Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Facilitation Idea: Quotes about Equity

Barb Novak contributed this post. Click here for more of Barb's thinking.

Click here to access the document above, 
which includes five quotes about literacy and equity.

Facilitating equity-focused professional learning is difficult. It's challenging to find the "right thing" to say. Equity-focused professional learning can be uncomfortable, and it's difficult to decide how far and how hard to push people's thinking. 

I've used this "activity" in a couple of recent sessions focused and equity and decided to share it for your adaptation.

  1. BEFORE THE SESSION: Select a few quotes (fewer might be better - maybe four or five quotes) that are related to the goals for the session. Prepare the quotes on a handout (digital or paper).
  2. Provide participants with time to read and annotate the quotes.
  3. Assign each quote a "place" in the room.
  4. Invite participants to move to the part of the room assigned to a quote they want to talk about.
  5. Participants choose someone to talk to at their selected quote. Participants can move around the room, as desired.
This works, I think, for a few reasons:
  • Participants have choice.
  • Conversations are non-threatening because they happen in duos or triads.
  • The activity involves some movement.
You might consider repeating the activity again at the end of the session (or the beginning of the next session) to focus on how thinking about the quotes changed as a result of new learning and/or application.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Reading the Reading Research: Figured Worlds of Special Education Teachers

Barb Novak contributed this post. 
Click here for more of Barb's thinking.
Click here for more Literacy Booth thoughts about research.

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

"Stimulating tensions in special education teachers' figured world: An approach toward inclusive education"
Kathleen A.K. Thorius in International Journal of Inclusive Education (2016)

I accessed the article (full-text free of charge) from Thorius's page on ResearchGate.

Why this article?
I worked with Thorius on a project about identifying high leverage literacy practices for students with disabilities. I respect her strengths-based approach to professional learning and emphasis on collaborative sense-making as part of a change process.

Research Questions:
Thorius introduced "artifacts" during professional learning sessions and reviewed transcripts from the sessions to understand:
  •  how "the figured world of special educator participants emerge and shift over time" (p. 1329)
  • how artifacts "contribute to the creation of tensions and related shifts in this figured world" (p. 1329)
Important Terms:
  • Figured worlds: Holland's theory (1998) that "people figure their identities through participating in activities and social relationships with others" (p. 1328). People construct an understanding of who they are and behave according to these understandings.
  • Artifacts: Objects with mediate identity formation.
Thorius facilitated seven weekly teacher learning sessions (1.5 hours each). Participants were drawn from "two schools in a large Midwestern urban school district" (p. 1329). All participants were female. Two identified as general educators; four identified as special educators. All worked between kindergarten and grade six.

Each teacher learning session included:
  1. a debrief of the previous session led by the research team, 
  2. presentation of an artifact developed or selected based on progress in the previous session
  3. engagement with the artifact
  4. homework (application within the classroom)
Artifacts pushed thinking about inclusive education and universal design for learning (UDL).

Thorius and the research team recorded and transcribed the teacher learning sessions and analyzed the transcripts for evidence of figured worlds.

Main Points:
Special educators who participated in the learning sessions initially viewed themselves as "remediators" and "diagnosticians" (p. 1332). This led to a "desire to learn 'tricks' to fix students" (p. 1333) and a belief that a student's diagnosis "explained student patterns of competence and. . . suggested a prescription for remediation" (p. 1333).

Artifacts introduced in the learning sessions did produce tensions and identity shifts. Some tensions were related to relationships with general education colleagues. Specifically, tensions surfaced about how special educators "were physically and professional positioned by and in comparison to their general education coutnerparts (p. 1335). Participants also realized they needed to be "critical examiners of structural barriers" that may prevent them from applying their learning.

The sample size for the study was small (6 participants from two schools in the same district).

Thorius's article has implications for planning and facilitating professional learning:
  • How can reflection be included in professional learning in order to consider how one's identity is shifting?
  • How can sequential opportunities for learning be adjusted to meet the needs of the participants (rather than strictly following a set plan)?
  • How can professional learning promote change within classrooms but also within a system? How can professional learning position educators as change agents for their system?

Full Citation:
Thorius, K.A.K. (2016). Stimulating tensions in special education teachers' figured world: An approach toward inclusive education. Interntional Journal of Inclusive Education 20(12), 1326 - 1343. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13603116.2016.1168877

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Workshop Model: Reading Mats

Jaimie Howe contributed this post. Click here to read more of Jaimie's thinking.

