Tuesday, December 6, 2016

In the Name of Love: Delight in Speaking


The room was packed. Educators sat shoulder to shoulder. Notebooks perched on laps. Bags bulged with books. Conference-swag bags squatted under chairs or along the walls. Teachers lined the far wall, some even sat on the floor. I crossed one leg over another, perched colored pencils on my shin, unclipped my Uniball pen and readied my sketchbook. Harvey Daniels, Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle rocked a full room for the session titled "Advocating for Speaking and Listening in a Digital Age."

I use a few codes in my notes: green arrow with red L signals connecting language. I note how speakers move
from topic to topic. Question marks framed in brown denote, literally, framing questions the speaker uses.

 There was much to love and think about in this session. Today's slice shares my thinking and my notes.

In the weeks after NCTE I often go back to notes to write and reflect, collecting ideas or noticing for class on the left page next to the notes I took during the session. Today I went back to my notes to gather ideas for a speaking mini-lesson. I loved that Harvey Daniels used Jerome Stern's Micro Fiction. I had Stern while at Florida State University and I remember well the short, short story contests. Our tenth grade team uses stories from this collection-- they are the perfect length when we want a quick assessment or dip into text, so Daniels use of them during session sure validated that practice.


  Penny Kittle's line from Donald Graves called to me this morning, "Receive the piece before you try to work the piece." Kids need to be taught how to receive each others' pieces-- how to sink in to the story and just listen. Listen first. Then reflect back to the speaker what was heard. They need help setting a purpose for listening too. I gathered some of the questions Penny shared during her session for just that purpose-- to teach students how to help each other listen in focused, purposeful ways.

While I wondered during the session if Gallagher and Kittle often wound their way with students from conversation to digital projects (podcasts or videos for everyone), it was interesting to connect what they were saying to a conversation I'd had at breakfast.  I too often land in the digital project zone with and sometimes I question where I am in terms of authentic, choice-driven tech integration. If I examine my practice in terms of the TIMs matrix, I'm not always working at the infusion or transformation levels. Sometimes we are, but we also spend time in the adoption and adaptation zones, especially when kids (or teachers) are learning together.

Digital spaces give students the ability to speak and be advocates in a space they do not have to inhabit. That is a real plus for students who do not have transportation. Digital spaces can minimize or even eliminate the need for transportation or a car pool--with a WiFi signal from school and supported work time--kids can get into the world with their voices.

Advocating in digital spaces is one reason why I love Project for Awesome. Set to launch this Friday, Project for Awesome has YouTube creators from around the globe creating content that features the amazing work done by charity organizations in an effort to raise awareness and money. To read more about the project started by Hank and John Green, dial the blog back to 2014.

Students have been writing, speaking and talking about their projects for a few days now. They have filmed and practiced. Today they put the pieces together to get the first draft recorded and on screen.
Tomorrow we will share with a sister class and students will give each other feedback.  Students practiced speaking from  their scripts today. We did "dramatic readings"  using Sara Holbrook and Michael Salinger 's  P.I.P.E.S. ideas (projection, inflection, pacing, expression and stance) today.

One group was working in iMovie to create a trailer advocating for Southeastern Guide Dogs. Ana and Stephanie called me over to their table to show me their progress.  I'd read their script and overheard some of their practice and conversation, so I was tickled to see how they planned to use the template for a trailer in iMovie. I saw a customized credits screen and a series of shots they'd planned. Ana spotlighted the actions the dogs would take when they filmed them after school. She wiggled. She squirmed in her seat. She smiled wide and brought her shoulders up with the corners of her moth saying, "I'm SO excited!" I can't wait to see what they create.


It's time to cue the music. When kids engage in learning we don't need a "Galvanic bracelet" to measure the moisture on their skin or the micronic width of their pores. When kids engage in learning, in speaking and in listening to each other and for others, we can hear in their voices. We can see it in how they can hardly contain themselves. The work of Daniels, Gallagher and Kittle remind us that  we have to be relentless in our classrooms. We must remember that when one [teacher], one man, one woman comes into the classroom in the name of love, worlds change.


References from the session notes:

Adiche, Chimamanda Ngozi, "The Danger of a Single Story." TED, July 2009.

Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes. Unsung Heroes Project, 2016.

Palmer, Erik. Well Spoken: Teaching Speaking to All Students. Portland, ME: Stenhouse, 2010.

Strauss, Valerie. "$1.1 million-plus Gates grants: ‘Galvanic’ bracelets that measure student engagement." The Washington Post, 11 June 2012.

Turkle, Sherry. Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. NY, NY: Penguin, 2015.

Wodtke, Christina. "The Shape of Story." ElegantHack, 6 June 2015.




