Reconsidering Our Professional Resources

by, Jenn Hayhurst

On Thursday, August 9, 2018 members of #G2Great’s PLN had an important conversation, Reconsidering Our Professional Resources: Calling Publishers and Marketers to Task. We’ve all seen them, those glossy brochures promising student success so long as “their plan of action” is followed with fidelity.  Nonsense! This is what I know for sure, success begins by believing in teachers. Smart, resilient, talented teachers; these are the professionals who have the power to make a meaningful impact. This blog as well as our weekly #G2Great chat exist to extend a platform that amplifies teacher voice. What was the message we sent out to the publishing world?

Listen to what we really need…

Thinking Outside the Box

Undoubtedly, there is an unlimited array of resource options at our disposal. Consumer choice is great and yet it can also be overwhelming. Boxed programs offer solutions but the truth is we have to think outside the box! Taking a more expansive view includes gathering the perspective and wisdom of other educators. There are are more opportunities to exercise personal agency than ever before, social media has given us access to each other. Now we can grow our Professional Learning Networks (PLN). We can support professional organizations nationally and locally. We can be ambassadors for professional learning.  

Get the Whole Picture

Educating children is complex, so when a  publisher or marketer, offers rigid solutions we need to get out the yellow caution tape, the orange cones, and flashing red lights because this is a professional danger zone.  We need to do our own research on their research!  We need to gather an array of formative assessments to look at how our students are performing inside our classrooms so we can inform any outside purchases. The most important thing to remember is to trust that we are the experts when it comes to our students. Once we know them, we know what resources we need to look for to inform our practice. 

Start off on the Right Foot

A dynamic faculty is more than having good teachers and administrators. A dynamic faculty has a shared vision. Once you have a vision making decisions about professional resources becomes easier. Two tweets stood out to me because they both speak to identity and vision. Roman (@NowakRo) knows himself he is a reflective educator who  values design thinking and collaborative work. Gravity (@drgravitygLLC) is a an author / researcher but I suspect the title she likes the most is… teacher who builds teams for collaborative work and shared vision. Know who you are, articulate what you value, and collaborate this needs to happen prior to purchasing anything. 

@drgravitygLLC

Raising the Bar

What does your curriculum ask of you?  Curriculum that is a living document, that is informed by real practice, requires more from us.  A go-to professional resource that maximizes the quality of teacher practices has to be relevant to decision making for day-to-day teaching. When research teams like those from Teachers College Reading Writing Project (@TCRWP) create resources you can be assured they are vetted in the field.  The work they recommend is born from their think tank and is work they are actually doing so it will be relevant. This kind of work is constantly changing and growing because it keeps pace with teacher learning and discovery.  

Everyone: On the Right Page

It is imperative to initiate collective conversations before money exchanges hands for professional resources because if we don’t listen to the stakeholders there will be no ownership. If there is no ownership initiatives  will fail.  Collective conversations are always at the heart of growth, and I think this is the best way to begin the design process for supporting a child-centered perspective. 

Don’t Miss the Mark

Authenticity is the antidote to basal programs and scripts  Authenticity can be realized when teachers have ownership over what they will learn and when schools invest in teacher education and learning. We are not so very different from our students. we are all at different points in our understanding for literacy instruction. As a result we all have different needs and our ongoing education education needs to match wherever we are in that continuum. So long as our learning rests squarely on students and their developing literacy learning we can’t go wrong. 

Cut to the Chase

We are living in the 21st Century of course technology has an important place in the classroom. However, it can be misused as electronic worksheets.  It should be our goal to enhance our practice through technology; while being careful that it  does not substitute or diminish  excellent teaching.  For one thing, teachers not tools make the decisions. For another, accessing print resources and digital texts to build rich classroom libraries  is an imperative. Students, teachers, and texts are the heart of the classroom. 

It’s ironic that we are asked time and time again to  look for answers outside of the classroom when what is really needed is to take a closer look inside our classrooms. When we asked teachers what they need, they told us. In the end, I think Mary said it best, “To do more great work, you need to make not one but two choices. What will you say yes to? What will you say no to?”  Good to Great Teaching Focusing on the Literacy Work That MattersThis is how we really put publishers to task so we may keep our students where they belong, at the center.

What matters most?  Reverence or Relevance?

By Fran McVeigh

In the week leading up to this chat on July 19, 2018, I wondered about the title and where it would take the chat. I consulted the dictionary and the thesaurus. I even discussed the topic with a co-moderator. I wanted an idea or a theme in mind to “jump start” my thinking. A spark.  An angle. A beginning point. After all . . . I was going to be at #ILA18 and my goal was to not spend all weekend writing a blog post. So here’s a small snapshot of what I discovered.

Synonyms for Reverence (Source link)

Synonyms for Relevance  (Source link)

Reverence:  High opinion.

Relevance:  Pertinence.  

The “or” in the title suggests one or the other.

Flip a coin. It’s a high opinion.  

Flip again. It’s pertinent.  

But . . .

I have this queasy feeling in my stomach.

When is high opinion enough?

When the teacher says, “I like it.” ???

When the teacher says, “It has research to support it.” ???

When the administrator says, “This is what I bought.” ???

When is pertinence enough?

When the teacher says, “This is what my kids need.” ???

When the teacher says, “It worked this way for my students last year but I think if I try this one little change, it may work even better.” ???

When the administrator says, “Have you checked with others about this idea? And with whom?” ???

Before you make a decision about what you want (those things you revere) or what is needed (or relevant), let’s review this curated sample of #G2Great community tweets. The link for the entire Wakelet (archive) is at the bottom of this page.

What are our beliefs?

Meaningful, purposeful work:  What are we in awe of?

Goals:  What are we in awe of?  What do we believe is best for students?

Collaboration and Goal-Setting:  How do we keep students at the center?

Time:  How do we allocate and use time to reflect what we revere and what is relevant?

Talk:  How do we ensure that students talk more in the service of learning than the teacher?

Eureka . . .

What if, instead of trying to decide whether we need to start, continue, or stop doing something because of its reverence or relevance, we decided that both factors would be part of the same lens or filter? What if reverence AND relevance became a double simultaneous filter for reviewing and reflecting on our teaching needs and desires?

And as I participated in the chat in the midst of a group of #G2Great dear friends,

Quietly

Concentrating

Reading

Writing

Giggling occasionally

Greeting passer-bys

Reverence and relevance both merged together in Brent’s Canva of a quote from Dr. Mary Howard here.

. . . amazing child . . . notice and nurture . . . incredible potential . . . that resides in each child . . . without exception!

If that’s our vision and our goal how can we not use our understanding of reverence and relevance together?

And now that you have read through a curated set of tweets, just think about what learning in our classrooms could be if we asked students to “curate their learning daily.”  What possibilities do you envision?

Copy of Wakelet here

 

From Homewreck to Homeworth Reimagining Homework in the 21st Century

by, Jenn Hayhurst

Bloggers write to push the thinking of their readers. After reading, Harvey “Smokey” Daniels’ (@smokeylit Homewreck, as featured on  The Robb Review, the entire #G2Great team was inspired to explore ways to reimagine homework. On July 12, 2018, we invited educators to engage in a broader conversation about the role of homework and how we might make it more worthwhile in the 21st Century.

