Every Kid A Writer: Strategies That Get Everyone Writing by Kelly Boswell

by Fran McVeigh

The Twitter chat is available in its entirety at this Wakelet link.

On Thursday, June 24th, Kelly Boswell joined the #G2Great chat to discuss her book, Every Kid a Writer: Strategies That Get Everyone Writing. Other books by Kelly include: Crafting Nonfiction Intermediate and Solutions for Reading Comprehension coauthored with Linda Hoyt and these two by herself, Write This Way: How Modeling Transforms the Writing Classroom and Write This Way From the Start.

This is one of those blog posts that I began early in order to process the information and to do justice to the topic amidst a busy summer. I reread Kelly’s book. I listened to her podcasts. I reviewed her quotes and then fresh off four days of writing institute, I wrote three or four possible hooks. As the chat ended, I raced to my draft “possibilities” document full of joy. The chat had been exhilarating. Joyful. Respectful. Packed with ideas. And so student-centered. But I couldn’t find a way to begin this post. Or more accurately, I couldn’t find a way that I liked well enough to begin this post. I chalked it up to being tired and waited to reread the Wakelet Friday morning to save some tweets to use. But I was stuck without an appropriate introduction.

Saturday started out with a fantastic Text, Talk, and Tea Zoom with Clare, Franki, Laura and Lynsey. After they shared their text set, I kept returning to several ideas from Colleen Cruz’s keynote closing for the #TCRWP writing institute. Colleen talked about the trust that students place in their teachers and how we need to celebrate that trust and learning in order to appreciate, amplify and pass the mic. Here’s her slide:

Colleen Cruz #TCRWP Keynote, 06.25.2021

Appreciate. Amplify. Pass the mic.

We can do that because we find JOY and LOVE in students’ writing when we remove barriers and focus on providing the instruction that supports them in writing. This joy and love was what I saw as the vision behind Kelly’s book and the reason that her writing strategies DO get everyone writing. There’s no blaming students. There’s no shaming students. There is an expectation and a vision that everyone can write . . . once the environment and instruction is prepped for them. We can do that because we are ALSO writers and we value both process and product. We value writing… and writing… and writing!

After finding my own connections to Kelly’s book, I wanted to honor her purpose in writing this book because I, too, have heard these questions.

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

This book is a response to the question I hear the most from the teachers with whom I work – “What about those kids who don’t like to write?” 

Many of us, at one time or another, have found ourselves in the company of a few (or perhaps more than a few) students who shrug when asked about their writing. They slump in their chairs instead of jumping into writing with energy and vigor. They sharpen pencils or ask for the bathroom pass or decide it’s a good time to organize and reorganize their desk. They groan when you announce that it’s time or write or they barrage you with questions along the lines of “How long does this have to be?” 

Many teachers mistakenly think that the problem lies with the reluctant student. I had a hunch that, like most things, teachers and classroom environments created either reluctance or engagement. 

In this book, I set out to explore this topic – why do the writers in some classrooms seem so reluctant while students in a different classroom dig into writing with enthusiasm and joy? Could we, as teachers, create classrooms and writing experiences that could increase engagement? As I spoke to students and teachers and taught lessons of my own,  my hunch was confirmed: The environment and community we create in the classroom, along with some specific, yet simple, teaching strategies, have an enormous impact on how students engage with writing. 

And that vision led us to our second question.

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

One of the biggest takeaways that I hope teachers embrace is that the problem of reluctant writers is NOT the kids. As teachers, we have the power to embrace and use some simple, practical strategies that support ALL kids to engage in writing with enthusiasm and joy. These six strategies are outlined in the book: 

We can: 

1. Use mentor texts and teacher modeling to fuel engagement

2. Create a safe and daily space for writing

3. Expose writers to real readers.

4. Offer more choice (choice of paper, seating, topic, etc.)

5. Maintain a healthy perspective on conventions.

6. Shape and create a healthy writing identity through assessment

Let’s pull back the curtain and look a little further at some of the six strategies shared by Kelly during the chat.

1. Use mentor texts and teacher modeling to fuel engagement.

2. Create a safe and daily space for writing.

3. Expose writers to real readers.

4. Offer more choice. (choice of paper, seating, topic, etc.)

5. Maintain a healthy perspective on conventions.

6. Shape and create a healthy writing identity through assessment.

In conclusion, I return to the final question for our author and just a few additional thoughts.

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

As teachers, the goal of all of our planning and teaching and conferring and assessing is, simply this: 

  • We want kids to fall in love with writing. 
  • We want kids to find words that they love and never let them go. 
  • We want kids to see writing as a way to connect with others, share ideas and engage in civil discourse. 
  • We want kids to know that writing is a powerful tool that they can use to think, reflect, remember and influence others.  
  • We want kids to discover that the act of writing is its own reward. 
  • We want them to know, deep in their bones, that writing has so much to give and so much to teach. 
  • We want kids to live joyfully literate lives. 

It starts with us.

