skill instruction is all that our students need to thrive as readers. Remember that the research cited in the Report of the National Reading Panel is a quarter-century old, and that the NRP was constrained in terms of the research that was included. I’m a teacher, and I’m a scientist who has contributed to the strategy and skill literature. I like to think that most sciences continually evolves and that over the past 25 years we should expect to have new insights into reading, how it develops and how best to teach readers. There’s the rub—we know the power of these “other” factors, including motivation and engagement, metacognition and self-efficacy—but they are not regularly acknowledged by a majority of states and school districts, rarely acknowledged by the popular media, not included in most reading curricula and not evaluated by our high stakes assessments. A result is the vast, missed opportunity to further foster students’ reading development.  

In another tweet during our chat discussion, Peter Afflerbach sets the stage for drawing from all of the sciences that matters in teaching the reader beyond a mere skills and strategies perspective:

In his book, Peter Afflerbach details this relevant research by devoting an entire chapter to each of these “SCIENCES” of reading that have long taken a back seat in schools that preference a narrow view. Each research-proven chapter reflects the heart of those “sciences” and support our next step efforts:

Let’s pause to turn back to our Twitter chat discussion. We opened our chat with a question that focused on the title of the book, so I’d like share some of the amazing twitter responses, including three from Peter Afflerbach:

QUESTION 1: Teaching Readers (not Reading)

Before we begin our chat, Peter Afflerbach’s title is an invitation for a reflective pause. What do the words “Teaching Readers (Not Reading)” mean to you? What can schools do to support a collective shift in thinking?

Just imagine the benefits that could rise by posing this very question as we provide opportunities for them to engage in a discussion of the distinctions between these two viewpoints followed by a book study using Peter Afflerbach’s Teach Readers (Not Reading). Now imagine extending that discussion to what this looks like from each side with pictorial evidence shared by teachers on a visible display that represents an instructional shift to the Reader (Not Reading).

Now let’s look at Peter Afflerbach’s response to our second question:

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

A first, BIG hoped-for takeaway is for teachers to be affirmed in their views of students as complex people, with diverse combinations of characteristics—including but not limited to strategy and skill. A second takeaway is that our instruction should be broad-based, of course informed by research, and certainly not limited to the current and quite narrow conceptualization of the “science of reading.” There are “sciences of reading” (emphasis on the plural!) and we should consult these sciences when creating instruction and building classroom environments conducive to student growth. A third takeaway is that the details of how we promote motivation and engagement, how we teach and foster metacognition, and how we help build self-efficacy—a belief is self as a reader—are included in dedicated chapters within the book. A final takeaway is that there is the overriding demand for research-based reading instruction, so let’s make sure we consult all relevant research!

With the ”more complete portrait of the student as reader” in mind, I’d like to share some new thinking that we would need to consider before change is even possible. Since there’s no way to do justice to extensive detail Dr. Afflerbach has given us in his book, my goal here is simply to spotlight responsibility to this process as professionals. They key ideas are meant only as a starting point to a long-term process that includes a deep study of Teaching Readers (Not Reading):

• Begin by acknowledging the collective impact of these shifts in thinking

• Critically examine the existing resources that may be derailing our efforts

• Ensure that we preference teacher efficacy above programs that dictate

• Re-envision professional learning in place of professional development

• Support professional learning along the way through expert coaching

• Trust knowledgeable teachers who know the child as key decision-maker

• Take a good look at what our actions reflect that we value as informants

• See and know children through an individual vs one-size-fits all lens

• Support collegial discourse that will celebrate our children from all angles

• Push back a focus on THE science and widen our discussions to SCIENCES

Before I share my final thoughts, let’s look at Peter Afflerbach’s response to our third question:

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

Learning to read is hard for some students and easy for others. Regardless of the path a student takes to becoming a successful and independent reader, it’s so important to understand each of the factors that influence progress. Our understanding of these factors improves our instruction and supports our students. Reading strategies and skills are always essential for reading development and reading achievement. So too are metacognition, motivation and engagement and self-efficacy. 

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

Every person reading this post, our tweet artifact, and Peter Afflerbach’s book has long experienced the issues that are creating an environment where we are moved further from the READER and ever closer to the READING. Those who know the research and have made an investment in their ongoing professional learning know that our attention on Teaching the Reader (Not the Reading) is too often pushed into other directions. This is exacerbated by the pandemic fueled “Learning Loss Narrative” that has caused a narrowing of the literacy playing field and further motivated a preoccupation with raising test rather than raising readers. Couple this tragic perception gaining traction with our ongoing love affair with programs that promise speedy miracle cures and we find ourselves pushed further into a narrow field. With all of these forces at play, our Readers are taking a backseat in as the Reading remains front and center. As a result, a checklist of skills and strategies that can be dutifully checked off with pride are moving us closer to curriculum driven rather than reader-centered teaching.

We know what to do and Peter Afflerbach provides us with both the research and a pathway for reprioritizing our attention on all of the factors that will help us to focus on Teaching the Reader (Not Reading). This is not just about plugging these factors into a lockstep schedule. Rather it is about understanding how each of the “sciences” work in concert and in support of each others. This means that we must avoid viewing them in terms of a single “lesson” but what we do across the entire learning day in every aspect of the curriculum. But first we must loosen the ties that bind. As long as we continue to hold a death grip on programs and narrow prescribed curriculum that preferences a single science and ignore others that are critical to the success of our readers, we will continue to do a great disservice to the READERS who are depending on us.

We are so grateful to Dr. Peter Afflerbach for sharing his vast wisdom on our #G2Great chat. We know that his thinking will inspire much needed change.

