‘Test prep isn’t comprehension at all’

“If kids read a lot and use comprehension strategies flexibly and knowledgeably, they will do pretty well on the tests.”

In our latest video conversation with Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis, authors of Strategies That Work, Third Edition, talk about how teaching comprehension strategies and allowing kids plenty of time to read ultimately result not only better test results, but more importantly in kids who are life-long readers.

Join Steph and Anne on Twitter this Thursday, 12/14, at 8:30 p.m. EST for a #G2Great chat where they will answer all of your questions!

 

Add comment December 11th, 2017

Meet us in St. Louis

It’s that time of the year when we pack our bags, our books, and head off to the annual NCTE conference–this time, in St. Louis! We hope to see you there! We will be at booth #615 with our full lineup of new books. Come and pick up one of our fabulous tote bags and meet & chat with our authors. Download a full list of signings and sessions with our authors here.

Stenhouse bag

Meet & Chat schedule at the booth:
Friday
11:30 a.m.: Ruth Culham, author of Dream Wakers
12:30 p.m.: Kristin Ackerman and Jennifer McDonough, authors of Conferring with Young Writers
1 p.m.: Ruth Ayres, author of Enticing Hard-to-Reach Writers
1:30 p.m.: Kelly Gallagher, author of In the Best Interest of Students
2 p.m.: Brian Kissel, author of When Writers Drive the Workshop
2 p.m.: Vicki Meigs-Kahlenberg, author of The Author’s Apprentice
2:30 p.m.: Kathy Short, Deanna Day, and Jean Schroeder, editors of Teaching Globally
4 p.m.: Shawna Coppola, author of Renew!
5 p.m.: Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis, authors of Strategies That Work

Saturday
11 a.m.: Stacey Shubitz, author of Craft Moves
11:30 a.m.: Lynne Dorfman and Rose Cappelli, authors of Mentor Texts, Second Edition
1:30 .m.: Jeff Anderson and Whitney La Rocca, authors of Patterns of Power
2 p.m.: Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris, authors of Who’s Doing the Work?
3 p.m.: Jennifer Fletcher, author of Teaching Arguments
4:30 p.m.: Melissa Stewart, author of Perfect Pairs

Sunday
9:30 a.m.: Katie Cunningham, author of Story

 

Add comment November 7th, 2017

Why I Write with My Students

To celebrate the National Day on Writing and the upcoming month of NaNoWriMo, we invited Vicki Meigs-Kahlenberg, author of The Author’s Apprentice, to share why she writes WITH her students, instead of just assigning writing TO them. Her response is powerful.

Why I Write with My Students
By Vicki Meigs-Kahlenberg

Let’s start here: #WhyIWrite.

I am a writer at heart. I grew up writing stories and poems. As a teenager, I wrote to escape things that were going on in my life—or to celebrate them (or that cute upperclassman in my German class who finally noticed me!). I often wrote it out to make sense of the world and my place in it. I wrote of social justice in my community, and educational equity for the kids who were in lower-level classes than I. Sometimes, though, I simply wrote what was on my heart.

No wonder I became an English teacher.

When I ask my students at the beginning of the year why they write, I generally get one of two responses:
• The high-achieving, teacher-pleasers will comment that it is a necessary form of civilized communication, yada…yada…
• The honest ones answer: “Because the teacher makes me.”

Vicki
For most of my students, writing is not their first love (or their second, or anywhere near the top ten). Although all are fantastically savvy and creative with their memes and eighty-character-or-less “Insta-Snaps,” (my pet name for all of those social media outlets), very few would consider themselves writers. Even if they do send several hundred Snaps a day.

Any published author will tell you that writing–the actual act of pen-to-paper, fingers-to-keyboard writing—is terribly lonely. And that is coming from professional folks who presumably love to write. I can’t fathom how incredibly lonely each independent writing assignment must feel for a student who has never had success in this content area… the one who struggles to get his ideas straight in his head before he can write a single word… the one whose inner editor has already told her that whatever she writes will never be good enough.

