Thursday, March 30, 2017

Instruction & Literacy Tip #2 - Visual Literacy

Meghan Retallick contributed this post. Meghan sends a weekly "Instruction & Literacy Tip" to her staff. Click here for more "Instruction & Literacy Tips". Click here for all of Meghan's Literacy Booth posts.

This is a continuation of my new way to connect with staff in my district.  Each week, I'm sending out an email with tips for best practices in instruction and literacy.  This week I've been thinking a lot about how students analyze images.  A report from NPR detailed recent research on students' ability to assess information sources.  The researchers at Stanford's Graduate School of Education "described the results as 'dismaying,' 'bleak' and '[a] threat to democracy.'"  See the full article and/or 5 minute podcast detailing their research here.
Two findings from the study caught my eye:

  • Most middle school students can't tell native ads from articles.
  • Most high school students accept photographs as presented, without verifying them.
So what do we do?  This site might be a good start for holding conversations to analyze images with our middle and high school students.
On Monday of each week, a picture without a caption is posted on the website.  Students follow this protocol to participate in the conversation:
1.  After looking closely at the image, students think about these three questions:

  • What is going on in this picture?
  • What do you see that makes you say that?
  • What more can you find?
2.  Next, students can join the conversation by commenting on the website (or you could discuss as a class and post one comment).

3.  After students have posted, they can try reading back to see what others have said, and then respond to someone else by posting another comment.

4.  Each Monday, the site's collaborator, Visual Thinking Strategies, will facilitate a discussion from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern time by paraphrasing comments and linking to responses to help students’ understanding go deeper.

5.  On Thursday afternoons, the site will reveal at the bottom of the post more information about the photo. How does reading the caption and learning its back story help the students see the image differently?

Utilizing this resource on a regular basis will improve student analysis of visuals and inspire critical thinking and discussion skills.  What else do you do with staff and students to improve student's visual literacy skills?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Writing in Chorus - Gradual Release of Responsibility

Heather Zimmerman contributed this post. Click here for more of Heather's thinking.
This is part of a series of posts about writing coaching cycles, which include examples from several disciplines.

Have you ever tried to look for literacy examples for your music teachers?  It can be hard to find a lot of ideas.  

During one of my coaching cycles, I worked with our chorus teacher, Eric Britz.  We talked a lot about some of the great things he was doing regarding writing.  He had so many practices already in place.  

At a collaboration session, he shared with staff what gradual release of responsibility looks like in his classroom.  Take a look:

*This was an organizer to get students thinking before they wrote.

*You might notice the lyrics are not in English.  This was intentional.  He noticed students paid more attention to lyrics than to the music.  He decided to help them focus mostly on the music.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Writing in Math- Graphic Organizer

Heather Zimmerman contributed this post. Click here for more of Heather's thinking.
This is part of a series of posts about writing coaching cycles, which include examples from several disciplines.

During a coaching cycle, I was working with math teacher individually.  A trend I noticed was that teachers commented on how they were looking for a tool to help organize students’ thoughts. Together, a math teacher and I, created this graphic organizer.  Click here.

One part we got stuck on was that the writing is so individual depending on the math content.  So it is hard to make a common graphic organizer.  We are hoping this is a start.  What math writing tools do you have?  Share in the comments!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Writing in Band- A Reflection Organizer

Heather Zimmerman contributed this post. Click here for more of Heather's thinking. 
This is part of a series of posts about writing coaching cycles, which include examples from several disciplines.

As I went through my coaching cycles, I was excited for my time to work with the music department. I did not have as many opportunities as I would have liked working with that department.  

The band teacher expressed he wanted a way for students to focus on the recording of a concert that could carry over into a reflection.  Together we (me and Brad Curran) made a checklist of ideas to look for during the viewing of the concert. The band teacher also added sentence starters.  To view the organizer, Click Here.  

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Implicit Bias & Implicit Racial Associations

My colleagues and I are engaging in some professional learning about racial equity in the workplace. Our learning is focused on:
  • implicit bias
  • color blindness
  • microaggression
A 2016 article from Educational Researcher helped me think about the tremendous implications of implicit associations - including implicit bias and implicit racial associations - in education.

What is implicit bias?
Warikoo, Sinclair, Fei, and Jacoby-Senghor (2016) define implicit associations (or implicit biases) as ". . . the automatic cognitive associations people have between a given social group and certain feelings, concepts, and evaluations" (p. 508). Basically, implicit biases are preferences, attitudes, or beliefs that we don't even realize we have that can unconsciously impact our thoughts, words, and/or actions. In the case of implicit racial associations, the unconscious beliefs and resulting actions are related to race.

For example, an educator might explicitly state that a student's race does not impact that educator's attitude, belief, or evaluation of a student (or group of students) while still holding implicit bias toward particular racial groups. 