Click here to access a PDF of a Reading Mat.

As the year has progressed and we have been learning more and more about the Lucy Reading Units of Study, I have been noting specific components and resources that I believe are extremely beneficial.  Last month I wrote about Text Bands and Learning Progressions.  This month I would like to share a very simple resource, yet one that has proven to be essential to our K/1 students and teachers: The Reading Mat.  The great thing about this tool, is that anyone can implement it, whether you are using the workshop model or not. The reading mat is just an organizational tool to keep kids on track during independent reading time. Lucy states, “Stacking books on the reading mat allows kids to plan and be intentional about their reading.” This has proven to be true in all of our classrooms.  We have seen a huge increase in on task behavior and ultimately, volume of reading.

The reading mat is just a file folder with a red sticker/paper on one side and a green sticker/paper on the other - showing kids where to start (green) and stop (red).  Students make a stack of their books on the green side and place them onto the red side after they have finished reading each book.  If they read all the way through, they then work backwards, reading them again.  You will notice, however, in the pictures below that one reading mat has quite a few more books than the other.  This was an inconsistency we noticed throughout our district.  It was important for us to clarify for teachers that students reading at a kindergarten or first grade level need to have at least 10-15 books at their independent or instructional reading level to place in their mats along with poetry and sight words.  Students in classrooms where 10-15 books were in each book box were reading a much higher volume than those with only 5-10 books. Challenge your students to build their “reading muscles” by reading all the way through their mats and back every day.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

What Do I Get To Do?

Andrea contributed this post. Click here for more of Andrea's thinking.

After another year of attending the Wisconsin State Reading Association Convention, I leave with an abundance of new thinking to reflect upon.  I’m still challenging myself as to what direction I plan to take with this information, for I have quite a collection of quotes, questions, reminders and comments to think about.  Below I have listed those that made me the most reflective. The first quote is the one I’m thinking about the most.  What DO I get to do?   I’m leaving them here for you, my dear colleagues in education, and ask you to read them and use them to challenge your own thinking.

When we leave a conference like this, we should not only think about what we got, but also about what we get to do. -Kathy Short.

What are you doing to make the changes you want to see happen?  To be an indelible leader? -Barb Novak

Indelible leaders: your job is to develop a collaborative culture to the point where you become dispensable. -Michael Fullan

We believe all students can learn, do we believe all teachers can learn? -Michael Fullan.

The principal’s new role: to lead the school’s teachers in a process of learning to improve their teaching, while learning alongside them about what works and what doesn’t. -Michael Fullan

Collective Efficacy has a 1.55 effect size. -Michael Fullan quoting John Hattie research.

The learning of the school needs to drive the agenda, not a personal agenda. -Michael Fullan

The heart of the school is dependent upon the number of elephants in the room. -Sara Ahmed quoting Lucy Calkins.

Teaching reading is not about increasing test scores; it’s about teaching our students to engage with the world. -Tony Evers, Wisconsin State Superintendent

When we teach kids, we should feel that they are endlessly fascinating.  -Katherine Bomer

When a child doesn’t “fit” expect to be delighted.  Expect that there will also be difficulties. -Katherine Bomer

The best way to teach grammar and punctuation is through wide reading. Pay attention to the author’s intention, so you’ll read it a certain way. - Penny Kittle.

Students need to notice language first, name what they see and stand on the shoulders of better writers. -Penny Kittle

Culturally Responsive Teaching is something you practice with yourself and with your students. -Teaira McMurty

It’s okay to have bias for right now, but you have to learn to get away from it. -Teaira McMurty

Bring out the best in each student. Not getting there in the time we have is a POTENTIAL gap. -Decoteau Irby

We have an obligation to make our kids feel visible when they feel invisible.-Sara Ahmed

Best first teaching is the best intervention. -Regie Routman

Fight for the thing that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you. -Regie Routman

We must be prepared to take calculated risks for our students. -Regie Routman

Worry about more depth and quality than about getting it all in.  This is true for both professional learning as well as for student learning. -Regie Routman

Fidelity must always be to the child, not to a program. -Regie Routman

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Reading the Reading Research: Afflerbach on Assessment

Barb Novak contributed this post. 
Click here for more of Barb's thinking.
Click here for more Literacy Booth thoughts about research.