Homework in the 20th Century…

My third-grade teacher definitely believed in homework. Even though the school day was over, the far-reaching hand of my teacher knew no bounds. There I would sit, a little girl with curly hair, impossibly thick glasses, and a highly developed vocabulary, Monday – Thursday (mercifully Friday was my reprieve) with spelling lists, worksheets, and heavy textbooks – it was obligatory and there would be no negotiating. My mother, the saint that she was, would give me a snack, and let me leave Jeopardy on in the background to keep me “company” as I did my work.

Jeopardy is still on the air, and for that matter, homework hasn’t changed much either. So, I wonder if Alex Trebek is some other child’s wingman to a homework dilemma of today. Change can only happen if we are willing to discuss trying something new.

In a Word: Homework!

There were many words used to describe people’s positions on the subject of homework…

In Smokey Daniels post he writes,  “The greatest source of tears and heartbreak in our family, over all of our child-raising years, was homework.” and #G2Great educators all seem to agree! Our words used to describe homework were: useless, irresponsible, and ineffective. The way we’ve done homework in the past is not worthy of students’ time and energy. If we aspire to make homework worthy or, “homeworth”  we might alleviate frustration if turned homework into passion projects, built around inquiry and relationship building.

The Category Is...

“So, let’s start by changing the categories of what counts as homework. Then, let’s design a time that’s stress-free, that invites kids’ curiosity and choice, and that doesn’t start battles between parents and kids, ruin whole evenings, and sell more Kleenex.” – Smokey Daniels I

The best categories are ones that are self-selected and assigned by the students themselves. Reimagining homework means handing over the reins to students to pursue their interests and to stoke their curiosity. We can participate in this process and encourage their ownership and creativity if we involve everyone. That includes students, families, and colleagues. There would be a lot of moving parts but in the end, wouldn’t it be worth it to have happy, engaged children who wanted to continue learning outside of school? I believe it can be done.

I’ll Take Reimagining Homework for $1000

So, let’s join Smokey Daniels and  #ditchthehw! Together, we can reimagine a better way! We can start by sharing our great ideas. I am so grateful for @Kpteach5 because she did just that, and her tweet was a celebration!: She shared what she does to make homework more meaningful. She provides students with choice, structure, and opportunity:

As I think back to my third grade self, I wish I had a teacher like Ms. Picone, or any of the essteemed educators that participate in our #G2Great PLN. I would have been cooking with my mother, or reading to my younger brother. I might have been working with Dad in the garage building something. Perhaps I would have been singing with my sister, or sketching my dog.  It seems very fitting that for me, I will forever associate the words “homework” and “jeopardy” as one in the same:

Let’s do this better for our students.

Taking a Fresh Look at Our Practices: Shining a Spotlight on Push In/Pull Out

By Fran McVeigh

The fact that we were trending in the opening moments of our #G2Great chat “Shining a Spotlight on Push In/Pull Out”, on June 28, 2018, was not a surprise.  Services for students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) have been a hot topic since the first federal law, PL 94-142 (1975) which guaranteed: a free, appropriate education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). Every reauthorization since that initial law has involved change, but the requirement for educating students in the least restrictive environment remains a topic that requires ongoing discussion in every school across the country.

A walk down memory lane in special education would also shine some light on “mainstreaming” and “inclusion” as other terms used to describe student services. Mainstreaming brought special-needs students who were being served in separate classrooms back into general education classes. It was assumed that these students would be able to find success once mainstreamed, but access alone was not the issue. Many students still struggled because specialized assistance within the regular education classes was not provided. To remedy this, inclusion was the next wave of reform. Students with special needs were placed in general education classes but were also supported by specialists in those classes. Co-teaching became one form of support that still exists because IDEA continues to require students to be educated in the least restrictive placement.

As a former special education teacher who has taught in both push in and pull out programs, I eagerly anticipated this chat about services for ALL students including those who are striving, whether they have an IEP or they are Gifted and Talented. In reality this topic has huge implications because it can also include any student ever pulled out for any services:  a Tier 2 or 3 Intervention, English Learner instruction, band lessons or even speech services.

Let’s begin with what was revealed in our conversations during the #G2Great chat. This quote of Johnny Downey’s sums up much of the thinking and also matched Amy’s quote about many factors being involved. It’s complicated!

When is the location or the content of instruction an equity issue?  

The presumption is that each child will first receive quality core or Tier 1 instruction in the same classroom as their peers. Removal to another location through a Pull Out program during core instruction would be an equity issue because those students could be denied basic instruction.  It depends what they would be “missing” in the classroom. However, this could also happen with Push In instruction if the student had small group instruction during a whole class Read Aloud time. The very elements of literacy instruction that are most needed by students, especially independent reading time, are often assigned as time for additional instruction. This does become an equity issue because the student may actually have access to less time for reading than his or her peers.

What is the primary focus for decision-making?

The student must be at the heart of all decisions made about where and when extra instruction will be provided. This seems simpler for students with IEPs because federal legislation, IDEA, guarantees parental rights:  

each public agency must ensure that the parents of each child with a disability are members of any group that makes decisions on the educational placement of their child.” Source Link

But this is also true for all students whether they are missing class for an intervention, speech instruction, or any of the other myriad of reasons that students are pulled out of classrooms. Parents should be part of the decision-making process.  No parent of a fifth grader should be blindsided by this statement, “Well, she is not doing well in social studies because she missed it for the last two years because of her intervention time.

What issues must be considered?

Quality Tier 1 instruction is critical and must be provided by expert teachers.

Neither push in or pull out is ever perfect for all children.
We must consider effectiveness of instruction and collect results to see if our students are really “learning” and if the support is increasing student success and joyfulness.

Decisions cannot EVER be about time, the schedule or the adults.  It’s not their education on the line.

Sometimes, pull out instruction can be more efficient and more effective.
Thoughtful discussions should always be a part of the process for EACH and EVERY student.

And FINALLY, the biggest concern with Push In or Pull Out is the feelings and perceptions of the students involved. When do we include students in the decision-making process and what do they tell us?

Access to quality instruction is the right of all students. Access in the least restrictive environment is also a legal mandate for many students as parents consider just where that instruction should take place. An arbitrary requirement for ONLY “Pull Out” or “Push In” services must be rejected because the needs of the students should be a central focus of all decision-making. Student responses to their education, as well as their attitudes and perceptions, need to be considered as the focus of staff must be to accelerate learning in order to decrease learning gaps and develop a love of learning. Team Teaching or Co-Teaching is one current popular way of meeting students’ needs in a less intrusive setting and you can read more about that in the Wakelet archive. Data on the successes of Push In / Pull Out settings is inconclusive but more students are successful in life after learning in Push In settings. Other positive benefits from Push In settings include: more positive interactions with peers, improvement on standardized tests, and increased social and communication skills. Decisions about instruction must occur on a student by student basis in order for ALL students to have access to the highest quality education available in the least restrictive environment.  

