Mentoring New Teachers, Episode 6

Welcome to the final episode of this season of our Mentoring New Teachers podcast! In our last episode, Laura and I explored the idea of using mentors–both professional and student mentors–to inspire students to write. As Laura shares with me in this episode, her students benefited greatly from 1) noticing the different and varied craft moves of such beloved authors as Kevin Henkes and Mo Willems and 2) trying them out in their own compositions. Their excitement over the realization that they, too, could use these moves in their writing was palpable!

In this episode, I offer Laura some advice about how to incorporate strategies for helping her students learn and retain sight words into her instructional routine. As many teachers who work with our youngest students know, it can be enormously difficult to balance phonics work and word play with opportunities to listen to and read connected text–not to mention everything else that teachers must juggle within what often seems like a few short hours! Because this is our final “formal” conversation for the podcast, Laura and I also reflect on this unique experience and the many ways in which it has impacted our work as educators.

Thank you for joining us on this journey through one classroom teacher’s first full year as a public school educator. We hope you have found lots to take away and try in your own classroom and/or share with others, whether you consider yourself a “novice,” a “veteran,” or somewhere in between. If so, please recommend this podcast to colleagues within your professional learning network. And if you have any advice for how we might improve this or future Stenhouse podcasts, we’d love to hear from you!

 

Add comment September 24th, 2018

Mentoring New Teachers, Episode 5

It’s hard to believe that this is the second to last episode of our Mentoring New Teachers podcast–we hope you have enjoyed it thus far! In our last episode, Laura and I discussed what she might do to help her kindergarteners gather the courage to practice decoding and encoding words as they become more and more aware of the variety of ways that letters and sounds combine to form words. In the interest of not adding anything more to her plate as a classroom teacher, I offered some suggestions for how she might encourage her students to take “healthy risks” with their words by modifying some of what she already does with them. In addition, I suggested some simple ways that Laura might incorporate additional multisensory work within her literacy stations as a fun way to help her students create even more neural pathways in the brain than they’ve already created as developing readers and writers.

In this episode, Laura and I talk about the power of using mentors–both professional mentors and student mentors–to inspire students to write while also opening up a world of possibilities for how they might make decisions as composers of text. While teaching students to write by focusing on specific genres or forms of writing can be useful, teaching them to notice and ask questions about the kinds of craft, organization, and illustration moves their mentors make–while also encouraging them to envision making these “moves” in their own work–can ultimately transcend any genre or form that students might compose. Because this kind of “noticing” and “wondering” work can leave teachers feeling overwhelmed by possibilities about where to go next in their teaching, we also briefly discussed how to then build responsive curricula for their student writers.

 

RESOURCES & INSPIRATION:

 

Coppola, Shawna. 2015. “Math, Literacy, and the Need for More Blank Paper.” The Educator Collaborative Community Bloghttps://community.theeducatorcollaborative.com

 

Dorfman, Lynne and Rose Cappelli. 2017. Mentor Texts: Teaching Writing Through Children’s Literature, K-6 (Second Edition). Portsmouth, NH: Stenhouse

 

Eickholdt, Lisa. 2015. Learning from Classmates: Using Students’ Writing As Mentor Texts. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

 

Ray, Katie. 1999. Wondrous Words: Writers and Writing in the Elementary Classroom. National Council of Teachers of English.

 

Add comment September 21st, 2018

Mentoring New Teachers, Episode 4

In the last episode of our Mentoring New Teachers podcast, Laura and I talked about how to begin the (often overwhelming) task of facilitating guided reading groups with young students. I explained to her how the original intention of guided reading has become somewhat lost due to the nature of many of today’s existing guided reading programs, and I offered some advice for how to begin this challenging,  but often necessary, work.

In our fourth episode, Laura shares with me how her mid-year literacy assessments led her to conclude that she needs to invest more time in helping her kindergarten students to practice decoding and encoding words. We discuss how to do this by modifying some of what she already does with her students, and I also suggest some ways to incorporate additional multisensory work with letters and sounds to help students create even more neural pathways in the brain than they’ve already created over the past several months. Finally, I share with Laura some common missteps that many teachers make–myself included!–when working to help students become more independent readers and writers. A tip: you may want to listen to this episode in small chunks–there’s a lot to absorb!

 

 

RESOURCES & INSPIRATION:

 

Cleaveland, Lisa. (2016). More About the Authors: Authors and Illustrators Mentor Our Youngest Writers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

 

Dehaene, Stanislas. (2010). Reading in the Brain: The New Science of How We Read. New York, NY: Penguin Publishers.

 

Add comment September 20th, 2018

Mentoring New Teachers Podcast – Episode I: Fitting It All In

We are excited to launch a new podcast series about mentoring new teachers. Stenhouse author Shawna Coppola has been talking with Laura, a new kindergarten teacher. Join us and follow along as they discuss Laura’s first year of teaching.

Mentoring New Teachers Podcast-Episode 1: Fitting It All In
By Shawna Coppola

When Stenhouse asked me if I wanted to mentor a new teacher through her first year and record the experience for posterity, I barely took a breath before saying yes. As someone who has taught for nearly two decades, I still feel the desire to be mentored, to surround myself with supportive individuals who understand the joyful, yet challenging, life of an educator and can occasionally offer a sage piece of advice, a thought-provoking question, a listening ear, or–most importantly, for me anyway–a much-needed laugh.

It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway, and loudly, for those sitting in the back) that teachers are engaged in some of the most complex work imaginable. If you don’t believe me, spend a day in a public school classroom; it’s all the time you’ll need to witness the hundreds of important decisions made (often on the fly), the masterful integration of a seemingly endless variety of skills, and the near-superhuman capacity for empathy and grace.

Laura is an educator who, even in her first year, demonstrates all of these things. A kindergarten teacher in a K-6 public school serving approximately 300 students, Laura confessed to me during our very first conversation together that she knew from early on that she wanted to work with children. This year, she teaches–largely independently, with only occasional access to a classroom aide–22 of them, although the number varies depending on the fluctuation of families moving in and out of the community. According to Laura, the students she has this year are kind, motivated to learn, and, for the most part, “want to be” in school.

Like many teachers, though, Laura finds it difficult to balance building positive, healthy relationships with her students alongside “managing” them as a whole group. One of her biggest challenges is related to planning and making all of the (aforementioned) decisions she must make as a teacher–both ahead of time and “in the moment.” She worries about how to fit in valuable instruction around skills that many perceive as “non-academic” or “soft” along with more traditionally-recognized “academic” skills.

In this first audio post, which was recorded in October of 2017,  Laura and I discuss the enormous, all-too-familiar challenge of “fitting it all in”–particularly with regard to literacy–and how to maintain a daily schedule for her students that is meaningful, engaging, and developmentally appropriate.

RESOURCES & INSPIRATION:

Boushey, G., & Moser, J. (2006). The Daily 5. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

#kinderchat (Twitter chat, Mondays 9:00 PM EST)

Mraz. K. & Hertz, C. (2015). A mindset for learning: Teaching the traits of joyful, independent growth. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Mraz, Kristine. Kinderconfidential [Blog]. https://kinderconfidential.wordpress.com/author/kristimraz/


Full transcript:

SHAWNA:

Hello, and welcome to our first Stenhouse ( Mentoring) Podcast. I’m Shawna Coppola, author of the book Renew, Become a Better and More Authentic Writing Techer. In this series of audio posts, you will hear how a K-6 literacy specialist, that’s me, mentors Laura, a young kindergarten teacher through her first year of teaching. In this episode Laura and I discuss the enormous, all too familiar challenge of trying to fit it all in, particularly with regard to literacy. And I offer her some advice about how to do this while also maintaining a daily schedule for her students that is meaningful, engaging, and developmentally appropriate.

SHAWNA:

Hi Laura!

LAURA:

Hi.

SHAWNA:

How are you?

LAURA:

Good.

SHAWNA:  Do you want to just tell me a little bit about what’s going on or, you know, what sort of..what you’ve been thinking about?

LAURA:

A lot of things. For kindergarten we’re getting into the part of the year where…there’s a lot of things that we need to be covering now. And I mean I’m still trying to make sure I take the time I need for some of the more social emotional stuff and what not. But it’s, I’m still kind of figuring out where a good balance is where they’re engaged and they’re learning. Um, and still giving them, like, the social opportunities and even like play time that kindergartners really need.

