Tuesday, October 2, 2018

#D100bloggerPD "Ditch That Textbook" Book Study!

Welcome back for another #D100bloggerPD crew book study! I always take pleasure in starting our book study kickoff with an introduction of the crew. We consist of an assortment of Berwyn South School District teacher and administrator learners who enjoy blogging, are smitten with social media and make use of our PLNs as an irreplaceable source of powerful content, hence the hashtag #D100bloggerPD. We devote ourselves to staying globally connected. The crew embraces change, strives to better ourselves professionally, desires to join forces with our PLNs to share what we learn, and aims to inspire others (#D100inspires) because we are better together.

This #D100bloggerPD book study is dedicated to Matt Miller's Ditch That Textbook: Free Your Teaching and Revolutionize Your Classroom. If you want to lead your students in educational practices that are innovative and engaging, read this book. It's yet another invaluable book published by Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc., and highlights Matt Miller's journey in creating a classroom where great learning experiences happen for students.
The book is divided into four sections: Why Go Digital?, Ditch That Mindset, Ditch That Textbook, and Ditch That Curriculum. My post for the book study kickoff consists of a portion of section one: Why Go Digital?, which includes the Introduction and the first four chapters: Chapter 1: Free Access, Chapter 2: Boost Your Efficiency, Chapter 3: Use Technology to Defeat Insecurity, and Chapter 4: Empower Students to Find Their Passions. The chapters are brief, to the point, and filled with stories, advice and tips based on Miller's classroom experiences, so it's an effortless and fun read. