Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Welcome (Back) to the Literacy Booth

Welcome, Friends and Colleagues.

You've found The Literacy Booth, a blog by Wisconsin educators working as literacy coaches. Posts feature honest reflection, learning, and knowledge about both literacy and coaching.

I (Barb Novak) moderate the blog. I handle technical things and occasionally share my thinking. The real work and thinking, though, comes from the literacy coaches pictured above who bravely and honestly write about their practice.

Here's how it works (generally):
  • There will be a new post several times a week. There are no rules or specific topics; each coach writes about something that is on her mind.
  • Each post will be open to readers' comments. The conversation that happens in your comments will make this a true professional learning community. Please, please, please comment! Comment to share links to resources. Comment to ask questions. Comment to continue the conversation.
You can visit the blog regularly to read posts. You could also sign up for email updates using the link in the right sidebar. You can read every post, or you can use the tags in the right sidebar to read posts from coaches doing work similar to yours.

Meet the Coaches:

Bio: Carrie Sand

Carrie is a Literacy Specialist for the School District of Mishicot. Her job role includes part classroom teacher, part interventionist, part literacy coach, which in her mind is the best of all worlds. Her work with literacy includes a unique passion for the incorporation of technology, which has led to numerous speaking opportunities around the state. In 2012, as a credit to the incredible literacy work of her district, Carrie was awarded the Herb Kohl Fellowship Teaching Award. Her three most powerful reading moments were: the day her high school English teacher introduced her to e.e. cummings, the first time she ever read Freak the Mighty with her seventh grade students, and watching her two young boys discover reading.

Bio: Barb Novak

Barb Novak is a literacy consultant at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) where she works collaboratively around standards, instruction, and assessment of reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language.

Barb is a proud believer in and product of Wisconsin's public schools. She attended public schools from kindergarten through graduate programs in Hales Corners, Eau Claire, Stevens Point, Oshkosh, and Madison. Before beginning her employment at DPI in 2012, Barb served for ten years as a classroom teacher, interventionist, and literacy coach for public schools in Chilton, Oshkosh, and Menasha.

Besides learning and talking about literacy, Barb enjoys traveling, laughing, reading, cooking, drinking coffee, and scheming.

Bio: Meghan Retallick

"Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher."--Japanese Proverb

Meghan is beginning her second year as a reading specialist/literacy coach for the School District of Rhinelander, working primarily with students and staff in grades 4-12.  Prior to this position, Meghan spent seven years as a classroom teacher working in several districts in Wisconsin teaching English/Language Arts in grades 6-12.  One of her favorite successes as a teacher was taking something many consider "boring" and making it relevant and engaging for students. One of her favorite aspects of her role as a reading specialist is being involved in collaboration between teachers and administrators to further learning to better instruct all students.   She is influenced greatly by the work of Jim Burke, Jeff Anderson, Barbara Marinak, and Linda Christansen when it comes to best practices in the teaching of reading and language arts.  Meghan is also very inspired by the work of Cathy Toll and Andy Hargreaves about coaching, leadership, and promoting change in education.
On a personal note, Meghan is a wife and mom, happily raising two daughters (ages six and four) in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.  She loves music, reading, theater, yoga, football, hockey, and the outdoors.  Meghan believes in working to live a balanced life and enjoying the little things.

Bio: Julie Schwartzbauer

Julie Schwartzbauer is beginning her fifth year working for the Appleton Area School District as the K-2 District Literacy Coach.  She completed her undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.  She first received her Bachelor Degree in Psychology, knowing she always wanted to work with children.  Julie was later inspired by professor to pursue a career in teaching.   She received her Early Childhood license followed by her Master’s Degree in Reading from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

After staying home to raise her family, Julie became employed by the Menasha Joint School District.  It was there that she received training in Reading Recovery and began working as a Literacy Coach.  Now in Appleton, Julie still remains a strong advocate for Reading Recovery.

In her current role, Julie services 16 elementary schools as the District Literacy Coach.  She works to support building coaches and teaching staff.  She could not do all of this important work without her supportive colleagues, and family.

Julie has recently earned her license in Administration and Supervision.

When Julie does not have her nose in a professional resource, she is spending time up North boating and relaxing with her three children and husband.