The remaining Q2 to Q6 questions with Dr. Afflerback responses are below. His thinking here and in his book offer a guide that will support our change process.

QUESTION 2: Teaching Readers (not Reading)

Do you believe that current reading instruction reflects the breadth and depth of our knowledge of how students’ reading develops? What explains the phenomenon of understanding reading development broadly, but teaching reading narrowly?

QUESTION 3: Teaching Readers (not Reading)

From a developmental perspective, what else matters for student reading success besides strategies and skills?

QUESTION 4: Teaching Readers (not Reading)

Should the research influencing reading instruction be labeled the “science of reading” or the “sciences of reading?” Explain your response.

QUESTION 5: Teaching Readers (not Reading)

Describe the importance of motivation and engagement for student reader success. How do you ensure that motivation and engagement is a central feature of your instructional efforts?

QUESTION 6: Teaching Readers (not Reading)

Peter Afflerbach writes, “… our vision of students’ reading development and of the important outcomes of our reading instruction is constrained by what we look for. (p. 34) What varied student-centered understandings help you to broaden your vision?

LINKS

Teaching Readers (Not Reading): Moving Beyond Skills and Strategies to Reader-Focused Instruction by Peter Afflerbach (2022 Guildford Press)

Understanding and Using Reading Assessment by Peter Afflerbach (ASCD 2017)

SESSION by Peter Afflerback The Sciences of Reading: Metacognition, Motivation & Engagement, and Self-Efficacy

Mary Howard Session Notes on the above webinar:

Mary Howard session notes; Fueling Curiosity with Peter Afflerbach, Linda Hoyt

Meaningful Reading Assessment: by Peter Afflerbach and Adria Klein (Benchmark

12/29/21 message from Peter Afflerbach about Teaching Readers (Not Reading)

Creating a Schoolwide Culture of Responsive Kidwatching

You can revisit our #G2great Wakelet Chat Artifact HERE

By Mary Howard

On 6/9/22 our #G2great chat focused on an ever-essential topic of discussion: Creating a Schoolwide Culture of Responsive Kidwatching. Our chat has often emphasized dialogue around formative assessment where kidwatching finds its home such as Re-Examining and Revising Our Thinking To Transform Our Practices: Formative Assessment on 5/6/21 and Formative Assessment and Maximizing Our Potential: Assessment that Informs on 10/11/18. We have discussed kidwatching in many chats, but this week it was the conversational chat star that was worthy of our central focus.

Since we intentionally merged the words RESPONSIVE and KIDWATCHING, let’s take closer look at the word “responsive.” To do this I’ll draw from Larry Ferlazzo’s wonderful interview with Regie Routman shortly after her incredible book was published: Literacy Essentials: Engagement, Excellence, and Equity for All Learners (2018, Stenhouse)

Formative assessment is integral to responsive teaching-in-action, which depends on carefully observing, listening, and supporting students so that students remain engaged, inquisitive, and learn more. That is, in the act of teaching, based on our observations and students’ responses and actions–and in our reflections before and after–we modify, adjust, and revise our teaching to better meet students’ strengths, interests, and needs. Successfully integrating formative assessments into meaningful instruction is often what separates a teacher who struggles from one who can aptly handle any situation. Regie Routman

Responsive Kidwatching illustrates and celebrates the influential impact of professional decision-making and invites us to gather varied in-the-moment observations so that we may engage in “responsive teaching-in-action.” What we learn from students immersed in the learning process offers the informants that will support the choices we make on their behalf as we “modify, adjust, and revise our teaching to better meet students’ strengths, interests, and needs.”  In this way, we teach with a lens on students who are squarely at the center of our efforts and acknowledge our responsibility to address their unique needs in meaningful, purposeful and intentional ways. Without our commitment to remain “responsive” to students within the kidwatching process, it will be just one more empty educational term on the battlegrounds of failed efforts.

So, now let’s shift our focus on kidwatching with meaning, purpose and intent.

In each #G2Great chat, we craft six questions around our weekly topic that will guide our discussion. The focus of our six questions this week is shown above. Certainly, each discussion focus is important, but the three highlighted questions are critical entry points. Until we reach agreement about what we mean by kidwatching, have a strong sense of perspective about our role, and can verbalize our central purpose, we are doomed to dishonor the very heart of kidwatching from the onset and reduce it to yet another barely recognizable research-supported practice devoid of value.

KIDWATCHING QUESTION #1: DEFINITION

Our first chat question will determine the very success or failure of kidwatching. How we understand and define kidwatching directly impacts how we approach and ultimately implement Responsive Kidwatching in a way that will reflect intent. What better way to do that than to draw from two experts on the topic, Gretchen Owocki and Yetta Goodman who eloquently define Kidwatching in their influential book, Kidwatching: Documenting Children’s Literacy by (2002, Heinemann)

 The primary goal of kidwatching is to support and gain insight into children’s learning by

(1) intensely observing and documenting what they know and can do;

(2) documenting their ways of construction and expressing knowledge; and

(3) planning curriculum and instruction that are tailored to individual strengths and needs. (page x)

Responsive kidwatching is dependent upon all three of these features since they work in support of the kidwatching process. One cannot work in a vacuum as they are complementary. It’s worth emphasizing that we do not engage in kidwatching because it’s the hot topic of the day or required based on a district or program mandate but because we understand what it is and what it looks like in practice so deeply that we are compelled to make it an integral part of every learning day.