Wakelet Link  

This Series:

It’s All About the Books

By Fran McVeigh

Make no mistake about it.  This book, It’s All About the Books:  How to Create Bookrooms and Classroom Libraries That Inspire Readers, is about making sure that ALL students have access to books.  And our #G2Great chat with guest hosts Tammy Mulligan and Clare Landrigan was trending within seven minutes of the opening tweet on April 5th. The pace was fast, furious, filled with the famous (Kylene Beers, Laura Robb, and Penny Kittle to name a few), and packed with powerful learning. As participants, we were given guidance and flexibility through the talented wisdom of Tammy and Clare (and the experts that they base their work on) that would also allow us to insert our own vision and passion to meet the needs of students in our classrooms across the continent. Neither the chat nor the book is about meeting proficiency levels (although books are the appropriate tool) or choosing a set list of books (your student needs will vary), but were both focused on many critical aspects of developing book collections. This post will focus on just two of them:  Access and Design.

What does access to books mean for classroom libraries and bookroom collections?

Every student deserves quality books that he or she can read in order to be a reader. Books are the tools of readers. Access to books cannot be left to chance. That means that within a school building every student needs access to a classroom library and probably some form of a collaborative collection in a bookroom in addition to the school library. When access to books is a priority, every first year teacher will walk into a classroom full of chairs, desks, and tables that also has a classroom library that is fully-stocked. The teachers and administrators understand and believe that when students read a lot – both texts they choose and can read – they will become lifelong readers, and that classroom library is an indicator of the strength of their belief. A final element of access will reflect that the collection will “grow and extend” with the students. The books that are the focus at the end of the year may be totally different from the books that were in the library on opening day. Some books will remain constant but many other books will be replaced as students outgrow themselves as readers and demand different topics and types of books as the school year evolves.

What is the benefit for the students?

Books will be celebrated and students will know that one goal is to build a reader’s identity so some books will match the students.  They will see themselves in the books and will also be able to see all the other members of their community. Each student will have access to the number of books that they need at school and at home that is necessary for him/her to be an engaged and inspired reader. Students will talk about their books with peers and adults.  Students will also have a great deal of choice in what they read as well as when and where they read. Their days will be filled with opportunities to spend extended time reading so that being “lost in a book” is a routine habit. Because we also know that book choice is personal, not every student will want to read the exact same book. Opportunities for choice will need to be encouraged on a regular basis in order to develop and strengthen the habits of readers. Many books will be needed. Tammy and Clare tell us:

“Books are our tools to develop lifelong readers. The only way to merge true choice and accessibility is to have options and lots of them!” (Heinemann, It’s All About the Books, p 12)

What is the benefit for the teachers?

Every teacher will have access to books necessary to meet the needs of their students. These books will match the purpose:  whole group, small group (guided or strategy), partner, and independent reading as well as instructional needs:  Read Alouds, writing mentors, science content and/or social studies content. Access to quality books will enhance instruction and engage and inspire students. Access coupled with equity will mean that classroom collections will no longer be dependent upon teachers personally funding their own classroom libraries.

In order to achieve this access, all teachers will be expected to work collaboratively to identify the existing inventory of books available in the building and then strategically plan for the best use.  What does that mean? Perhaps there are six packs of guided reading books that are gathering dust in current guided reading libraries. Maybe they could be better utilized if they were inserted into classroom libraries or set up for book club usage or even independent reading.  Specific gaps in types of books that students like and want to read can be addressed systemically after establishing priorities and developing an organized purchasing plan. Teachers with access to a wide range of books will be able to share their own passion, agency, and that sense of inquiry that exists in their own reading lives without the pressure of being personally responsible for provisioning every book the students read.

Selected Tweets about Access:

Why is design important for classroom libraries and bookroom collections?

In the book, the chapter about design begins with a Steve Jobs quote:

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like.  Design is how it works.”

This means that in order for the books to be effective learning tools, there will need to be many books. Tammy and Clare offer suggestions on how to calculate the number of books that must be available for students at each grade level. Do involve the students in decisions because they will be a part of “how it works.” Don’t quit because you are discouraged by the staggering number of books needed because, Tammy and Clare also say:

“When teachers share texts and rotate inventory, stocking a school with authentic literature is a very affordable option. It truly is more bang for your books.” (p. 83)

#1 Design Issue:  What to do with Book Levels

Much has been written about book levels by such literacy giants as Fountas and Pinnell, Donalyn Miller, Kylene Beers, and our own Dr. Mary Howard. I love the phrase “Intent vs. Impact” that Tammy and Clare use in their book and in their podcast. Levels are instructional tools that are intended to be guides – not absolutes and definitely not to limit a student’s access to books. (But wait a minute, access was the last section!) Levels are not going to define a child’s reading so levels will not be the ORGANIZER for books which brings us back to design.  Some questions to be answered are:  How will books be organized?  How will they be displayed? Which books?

What is the benefit for students?

Taking book levels off of shelves and baskets does not meant that “anything goes” just as access doesn’t mean that students can only read a “Level H” for example. Middle ground means that book baskets can be organized by “concepts or ideas” such as “LOL” and the books in the LOL basket on the top shelf may be A-B, while the books in the LOL basket on the second shelf may be C-D, and the books in the LOL basket on the third shelf may be E-F.  Students have access to any of the baskets but when they are choosing books that they can read independently, they can first decide on content: animals, friends, LOL, etc., and then check out the basket on the shelf that they are typically reading from. No one will ever say, “Now, Johnny, what level should you be reading?”  Instead the conversation about books will be around the content and the strategies/skills/habits that the student uses as they tackle the books. Book levels will be inside the front cover or on the back cover, but they will not be the FIRST decision when choosing a book.

What is the benefit for teachers?

Teachers will need to know the qualities of the levels, not to define students but to know just which book will be the next “ladder” for instruction, which will be a challenge or stretch, and which will be “just right”? This actually gives the teacher more flexibility because it is easier to drop a level or two for beginning work with a more difficult skill without causing student or parental panic. With practice students can quickly move through appropriate books for the WORK they are engaging in rather than the “But I’m supposed to be reading H books!” that often currently surfaces.

Students can also be active participants in the book organization and the design of the classroom library so this means less work for the teacher.  The classroom community can work together to create their own categories as they help curate the collection. Their “work” will also enable them to better appreciate the scope of the classroom collection.  I’m always amazed when I’m in a classroom and students from another grade quietly step in, select a book from behind the teacher’s desk, and return to their own classroom. It’s important to know where those “book floods” exist that students actually have access to when they are in search of their next great book.

Shared teacher design is accomplished with the use of a bookroom or collaborative collection that helps provide the volume, range and choice that matches students’ interests. This collection exists to supply access to a world of ideas for students when they need them. Classroom libraries can easily be refreshed or rotated each quarter or each major school break so the teacher has a more ready supply of books available without a run on Amazon, Scholastic or other book sources. Sharing texts and especially series books makes provisioning libraries with authentic literature much more affordable.  A five year purchasing plan, prioritized by gaps, can stretch farther than an individual teacher’s purchases.

