What Happens When Programs > Books

When classroom literacy instruction starts to become completely overtaken by that literacy programs, do actual books start to get in the way? After all, reading a book takes more time. Selecting passages from actual books to share with students takes time. Talking about our favorite books (and building the culture that makes us want to) takes time.

And time is what we lack most as teachers!

Plus, when that program has mapped out tasks and “personalized” progress for every day of the school year, it seems our literary expertise starts to take a back seat to that very expensive program.

So what starts happening when programs > books?

Books seem like luxurious “extras” (you can get to your book when you finish the worksheet or level).

Books seem less efficient than the programs (we all know books have value, but if they’re not carefully scaffolding the reading development with every word, are they as valuable during class time?) 

Read aloud time starts to disappear (after all, the programs seem to encompass all the literary needs, not to mention time).

Programs are deemed more adept at identifying skills (at least, the skills most easily recognizable/test-able).

Kids talk less about the books they’re reading and more about the levels they’re on (it makes sense since all that time on programs suggests we’re more interested in getting them to the next level than we are about their reading interests).

No matter how appealing and adept a program might seem, we must be careful to seek balance and to protect our students’ love of books. As authors by Antero Garcia and Cindy O’Donnell-Allen write, “To see themselves as readers, students must also have opportunities to make decisions about what they will read.” p. 98, Pose, Wobbble, Flow. Pernille Ripp also writes eloquently on programs like Accelerated Reader & selecting literacy programs. Also this:

If books have started to be relegated to a sideline role in our classrooms, it’s time to ask ourselves how we can bring them back into our reading instruction in meaningful ways.

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Why I Focus On Agency #TeacherMom

The beginning of Netflix’s rendition of The Little Prince begins with a mother unveiling her child’s life plan to ensure admission to the “right school.” She tells her daughter, “Let’s face it. You’re going to be all alone out there. So we can’t afford to make any more mistakes. You’re going to be a wonderful grown-up.”

While it’s certainly an over-the-top portrayal, when we think about all the societal pressures to ensure our kids’ success, it’s more representative than it might initially seem.

I remember a day a few years back when I was feeling like a particular failure as a parent. I decided to make a list of all the things that were stressing me. In so doing, I realized that it wasn’t so much the daily to-do list itself that was weighing me down; it was the fear of what would happen if I failed at any given item on the list (ie, make sure the kids get quality outdoor play each day OR ELSE they might not develop proper health habits and someday contract heart disease; make sure the house stays clean OR ELSE they might grow up to be hoarders featured on some reality-tv show, etc, etc).

Dire consequences were attached to every task. And it came down to me to prevent every one of those consequences.

As I continued my list, I came to the essential realization: I had thought my actions were driven by love; turns out they were actually driven by fear.

At first, it may seem that what’s driving the action is irrelevant, as long as the results are the same. But upon closer inspection, we realize what happens in a fear-driven environment:

  • We focus less on others’ agency and more on control.
  • We don’t share the load, even with people who have an interest in it.
  • We trust less.
  • We worry more.
  • We stress over timetables & milestones.
  • We are exhausted.

As I have instead worked to start from a place of love, I have found that I focus more and more on the agency of those around me. Because only when I stop worrying about whether I’m enough can I more clearly realize see their strength. Their capacity. Their courage.

This quote from William Stixrud resonated with me so much that this is my second time sharing it in as many weeks:

“I start with the assumption that kids have a brain in their head and they want their lives to work. They want to do well. That’s why we want to change the energy, so the energy is coming from the kid seeking help from us rather than us trying to boss the kid, sending the message, “You can’t do this on your own.””

When we’re driven by fear, the burden rests with us to prevent calamity and shape the world.

When we’re driven by love, the burden rests with us all in an open, thoughtfully-discussed, and shared manner.

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Inquiry Into Attitudes: Appreciation

This is part of a series of inquiry-based provocations for essential elements of the PYP and the Learner Profile. For more, click here.

As is often the case with these PYP elements, appreciation is another attitude that can be so easy for us to take for granted in our students (and ourselves). We might find ourselves shaking our heads about “kids these days” when the truth is that many kids may not have had the clear exposure, or opportunity to investigate these valued qualities for themselves. So this week’s provocation is designed to give them that very opportunity. Enjoy “Appreciation!”

Resource #1: Noticing the Soundscapes of Yosemite National Park via The Kid Should See This (a bit long, but even just the first minute or two will be sufficient for this provocation!)

Resource #2: “Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson

“She smiled and pointed to the sky. “Sometimes, when you’re surrounded by dirt, CJ, you’re a better witness for what’s beautiful.””

Resource #3: “Windows” by Julia Denos and E.B. Goodale

“Then you arrive home again, and you look at your window from the outside. Someone you love is waving at you, and you can’t wait to go inside.”

Resource #4: How to Write Your Life Story by Ralph Fletcher (a chapter book, but the first couple chapters are a great dose of self-appreciation about our potential to contribute as writers).

“Lies about writing your life story: Lie #1: You have to be a famous celebrity.”

Provocation Questions:

  • What does an appreciation attitude or mindset look like?
  • How does appreciation impact an individual’s life?
  • How does appreciation impact society?
  • What are ways/environments in which you can best feel appreciation?
  • What is our responsibility to appreciate people? Nature? Ideas?

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Inquiry into Attitudes: Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm comes so naturally for so many kids (especially before they get old enough that it becomes uncool), it can be easy to overlook having a real discussion about it. But I’m pretty sure we could all use more of its rich, sunny, creative goodness in our lives. Enjoy this week’s provocation!