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

"Reading Assessment: Looking Ahead"
Peter Afflerbach in The Reading Teacher (2016)

Wisconsin educators can use Badgerlink to access full-text of Reading Teacher articles. .
Click here to access Afflerbach’s article.

Why this article?
I’m feeling now, more than ever, the need to think carefully about assessment in order to actively seek change where it is needed. From his book (Understanding and Using Reading Assessment) to that time he recorded a webinar just for Wisconsin, I trust Peter Afflerbach’s thinking about and work around assessment.

This is not research; “The Inside Track” is a column in each issue of The Reading Teacher. The author of the column is selected (issue-by-issue) by the journal’s editors.

Research Questions:
Not applicable - this is a column written by a literacy expert rather than research.

Not applicable - this is a column written by a literacy expert rather than research.

Main Points:
Afflerbach uses the article to advocate for “developing comprehensive formative assessments, assessing the wide array of factors that contribute to students’ reading development, and fostering student independence by helping students learn to use reading assessment on their own” (p. 413).
  • An assessment system (and each assessment within it) must be based on “a detailed model of the thing we are to assess” (p. 413). What is reading? How do we define it?
  • Afflerbach believes all assessment should follow this credo: “Assessment should produce information that is useful in helping students become better readers, and assessment should do no harm” (p. 413 - 414).
  • Widely used assessments measure what was considered by the National Reading Panel Report, which is not a match for what is required of a reader on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) or by the Common Core State Standards.
  • Assessment should include “affective aspects of reading” (p. 416).
  • Students should be the end users of data from reading assessments. Afflerbach states, “When we view reading assessment as an important teacher task, we may gather information that informs our instructional decision making. When we view reading assessment as something to teach, we can help students move toward the goal of independence through self-assessment. We want to use assessment that helps shift students from an outward orientation, where there is dependence on the teacher for assessment feedback, to one that looks inward” (p. 417).
  • What impact could we have if we took all the money we spend on assessment and, instead, spend it on professional learning for educators about instruction and assessment?

  • I wanted/needed more about “comprehensive formative assessments”. Common formative assessments, in my opinion, are interim assessments and are too formal to be considered formative. I was hoping comprehensive formative assessments could be an idea to replace common formative assessment.
  • The article is theory; there is not a research component. It could inform questions for future reference.

  • I’m interested in how Afflerbach’s ideas about engaging students in instruction and practice to become reflective readers could apply within universal instruction and intervention. What would it look like to make this a systemic and systematic practice? How could the results of implementing this practice be measured?
  • Reliance on numeric data and the high-stakes nature of numeric data are obstacles to implementing Afflerbach’s ideas - especially his ideas about assessing the affective aspects of reading.
  • This article would be useful foundational piece for reading and discussion by a school/district team reviewing its literacy assessment system.
  • Excerpts from the article could be used to consider how a school/district engages students in reading assessment and teaches self-efficacy.

Full Citation:
Afflerbach, P. (2016). Reading assessment: Looking ahead. The Reading Teacher 69(4), 413 - 419.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Productive Partnerships: New Professional Learning

Barb Novak contributed today's post. Click here for more of Barb's thinking.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction recognizes that improving literacy outcomes for all students depends upon collaboration between adults, who often bring different areas of expertise and varied beliefs about reading. While this could ensure that the team is able to select or design an intervention that matches a student’s exact needs, this variety in knowledge and understanding can also pose interpersonal challenges that impact the team’s ability to serve students.

Productive Partnerships: Collaboration Strategies to Improve Outcomes is a collection of online resources to build and maintain a healthy team focusing on improving literacy outcomes for all students. The materials include preventative and maintenance tools about trust, individual strengths in collaboration, and norms; an overview of a variety of theories about literacy; and a process a team can use for writing beliefs about literacy.

The materials also include strategies to apply when team members are experiencing interpersonal conflict. Individuals can apply these strategies to examine and change their behavior or to prepare for talking with a colleague about a difficult topic. Strategies include assuming positive intent, listening, diagramming interpersonal conflict, and scripting hard conversations.

The resources include a ready-to-use slide deck with speaker notes, a facilitator’s guide, handouts, and video explanations. Users are encouraged to modify the materials to best meet the needs of the team(s) they serve.

The materials - developed by experts representing literacy, Title I, and special education - can be accessed at http://dpi.wi.gov/reading/professional-learning/productive-partnerships.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Fostering a Culture of Instructional Excellence through Engagement

Maggie Schumacher contributed this post. Click here for more of Maggie's thinking and writing.