#G2Great Chat Twitter Responses to Question #1

KIDWATCHING QUESTION #2: PERSPECTIVE

To honor a strong commitment to kidwatching means putting it into action in the context of teaching and learning and for the purpose of enhancing the choices we make for the sake of student learning. Kidwatching isn’t what is merely scheduled into an obligatory blip on the radar screen of the week if we have time, but a process that we willingly find a place of honor for in each learning day.

When we are dedicated kidwatchers, we observe students while they engage as active participants in the learning process with a curious spirit that drives us to understand who those children are, how they learn and how their identity as a learner and human impacts that learning. This curiosity drives us to know and understand more through close observation, a process Carol Ann Tomlinson aptly refers to as “sleuthing” in So They May Soar: The Principles and Practices of Learner-Centered Classrooms (2021, ASCD)

Consistent, persistent moment-by-moment teacher watchfulness of students as they learn. (p. 150)

What kind of mindset brings this to bear? One of my favorite pages in Kidwatching by Gretchen Owocki and Yetta Goodman is wisely positioned on the first page with a beautiful list of statement about what drives their kidwatching beliefs. Each statement begins with the words: I am the teacher who… Just imagine how we would merge our beliefs about the teaching/learning process and our beliefs about Kidwatching in this way. What would that look like? Why are we doing it? What beliefs drive those efforts? We wondered about that too and so we turned this wondering into the basis of our second question that our chat friends responded to eloquently :

#G2Great Chat Twitter Responses to Question #2

Just imagine what thinking we might not only uncover but discover from a collective perspective if we posed this question based on what each individual brings to the instructional process since kidwatching is an essential part of what we all can and should do:

I am the principal who…

I am the teacher who…

I am the coach who…

I am the support staff who…

I am the interventionist who…

WHAT IF?

KIDWATCHING QUESTION #3: PERSPECTIVE

One of my favorite descriptors about kidwatching is from Kenneth Goodman so we used his words in question 3:

“To REVALUE is to notice and build on what learners can do, and to help them value and reflect on the knowledge they have.” Kenneth Goodman

What I particularly love about Kenneth Goodman’s words is the emphasis on focusing on the strengths children bring to the learning process and making them privy to those strengths as a pathway to new learning. The process of REVALUE directly contrasts to the ever present “learning loss” narrative that asks us to focus our attention on what we purport that children are unable to do. In contrast, Goodman asks us to gaze through an appreciative lens to uncover what they are already doing to use that as a stepping stone to next step efforts.

When we capture those noticings, we elevate in the moment observations over time as a reference to support and extend new thinking. Putting kidwatching onto a concrete written tool of our choice allows us to hold on to what we heard, saw and think. This also allows us to look across days at collective noticings where patterns to emerge that impact our professional choices in actionable ways no just on a particular day but across days. This visible reference could also highlight whether what we are focusing our attention on REvaluing or DEvaluing what children bring to the learning experience. We knew that this question was an important part of our chat discussion and our chat friends did not disappoint.

#G2Great Chat Twitter Responses to Question #5

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The practice of responsive kidwatching is more important than ever in an age where we find our schools and questionable publishers that cater to them hyper fixated on that “learning loss” narrative that is far removed from the spirit of kidwatching. Couple this with a never-ending obsession with standardized tests that label children in ways that lead to impersonal directives, and we find ourselves caught in the perfect ‘data storm’. Rigid curriculum and numerical-fueled assessments connected to them have slowly confiscated common sense and de-emphasized up close and personal professional observation as a key informant. Several principals have illustrated a common misconception to me that reflects how kidwatching has been reduced to an irrelevant sacrificial lamb by referring to any form of teacher observation as “opinion.” This ill-informed perspective is a blatant misconception rooted in other-focused directives that ignore the spirit of kidwatching and shamefully disregards the impact of our educators who are committed to research informed understandings.

Our children rely on teachers who bring knowledge to the teaching/learning table over blind faith in numbers without a face. And they rely on us to use RESPONSIVE KIDWATCHING to model our belief in all the wonderful thinking our childrem bring to the learning process. Dedicated kidwatchers believe that the on-the-spot actions of children in the course of each learning day tell us far more than any number on a spreadsheet ever could.

It’s time to make a collective re-commitment to kidwatching and ensure that it’s a visible feature in every classroom in every school. And so I want to close with a wonderful question that Janelle Henderson posed in her incredible post, Will the Real Data Please Stand UP:

Just imagine the collective commitment to kidwatching this would invite!

LINKS

Kidwatching: Documenting Children’s Literacy by Gretchen Owocki and Yetta Goodman (2002, Heinemann)

Kidwatching 2.0: Top 3 Moves for Real-time Assessment to Meet Every Student’s Needs by Julie Wright (Corwin)

Will the Real Data Please Stand UP by Janelle Henderson (Heinemann)


Maximizing Our Potential (part 5): Assessment that Informs by Mary Howard

Re-Examining and Revising Our Thinking To Transform Our Practices: Formative Assessment by Brent Gilson

Lifting Literacy

By Brent Gilson

For an archive of the chat check out the wakelet here

Last fall I was drawing in a school year filled with new challenges on top of working on grad school. It was interesting how I was learning about Successful Literacy Initiatives at the same time as we were embarking as a division on some new initiatives. The disconnect between what I was learning and what was been done caused an additional level of stress. So I spent more time researching and the consistent piece that always came up when looking for successful Literacy Initiatives was that they are student-focused, data-informed but not singular in focus and focused on teacher development and capacity. As we set out on the chat this week we looked at the topic of Literacy Initiatives and our experience with them, the successes and the failures, and where our focus needs to be.