Resource #1: Me and My Cello – Happy Together Cello Cover by The Piano Guys

Another fun video from these guys packed with enthusiasm:

Resource #2: A Pep Talk from Kid President to You by Soul Pancake

Resource #3: Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor & Robin Preiss Glasser

Provocation Questions: 

  • What is the connection between enthusiasm and individualism?
  • What are some of the obstacles to enthusiasm? How can we overcome?
  • How does enthusiasm change over a person’s lifetime?
  • What is the connection between enthusiasm and creativity?
  • How does enthusiasm impact our world?
  • How does enthusiasm impact an individual’s work?

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Top 20 Posts From 2017 That YOU Wrote

Bill Nye said,

“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.”

This has been a gratifying truth when it comes to my professional learning network, or PLN. The fact that I get to learn from and with master teachers all over the world on a daily basis fills me with gratitude. So to share my appreciation and to share the highlights of my 2017 PLN learning, I want to share the top 20 blog posts (in no particular order) written by educators this year. As with my 2016 post, these are posts that I bookmarked, shared, revisited, and pondered. Thank you, as always, for pushing my thinking, and I look forward to discovering the learning that 2018 holds for us all!

#1: Want Better Faculty Meetings? Start Here. by Bill Ferriter

#2: Talking at Students Instead of With Students by Chad Walsh

#3: The Classroom by Heidi Allum

#4: Let’s Talk About Methods for Conferring by Elizabeth Moore

#5: Supporting Student Agency Take Two by Taryn BondClegg

#6: A Grading Journey of Epic Proportions (Part 1) by Jonathan So

#7: Desertification by Donalyn Miller

#8: Agency by Design by Sonya terBorg

 

#9: Reflection’s Reality: Learning is a Story by Monte Syrie

#10: The Best Lesson I Never Taught by Abe Moore

#11: Assessment Done With Students, Not to Students by Taryn Bond-Clegg

#12: The ‘So What’ of Learning by Edna Sackson

#13: Is Your School a Rules First or A Relationships First Community? by Bill Ferriter

#14: How Are We Traveling? Reflecting on the Story So Far by Kath Murdoch

#15: If We Build It, They Will Come: Tales From Inside the Sharing Circle by Lori Van Hoesen 

#16: When Adults Don’t Read, Kids Lose by Jennifer LaGarde

#17: #ClassroomBookADay And the Power of Sharing (Picture Book) Stories by Jillian Heise

 

#18: What Millennials Demand from Education by Erik P.M. Vermeulen

#19: Visible Thinking in Math Part 2 by Silvia Tolisano

#20: The Compliments Project by Jennifer Gonzalez

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Inquiry Into Goal-Making

We’re in the business of growth as educators. But the act of actually setting tangible goals can be intimidating for us all. Why not start by investigating with your class what it means to set goals to get the dialogue going?

Resource #1: What’s Stopping You From Achieving Your Goals by Soul Pancake

Resource #2: One Little Word by Ali Edwards

Resource #3:  Kids Health Facts on Setting Goals

Resource #4: Kobi Yamada & Mae Besom’s books (these are wonderful provocations to help students consider growth and progress through problems and ideas).

Provocation Questions: 

  • What is a goal?
  • Why do people set goals?
  • What are the different perspectives on setting goals?
  • What is our responsibility to grow?
  • How does an individual’s goal-setting impact their life? Their community?

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My Most-Read Posts of 2017

Last year, I shared 20 of my favorite blog posts that I read from educators around the world during 2016. With the help of a great bookmark Chrome extension to help me chronologically sort my bookmarks, I am excited to be working on a similar post for 2017 to help me search out patterns and reflect on my biggest aha moments this year — and of course, to thank the teachers who have taken some of their precious time to share!

But meanwhile, I’m inspired by George Couros’ recent post in which he shares the 5 most-read posts on his own blog. I appreciate the chance to create, as he puts it, “an archive for my learning as well as an opportunity to share with others.”

#5: TPT: On Teacher’s Personal Generosity: I continue to ponder this debate as I watch the headlines on providing tax breaks for teacher spending. I can’t help but speculate over certain “what if” scenarios, but I remain firm in my view that there are so many deeply personal layers to this issue that we need to make compassion a priority.

TPT Debate: On Teacher’s Personal Generosity

#4: Change: A Where We Are In Place & Time Provocation: I’m so glad that what started out as a way for me to archive and organize the most thought-provoking resources I find has proven helpful for so many teachers!

Change: A “Where We Are in Place & Time” Provocation

#3: A How We Express Ourselves [In the 21st Century] Provocation: I wrote this provocation as a way to help us remember that self-expression is a truly boundless endeavor in our 21st century world. I enjoyed the chance to revisit the video, “The Adaptable Mind” that I included here; I found it fascinating view at how the world is shifting, and what skills will empower us and and our students.

A How We Express Ourselves [In the 21st Century] Provocation

#2: 4 Reasons We Just Can’t Break Up With Basals (& How to Finally Move On!): I think many of our fancy new computer programs are the new “basal reading program,” but with the stamp of “personalized” tech, they are not held to the same scrutiny. My biggest concern rests with the notion that our struggling readers especially need such programs for remediation, but I think Pernille Ripp put it best in her currently-pinned tweet:

4 Reasons We Just Can’t Break Up with Basals (& How to Finally Move On)

#1: Inquiry: What Trajectory are YOU On? I’m actually quite pleased that this one gained the most views of posts I wrote this year because it’s a wonderful showcase of thinking and growth from a group a teachers I hold dear. It was also a great opportunity for me to synthesize all my resources and understanding on what it means to be an inquiry teacher so far. I know I still have a long way to go, but I am proud of mileposts like these along the way.

Inquiry: What Trajectory Are YOU On?

Thank you all so much for reading and for sharing your own work! It is such a gift for me to be able to continue my professional learning through this platform and through interacting with my PLN.

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