When we provide time for students to joyfully tell their stories, we must Appreciate. Amplify. And pass the mic! This mutual respect and trust between writers and teachers of writing results in classrooms filled with joy, purpose and energy. To conclude, a repeat of the closing quote from the chat, in Kelly’s own words:

Let’s get started!

Additional Links:

Blog Posts (Heinemann):  https://blog.heinemann.com/conferring-with-kids-remotely-tips-for-remote-writing-conferences-from-kelly-boswell

https://blog.heinemann.com/positive-practices-for-you-and-your-students

Podcasts: https://blog.heinemann.com/podcast-demystifying-the-writing-process-with-kelly-boswell?hsCtaTracking=ee7df32b-f50a-49f2-adf8-67e9076b7157%7Cdc1d2e0c-2715-48ff-ab7f-4b640204da9e

Books: https://www.amazon.com/Kelly-Boswell/e/B00E59W45Q?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_3&qid=1620140304&sr=8-3

Article: https://www.languagemagazine.com/2020/02/19/harnessing-the-power-of-a-teachers-pen-2/

Is Learning “Lost” When Kids Are Out of School? (Alfie Kohn)

by Fran McVeigh

Wow! The Twittersphere was on fire on 10/22/2020 when the #G2Great chat discussed Alfie Kohn’s article from the Boston Globe, “Is Learning ‘Lost’ When Kids Are Out of School?” You can check out the article here and the Wakelet for the chat here.

I trust that you will want to check out the article as Alfie Kohn succinctly answers his own question. But that also causes a few more questions for readers which is why the discussion was scheduled with the #G2Great audience. What’s important? What matters?

Here are a few tweets illustrating that point.

Where do we begin? Many government officials and capitalists would have us begin with assessments but if you espouse “student-centered” education then you already know that we must begin at the very beginning. Are there really gaps? How would those be assessed? And how would we really assess learning? And that circles back to student-centered learning. We begin with student assets as identified in the tweets below.

In the Boston Globe article, Alfie Kohn pulls no punches with his beliefs about standardized tests. Do they REALLY measure learning? Well, that then requires us to think about learning. Is learning merely the regurgitation of factoids, examples, and curriculum that could be answered by a Google search? Or is “learning” something else? What do educators believe? How would students respond?

Here are some thoughts on “What is learning?” from the #G2Great community.

So if we are not going to use standardized assessments to measure “Learning”, what can the education community STOP doing now? How can we help “Learning” be the sustained focus and not just the “flavor” for a chat response or a newsletter? How can we make LEARNING the focus of all our future conversations?

In order for instruction to provide opportunities for learning as well as choice, and adding in “student-centered”, what will educators need to be working on expanding? What about: Student agency? Empowerment? Choice?

These four tweets will jump start your thinking about additional actions for your school community.

Is learning lost? There may be some summer slide, but as previously mentioned, students have shared powerful learning from their at-home work that has longer lasting life-time implications for their communities. Where will change come from? What will it look like? It will begin with a belief in the need for change. We can no longer afford to prepare our children for the 20th century. Change has been needed for decades and is evident that we are now in the THIRD decade of the 21st century. The pandemic just made the need for change more visible when schools were shuttered across the U.S. (and Canada) last March.

Where will YOU begin? Who else needs to read and discuss this article with you? When? The time for action is NOW! The students are depending on YOU!

Additional resources:

Alfie Kohn (Books, Blogs, Resources) Link

Alfie Kohn – Standards and Testing – Link

Alfie Kohn – How to Create Nonreaders (Yes, 2010, but read all 7) Link

The Power of Student Agency

By Brent Gilson

An archive of this weeks chat with Dr. Anindya Kundu can be found here.

This past week we had the pleasure of chatting with Dr. Anindya Kundu about his book The Power of Student Agency. As we look at the hurdles our students face, we very often forget how resilient our students are and see them through a deficit lens.

What motivated you to write this book?

“I was motivated to write TPSA after years of seeing how strapped schools, students, and districts can be when it comes to resources. At the same time, there are so many students overcoming incredible challenges in their lives (homelessness, incarceration, broken families, etc) and schools that still create cultures of success despite limitations, that I felt these stories needed to be shared. This book compiles a couple years of my fieldwork research meeting exceptional people and sharing their stories to make the case that achievement is possible for all students, if we can get behind them and support them holistically.”

The Power of Potential

A few years ago I was touring a potato farm, bear with me I am going somewhere with this, as we walking in one of the building I noticed a drain hole in the floor. I walked towards the drain and found this.

Through the concrete, with so little nutrients and the required materials to grow, this little plant was growing. Instead of focusing though on the adversity faced, I think we look at the plant and its potential despite the conditions faced. When we look at our students who face hurdles we (teachers generally) tend to look at the deficits as a starting point instead of the potential. As Dr. Kundu asks in the question, “What happens when we stop looking at the Rose in Concrete and begin looking at our schools as gardens” we see things like this.