Bio: Lisa Weiss

Over the past 20 years in education I have had opportunities galore. I’ve been a second grade teacher, a middle school reading teacher, an at-risk teacher, an elementary reading specialist/Title I teacher, a middle school literacy coach, a high school literacy coach, a K-12 literacy coordinator, and I currently am a secondary (6-12) literacy coordinator in the Oshkosh Area School District.

It’s been a fascinating journey—risks were taken, hairs greyed, tough lessons were learned about the value I place on my philosophies and belief system around teaching and learning. I’m grateful for the struggles and successes, for the people who were in my path to pose challenges, and to those were there to support me through them. All of the situations contributed to the learning that has prepared me for the work I am engaged in now—and hopefully will remain in for a long time!

I can’t write about myself without writing about my unnatural love of the Fox Valley Writing Project, in which I serve as the Co-Director and the Coordinator of Professional Development. The work of the Project is much like coaching: it is exhausting, and simultaneously energizing! I credit the FVWP for the development of my professional life--bursting with gratitude over all of the opportunities and learning National Writing Project has offered me.

Bio: Andrea Reichenberger

Andrea Reichenberger is the District Literacy Coordinator (4K-12) for the Ashwaubenon School District.  In her past life she was an Instructional Literacy Coach and 6-12 English/Language Arts Coordinator for the Menasha Joint School District. She has worked with students and teachers PK-12 and began her career as an elementary library media specialist and spent 13 years as a middle school English/Language Arts teacher and teacher leader.  Because she loves learning, she prides herself in the professional learning network she has created as she is connected with some of the smartest people in education, not only in the Fox Valley, but also across the state. They inspire and continue to push her so she can be better for all kids.  Andrea is also a member of WSRA, ASCD, WASCD, NCTE, ILA, and AWSA and most recently experienced the pure joy of the Fox Valley Writing Project. She is also an adjunct instructor for Concordia University and does consulting work for area districts.

Andrea is very proud of the fact that she shares a birthday with Elvis, as she is a huge fan, but has yet to visit Graceland. Making the trip is on her bucket list. She loves to read, shop, walk/jog (more walking then jogging), and watch clever television. Andrea lives in Appleton with her husband and two tween daughters, who are also readers. Phew!

Some of Andrea’s favorite educational minds (i.e. Rock Stars/Professional Crushes)  include:  Doug Fisher, Nancy Frey, Kelly Gallagher, Cris Tovani, Penny Kittle, Jim Burke, Rick Wormeli, Jeff Zwiers, Jim Knight, Peter Johnston, Doug Buehl, Sarah Brown Wessling, Donalyn Miller, Myron Dueck, and Peter DeWitt.

Bio: Heather Zimmerman

Heather Zimmerman is a literacy coach at the middle school level in the Oshkosh Area School District.  She taught sophomore English,  mass media, and journalism at the high school level for three years.  She then spent three years teaching eighth grade literacy.  Heather received her bachelors from UW-Green Bay and her masters at UW-Oshkosh.  She lives in Appleton with her husband, who is a principal.  They both feel strongly about the importance of a quality education so all children can succeed.  When they are not working they enjoy traveling and sporting events.  Heather also loves to find time to enjoy a good book, go to a fitness class, or complete one of her many sewing/crocheting/craft projects.

Bio: Sharon Seely

Sharon Seely works as the K-5 Instructional Coach for the Tomah Area School District. She works in seven elementary buildings with four principals.  This is Sharon’s second year as an Instructional Coach and she finds it rewarding, challenging and life-changing.  She has learned so much from the teachers she works with and the literacy coaches she has had the opportunity to get to know through the Statewide Literacy Coaching Network.  Sharon believes “Coaching is the Universal Language of Change and Learning” CNN.  

Sharon received her Bachelor’s Degree (Elementary Education with Math minor) from Western Montana College and her Master’s Degree – Reading from University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse.  She has been teaching since 1986 in one capacity or another working for Child Development Services (military bases) in Germany, Title 1 –Interventionist and teaching Pre-K, Kindergarten, 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th (reading) grade.