I’ve witnessed firsthand, students sitting there, sweating, watching their classmates plow ahead while they continue to get left behind. I am sure that all of you can identify these struggling writers in your own classrooms.

Writing is scary and overwhelming for students who have never had a positive writing experience. They view the teacher as judge and jury, and their classmates as competition.

An African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” In this age of assessment, have we forgotten that it also takes a community to develop a writer?

That’s #WhyIWriteWithMyStudents.

As of the day I wrote this post, I found that the above is not an actual trending hashtag. (Although, I think it should be.) Of course, #WhyIWrite is the hashtag that accompanies the National Day on Writing on October 20 (NDOW). What if we used this day to commit to developing our young writers by writing with them, as opposed to assigning writing to them?

The beautiful thing about the timing of NDOW is that with a bit of preparation, it can serve as the perfect springboard from a day on writing to a month of writing, together.

I am talking about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). If you have not done NaNoWriMo with a class yet, you are missing out on an incredible opportunity to build your own fierce, “I’ve-got-your-back” community of writers for November and beyond. I have yet to discover anything as powerful for helping all students rise with the tide, and build English class camaraderie. Sharing this common writing experience by participating in NaNoWriMo’s Young Writer’s Program (www.ywp.nanowrimo.org) is a life-changing, writing-affirming experience for students and teachers alike. Taking the time on October 20th to introduce your class to this epic challenge is a perfect way to honor our students and National Day on Writing.

Throughout the month of November, we join together in word-sprints to build fluency of thought and writing. We share our favorite written lines or passages each week, to show how our inner muses are naturally incorporating the grammar, writer’s crafts and figures of speech that we learned in class. We show our vulnerability and encourage each other in the classroom and online at the end of week two, when we all struggle with writer’s block because none of our characters wants to cooperate with the story arcs we had in mind. We celebrate word-count milestones and offer support and suggestions for those who have petered out.

Doing this together makes us all stronger—as writers, and as a genuine community of learners.

While a specific word count is a personal goal, we strive as a class to meet milestones. Whether a student’s ten percent milestone is 500 or 5,000 words, students of all ability levels celebrate these accomplishments together. For this month, all writers are encouraged to “turn off their inner editors” and write unapologetically without fear of red correction marks. By simply sharing a common space and writing together, all students develop confidence and fluency in writing and thought that transfers seamlessly into future assignments and other content areas.

It is already mid-October, but it is not too late. Here are two options for helping you develop that prized writing community this fall:
Option 1 (the Writing Rebel’s approach): Abandon your curriculum for the month, and dive head first into this community of writers thing! The Young Writer’s Program of National Novel Writing Month has done a fantastic job putting together comprehensive workbooks that students can print or complete online. They have listed all of the Common Core connections, so you can easily justify this madness to your supervisors.

Option 2 (the Sensible Writing-Teacher-Who-Has-A-Ton-of-Material-to-Cover approach): Look at your curriculum. Then, take a look at the NaNoWriMo Workbook for your grade level. Think about places where the two naturally align. Are you planning to, or have you already studied characterization, conflict or plot structure? NaNoWriMo made it easy to bridge your curriculum with their well-designed lesson plans. When you are studying mood and tone, denotation and connotation, and even irony and symbolism, or imagery and figures of speech, it is more impactful when your reading and analysis lessons are incorporated into their writing. (For more explicit lessons for intertwining your existing curricula with National Novel Writing Month, check out The Author’s Apprentice.)

All students deserve to have a positive experience before they move on to the next grade. Every child needs to know what it feels like to write through something with their classmates, so that they can appreciate what it feels like to be on the other side of it, together. When we intentionally design our curriculum based on common experiences, rather than common assessments, everyone succeeds.

The top ten reasons #WhyIWriteWithMyStudents:
10. to show vulnerability
9. to share a bit of myself
8. to share my passion
7. to show that it is healthy, normal, & part of the process to make mistakes
6. to learn about my students, their process and their world
5. to show how much I value my students and the assignments I ask them to complete
4. because 30 brains are better than one
3. because writing can be lonely if you are alone
2. to build a true community of writers
1. to build a community of learners who help each other succeed in all things

Who’s ready to accept the challenge? Let’s get this hashtag trending: #WhyIWriteWithMyStudents

4 comments October 17th, 2017

Reading like a writer

Ruth Culham, author of Dream Wakers and The Writing Thief, dropped by our office recently and she took the time to teach a lesson on reading like a writer (featuring Maybe Something Beautiful by Isabel Campoy), followed by strategies to practice student writing in varied modes, such as narrative, informational, and opinion.