Selected Tweets About Design:

All proceeds from the sale of this book will go #BookLove to fund elementary or middle school classroom libraries as explained in the following two tweets:

Books are the mainstay of student learning.  Students gain such a feeling of accomplishment as they name that first book they can read or write.  Literacy identities are important. This book, this chat, and the additional resources posted below literally add to our own passion for books, our “book love”,  Reading is important because it improves our communication skills and enables us to learn about places and people that we may never see. It also helps build vocabulary and writing skills as we communicate better and even become better persons.  Books can help us with all of those skills and this book, It’s All About the Books, by Tammy and Clare can help us inventory, prioritize and develop a plan to further extend our budgets and ultimately our learning! This book gives you a proven process, with a ten year track record, that will help you maximize your resources for increased student and teacher access and design and organize all those resources in your classrooms and bookrooms.

And if you already have Access and Design under control in your classroom libraries and bookrooms, there are many other chapters that deal with: Why a bookroom? Where to find diverse books?  Technology? How are “Texts” defined? What about summer school access? Tammy and Clare will guide you through all the answers!!

Check out these Additional Resources

Events Heinemann Publications Live Facebook with Tammy and Clare

Wakelet/Storify from #G2Great chat April 5

Podcast with Tammy and Clare

https://hubs.ly/H0byPMq0

Link

 

goo.gl/YPeYd7

On the blog Slice one – “A Reader Reminds Me”

Slice two – “The Power of a Book”

Print Resources It’s All About the Books – Heinemann webpage

Sample Chapter

goo.gl/CNxQpw

goo.gl/SCsNKe

 

From Striving to Thriving: How to Grow Confident, Capable Readers

by Mary Howard

On 10/12/17 #G2Great was delighted to welcome Stephanie Harvey and Annie Ward to our guest host seat of honor. As soon as we said our first “hello friends,” our dedicated #G2Great family of learners enthusiastically joined forces Twitter style as we collectively savored the message of their exquisite new book: From Striving to Thriving: How to Grow Confident, Capable Readers (Scholastic, 2017).

I first discovered From Striving to Thriving when Scholastic posted Stephanie’s video message on Facebook. This was just the inspirational impetus I needed to launch a journey of discovery that was a preparatory launching of this Twitter love fest. The icing on the cake was the opportunity afforded me to read the book pre-publication to prepare for our chat. But my excitement was multiplied ten-fold when I opened to their introduction and read words near and dear to my professional heart, “The Best Intervention is a Good Book” as a happily a recurrent theme:

Stephanie and Annie remind us why books must remain at the center of all we do – especially for our striving readers:

We’re firm believers that to fall in love with reading forever, all it takes is getting lost in one good book. When that happens, we discover that reading is one of life’s greatest pleasures. An entire generation became readers inside the pages of Harry Potter books. We advocate for our strivers every day so they, too, will experience nothing short of the transformative joy and power of reading. (p. 13)

The words transformative joy and power of reading reached out and grabbed me by the heartstrings, holding me captive until I turned to the last page of the book. As I read, I was struck by the idea that I was experiencing this ‘transformative joy and power of reading’ from a professional perspective and I knew that this sense of elation was precisely what our children deserve.

With this idea in mind, I perused their messages in our #G2Great chat to explore how we can create this ‘transformative joy’ for every child. And so, in honor of their wisdom, I’d like to share five Transformative Joy ideas we must embrace as we begin to put their words into action and move our children From Striving to Thriving:


Transformative Joy #1: Make Beautiful Books Your Beating Heart

Stephanie and Annie draw a line in the proverbial sand as they take a clear stance on the powerful role books play for our striving readers. They highlight the critical goal of increasing the volume of reading within a rich environment filled with books. They ask us to engage in ‘relentless book matching’ so that we can get just right book into the hands of the children driven by the wild readerly abandon only choice can awaken. We recognize the impact of bathing children in books across the learning day and so we make room for joyful engaged independent reading because we view it is a professional priority rather than because we find extra minutes here and there. We make a time commitment to reading and expend our energy putting this into practice day after day. And we do this because we know that it matters deeply for our striving readers.

Transformative Joy #2: Strengthen Your Bridge to Deepen Understanding

Stephanie and Annie ask us to return comprehension to a place of honor as the “Super Power” that will spur readers forward. They do not trivialize the role that decoding plays as one component of the reading process but remind us that teaching comprehension under the umbrella of listening and viewing will build a foundation for decoding through understanding rather than isolated sounds. We do this from the earliest stages of learning by using daily read-aloud and beautiful picture books as words and images become our springboard to reading as a meaning-making event. We know that each component of reading has a place but we also recognize that information sound-bites are not meant to be the meaning-making sacrificial lamb. We do this because we know that it matters deeply for our striving readers.

Transformative Joy #3: Hold Tight to Your Professional Purpose

Stephanie and Annie ask us to approach reading in ways that will promote these experiences as an act of thinking rather than one of compliant doing. We know that this is only possible if we are willing to immerse children in books that will invite thinking and demonstrate this as we make what is invisible visible by sharing our own thinking publicly. We know that we can only celebrate “thinking-intensive’ reading opportunities by refuting the isolated tasks of thoughtless skill and drill and question interrogation so that we can opt for ample experiences that will engage children in the very reading opportunities that elicit the thinking we desire and children deserve.  We do this because we know that it matters deeply for our striving readers.

Transformative Joy #4: Release Celebratory Talk into the Learning Air

Stephanie and Annie acknowledge the power of collaborative talk and ask us to do the same. When we keep books at the center and marry them with experiences rooted in meaning and thinking, we set the stage for lifting the level of talk to the highest heights of teacher-supported and peer engagement. We use whole class dialogue to support this talk within an instructional context and then offer ample opportunities to apply this learning. We value conferring as a scaffold to support this transition to independence followed by a wide range of opportunities for students to engage in collaborative talk so that they can begin to take ownership of this process as we step to the sidelines. We lift their voices into the celebratory air while ensuring that conversations elevate reading rather than substitute for these experiences as we offer children the very real-life opportunities we hold dear. We do this because we know that it matters deeply for our striving readers.

Transformative Joy #5: Reawaken a Spirit of Common Sense Assessment

Stephanie and Annie emphasize assessment as a decision-making process that will lead us from where children are at this moment to next step efforts that will help them to grow. They ask us to make a shift from viewing reading as an isolated process of repeated assessments that rob teachers and children of the time we need to achieve each of the essential goals above. We know that this requires us to become expert kidwatchers who are present in the precious day-to-day learning opportunities that meet us at every turn. We use those experiences to inform our practices and illuminate next step efforts rather than numbers on a spreadsheet that cloud our view of the child in front of us. Above all, we view daily assessments from the lens of our responsibility to ensure the success of learners rather than to label them as a ‘struggling.’ We do this because we know that it matters deeply for our striving readers.

With these five points in mind, we step back and view them as one, knowing that bringing transformative joy to life in our classrooms requires a new mindset:

Within the pages of their beautiful book and generous sharing on Twitter, Stephanie and Annie show us what is possible. Driven by a deep commitment to our striving learners, they remind us that it is our professional responsibility to support a journey from striving to thriving. They celebrate the potential impact when we make room in every day for the practices that will enrich the learning lives of children and inspire us to refute those things that will not. I believe that their wisdom could at long last inspire a shift in the intervention mentality that has plagued us. This much-needed refocusing could truly make from striving to thriving our new professional reality. And we are grateful to follow their lead!