Teachers discussed the positive and negative experiences that they have encountered with Literacy Initiatives. How they can go sideways when they do not follow student needs and when teachers, who are doing the work are left out of the process. Even more difficult when those making the decisions are not examining the full picture which we are seeing a resurgence of in the current SOR movements in some states leaving huge portions of reader development out of the picture. 

When we consider the most important people in the room, our students, we get a better focus on what needs to be done. The knee-jerk reactions from those outside the classroom who are imagining wide-scale problems that do not exist for the majority of students tend to do more harm to all readers by limiting teachers’ choices and thus the choice of our students. So what do we need?

So we discuss flexibility and that we need to start with our students, we need things in place to help ALL students achieve. What does that look like? How can we demonstrate that we are respecting all students while also addressing any shortfalls or areas of concern?

It seems so simple. To support our students we need to work with them in mind. To support our teachers we need to provide them with the knowledge to do the work. As Kasey states below

Building up the knowledge our teachers need to meet the challenges of today is an important piece of any successful literacy initiative. One size fits all intervention or PD will miss the mark in a high percentage of students and teachers. We (all of us in the education system) are unique so we have unique needs that need to be addressed with unique ideas whenever possible. Unfortunately, we too often fall for the snake-oil salesmen who sell the quick fixes to “save us time” when really it is smoke and mirrors dressed up as support.

As classroom teachers, we are often the last consulted and the first blamed when Literacy Initiatives fail. As we reflected on Thursday the answers seem pretty simple. Invest in kids, Invest in teachers. This does not mean there are no programs or assessments out there that will not support this work. It does mean however that we should not build our work around a program that ignores the expertise of teachers or the lived experience of our students.

Successful Literacy Initiatives should have a goal to support our students in all areas of literacy. This knowledge comes from working with our kids and building off the work of experts. This is not quick work. There are so many possibilities for what causes students to struggle in literacy work. We need time, knowledge, choice, flexibility, and most of all respect to find these answers.

Like Dr. Miah Daughtery states, “we teach reading for liberty.” The consequences of an illiterate population are catastrophic. Our students need to receive the support to find success. Successful Literacy Initiatives can be that support.

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.

Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Writing

By Fran McVeigh

Anticipation. Planning. Prepping. A waiting period. And then the event begins. Fingers race across the keyboard. “NO, wait,” echoes as I scroll down looking for a specific item. I check each time frame, still scrolling. More self-muttering until the lost is found. Replies, likes, retweets, and laughter fill the hour. A frenetic pace builds up to the closing quote and then just like a story map, the arc of a Twitter chat slows its ebb and flow. Unlike a sporting event with a starting kick off or tip and an ending whistle, time slows but does not end. The chat is over, but then Direct Messages, closing Tweets and emails extend the chat for the next nineteen minutes. Nineteen minutes or 1,140 seconds. Folks continue to chat and celebrate the learning. It’s a never ending chat as the wakelet is published and folks continue to like and retweet the conversational tweets from the chat. Such is the arc of the weekly chat of #g2great. Enthusiastic, energized folks show up to share ideas and learn together for 60 minutes. An uplifting aura surrounds keyboards across the country and sometimes the world as participants add their thoughts and questions in a life-long quest for learning.

No requirements to attend. No grades. No participation points.

Folks voluntarily joining together with a common goal.

A Twitter chat. Virtual interaction among many folks who have previously met in real life, in a variety of configurations/communities, who choose to gather around a common topic for an hour. That’s the weekly focus of #G2Great.

And what a focus on April 21, 2022! There are so many words I could use to describe Melanie Meehan, our guest host for #g2great. She is a regular member of the #TWT group, a district language arts and social studies curriculum person, a coach, a mentor, a mother of four daughters and an active parent who watches many soccer matches! But she’s also a reader and a writer. As a writer, she’s been busy. These three books are a testament to her writing skills! We celebrated Every Child Can Write: Entry Points, Bridges, and Pathways for Striving Writers on October 3, 2019 with this Literacy Lenses post and The Responsive Writing Teacher: A Hands-on Guide to Child-Centered, Equitable Instruction with co-author Kelsey Sorum in this Literacy Lenses post from March 25, 2021.

This quote from The Responsive Writing Teacher is one I refer to frequently:

When you approach writing instruction with a deep understanding of children in your classroom, everything else―assessment, planning, differentiated instruction, mentor and shared texts―begins to fall into place. And you can teach writing with inclusion, equity, and agency at the forefront.  

–Melanie Meehan and Kelsey Sorum

We met on April 21, 2022 to celebrate the third book: Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Writing, the second in a Corwin series of Five to Thrive professional books. This series has so much promise for teachers and students.

Wakelet collection of all Tweets from the chat – linked here

Why? New teachers and experienced teachers will benefit from the many features that include: “Equity and Access”, “Agency and Identity”, and “Keep in Mind”. Here is the Table of Contents:

  • Chapter 1: How do I Build and Maintain a Writing Community?  
  • Chapter 2: What Should Students Know and Be Able to Do As Writers?  
  • Chapter 3: What Are Key Instructional Practices to Know and Use?  
  • Chapter 4 How do I Use Assessment For Students’ Benefit?  
  • Chapter 5: How do you shift agency from teacher to students in the writing classroom?

Curious? Interested in a specific chapter?

I’m on my third reread courtesy of my Kindle download. I’m currently checking my notebook entries against Melanie’s meticulously sourced ideas as I plan for some professional development in writing. I’m double checking and creating two column (or 2 color) notes for Melanie’s words vs. my reactions and thoughts. I’ve been studying writing during week long institutes for the last ten years and I think I have finally scratched the surface of teaching writing.

