Sunday, December 30, 2012

Workshop Resolution

Conferring is the heartbeat of workshop teaching.  In order to teach well; learn to confer well.  Although the coaching institute was interrupted due to a hurricane, what I learned in those few sessions will provide me with much to reflect on in the coming months. 

Over the next few weeks, I am going to really work at growing stronger at conferring.  It feels like a critical component of conferring is the research.  It can make you or break you.  The research lays the groundwork for all of the other components of a conference.  It is differentiation at its best.  When you research well, you provide yourself with a storehouse to draw on for your teaching.  Here are a few tips for researching well from the TCRWP.
  • Try to be conversational in tone.  We are more likely to be honest and demonstrate investment when we feel comfortable, cared for, and at ease.
  • Keep notes to help you forge a pathway of learning.  Otherwise, our conferences will be like a game of hop-scotch and will lack traction.  Traction provides students with additional practice and scaffolding – a trajectory of growth.  This will allow you to layer your teaching and ensure that your conferences are driven by visible goals and feedback.
  • Always take a few moments to observe the writer – What are they almost doing? Skim their writing and look for patterns.  This will help you formulate strong research questions. Why did you  . . . ? What were you or are you trying to do here? Point to their writing when researching – It will help ground your teaching, but be careful to look for patterns – not too specific – otherwise you will fall into the trap of teaching the writing instead of the writer.
  • Try to stay away from the content. Instead ask the writer: What strategies have you been using? What goals or plans are you working on? Ask: What do you plan to do next?
  • It helps to think about lenses through which you can confer.  Find out what a student knows about a particular writing habit or skill.  This will help you stay within the students ZPD.
  • Stay inside the research part of the conference for a while – after pursuing one line of inquiry – ask a question designed to take you on another.  Look for multiple learning pathways.  Only after researching for a while, should you decide and choose what to compliment and teach.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Things to Keep in Mind When Working with Striving Writers within a Whole Class Community

I have learned a lot about this particular topic from mentors, such as Lucy Calkins, Katherine Bomer, Mary Ehrenworth, Colleen Cruz, and Chris Lehman over the years.  Here are some of the bigger ideas I have extrapolated from conversations, speeches and/or workshops I have attended.

Principles We Can Reflect on When Working with Striving Writers
  1. Expect ALL students to achieve goals in writing and celebrate milestones toward those goals.
  2. When students are able to complete the work with independence, the modifications are successful.
  3. Build on a student’s strengths versus focusing or working on areas of weakness all of the time.
  4. Be explicit when teaching writing stamina (Quantity before Quality, at least, at first) – Teach into it – it doesn't happen overnight.
  5. Help students discover his/her writing passions – Ralph Fletcher calls these life topics, which are topics we revisit again and again.


Some Practical Tips to Keep in Mind when Working with Striving Writers
  • Keep teaching points the same for all students – the way that students access the teaching point will vary.
  • Modify the levels of support needed for students to learn the teaching point according to the strengths and needs of all students.
  • The work will look different from student to student, however, the process students will have gone through, will have been similar.
  • Focus on the main objectives of a UoS (Unit of Study) and or m.l., rather than getting caught up in the small details – what are the big goals of the unit – see CCLS for direction with this in planning.
  • Read aloud the child’s writing to him or her on a somewhat regular basis, and do it with an incredible read aloud voice (read it as literature).  Calkins calls this reading it ‘like it’s gold’
  • It helps to think in 3s – What are three goals for this student inside of this unit?  Remember that we can build smaller milestones into larger goals.
  • Provide students with alternative methods for planning and drafting: storyboarding/booklets, planning boxes, webs, index cards
  • For ELLs, encourage sketching and labeling as an access point to expressive language.
Community is everything.  Build a place that honors struggle, reflection and goal-setting. Make all kids an expert at something, so that we have ‘go-to’ people for help.  Create charts that teach.  Recognize and celebrate the efforts of all, while nudging writers toward new heights and more ambitious goals.

Reflecting on the Principal Gala at the Botanical Gardens (2015)

It is important for leaders to retreat to the mountains. This event stands at a cross-section. We need it to determine the road ahead. ...