Thank you to StaceyBetsyDanaTaraBeth, Anna, Kathleen & Deb for creating community and valuing voice. Join us at Two Writing TeachersSlide by the Slice of Life buffet for seconds or link up to serve your own slice of life.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Never Give Up

Thank you to StaceyBetsyDanaTaraBeth, Anna, Kathleen & Deb for 
creating community and hosting a weekly Slice of Life link up. 
 Discover more at Two Writing Teachers
It's 7:37 pm and once again I am in the school parking lot. My son plays in the marching band and twice a week they practice until eight o'clock.  I take the gift of afternoon time and catch up on giving students feedback or updating the digital grade book. I take time organizing books or creating handouts, talking with team members or planning units. I enjoy the time and the work.

This afternoon four kids came in to do make up work during resource (tutoring)  time. They didn't need me, so I met with a new-to-our-school,-second year teacher to talk unit planning and instructional sequencing. He and I couldn't help but listen to the kids chat about their cultures. 

Songs were shared. We heard laughter and exclamations. Stories too. And there were some dance moves. It was adorable. I wished I taken a picture--captured their happy. One  moment kids were on their feet showing each other-- how to swivel a hip (Salsa) or straight arm the sprinkler move In that moment, I did not want to be anywhere else.

Kids share such joy even when they are procrastinating.

The group did not finish the make up work they had planned to finish. They got sidetracked  talking  to each other. They got sidetracked sharing stories. Song and dance sort of took over. But you know  what? Sometimes, that is exactly what kids need. Time to connect face to face. Time to share stories and laugh. Time to explore and make a friend. 

There is time enough to get the work of school done. 

Sometimes we monkey around. Doesn't everyone. From our syllabus, see it on Smore here

In my class kids get time. I value learning and I don't give up.

The lowest F grade is a 30%, not a zero (I have a gospel reading on 50%s and 30%s and zeroes but that is another story).

In my class, students are allowed to redo any assignment to demonstrate additional learning if they earn a C or below OR if they are not satisfied with their grade (and we discuss time/cost and grade benefit). I ask kids to redo work within a week of the feedback --more to help them manage time, tasks and keep up than to gate keep. Even if they miss the week-- which is the tenth grade team's deadline--there is always a way.

When I was in my first five years of teaching I called it, "Let's Make a Deal." I held make up sessions. I cajoled kids and talked with parents. I collected make up work in bulk stapled to a dot-matrix progress report print out. Now, I monitor more closely, so the bulk of the work doesn't feel like a windmill or an impossible weight.

I talk to kids over time and if what I'm doing in class is not working I enlist parents' as helpers. We all , teachers, parents, administrators, want the best for the kids in our care. Teenagers do not always trust that as truth. But it is. 

I live my belief in learners. I work it. I walk it. I pray it. I just do it: week by week, day by day, class period by class period. I work that belief on my feet in class as I confer with kids about what they wrote in their journals. I work it in bean bags after school during poetry club when we share what we've written. I walk it and pray it there too. And in the parking lot waiting for my band son or in the stadium watching my Bear sons play football or in the gymnasium watching my Bear players volley, dribble or wrestle. I pray that belief in learners during fourth quarters and final years when the seniors I've tutored to pass our state test white knuckle their way through to a diploma.

I never give up.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Readers Talk

While making my rounds talking to readers today about their reading journals a student shared this about Bill Konigsberg's Openly Straight:
 "Oh my God! So good! The ending! I just. Oh! I cried! I had to search up the author. Guess what? He has another book coming out. I PRE-ORDERED IT! Well, my Mom did, " grinned that reader.

Score! I was doing my happy dance (on the inside). 

We are in our fifth week of school. The readers in my room have made themselves known. They are the kids that had a book in hand week one and were already squeezing reading into spare (or stolen) moments. Many students come into my tenth grade class excited and engaged readers. It makes sense. We have a strong reading culture at my school.

Still, while I have some readers at year's start, I also have many kids who aren't convinced books have anything to offer. They sample first one book, then another, leaving both laying on desks or table tops. They say they do not have time to read or they that reading just isn't their thing. They say they would rather ___fill in the blank with any other form of entertainment__  than read. 

I work my hardest for my not yet readers. Instructional moves that ignite curiosity about books and fan the first flames of interest are moves that make a difference well beyond my room and this year.

Next week #engchat returns in its usual 7 - 8 pm Eastern Standard Time slot. I am hosting. Let's talk about readers and the reading routines we use to engage, grow and nurture them.

Here's a quick list of questions and the rough times I'll tweet them.

7:00 pm   Q1: Greetings & salutations. Share your name and teaching context.
7:05 pm   Q2: How do you ignite readers' curiosities?
7:15 pm   Q3: What classroom reading routines help readers choose books and get reading?
7:25 pm   Q4: How do you help readers make plans for their reading futures?
7:35 pm   Q5: What works when it comes to documenting/sharing readers' progress over time?
7:45 pm   Q6: How do you move readers forward when it comes to developing skill and stamina?
7:55 pm   Q7: How do you celebrate readers and books?

I can't wait to hear what you do for the readers in your rooms. See you next Monday!


Thank you to StaceyBetsyDanaTaraBeth, Anna, Kathleen & Deb for 
creating community and hosting a weekly Slice of Life link up. 
 Discover more at Two Writing Teachers