I feel like the term “grit” has always been misused and in our current Covid reality of teaching it continues to be. I love the different reflections that came out of this simple question because they look beyond just saying things are not working and offer up hope. As Heather mentioned, schools are in need of some heavy weeding; by focusing on the schools that need to look at their practices, we are taking some of the weight off our students. By not falling back on the analogy of the rose through the concrete or the potato plant and instead looking at the environment we are providing and the potential of our students to succeed, we move away from this “grit” concept and towards a space were students see that where they are planted is fluid and can be adapted to fit their needs.

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

“The whole book is structured around highlighting the social side to grit and resilience. All students have these internal reservoirs of necessary character traits for academic and professional success; however, structural limitations are real and must be acknowledged and addressed because otherwise, we place the onus of achievement on the student alone and absolve ourselves. Instead, when we constantly think about a student in terms of their agency, or potential, we reintroduce that teaching and learning are foremost social practices that require collective responsibility.” 

Shifting the System Requires Change

When Covid-19 first hit there was this call to change the system. To create systems that provided our students with what they needed to succeed in this new normal. The thing was, however, as some made moves to make those changes it was a lot easier to talk about it than do it. Especially when the practices and thinking you have held so near and dear are the ones that are limiting our students. So how do we begin? We let go of power, we question the systems that are in place that have continued to limit the potential of some students and we get uncomfortable. Growing pains are a real thing. I started a new weight lifting plan a few weeks back. On day three EVERYTHING hurt. I started to look at how easy it would be to go back to me tried and true (and easy at this point) routine. Maybe just add a little weight. But I also understood that the hurt was my muscles repairing and growing stronger. If as teachers we are honest in our desire to create a system where all of our students are able to meet their potential we have to be willing to push through the discomfort of change that is required. No more calling for system changes but being unwilling to change our practice.

Just this morning I was talking with a colleague about the needs of a student. We discussed this idea that so often we ask students, especially students with learning needs, that they change to fit our needs and we don’t change to fit theirs. So where do we begin? Always with our students.

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

“I hope that teachers and educators can challenge themselves to see the giftedness in all students, even the ones who can be more difficult. They need our help more than others! If we can learn how to take a child’s existing interests, competencies, and talents and use those as motivational tools, we can create vibrant learning environments where all students thrive. This requires a thorough understanding of who our students are as people. It may sound complicated, but I hope the narratives I share (of how homes and families, educators and schools, and students themselves) can personify actionable, simple, and FREE strategies to inspire student agency.”

Our Students Don’t Need Saving

The hero or saviour narrative that is often applied to teachers of students who learn differently or have obstacles in their lives that potentially disrupt learning needs to be one of those things we put aside. Our students don’t need saving, they need us to be better. These last few months I have often raised the question on social media if our practices are doing more harm than good, especially in this time of Covid-19 where inequity has been under the spotlight. Sadly, it is met by hostility. If we are really interested in shifting and changing practices we have to be willing to change. Our students’ success is not dependnnt on us, because kids will succeed despite us. But we can do more to make room for them to shine. We must purposefully question our practice and explore the gaps we have that limit our students and we can make the moves to be better and help create those opportunities for them to realize their potential.

I am no saviour, hero or gardener. I am a teacher. My students are not statistics. They are amazingly talented human beings who, when provided the space to learn in ways that suit them and display that learning in ways they can shine, they will.

If you are looking for more from Dr. Kundu you can check out these links:

Anindya Kundu Website

The Boost Students Need to Overcome Obstacles

The “opportunity gap: in US public education – and how to close them

HuffPost with Anindya Kundu: Policing Schools and Dividing the Nation

Expanding on Grit to Close the Opportunity Gap discussion with Anindya Kundu, Angela Duckworth, Pedro Noguera

Jacob Chastain Teach Me Teacher Podcast with Anindya Kundu

Part 1: Systematic Inequality

Part 2: Teachers Can Begin Fixing the SystemZoom Fireside chat: Anindya Kundu, Angela Duckworth, Pedro Noguera: Expanding on Grit to Close the Opportunity Gap

Yes, They Can Series #4 Empowering Leadership

by, Jenn Hayhurst

Click here for the Wakelet

Make no mistake, all teachers have it within them to be leaders. It is a teacher’s work to give students a voice to express their opinions on the world.  When students first discover their identities in society a teacher is usually behind the scenes making that moment count. Teachers lead students to discover their ideas about themselves, and how to exercise their personal power. A teacher shows children how to set meaningful goals, and those goals may be life-changing. Ask any child who learns to read or write if their goals matter. I assure you, they will have lots to say if they have an engaged teacher leading them on their way. Teachers everywhere are deconstructing walls to access and equity so that all their students see themselves in their classrooms. Their students trust they will be treated with fairness because that’s just what good leaders do. Students in these classrooms understand that they are held in the highest regard not for what they can do, but for who they are.

