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POPCast Episode 2: Invitation to Notice, Middle School Edition

Posted by admin on Feb 11, 2021 2:48:02 PM


About this episode

In episode 2 of the POPCast, co-hosts Jeff Anderson and Travis Leech talk about the Invitation to Notice, step one of the Patterns of Power process. Listen here or wherever you listen to podcasts.

View lesson 6.4 from Patterns of Power, Grades 6-8 mentioned in this episode

About the POPCast

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 podcast series, hosts Jeff Anderson and Travis Leech discuss the Patterns of Power process, with each episode going in-depth into each of the steps of the process.


Press play to listen to episode 2.  


Meet Jeff and Travis

Jeff and TravisFor 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: 00:05 Welcome to POPcast, a Patterns of Power Podcast.
Travis: 00:09 Discussing grammar in the context of the reading and writing connections.
Jeff: 00:13 My name is Jeff Anderson.
Travis: 00:15 And I'm Travis Leech.
Jeff: 00:16 And we're today's hosts.
Travis: 00:18 To episode two. This is step one of the Patterns of Power Process.
Jeff: 00:23 The Invitation to Notice: Middle School Edition.
Travis: 00:37 So Jeff, why an invitation to notice?
Jeff: 00:41 Well, there's a lot of reasons and I want to say the first reason is children have underdeveloped cognitive structures of observation, and that happens to be the base of all cognitive structures. So what we're doing instead of getting kids to focus on error, we're getting them to focus on what's right. So the Patterns of Power Process is kicked off with the invitation to notice, a place in which we ask the question to the kids and it's a dangerous question because it leads by them. You're not telling them what they should see or what they should notice. But again, the worst case scenario is you've got a great sentence that follows a pattern that you want to teach the kids. For example, use relative clauses. That sounds exciting. Doesn't it? And we're going to show you how to take a real standard in middle school, like use relative clauses and make it interesting to the kids in a short 10 minute bit.
Travis: 01:40 It sounds exciting to me. How do we do it though?
Jeff: 01:45 Well, the first thing you do is you need to find a sentence that demonstrates that which you need to explain. So if we're talking about relative clauses, they could be that, what, whatever, which, whichever, who, whomever, whom, whomever who's. If we did all that in one lesson, it would not work. We know that.
Travis: 02:05 It'd be messy, right?
Jeff: 02:06 Yeah. And it's okay to be...
Travis: 02:08 Overwhelming.
Jeff: 02:09 Overwhelming. Because I think the Patterns of Power Process is messy as it should be, like the writing process.
Travis: 02:14 Right.
Jeff: 02:14 But it is difficult. It's overwhelming. It's one of those things where your brain just has to shut down to get away from all that abstract terminology. So we'll go back to this idea of using relative clauses. We need to find a sentence from literature that demonstrates that pattern of power. So we're going to pick one. We're going to pick the which. Before which you need a comma.
Jeff: 02:37 When you use which in a sentence. And so we have a focus phrase, which we haven't talked about yet, but this focus phrases usually comes out and comes up in the first lesson. It may wait until the second day. But the point is that we've come up with an I statement that tells the focus of this lesson, but also tells the function of the which. We're not going to use relative clauses in our focus phrase, we're going to say I use the comma which, W-H-I-C-H. I use the comma which to add detail because that's how it functions.
Travis: 03:15 Our goal here is to create and share a focus phrase, ultimately through this process, that's student friendly, that students can see and apply, that they can do that with confidence.
Jeff: 03:29 Yeah. So we've got to make it kid friendly and brief and not loaded down with a bunch of terms. So we have one in our book, Patterns of Power: Inviting Adolescents Into the Conventions of Language, we have a focus phrase for every lesson, but of course you don't have to have that. You can just use them. So ours is I use the comma which, W-H-I-C-H, to add detail. And here's the sentence that we chose for the invitation to notice. So let me set this up. This is how we do it. We put it up on the board, white board display, however you want to display it, chart paper. Big enough, where the kids can see it. We've extracted just one sentence that they can focus on.
Jeff: 04:09 One bite-sized chunk of text from somebody of high interests like Jason Reynolds. So this is from Jason Reynolds ghosts. Ghost, I'm sorry. Singular nouns matter. Mr. Charles can barely hear a thing, comma which is why he's always yelling at everybody and everybody's always yelling at him. Now, I'm going to repeat that but before I do, I want Travis to tell you a little bit about where you can find this lesson so that you can follow along. And if you're in a car or walking, you don't need it. But I think you may be comforted to know that you'll have a printout of the lesson that we're going to follow in these next six episodes.