How do implicit racial associations impact education?
A 2007 study (cited by Warikoo, et al., p. 509) found that 68% of respondents had medium to large pro-White/anti-Black implicit associations. Warikoo and colleagues suggest that implicit racial associations:
  • Are highly pervasive
  • Are unlikely to correlate with explicitly stated beliefs
  • Impact educator-learner interactions in ways that negatively impact "students' sense of belonging, academic performance, and relationships with peers" (p. 510)
  • Impact interactions in particularly strong ways in situations where educators are making many high-stakes decisions very quickly
  • Impact policy creation at the school, district, state, and national levels
Maybe implicit racial bias or implicit racial associations could even "help explain why racial disparities in schools persist even when genuine, well-motivated efforts are made to reduce them" (p. 509).

What can we do?

  • Learn more and become aware of your implicit biases and implicit racial association. Resources are included at the end of this post.
  • Share your learning with colleagues, encouraging them to learn more.
  • Understand how implicit bias and implicit racial associations might be impacting your students, families, and community.
  • Take action.

Additional Resources about Implicit Bias:
  • Know Your Bias: Implicit Bias with Dr. Rachel Sumner

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

WSRA Reading Convention - Take-Aways, Inspiration, and Reflections

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

I was privileged to have the opportunity to once again attend the Wisconsin State Reading Association convention this February. As always, I had so many great take-aways and pages upon pages of notes to go through after that my head is still trying to process. In this month’s blog post, I’ll reflect on my biggest takeaways and inspiration gained from the WSRA reading convention.

Mem Fox

On Thursday, the great and wise Mem Fox kicked off the conference. She shared some of her picture books with us, and she also shared some powerful messages which I have since passed along to others. Mem shared that she’s not interested in the reading level of kids; she’s interested in their level of interest. She says, “I don’t want children to understand every word I write. I want to lift them up and introduce them to language they don’t know. I want to give them wings so they can fly.” How will we help our students to understand the English language if we don’t “pour wondrous language into our children’s ears as often as we can?” Mem urges teachers and parents to read books to children often, to read stories that children love over and over again, and to read with passion. “It will change their lives. It will change yours. It may even change the world.” How could a person not be inspired?

Recommended Mem Fox Books:
Tough Boris (Fox)

Penny Kittle

On Thursday, I also was able to attend two different presentations by Penny Kittle. According to Kittle, “You can read without writing, but you can’t write without reading.” She stressed the importance of using books and texts to help our students analyze author’s craft. She encouraged teachers to ask our students to find beautiful language or interesting writing craft in their reading and to have kids write down interesting sentences or beautiful examples of the craft of writing. She says that when students copy words exactly as they’re written and write them down, it will live inside them. She also suggests having students use mentor texts to emulate poetry and prose. By doing this, we’re giving our students “shoulders to stand on” by paying attention to people who write better than they do. In addition, this writing can take students deeper into the meaning of texts. The use of mentor texts is by no means groundbreaking news, but it is a good reminder of the power these mentor texts can have to support our students as writers and as readers. The more our students read, the better writers they will be.

Kittle also spoke about the importance of independent reading and allowing for student choice in book selections. Independent reading allows teachers to personalize learning. According to Kittle, engagement is the first step to improving student achievement. There is much talk in schools about finding more rigorous and complex texts to provide to students as we prepare them to be college or career ready, but Kittle argues that the combination of student engagement plus volume of reading equates to text complexity. She says, “We are doing RtI all wrong. Our struggling readers don’t need complex texts. They need to read engaging books, and we need to increase their reading.” (Amen.) We need to provide our students with a lot of choice in what they read. Kittle and Gallagher say the balance of texts in a classroom should be 25% teacher-selected core texts and 75% student-selected for independent reading and book clubs (or literature circles). Everyone reads on a rollercoaster; sometimes we read easy books, and sometimes we read challenging books.  Kittle quoted Nancie Atwell with the reminder that “the most important statistic we have is the number of books our kids read each year.”

Recommended Penny Kittle Books:
Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Adolescent Readers (Kittle)
Write Beside Them: Risk, Voice, and Clarity in High School Writing (Kittle)

Stephanie Harvey

Continuing on with what appears to be the theme of the conference for me... on Friday I attended an engaging presentation by Stephanie Harvey. This presentation (From Striving to Thriving: The Best Intervention for a Student is a Good Book) again focused on the significance of students spending time reading books that they can and want to read. Similar to Kittle, Harvey feels strongly that the way to make sure kids become good at reading texts that they cannot read is to give them time to practice reading texts that they can. We need to surround our students with wonderful literature and give them time to read it. She says that if our kids in poverty do not have access to books or are not reading at home, then we need to make up for this in our schools. Volume continues to have the most important impact on reading skills and knowledge.

Harvey also says that text complexity is not about the length of the text or the vocabulary in the text; it’s about the issues, ideas, and societal problems. When kids have time to talk about what they read, their comprehension deepens. They need time to process what they have read and discuss it with others in reading partnerships (book clubs, literature circles, etc.). We also need to give our students a purpose for reading so they find it meaningful. We need to read to our students every day. Free voluntary reading time should be the last thing that gets cut out of our instruction, but is often the first thing to go when things come up or time runs short. Harvey shared that “what kids think, feel, and write about their reading is more important than any assessment we can or will create for them.” We need to share our reading joys and challenges with our students every day. Finally, she urges teachers and schools to get rid of reading labels and to foster a growth mindset in our classrooms. All of our students are striving readers, some just need more support than others. Let’s cultivate a love of reading within our students every single day.