In closing, I’d like to thank Stephanie and Annie for their wisdom at a time when interventions have been reduced to joyless one-size-fits-all practices that minimize our efforts and blind us to the voluminous enthusiastic reading of can’t-put-down books. We are ready to joyfully launch a renewed intervention mindset that will offer our striving readers the very experiences we so willing offer our most proficient readers so that they can achieve their newfound status as thriving readers and experience the transformative joy they deserve. In their words,

And that my friends, is a professional imperative!

 

More Twitter Messages from Stephanie and Annie

 

LINKS

Stephanie Harvey discusses what striving readers need https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfQDjr2zUV8

You Tube Video https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=stephanie+harvey+and+from+striving+to+thriving

From Striving to Thriving https://shop.scholastic.com/teachers-ecommerce/books/from-striving-to-thriving-9781338051964.html

Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters

by Mary Howard

July 20, 2017 was a very special day on #G2Great because this was the day a long-time wish became a reality as Kylene Beers and Robert Probst settled into the #G2Great guest host seat. On this memorable evening, we launched a virtual style celebration of their phenomenal book, Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters (Scholastic). In an instant, exuberant hunger for the shared understandings that would disrupt our thinking stretched an expansive wing across Twittersphere (evidenced by an engaging conversation that exceeded the 1000 tweet storify limit).

I vividly recall the first time I held this exquisite book in my hands and excitedly opened the cover to soak in their wisdom. They captivated my heart with words that read like a promise: The Readers We Want. But as I read those first pages, waves of sadness washed over me as a sense of professional urgency escalated with each tear. I revisit pages 14 to 17 often because they illustrate the tragic consequences that our choices can have on the reading lives of children. And that lingering image moves me to celebrate Disrupting Thinking in their honor.

Each week, we look back at our #G2Great chat and reflect on key ideas illustrated by the tweets that inspired each one. But this week I decided to use just one tweet that set the stage for these reflections. (I’ll share additional tweets from Kylene and Bob at the end of this post with others from our amazing #G2Great family)

The moment I read Kylene’s words, I knew it reflected the big picture I wanted to capture in my post. And so with her words at the forefront combined with inspiration from the entire chat experience, I’d like share six disruptions that we must embrace to bring disrupting thinking to life in countless classrooms with our lead disruptors guiding us from the sidelines.

Disruption 1: Embrace CHOICE

Looking back on the chat, one word was a thread connecting every tweet: CHOICE. This word was easily the most repeated and always in the context of students. If we have any hope of disrupting our thinking and thus that of our students, it will require us to celebrate the texts that are most likely to awaken deeper thinking and bring it to the surface because our readers care about their reading. We cannot make this shift to disrupting thinking if we’re not willing to thoughtfully select and share the best possible texts we can find and then provide time and space for students to choose their own. By embracing choice, we are opening the door to reading that will beckon students so that books will become the impetus for disrupting thinking.

Disruption 2: Embrace TALK

Using these texts to engage students in meaningful and productive dialogue was another idea repeated across the chat. The central feature of these discussions was exploring how to let talk to rise naturally from engaging text interactions. We discussed experiences ranging from opportunities to share with a partner, in a small group, or as a whole class but in each talk variations, the focus was on keeping students at the center of this discourse. We agreed that teachers must lay a strong foundation for talk by explicitly modeling their own thinking and then support this process until we can gradually relinquish responsibility to students. We acknowledge that students deserve a leading role on the talk stage and so we create a supportive environment so that we can to step back and listen to in-the-moment conversations and then use those conversations as a springboard to next steps.

Disruption 3: Embrace IMPACT

The collective professional dedication evident in tweets loomed large across our chat as we set our sights on crafting learning experiences that would maximize student impact. A common discussion theme was that student talk would revolve around these text experiences –­­­ not for the sake of a grade or score but because we knew that those opportunities could change their lives in some way. We agreed that such life-changing moments should extend beyond our four walls since our higher purpose was to create a reading experience that students would carry with them long after it was over. In other words, we knew that these experiences could only truly impact students when our instructional pursuits were designed in ways that students would carry their learning into their homes and into the world.

Disruption 4: Embrace INVITATIONS

The word respect was another recurrent word across the chat and it was used in the context of inviting students to disrupt their own thinking. We acknowledged that the ideas the author brings to the thinking table are certainly relevant to the learning experience, but we also agreed that we must respect student thinking by extending them an invitation to the thinking table to merge the authors ideas with their own. Through invitations we stand to learn much about students as we consider new ideas that we could not have possibly have imagined without this deeper engagement. And in this two-way thinking process we begin to ask fewer questions as we invite students to generate their own. We do this because we believe that their thinking matters as much as the author’s and because we know that we cannot disrupt thinking if each instructional move along the way is recorded in a step-by-step, question-by-question lesson guide.

Disruption 5: Embrace UNCERTAINTY

Looking back across our chat, educators readily acknowledged that the path to disrupting thinking is littered with unexpected twists, turns, pauses, and challenges that inevitably arise when we do not know the final destination. We celebrate the amazing opportunities that come from the messy process that is inherent in the risk-taking disrupting thinking asks of both teachers and readers. There was a common understanding that if we are willing to follow the student thinking trail that is oft-riddled with uncertainty, that this uncertainty could provide the room students needed to move their thinking to new discoveries with new uncertainties and discoveries with each step along the way.

Disruption 6: Embrace POSSIBILITIES

I doubt that there is a single educator who has read Disrupting Thinking who doesn’t recognize the professional possibilities of new thinking. In a July 6, 2017 live Facebook event, Kylene and Bob reminded us that our goal is not just to identify “Best” practices but to explore NEXT practices. This central message of their remarkable book asks us to take a leap of professional faith from the first pages to the last. We do so willingly, meandering our way to the possibilities just out of view as we disrupt our own thinking and the thinking of our colleagues. It is my hope that these ideas will raise powerful conversation that will bring NEXT practices into focus and inspire others from a schoolwide perspective. And we are all eager to explore those possibilities in the new school year ahead.

In the introduction aptly titled Where The Story Begins, Kylene and Bob describe the seeds that grew into Disrupting Thinking with the words, “It Was a Child…” These three words should inspire celebratory professional wonderings that lead each of us to embrace our own disruptions in the name of kids.

As we launch this disrupting thinking journey, we celebrate the seeds of thinking Kylene and Bob have planted. And through this exploratory journey their words of wisdom remind us of the WHY that is destined to lead us ever-closer to the disrupting thinking we desire…

Thank you for filling us with new hope for tomorrow Kylene and Bob!

