SLOW CHAT: Fueled by Collective Curiosity and Collaborative Conversation

by Mary Howard

You can read the Wakelet artifact HERE

#G2Great chat celebrates 7 years on 1/6/22. Your chat co-moderators often contemplate new chat designs for twitter style dialogue. This week, we decided to draw inspiration from the continuing challenges of this pandemic and its impact on our shared love for attending National Literacy Conferences. If COVID-19 had not thwarted our plans, #G2Great chat would have taken a break this week to attend the International Literacy Conference in Indianapolis, IN. Unfortunately, ILA shifted from an in-person conference to varied virtual opportunities. We know that this decision was not taken lightly and we are grateful that ILA chose to put our safety first.

Since we had already planned to take this week off, we decided this afforded us a wonderful opportunity to try something new. We had discussed using a SLOW CHAT format in the past, so we thought that this was the perfect time.

WHAT IS A SLOW CHAT?

For those of you who have never participated in a SLOW CHAT on Twitter before, some background information would be helpful:

In a typical chat, we gather at our #G2great hashtag on Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. and share 7 to 8 questions across the night that are answered in real time. If you have ever taken part in our chat, then you know that this format makes for a fast-paced process of reading and responding to questions while engaging in conversations around those ideas.

By contrast, a SLOW CHAT is literally meant to slow down this pace using many variations that may span across one or several days. A few questions are asked at key points during the designated time and educators respond to questions at their own pace rather than during a live chat hour. Our one-day SLOW CHAT began in the morning with initial thoughts from your co moderators I share at the end of this post followed by five questions we posted every ninety-minutes during the day as we checked in across the day. Since we plan to do this again, putting our first SLOW CHAT into action was a wonderful learning venture that we can draw from in the future.

And so, in the spirit of our first SLOW CHAT I give you our first SLOW BLOG with five twitter takeaways that captivated my professional heart.

SLOW BLOG TWITTER TAKEAWAYS

Our deep desire to embrace curious learning in our lives has a much broader purpose. We cannot expect that our children will engage in and beyond our schools as curious learners unless we are willing to model a curious spirit each and every day. Our actions (or lack of) speak volumes.

Engaging in collaborative dialogue with other professionals on a regular basis gives us a lifeline to collegial support. These inspired interactions help us to fine tune, adjust and add to our thinking from both sides as we learn in the company of trusted others.

We make our own learning a priority not just for the sake of learning but in honor of the children that learning is dedicated to. The tipping point is when we carry our learning with us and make professional decisions that will lift learning to the highest heights in their name.

It is admirable for each of us to value professional collaboration, but the goal is to create a culture of collective collaboration that spreads across a school. Every child deserves to experience professional joy in action no matter where that learning takes place or with whom.

We all need a safe space where others support and fuel our learning. While we hope that this comes from within a school, it can also span across great distances. Used thoughtfully, social media can offer a safe haven where ideas, passions and curiosities can flourish.

Last Thoughts

COVID-19 pandemic has altered the landscape of our professional and personal lives in many challenging ways. Yet, there were also many blessings as we have traveled along a meandering path of uncertainty. Conference cancellations have been difficult for those of us who thrive on professional gatherings, but it also nudged us to explore options for learning together. These new learning doors have compounded our unwavering thirst for professional learning in any capacity. Yes, the pandemic altered where, when and in what way our learning happens. But our determination to hold tight to the WHY of professional learning has strengthened our commitment to celebrate our learning through this new lens. Fueled by Collective Curiosity and Collaborative Conversation was the perfect title for our first SLOW CHAT since it reflects a way of life that we are proud to lead on a daily basis.

We want to thank those of you who joined our first #G2Great SLOW CHAT. We believe deeply in collaborative professional JOY and we know that invitational discourse is possible in any form. Here’s to more SLOW CHAT in the future!

SLOW CHAT reflections from your #G2Great co moderators

Risk. Fail. Rise. A Teacher’s Guide to Learning From Mistakes

by Fran McVeigh

Wakelet link of chat artifacts here

Neither the weather or the continuing pandemic was able to dampen spirits and pull folks away from the #G2Great chat with Colleen Cruz on Thursday, February 11, 2021. As we began planning for this chat, I worried about being able to write about both the book and chat in a credible fashion that would do justice to the brilliance shared. As the chat ensued, I realized that I was right to worry with so much greatness packed into a 60 minute chat!

I first met Colleen almost eight years ago when she was my staff developer at my initial Writing Institute at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Eye opening. Jaw dropping. Work. Writing. Learning. And in the interest of full disclosure I have learned from Colleen, live and in person or virtually, every year since as I continue to grow my own literacy knowledge and skills.