On Thursday, November 7, 2019, the #G2Great community came together to explore ways to empower leadership in the fouth, of a five-part series entitled, Yes They Can! The kinds of teachers who go out of their way to participate in our weekly chats are change agents. These are the leaders who create agentive environments for everyone around them because they bring everyone up with them. They raise the level of discourse in their faculty meetings, they encourage kids to take risks. All of this is the truth, and here is one more truth to consider – most of these extraordinary teachers are the very ones who might be reticent to see themselves as leaders.

That is why this chat was such an important one. This perception, I’m just a teacher, has to change. Now more than ever we need teachers who see themselves leaders who will advocate for kids. The rest of this post is going to celebrate the teachers who decided to join in the conversation. I let their words stand on their own for your consideration.

Educational Leaders to Follow…

Leaders keep students and their well being at the center of every decision. They also make a point to make personal connections with students every day

@TracyLafreniere

Find student strengths and create opportunities for students to excell….the whole child can and should be able to stretch out of the four core subjects!

@ERobbPrincipal

A better mandate would be a wall of student names and a collection that every adult has of those names until every single one is taken by an adult who knows and has connected with them

@MelanieMeehan

Start with a vision, created thru collaboration, of what learning looks like, feels like and then establish the expectations. Important to remember high expectations are attainable by all students.

@mollienye72

The only way to increase sustainability is to quit chasing one initiative and quick fix after the other and look for real solutions that will breathe new life into the heart and soul of the school. We have to set our sights in lasting change!
@DrMaryHoward

As I read over these quotes, I get a sense of the impact these educators are having on the world. To me, a teacher is the most important kind of leader there is working in public service today. Every time a teacher goes above and beyond they are shaping their students’ perception of what it means to be an adult. Every time they demonstrate having high expectations for themselves they are inspiring a sense of personal excellence that will influence their students. When these remarkable teachers lean in and say, “Tell me more.” when a new piece of research or professional development, they are living a learner’s life. These wonderful people exist in the world and the world is a better place because they exist. This post is dedicated to you readers, and all the teachers just like you, who may never read it. You are leaders to admire, thank you.

Every Child Can Write

by Fran McVeigh

The #G2Great team exuberantly welcomed Melanie Meehan to the October 3, 2019 chat two days after Every Child Can Write: Entry Points, Bridges, and Pathways for Striving Writers entered the world. As I pondered both entry points and organization for this post, I decided to begin with Melanie’s words in response to our three basic author questions.

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

Every day I get to work with writers across all grades and across all levels. Because of my work, I have seen the impact of increasing access and entry points for writers that has led to growth for these students, regardless of functioning levels. 

Very few people enjoy a struggle when they don’t believe they will overcome it, so we have to figure out ways to make the learning and growth seem possible to everyone in the community– especially to the writer. There really is a big difference between thinking about students as struggling or thinking about them as striving, and I hope that people who read this book come away re-examining their beliefs about students.

So often our beliefs become our truths. I want everyone– including and especially our children– to believe that every child can write, and then I want teachers to have practical strategies and resources to help make that happen.

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

Not everyone is ready for the same curriculum and instruction on the same day, but it’s overwhelming to deliver an entirely separate lesson for students who aren’t getting it. That being said, the concept of the Zone of Proximal Development as described by Lev Vygotsky is a game changer for me. We can’t keep asking students to try out tasks and strategies that are way beyond their reach and ability, and it’s exhausting to create scaffold after scaffold that helps writers create a product without understanding the process. When we do that, we’re sending messages over and over that they can’t do it without us or the scaffolds we create. With those consistent messages, it’s human nature to stop trying and avoid the task or situation all together. So how do we change it up in ways that empower students, but is within the realm of possibility for teachers? That’s where reconsidering entry points may welcome students into the learning process. Or maybe it’s constructing bridges so that students have different ways to join the process. That’s where those metaphors that make up the title come it. I hope that teachers see practical and possible ways to teach all students to write. 

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

Our job is to find the entry points and provide the access so that students are challenged and moving forward without being overwhelmed and over-scaffolded. We live in a world where being able to write is a critically important and empowering skill. We can all teach them to write when we believe they can and we have the tools and understandings.

So many times even when students look like they are paying attention, they have no idea of what the lesson is really about. Engagement, interest, caring about something– those have to be in place for not only behavior, but also for academic growth. I feel like I keep repeating myself, but the message of the book is that all children can write.

Why this book?

I am a bibliophile. I probably need a 12 step program because I am addicted to books. I love to explore the ideas in a book through multiple readings. I also love to meet authors and hear about the books in their own voices. So when an author that I admire professionally writes a book, I study it pretty carefully. I was waiting for this book for months. I asked Melanie about it in March over coffee. We put the chat on the schedule in June, and Melanie submitted the quotes and questions in record time.