Disrupting Thinking tweets from Kylene and Bob

Disrupting Thinking tweets from our #G2Great Family

LINKS

Disrupting Thinking Book (Scholastic) 

Facebook Disrupting Thinking Book Study

WEP 0082: Disrupting Thinking, An Interview with Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst: Why ‘How’ We Read Matters

 

 

Kids Deserve It: Pushing Boundaries and Challenging Conventional Thinking

by Mary Howard

#G2Great enthusiastically opened our door on 6/1/17 to welcome guest hosts Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome, co authors of the magnificent book, Kids Deserve It: Pushing Boundaries and Challenging Conventional Thinking (Dave Burgess Consulting Inc). I was personally over the moon elated to have our guests in the #G2Great house and judging from the tweet frenzy that ensued, my excitement was shared by many.

The first time Todd and Adam’s book appeared on my Twitter screen, my eyes fixated on three words that reached out and grabbed me by the heartstrings – Kids Deserve It. I recall wondering if the authors could possibly do these words justice and truly push and challenge the boundaries of conventional thinking. Any doubt in my mind dissipated in minutes as their introduction held me captive word by exquisite word:

“Educators can’t get complacent. We can’t allow ourselves to be stopped by the roadblocks that will pop up in our way. We must persevere. We must keep pushing the envelope and fighting the fight to give our students the best possible education. Because each and every one of our kids deserve it.” (xii)

To my delight, my status as captive audience lingered from cover to cover as I found myself joyfully anticipating the repeated phrase that ended each chapter – because kids deserve it! On that first exuberant reading, I scribbled happy notations lovingly across now dog-eared pages and still frequently revisit those words for renewed inspiration.

Our #G2Great chat with Todd and Adam elevated my Kids Deserve It lovefest and made me appreciate those three magical words even more. And so in honor of our guests, I’ll borrow their inspired phrase to share six powerful ideas that permeated our #G2Great hour with Todd and Adam as we heed their challenge to avoid complacency… Because Kids Deserve It!

Because Kids Deserve Teachers Who are CONNECTED

I am so grateful to live in an age where we have been afforded incredible opportunities to step beyond our own spaces so we can expand our circle of dedicated others. Becoming connected allows us to join forces in ways that were never available to me when I began teaching in 1972. With the gift of social media literally at our fingertips, being connected is not just an opportunity but also a responsibility. During the chat, we each exchanged our personal fears that once thwarted this brave shift as connected educators and the realization that those fears were unfounded in reality. We each acknowledged the impact of social media in our lives and the generous support of other connected educators who have elevated our day-to-day professional efforts through thoughtful collaborations.

Because Kids Deserve Teachers Who are KNOWLEDGEABLE

I often reflect on how much I’ve grown as an educator over the past 4 ½ decades. While I certainly celebrate my growth process, it is actually how much further I have to go that inspires me most. We have a myriad of options to support our growth journey (social media, reading, dialogue, webinars) and choosing from these options demonstrates firm commitment to increasing our own knowledge base. That base includes our knowledge of research and the practices that enrich our teaching but we also recognize that this knowledge will only come to life where it matters most when we know students. This combined knowledge allows us to determine the best possible practices for each student at any given time. Professional knowledge is crucial, but keeping knowledge of students in our sights allows us to apply these understandings in responsive ways.

Because Kids Deserve Teachers Who are PRESENT

Being present in the learning moments that surround us became a familiar theme across the entire chat discussion. Todd and Adam helped us honor the relationships that form the foundation of our work but they each turned our attention to these relationships from multiple perspectives. Todd reminded us to listen more than we talk as we seek to understand the viewpoints of others. Adam highlighted the power of meaningful dialogue driven by our curiosity about children and unbridled determination to move students from where they are to where they could be as we honor the same for ourselves. Listening and thoughtful talk helps us to be present in those moments so that we can do our best work for our students because we know that everything we do is an opportunity to consistently and purposefully make student success our priority.

Because Kids Deserve Teachers Who are APPRECIATIVE

One need only spend a few minutes on Twitter chats like #G2Great to recognize the potential for celebrating inspired learning from our own lens and from that of our colleagues. Whether we are working to build relationships with our students or with our peers, the focus and outcome are the same. We begin by noticing the many amazing opportunities around us and then intentionally celebrate those noticings as we honor them for ourselves and others. Over time, our celebrations become a habit of mind that can only survive in a schoolwide culture grounded in mutual respect. It is this genuine respect for our children and for each other that has the potential to take us to a whole new level and we embrace these opportunities wholeheartedly.

Because Kids Deserve Teachers who are FULFILLED

Everyone who participated in our #G2Great chat recognizes the value of connecting but as the chat continued, disconnecting began to loom large as a counter point. Teaching is fulfilling but it can also leave us riddled with doubt so we refill our life buckets as we turn those celebrations inward by giving equal attention to our personal lives outside of school. This may require us to turn off technology but more importantly it means that we take the time to turn off our minds and embrace quiet moments with family, friends, nature or whatever may personally renew us. We are the sum total of our professional and personal lives so we cannot allow one to blind us to the other.

Because Kids Deserve Teachers who are UNWAVERING

Perhaps one of the most important points in my mind that came from this amazing book by Todd and Adam and also from our chat discussion is that we can never give up – not on children and not on each other. While there will certainly be children, educators and events that challenge us and fill us with self doubt, we choose to move beyond those challenges by finding supportive others who will inspire and support us on our mission to avoid roadblocks as we “persevere, push the envelope and fight the fight.” Each of us may do this in our own unique ways, but we have a common commitment to hold tight to our vision no matter what roadblocks may stand in our way so that it will not impede our efforts to give our students the best possible education.

 

Since this week #G2great celebrated the message of Kids Deserve It, it seems fitting to end with two messages Todd and Adam released to the world within the last 24 hours of writing this post. Their words tie this post together and re-energize our commitment to do this remarkable work because kids deserve it.

Thank you for keeping those words at the forefront of our minds Todd and Adam!

Todd Nesloney TEDx TAMU Talk: Kids Deserve it

“You can never reach a child’s head until you reach a child’s heart.”

Adam Welcome’s Blog Post: I Am So Tired of No

“No more no – educators need to be in the yes business. Tell kids yes and see what happens. Give them a longer leash. Give them a chance. Believe in their ideas, even though it wasn’t yours. Our kids and teachers deserve it!”

More Inspiring Tweets from Our #G2Great Family

LINKS

Todd on Twitter https://twitter.com/TechNinjaTodd

Adam on Twitter https://twitter.com/awelcome

Website: http://www.kidsdeserveit.com

Todd Nesloney Blog: http://nesloneyflipped.blogspot.com

Adam Welcome Blog http://adamwelcome.blogspot.com

Kids Deserve It with Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome on itunes

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/kids-deserve-it!/id1082238426?mt=2

Kids Deserve It Facebook Page

https://www.facebook.com/kidsdeserveit/

Kids Deserve It | Todd Nesloney | TEDxTAMU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSdl3KIkT44&feature=youtu.be&list=PLsRNoUx8w3rNM9fPF7B0cmlJJzYpQS4Fm

 

 

 

 

 

What Readers Really Do: Teaching the Process of Meaning Making

by Mary Howard

On 4/20/17 #G2Great was honored to open our welcome door to guest hosts Dorothy Barnhouse and Vicki Vinton as we explored their co-collaboration gem, What Readers Really Do: Teaching the Process of Meaning Making (Heinemann 2012). From the opening tweet, it was evident that our #G2Great family wanted to be privy to what readers do. With our dynamic writing duo leading the way, we launched into a joyful exploratory venture Twitter style.