 

Add comment October 2nd, 2017

A praise, a ponder, and a polish

Lynne Dorfman and Diane Dougherty’s new book, A Closer Look: Learning More About Our Writers with Formative Assessment arrived in our warehouse today. We thought we’d give you a quick peek inside the book and in this guest blog post Lynne and Diane talk about how they are using videos with A Closer Look and specifically how one video highlights the important role students play in their own assessment.

A praise, a ponder, and a polish
By Lynne R. Dorfman & Diane Esolen Dougherty

When we imagined our new book, A Closer Look: Learning More About Our Writers with Formative Assessment, with our editor, Bill Varner, we all agreed that it should be practical, useful, and easy to read. After all, assessment is a difficult topic to tackle, even if we focused on everyday, ongoing assessments.  Then we had an idea that changed everything: What if we could include more than a dozen short video clips that teachers could view in school, at home, or sitting on the beach?  Bill liked the idea, and with permissions from four different schools, our classroom snapshots came to life!

Goal Setting ChartWe share peer conferences, one-on-one conferences, small group, and whole group conferences in our book through descriptions in the running text and in QR codes. The one we would like to share with you today is a goal-setting conference that occurred in Kolleen Bell’s kindergarten classroom in early spring. Kolleen had spent several months looking through her students’ writing journals and taking notes about skills and strategies she felt they needed and could accomplish with some instruction and gentle nudges.  Every month or so, Kolleen would suggest three possible goals, post them on an easel, and ask her kindergarten students to write their names on sticky notes and place them next to the goal they wanted to work on for the next week or so.  We were amazed that kindergarteners knew exactly what they needed. They didn’t look to see where their best friend had placed his sticky note, they made a decision based on their own writing (See Figure 1 Goal Setting Chart).

In Harper’s conference, Kolleen offered a praise, a ponder, and a polish. Harper had written about her mom’s interview at the Intermediate School. First, Kolleen asked Harper what goal she wanted to work on and then checked for understanding. Did Harper know what adding more details to her writing really meant? She asked Harper to explain in her own words. We thought that was a great beginning.

Harper read her piece to Kolleen, and then Kolleen summarized Harper’s story after she read it aloud. Here is a chance for the student writer to say that something important was omitted or that the reader (listener) misunderstood something.  Harper did not challenge Kolleen, so Kolleen proceeded to praise Harper for her use of an exclamation mark to show excitement and then asked a question that Harper readily answered.  Harper added more details to her writing to clear up the confusion. Sometimes, the ponder really does become the polish.

Kolleen knew that Harper was an exceptional writer for her age and stage, so she offered a polish that became Harper’s new goal. Sometimes, a writer ends a piece of writing with what he (the writer) or the main character in the story is thinking and feeling. Harper added a sentence to reveal her excitement as a way to close her story. In future writing workshop sessions, Kolleen checked in with Harper to see if she could apply a sense of ending through the strategy of offering the character’s final thinking or emotion.

Goal setting conferences are a solid way to involve each student in the assessment process and differentiate instruction. It calls for the development of a writer’s identity – that is, where the student writer reflects on what he needs to do to move forward as a writer. If our students can begin to do this in kindergarten, imagine what they will be able to do by the time they are in fifth grade!

 

Add comment September 22nd, 2017

The power of using student writing as mentor texts

“Nothing motivates like peer models,” says Janiel Wagstaff, author of the recent book We Can Do This! Student Mentor Texts That Teach and Inspire. In this guest post she shares one example of how a peer model influenced other writers in the classroom.