Colleen is a teacher, a staff developer, an author, and an editor. She’s witty, fun, and avowedly “pessimistic” as she intertwines stories and research in her work and to help you envision possibilities. Previous #G2Great chats have been discussed in these blog posts: The Unstoppable Writing Teacher: Real Strategies for the Real Classroom, Writers Read Better: 50+ Paired Lessons That Turn Writing Craft Work into Powerful Genre Reading, and Bridging the Gap Between Research and Practice Podcast with Nell Duke and Colleen Cruz.

So where to really start with this mutual adoration of Colleen Cruz and her brilliance, this book and the chat? I reread all of my notes about Colleen’s books and presentations. I perused the Wakelet artifact from this chat and liked or retweeted almost a hundred tweets that included every single one from Colleen. How to organize? How to find a manageable set of tasks to meet my purpose: What to share in this post?

A Mistake. Two paired tweets from Colleen from the last question in the chat.

The initial tweet: research, current connection, a link (https://news.emory.edu/stories/2020/04/esc_covid_19_family_stories/campus.html), and a mistake. How did Colleen respond? Did she ignore her mistake? Did she deny it? Did she embrace it? Did she offer a bit of humor? How we respond to mistakes matters.

Let’s back up. What are mistakes?

The following tweets offer a glimpse into definitions of mistakes. You can learn more from the text excerpt, the audio book or the Heinemann blog listed below in the resources. Mistakes are hard to define unless you spend some time thinking about what they are and what they are not as #g2great team member Val Kimmel offers in the second tweet. Stacey and Nadine add on to the learning properties of mistakes.

What are the different types of mistakes?

Getting beyond mistakes are “good” or “bad” takes some work or study. Not all mistakes are equal. Four kinds of mistakes include: stretch mistakes, aha moment mistakes, sloppy mistakes, and high-stakes mistakes. You can read more about those at Heineman here, “Not All Mistakes are Good”, check out the Facebook Live series here, or read from Eduardo Briceno at either Mind/Shift here or his Ted Talk here.

The goal: to be aware of the types of mistakes, when they happen, why they happen, your response to mistakes, and the effects of those mistakes. This will take study, thoughtful reflection and a bit of self-awareness. The danger is in continuing on the path of sloppy and high-stakes mistakes after knowing that these are harmful. Many sloppy and high-stakes mistakes are avoidable with careful attention to our words and actions. I wondered about characterizing Colleen’s Tweet mistake above as one of the four types . . . and yet, without an edit button in Twitter, mistakes can easily happen from nimble fingers on less than responsive keyboards. I didn’t see the mistake when I first saw the second tweet as I read the word “msitake” as I expected it to be – during the fast pace of the chat – rather than the word as presented on the screen.

My past week and two mistakes …

1. Missed a webinar. I signed in on the last five minutes. Yes, sloppy mistake on the time zone recording on my calendar. I emailed and apologized for missing and will take greater care in recording/checking the times on my calendar. (Self care? Definitely a tired mistake!)

2. Fabric rows on my quilt did not match. Border and final two rows were more than an inch longer than the above 7 rows. At the time, I thought it was a high-stakes mistake, but it was really a stretch mistake as this was my first “pieced” quilt and I had never even thought about the difference in the rows. Future: check and double check connecting rows as the pieces are assembled.

Fran’s notes

Are all mistakes equal? When do we give grace? And to whom?

Jill’s tweet above is the bridge between reflecting and learning and offering ourselves grace. Mistakes are not a cause for self-flagellation. Mistakes vary according to the type as to intent and impact. Even more, our responses vary. Do we automatically offer grace to some students? Do we like to share our magnanimity with the entire class when we bestow grace? Which students have to earn grace? All of these are questions just about grace that stem from Colleen’s tweet below. The most “telling” factor may be “Who do we withhold it (grace) from?”

So now what?

Think of a recent mistake of your own. Which of the types was it? What was your response? What is your plan for next time?

Now think of a recent student mistake. What happened? What type was it? What was your response? What might you say or do differently? Do you know enough? Consider which of the resources below will be helpful?

As Colleen Cruz says in Risk. Fail. Rise. and Val and Mary emphasize above, the value in studying our mistakes is so we “can learn to separate our ego and form a mistake-welcoming culture.” Mistakes as learning experiences. Mistakes as a sign of growth and a source of data to use to ascertain growth.

Where will you begin? And when?