As I thought about the inspired chat dialogue, I realized that the same thing that motivated Dorothy and Vicki to write their book drove our collective enthusiasm. Through writing, they sought to understand the thinking students do in the course of their reading, motivated to ‘stalk the invisible’ for reasons reflected in a quote we shared at the beginning of the chat.

What Readers Really Do reads like a reflective diary of their efforts to confront this conflict. As the pages of their book unfold, we come to understand how they resolved their conflict through a thoughtful negotiation to new thinking that would ultimately change the way they approached reading. Through our shared conversational collaboration, we grew increasingly confident that their journey to new thinking would help us negotiate our own.

Since the book was motivated by troubling worries that may thwart our efforts to move toward new thinking, this seemed like a worthy place to start. Our first question asked teachers to name challenges they confront. Although challenges varied from texts to topics to mandates, each of these could be bundled under the umbrella of TIME! (This pesky challenge reared its ugly head on another #G2Great chat blog with Colleen Cruz)

Two early tweets from Dorothy and Vicki set the stage for tackling this issue by shifting our perspective from time as a challenge to time as an incentive. We still acknowledge time constraints we all face but adjust how we view time. We tackle this challenge by insisting on expending our precious available time in the most authentic and productive ways in spite of the inevitable challenges.

As I reflect on our remarkable #G2Great hour of wisdom with Dorothy and Vicki about what readers really do, the initial question becomes two-pronged:

What do readers really do and how can teachers create an environment that invites and nurtures readers to do those things with or without our support?

With this questions at the forefront of my mind, I perused tweets from Dorothy and Vicki and found that eight Big Ideas began to emerge. It is important to emphasize that each point is distinctive and yet inseparably interconnected. These Big Ideas can help us respond to the above question in ways that will move our collaboration from Twitter into the classroom:

Big Idea 1: Build a thinking bridge through modeling

In order to build a thinking bridge to independence, we begin by sharing the thinking that takes place as we read. By making our thinking public we are able to stalk our own invisible in order to make the invisible visible. Dorothy’s inclusion of the words “authentic” and “joyful” should be a reminder to us all to celebrate the authentic joyful spirit or reading and avoid reducing how we interact to student reading through a recipe of thoughtless sameness.

Big Idea 2: Start with the end in mind

An essential theme running throughout the book and tweets is the idea that we teach this thinking process so that students will eventually take ownership of that process. When our primary goal is to build identity and agency, we know that we must keep this goal in our sights from the beginning. We do this by offering support in the early stages but we are prepared to watch for the signs that will allow us to fade our support into the background as students assume increasing control of their own thinking.

Big Idea 3: Focus on building strategic knowledge

Making room for students to assume control of their own thinking is not about asking them to replicate our thinking. Rather, our thinking offers a supportive scaffold to help them construct their own meaning as they apply this process. This means that naming a strategy is far less relevant than helping them to be more intentional and strategic each time they engage in the thinking process. Over time and through practice, they will begin to internalize this thinking.

Big Idea 4: Be present in the teachable moment

In order to support the thinking students engage in, we must be willing to stalk their invisible in action. To do this, we must be present in students’ learning moments on a day-to-day basis so we can notice and celebrate the thinking that often happens when we least expect it. We adjust our stance from teacher to observer so that we can use our observations as stepping stones that will lead them to powerful new thinking opportunities in a wide range of varied text opportunities.

Big Idea 5: Celebrate the road to discovery

Teachers who are aware of their own thinking recognize that this process is a messy one. We know that the road to discovery can be littered with confusion, uncertainty, and possibility. Such a journey takes time so we must be willing to create experiences where students have time to linger a bit longer even when riddled with confusion, uncertainty, and possibility. This path Dorothy calls ‘huh’ to ‘oh’ is recursive rather than linear and so we support the unexpected twists and turns of thinking that can lead them from one discovery to another.

Big Idea 6: Use your noticings as next steps

We support this messy process as we become expert kidwatchers. Certainly our role as kidwatcher begins by noticing what students are doing as they read but we know that we must make them cognizant of our noticings. This allows us to support their efforts by exploring how we can use their reading to move them from where they are to where they could be. While increasing awareness of their own thinking as they read is an important part of this process, we know that awareness of NOW thinking must lead to purposeful NEXT thinking.

Big Idea 7: Gently nudge to new understandings

Noticing student thinking can help them take ownership of their own thinking if we are responsive to this process. We recognize that our responsibility is not to teach students to be compliant disseminators of knowledge by responding to preconceived answers but to pose genuine ponderings to help them to move to deeper thinking. Once we acknowledge their thinking we must then help them understand how they arrived at that thinking in the first place. This combined understanding moves them closer to agency, ownership, and independence.

Big Idea 8: Support a meandering path to meaning

When we acknowledge thinking as a process we must also acknowledge all that this implies. The dictionary defines process as a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end. We do not view their thinking in terms of a product to be gathered at the end of reading but as a process to be supported each step along the way. Vicki celebrates this view by referring to thinking as a  process of drafting and revising. We expect thinking to grow or even change and so we nurture the winding path to understanding.

 

After the chat ended, a final tweet with Dorothy afforded me an opportunity to make a shameless book plug.

At #G2Great we see ourselves as professional cheerleaders committed to doing our best work for students. In the past few months, we have celebrated authors who share our passionate commitment to students. We spotlight their books at #G2great because we know their words have the potential to transform every classroom into the learning spaces our children deserve.

And thus my shameless plug. We don’t just celebrate new books at #G2Great because we worry that amazing books like What Readers Really Do may be missed simply based on a 2012 publication date. We are on a mission to put books, old and new, into teachers hands because the advice of amazing authors is truly “forever young.” But rather than taking my word for it, download a free chapter of this exquisite book also available as an ebook.

Thank you Dorothy and Vicki. Your words exemplify forever young and will continue to inspire us to do this important thinking work with our students now and in the future!

More thoughts from our #G2Great friends

LINKS TO DOROTHY AND VICKI

What Readers Really Do: Teaching the Process of Meaning Making (Heinemann)

Demystifying “the Process of Meaning Making” and Close Reading (Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris on What Readers Really Do)

Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading: Shifting to a Problem-Based Approach by Vicki Vinton (Heinemann)

Readers Front and Center by Dorothy Barnhouse (Stenhouse)

 

#BowTieBoys: Exploring Instruction Through Our Students’ Eyes

by Mary Howard

Have you ever had an experience that was so powerful it lingered long after it was over, intermittently tapping you on the shoulder to remind you it was still there? Well that happened to me November 2015, long before we brought my memory to life on #G2Great. March 16, 2017 is now a contributor to the growing memory in my heart as high school teacher Jason Augustowski and nine remarkable ninth and tenth grade students known as #BowTieBoys were our guest hosts. Ryan Hur, Ryan Beaver, Jack Selman, Dawson Unger, Spencer Hill, Sam Fremin, Sean Pettit, Joe O’Such, and Kellen Pluntke extended their reach across the Twittersphere.