The Power of Using Student Writing as Peer Mentor Texts for Teaching:  One Story
by Janiel Wagstaff

A funny thing happened one day in a first grade classroom.  The students were writing opinions about somethin g they would like to see changed in the school, in their classroom, at home, or anywhere they felt change was needed.  As I was circulating, checking in with writers, acknowledging the positive aspects of their writing, Colby’s conclusion caught my eye.

MentorText_pg 126

I asked all writers to stop and give me their attention as I read Colby’s short piece aloud.  When I came to the ending, I read it once, then twice.  “Writers, what do you think of this conclusion?”  Many students starting laughing, then talking about whether or not they like milk with their lunch.  “See, writers, these few words, ‘Who’s with me?’ catch your attention and get you to think about whether or not you agree with Colby’s opinion.  Seems like a good way to end an opinion piece, after all when we write opinions, we want to share them to see what people think.”

Within two minutes, Brenna had borrowed Colby’s language and ended her piece very similarly.

MentorText_pg 127

I read Brenna’s work aloud, as well.  “Writers, this is fascinating!  One writer comes up with something that works, we share and talk about it, and other writers are inspired to do the same or something similar in their pieces.  Let’s talk about Brenna’s opinion.  Who is with her or against the idea expressed in her opinion?”

After a brief discussion, again within just moments of resuming writing, Kiana’s conclusion showed the mark of also being highly influenced by Colby’s model.  She ended her piece with, “Isn’t that funny?;”  a short three-word sentence begging response from the reader or listener.

What occurred among these first grade writers within these few minutes?  The power of peer models had once again done its magical work.  There is no denying the effect peer models have; there is just something special about a peer’s work that immediately catches students’ attention and propels them to try similar moves in their writing.  I think of it as the, “Well, I can do that, too!” mindset.  The subconscious thinking might be, “If someone like me can do it, this is within my reach.”  Given such affirmation, students confidently take more risks in their writing.

Opportunities abound for using the writing we have right at our fingertips; that is, the writing of our own students, for explicit instruction about skills, strategies, writing elements, and craft moves.  Indeed, the following day, I more formally revisited Colby and Brenna’s pieces, pointing out under the document camera how conclusions should have purpose.  We started a poster to collect examples of purposeful endings, reminding students to ‘read like writers,’ (Calkins, 1994) with eyes wide open to find the gems within the texts we read.

Having perused all the students’ opinion writing, I noticed there was one more teaching point that had immediate relevance.  Many students’ pieces could be improved if they elaborated on the reason for their opinions.  I asked Kiana if we could use her piece under the document camera and work on it cooperatively to explore a question about her reason.  She eagerly agreed, as I find students almost always do, and another teaching point was born of student writing.  When we read her piece aloud, I asked, “Writers, what question do we naturally want to ask Kiana?”  A sea of hands shot up.  Calvin answered, “Why?  Why don’t you like your seat?”  His classmates shook their heads, “Yes, why?”  I jumped in, “We naturally want to know more about her reason, ‘I don’t like where I sit.’  ‘Well, why don’t you?’  If you and Kiana were having a conversation, you would ask her that.  So, let’s ask her, since ultimately we want to know and knowing this will make Kiana’s opinion clearer and stronger.”

Kiana sample 1

When Kiana replied, ‘Taller kids sit in front of me,’ we worked to find a logical place in her writing where she could add this elaboration.  I reminded students how to use a carat, Kiana worked her piece right in front of them, then I invited them to go back and reread their piece to a partner to see if there were opportunities to make this kind of addition.  Naturally, I circulated, celebrated on the spot, and the next day, we used another peer’s writing to more formally point out how the process of rereading to a partner and asking questions helped the writer improve his piece.  All the students had invested; all were interested and engaged.