SHAWNA:

Yeah.

LAURA:

Cause we started off the year doing like, we had play time in the morning, we had an extra recess and we had regular recess. Um, but then now we’ve dropped that down to like two things. Either play time or an extra recess and the regular recess. And so some of my students have not handled that as well.

SHAWNA:

You’ve noticed a difference?

LAURA:

Oh yeah. Uh, not…I mean for the most part they’re doing well with it but there’s just a few who you could tell, especially some of my younger ones …

SHAWNA:

Yeah.

LAURA:

And that’s a lot. And so I’ve been trying to figure out how to make things so that they’re succeeding but also be doing what we need to for the whole group.

SHAWNA:

Do you have a certain set curriculum that you have to follow? Is there something like do you have a mandate like I need to do, you know, thirty minutes of this and forty minutes of this? What are some of the limits on you as a teacher?

LAURA:

There’s actually not a lot.

SHAWNA:

Oh, that’s good.

LAURA:

We only have curriculum for like reading and math. The district does have, they have (atlas) for like curriculum mapping. So I do have a map that I’m supposed to generally follow. And that’s where I can find more of their like science and social studies topics. But there’s a lot of flexibility within everything since we have a lot of new hires when we were talking who were like: Is there some schedule you want us to follow? And it basically was like, well, we’ll give you your special schedule and we’ll give you your lunch and recess. And other than that it’s kind of our decision on how we want to structure the day. So, it’s good to have the freedom but it also has been overwhelming at times to figure that ( ).

SHAWNA:

Yeah, I can imagine cause you know, for, for me going into my, I think eighteenth year, that’s like a dream come true. You’re like wow, you’re going to tell me what my specials and my lunch recess are and I get to choose everything else. It’s so amazing. And it’s great to have that autonomy, but you’re right. At the same time, too much choice and autonomy can be super overwhelming, especially when you’re just starting out. Uh, and even it can be overwhelming for teachers who are veteran teachers too. It depends, you know, on a lot of different things. So, so, okay, so it sounds like you’re taking some of the pieces that you like from different things? Which is great. But it sounds like you’re feeling like something’s missing? You talked about not being able to fit it all into a day. So, what are you able to fit in that you feel really good about?

=================

SHAWNA:

Laura has her students for just under six and a half hours. And her day sounds a lot like a typical day of kindergarten: morning meeting, which sometimes includes a social lesson or read aloud, forty to fifty minutes of mathematics, a large literacy block and choice time, with some movement breaks, snack, lunch and recess interspersed throughout the days. She finds her literacy block to be the most challenging. Like many teachers, she’s not sure how to fit together each of the pieces of the literacy puzzle. And she worries that in trying to include everything she’s making some haphazard decisions.

====================

LAURA:

It’s kind of like picking and choosing which days I’m going to do what which is part of the scheduling that I’m still trying to figure out ( ) Not do enough of anything. I want them to get their letters, I want them to get their sight words, but it’s been hard to find any like consistent way to keep up with all of that. And then, yeah, they go to lunch at ( ) 11:50 and don’t have them again until 1. So I get from like 1:05, is usually, 1:10 maybe even, is by the time we get inside until like 1:50, 1:55. And that chunk of time is when I have to get them packed up and then I have a short amount of time to do something else. So that’s also been where scheduling has been like some days that’s when we do our writing, if I feel like we didn’t get much in the morning. And then other times that’s when I’m trying to pull in like some more science and social studies focused lessons. Or a combination of things ( ) get some integration. But it’s that, it’s that before lunch and afternoon, those two blocks of time where I find myself making all these decisions about what we’re going to do and not, not really sure about this whole part of things.

