Welcome to Episode 1 of POPCast with Jeff Anderson and Travis Leech, co-authors of Patterns of Power, Grades 6–8!
What do adolescent writers truly need to know about the conventions of language to read and write? How do we teach them? Do these crucial communication skills require a right-or-wrong approach or one that focuses on meaning and effect? Correction or creation? Limitation or possibility? Memorization or inspiration? And what, pray tell, will inspire middle school students to write pages that spill over with enthusiasm, thought, and authenticity?
The Patterns of Power process creates an environment in which writers study and appreciate the beauty and meaning of grammar and conventions rather than fear and avoiding mistakes. Focusing on language’s power to inspire and affect us will generate writers who naturally come to know and use the patterns of the English language. In this episode, hosts Jeff Anderson and Travis Leech discuss an overview of the Patterns of Power process, with following episodes going in-depth into each of the steps of the process.
Meet Jeff and Travis
For over thirty years, Jeff Anderson has inspired writers and teachers of grades K-8 with the power and joy of the writing and grammar. He has written eight books for Stenhouse Publishers. He also writes middle-grade novels. Travis Leech is currently a middle school instructional coach in Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, TX. He has thirteen years of experience in education, including teaching middle school English Language Arts and as a gifted and talented specialist.
Read the transcript
Jeff: Welcome to the inaugural episode of Popcast.
Travis: A Patterns of Power podcast.
Jeff: Where we discuss grammar and the context of the reading, writing connection.
Travis: I'm Travis leech.
Jeff: And I'm Jeff Anderson.
Travis: And this is episode one. An overview of the six through eight Patterns of Power: Inviting Adolescent Writers into the Conventions of Language book and the information found inside.
Jeff: So I guess the first question is the one that Travis always asks me is why Patterns of Power? Well, think about our audience, grade six through eight.
Travis: From our discussions about the why, why this is so important, really the first thing that comes to mind is putting students in the driver's seat of learning. Really giving them an actively engaging process of understanding the conventions of language.
Jeff: And I think the teachers have fallen in love with the idea of getting the kids to interact, because here we can put different kinds of literature in front of them with diverse voices and hear their own voices and develop their own voices through grammar and the reading, writing connection. But I think what teachers really enjoy is the simplicity of the Patterns of Power process. It gives them a predictable routine that's loosened tight, just tight enough that you know where to move forward and just loose enough that there's room for magic. There's enough structure, but yet there's enough breathing room in there too and we in this time need breathing room.
Travis: So true. So true.
Jeff: So we're going to just talk about, overview wise, why do you teach grammar with literature. Well, there's lots of argument about that. You can check out the book for the research base from the UK, from the United States, that this idea of teaching literature to teach grammar is better because it addresses the gray areas. A worksheet or an absolutely written example to demonstrate something doesn't deal with that gray space where things aren't absolutely right or absolutely wrong. And if there's one thing I would want you to take away from the Patterns of Power is that it's not about right and wrong, but about meaning and effect.
Travis: Yeah. The author's craft and how that works, right?
Jeff: Exactly. Author's purpose and author's craft. What do punctuation marks do for a writer? What do they do for a reader? And we did that. We asked that question throughout the book, what do apostrophes do for a writer and a reader? What do complex sentences do for a writer and a reader? We asked that question and we're going into the inquiry of it to figure that out together in a journey like Travis said, where we're actively engaged and we start off with invitation one.
Travis: Yeah. So, the overview of the process, which we're going to talk through the entire process today from that 30,000 feet level, and then dig in the future, but we really start with the invitation to notice. Jeff talk to us about that.
Jeff: The invitation to notice is a situation in which we put up a beautiful sentence from literature, just one, maybe two sentences, just a small bite-sized chunk of text that we can all focus on together. And we ask the kids that dangerous question, what do you notice? This develops their cognitive observational structures, which all cognitive structures are built upon. They get to look at the sentence and see what they learned. The worst case scenario, you burn a correct sentence into your visual stores. That's the worst thing that can happen. The best thing can happen because of that interaction, that what do you notice? I see this, I see that. Well, what does this mean? As we have that conversation that runs into developing it's like we talk about the moves writers make to create meaning. And when we're having that conversation, we're becoming better readers and writers.
Travis: Absolutely. And what I love about this first invitation is it's not about setting rules up for kids or for students. It's really about creating theories...
Jeff: And observing patterns.
Travis: Yeah. And making observations and having a rich discussion about it. I think that piece is...
Travis: Really lovely that students see, "Oh, I can have this conversation. I'm not just waiting for the right answer to appear. I'm coming to terms with, in grips with what's happening on the page in front of me."
Jeff: Yeah. I think you really got that. It's this idea of we're starting out with what's right instead of what's wrong. We're starting out with what we would like students to do, what would be powerful for the students to do, rather than telling them or correcting them. Correcting is not teaching. So we're going to move from the stance that we're going to be positively focused on the Patterns of Power. So the first step is the invitation to notice where we put up a sentence and we ask the kids, "What do you notice and what else? And what's that?" And if they notice the comma, we say, "What's that comma doing?" And they turn and talk and have discussions. It's all about authentic conversation where the ideas of reading and writing crash together, making meaning.
Travis: So then what we do as we move forward through the process is the next invitation is the invitation to compare and contrast.
Jeff: Can I say one thing, Travis?
Travis: Yeah, of course.
Jeff: I want people to get the idea that you're doing this about 10 minutes a day. Maybe you borrow five minutes from Writer's Workshop and five minutes from Reader's Workshop. And for about 10 minutes a day, you do this. So day one, invitation to notice took 10 minutes. Travis is talking about day two, the invitation to compare and contrast. And that'll take about 10 minutes as will all the future steps we talk about.