Links and Resources for Further Exploration:

https://blog.heinemann.com/topic/risk-fail-rise – the Heinemann Blog with access to the podcast, audiobook sample, blogposts and FB live events

www.colleencruz.com – my website for upcoming events and to contact me

@colleen_cruz Follow Colleen’s Twitter handle

BLog: Not All Mistakes are Good: Identifying the Types of Mistakes Teachers Make https://blog.heinemann.com/not-all-mistakes-are-good?utm_campaign=Cruz&utm_content=144005030&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&hss_channel=fbp-96011276891

Doug Fisher, Nancy Frey, & John Hattie: The Distance Learning Playbook

by Fran McVeigh

On Thursday, September 24, 2020, #G2Great welcomed authors Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey to chat about their current book (which is one of the titles in this series, Link). The Wakelet from the chat is available for your perusal here.

Doug and Nancy are not new to #g2great. Previous chats include: This is Balanced Literacy, December 12, 2019; and All Learning is Social and Emotional: Helping Students Develop Essential Skills for the Classroom and Beyond, August 29, 2019.

This review of their book by Jackie Acree Walsh said so much that I actually thought my work was done as far as this blog post.

Echoing through the pages of this timely book is the message: Effective teaching is effective teaching, no matter where it occurs. Teacher voices and classroom examples animate core principles of research-based teaching and learning, enabling the reader to visualize practices in both face-to-face and online learning environments. Multiple self-assessments and templates for reflection support reader interaction with the content. The authors connect Visible Learning and informed teacher decision-making to all facets of effective lesson design and delivery, and address the important issues of equity and inclusiveness; learner self-regulation and driving of their own learning; and use of formative evaluation and feedback to move learning forward. A must-read book!
Jackie Acree Walsh, Book Flyer Link (Corwin site)

What a great book that builds on our existing knowledge and pedagogy as well as our values and best intentions! But never let it be said that I didn’t share my own ideas and thinking! Let’s get started with Doug and Nancy’s thoughts about a message from the heart!

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

Taking care of oneself is essential. Teachers are so giving, sometimes to the point where they sacrifice their own physical and mental well being for the sake of the students and communities they serve. Self-care isn’t selfish. It gives you the emotional muscles needed to serve others effectively.

So what does self-care entail? What do teachers and school staff need to be thinking about? Module 1 in The Distance Learning Playbook addresses this topic. Individual teachers and teams can work through this module to consider actions that will engage and impact students. An excerpt is available from Corwin at (Link) to explore a work / life balance.

One example: If you are considering a “standing desk” to avoid sitting all day every day, think about how you could “try this out” without spending money on a new desk.

HOW? Try a paper box . . . those sturdy boxes that reams of copy paper come in. Do you have one on hand? Or a crate? Set your computer on that box or crate to “raise” the eye level camera for distance learning. Find materials in your home that could be used to raise the work level of your desk in order to create your own DIY standing desk with $0 cost. WIN/WIN!

Do you want to increase the likelihood that you will carry through with actions to increase engagement and impact? Find a commitment partner and agree on what and when you need assistance from your partner in order to be successful.

All of this is possible because Doug and Nancy are quite specific about their success criteria and share those criteria as well as ways to think about rating the criteria and determining the importance of each factor. Link to an example.

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

The big takeaway is that we realized that as a field we know a lot about teaching and learning, and we didn’t forget it when we needed to engage in distance learning. We hope teachers will regain their confidence as they link what they know to new implementation practices.

This book is titled: The Distance Learning Playbook with a subtitle “Teaching for Engagement and Impact in Any Setting.” That “any setting” means that the basic principles apply across all settings. Yes, distance learning may be one setting but it does not wipe out all other teacher knowledge around pedagogy and curriculum. We don’t reset at zero when the delivery models change; instead, we sort and sift to ensure that we are choosing the BEST strategies and tools for engaging and impacting learning. This information is included in Module 9: “Learning, Distance or Otherwise”.

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

Like educators everywhere, we had to rapidly shift to remote learning this spring. But going forward, we knew that we couldn’t remain in a state of crisis teaching. John Hattie’s Visible Learning scholarship has transformed education worldwide. Dozens of educators opened their virtual classrooms to us to create a new visual lexicon for how those evidenced practices are enacted in distance learning. Weaving the two together has transformed the conversation. We hope that it sparks action about how schooling in any setting can be better than ever.  

“Action about how schooling in any setting can be better than ever” is the goal. Time, learning opportunities and resources like this text have provided examples of increased learning for students. With a “can do” growth mindset and a toolbelt of best ideas and resources, we can and MUST improve learning. And as a part of self-care and informed, reflective decision-making, our days do not have to be filled with doom and drudgery. We can and MUST build in time for laughter and relationships with our students, parents and communities in order to sustain our lives in these challenging times. Additional ideas on this line can be found in “Module 3: Teacher—Student Relationships From a Distance.”