SHAWNA:

All right, so that actually is really helpful, like looking at sort of your day at a glance, in a sense. So I can just tell you, though, that I work at a small school but it’s the, the teachers that I do work with have a wide varying range of experiences. And I have to tell you that every single teacher I’ve ever talked to says the same stuff. They say I cannot fit it all in. I need more time in the day. As a matter of fact last week at our leadership team meeting my principal who’s amazing, she said we need to figure out how to give each other more time. We need to figure out how to make more time in the day. And we all sort of laughed. We’re like, we can’t physically create time. But we all feel that need to do that. We all feel, have that desire to have more time with kids. So you’re definitely not alone. So first know that that’s true. I feel like there’s going to be, you know, moments where you’re like oh my gosh, that really worked well as far as I feel like I’m getting a lot of bang for my buck. But if my experiences are any indication it’s just one of those things that as teachers we always feel like we need more of is time. So it’s hard. And there’s never a right, perfect answer. But I can suggest a couple of things, and this is something, when I first started my work, one of the things that we did, uh, when I first got there is they were saying the same stuff to me. They were like we just don’t, especially with literacy, we don’t know how to fit it all in. They wanted to do read aloud and they wanted to do writing of course. And letters and sounds, and um, singing and handwriting and all this stuff. Um, and so one of the things we did was we wrote down everything that they have ever done for literacy. So we just kind of listed it all there. Um, and then what we did was we looked at, so what’s the purpose of each of these things? We used a program called Lively Letters. Have you heard of that?

LAURA:

I don’t think so.

SHAWNA:

It’s, it’s basically a letter, letter name and letter sound program that was, it was actually created to use with speech language pathologists or in conjunction with a speech language pathologist in the classroom. But um, a lot of people use it as, you know, one of the thing that they have in the whole, the core classroom. But I bring it up because that was one of the things that they were really adamant they wanted to keep in their repertoire. But they also said well, when do we talk about vocabulary and when do we do read aloud, and when do we do guided reading groups? And so one of, so like I said what we did was we just listed all the possibilities or all the things that they’ve ever done during that time. And in the second column we said okay, so if you have done lively letter work, what’s the purpose of that? What’s the outcome of using lively letters in the classroom? And so for example with your Daily Five center time, so that’s one of the things that you do. Then in your next column you can say, okay so what’s the purpose of that? So just to think about that. So why, and I don’t mean this to say we’re looking critically at any of these practices, but we’re trying to kind of get at, are there places where, where maybe we’re overlapping or maybe we can integrate more or combine things for that higher purpose. So if you were to think about Daily Five center time what are the, what are the outcomes or what are the reasons why you’d want to have that be a part of your literacy instruction? Cause I’m sure there’s a lot of reasons, right? So what is it that you like about that?

LAURA:

Well, for one, just building their independence. I mean I’ve worked with kindergartens who don’t do much of anything like that. And I just find that the kids are just not able to work independently. They just expect that they get correction for one thing and they do it and then they move onto the next thing. And there’s just a lack of being able to work that way and being able to work, you know, with a group and things like that. Um, I also like just that it gives them different opportunities to experience reading and to experience working with words and like they can listen to a story, they can read to themselves, they can read with a partner. And I love that they can have the choice. And although they have to kind of hit some of those things at some point during the week, they choice definitely I can see their engagement just from the first day is like, yeah, like they’re excited because they’re making the choice for themselves and then they’re doing it. And so, and as time goes on that’ll be reading, especially the independent reading part of it, like they, that’s something that I find so important in kindergarten is that they build that confidence that I can read a book to myself. Actually today there was like a little sight word book I printed off that had Halloween things in it and we’ve been working on. We’ve done ” I” and “see”  and ” the” and this book happened to have on every page it was like ” I see the little pumpkin, I see the little leaf.:” And so they read it with me and then they got to take it for themselves. And like seeing their excitement over, like I did just read that page.

SHAWNA:

That’s the best..

LAURA:

But it was like, so that was something I don’t want to lose that part of it. And then also like the word work and the writing part of it, that’s where I see a lot of their making connections and applying some of the stuff that they are learning. Like seeing them `pick up on those sight words and start building them.

SHAWNA:

So I’m hearing you, sort of in what you’re saying that that’s a really good assessment time for you, that you’re able to do some kid watching then?

LAURA:

And I’m even, yeah, and eventually I’ll even work with small groups and one on one during that time, so then I’ll ( ) need it even more.

SHAWNA:

Yeah.

LAURA:

For sure.

SHAWNA:

Okay, so it sounds like that, there’s a ton there. So there’s a lot of benefit to keeping something like Daily Five around. I know you talked a little bit about maybe having some lessons with new letters or sight words? Can you talk maybe about like, give me an example of something that you’ve done?