This year, I’ve been fortunate to participate in a series of workshops focused on creating a culture of instructional excellence through engagement. These workshops were offered through CESA 2 2 and are facilitated by Dr. Kevin Feldman, the director of reading and intervention for the Sonoma (California) County Office of Education and independent educational consultant. The focus of the workshops is on strengthening instructional practices across the content areas through use of student engagement.

Dr. Feldman believes strongly that there should be shared ownership of reading, writing, speaking, listening, and THINKING in every grade across every content area. All disciplines require these things in order for students to master the content. He promotes the idea that teaching our students HOW to think rather than WHAT to think would significantly improve their chances of being effective citizens in everything they do. The goal, however, is to make student thinking and learning visible. We want our students to be able to show, explain, and analyze their thinking. And we want our students to do this in every class, every day. Everyone does everything.

Throughout these workshops, Dr. Feldman has focused on essential truths for improving our schools. The first and foremost truth is that it’s impossible to improve student achievement unless we determine how to improve our teaching. How well we teach equates to how well our students learn. In other words, we haven’t taught unless our students have demonstrated this learning. As educators, we need to move away from the notion that tests are for kids. On the contrary, tests are for teachers. A good test answers the questions: What did you teach? What didn’t you teach? Who did you teach? Who didn’t you teach? True teaching takes humility. We as teachers and coaches have the power to be change agents and to raise the bar for our students. However, by raising the bar, we need to support our students so they can jump over the bar and not just run into it.

As coaches, we have the power to give our teachers the actionable feedback they need so they can improve their practice and students can improve their learning. The feedback they get should be immediate and non-threatening but should also be actionable. We need to make room for questions and wonderings. What did you notice about the lesson? What did you see and what didn’t you see? Everyone wants to improve their practice. How often do we hear teachers say, “I can’t get any better than this” when we ask how their practice could improve? Never. The goal is to create mutual trust along with developing a sense of urgency. Why is it important they change or strengthen their teaching practices? Always, the answer and the focus needs to be on the student and the learning that is happening in the classroom.

In an ideal world, students should be doing most of the work in the classroom. In reality, teachers do most of the “heavy lifting” in the classroom on a daily basis while the majority of students sit passively taking it in. But in the game of life, you have to be on the field to get better at the game. You don’t get better by sitting in the stands. We’ve given our students the message that listening means not talking, but this is not the case. Decades of research demonstrates that 20% of our students are responsible for doing 80% of the work. Our students who most need to be engaged in our lessons are chilling in the zone of minimal effort. We need to make our schools “no chill zones” and shoot for 100% engagement.

How do we do this? We structure our classes to make student learning visible. If we can’t see it, the learning is not there. Every 2-10 minutes, our students need to be saying, writing, and/or doing something related to the learning objective. We make our teaching practice intentional. One way to do this is by teaching our students the power of paraphrasing. We can teach our students how to be cognitive listeners through precision partnering and accountable listening. This takes the idea of “turn and talk” to a new level and gives it purpose. We teach students the 4 L’s of Listening: Look, Lean, Listen, and Low Voice. While one student is explaining their understanding or thinking, the other student partner is the listener. One student speaks for 90 seconds, and the partner has 30 seconds to paraphrase his/her partner’s thinking. They learn to use conversation starters such as, “What I hear you saying is…” or “In other words, you believe…” Then students switch roles. The act of precision partnering and active listening not only allows for checks for understanding for the teacher, but also builds class relationships, understanding, and empathy. Students receive immediate feedback from their peers and the teacher that feeds forward.

Through these workshops, Dr. Feldman has introduced various other methods for making learning visible in the classroom. We get as much engagement as we intentionally plan for. The good news is we can hit the “reset button” any time. “It’s a game, and it’s our job to structure the game so the students win.”

Precision Partnering Graphic

Thursday, February 2, 2017

What Are You Reading: February 2017

We start each month by sharing what we're reading - both for work and for fun. Join us by using the comments to share what you're reading. Click here for previous reading lists.

Meghan says, "While on maternity leave the past few months, I was able to stay connected to educational topics by following posts from Edutopia, EdWeekly, and Mindshift on Facebook.  These contain very quick, inspiring reads that I was able to save for further use when returning to work."