Sharon lives with her husband, Brian on their 67 acres of Haven.  They have three children; Logan, Amber and Andrew (Stephanie), and triplet grandchildren; Zeke, Julianna, Alexandra.  Sharon enjoys spending her time with family, riding on the back on their Harley sightseeing, basket weaving, reading, and crafting (shopping and creating).

Bio: Maggie Schumacher

staffpicture.jpgMaggie Schumacher works as a literacy coach/reading specialist at Jack Young Middle School in the Baraboo School District. Before fully immersing herself in the world of literacy, she spent seven years working as a special education teacher of students with learning disabilities; the first three of these years were spent in the Arcadia School District before she made the move to Baraboo. Maggie received her bachelor’s degree from UW-Eau Claire and her master’s degree and reading specialist certification from Viterbo University in La Crosse. She is currently pursuing her gifted and talented certification from a collaborative UW-Whitewater/UW-Steven’s Point cohort. She is a member of the ILA, WSRA, and WTAG and has presented at both the WSRA reading convention and the Wisconsin RtI Summit.  
Maggie lives in Reedsburg, WI and enjoys reading, traveling, the outdoors, running, and spending time with her nieces and nephews. She recently spent a month traveling through Europe, is an avid Packers fan, and enjoys going to the movies (mostly for the popcorn!), seeing theatrical productions, and listening to live music whenever she can!


Bio: Jaimie Howe

\\coa-fs-03\jhowe$\My Documents\My Pictures\family pics\Howe-0687.jpgJaimie Howe is an intervention specialist in the School District of the Menomonie Area. She has previously taught in the Eau Claire Area School District in many facets which include four-year old kindergarten, kindergarten, first grade, and literacy coach; all of which were at Roosevelt Elementary. She is also an adjunct instructor for the St. Mary’s University of Minnesota K-12 Reading Program and teaches a course focused on elementary reading instruction. She received her bachelor’s degree from UW-Stout in Menomonie, WI and her Master’s Degree in Literacy Education from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.  She lives in Menomonie, WI with her husband and two young boys.  When Jaimie is not taking on new learning opportunities, she enjoys running, scrapbooking, watching her husband’s many softball tournaments, and reading to her two boys.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Teaching Gimmicks: My Thoughts On Them

The work of readers and writers is challenging. It can be isolating. Much of the work is invisible, happening within a reader’s or writer’s head or heart. It isn’t always satisfying. Sometimes the characters don’t make the choice the reader anticipates, and often, the words don’t land on the page quite the way the writer expects. It is exhausting, even though there isn’t any sweat.

It seems logical that readers and writers who are young or struggling or inattentive or disengaged or __________ could become both il- and a-literate.

Image from The Fresh Exchange

Enter: teaching gimmicks

Let’s define a teaching gimmick as something that engages learners in reading and writing that actually has no connection to the real work of reading and writing. A teaching gimmick might be something that makes learning a little less painful, something we do just for fun, or something we do to build community.

An example. . .
I was recently part of a writing workshop where participants were asked to form a revision group. We each shared a descriptive sentence from our writing, chose one sentence, and recreated that sentence using a tableau, a living statue that captured the action in the favorite sentence. Creating this tableau was labeled as “publication” of our writing.

While I wasn’t busy panicking about the possibility that my group would choose me to play the part of the tail-wagging dog in our particular tableaux, I was trying to imagine writers doing a tableaux to improve their writing. I’ll wait and give you a minute to picture your own writing rockstar tableaux. (In case you were wondering, my imaginary tableaux included F. Scott Fitzgerald, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Toni Morrison, a Bronte, Harry Potter, and Amy Poehler.)

Were you able to picture authors doing tableaux to improve their writing? Are you laughing uncontrollably? And, the biggest question - How does tableaux teach aspiring writers to do the work of writers?

That big question - How does this instructional decision teach aspiring readers and writers to do the work of being readers and writers? - is the question we need to ask ourselves each time we are faced with the temptation to use a teaching gimmick to engage our students.

What would learning look like if - instead of gimmicks - we engaged students with topics that interested them, opportunities to talk, or texts that are worth talking about? What if we believed that each of our students is already a reader and a writer and we taught, assessed, challenged, and talked with them accordingly? What would learning look like if we used reading and writing - instead of gimmicks - to engage students and build community and have fun?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Mindset On My Mind

Carol Dweck's Mindset: The New Psychology of Success found its way to my pile of favorite professional books shortly after I read Peter Johnston's Choice Words. That was in 2006. Almost 10 years later, this is an idea that still seems to surround me.