Kiana sample 2 copy

Using peer models for instruction creates a palpable sense of excitement within the classroom writing community.  Highlighting students’ pieces in this way helps them feel valued and celebrated, like their voices and their processes matter.  This boosts student-confidence and energy levels.  “When students see others like themselves taking risks in their writing, persevering, problem-solving, crafting and succeeding, they become empowered.  The models reassure them that they, too, are writers with important ideas to share and the ability to write well.  They, too, can do this.” (Wagstaff, 2017)

Let’s take one last look at these first graders’ texts.  Are they perfect?  No.  Do they meet the standards for first grade opinion writing?  Yes, the elements of opinion writing had been introduced prior and we even pushed beyond them where it was logical to do so (elaborating on our reasons).  More importantly though, they are the students’ owned expressions and they served to stimulate conversation about their thinking and writing processes.  When we use students’ pieces as mentors, we’re not looking for perfection, we’re looking to simply learn from one another, while celebrating approximation.

In the end, a “funny thing” really didn’t happen in this first grade classroom.  I’ve been using students’ writing as mentor texts for years.  It is one of my primary “go-to” strategies for writing instruction because of its many benefits.  The increased engagement along with the students’ empowerment not only boost learning and growth in writing, but drive the purposefulness and genuine caring in the writing community.  This is a place where students want to be.  This is a place where students grow stronger together spurred on by the magic of one another’s words on the page.

 

We Can DoThisLearn much more about using students’ writing as peer mentor texts in Janiel’s book: We Can Do This: Student Mentor Texts That Teach and Inspire, K-2.  It contains the work of student writers across genres, with over 70 critical teaching points that commonly occur in K-2 writing classrooms.  Janiel also shares keen insight into how to use your own students’ work as mentor texts along with pointers from her career-long work with young writers.

References:  Calkins, L.M. (1994).  The art of teaching writing.  Portsmouth, NH:  Heinemann.

Wagstaff, J.M. 92017).  We can do this! Student mentor texts that teach and inspire.  Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

Add comment August 31st, 2017

Resources for teaching empathy and tolerance

Many Stenhouse titles focus on building tolerant, accepting communities inside and outside the classroom, helping students see beyond themselves and the immediate world around them. Preview these titles online to find the one that best fits your students:

Black AntsIf you were inspired to become a teacher because you wanted to change the world, and instead find yourself limited by teach-to-the-test pressures, Black Ants and Buddhists by Mary Cowhey will make you think hard about how you spend your time with students. It offers no easy answers, just a wealth of insight into the challenges of helping students think critically about the world, and starting points for conversations about diversity and controversy in your classroom, as well as in the larger community.

 

Sharing the Blue CrayonSocial and emotional learning is at the heart of good teaching, but as standards and testing requirements consume classroom time and divert teachers’ focus, these critical skills often get sidelined. In Sharing the Blue Crayon, Mary Anne Buckley shows teachers how to incorporate social and emotional learning into a busy day and then extend these skills to literacy lessons for young children. Through simple activities such as read-alouds, sing-alongs, murals, and performances, students learn how to get along in a group, empathize with others, develop self-control, and give and receive feedback, all while becoming confident readers and writers.

 

Many Texts, Many VoicesAs Mary Shorey and coauthor Penny Silvers write in Many Texts, Many Voices, “Critical literacy requires that the reader/consumer examine multiple perspectives and ask, ‘Whose interests are being served?’ and ‘Whose voice is heard—or silenced?’…Rather than an addition to a lesson or curriculum, critical literacy is a way of thinking, communicating, analyzing, and living a literate life. Critical literacy also implies the possibility of taking some kind of social action in order to support a belief, make a difference, or simply help during a time of need.”

 

DreamWakersWe dream of a time when all students will be confident, capable readers and writers. When we teach students to read as writers using mentor texts, we awaken that dream and make it real. Imagine the power of providing students with books that show them their faces, their culture, their lives on every page. And imagine how every classroom’s collection of mentor texts can grow by adding books that celebrate diversity. In Dream Wakers: Mentor Texts That Celebrate Latino Culture, Ruth Culham focuses her love of children’s literature—and her decades of work developing the traits of writing—on books that celebrate Latino life and culture. She provides a wide variety of ideas to teach writing using some of the richest and most beautiful children’s books available.