Jaimie shared a few more digital texts. First, books on the EPIC app. Jaimie says, "If you haven't heard or seen this app, I suggest you get it NOW.  Tons of digital books for FREE."

Jaimie is listening to Jen Serravallo's Podcast. She finds that, "This is a great resource to stay up to date on what is happening around us and to get great insight from Jen herself.

Andrea says, "I am re-reading The Art of Coaching by Elena Aguilar as well as The Art of Coaching Teams, also by Elena Aguilar. I am also reading How to Build an Instructional Coaching Program for Maximum Capacity by Nina Jones Morel and Carla Staton Cushman (which was recommended to me by Julie Schwartzbauer!)We have been referencing these as well as several other titles as we work on establishing our district coaching model.  All of these have been very helpful as many guiding questions are provided for us to think about as we work through the process."

Meghan is participating in a book study about Better Conversations by Jim Knight with fellow K-12 coaches and the Director of Instruction of our district: "This book group and PLC is something new we've started this year as our district grows in it's coaching capacity.  It has been awesome to support each other and grow in our learning together."

Julie is reading Every Young Child a Reader by Sharan A. Gibson and Barbara Moss. This professional text highlights how to use Marie Clay's concepts for classroom instruction.

Carrie is reading For a Better World: Reading and Writing for Social Action by Randy Bomer and Katherine Bomer.

Meghan is reading Vocabulary Their Way as her middle school works to implement this system in 7th and 8th grade.  Our district has adopted Words Their Way in grades K-6, so this will help grow our word study into the upper levels and content areas after students have moved through the five stages of Words Their Way.

Meghan and Sharon are both exploring Universal Design for Learning by reading UDL Now! By Katie Novak. Sharon reminds us of the purpose of UDL, "Clearing the path for one, clears the path for all!" This cartoon reminds Sharon of this important idea:

Meghan says, "One of our elementary schools participated in a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) grant.  This book club is being offered district-wide to grow our capacity to implement UDL at all schools."

Maggie is reading The Boys in the Boat (Young Readers Adaptation) by Daniel James Brown. Maggie writes, "The powerful nonfiction tale of Joe Rantz and the other working-class rowers from the University of Washington Crew who broke down barriers and records across America in order to attend the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. This is a true story of overcoming adversity and the power of the underdog."

Maggie and Barb are both reading The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. Maggie says, "This incredible story is told through three different perspectives: Natasha, Daniel, and The Universe. Natasha is a teenage girl who should be worried about where she'll get into college but instead is on the verge of being deported to Jamaica for being an undocumented citizen. Daniel has always been the good Korean son, living up to his parents' high expectations, but when he first sees Natasha, he forgets about everything except what fate has in store for them. The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment." Maggie strongly recommends listening to the audiobook version!

Heather is reading The Raft by SA Bodeen. Heather says, "A student of mine recommended this book. He told me he was actually reading it at home it was so good.   I picked up a copy and he was right.  Saturday I read the book in practically one sitting.  It is about a girl whose plane crashes and she is trying to survive.  This book is full of a lot of action!"

Maggie is also reading Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk. Maggie says, "This is the sweet coming-of-age story of a young girl named Annabelle. Set during World War II in rural Pennsylvania, Annabelle enjoys a quiet and simple life until a bully named Betty Glengarry arrives in town and at her school. Betty is cruel and threatens and inflicts pain on Annabelle and her young brothers. Her malice continues to grow until one day she mysteriously goes missing. Annabelle's quiet and quirky neighbor Toby, a veteran of World War I, becomes a prime suspect in Betty's disappearance. Annabelle is sure of Toby's innocence and is determined to prove it. This book bears a strong thematic resemblance to To Kill a Mockingbird and provokes much thought and discussion."

 Jaimie is reading The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. She describes it as an "interesting and unique story about a light house keeper and his wife who find a life boat containing a live baby (and dead man) on the shore of their isolated island. They decide to raise the child as their own and not inform the authorities of the child's existence." This book has also been made into a movie.

Barb just downloaded and is looking forward to reading The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. She says, "My reading routine has grown to always include at least one eBook. I always have my phone with me, so the eBook is something that I can pick up while I'm waiting somewhere without an actual book."

Lisa is reading The Dinner by Herman Koch.

Jaimie is reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. She says, "After being on the wait list at the library for over 6 months, I finally have the book!!  I have only heard great things about it!"