================

SHAWNA:

Laura explained that she uses a popular story and song based program to teach her student their letters and sounds. And that she makes sure they get regular handwriting instruction. As far as leaning sight words, the work she and her students do includes going on word hunts in their little books and practicing writing these words on individual white boards.

===============

SHAWNA:

I have a couple of thoughts. I definitely, I mean, again, there’s never enough time in the day, so that’s the rule number one. I definitely think that’s just the nature of our work. There’s just only so much we can do. And one of the things that I’m constantly telling my colleagues who often tend to come to me, you know, sort of just for emotional and moral support would be that you’re not a miracle worker and you’re doing the very best that you can every day. And that’s really important to actually, you know, say to yourself. I actually have to leave my work sometimes and say you know, I’m there three days a week and I sometimes feel, often, actually feel the same way, that there’s not enough time. I didn’t meet with enough teachers. I wasn’t in enough classrooms. But I’m doing the very best I can and so that’s what’s really important. And it’s important to remind yourself of that. I have some suggestions for some people who I think would be really great, if you don’t know of them already for you to sort of check out some of their work. Um, because as I’m thinking of things that might help you to incorporate literacy throughout other parts of your day in a way that feels natural and not like an add on, ( ) they’re coming from them. So, have you heard of Kristine Mraz? She’s out of New York City.

LAURA:

I’m not sure.

SHAWNA:

She has a blog called Kinder Confidential. And it’s amazing. And she’s just a great person to sort of get to know. Um, but I definitely will send you a link to her blog cause she has some great ideas for um, how she incorporates literacy, not only across the day but particularly during choice and play time. Um, so that’s one thing you can think about is, you know, if you have their un, sort of their unstructured play, can you tell me a little bit about what that looks like? Do they get to, do they have centers or what happens during playtime?

LAURA:

Usually I choose, every week I choose like five, six options. And so they get to just choose from those six.

SHAWNA:

Can you give me some examples of something they might choose to do?

LAURA:

Yeah, I mean actually usually I always have some sort of building type thing, like the blocks or the Lincoln Logs or the Legos. So some sort of building, sometimes two of those options. They ( ) those. And then I’ll often pull out just either, I have like dinosaurs or animals or like some felt people. So I do something along those. I usually do some sort of puzzle type group. And then I also have like alphabet puzzles that I’ll do sometimes. Or I have some regular like puzzles to ( ) use. And then a lot of times I let them choose coloring as an option. Although I find that half the class wants to choose coloring all the time. Some of them spend the whole time writing words instead of drawing pictures. So, like, of course you can choose that. Um, those are usually some combination of those.

SHAWNA:

Yeah, and so the coloring station, do they have like things that are printed out? Or do they have blank paper or what..?

LAURA:

It’s usually just blank paper and crayons and they can make their own decision.

SHAWNA:

How fun. Okay, so just a couple of thoughts about the play time, cause those are all awesome kinds of stations. And, obviously, you know, that kind of choice time is so important, as you know. There’s so much of, with the engagement and building independence and just playing that, you know, I think that the play stuff sort of tends to get lost the older kids get. And one of the things that I advocate for is having unstructured play and choice time, even in the older grades. Last year one of my colleagues who taught in the 5/6 classroom started doing choice time in the afternoons and it was like the best time. The kids loved it, it was great and they seemed to be engaged more the rest of the day. So I definitely loved that, you know, cause you sometimes look into kindergarten classrooms and that’s not happening. So it’s nice to see that happening. With the puzzles, I’m wondering if, have you ever done any name puzzles, like have their names kind of cut up in puzzle form?

LAURA:

We did something kind of like that back when we were working on ( ). Where they had, cause they each have like a laminated shape that has like their name written out that they can trace with a finger and that they can trace with a dry erase marker. And then it had space on the bottom where they could put pieces together to make their name.

SHAWNA:

Oh, perfect.

LAURA:

Yeah.