I often begin with the end in mind and I do so again in this post as I use Melanie’s words to describe her thoughts around this resource. We ask our authors these questions before each chat.

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

As the mother of four daughters who have gone to college and are now working, I have a front row view of the importance of writing and people’s ability to use and leverage the power of written expression. Schools have many priorities and teachers take on many responsibilities; I want to make sure that powerful writing instruction remains or becomes important. I also want to provide pathways and possibilities for teachers who are looking to be the best possible writing teacher they can be. 

Melanie Meehan

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

Writing this book challenged me to distill all that I know, wonder, and believe as a writing teacher into the most basic elements. Before drafting, I sat and worked to establish my own guiding beliefs about writing instruction. Those beliefs centered me and served as guideposts as I wrote. My hope is that teachers who read this book will also take the time to establish their guiding beliefs, which could be different from mine. Guiding beliefs create a powerful foundation for developing, revising, and fine-tuning all elements of teaching and learning. 

Melanie Meehan

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

Children learn to write in different ways, and there are many processes, pathways, and possibilities. For many teachers, it’s easier to identify as a reader than it is to identify as a writer, but being a writer and studying my own processes, struggles, and celebrations has led to my greatest understandings and insights about how to teach children to write.  

Melanie Meehan

Pathways and possibilities are the two words that challenged me as I read and reread Melanie’s thoughts in response to our author questions. Distilling beliefs and knowledge. Identifying as a reader or as a writer. Those themes took me back to the chat archives!

These three quotes from Melanie’s book were the pre-chat teaser, the opening and the closing. Pause for a minute and think about how these apply to your role. Which one would you like to discuss?

Goals, beliefs, and mindsets. What a treasure trove of ideas! And then just a sampling of Melanie’s tweets below illustrates the chat story line of non-negotiables, choice, writing environment, writing examples, writing identities and timelines, “I’m done”, handwriting and conventions, kidwatching, seminars, resources, student self-assessments and mentor texts.

In Conclusion

Writing is complex. Writing is a combination of physical skills (actual writing or keyboarding) and mental skills that include thinking/generating ideas, sorting out the best and most important ideas for inclusion, how to best present ideas and examples and the entire writing process.

Writing that conveys the precise meaning of the author is complex. Writing style is also individual. Every writer begins, pauses, and stops at different places.

Writing instruction is complex when it is responsive to student needs and dispositions. Teachers, families, and communities need to explore what they value in writing instruction and expand their support roles just as they do in reading because writers also deserve quality support. A knowledgeable guide can help you find access points that will benefit your writers and encourage their growth. Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Writing can be that guide for new teachers, experienced teachers and administrators leading literacy work focused on writing.

Additional Resources:

Chapter 1 Preview Link

Corwin Downloadable Resources Link

Melanie Meehan – author page link

Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading

by Mary Howard

You can access our Wakelet chat artifact here

On 4/14/22, we had the great pleasure to welcome an old friend to our #G2Great guest host seat. Christina Nosek first joined our chat with co-author Kari Yates on 6/7/18 for their book, To Know and Nurture a Reader: Conferring with Confidence and Joy (2018, Stenhouse). This week Christina returned to help us explore her amazing new book, Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading (2022, Corwin)

Christina opens her book with a loving hat tip to her first-year mentor, veteran teacher Midge. In celebration of the “Midge inspired mentors” that every teacher so richly deserves, we shared Christina’s words below during our chat that is a foundational centerpiece of professional dedication.

In one sentence, Christina offers three essential reminders:

1) Find a mentor who will set you on a success trajectory (and stay on course)

2) Acknowledge the never-ending role of your professional quest for learning

3) Keep children at the ver center of your efforts from the first day to the last

These three beliefs reflect the heartbeat of Teaching Elementary Reading and are intricately interwoven across the pages of the book. Through her words, we are consistently asked to verbalize, internalize and individualize our beliefs often and with a critical lens. It’s worth adding that while our first mentors launch a path to professional excellence, our need for mentor figures continues across our careers. I have been blessed to have countless mentors across fifty years and counting who inform and support my thinking even now. Christina models deep respect for the mentorships that will sustain us even in the most of challenging of times if we are willing to take the time to find and access the inspiration and information they so generously offer us and put it into glorious action.

In each of our #G2Great guest chats, we ask our authors to respond to three questions that offer insight into their book WHY. Since our first question directly reflects the mentors who support us, let’s begin here:

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

When I was a first year teacher, I was mentored by a dedicated and loving grade level partner named Midge, who I discuss in the introduction of the book. I was so fortunate to have a mentor to turn to whenever I had a question or concern around the teaching of reading. Many teachers do not have a Midge to mentor them as they enter the profession. I hope teachers can turn to this book in the way that I turned to Midge many years ago. 

One of the wonderful things about the entire Corwin Five to Thrive Series is that they are all positioned around essential “guiding questions.” These questions are unique to each book in the series and offer a reader friendly, belief driven experience. Christina poses and responds to six essential questions that include five key areas:

1) community (pages 8-35)

2) organization and planning (pages 36-67)

3) instructional principles (pages 68-101)

4) assessment (pages 102-125)

5) student agency (pages 126-145)

NOTE: I linked sneak peek chapter descriptions on Christina’s wonderful blog

These five chapters are tied together with next step words of wisdom in chapter 6 (pages 146-148). To add to this question-based framework, each of the five umbrella questions have 7-12 subquestions as well as additional questions that accompany wise instructional suggestions and advice across the book. With professional grace, Christina gifts us with our own mentor between two covers.