How are you handling your self-care needs?

What impact are you designing in your lesson planning?

Additional resources: The Distance Learning Playbook – Corwin link Free resources – Corwin link Introduction to Visible Learning – Corwin link 3 part Webinar – Teaching Channel and Distance Learning Playbook registration – link Free Webinar: Going Deeper With Distance Learning, Tuesday Sept 29 @ 12pm PDT/ 3pm EDT – Registration on Corwin site

Weeding Misguided and Harmful Practices: Behavior Management (Second in the Series)

By Jenn Hayhurst

Click Here for WakeLet

I love a good series. To me, a series of Twitter chats is sort of like binge-watching a favorite Netflix show… I just can’t get enough! Our latest series, Weeding Harmful and Misguided Practices doesn’t disappoint. It is so relevant and meaningful because it suggests there is always room to grow. This is especially true when it comes to behavior management, it is critical to try to get it right. What better way to do this than to have a good conversation with smart and dedicated teachers? On February 6, 2020, #G2Great held the second of a five-part series on Weeding Misguided and Harmful Practices Behavior Management.

Do No Harm…

We teach because we hope to make a positive impact on our students’ lives. What is better than making meaningful contributions toward students’ social and academic growth? However, relationships come first and shame is a barrier to forming relationships. Instead of viewing behavior as something to manage, view it as formative data. What does this student need? Showing students that we have their interests at heart is the better way. A strong teacher-student relationship is formed by inter-personal connetions and not charts and clips.

Clear Responsibility…

As I read over these tweets I find myself nodding and smiling. We are teaching children how to live and be in the world. When we take a moment to pause and manage ourselves when life in the classroom gets stressful we are modeling how to deal with complex emotions like stress, anxiety, confusion or even disappointment. What better way to teach students how to better manage their feelings and actions? As we do this work together, teachers and students, we are co-creating safe learning environments and that is what we really want for our kids, isn’t it? We can be the teachers they can depend on. The teachers who lead with empathy and compassion. Yes, this is what behavior management can look like.

Let’s keep a good thing going. We hope you will join us next week

Building (and Maintaining) Your Support System Now and Across the Year

by Jenn Hayhurst

Click here to visit the Wakelet

Think back to when you made the decision to become a teacher. Is being a teacher what you thought it would be? When I entered into my teaching career, I found it to be quite different than what I thought it would be. In many more ways, it is so much better. So far, I have experienced unexpected and wonderful learning that has developed my teaching in ways I could not have envisioned. My learning on the job has unlocked deep insights into students’ academic growth and social-emotional wellbeing that have changed my whole approach to education. Yet, on the flip side, I have also experienced all forms of struggle. Some days I am worn out to the bone physically. Other days I’m emotionally drained, and still others I am over-saturated intellectually. Sometimes I have a trifecta of struggle and experience all three! I know I am not alone, for so many of us teachers, this is the truth.

It is no wonder, that teachers need to fill their reserves with support. We need to be part of something bigger to celebrate our victories and make strategies for our failures. On September 19, 2019, we, the #G2Great team, dedicated a chat to discuss building and maintaining support systems.

A school is comprised of living environments that are constantly in a state of flux. Classroom needs change, students change, initiatives change, curriculums change. In these ever-changing and dynamic environments, educators need support systems. They need them so they may not only survive but thrive. A supportive community is a key asset for teachers everywhere. Being part of a caring group helps to stave off isolation. Having others to bounce off ideas and to commiserate with makes all the difference. Sometimes the relationships we forge over time have the power to go well beyond our classrooms and make deep and meaningful impacts on our lives.

To access Julie’s link to Kidwatching 2.0: Top 3 Moves for Real-time Assessment click here

What might a healthy support network offer? As usual, #G2Great PLN members had some good ideas to share on the subject. When it comes to support networks, some patterns emerged. Teachers are looking for communities that value learning, gratitude, and wonder. Learning together promotes deep bonds. Keeping our sights fixed on our students fills us with a sense of gratitude that may keep us student-centered. I believe a deep appreciation for wonder makes us more authentic and connected to what school ought to be.

I am a much better teacher today than I was when I started out. I am better because I surrounded myself with the brilliance of others. My support systems are comprised of many facets. Sometimes support comes from the generosity of the teachers that work alongside me. Sometimes I find support systems in books, professional journals, and (of course) social media company I keep. What if we all had access to these kinds of support system? I can imagine that there would be far less teacher burn-out and greater satisfaction and productivity. Sometimes we have to imagine these things first in order to make them our reality.