SHAWNA:

Yeah, that’s awesome.  One of the things that someone showed me, too, um, with those kinds of laminated sheets is to..how are they..I mean I don’t know how they’re doing with their names but um, they would use that puffy paint that you use on t-shirts and they would draw over the, the typed out name so that there’s even that kinesthetic piece, which I thought was really cool. Work intensive but cool. I’m like, oh, man, that’ll take me forever to do. But that sounds, that sounds really fun. The dinosaurs and the animals, I bet what you’re seeing there is I bet they’re telling stories while they’re playing. Is that what you’re noticing, or..?

LAURA:

A lot of the time. When it’s not a matter of splitting up the ones who are like fighting with them.

SHAWNA:

YEah. Cause that could be a really great time to just really encourage them to tell stories and to think about you know, what kind of stories they might then write about, you know, if they’re really engaged in something, even with the building parts. You know, what are you, what’s going on here and, because often times what comes out of some of this playtime would be great ideas for writing. And um, so having some kind of, and this is actually adding, not subtracting to your day, but maybe, but having some sort of share time. Do you have any sort of reflection or debrief after the play time?

LAURA:

Not usually.

SHAWNA:

Yeah, that might, that might be something to think about, only because what you could do, potentially with that is, as they sort of reflect on how it went you could do so much with that that would bring in some of that social emotional stuff that I know is really important to you and to them. So for example you could start sort of charting or talking about you know, what problems came up today or what conflicts came up that, that you were able to` work through? Or what’s a problem that you weren’t able to solve? Let’s maybe talk it through today. That could be just, a possibility. Another kind of share after playtime that would, it sounds again like I’m adding on but it, it actually I think would benefit other areas of the day would be to say something like, you know, what kind of stories did you tell during your play today? And oh my gosh, that sounds like that would make `a really fun book. Or that sounds like that would make  a really fun story to do during writing. And you know, they’ll start to see that stories and ideas for writing come from everywhere. Which is really. Cause a lot of times kids are like I don’t know what to write about. Not so much at this age but definitely the older they get. So the more we’re able to show them where stories and other ideas come from, the better I think they are, you know, it would be for them.

LAURA:

And actually we were talking about characters last week. We made a poster together where I wrote down all their ideas. Um, and then over the weekend I added little pictures to go with them to put up so that they had it to look at when they were doing writing. And..

SHAWNA:

Oh yes, see. That’s awesome.

LAURA:

I didn’t even think about that but..

SHAWNA:

Yeah.

LAURA:

Like most of them were in that…and actually only a few were trying to name like people and things, which I was like wow, like they’re thinking. I mean I was impressed by their ( )ideas.

SHAWNA:

Yeah, yeah. I mean there’s just, I mean even with the blocks and stuff , you know, if kids are doing, or building something or creating something you can you know, sort of talk about that, you know, there are so many books out there about how to do something or how to make something. And you can, you know, sort of, sort of plant the seed that that’s something that could happen as a result of their play. That that could be the seed for maybe a, you know, a story or a book idea later on.

LAURA:

Sometimes being able to share motivates them a lot. Cause that’s (for writing) that’s a big thing is that I try to section it in a time when they’ll have time to write and then at least ( ) they’ll have time to share with the class what they’re working on. And there’s quite a few who normally are pretty slow to pick up that for themselves. But if they’re informed that they get to share it they’re following directions quickly and coming to the carpet then…( )move.

SHAWNA:

Yeah, and again, like I said, that…you know, one of the things that you could focus on, you know, if they’re having a particularly difficult week is just, is problem solving or really even identifying problems. So you know, you always have those students who, for whom, you know, he didn’t get a chance to sit next to the person he wanted to on the rug. It’s a really big deal. And cries and cries and cries and cries. And you have kids for whom that’s not a big deal but, um, you know, running so fast while they’re looking behind them and then bumping into a wall, that’s a big deal. So you know, talking about the differentiation between kinds of problems that we have and how might we react to them, um, is something that could come up in a share like that after paly time, which I think is really useful. So, but that’s just one thought. And then the other thought I had about trying to incorporate something, you know, more literacy stuff throughout the day that feels not like too much additional work but where you feel like you’re getting more in, more bang for your buck involves, you know, just doing a ton of labeling around the classroom. Do you guys do any of that stuff?

LAURA:

Yeah, some.