I first learned of #BowTieBoys when I happily found myself in a session at NCTE 2015 led by Lester Laminack and Jason Augustowski. Hearing high school students speak so eloquently with such profound understanding of teaching made it clear I had witnessed something spectacular. I experienced that impact once again at NCTE 2016 and was so inspired that Sam Fremin became our first #BowTieBoy guest host June 9, 2016. I have since become a self-appointed #BowTieBoys cheerleader, a role I take very seriously.

Since Lester and Jason introduced the Bow Tie Boys to the world, it seems only fitting that they also introduce them to #G2Great:

When I asked the Bow Tie Boys to host #G2Great, there wasn’t a moment of hesitation. Wholeheartedly embracing the opportunity, students wrote their own questions based on personal educational interests and on chat night Jenn, Amy and I took a backseat to soak in #BowTieBoys wonder in a #G2Great version of side-by-side learning. Although this inspiring group has grown dramatically since 2015, it brought back the intense memory of our first meeting – and I was inspired anew!

From the moment #BowTieBoys took the #G2Great helm, professional enthusiasm exploded into colorful fireworks of collective enthusiasm that persists days later. Even though this was the first experience with a Twitter chat for many of them, they approached it will a spirit of enthusiasm. That enthusiasm was captured by a picture Jason took of nine students sharing their passion for educational excellence – and we were all charmed from the start!

As I look back on our amazing #BowTieBoys chat, I want to spotlight each powerful questions individually since these pondering offer essential messages that should remain at the forefront of our educational dialogue. (Do yourself a favor and follow  them on Twitter and on their blog listed with their question)

 

Nine Lessons Learned from Remarkable High School #BowTieBoys

Ryan Hur: TwitterBlog

As the #G2great clock struck 8:30 EST, #BowTieBoys words of welcome flooded the Twitter screen in what one of our chatters described as ‘the most welcoming chat ever.’ Ryan reminds us to ensure that all students feel heard and appreciated just as we felt heard and appreciated. We can only develop a positive bond within a respectful and supportive community of learners that invites students to ‘the most welcoming classrooms ever.’

Ryan Beaver Twitter; Blog

I doubt that anyone would argue the tremendous affect personal interest can have on the learning process. The Bow Tie Boys’ questions and blogs are fueled by their educational interests and this has resulted in incredible learning opportunities that are driven by hard work and effort. Ryan reminds us that when we celebrate interests, we can awaken curiosity that in turn leads to more learning. Student interests and personal passions then become ripple their way to increased learning.

 

Jack Selman Twitter; Blog

Research has long informed the critical role dialogue and collaboration play in the learning process. Our weekly #G2Great chat illustrates the power of talk week after week as educators clamor to join a social media form of collaborative discourse. Jack reminds us that the end product of learning is not assignments or contrived questions. Rather, the goal is to actively engaging students in the process of learning that is elevated through meaningful talk that revolved around the learning. Engaged collaboration rises from a respectful community of shared learning where talk moves from the teacher to students.

 

Dawson Unger Twitter; Blog

Dawson’s question focused on gifted and special education students, but his message was about so much more because it illustrates our responsibility to meet the needs of every student in our classroom. Dawson reminds us that we can only meet this ethical and professional responsibility when we truly know our students. As we gain deeper day to day knowledge that occurs only in the trenches of learning we cam then generate differentiated instructional experiences that take students from where they are to where they could be when our teaching is student-focused.

 

Spencer Hill Twitter; Blog 

Just as our students are wonderfully unique from an instructional perspective, they are also wonderfully unique in the level of engagement they each bring to learning. As we address the instructional needs of students, we also address their emotional needs. Spencer reminds us that choice and passion are extraordinary contributors to this process of maximizing student engagement in learning. There is a big difference between assigning and engaging and the impact of this distinction can be quite dramatic – for better or for worse.

 

Sam Fremin Twitter; Blog

Our wonderful #G2Great family shows up on Twitter week after week, and Sam is a long-time member of that family (yes a high school student has been part of our #G2Great conversations for some time). Sam is committed to social media and the powerful role it can play on the learning lives of teachers and students alike. Yet, in spite of an escalation of technological advances and broad learning opportunities, many teachers and students still avoid it. Sam’s question is worth posing in every school, “Why limit student interaction?.” But this requires teachers to embrace it.

Sean Pettit TwitterBlog

Sean raises an issue many educators have also posed that questions the value of five-paragraph essays. Sean reminds us that when we shift our focus away from rigid rule-based writing to the creative thinking that is a critical aspect of writing, we can then increase the quality of that writing. We can achieve this important shift by designing a learning environment that encourages students to find inspiration around them. Student interest can spark the creative thinking that could teach students as much about the writing process because it is inspired by that thinking.

 

Joe O’Such Twitter; Blog 

Joe’s thoughtful merging of “humanity” with teaching to the test is an important one in a day and age where test scores hover over educators like a dark cloud. Joe reminds us that student success rather than test scores is the ultimate goal. His suggestion to offer individual learning opportunities that put learning back in the hands of students allows us to keep them at the center of our practices. I can’t imagine a better way to achieve Joe’s belief in teaching with “humanity” than to keep professional humanity inseparably intertwined with our efforts.

 Kellen Pluntke Twitter; Blog

Homework has regained attention in educational discussions so Kellen’s question is a timely one. With so much time-wasting homework assigned in schools across the country, Kellen wisely reminds us to allow student voices to enter the conversation. We can elevate homework experiences when it supports and extends instruction while highlighting student passions. When purpose and passion join forces, the homework discussion changes in both direction and potential for impact. This message is sorely needed in many classrooms.

 

This bonus question is inspired by high school teacher Jason Augustowski (blog) who participated in the entire #G2Great chat alongside students. As the resident #BowTieBoy cheerleader, I’d like to pose a question in their honor.

Jason is a model for what is possible when we trust students to lead the way. In Jason’s words, that begins by creating classroom where we model our unwavering commitment to students. Jason was in the sidelines all the way, yet always allowing students to remain in the #G2Great drivers seat by posing and responding to their own questions. He set the stage for this amazing chat experience while keeping students in the spotlight so they would shine in a powerful side-by-side supportive journey to a powerful new experience.

As I reflected on conversations that rose from these questions, I realized that certain ideas were woven throughout the tweets like an intricate instructional thread of importance. These repeated concepts inspired me to create a visual reminder of the impact nine students and a teacher had on our thinking.

I’d like to end on a personal note. For several years, I’ve had a nagging concern that we’re missing the obvious in a constant quest to become the educators our students deserve. Thanks to the #BowTieBoys inspiration, I am now more convinced than ever that this missing ingredient is students. I’m not sure that we can ever become the teachers we hope to be until we open more teacher-student conversations.

Our #G2Great family values professional growth but #BowTieBoys illustrate a new layer of our life-long quest for understanding. If we are willing to hold up a looking glass of our teaching from students’ perspective, we can see our work through their eyes. And those are very wise eyes indeed.

So in honor of their continuing impact, please do me a favor. When you go back into your classrooms tomorrow, look into the eyes of your students and ask them about your teaching from their side….

because you’ll never know the wonderful places their responses can take you until you ask.