Margin Notes

Conversations About Artifacts of Learning- Inquiry Writing

Aug
15

This is a summary of this year’s final conversation about artifacts of student learning as part of our Visible Learning project with our colleagues Michelle Wuest and Shelley Hanson and their Grade 11 students at Leo Hayes High School.  You can read a description of the project here.

In order to make our own learning visible, we decided to follow a protocol based on the Project Zero See-Think-Wonder thinking routine to structure our conversations and capture our thinking and reflections.  We recorded the conversation and I have summarized our observations, wonderings, and reflections.

Description of Artifact

After brainstorming a list of their wonderings-questions they would like to know the answers to-Shelley’s students selected a question (from the list or on their own) to explore further in an inquiry writing piece.  Students were challenged to explore at least 3-4 different perspectives in their final pieces.

Shelley shared a mentor text with her students: “What Women Really Do in the Bathroom” which can be found on page 119 of Kelly Gallagher’s book, Write Like This or here. (more…)

Being the Change Week 3

Jul
16

This is the third week of #CyberPD and the focus is on Chapters 5 and 6 of Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension by Sara K. Ahmed.  You can read my previous #CyberPD reflections here and here.

Chapter 5 is about Finding Humanity in Ourselves and Others.  We are reminded that it is critical to recognize that “the social constructs under which we live can lead us to classify, label with symbols, and eventually dehumanize individuals and groups (p. 101).”  Sara suggests two important steps to counteract the resultant othering:

  • We fight these destructive forces by finding and examining our humanity first.
  • While we are working to build kids’ capacity for empathy, we can honor how they see the world.

(more…)

Student Self-Assessment, Mentor Texts, and Single Point Rubrics

Jul
11

After meeting with Michelle Wuest and Shelley Hanson yesterday to continue our conversation regarding making learning visible, we have an idea that comes from Michelle’s classroom that we want to share with you.

Writing teachers are always looking for ways to foster students’ motivation and capacity to self-assess. As Sandra Herbst explains, “Self-assessment teaches students how to self-monitor, especially when it is informed by clear criteria and samples or models. Students who self-monitor are developing and practicing the skills needed to be life-long, independent learners.” (more…)

Being the Change Week 2

Jul
09

This is Week 2 of #CyberPD and we are reading and sharing our thinking about Chapters 3 and 4 of Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension by Sara K. Ahmed.  You can read last week’s post here.

Chapter 3 focuses on Being Candid and we are reminded that “candor requires a self-awareness and sincerity that isn’t always easy and doesn’t always feel good in the moment (p. 42).”  As in the previous chapters, the lessons, Seeing Our Own Bias, Understanding Microaggressions, and Refusing to Let Others’ Biases Define Us, set the stage for honest dialogue and reflection.  Because this can be emotional and challenging work, Sara offers strategies from her own experiences:

  • Share personal stories.
  • Pause and be present.
  • Honor each student’s identity.
  • Unpack terms in context.
  • Try this work yourself first.

I’ve been reflecting on the inquiry-based nature of this work.  When we start with the lived experiences of participants, both teacher and students, we are able to identify, name, and understand our experiences as a community of learners.  When Sara begins a lesson by asking, “Has anyone heard or seen this word before?” she is sending the message that the audience has important ideas to share and that she values their contributions to the learning.  This is a small but powerful shift away from centering the voice of an “expert” in the dialogue by defining the term for the group. (more…)

Being the Change

Jul
04

This summer I am participating in #CyberPD, a community of learners who are gathering virtually to read Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension by Sara K. Ahmed.  Many thanks to Cathy Mere (@CathyMere) and Michelle Nero (@litlearningzone) for organizing this learning opportunity.

In the Introduction to Being the Change, Sara Ahmed provides this context:

“This book is based on the idea that we can develop skills and habits to help us comprehend social issues and participate in relevant, transparent conversations.  Social comprehension, like academic comprehension, is how we make meaning from and mediate our relationship with the world.  We understand that the meaning making, or socialization, is learned, not inherited (p. xxv).”

She offers a few guiding principles for creating safe spaces where this kind of work can happen:

  • Do the Work Yourself First—and Often
  • Keep the Focus on the Kids, Not on You
  • Consider How You See Your Kids
  • Be OK with Silence and Discomfort (aka, Don’t “Save” Every Moment)
  • Decenter Your Normal
  • Enter with Humility
  • Remember that Progress Takes Time Effort, and Heart Work

I’ve been reflecting on these guiding principles and identifying the ones that come easily to me versus those that require more intention. Many of these principles challenge me to be more aware of the language I use and recognize that my language derives from the lens through which I see the world.  Does my language reveal my inherent biases and beliefs? Am I unintentionally centering my world view and marginalizing those whose experiences are different?

(more…)

Guest Writer Katie Prescott on Personalized Reading Goals

Jun
19

As an English teacher, I have always encouraged my students to read, but I had not found strategies that I felt “really worked”. After attending a PL Session with Jill, Melissa, and Kelly on how to increase the volume of reading in my high school English classroom, I set out with a mission. The very next day, I started showcasing a new novel with a small book talk at the beginning of each class. I made multiple trips to the FHS Library to take out books to bring into my classroom for these showcases. I pleaded (but it didn’t take much convincing) with one of our amazing librarians to order even more books that I heard about when Jill and Melissa came into my classes to give a “30 Books in 30 Minutes” presentation, which actually turned into an hour because once they start, they can’t stop!  Also, when I knew a student finished a book they liked, I had them tell the class about it too. I have never seen so many books flying out of my hands or from student to student. Simply just sharing books consistently, and with passion, was so effective. (more…)

Conversations About Artifacts of Learning: Student Self-Assessment

Jun
12

How Do We Create Opportunities for Students to Self-Assess in Meaningful Ways?