SHAWNA:

Yeah. I just think it’s, you know, even during their play time encouraging them to, you know, if they, if they build a structure and I don’t know if they ever have the chance to sort of leave things up but they could always make signs, anytime you have any sort of literacy tools available to them they’ll find a way to use them. Like I would, I don’t know if you have any sort of dress up or restaurant area or anything like that in your classroom? Do you have anything like pretend play?

LAURA:

Oh, part of it is the space, the classroom actually. Like I constantly find myself wishing I had more room to put things on the walls or to put things, to leave things out but the space is pretty ( ). So, yeah.

SHAWNA:

And that might be, that might be something you bring up to kids. You could say, you know, I really want you to be able to do some, you know, pretend sort of play where maybe you have a section or, that one day if you wanted to make a post office you could make a post office. What could we, how could we figure that out together when you’re talking about, you know, I have all this stuff and I barely can potentially get to social studies and science. Well, that’s where social studies and science can come in, too, is integrating that kind of problem based work. So, um, real life problems in your classroom like not having a space for pretend play or, or maybe wanting to have a space but not knowing how to sort of structure, how do we include this when we have all of this too, could be a potential sort of inquiry that you could do where you end up talking about needs and wants and materials and what’s costly and what’s not and space concerns and stuff like that. So those are just some ideas. But, again, I know that it’s tough. There’s just so much, so much to do and they’re so eager to learn. I mean can you just imagine if we were to, you know, if I said okay, Laura take us through your entire day and tell me every single decision that you make. I don’t, people just don’t understand, the general public does not understand the amount of decisions you have to make on any given day as a teacher. It’s crazy. You said something about, during morning meeting one of the things, you do have the schedule up on the white board. And you said you have picture, like picture cues, is that right?

LAURA:

Yeah.

SHAWNA:

One of the things you might consider is having them, you know, if there are parts that they can reach you might have one or two sort of maybe try to `write in their approximation of what that time is and that could be just another opportunity. And you know how kids love writing on white boards, especially if the whole class is going to look at it. Um, so that could be another opportunity just to get some  of that sort of literacy engagement/practice in, potentially. But I guess one of the things that I would just consider thinking about in the next few weeks is sort of you know, when you’re looking at all the things that you do, what is giving you the most bang for your buck? So, what is, what is reaching, maybe what is reaching the most students and what is sort of, where are you seeing the greatest benefit? So, for example, clearly Daily Five times. I mean you just sort of like rolled off, it rolled off your tongue, all these things that were bent with, that the kids were benefitting from from that. The building independence and the experiencing literacy in different ways. Um, the choice and the engagement and the confidence building. So clearly that’s a huge, like bang for your buck. You’re getting so much out `of that. But if you were to sort of just reflect a little bit and it doesn’t’ have to be formally, but just think about you know, what are they, you know, what are the benefits of this and what, are there areas where, like overlapping a lot. Where we’re doing a lot of, you know, one thing and less of another. And sort of look at it as a whole. And just see if there are areas where you feel like, okay, I’m definitely not getting enough of this in. And then we can sort of brainstorm ways to incorporate that a little bit more or maybe balance things out  a little bit. Where talk about, you know, what might give you the best bang for your buck. But I know it’s not an easy task for sure. And I think, I mean I would, I wish I could come visit you. I want to come visit your class because I’m so, I’m like in awe of all that you do. I just can’t believe, I’m looking at my notes and I’m like oh my gosh. I just want to see all this in action. Um, but I will, what I’ll do, too, is I’ll send you that blog that I was talking about. Are you on twitter at all?

LAURA:

Yeah.

SHAWNA:

One of the things that they had, I think it’s Monday night, it’s a little late for me. It’s 9:00 but there’s a chat called Kinder Chat. I don’t know if you’ve ever participated in a chat before.

LAURA:

Yeah.

SHAWNA:

On twitter? You have? Do you know Kinder chat?

LAURA:

No, I mostly just did…my college actually did like education ones. In ( ) classes they had us be involved in that.