Caring Hearts & Critical MindsImagine if going to school meant more than preparing kids for a test, teaching a canned curriculum, and training students for their future as workers. What if school were also about cultivating students to be caring, community-involved citizens and critical, creative thinkers who love to read? In Caring Hearts & Critical Minds, teacher-author Steven Wolk shows teachers how to help students become better readers as well as better people. “I want [my students] to be thinkers and have rich conversations regarding critical issues in the text and be able to formulate opinions regarding these issues,” says Leslie Rector, a sixth-grade teacher who collaborated with Wolk on some of the units featured in this book.

Teaching GloballyIn today’s globally connected world, it is essential for students to have an understanding of multiple cultures and perspectives. In this edited collection, Kathy Short, Deanna Day, and Jean Schroeder bring together fourteen educators who use global children’s literature to help students explore their own cultural identities. Teaching Globally lays out why this kind of global curriculum is important and how to make space for it within district and state mandates.

Creating Caring ClassroomsCreating Caring Classrooms is committed to building respectful relationships among students, teachers, and the school community. Through active, engaging, imaginative, and open-ended activities, students will be encouraged to explore events, ideas, themes, texts, stories, and relationships from different perspectives and then represent those new understandings in innovative and creative ways. Teachers will learn how to establish inclusive classrooms, initiate and maintain respectful dialogue, promote collaboration over competition, and confront difficult issues such as bullying and exclusion.

Teaching Fairly in an Unfair WorldTeaching Fairly in an Unfair World helps teachers redefine an inclusive curriculum by questioning what is taught, how it is taught, to whom, and under what conditions. It offers teachers a wealth of challenging, open-ended pursuits that give students “voice” and help them better understand their world. It explores opportunities for students to connect with social justice issues in the real world through imagined experiences found in short stories, novels, plays, picture books, graphic novels, and primary source documents, such as letters.

Add comment August 17th, 2017

Now Online: Powerful Book Introductions

PowerfulBookIntroductionsNo matter what level of experience you have with book introductions, your knowledge will spiral upwards as you read this text.
—Pat Johnson

In Powerful Book Introductions, literacy leaders Kathleen Fay, Chrisie Moritz, and Suzanne Whaley take a close look at purposefully planning for effective book introductions that set the stage for young readers to navigate texts independently and successfully.

Through relatable classroom examples and the wisdom of their shared teaching experiences, the authors show you how to select texts, amplify meaning making, and introduce visual and structural information as a way to support your readers.

No matter where you are in your understanding of guided reading, Powerful Book Introductions will help you as you to craft student-centered, meaning-driven book introductions that prepare your readers for success.

Preorder now; copies will start shipping in late-August. Preview the entire book online!

Add comment August 7th, 2017

Blogstitute 2017: Which Comes First in the Fall–Norms or Tasks?

In this last post of our Summer Blogstitute series, Tracy Zager, author of Becoming the Math the Teacher You Wish You’d Had, shares her ideas for kicking off the school year in your math classroom ready to notice, imagine, ask, connect, argue, prove, and play.

Which Comes First in the Fall–Norms or Tasks?
Tracy Johnston Zager

I periodically hear discussion about whether it’s better to start the new school year by establishing norms for math class or to dive right into a rich mathematical task. I’m opinionated, and I’m not shy about my opinions, but in this case, I’m not joining one team or another. They’re both right.

The first few weeks of math class are crucial. You have a chance to unearth and influence students’ entrenched beliefs—beliefs about mathematics, learning, and themselves. You get to set the tone for the year and show what you’ll value. Speed? Curiosity? Mastery? Risk-taking? Sense-making? Growth? Ranking? Collaboration? You get to teach students how mathematics will feel, look, and sound this year. How will we talk with one another? Listen to our peers? Revise our thinking? React when we don’t know?

In Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had, I wrote about a mini-unit Deborah Nichols and I created together. We called it, “What Do Mathematicians Do?” and we launched her primary class with it in the fall. We read select picture-book biographies of mathematicians, watched videos of mathematicians at work, and talked about what mathematics is, as an academic discipline. We kept an evolving anchor chart, and you can see how students’ later answers (red) showed considerably more nuance and understanding than students’ early answers (dark green). [Figure 2.1]

Figure 2.1

Throughout, we focused on the verbs that came up. What are the actions that mathematicians take? How do they think? What do they actually do?