Mindset is all over Pinterest and Facebook in fantastic infographics like this one:

Mindset is all over the educational news:
  • "100% is Overrated" from The Atlantic challenges us to stop referring to others as "smart", writing, "When people perform well (academically or otherwise) at early ages and are labeled smart or gifted, they become less likely to challenge themselves. They come less likely to make mistakes, because they stay in their comfortable zone and stop growing. And their fixed mindset persists through adulthood."  
  • Dawn Wilson's blog post for Learning Forward reminds us, "Choose your words carefully. Once shared, they are irretrievable."
  • A survey by the National Center for Learning Disabilities found that "strong support from parents, a strong connection to friends and community, and a strong sense of self-confidence" - not an IEP or a 504 plan - are the most important factors for predicting a success. Sounds like a growth mindset to me.
  • In a recent article for EdWeek, Carol Dweck encourages each of us to "legitimize the fixed mindset". Basically, she suggests we view ourselves as a mix of fixed and growth mindset and that we recognize the triggers that make us move into a fixed mindset.
  • This book, Awakened: Change Your Mindset to Change Your Teaching, is on my "To Read" list.
My most recent idea about mindset is its connection to formative practices (aka formative assessment). Formative practices cannot be truly successful within a school if students, families, and educators don't share a growth mindset. We use formative practices to gather information about where each student is in his/her journey to understanding. We use the information to inform our teaching. Sounds like a growth mindset for students and educators. 

I'm thinking about starting some new professional learning about formative practices with growth mindset. What do you think?

(I'm also thinking about blogging about each chapter of Mindset - one chapter per month. Would anyone want to read and write along with me?)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

What I Want to Read

I wrote not too long ago about being in a reading slump. I still haven't completely snapped out of it, but I do have plenty of titles waiting for when I'm ready to start reading again.

I use Goodreads to track what I've read, am reading, and want to read. I often find myself opening the app and adding titles to my "To Read" shelf as I'm talking with friends or at professional learning events. 

That "To Read" shelf has 400+ titles right now. Here are eight that I picked to share.

  1. Awakened: Change Your Mindset to Change Your Teaching. I realized when I looked through my "To Read" that I don't often mark professional books. Most of my list is personal reading, so this one stood out.
  2. The Things They Carried. I wish there was a sub-category of my "To Read" list entitled "Things I Really Should Have Read in High School".
  3. Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It. This was recommended to me by a colleague who used to walk down the hall from me. He is a social studies teacher, but we shared a book brain. I never read one of his recommendations that I didn't enjoy.
  4. I Don't Know: In Praise of Admitting Ignorance. I was surprised and intrigued to see this on my "To Read" shelf. I have no idea how it made it there, but I'm definitely interested.

  1. Between the World and Me. I added this one (and ordered it!) recently. I'm interested in it because of the social justice component; it seems like a nice companion to Just Mercy (something else I'm reading right now).
  2. Crucial Conversations. I have lots of tough conversations in my professional life. I need to work more on tough conversations in my personal life. Maybe this will help?
  3. Infinite Home. Confession: I judge books by their covers. The description of this one sounds great, too. I particularly enjoy books with lots of characters with seemingly random connections.
  4. StuckThis made my list because I wanted to remember it as something that could be included as a read aloud in a professional learning session - something that would spark the heart of those who might be resistant to change.
What's on your "To Read" shelf?

(Photo collages made using PiZap.)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Reading the Research: A Meta-Analysis about Writing

I mentioned a PLC I'm part of in a previous post. We meet monthly and discuss a piece of research (selected by one of the members) at each meeting. The study I'm writing about today was discussed by my PLC.

I'm sharing it simply to give access to how I process research when I read - how I organize my thinking before, during, and after reading research. This post is not intended to be an endorsement of the research or its conclusions.

The article is available for free for WI educators through BadgerLink.

Research Questions:
  1. Are writing interventions, in general, effective for students with LD (learning disabilities)?
  2. Which specific writing interventions are effective?