When we are honored to have an author lead our #g2Great chat twitter style discussion, we ask them to craft their own questions. We do this because it gives us a glimpse into what each author believes are the most relevant underlying book ideas from their perspective and how we can translate the passions that fueled their writing into a chat format so that those same passions will rise to the surface in the form of a twitter discussion. Because we value their responses to their own questions, let’s pause for moment and look at our six questions with Christina’s thoughts about each one in the course of the chat.

TWITTER QUESTIONS/RESPONSES

Q1 Drawing from the “Five to THRIVE” series theme, let’s establish our #G2great baseline. What do you value most in reading instruction that is designed to help children THRIVE? What practices are non-negotiable?

Q2 What are specific ways that teachers can grow and nurture the reading communities in their classrooms? 

Q3 Describe one high-impact instructional method or routine that both engages students and stretches them as readers. How do you know the method/routine works for your students?

Q4 What does it mean to use reading assessment in the service of students? What does this look like in the classroom? 

Q5 What advice would you give to a new teacher who is learning about the teaching of reading or to a veteran who wants to make their reading instruction more authentic?

Q6 One goal of our #G2Great chats is that you will take action after the chat. What have you seen or heard tonight that you a) want to learn more about? b) want to implement? Or c) want to revise to meet the needs of your students?

Christina’s responses clearly illuminate what matters deeply to her, both in her book as well as over twenty years in her own classroom. Let’s extend this by sharing her response to our second question on her book takeaway hopes:

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

My hope for teachers is that they embrace following the lead of their readers in the classroom. I want teachers to feel inspired to teach the readers in front of them rather than follow a canned curriculum page by page. Afterall, we are teachers of children, not of curriculum. 

In Teaching Elementary Reading, Christina heightens our responsibility to envision a broader perspective that is sorely needed in our schools right now while also cautioning against the one-size-fits-all approaches and practices that have long maintained a stranglehold in our schools. She asks us to expend our time and energy in the most effective, productive, and yes, joyful ways by making a commitment to let go of those things that set up roadblocks to what matters most. This process of “letting go” reminds us of the harmful impact on our learning day when a clock rigidly dictates every choice we make. Christina reminds us that we always have a choice about how we spend the important moments of our day and that those choices clearly reflect that we see ourselves as “teachers of children, not curriculum.”

One of the choices Christina enthusiastically asks us to embrace is reflected in this second quote above we shared during our #G2great chat. This is not only a choice that she embraces in this book, but one that she has embraced in her own classroom since I have known her. Volume is a topic that Christina holds dear and she approaches this with deep conviction for three areas of reading she refers to in her book: reading to learn, reading to be entertained, and reading to grow.

Before I close this post, let’s return to Christina’s third question:

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

It’s ok to feel that you do not have all the answers right now. Learning and growing as a teacher is a continual journey. Never stop seeking out the ways to best support your students. I am a very different teacher than I was even five years ago. I hope to teach differently five years from now. Serving students is all about learning and growing. 

The most important thing you need to know right now is that you are on a continual learning journey to be the kind of reading teacher who values your own learning because you know your students’ learning depends on it.” (p 6)

MY CLOSING THOUGHTS

Early in the book, Christina cuts to the chase and focuses her attention on what matters most in our teaching as she brings Teaching Elementary Reading to life across each page filled with essential advice.

“Good teaching always involves following the lead of your students above all.” Christina Nosek, page 17

Every suggestion, every idea, every description and every question Christina posed and responded to so eloquently brings us back again and again to the reason for all we do – our students and what is in their best interest. Teaching Elementary Reading is a book of questions; but even more than that it is about crafting questions that rise out of curiosity and commitment to children and using them as a springboard for the view that teaching is a process of reflective introspection that helps us to make the best possible choices on their behalf.

As I began writing this post and revisiting the incredible questions Christina crafted to guide her readers on their own journey, it occurred to me that generating questions can initiate a powerful process of exploratory discovery. Just as I am certain that Christina fine-tuned her thinking in the course of breathing life into each question, we too could do the same. Just imagine if teachers created a growing list of BURNING questions, using those questions as the gentle nudge that can lead to a “continual learning journey to be the kind of reading teacher who values your own learning because you know your students’ learning depends on it” Self-discovery begins with the questions that drive us to know more, to understand more, to be more and to apply those things in our teaching. And when those questions inspire us to reflect on our innermost beliefs and commitment to kids, it can awaken the best kind of teaching and learning that occurs in the company of and in the name of kids.

I am very privileged to call Christina Nosek a dear friend, making this opportunity to craft our #g2Great post this week an added honor.

Thank you, Christina!

Shake Up Shared Reading: Expanding on Read Alouds to Encourage Independence.

By Brent Gilson

A record of the chat can be found on wakelet

This week the #G2Great team welcomed Maria Walther to discuss her new book Shake Up Shared Reading: Expanding on Read Alouds to Encourage Student Independence (2022, Corwin). It was a fast and furious chat of passionate educators sharing ideas and of course books. 

As an early teacher, I discovered the power of shared reading. Classes were captivated by the stories of a young pig or a group of kids who discovered their teacher was an alien. As a Canadian in elementary school, we had Robert Munsch books at the ready and kids on the edge of their seats. In one particular shared reading experience, the power of shared reading was on full display as we read I’M HERE by Peter Reynolds. 