And then I finally had a copy to read. Every Child Can Write had me hooked from the first reading of the Table of Contents – written in complete sentences. Thorough. Thoughtful. Timely. With provocative yet practical ideas. Well organized – so well organized that I read it from cover to cover, TWICE, before I drafted my first blog post. I reread some parts, read the Blog Tour posts, revised my draft, and studied the blog posts again. I was worried about capturing the essence TWICE and doing justice to this gorgeous addition to the professional world.

This book is based on these beliefs:

1. All children can learn to write. 2. It is a fundamental imperative that we do everything in our power to teach the students in our care how to express themselves through words and through writing. – Meehan, M. Every Child Can Write. xviii.

Who has to have those beliefs?

Students and teachers alike have to believe that all students can write and that is fundamental to every chapter in Melanie’s book. It’s also fundamental to the literacy instruction in classrooms around the world. All students. All teachers.

What are obstacles that interfere with student writing?

Beliefs are the beginning. Then instruction has to match those beliefs. Sometimes the instruction does not meet the students’ needs. What obstacles might interfere with learning? Check out a sampling of responses from our twitter chat. Have you heard these from your students or teachers?

Knowing “potential obstacles” can help you address obstacles confronting writers in your classroom. Do the students need practice? Do they need choice? Do they need confidence? Crowd sourcing these possibilities from a #G2Great Twitter Chat is one way teachers can step outside their current practices, sharpen their focus, turn their gaze back to their students, and study them anew. (The responses to “perfectionism” as an obstacle can be found in the Wakelet link.) You may also have collaborative conversations with your grade level team to explore improvements in environment, routines, practices and usage of charts through a book study. Every Child Can Write provides support for instruction and problem solving with entry points, bridges and pathways to help striving writers gain independence.

What do you need? Entry points? Bridges? Pathways?

Where will you begin?

Additional Resources:

Blog Tour Stop 1 with Clare Landrigan – Link

Blog Tour Stop 2 with Kathleen Sokolowski – Link

Blog Tour Stop 3 with Paula Bourque – Link

Blog Tour Stop 4 with Lynne Dorfman – Link

Blog Tour Stop 5 with Fran McVeigh – Resourceful Link

FYI:  I reviewed an advance prepublication copy of “Every Child Can Write” that was available for the #G2Great team.

Learning Celebrations Showcasing Reflection on Process & Product

By, Jenn Hayhurst

On June 27, 2019 #G2Great hosted the chat, Learning Celebrations Showcasing Reflection on Process and Product. Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about celebrations, and I think there is more to this topic than meets the eye. I mean on the surface, a celebration is a good time and that is certainly a motivator. Dig a little deeper, examine what is being celebrated, and we get a sense of collective identity, what is believed, what is valued within a community.

What if schools cultivated a day-to-day celebratory spirit when it comes to learning? That would mean, celebrations that were not just reserved for special occasions, but were present in students’ learning every day.

Imagine how joyful it would be to embrace a celebratory culture! A whole faculty dedicated to finding the “good” and putting their collective energy towards student growth and learning in a very public and meaningful way. As I read through #G2Great PLN members’ comments, I could get a sense of what that would be:

These tweets were so revealing, and I found myself feeling completely inspired. These teachers are all celebrating their students in profound ways. Each tweet honors and celebrates students’ efforts by elevating their participation, their work, and their process. Each time students are celebrated, their identity as learners becomes a little more formed. With each acknowledgment, the message is sent, “Yes, you belong here. You are worthy of attention and praise.”

Once students believe that they are valued, that they are seen and understood; then, they can begin to learn with a sense of agency. Part of this work is to teach children the language of reflection so they may set meaningful goals. When students are setting their own goals, and are motivated to achieve them, learning in and of itself becomes the main event:

If celebrations reveal beliefs, I have to wonder, how do my beliefs promote a celebratory culture? I believe in kids. Not just some kids, or those kids, but all kids. I vow to celebrate that belief in the upcoming school year. I will celebrate each student’s brilliance, and this will be my number one priority. Every day I am with my students I will be a celebration – of them.

#G2Great Embracing Books As Our Strategic Intervention Heart & Soul

By Jenn Hayhurst

May 30, 2019, marked the arrival of Part 2 of our 5 part series, Rethinking Our Intervention as a Schoolwide All-Hands on Deck Imperative. We had an inspired conversation about how we might embrace books as our strategic intervention heart and soul. When teachers use excellent trade books as a centerpiece for a classroom intervention, they are rewarded with authentic reading experiences with children. Good books combined with responsive teaching is just what is needed to bridge student gaps.

What is it about that word, intervention? To me, it gives off this negative connotation that students need something overly complex when what they really need is good teaching. So when our #G2Great team thought about having a chat that focused on using books as an intervention tool, it just felt right. The #G2Great PLN also seemed to agree:

We refer to books as a strategic intervention heart and soul because connecting with books is life changing. Literacy changes who we are in very real ways by influencing what we think about and even who we aspire to become. When teachers know who their students are they have this immense power to put students in touch with books that will resonate and reflect their identities and values back to them. It may sound lofty but as I read these tweets I see that this is inherently true:

There is so much potential for growth if we were to make a commitment to embrace books as our strategic heart and soul. Think about it. An intervention program that is built on good books and thoughtful teachers is one to celebrate. Invest some time getting to know students, add in a teacher’s expansive knowledge of books, and now there is real potential. There is the potential not only to improve a child’s ability to read but also to shape the identity of the reader. I think that Lester Laminack and Katie Kelly say it best in their book, Reading to Make a Difference:

Teachers build their bridges for their students one book at a time. Truly, the most effective interventions are both elegant and simple. A teacher, a good book, and a student with an open mind can change the world. Believe it.