  • Meta-analysis (searched literature through December 2011) that included 53 effect sizes (collected from 43 studies)
  • Only included studies that "involved a true-experiment with randomization, a quasi-experiment with pretest data, or a within subjects group design" (p. 456)
  • Only included studies that "included students in Grades 1 to 12 identified as LD with appropriate supporting information" (p. 456)
  • Authors defined writing as content generation or sharing of ideas (rather than the physical act of writing)

43 Studies were organized in six subgroups containing four or more studies each with an average weighted mean effect size (ES) calculated for each subgroup
  • Writing interventions for students with LD (ES = 0.74)
  • Significant positive effect sizes:
    • Strategy instruction (ES = 1.09)
    • Dictation (ES = 0.55)
    • Goal setting (ES = 0.57)
    • Process writing (ES = 0.43)
  • Not statistically different from zero: procedural facilitation (ES=0.24), prewriting (ES = 0.33)

  • Results cannot be generalized beyond the specific population studied (students with an identified learning disability in grades 1 - 12)
  • Must fully understand each subgroup (strategy instruction, dictation, goal setting, process writing, procedural facilitation, and prewriting) before applying conclusions of the meta-analysis
  • Studied content generation - not mechanics of writing (such as spelling, grammar, and/or punctuation)
  • Does not discuss new literacies or digital writing (or the use of assistive technology)
  • Both goal setting and process writing had statistically significant effect sizes. How are these the same and different? Isn't goal setting part of the writing process?
  • What conclusions do other types of studies (such as case studies, interviews, observations, etc.) draw about writing interventions for students with learning disabilities?
  • What types of writing interventions are effective for other populations (such as students without disabilities, English language learners, or students with disabilities other than LD)?
Connections to Other Work and Studies:

Complete citation:
Gillespie, A., & Graham, S. (2014). A meta-analysis of writing interventions for students with learning disabilities. Exceptional Children 80(4), p. 454-473. DOI: 10.1177/0014402914527238

Friday, September 18, 2015

What I Learned This Week: Emotional Resilience

I spent two days this week with a group of awe-inspiring literacy coaches and mathematics coaches learning about emotional resilience. Our collaboration was led by Laura Gleisner

Our time together was devoted to:

  • defining emotional resilience
  • considering and developing our own emotional resilience
  • learning some coaching techniques to develop the emotional resilience of others
One group's graphic representation of emotional resilience - strength of the body, heart, and mind.

I am still enchanted by the magic that happened when so many knowledgeable, compassionate leaders collaborated around such an important topic. The part of the learning that is occupying my mind today, however, is about saying no.

What do we think of ourselves when we say no?
What do we think of others when they say no?
What do we think of ourselves when we say yes?
What do we think of others when they say yes?

But also:
What do we think of others when they don't say yes?
What do we think of others when they don't say no?

Our ability to say no (and our choice to say yes) is connected to our emotional resilience, and how we respond to the yes or no of our colleagues is connected to building emotional resilience within our organization.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

My PLC: What and How

I am fortunate enough to be part of several different collegial groups - professional learning communities or PLCs - that help me learn and grow. 

Today, I want to tell you about one of those PLCs that is particularly close to my heart. We meet monthly over lunch. Our meetings are scheduled about 12 months in advance. We've structured our time in a variety of ways. Right now, someone selects a peer-reviewed and published article (mostly research) about literacy for each meeting. We read it prior to the meeting and discuss it. We keep notes from the discussion, so we are each able to quickly access information when it is relevant to our job.

Here are some lessons I've learned about PLCs from this PLC:
  • Our group formed for an authentic purpose. To do our jobs well, we each need to understand reading and literacy from a variety of perspectives.
  • We operate from established norms (which we revisit often). We established norms for our PLC and wrote them down. We refer to these norms during our conversations and email exchanges, but we also revisit these norms in a very formal way when our group is struggling.
  • We meet regularly. Right now, that's about monthly while eating lunch.
  • We communicate. Meetings are scheduled in advance and on everyone's calendar. We use email to confirm attendance or let others know of conflicts.
  • We all have ownership. Right now, we meet monthly. Each month we discuss a different research study (peer-reviewed and published) selected by a member. We all read the selected study and come to the meeting prepared.
  • We have varied backgrounds and areas of interest/expertise. We each bring a unique lens to our discussions and truly learn and grow from our conversations.
  • We do hard work. The pieces we read and discuss are, generally, difficult to understand. Talking about them keeps us accountable and helps us understand.