SHAWNA:

Quite honestly I think a lot of educational chats, especially some of the literacy chats are sort of, you know, it’s sort of like everybody’s’ vying to say the right answer and it’s not super, super useful. But I have found that the few times I’ve participated in Kinder Chat, and often I’m on twitter, on Mondays during that time for another reason. And I see a lot of that feed. And the people who are involved in that are super supportive. And you seem to sort of share a philosophy with them. And I think that might be a good sort of support system for you, potentially. But so I’ll send you some of that information and we’ll try to not send you so much that you’re overwhelmed because I know it doesn’t help just to pile stuff on someone who’s’ already doing so much work. But it just might be useful for you to check those people out. Cause the more support that you have, you know, we can’t ever get enough. So, but yeah, just think about, over the next few weeks just sort of all the things that you’re doing and is there anything that you’re sort of doing, and you’re not really sure what, you know, that you’re not really sure that you’re seeing much of a benefit. Or you’re seeing a benefit in a really small percentage and then maybe we can talk about what those are what could be done instead of that. Does that sound okay?

LAURA:

Yeah.

SHAWNA:

Okay. All right. It was good to talk to you again.  Have a good night.

LAURA:

Thanks.

SHAWNA:

Bye.

LAURA:

Bye.

=============================

SHAWNA:

Thanks for listening to our first Stenhouse mentor podcase. What advice would you give a colleague about fitting it all in? Feel free to comment with your ideas and words of wisdom. And don’t forget to check out the resources we referenced today. Next time on the podcast Laura and I discuss how to manage student behaviors while also developing a safe, collaborative classroom community. See you then.

END

2 comments February 27th, 2018

The similarities between written and visual composition

RenewIn Chapter 3 of her new book Renew! Become a Better–and More Authentic–Writing Teacher, Shawna Coppola asks teachers to redefine and rethink what it means to “write.” “Broadening our ideas about what writing “is” can be scary, as if we are opening up a Pandora’s box,” Shawna writes. “But in all reality, continuing to teach our students writers through a narrow, outdates lens–one that, in overvaluing written composition, does not accurately tell a story about the world of writing beyond most schools and classrooms–harms their development as writers by limiting the kinds of composing they are exposed to and encouraged to practice.”

Here’s Shawna with a bit more of her thinking:

In their book Teaching as a Subversive Activity, which was published in 1969, Neil Postman & Charles Weingartner write that not only have written assessments and assignments become ubiquitous in schools, but that even outside of school, “print has been the chief means of our information flow.” They go on to state that “equally certain is the fact that print no longer monopolizes man’s symbolic environment” (165).

If we were to open our favorite social media feed, or visit our favorite online news source, we would find this to be even more the case today, almost fifty years later. And yet, how many of us would argue with the fact that in today’s schools and classrooms we continue to over-emphasize (and over-value) written composition over visual composition–or even a hybrid of the two–particularly the older students get? In chapter three of my new book, Renew! Become a Better–and More Authentic–Writing Teacher, I point out the similarities between written and visual composition and make a case for renewing our writing instruction by incorporating more of the latter in our (and our students’) daily lives. I also offer a variety of ways that teachers can engage students in this work, ensuring that the writing they are invited to do in school is much more reflective of the world in which they–and we–currently live.

You can learn with Shawna this summer at The University of New Hampshire’s Summer Literacy Institute. Catch her workshop titled “Writing, Redefined: Honoring the Compositional Work of ALL Students.”  Head over to the Stenhouse website to read Chapter 3 of Renew.

 

References:
Postman, Neil and Charles Weingartner. (1969). Teaching as a Subversive Activity. New York, NY:
Dell Publishing Co., Inc.

Add comment June 5th, 2017

Now online: Renew!

Renew“Relax and enjoy an afternoon’s reflection on how to break out of rigid prescriptions and orthodoxies that limit writing instruction.”
-Thomas Newkirk, from the foreword of Renew!

Shawna Coppola’s new book Renew! is built on the premise that our students are ever-changing. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with relying on instructional strategies that have worked in the past, Shawna challenges writing teachers to rethink and revise their practice regularly.

Shawna uses a framework of Rethinking, Revising, and Renewing to examine the most pervasive educational practices in writing instruction and to help ask the questions necessary to revise them so that they are effective for all students. She goes on to examine some of the most ubiquitous practices, including what it means to write, the tools typically used to teach writing, and how writing is often assessed. She also offers ideas for how teachers can nurture their own writing lives and thus reinvigorate their teaching.

Order your copy now after previewing the entire text online!

Add comment May 15th, 2017


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