On a personal note, I’d like to welcome, Brent Gilson to our #G2Great team. Welcome, Brent! What was once only three dedicated teachers has grown into a bigger more vibrant team.

Teach Like Yourself: How Authentic Teaching Transforms Our Students and Ourselves

By Fran McVeigh

On November 29, 2018, Dr. Gravity Goldberg returned to the #G2Great chat table for the third time to discuss her fifth book. Previously Gravity joined the #G2Great community with her collaborative partner Renee Houser, What Do I Teach Readers Tomorrow? (link) and for Mindset and Moves (link).

All of her books have added to our literacy knowledge but this is the book that will be perfect for new teachers, for mentor teachers, for lead teachers, and even experienced teachers who are experiencing some doubt about their current role and purpose in education or even a “personal crisis” in the form of confidence about their teaching life. This book will lift you up and encourage you to build on your inner strengths as well as seek out a community where you will thrive. The three quotes below were pre-tweeted out to the Twitterverse and the #G2Great community as “Words of Wisdom” in the hour before chat and opened up the topic of #TeachLikeYourself as both a singular and collaborative effort.  

And that focus remained for the entire chat. Sometimes we discussed individual teacher roles and sometimes we discussed the collaborative product of the efforts put forth by a group of teachers determined to provide quality learning experiences for all students.

And we were off with this opening quote from Gravity’s new book that listed three key ingredients that teachers need:  a deep sense of self, confidence and freedom.What does a deep sense of authenticity or self entail?

A deep sense of authenticity or self means that you, the teacher, know yourself. Your real self shows up to teach. The self that interacts with students, parents, community and staff day after day. The teaching self that is “you”. The you that is focused on the students in front of you who are learning every day just as you are also learning side by side with them. Responsibility for learning rests with the individual teacher and the daily work in the classroom.  

As a group, we can be genuinely curious about our students.  We can also build on students’ strengths and share our successes.  And we can also share what has been successful for our teaching challenges in order to “share the love” for what works when we have high expectations. We will remind each other that FAIL means “First Attempt in Learning” and we will get up and try again when our work misses the mark.  Having a thought partner will make this journey toward authenticity easier!

What is “confidence” in our practice?

You have “confidence” in your practice when you use something that has had proven success before. It doesn’t mean that you become a “robot” or immediately “adopt” someone else’s work/beliefs, but it does mean that you will seek out additional ideas if something is not working.  You will exhaust all avenues in order to go “the extra mile” for your students.

When we have confidence in our practice, we can face the barriers and stand strong. The barriers are many so we appreciate having a community to stand with, beside, and around us! Internal barriers include self-doubt, comparisons to others, worry, stress and pressure when students don’t make the progress expected. External barriers include: common pacing guides, common assessments, lack of time, limited classroom libraries, mandates that are contrary to beliefs and values, and many more listed in the wakelet. Teachers who have confidence in their practice rise above those barriers and retain their authenticity as well as flourish in the knowledge that students are successful learners!

When do we have the freedom to show up fully as ourselves?

When we feel supported or work in a supportive environment – team, grade level, building or district that is supportive – we have the freedom to show up fully as ourselves. That does mean that we need to take the initiative and be clear about our needs as well as then name when those needs are met in order to enable others to show up fully as themselves. We intentionally and purposefully manage our own self-care daily as well as make sure that we are not impeding others’ path to their own self-care.  

Sometimes it means that we have to step out of our comfort zone to help others. The professional relationships that we build and nurture may be in our building or they may be in a different part of our state or even in a distant state. Valuing other ways to connect with individuals is a skill that we can nurture for ourselves as well as help students see the value in connecting with individuals in other locations. Professional learning then becomes about sharing what we have learned as well as what we need to learn and then growing collectively to share ways to continue to grow our knowledge and skills.

The solutions lie within the teachers in every classroom in every building in every district in every state/country. Driven to continue learning, to be the best teacher, to be authentic, and to grow every day  – those are characteristics of teachers who are being their “best” teacher every day. If you are having a challenging day, stop and think . . . are you out of balance?  RE-center your deep sense of self, your confidence in your teaching, and your freedom to show up freely as yourself. Can you do this by yourself?  Who will you ask to help?

The section that I return to often with teachers is:

“Start with Why

Know your why.

Get clear on your what.

Decide on how.”  Goldberg, G. (2018). Teach Like Yourself. p.25

When are you authentic? 