Monday, September 14, 2015

I Used to Think - Now I Think: Culturally Responsive Practice

The Literacy Booth had a series of posts in our early days entitled "I Used to Think - Now I Think." The posts were modeled after essays in which education scholars' summarized their changing thinking about school reform.

I will use that then/now format to talk about some aspects of my continuing journey to be a culturally responsive person.

I used to think. . . 

  • I used to think culturally responsive practice was something educators did - a series of strategies that educators and schools could use to ensure all students felt safe and valued in school.
  • I used to think culturally responsive practice was synonymous with multiculturalism or diversity.
Now I think. . . 
  • Cultural responsiveness is something individuals and organizations develop through an on-going process that begins with careful (and sometimes painful) examination of beliefs.
  • Cultural responsiveness is about windows and mirrors; it's about understanding ourselves (mirrors) and others (windows).
  • Cultural responsive practices include the ability to notice and respond to what the person in front of you cares about, needs, and wants. (Thanks for Dr. Carol Lee for this wisdom.)
What has pushed and changed my thinking?

Friday, September 11, 2015

One of My Obsessions: Mystery Show

Mystery Show, Starlee Kine's podcast for Gimlet media, has been keeping me company on many recent road trips. I've been recommending it to friends often, but I believe it could also be a powerful teaching tool (especially in middle and high schools). 

Every episode is an example of authentic inquiry - something I don't think we (educators) or students engage in nearly enough of. Someone in Starlee's (the reporter) life comes to her with a genuine and burning question ("How tall is Jake Gyllenhaal?" "How did Britney Spears decide to read that book?" "Who does this unique belt buckle found in a gutter belong to?"). Starlee explores all of the possible leads and solves the case. 

It raises questions about audience and purpose. The text is entirely unique - the questions are quirky, the voice casual, the ideas well-developed and thoroughly described. Who is this created for? What is the purpose? Why a podcast instead of another format?

It's an opportunity to practice Wisconsin's standards for speaking and listening. Each episode is around 60 minutes and contains no images - just words. It's great practice in listening, and listeners could analyze the reporter's presentation of knowledge and ideas. (Check out DPI's materials about speaking and listening for more information.)

It (along with Serial and This American Life) have pushed me to think about the larger role of podcasts in the classroom. Podcasts could be valuable (and often free!!) additions to text sets. Podcasts could be a format students choose for presenting knowledge and ideas. Podcasts could be a source of information for research. Check out these links for more about podcasts in education:
Note. Are you wondering how to listen to a podcast? For those wishing to listen on a smart phone, this article is helpful. Some podcasts also have a web-listening feature. Visit the website for a particular podcast and listen directly on the site.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Favorite Picture Book

We have a very small amount of time with each of our students. I'll be the first to say that time needs to be intentionally and thoughtfully utilized. Sometimes, though, we just need to read a book together. 

In my middle school classroom, a few minutes of September 11 were, traditionally, set aside for just that purpose - reading a book together.

I gathered students together to read The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, Mordicai Gerstein's 2003 award-winning biography of Philippe Petit - a French man who walked on a tightrope between New York City's World Trade Center towers in 1974, not because it is a unique mentor text or because I wanted to teach students about plot or because I wanted to model visualization. 

I gathered students together to read The Man Who Walked Between the Towers because I believe sharing a story is a powerful way to build community and to connect and to remember.

What texts would you include in a text set about the events of September 11, 2001?

Related texts:
Philippe Petit, High Wire Artist

Monday, September 7, 2015

Resources: Literacy-Related SLOs

Literacy-related school or student learning objectives (SLOs) provide a unique opportunity to improve academic achievement for students, strengthen professional practice, and collaborate with colleagues. DPI's 2015 Literacy (un)Conference highlights the voices of more than ten Wisconsin literacy leaders; each discusses his/her experience with SLOs.