Travis: 04:53 Yeah. So the entirety of this lesson is going to be connected to the show notes as a direct link. But when you have your copy of Patterns of Power in your hands, it's going to be less than 6.4.
Jeff: 05:06 Comma which, a relative pronoun clause. Also on the website, if you go to preview the book at That's...
Travis: 05:15
Jeff: 05:19 You will find, under the book page, there'll be a preview of this book and that's the lesson that's there to preview. So you have lots of ways to get it and that'll be true for all the other episodes. So we've got the sentence, Mr. Charles can barely hear a thing, which is why he's always yelling at everybody and everybody's always yelling at him. And we've displayed it. Then we asked the kids, what do you notice? And get ready because they see all sorts of things. And it's our job to honor what they say, allow multiple answers, ask clarifying questions and then at some point, use the student answers to name the focus phrase, but we want to avoid a lot of abstract labeling. That's not the point of this. The point is to get them to be powerful writers that have powerful tools and know powerful patterns that will help them both as readers and writers, because this is where reading and writing crash together.
Jeff: 06:20 Mr. Charles can barely hear a thing, comma, which is why he's always yelling at everybody and everybody's always yelling at him. Kid, first thing you might notice, because they never notice exactly what you think they're going to notice. It says everybody twice. Ooh, I thought you weren't supposed to say a word like everybody and say it right next to the other one. You told us not to be repetitive. Ah, so the writer, Jason Reynolds knows this. So let's consider why he chose to use everybody. And then that'll probably build into a conversation which you can honor and then name as parallelism, that power of those two phrases at the end, which is why he's always yelling at everybody and everybody's always yelling at us. That gives it power. So it's repetition with a pattern of power. So, that's another pattern of power which comes out.
Jeff: 07:11 They're also going to notice there's a comma before which, and you're going to talk about that. What's that comma doing? When you read it out loud, when you read it with just your eyes, what does that common do? Because we can't ask middle-school students how does it function? How does the comma function in the sentence? Which is what the research points us toward is talking about function. But what you do is, in the context of a sentence, but what you do is you ask them when they notice I see a comma, you get them to turn and talk with their partners or their table group. What does that comma do when you read it out loud? And what does it do when you read it with just your eyes?
Travis: 07:53 And Jeff, you brought up a really nice natural point about scaffolding here. That if you are a little bit hesitant to wade into this pool, because you ask students and the worst fear is nothing comes out. I think a great opportunity to get kids started in this discussion is to have them talk to each other in partners. Or if you have students grouped in table groups, hey, talk with your table about what you're noticing, offering students an opportunity to write that down and take their thinking and put it on paper even before they have that conversation. That's going to allow some revisions in their thinking so that when they come to this whole group discussion they've got a little bit more confidence and they're confidently bringing their noticings into the fray of this conversation.
Jeff: 08:43 One of the most important things we'll tell you about, the Patterns of Power Process, the entire process is that you need to allow students think time. They need space. They need time. And you know what? Let's feel wait time. Wait time of about 20 seconds after you ask what do you notice? And then after what do you notice you can ask what else? But always try to wait at least 20 seconds so that you can show the kids you're honoring it and don't call on somebody even if they raise their hand before that. You're honoring thinking in this process and they're staring at the beautiful sentence with beautiful patterns and burning it into their visual stores. So that's why we do allow think time, let's feel what 20 seconds feels like.
Travis: 09:37 You better not be fast forwarding either.
Jeff: 09:41 There you go. That's about 20 seconds. This is why we're the number one podcast on teaching grammar and context in this nation because we're the only one. Yeah, there you go. So, that's basically the start of it. You ask the question what do you notice? And you follow the children's lead. You'd listen as they discuss. You allow those multiple answers. You honor responses. Travis talk to us a little bit about what the kids do during this process.