The Right Tools, Towanda Harris #G2Great

By, Jenn Hayhurst

Access to Wakelet by clicking here.

Disclaimer Alert: I Love Tools!

It’s true, I have a soft spot for tools. From my earliest memories, I have loved working with tools. My father would invite me into his garage and would marvel at the hooks and draws and bins full of useful devices that could help a person get any job done. My love for tools has remained constant, just the other day I inventoried my kitchen tools to assess which ones were most useful. I love tools because they help us to perform at higher levels, to be more independent, and to feel empowered to make a change. Tools make my teacher’s heart sing.

Needless to say, when Towanda Harris agreed to join our #G2Great community… I was VERY enthusiastic! On August 15, 2019, Towanda Harris initiated a discussion stemming from her beautiful new book, so aptly named, The Right Tools, that I believe, will be a book teachers will use and love.

Instructional tools offer a pathway towards active learning and aides for assessment for our students. They are mediators engender high levels of engagement and support. So, why aren’t we all using tools on a regular basis? Towanda, spoken like the true teacher puts it simply,

Today, we often find ourselves facing a dizzying array of materials and resources, whether they be a box of dusty skills cards handed down from a retiring teacher a professional book passed on by a colleague, a unit plan saved from a previous year, a teacher’s manual found in the back of a storage cabinet, a procedure recommended by a supervisor, a program required by a district, a book reviewed on a blog, a set of activi- ties discussed on Twitter, a chart found on Pinterest, a unit downloaded from a website, or a strategy highlighted in a brochure or an email. But how do we know which of these will help the children in our classrooms? How do we find helpful new resources without squandering funding or instructional time?

Towanda Harris, The Right Tools, xii Introduction

How do we begin? This post is dedicated to beginning the process.

I feel so privileged to share the voices of the #G2Great community. Thank you for sharing your expertise so that we may grow our understandings of this important topic.

Having well-defined criteria for what tools are brought into the classroom is an important first step. When developing a criterion, we begin as Towanda suggests, with clarity for the tool’s “purpose” so they may meet students where they are. While Travis reminds us to consider the appeal of tools, is they “kid-centric” if kids don’t like them they won’t use them. Mollie brings us back to basics as she reminds us to keep tools grounded in authentic opportunities for use. Sonja comes at tools from another perspective, when she tweeted that the best tools are flexible ones that “bend.” So true!

Tools offer teachers opportunities to be responsive to students needs. Faige, adds her voice to the conversation as she explains that criteria for tools cannot be set unless teachers have time to observe the students who are in the room, she invites us to consider students’ “interests, needs, and strengths”. Towanda echos this truth as she perks our attention to knowing “learning styles” so we may avoid that “one size fits all” mentality that becomes a roadblock for a successful transfer to independent use. As always, Mary brings the discussion back home, as she implores us to be “honest” in our estimation of tried and true tools we love as educators. We have to always be reflective to make sure we really do have the right tool for the job. Laura, says it best I think when it comes down to the underpinning for criteria for tools, “Students are criteria” Know your students first, then develop or offer the tools they need to be successful.

This post offers just a snapshot of the conversation we had about tools. I do encourage you to go to the archive if you missed the chat. It is a treasure trove of ideas that could spark a meaningful discourse for any Professional Learning Community, (PLC).

On behalf of my #G2Great team, I’d like to thank Dr. Towanda Harris for joining us for this meaningful discussion. Teachers everywhere are organizing and getting their resources together to kick off the school year. With books like, “The Right Tools” in hand they will get closer to “great practice”, and that is what teaching from a learning stance is really all about.

Breathing New Life Into Book Clubs

By Brent Gilson with Guest Blogger Travis Crowder

#g2great 8/8/19

This week we had the awesome pleasure of chatting with Sonja Cherry-Paul and Dana Johansen about their new book Breathing New Life into Book Clubs The Wakelet of the chat can be found here.

Travis Crowder has written a great blog response to the book that we would like to share with you. Travis is a passionate advocate for literacy work and is the co-author of the fantastic book Sparks in the Dark which had its own chat and the Wakelet for that is available here and the Literacy Lens post here. The G2Great team is so grateful that Travis was willing to share his words with us.