The videos do not focus on the procedural or compliance aspects of SLOs. Instead, each featured literacy leaders speaks honestly about his/her experience. Topics include:
  • the SLO as an authentic inquiry process for educators (think: action research)
  • strategic assessment within the SLO process
  • rigor and focus
  • coaching around SLOs
  • literacy-related SLOs (disciplinary literacy)

The videos (each less than four minutes) can be used in the following ways:
  • "I never thought about that!" Watch one or more to push your thinking about SLOs
  • "I have a video for that!" Be familiar with content of videos to be able to share as appropriate in coaching sessions, professional learning communities, or other professional learning situations
  • "My staff development is missing a little something. . . " Select one video to intentionally share with your staff as inspiration as they begin thinking about and/or writing their SLO(s) for this year
  • "This is perfect for ______!": Maybe you're not responsible for staff development related to SLOs. Share one or more of the videos with the person/people in your district who may be able to use the videos in their work.

Friday, September 4, 2015

One Word Goal Setting

I like to think that educators (and students) get a fresh start each September. It's like having two New Years every year (January + September) - two guaranteed times to feel bright, shiny, unstoppable, and optimistic.

For educators, September (just like January) is filled with ambitions and resolutions. Maybe it doesn't seem like it, but your school improvement plan, student learning objective (SLO), professional practice goal (PPG), and maybe even your professional development plan (PDP) are resolutions. They might be more data-based and involve more documentation than your New Years resolutions, but they, too, are resolutions.

How are all of those school year resolutions connected? 
What concept unites your professional goals and work?

What single word would you use to summarize that connection?

Now, think about all the ways that single word could become a mantra for you as you work toward your goals. Write it on a piece of paper. Doodle it. Hang it in your work space. Look for it around you. Tell people about it. Keep it near you.

This idea - single word goal setting - is popular in January, as people set resolutions for the year (read more about it from Ali EdwardsMy One Word, or One Word 365). It works now, though, too.

Understand is the word that stands out for me in my professional life right now. It seems to be something that unites many things long-term projects.

  • I'm always learning about and trying to better apply culturally responsive practices. Really understanding people - who they are, where they come from, what they want and need - is a big part of culturally responsive practice.
  • I'm working on a project which will grow into the literature review for my dissertation. That's all about understanding.
  • In conversations and meetings and emails and phone calls, I don't always take time to understand. Sometimes I want to help. Sometimes I want to move on to the next thing. I would benefit from just listening with no purpose other than to understand.
What's your word?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

What Are You Reading: Summer 2015

Alternately Titled:

My Summer Reading Slump
The Time I Hated All the Books
Abandoners Anonymous

We usually start each month around here by talking about what we've been reading (see previous posts here). Usually, reader, we treat you to a variety of titles from each contributor. Today, you're stuck with me.

This fall, I’m looking forward to hot coffee, cardigans, boots and tights, and crunchy leaves. I’m also looking forward to curling up under a blanket and reading all of something I cannot wait to tell my friends glowing things about.

It's been a rough summer for me as a reader. I haven't finished much, and I haven't read anything I'm crazy about. I'm not sure what happened. Maybe I didn't slow down enough to read? Maybe I couldn't find the right thing? Maybe it was because my book club took a hiatus? Maybe this happens every summer?

I do a monthly subscription to Audible; I log many, many miles each month. I tried Behind the Beautiful Forevers, The Bedwetter, Go Set a Watchman, and Modern Romance. I begrudgingly finished Go Set a Watchman. I enjoyed parts of Modern Romance tremendously. I'm still listening and laughing aloud to The Bedwetter. I don't think I'll ever finish Behind the Beautiful Forevers.

I can usually find young adult books that hold my attention, but there wasn't much of that this summer either. I finished Personal Effects, a Read On Wisconsin selection and something my book club read. It wasn't my favorite. I abandoned Fangirl. I wanted to like it - I just couldn't get into the fan fiction parts and didn't find myself getting attaching to the characters.

I'm still reading All the Light You Cannot See. It's been months, friends. Months. It's beautiful writing and a captivating story. I just can't do more than a couple short chapters at a time.

So - that leaves Just Mercy and Spinster. They're sitting next to my bed or hanging out in my purse because they're what I'm reading now. I have high hopes that these two are the books that will end my slump.

What did you enjoy reading this summer? What are you reading now?

You can learn more about me as a reader by visiting my Goodreads profile.