This is a summary of our fourth conversation about artifacts of student learning as part of our Visible Learning project with our colleagues Michelle Wuest and Shelley Hanson and their grade 11 students at Leo Hayes High School.  You can read a description of the project here: Making Learning Visible

At the beginning of the quarter, Shelley Hanson had her students write specific goals in each of the ELA strands: Speaking and Listening, Reading and Viewing, and Writing and Representing. The experience shared below focuses on how Shelley created classroom conditions that invited students to reflect on their progress toward their individual goals for the Speaking and Listening strand.

After engaging in different types and formats of conversations since September, students were ready to transition from participants to facilitators.  As a whole class, students brainstormed topics of interest, which ranged from the minimum age for legal marijuana usage to the ethics of keeping animals in zoos. They were then able to choose the topic that most interested them and this is how small groups were formed – by a common interest in a topic. (more…)

Book Relay Celebration

Jun
07

Yesterday we met with a wonderful group of middle-level reading enthusiasts to wrap up our year-long book relay.  Teachers first met in their relay teams to discuss the titles they had read throughout the year. A few minutes later, we asked teachers to vote on what title impacted them the most as readers. We gave each person six sticky dots to vote on their favourite title ( 3 for 1st place, 2 for 2nd and 1 for 3rd).  Here are the winners:

1st place was Refugee by Alan Gratz

Refugee is a story of three children displaced from their homes (Nazi Germany 1939, Cuba 1994, and Syria 2015) told simultaneously with one of the most beautiful endings we have ever read.

  • Although this book was the one that teachers chose to have impacted them the most as readers, many agreed that it took them time to warm up to the characters because of the layout of the book.  It cycles through each character telling a bit of their story for a few pages then moves onto the next which can cause some confusion and it takes a bit longer to get lost in the narrative as it changes characters and time periods quickly.  One teacher shared that when book talking this title to her students, she made a comparison to a title they had previously enjoyed as a read-aloud involving alternating chapters told by two characters and that Refugee just added a third.  We chatted about strategies to share with students involving novels with multiple characters such as checking back in with the character description on the jacket cover, writing down notes, etc.
  • Another aspect that we loved was that this novel builds empathy because people are still living in these horrible situations right now around the world, facing discrimination and hate.  Teachers agreed this would also be a great book to use in a Social Studies class.  One thing that also struck us was the high level of engagement we noticed when our students were reading it.  One teacher shared that when she was done reading it, she had five students who read it after her.  They loved it so much that when she went to chat with one of them about it, she was “shushed” because a nearby student still reading it hadn’t got to that part yet.  As writers, we all agreed that the craft displayed by the author with the ending was spectacular.

2nd place was The Ethan I Was Before by Ali Standish

A poignant middle-grade novel of friendship and forgiveness; love and loss; wonder and adventure; and ultimately, of hope.

  • What really stood out in the discussion about this book was the love of the characters.  And not just the main character-all of them!  One teacher is using it as a read aloud to end the year with and the students are loving it.  All the teachers agreed that once they started reading it, they could not put it down until it was finished!  A big motivation to keep reading this book was that you don’t know the secret the main character is keeping inside until towards the end.

 

 

 

 

 

3rd place was Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand

A realistic story about a girl named Finley who is wandering through the swampy mess of family, depression, and divorce countered with a parallel fantasy story.

  • A lot of teachers shared how they weren’t initially embracing the fantasy sections of the book until about a third of the way through when they realized these interwoven stories gave great insight to what the main character, Finley, was feeling.  We talked about Finley’s determination to keep her depression and anxiety hidden because she couldn’t name what she had and how this novel takes topics that can be scary to middle school kids like mental illness and cancer and makes them safe to talk about.  It really showed the power of writing and family to heal.

 

 

 

Although these were the three winners, we all agreed that every title was one they wanted in their classroom library.  Teachers really appreciated having the opportunity to fill their own book gaps through the relay and are looking forward to next year!

Dr. Mary Howard

May
24

Recently, Fredericton teachers were treated to a PL session facilitated by Dr. Mary Howard, author of RTI From All Sides: What Every Teacher Needs to Know, Moving Forward with RTI: Reading and Writing Activities for Every Instructional Setting and Tier, Good to Great Teaching: Focusing on the Literacy
Work that Matters,
co-author of Literacy Lenses, and co-host of the weekly #G2Great twitter chat. If you are not already following Mary on Twitter, you can find her at @DrMaryHoward.

Mary’s session focused on the crossroads we are at in regards to Response to Intervention. As she explains, “We can either use response to intervention as an opportunity to rebuild a positive climate or allow it to dissolve into something that takes us even farther from the reason most of us became teachers.”

Opening up the session, Mary warned her audience that after 40+ years of teaching, she no longer has a filter, and this was very much appreciated by the teachers in attendance because she was able to voice what so many teachers have been thinking. (more…)

Winner!

May
16

Congratulations to Katie Prescott for winning a copy of Patty McGee’s amazing book, Feedback That Moves Writers Forward!

We will throw it in the school mail-enjoy:)