Travis Crowder response to Breathing New Life into Book Clubs

A Friday afternoon. I watched them grab their books and notebooks and gather on the rug around the coffee table. Conversations from other groups created lively streams of energy around the classroom, but in this group, something was different. When they were settled and facing one another, they opened their notebooks, almost in unison, and began writing. Curiosity got the best of me. What were these students up to? I walked to the edge of their group, trying to catch a glimpse of what they were writing, careful not to disrupt the flow of whatever was happening. I didn’t know, but clearly, they did. And that was all that mattered. I squinted to catch a line in Keila’s notebook, and that’s when I realized the significance of their writing. In their book club book, the mother of a character had died, and they were capturing emotional reactions inside their notebooks. Without any prompting, they had decided that spilling their emotions on the page first would help them make sense of their thinking. Discussions migrated from groups across the room, pressing against the quietude of this group, yet their activity was unimpeded. After several minutes, when everyone had finished writing, Karina looked around the group and said, “Who wants to read theirs first?” The book club was now ready for discussion.

Book clubs possess the power to transform readers and to elevate students’ thinking, reading, and writing. The story above captures a beautiful moment in my classroom, one that we dream of as teachers, yet one that may not happen as often as we’d like. For several years, I was hesitant to include any book clubs in my classes for fear that students wouldn’t read, conversations would flatline, and several weeks of valuable time would be sacrificed because of poor management— mine and theirs. At first, the attempts were wobbly, and often, I felt lost in despair. With time and quite a few mistakes, though, I created routines with my students that helped us develop effective book clubs. Looking back, I wish there had been a comprehensive professional text to help me understand the nuts and bolts of managing book clubs, while providing strategies for holding students accountable for reading and discussions. Now, that text exists. And it is nothing short of brilliant.

Breathing New Life into Book Clubs: A Practical Guide for Teachers, by Sonja Cherry-Paul and Dana Johansen, is a gift to our profession. It’s as though both Sonja and Dana are standing at the threshold of the book, asking readers to join them on a breathtaking journey of thought. They take us through systems and routines that make book clubs manageable and inviting, and ultimately, a way to help students fall in love with reading. Both writers denounce superficial assignments and activities that demean literacy and provide ideas that nudge kids to develop authentic reading habits. Philosophy is threaded into the tapestry of Chapter 1, letting us know that their thinking is grounded in creating a culture of reading and assuring us that this work is possible. But it goes beyond that.

I love the types of clubs— genre, identity, goal, theme, and series— that they delineate for us. Prior to reading this text, I hadn’t given much thought to the type of books students were reading, other than attempting to focus clubs around a big idea, such as war or relationships. This delineation breathed new life into my thinking. Identifying the type of club we feel is most beneficial for kids will determine their energy, engagement, and success, all of which nudge us to provide book clubs again and again for our students.

In addition to helping us understand the different types of book clubs, a curated list— of wide and varied titles— is available to help us select the books we want to offer our students. They give us ideas and mini-lessons to create book clubs beside students, coach them into effective conversations about texts, and lead them into a life of living with books. If you’re worried that clubs will lose their focus and energy, set your heart at rest— they have you covered. Writing, sketching, creating bookmarks, and recording videos are just a few of the strategies to help students lean in to deeper conversation. And what’s more? Sonja and Dana walk beside you through each mini-lesson, offering ideas that will lift your book clubs from where they are to an even higher plane. Kids aren’t reading with no direction. They’re reading to think, to learn, and to grow alongside their fellow club members and classmates. And fall in love with books.

I want you to listen to this gorgeous section from the first chapter:


Book clubs are where students fall in love with reading, but we value book clubs because it is in these spaces that we witness humanity at its best. Through the process of reading and responding to texts, students come to understand each other better. They reflect on who they are, where they hope to be, and the ties that bind them together. The attitudes, traditions, values, and goals established in book clubs often become the principles that guide the way students live their lives. As such, we can invite students to record the story of their book club in a journal or on a blog— the laughs, the struggles, the triumphs, and the lessons learned that will stay with them (pg. 8).

So often, joy and community seem to be a missing pieces of language arts classrooms.  Book clubs, which can be full of life, love, and joy, can help kids prepare for a lifetime of reading, especially when created with teachers who want to see them develop into readers who can sustain volume and independence. The emphasis on understanding each other is a beautiful ode to empathy, and something we need more of in our world. When I work with kids to establish books clubs this school year, I will look for those places where students are maturing into better human beings. Book clubs help create that story— for us and for our kids.

Sonja’s and Dana’s incredible humanity glimmers on each page. Children are at the heart of this work, and with their brilliant thinking, both writers show us how we can move kids to engage with books and their world. Democracy demands a literate populace. It’s teachers like you and me, ones who are committed to this critical literacy work, who will shape the minds of tomorrow. We live in a world of uncertainty and pain, and each day, hateful rhetoric pierces the heart of humanity, eroding the integrity and decency we try to uphold. Sonja and Dana have given us a book that does not waver in its devotion to students, teachers, and books. With them, we can go into our classrooms and create a literate atmosphere based on empathy and respect. Let us not forget that we are fierce educators. And we have the capacity to show kids the indomitable power of story. 