That year in our class we had a student that had some pretty significant behavioral challenges. Kids had a hard time understanding the tantrums and the often disruptive behaviors. As they gathered to listen students began to make connections from that story to their own interactions with this student. That shared moment with text lead students to develop a newfound empathy for their classmate. This is just one of many moments in those early days of teaching that really illustrated to me the power of shared reading.

As the chat began rolling the community spent some time reflecting on the topic

For my own practice, I think about the opportunities I have to utilize shared reading experiences with my Junior and Senior High students. The power that comes from sharing a poem, modeling the reading, the thinking in community is always a rewarding experience. Even the opportunities to think through a novel and the author’s craft. These teaching moments can’t be replicated with worksheets.

As the chat continued we discussed the various ways shared reading experiences show up in our classrooms.

The environment that we try to establish is a key piece to the success of Shared Reading in the classroom. I think about the sense of wonder that was established as I read novels to my third graders or the fun that would fill the room as junior high students would follow along as I read The Adventures of Huggie and Stick or the emotions that spilled over while we practice Notice and Note reading That Squeak. All of this was made possible by the environment that we built as a community.

The opportunity to use Shared Reading time to assist in other teaching moments makes it all the more important. Modeling thinking, working on strategies, building relationships, and forming a love of reading are all byproducts of time spent in shared reading experiences.

Of course, what would shared reading be without the amazing books we can access and bring into the classroom? I loved the time spent at the start of every year reading The Graveyard book with my 6th-grade classes. I loved the moments we spent on the edge of our set reading Refugee by Alan Gratz. So often the favorite memories shared by students are those moments they recall as their teacher leaves them at the cliffhanger end of a chapter… to be continued. Finding the right book can be a challenge luckily Fran Mcveigh created a little Padlet full of suggestions for your classroom.

The #G2Great team is so grateful to Maria Walther for her time and this wonderful book and chat. I am personally grateful for the reminders that even though I teach the big kids that we can all take time to enjoy the joys of shared reading.

AUTHOR REFLECTIONS

We always appreciate the insight that only authors can give us about their book. Below are Maria’s reflections on three questions that offer us an insider’s view.

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

I wrote this book while adjusting to no longer having my own classroom (after 34 years) and to living during a pandemic. I knew that I wanted to continue to support and partner with teachers in any way that I could. I’ve received so many kind tweets, notes, and e-mails about the positive impact Ramped-Up Read Aloud has had on children because it has helped teachers, librarians, and families engage in joyful interactive read-aloud experiences. I wanted to take the ideas in that resource a step further.

There is never enough time in the teaching day, but during the past two years instructional time has become even more compressed. My motivation in writing this book was to help teachers to see the endless teaching possibilities that can be found right inside their students’ favorite books. Then, spotlight those skills and strategies in short bursts of shared reading. If the ideas in Shake Up Shared Reading get one child hooked on books or make one teacher’s life even a teeny bit easier, then I’ve met my goal!

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

I’m hopeful that teachers who read Shake Up Shared Reading will embrace short bursts of shared reading. A short burst of shared reading happens when teachers and students collaboratively reread vibrant picture books with a laser-focus on either processing or comprehending text. Each short burst follows the gradual release of responsibility model with a “my turn, our turn, your turn” structure. After the short bursts, learners are invited to take a writer’s stance while innovating on the text.

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

There is no one who knows your students better than you do. Trust your professional expertise. Prioritize meaningful and joyful book experiences like read aloud and shared reading because they strengthen your learning community and support students’ reading development. Watch learners’ eyes light up when they predict where a story is heading and listen to their laughter as they grasp a humorous play on words. Schedule time every day to share a text and share the learning.

Street Data: A Next-Generation Model for Equity, Pedagogy, and School Transformation

You can access our Wakelet chat artifact here

by Mary Howard

On 3/24/22, #G2Great chat welcomed first time guests, Shane Safir and Jamila Dugan. Professional books are published rapidly, even in a global pandemic, but the moment we discovered their remarkable book, we knew that Shane and Jamila had crafted a very special gift between two covers in the pages of Street Data: A Next Generation Model for Equity, Pedagogy, and School Transformation (Corwin, 2021). We quickly learned why Street Data was receiving so many accolades and we wanted to use our twitter chat platform as one more path to get their stunning book into the hands of educators and decision-makers.

Before I turn my attention to the incredible thinking that Shane and Jamila shared on our #G2Great chat, I’d like to begin by drawing from Street Data:

ILLUMINATING THE AUTHORS’ STREET DATA “WHY”

When I’m afforded the blessing of writing about a book spotlighted on our #G2Great chat, I always begin with a deep dive into reading, watching, and listening to whatever I can find that will offer me insight about the book ideas. I happened on a Corwin webinar that was done when the book was published in 2021 so I was delighted to find that it can still be viewed by registering after the fact. In this wonderful session, Shane and Jamila each shared their Street Data “WHY” and this was just what I needed to open this post:

Jamila:

“What would the world look like if my children, if black children, if all children were free? It’s the question I’m asking. It’s the dream I’m chasing.”

Shane:

“This book is about radical dreaming and it’s about cracking open spaces of possibility first and foremost in our minds and our sense of imagination.”

Their heartfelt words further elevated the impact I felt when I first read Street Data. I can’t imagine a better extension to their wise words than the response we received from Shane and Jamila to our first of three questions.

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

The concept of street data was a seed planted in The Listening Leader (Jossey-Bass, 2017), Shane’s first book and our first collaboration, that people were really attracted to. We started playing with it and then Shane said, “We are learning a lot… we need to write about this.” I (Jamila) was out in the field with leaders, learning a ton about the challenges they were experiencing in leading for equity. We both have our own children who are working their way through this system, often with great struggle, and that is where it all emerged. 