How do you know? 

When do you have the freedom to show up freely as yourself?


Are the ideas in the sketchnote some that you heard in the chat?




Check out these resources for more ideas about being your true authentic teacher self!

Wakelet

Corwin – book link (includes preview of Chapter 1)

Facebook Group – Teach Like Yourself

Webinar  Corwin – Link 

Gravity Goldberg and Renee Houser What Do I Teach Readers Tomorrow?

Gravity Goldberg Mindsets and Moves

these 6 things: How to Focus Your Teaching on What Matters Most

By Fran McVeigh

Focus?

My eyes were devouring the text. Everything about the author. Everything. It’s been my pleasure to know Dave Stuart professionally, online as a blogger and in person, for several years. He is a teacher, author, speaker and thought-leader. Dave’s work impacted my practices and thinking as an educator when he encouraged teachers (and me) to “not freak out” over the Common Core. Many authors have written books about focus. A search for “focus” at Corwin Press had 827 results. A search of Amazon Books for “focus” resulted in 101 pages with a range of 18-19 entries per page. Focus has been a pretty popular topic.

So what’s different?  “Focus on What Matters Most” is the conundrum. Who decides what matters the most? Each teacher? Each grade level? Each building? Each department? Each district? Each state?  Do you see the problem? Dave proposes that we “focus on what we already know” as we work “Smarter, not Harder” and he gives us “permission to simplify.” No fancy language. No slick new strategy. No magic silver bullet. We learn from and with a trusted colleague, as literally, Dave shares how to streamline literacy instruction while increasing student achievement.

There’s a no-nonsense attitude. A bit of a “git-r-done” response. Time spent, yes. Time wasted, no. And that was the core of the #G2Great chat with first-time guest, Dave Stuart, Jr. on Thursday, October 25, 2018, as folks gathered around the #G2Great hashtag to converse and share ways to focus teaching.

But let me give you one last piece of advice . . . this book will not solve all your problems.  This book will not help you work eight hour days or less. If that’s what you are looking for, please stop reading now.  Instead, this book will help you use a decision-making framework that focuses your values, your goals for your students, and some key content areas to work on improving.  YES, improving.  Growing your skills in a few key areas to maximize learning for students. A laser-like focus that will help your students grow into the life-long learners that you know they can be. Your reward will be in knowing that you have done the best that you can! Let’s get started!This was our opening quote. I’m going to invite you to take about 30 seconds now to pause and reflect. Pauses will be inserted at several points for some brief processing time. Pauses like speed bumps. Slow down, pause and think.

What are your thoughts about this opening quote?

What would it change for students in your district?

 

Mt. Everest

Dave argues that teachers need coherence of purpose, or an “Everest Statement” that encapsulates all that they hope to accomplish in a given year. What is the range of expectations for students? Academic? Life-long? Work-related? How broadly do folks think? During our chat, discussion of “Everest Statements” ranged from readers, writers, thinkers, talkers to building relationships with students and teachers and moving striving students to more successful behaviors and habits.

What is your “Everest Statement”?

Did you co-create it with your students?

 

Relationships with Students Matter

Students need to do the work of learning. In order to do quality work, students must see some value in that work in order to complete it with “care, attention, effort and focus.” Otherwise, the work remains undone or of such poor quality that it is difficult to ascertain if students are learning. Teachers don’t have to be master entertainers with cute gimmicks and gadgets for students to learn.  Instead, students need to know that teachers care and that teachers are asking them to do relevant work.

 

How do you connect with students? 

How do the students know that you are credible?

 

Knowledge Required 

Learning does not happen in a vacuum. So many facts can be googled but there is still a basic layer of knowledge that precedes talk about a topic. This aligns with Bloom’s Taxonomy and Webb’s Depth of Knowledge. The key is not staying in the low recall level very long. What’s the implication for focus? Reading, writing, speaking and listening have to move to higher levels routinely and often. Analysis and synthesis require students to participate and think. Classroom routines and procedures need to nurture and lift up the complexity of student responses.

 

How often are students moving beyond recall?

What structures do you have in place for discussion?

 

Argument

Being able to disagree with someone without being disagreeable is a learned skill that takes practice and involves both listening and speaking. An argument can be as simple as rehearsing two sides to a question to determine the next course of action or as involved and complicated as a formal debate. Arguments in content area classes can be about which examples best define a vocabulary term or which traits represent historical figures or about which tool has the best consumer product rating in an applied science course. Dave uses “pop-up debates” to practice arguments. This is another example of a way to begin with some basic knowledge through reading, writing, or other media and then build up to evidence of the use of critical thinking.

 

What role does argument play in your classroom?

How might you use oral practice (pop-up debates) to build student skills before writing?