Thank you, Sonja and Dana, for an unwavering allegiance to our profession and for helping me better understand the qualities and virtues of effective book clubs. I salute you and am honored to work beside you in literacy education.

Q and A with Sonja Cherry-Paul and Dana Johansen

1.  What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have in the professional world? As educators, we’ve yearned for a book that pulls together the research and best practices that could help us have the “best book clubs ever.” And although we found pieces of the puzzle, in various places, we couldn’t help but notice an important gap: There simply wasn’t a book that exclusively addressed the nuts and bolts of book clubs- how to create, maintain, and sustain them. We decided to create this resource for ourselves and other educators. 

2.  What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices? We must be unyielding in the goal of cultivating lifelong readers. This can be accomplished by staying true to three mantras: 1) Be Brave! Let Go! Pull Back! Students must have choice and ownership over their reading and their clubs. 2) Embrace Authentic Discussions! Students’ discussions will ebb and flow; trust that they will become stronger over time. 3) Joy! Joy! Joy! Build joyful reading communities by providing high-interest texts, helping clubs form strong identities, and encouraging students to read together. 

3.  What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind? We have the power to provide pathways that nurture a love of reading in our students. We hope educators will take part in a reading revolution that makes joyful reading and book clubs central.

We at G2Great would like to thank Sonja and Dana for their beautiful book and for joining us to discuss it. We would also like to thank Travis Crowder for providing the blog post for this week. If you are looking for more discussion around the book please check out Clare Landrigan’s post and video on her blog which is linked here .

Additional Links

Facebook Group: Breathing New Life Into Book Clubs facebook.com/groups/7707352…

Instagram: LitLearnAct

Most Recent Blog Post: medium.com/@heinemann/wha…

Most Recent Podcast: blog.heinemann.com/on-the-podcast…


Social Media as a Purposeful Professional Learning Tool

By Fran McVeigh

On July 18, 2019 the #G2Great Twittersphere was filled. Folks came from:

Iowa,

Oklahoma,
Texas,
New York,
Alberta, Canada,

Minnesota,
California,
Indiana,
Missouri,
Massachusetts,
Michigan,
New Brunswick, Canada,
Ohio,
Nebraska,
Kentucky,
Virginia,

(and I apologize for any that I missed that you will find in the Wakelet here). Educators, teachers, administrators, coaches, college and university instructors, authors, readers, writers, and consultants. A Twitter chat about social media as a purposeful professional learning tool.

The chat opened with this quote.

Making professional connections, sharing ideas and resources and combating isolation were reasons shared by participants as evidenced in the following tweets from educators in 14 states and two provinces in Canada. These  ideas were supported by the original book study chat #G2Great.  Reducing teacher isolation is a common recurring theme.

One huge piece of social media is Twitter. Folks on Twitter know that they can find much good with a focus on following those individuals who add to professional expertise. They are enthusiastic. They share resources. They meet regularly and share ideas, suggestions, images and inspiration. But they also don’t live in a land of fairy tales. Dialogue results in sharing opinions and views. Sometimes data supports those opinions and views. Sometimes theoretical information supports the premise of the disagreement. Sharing information doesn’t always change opinions, but open and honest communication is strengthened by on-going dialogue.

A great deal of the tweets in this social media chat focused on the good that we the #G2Great users have found on social media. Not all of Twitter is a bed of roses. Many of us have had our share of questionable or even unpleasant social media instances. However, when the goal is civil discourse with responsible sharing of our thoughts and ideas, social media connects a world of ideas and a world of possibilities that reduce isolationism no matter where you live on Earth. Productive use of social media tools allows users to conduct research, reach out to experts, and ask questions. And these tools also allow people to express themselves, share their work, and get feedback and encouragement. Therefore, social media promotes active citizenship and should be encouraged. Productive social media use MUST be modeled, taught and used by students, teachers, and administrators.

Where should you begin?

Choose one . . .

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

Voxer

and then to borrow from Andy Schoenborn above . . .”Listen. Dip a toe into the conversation . . .”

Start small.  Pick one idea or topic.

What do you want to learn? 

What do you want to chat about?


The depth of your learning is set by you, your current knowledge and your goals.  This “depth” can also be relative to your social media professional learning.  In a 2017 study “Effective Teacher Development” as reported here, Linda Darling-Hammond, Maria E. Hyler, and Madelyn Gardner, propose that six criteria need to be met in approximately 49 total hours for sustainable, difference-making professional learning that impacts student achievement.  Webinars, google docs, twitter chats, and Voxer groups could easily meet these requirements with a planned, cost-effective and efficient delivery system that would also reduce teacher isolation.

