Archive for November, 2015

Lasting and meaningful grammar instruction



In their new PD video, Getting into Grammar, Lynne Dorfman and Diane Dougherty bring you and your staff into two elementary classrooms to see how expert teachers weave grammar into literacy instruction using both nonfiction and fiction mentor texts.

Building on their bestselling book Grammar Matters, Lynne and Diane team with teachers in second- and fifth-grade classrooms to demonstrate lessons over two days. You’ll see examples of effective guided practice, roving conferences, shared writing, and other teaching strategies, and learn from the post-lesson debriefs and reflections shared by the teachers and authors. The streaming version includes a bonus segment from a kindergarten classroom.

Teaching grammar every day is important to developing readers and writers, and Getting into Grammar demonstrates how to do it with purpose and lasting impact. Watch the 8-minute segment “Exploring Prepositional Phrases” online!

Add comment November 18th, 2015

See you in Minneapolis!

This it the time of the year when we pack our suitcases, our books — and this year our snow boots as well! — and head to the annual NCTE conference in Minneapolis. We hope to see you there this weekend at booth #510! We’ll have our latest books on hand, as well as some of our amazing authors. We’ll be offering a 25% conference discount on all of our books and videos and you can also pick up our new tote bag.
bag

The full booth signing schedule is below and you can download it, along with a list of all Stenhouse authors presenting at the conference.

Friday

2 p.m.: Ralph Fletcher (Making Nonfiction from Scratch) — hot off the press and available at NCTE!
4 p.m.: Jennifer Fletcher (Teaching Arguments)
5:15 p.m.: Steven Layne (In Defense of Real-Aloud)

Saturday
9:30 a.m.: Debbie Diller (Growing Independent Learners)
11 a.m.: Terry Thompson (The Construction Zone)
11:30 a.m.: Paula Bourque (Close Writing)
12:15 p.m.: Dorothy Barnhouse (Readers Front & Center)
12:45 p.m.: Mark Overmeyer (Let’s Talk)
4:15: Kelly Gallagher (In the Best Interest of Students)

Sunday
10 a.m.: Mary Cappellini (Balancing Reading and Language Learning)
10 a.m.: Elizabeth Hale (Readers Writing)
10:30 a.m.: Jeff Anderson and Deborah Dean (Revision Decisions)
Noon: Jen Roberts (Power Up)

 

Add comment November 16th, 2015

Scaffolding Waits

Terry Thompson is our guest blogger today with this great post that invites teachers to slow down the scaffolding process, to allow students the time and space they need as they learn new skills. It’s easy to feel rushed — especially  because it’s already November! — but what if we all stopped to enjoy our students?

Scaffolding Waits

the-construction-zone“I can’t believe it’s already November!”

If you haven’t said this out loud yet, you’ve probably been thinking it. The transition from October to November can be one of the most exhausting times for teachers. We’re well into the school year, the newness has worn off, and everything’s up and rolling. But sometimes it feels like things are rolling just a little too fast and we’re on a gerbil wheel that never seems to stop.

This morning was pretty typical. I jumped out of bed at 5:30, stumbled to the kitchen to start the coffee, got myself ready, walked the dogs, threw some clothes in the wash, and made a beeline to the car before making a hectic drive through rush hour traffic, skidding into the parking lot, throwing my bags on my desk and darting to breakfast duty, arriving – whew! – just in time.

And that was all before 7:00 AM!

If you’re anything like me (and every other teacher I know), you probably feel this same, constant state of hurriedness. We’re in such a rush! We dash to recess. We bolt to lunch. We hustle to that last minute assembly everyone else seemed to have on their calendar but us.

And, if we aren’t mindful, this culture of constant of haste can permeate the best part of our work – our face to face instructional time with children. We rush to get assessments done. We rush to get to the next lesson. We rush to get readers to the next level. We rush and we rush and we rush.

But, what if we didn’t?

As I continue to contemplate the concepts about instructional scaffolding I explored in The Construction Zone, I keep returning to the many things that a more knowing other knows. And, one of those things that a more knowing other knows is that the scaffolding process can’t be rushed. We may try to rush it – but scaffolding takes its time.

Scaffolding waits.

Think about the classic scaffolding examples from outside the classroom like teaching children to walk or ride a bike. No one has to remind parents to take their time with these processes. There’s no rush. They follow the needs of the child, supporting when needed and pulling back when it’s time. It all unfurls naturally.