 

Public Speaking

Public Speaking. One of the biggest fears of most adults. If the speaking and listening standards at your school still resemble the Common Core standards, then speech is no longer relegated to a one semester high school course.  Speaking and listening are required of every grade level and every content area PK – 12. That’s not just wishful thinking. Speaking or discussing is an easy formative assessment. Speaking is a quick check for understanding after reading. It’s an important rehearsal skill. And it’s also complex because spoken responses also run the gamut of Bloom’s or DOK skills. There’s also a delicate balance between the level of comfort in sharing ideas and disagreements that is dependent on the level of respect, trust and community in the classroom.

 

What are my expectations of myself for public speaking?

What are the expectations for my students?

 

Does this apply to me?

An elementary teacher friend texted, “Should I check out the chat? Dave’s a high school teacher.” And of course, I said, “YES!  You must!” I believe this is a book that will frame conversations so all teachers can figure out what matters most. It will be incredibly helpful for content area teachers in all secondary classrooms. But I also believe that it’s helpful from the winter holiday on for teachers in second grade and all teachers in grades 3-6 (or any teachers on a PK-12 vertical team) who have ever asked any of these questions:

“How do I focus when planning curricula?”

“How do I focus when planning instruction?”

“How do I focus when preparing school or building wide policies and procedures?”

“How do I focus when feeling stressed or defeated?”

The role of focus in a teacher’s life is undeniable. Being as productive as possible during the teaching day frees up time for families and life outside of school. Time that is necessary to be the best teacher possible for every minute of the school day. Dave’s book won’t make all the decisions for you, but it will give you a framework for self-reflection and conversations with co-workers. That will put you on the path to a focus on WHAT REALLY MATTERS!

What actions will move you forward?

Where will you begin?

 

 

This post reflects some of the ideas from the #G2Great chat with a little background from the book.  You will need to check out the book to get the full picture.

You can simplify your teaching, teach all the standards and have a life. Dave Stuart Jr and these 6 things will start you on that journey. Grab a couple friends, read the free first chapter online, and get the learning started!




Links for Additional Exploration:

Corwin Book

Dave’s Blog

Check out the #NCTE18 program for sessions with Dave Stuart Jr.

Dave Stuart Jr. book signing at NCTE Saturday, November 17, 2018 at 4:15 in the Corwin Booth!

#G2Great chat Wakelet

Maximizing Our Potential Focusing on the Literacy Work That Matters Student Centered Learning

By, Jenn Hayhurst

On Thursday, September 27, 2018, the #G2Great PLN had a brilliant conversation regarding the importance of student-centered learning. After all, students (and their needs) are what teaching is all about. That sounds simplistic, doesn’t it? It would be a perfect world if that were easily done; although, the reality is that teachers are pulled in many directions throughout the school day. There are pacing guides with curriculum goals. There are standards and grade level expectations. There are report cards, progress reports, and parent meetings. There are so many meetings: RTI, faculty, and data meetings just to name the top three. All of which have a purpose and are designed to keep students and their needs at the forefront. However, it is the day-to-day work that is the grease for that machine. It is the softer formative assessments in the hands of a highly skilled teacher that help children to learn and grow.

When I think of learning and growth the word steady comes to mind.  Yet, we are living in a world marked by change: technology, politics, or global demographics are all shifting beneath our feet. For these reasons,  now more than ever, we need to have the conversation as to HOW we can become more student-centered because learning and relevance are two sides to the same coin. 

Defining Purpose: A Passionate Pursuit

I think the reason Twitter is so important to teachers is that it gives us a platform to clarify what we value within a plurality.  It connects us to other professionals who push us to think more deeply and to reflect daily. I know that is what it does for me. As I read these tweets I feel a fire in my heart and I want to call out to anyone who will listen, “Learning and passion are inextricably linked!” Student-centered learning means that children are wide awake and are learning because they are connected to the process:

Authentic Learning: A Serious Shift

Teachers who dare to create authentic learning experiences for children have to believe in themselves. In a world so full of doubt and criticism it can be daunting to be an agent of change. It can be hard to take that first step away from a scripted lesson plan. After all, we are just teachers. No. It is because we are teachers that we must take an informed look at the lesson plan, curriculum goals, and grade level expectations.  Then we can consider who are students are and how we can build momentum. When it comes to learning, experiencing success is essential!  When we see ourselves as the “facilitator”,  when we understand how to use “formative assessment, when we focus on ways for students to “engage in the work,” we are shifting the focus to student-centered learning:

Deconstructing NormsA Shared Structure

The days of reading from a scripted program really need to be over. Our students are coming into our classrooms with a wide range of life experiences, access to languages, and world knowledge.  We cannot assume that what they bring will be familiar to us.  In many ways, this new normal is a gift. We have so much to learn from one another. Educators who practice student centered teaching share the responsiblity for learning with their students. These teachers are keenly aware which studens are ready be more independent. Teachers who embrace student centered learning are open to their own learning process knowing that there is always room to grow.

We are teachers, who value our students and all that they bring into our classrooms. A student-centered classroom is marked by a community voice. It is not about me and what I have to teach you. It is about us and what we have to learn.  Thank you, for learning with me.