Are you ready to rock social media professional learning?

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.

Inspiring Our Work Through a Sense of Professional Curiosity

by guest blogger Donna Donner

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On September 8, 2016 #G2Great hosted a chat, Inspiring Our Work Through a Sense of Professional Curiosity. This year I embarked on a new path in my professional journey. After the end of my first week of a new position in a new school, this was just the right dose of reflection I needed.  The topic of curiosity is so important to me as I begin this journey.  

The dictionary says, curiosity is a strong desire to know or learn something while the thesaurus calls it ‘a spirit of inquiry’.  I was in the classroom for so long and loved every moment with my students but I knew something was nagging at me – that  something more was out there for me to explore. So as I joined in on the #G2Great chat Thursday night I reflected about what curiosity meant to me.

On my 10 year anniversary my husband and I went snowmobiling through Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Temperatures plummeted to 40 and 50 degrees below zero but we still spent up to 10 hours seeing everything we could before the sun set.  We didn’t let dangerously cold temperatures stop us. We were inspired by the beauty and the unknown. We were curious.

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Just as I am inspired in my personal life, I am equally inspired in my professional life. Leaving my 5th grade classroom was hard, like being exposed to the plummeting temperatures.  My desire to know more and be more is like the inspiring views of the boundless beauty on my snowmobile ride.  My curiosity protects me from the fear of change. That “spirit of inquiry” ignites a “spirit of curiosity” for my professional journey.

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As I continue to think about what curiosity means to me, I looked back on our first question. I was inspired by #G2Great tweets that led me to five key ideas that will support my thinking this year.

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Professional curiosity really begins with the individual

As Lauren points out, curiosity ignites something wondrous in us.  We feel alive, happy, and motivated as we explore and discover.  It must be my curiosity that drives me to want to be the best because it is not competition that fuels my fire.  I am not trying to be better than anyone.  I don’t even know where I am going to wind up but my role as a reading teacher affords me an opportunity to move in that direction as I explore the possibilities ahead.

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Professional curiosity inspires our commitment to keep learning

My decision to leave the classroom has been years in the making.  My passion for all things literacy landed me as a reading teacher, a coach. So when I saw the question, What does professional curiosity mean to you? I knew this was important. My curiosity was fueled by my passion that brought me down this path, but now I want to be sure I stay curious as I sift through the initiatives, mandates, and difficult days. Chris Quinn’s tweet reminds me that professional curiosity is what links me to a growth mindset and my commitment to keep learning. This year I will commit to embracing a growth mindset as I navigate my new role to collaborate with teachers and grow side-by-side with them.

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Professional curiosity flames a sense of wonder in all we do

The first day of school usually meant welcoming wide-eyed 5th graders into OUR room. I had my routines, my classroom management and best practices down to a science. This year as the doors in my new school opened, I was fortunate to stand by and watch through my admiring lens as teachers welcomed THEIR new students.  My curiosity piqued as I learned how amazing and unique teachers are.  I learned so much in my first week about how change can be the flame that keeps my curiosity burning.

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Professional curiosity inspires us to do our best work for students

Spanish, Arabic, and Polish are some of the languages spoken by the students in my new school.  I have absolutely no experience with this.  How can I possibly be in my profession for this long and not know how to help students? This is a very vulnerable position to be in as a teacher.  I am a person who likes to have control over my teaching. I took the hand of a lovely 4th grader who speaks only Arabic.  I speak only English. We walked down the small corridors and stopped at things I thought would be important for her to know.  Girls bathroom, the office, the BOYS bathroom, and the fire extinguisher. Together we practiced saying the words that matched the places we visited. On this day, my curiosity inspired me to take a baby step for this one child within this one moment.

Professional curiosity inspires collective commitment to our students

During the chat I realized that I was feeding my professional curiosity right on the spot.  Fran reminded me that professional curiosity is about wanting to know more for the sake of our entire community of learners while Kari reminded me how this drives us towards figuring out what we can do to have the biggest impact. Suddenly, it hit me! My curiosity isn’t just a gift for self-fulfillment It’s a gift to be shared with others so that we can collaborate in a shared commitment to our students. I know that my impact this year will always lead back to children.

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As I reflect back on the words of wisdom and inspiration from our #G2Great community, I am inspired by the impact of these dedicated educators on my own thinking.  I am EVEN MORE COMMITTED to “the spirit of inquiry” and the question that will continue to enrich my professional curiosity:

What will you do this year to enrich your professional curiosity?

Read more about Donna’s thinking at 4 O’Clock Faculty