These same qualities apply to the scaffolds we build in our classrooms. As more knowing others in the scaffolding process, we know that there is a difference between a sense of urgency and a flurry of haste. We know it takes time to get to know learners. It takes time to reflect. And we make room for this.

We take time for assessments as we get to know our learners and their needs. We take time for observations and conferences that tell us more. And, we take time for the important things like read-alouds and community building. We take time to be present and enjoy the learners in front of us. We take time to relax with our kids and a good book. We take Time to reflect.

Yes, it’s November. The holidays are already upon us and the mid year mark is coming fast. And, yes, everything seems to be pulling on our schedule all at once. But what if we hit pause for a moment and took a deep breath? What if we resisted the urge to rush? What if – instead of rushing students through the next assessment, the next conference, the next lesson, the next guided reading level – we slowed things down and lingered in the wonder of the incredible work we get to do every day?

So, as you skid into the holiday season (and then directly into the following semester), give yourself permission to slow down. Breathe. Trust yourself. Enjoy your students. And, enjoy the scaffolding process.

2 comments November 6th, 2015

Complaining about what students don’t know vs. addressing the situation

We are excited to have a guest post from Geoff Krall today who calls on all teachers to take the initiative to find the help, resources, and advice they need to help close the gaps in their  students’  knowledge. Check out Geoff’s blog Emergent Math and also follow him on Twitter!

 

It’s a lot easier to complain that students don’t know, say, their multiplication tables than to actually teach multiplication.

Setting aside the oft problematic mindset of a teacher complaining about what “these kids” don’t know for the time being, consider actually teaching to the gaps you feel are present.

Let’s be clear: not a single one of us have entered the school year 100% satisfied with where 100% of our students are at math-wise. There’s always something that was allegedly “covered” in previous years and for whatever reason was not retained by the students. A couple years ago I was at a relatively well-off suburban school where 99% of their students graduate and go on to college and even those teachers were complaining about what their students did and didn’t know.

Often under the guise of unspecific complaints about students “not knowing their basic math facts” or “numeracy”, teachers sometimes pass blame upon students, The Calculator, or their prior schooling. What I often don’t see happen is addressing those gaps in knowledge. Sometimes a cursory remediation worksheet is handed out, and after-school tutoring is offered, but many times I don’t see teachers actually teach to those gaps. Y’know: teaching kids these lugubrious “basic math facts.” Even more specific complaints about how students “don’t know how to do fractions” (whatever “do” means) are ripe for teaching opportunities, rather than tsk-tsk-ing.

Which is unfortunate because there’s never been a more robust cache of resources to remediate in a healthy, fun way. It reminds me of that bit from Arrested Development where Lucille Bluth brushes off her poor raising of Buster because “kids don’t come with a handbook.”

[Ron Howard voice] In fact, there are countless books that address the very learning gap you’re complaining about. NCTM has so many publications that would probably be perfect. Or go here and click on the grade lower than you. Shoot, just go to amazon and type in what you feel your students are struggling with.

amazon_com__number_sense

If you feel your students lagging in a particular area of their learning, I’d suggest rather than complaining and sending them to a worksheet or instructional video, consider doing some learning yourself and find a book, blog, text, paper, resource, or teacher to teach you how to teach to this area. I’ve learned so much from my non-grade level colleagues about teaching number sense, rounding, fractions, ratios / proportions, and even an alleged area of expertise of mine: algebra (thanks Andrew!).

I mean, if you need a specific recommendation, I’d consider learning how to facilitate some number talks via Elham and Allison’s Intentional Talk and go from there. Or follow ’em on twitter and get their awesome advice for free! (But seriously, get their book.)

Also, we’re not talking about shutting everything else down classroom-wise, lest you’re worried about losing precious class time. While coverage is overrated, let’s put that aside for now, shall we? We’re talking 10-20 minute activities and discussion here, maybe a couple times a week. Stop complaining and start learning how to teach this stuff. If we want students to learn, we probably ought to do some learning ourselves, no?

Besides, teaching these skills and concepts is fun. This has probably been my biggest takeaway of the year so far: leading number talks is so fun, I’d do it even if I wasn’t addressing learning gaps.

3 comments November 3rd, 2015


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