Impact: Wanted to make the connection between theory and day to day pedagogy. Wanted to bridge the gap between what is traditionally framed as “equity work” and the transformation of teaching and learning.

Impact: Create a pathway toward an education system focused on agency of text test scores.

STREET DATA DEFINED IN THE AUTHORS’ WORDS

In the Prologue, Data in a Time of Pandemic, Shane brings clarity to the meaning of Street Data:

Street data is the qualitative and experiential data that emerges at eye level and on lower frequencies when we train our brains to discern it. Street data is asset based, building on the tenets of culturally responsive education by helping educators look for what’s right in our students, schools, and communities instead of seeking out what’s wrong….

WHY STREET DATA IS DESPERATELY NEEDED NOW

There are some books that bring chills when reading and Street Data definitely did that for me. From the first word to the last, I was struck by how much this book is needed and should be read by every educator and school leader:

In one of our chat questions, we shared this wonderful book quote from Shane

I’m quite certain that there isn’t one person reading those words who does not recognize that Shane’s first sentence is tragically alive and well in education: “Current testing practices dehumanize young people and teachers while leading us further and further from educational equity.”

Now let’s pause for a moment and look at the response Shane and Jamila shared with us on our second question. I don’t know many authors who can speak volumes in so few words but they certainly demonstrate that here:

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

Data can be humanizing. Data can be liberatory. Data can be healing.

Equity work is first and foremost pedagogical work

I’d like to follow those three essential beliefs using the slide that we shared just before our chat with Shane and Jamila began:

It occurs to me that responding to the profound question that Shane and Jamila posed at the top of that slide should be at the center of our discussions in every school across the entire year. In page after page of Street Data, Shane and Jamila eloquently respond to their question, offering a call to action with a flexible template to support schools in bringing their words to life where it matters most – in the company of children. 

I can’t stop thinking about their first belief: “Data can be humanizing” since the way education has approached data across the years is the epitome of a dehumanizing view that has elevated the long existing educational inequities that blind us to who our children are both as learners and amazing humans full of potential. I often wonder how many future leaders we have lost because of these systems perpetuated year after year. We expend precious minutes collecting data and then use those numerical values to label children – sorting them into the haves and have nots without any perception of the child beneath the data. Then we further exacerbate the issue by enthusiastically reducing children to mere blips on a spreadsheet radar screen. Through a testing process entrenched in the very culture of our educational systems, we are asked to willfully ignore the brilliance that exists within each child just waiting for us to notice, celebrate and respond to if we can look beyond the numbers to see the child in front of us.

In Street Data, Shane and Jamila eloquently help us to understand the heart of equity with detailed suggestions to embrace the “street data” that surrounds us and humanizes the assessment process in ways that will lift our instructional choices. But to embrace “street data” we must also be willing to embrace student agency so that we can draw from experiences that keep students at the center of the learning process as teachers take a step back to admire and celebrate brilliance in action. By putting children in the learning driver’s seat and offering choice with space and time to use it, we are afforded on-the-spot access to rich assessment grounded in and inseparably linked to learning in action.

The authors make this point beautifully in Street Data:

“We have retained a vision of what is possible when we build classrooms and schools and systems around students’ brilliance, cultural wealth, and intellectual potential rather than self-serving savior narratives that have us “fixing” and “filling” academic gaps.”

TWITTER WISDOM FROM SHANE AND JAMILA

I’d like to turn our attention back to our #G2Great twitter chat because the words of Shane and Jamila complement and extend Street Data beautifully:

Before I share closing words, I’d like to turn to a very important response from Shane and Jamila based on our third question:

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

Be brave and start somewhere. Use the Equity Transformation Cycle in the book to listen deeply with a mindset of radical inclusion; uncover root causes of inquiry with a mindset of curiosity; reimagine current reality with a mindset of creativity; and move forward with a mindset of courage.

Grow your awareness of your ways of knowing and being by choosing the margins.

My Closing Thoughts

I am so grateful for the opportunity to write this post to celebrate the important ideas that I believe will become a transformational stepping stone for educators and schools who are wise enough to read and apply the vast wisdom in Street Data. When I was searching for insight for this post, I happened on a YouTube Video that was posted when Street Data was first published. In Author Reflections, Shane and Jamila each pose a question that asks us to make Street Data a reality:

“What would it look like for the student experience to be designed for them and even by them. My hope and intention is for every person who’s thinking about what it looks like for their child to have school designed with them in mind.” Jamila

“The book is just the seed but my hope is that together we can cultivate this thriving garden of student voice.” Shane

It seems appropriate to close with words of wisdom Shane and Jamila shared on our chat. We are so grateful to you both for inspiring us all!

LINKS

Jamila Dugan’s Website

Shane Safir’s Website

Shane Safir on Twitter @Shane Safir

Jamila Dugan on Twitter @JamilaDugan

Street Data: A Next-Generation Model for Equity, Pedagogy, and School Transformation (Corwin, 2022) (purchase Street Data)

Author Reflections with Shane Safir and Jamila Dugan (YouTube Video)

Corwin Video Session with Shane Safir and Jamila Dugan (Still available for viewing)

Street Data: A Conversation with Jamila Dugan and Shane Safir (podcast)

Street Data: A Pathway Toward Equitable, Anti-Racist Schools (podcast)

Beware of Equity Traps and Tropes by Jamila Dugan

Authors Shane Safir and Jamila Dugan: 5 Things You Need to Know To Be A Highly Effective Educator or Teacher: An Interview With Penny Bauder