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…)

Lightning Round Book Talks- Student Edition

Jul
05

After we blogged about our lightning round book talks, our friend and colleague, Sara Bamford, contacted us and asked if we’d be interested in visiting her Grade 10 classes but with the tables turned and the students presenting the book talks.

Of course, we were all in.  The plan was for the students to present short, informal book talks on their current or recent reads and for us to identify who “sold” their books best. Sara and her students co-constructed the criteria they wanted us to use to determine a winner and she created an anchor chart “cheat sheet” of information readers could include:

When we arrived, Sara had organized the class into small groups.  (more…)

Book Displays

Jun
25

Creating book displays are a fun way to advertise book titles.  Here are a few fantastic examples to inspire you:

Lindsay Perez at Nashwaaksis Middle School photographed students’ Book Spine Poems and created a collage:

Melissa Wilson-Smith at Bliss Carman Middle School makes the most of the wall space outside her classroom and even above the water fountain:

Sara Bamford at Fredericton High School invites students to post their book recommendations for classmates:

We always love checking out the theme-based displays at the Fredericton High School Library:

At the library at Leo Hayes High School, speech bubbles give a quick description of new titles:

 

Creating book displays contributes to the book buzz in our classrooms and schools and sends a message to our students that reading is a top priority.

We hope you’ll share some of your book display ideas in the comments section.

#ASDWSummerReads

Jun
21

One of our team goals is to share our literacy lives with others and create opportunities for our colleagues to do the same.  This summer, we are committing to sharing our reading on Twitter using the hashtag #ASDWSummerReads and we are inviting you to join us!

To start us off, we are sharing our summer “To Be Read” stacks:

Kelly’s TBR Summer Stack

Melissa’s TBR Summer Stack

Jill’s TBR Summer Stack

A special note to our ASDW friends-every time you tweet using #ASDWSummerReads, we will put your name in a draw for books you can share with your students in the new school year.  Happy summer reading!

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…)

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

May
15

In the Author’s Note of her book, Veera Hiranandani provides the context for her captivating historical fiction novel, The Night Diary:

During the days of August 14 and August 15, 1947, India gained independence from British rule and was partitioned into two republics, India and Pakistan.  The partition came after centuries of religious tension between Indian Hindus and Indian Muslims.  There were many people who did not want India split into two countries, but it was ultimately agreed upon by the leaders in charge.

Set against this backdrop is Nisha’s story, told through diary entries written to her dead mother.  We meet Nisha’s family: her father, her twin brother Amil, and her grandmother. As tensions build, and their beloved cook, Kazi, is attacked, Nisha’s Papa decides it’s time for the (more…)

Increasing the Volume of Reading in the ELA Classroom PL

Apr
27

Recently, we met with an inspiring group of high school teachers to learn together about ways to increase the volume of reading in ELA classrooms.  We started the day in one of our favourite ways with a read aloud from a picture book and a quick write.  To make our learning visible, we then responded to the Compass Points questions and discussed/read some current research regarding the importance of reading in the high school classroom.

Next, we delved into some professional reading on increasing the volume of reading and reflected on our own reading identities and practices.  We explored the resource, “Teaching Reading With YA Literature” by Jennifer Buehler and pushed our thinking around three main ideas: Classrooms That Cultivate A Reading Community, Teachers As Expert Match Makers and, Reading Tasks That Foster Complexity, Agency and Autonomy. Following that, we looked deeper into conferring with individuals and groups through discussions and watching videos.  We also looked into the classroom conditions that were necessary to support reading and talking about reading with students.  We ended with reading like a writer by co-constructing criteria after delving into real-world mentor texts then coming back to our compass points activity to show the learning that had occurred throughout the day.  We celebrated our learning by giving each teacher a stack of brand new novels to share with their students and to add to their classroom libraries.

(more…)

Conferring During Reader’s Workshop PL

Apr
24

Earlier this semester, we met with a group of wonderful middle school teachers who were interested in building their capacity for conferring with students during their reading workshop time.  To get the day started, we practiced some informal reader-to- reader conversations focusing on the question, “How’s your reading going?” as a way to model how simple it can be to start the conferring process. This led into our opening activity, a Compass Point (a routine best used for decision making and planning), where we discussed our current stance on conferring, what we were excited and worried about, along with what we needed to know more about, to set the stage for the day.  We came back to these initial thoughts later in the day to see how our thinking and ideas had changed through our learning.

(more…)