Travis: So, this invitation to compare and contrast is a great place for students to test their theories and continue that rich discussion around the patterns they're noticing. How this invitation works is you start with that original rich mentor sentence. You then add a second sentence that follows that pattern and have students, again, discuss what they notice about both sentences. But then we also add in how are these sentences alike? And we also ask students to discuss how are these sentences different?
Jeff: Because contrast can be a powerful, powerful teacher. The repetition can be powerful because sometimes to see a pattern, you have to see more than one example of it. But sometimes to actually see a pattern, you have to see the opposite of it. That contrast is a great teacher. And we know all the research from Arizona, Pickering, Pollick and all that, they talked about how effective compare and contrast is in any subject area. So why not use it in grammar? Now that they've had a chance to look at the sentence, compare and contrast the sentence over the last couple of days, on day three, we have the invitation to imitate. How did we learn all of our other literary and speech and reading pursuits? We did it through imitation. We listened to, we looked at, we followed the examples. And so now's our chance to look at the examples and try to generate our own example that follows the pattern.
Jeff: Now, sometimes the pattern may be rather complex. And in that case, I might want to start with the shared imitation where I lead the class in doing an imitation. If it's a little less complex or I'm a little further down the line and I feel like they're comfortable, I might think of a paired imitation where they write with a partner. Or if it's ready to go and we've been doing this for a while and they're ready for an independent imitation, I let them do that. The point is they get a chance to actively test their understanding of the process. This is no fill in the blank worksheet. This is the act of composition, whether with the teacher, with a partner or with themselves... With themselves, I guess you don't really say that. Not in middle school. You have to be careful.
Travis: Nope. Nope. Nope.
Jeff: Okay. Got to be careful. Going on to say that that's the invitation to imitate. It really gives them a chance to apply, to try it out directly in a small bite-sized chunk, which we found gives them lots of power because it's such a small bite-sized chunk, they're always willing to share it.
Travis: Yeah. And this is really, for the teacher, I think we'll dive into this a little bit deeper in a future podcast, but for you as a teacher, this is your formative assessment. This is where check hey, do the kids have it? They're trying it out. Do they have it down? Do they understand this pattern as writers? Moving from there into our next day of inviting students into this process, it really comes from Debbie Miller, author of Reading with Meaning, her idea of what gets celebrated gets repeated. I think that really puts us in this place of the importance of sharing and celebrating...
Travis: Yeah, absolutely. So this invitation to share and celebrate, love the flexibility of this. We can share in partners or in small groups, we can share as a whole group and celebrate in a way that's real fun and adds to the flare and flavor of your class.
Jeff: Like let's put some music on.
Travis: Oh yeah. This is a place where we get some music going to add to the vibe. This is also where we can publish our writing and publish our imitations within the classroom space, within a digital space or out in the hallway for everybody to see. So the invitation to share and celebrate has some flexibility, but ultimately we are celebrating what we want to be repeated.
Jeff: Instead of finding and correcting and all that stuff. So here we go. Now we have this chance to celebrate. We can put on some music. Travis is being a little humble here, which is rare for him. Trust me. And there's a song list. So we have songs that we suggest to go with almost all the lessons in the grammar book. So that's an exciting part because it really does add a feeling of joy.
Travis: Oh, do we ever, yeah. I'm really excited for that soundtrack to pop once that goes and all the music that's connected to it, I think really adds another layer of flavor to this process. So after we have imitated our pattern, after we have celebrated our student writers and really given them some confidence to move forward into their own writing, our next invitation is the invitation to apply this pattern in their writing. There are numerous ways that we can go about having students apply this pattern into their writing. Some of them include having them respond to some reading they're doing, to think through or summarize some content that we are asking them to interact with in the class, to go into their writing and revisit it to do a quick revise or quick edit. There's also other applications where we build a community list of patterns that we are comfortable with and that we feel confident using within our writing as a way to draw back to that understanding of patterns as we move into our writing.
Jeff: And for support in the book, the entire chapter three is on the invitation to apply. And every single lesson has extra invitations to apply it because the more you apply, the better you'll get at it. And we're talking about generating text, but now some of you have been saying, "Well, that's all nice and everything, but we got a standardized test we have to take. How do we align this in the patterns of our process?" With the last step of the Patterns of Power process is the invitation to edit or an editing conversation. And in that case, we put up the sentence we've been studying this whole time in its correct version. And we asked the kids, "What did you learn about writing from this author? What did you learn about writing?" And then that gives them a chance to generate all the talk from all the 10 minute periods during the week that we've been doing and bring those forth and up to their conscious level of understanding.
Jeff: And then we show three more versions of the sentence. And we ask in those three other versions where one thing has changed, what changed? And here's the important part, what effect does that change have? So we look at the one with one thing changed to the sentence, and we asked what changed, what effect does it have? And we look at the third one. So what you're getting is comparative analysis, which is what you're asked to do on a standardized test. So it really wraps up nicely, this invitation to edit and what we learned from the author, and it's even another form of application and best practices test practice.
Travis: So this is just an overview of the Patterns of Power process, but over the next few months, we'll be dropping new podcasts every two weeks with an entire show focused on in-depth focus of each of the six invitations.
Jeff: So those will be the entire 12 to 15 minutes. So tell your teacher friends about this Popcast, if you like it. And thanks to Stenhouse publishers for sponsoring us. That's stenhouse.com. That's...
Jeff: Thanks guys. We'll see you in a couple of weeks.
Travis: Yeah. Thanks for listening. Looking forward to talking to you soon.