Recommended Stephanie Harvey Books:
Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement (Harvey & Goudvis)
Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles for Curiosity, Engagement, and Understanding (Harvey & Daniels)

*Check out for more information about the 2017 WSRA Reading Convention and to access the convention handouts.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Coaching Cycle Protocol

Heather Zimmerman contributed this post. Click here for more of Heather's thinking.
This is part of a series of posts about writing coaching cycles, which include examples from several disciplines.

How many of you sometimes feel as if you spend more time putting out fires or doing quick coaching in the hallway during passing time?  This year our district implemented the idea of coaching cycles in grades 6-12 that focused on writing and gradual release of responsibility.  

This is how my middle school approached the initiative:
  • Everyone will meet with a coach
  • 6 week cycles
  • Meet for 20 minutes once a week.  Could be longer if needed for planning in place of the following week.
  • Work on something related to our school goal- writing.
  • Teachers met individually with a coach. If it worked, teacher could meet as a group, but due to schedules that rarely worked.

Here is the protocol sheet (created by me and my school’s IST or Instructional Support Teacher - Tom Anfinson) that was used to help organize and track time with teachers.  Click here.

Here are questions from an optional Google form after the cycle had ended:

I loved having the more formal cycles.  It really helped to meet with everyone and the feedback has been positive from the teachers who submitted the optional form.

How does your school approach coaching cycles?  Share any resources down below!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Instruction & Literacy Tip # 1: Concept Maps

Meghan Retallick contributed this post. Meghan sends a weekly "Instruction & Literacy Tip" to her staff. Click here for more "Instruction & Literacy Tips". Click here for all of Meghan's Literacy Booth posts.
I'm back from maternity leave and recent conversations with our technology and instruction planning team have inspired me to start a new way to collaborate with the teaching staff in my district about instruction and literacy.  Each week, I'll electronically share an evidence-based instructional strategy that can be implemented in all content areas, and I figured this would be something to share with our blog followers as well.  This week, I'm thinking a lot about concept maps!  Reading Rockets explains more:
"What is a concept map?
A concept map is a visual organizer that can enrich students' understanding of a new concept. Using a graphic organizer, students think about the concept in several ways. Most concept map organizers engage students in answering questions such as, "What is it? What is it like? What are some examples?" Concept maps deepen understanding and comprehension.
Why use a concept map?
  • It helps students organize new information.
  • It helps students to make meaningful connections between the main idea and other information.
  • They're easy to construct and can be used within any content area."

See this link to Reading Rockets for step by step instructions of how to use and sample PDF templates.

I began thinking about concept maps after reading this blog post on Peter DeWitt's blog, Finding Common Ground, from guest blogger, Lisa Westman.  The title, "4 Phrases All Teachers Say and No Students Understand" definitely caught my eye!  I'm guilty of all of these phrases, but concepts maps are one strategy to make learning meaningful for students.  I love the idea of shifting our focus from vague phrases to best practices shown through John Hattie's research to make an impact on student learning.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

What Are You Reading: March 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.

Due to an email mistake, this month is a special edition, "What Would Barb Like to Read?"

My Educator List:
Mindfulness by Ellen J. Langer - Amazon is kind enough to tell me I bought this on November 16, 2015. I still haven't read it. I'm hoping to better understand ideas that compliment some of my favorite ideas (like those from Dweck and Peter Johnston).

Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools by Monique W. Morris - Colleagues were talking about this on social media, and I realized I've studied very little about young African American women.

Reading Students' Lives: Literacy Learning across Time by Catherine Compton-Lilly - Cathy does longitudinal research about the literacies of students and their families (particularly students and families who are marginalized. This book, the fourth in the series, follows young people into high school.

We Must Say No to the Status Quo: Educators as Allies in the Battle for Social Justice by Veronica McDermott - Jennifer Abrams just mentioned this in her monthly newsletter.

My YA List:
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas - I ordered this one after seeing it talked about on Facebook.

March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Illustrator) - I didn't realize this graphic novel about the civil rights movement was a thing until its third installment won some recent awards.

Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina - My book club's choice for March, lauded by my trustworthy friends at the CCBC. Only $2.99 for Kindle and iBooks right now.

October Mourning by Leslea Newman - Published in 2012, this one has been on my bookshelf for awhile. Written in verse, it is a biography of a gay man murdered in Wyoming in 1998.

My Adult List:
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders - This one is very new. Reviewers are talking about it positively in multiple places, which caught my eye.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant - I added this to my "To Read" shelf on Goodreads on July 1, 2008; it's the first thing I added to that list. It's my best friend's favorite book. I need to get to it at some point.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion - I bought this one on some vacation in 2014. I still haven't gotten to it. I hope I will find it light and entertaining.

Cities I've Never Lived In by Sara Majka - This short story collection about distance includes some pieces narrated by a young woman getting divorced. I'm intrigued (and only now willing to read about divorce - four years after).