In the book, I argued that this mini-unit is a great way to start the year if and only if students’ experiences doing mathematics involve the same verbs. It makes no sense to develop a rich definition of mathematics if students aren’t going to experience that richness for themselves. If professional mathematicians notice, imagine, ask, connect, argue, prove, and play, then our young mathematicians should also notice, imagine, ask, connect, argue, prove, and play—all year long.

In June, I saw this fantastic tweet in my timeline.

It caught my eye because Sarah’s anchor charts reminded me of Debbie’s anchor chart, but Sarah had pulled these actions out of a task, rather than a study of the discipline. I love this approach and am eager to try it in concert with the mini-unit. The order doesn’t matter to me.

We could (1) start with a study of the discipline, (2) gather verbs, (3) dig into a great task, and (4) examine our list of mathematicians’ verbs to see what we did. Or, we could (1) start the year with a super task, (2) record what we did, (3) study the discipline of mathematics, and (4) compare the two, adding new verbs to our list as needed. In either case, I’d be eager for the discussion to follow, the discussion in which we could ask students, “When we did our first math investigation, how were we being mathematicians?”

Whether we choose to start the year by jumping into a rich task on the first day, or by engaging in a reflective study about what it means to do mathematics, or by undertaking group challenges and conversations to develop norms for discourse and debate, we must be thoughtful about our students’ annual re-introduction to the discipline of mathematics.

How do you want this year to go? How can you invite your students into a safe, challenging, authentic mathematical year? How will you start?

1 comment August 1st, 2017

Blogstitute 2017: What Do They Remember?

As you think about starting the new school year, hold tight to this message from Jennifer Allen, author of Becoming a Literacy Leader: “as teachers, as literacy leaders, we have the power to make difference through our interactions and interest in others.” Who knows what your students will remember you for?

Jen Allen - 2016What Do They Remember? How Do We Make Them Feel?
Jennifer Allen

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
– Maya Angelou

Hello, 

I was one of your third grade students many, many years ago. I am currently a grad student at the University of San Francisco, studying Education for Social Justice. We’re doing a project on an inspirational teacher, and I’m doing mine about you. It inspired me to reach out to you. Sally

This is the message I found in my inbox this summer.  As soon as I saw Sally’s name, I found myself smiling. The image of Sally, an eight-year-old girl with blond curls, freckles, and an infectious smile, filled my head. I had not seen or heard from Sally for more than twenty years.

After a few e -mail exchanges this summer,  Sally sent another e-mail, this time with a link to the video project that she had created around her inspirational teacher—me.  I wondered what I could have possibly said or done to be remembered as an inspiration.  I clicked the link and watched Sally talk about me on camera.  I watched, holding my breath.  I was relieved that I made her feel special. I didn’t remember the specifics of the black dress that she spoke of on camera. It made me realize that as teachers we often don’t know what sticks to one’s heart.

We spend so much time these days in schools focusing in on curriculum, assessments, and professional development that at times it’s easy to lose sight of that what’s most important—the people in the buildings, the students, and the adults that we interact with each day.  What will really be remembered at the end of the day, school year, or even years later?  What is it that we keep and why? I remember listening to a keynote presentation years ago from educator Jonathon Kozal. What I remember from that presentation was a statement that he made regarding standards—that no student is ever going to remember that on Tuesday they learned standard number 3, just because it was written on the board. His words were a reminder that our students are more than a standard charted on a board.

Susan Scott writes in her book Fierce Conversations, “Our emotional wake determines the story that is told about each of us in the organization. It’s the story that’s told when we’re not in the room. It’s the story that will be told about us after we’re gone.” My e-mail exchanges with Sally remind me of the importance of my interactions with students and adults on a daily basis. The video is a reminder that I don’t really know what one holds on to or keeps over time.  But what I do know is that as teachers, as literacy leaders, we have the power to make difference through our interactions and interest in others. We have a responsibility to be present, to listen, and be aware of how our words may or may not make others feel. So as we start a new year with new students and staff, what power will your words hold, what stories will they feed.

 

2 comments July 27th, 2017

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