Travis: 10:10 During this process, kids, they're studying the sentence as soon as you put it up on the board and they are having rich discussion either with partners or starting in that whole group, starting out with one voice and then having connections being made across the room there. There's a lot of revision of thinking happening. Either students helping to revise thinking as noticings are brought to the attention of the whole class or you as the teacher pushing into a space of helping students to revise their thinking if they're coming up with these ideas that aren't working as far as what we know is in conventions.
Jeff: 10:54 And you don't have to worry like oh my God, they said something horribly wrong. That's the thing you're not going to stretch out. When you honor and when you name and then you extend, you decide which things you extend, which things are extension worthy, as you might say. So in this step they're noticing but let me tell you something, it is hard to let go of not just trying to label stuff. It's not about identification. It's about conversation. The conversation, according to brain experts, builds the awareness, the understanding, raises the conscious level of awareness of the moves writers make to create meaning, which will help you as both a reader and a writer.
Travis: 11:43 And we hope that this point resonates with you here, that it frees you also as the teacher from having to be the sage on the stage and know completely everything about grammar and conventions. So it's not a gotcha if a kid brings up something and asks why is this here? Or why is this ordered in this way? And then looking to you for the direct answer in the moment, it's part of a discussion that takes place. And if no one in the class knows the answer at the moment, that's a great place to go hey, that's a great observation there, let's do some more research on that or let's come back to that tomorrow.
Jeff: 12:28 Because you're going to be coming back to the sentence throughout these six lessons, seven lessons as a week, two weeks that you spend on it. It depends on what you want, but 10 minutes a day. So you're going to come back to it. This leads me to that point where we could talk just a little bit about pitfalls and tips. I find people ask me sometimes, "Jeff, do you suggest that the sentence that's displayed, do you suggest we label all the things that the kids say?" I don't like doing that because I like them to study the sentence to see what it looks like but if you choose to do that, which is fine, this is your classroom and your decision, please make a second copy available that the kids can see where the sentence isn't marked up so they can actually see what it's going to look like when they write it and in a book. When we mark it up too much I think we can fall into that labeling vibe. And that's not the vibe that we want. The expectation is it's going to take repetition for you and them, but not marking up the text, I would say.
Travis: 13:32 And I think another pitfall or maybe a reason why you may not want to get started in this is time. Fitting this into the schedule of your class, your class period. It might be 45 minutes and you think hey, every minute of that time is gold for me and the students. You may have a 90 minute block. You may be somewhere in between, but if time is an issue for you, you can grab a timer and set it for five minutes. You can set it for 10 minutes and you may not have the complexity of going through and noticing every single piece of a sentence.
Jeff: 14:06 You don't have to know so don't feel obligated.
Travis: 14:08 Thank you.
Jeff: 14:09 Yeah.
Travis: 14:09 Yeah. You can start the process moving. And once students understand the process and that it's short and we're just going to get in and get out and get moving into the other things that we have going on in our class, kids are going to be more apt to hop in and play right away.
Jeff: 14:27 And if they say something wrong, just simply a reply like, "Well, let's keep thinking, keep thinking, good thinking. Let's keep thinking." Let the kids lead. Affirm responses. You've got to make sure that whatever they say, you affirm their responses and don't make yourself rush.
Travis: 14:48 All right, Jeff, I think we're getting to closing time here.
Jeff: 14:51 All right. So tell us about what's coming up next time on POPcast.
Travis: 14:56 So episode three is looking at our next step in the Patterns of Power Process.
Jeff: 15:03 Step two.
Travis: 15:04 That is the invitation to compare and contrast.
Jeff: 15:08 You can learn a lot from contrast. We want to thank Stenhouse Publishers for sponsoring this podcast. That's...
Travis: 15:16 to find them on the web
Jeff: 15:21 And to find us on the web I'm on Twitter, @writeguijeff, W-R-I-T-E, G-U-I Jeff.
Travis: 15:29 And you can find me @learningleech.
Jeff: 15:32 Thank you so much. We'll see you next time.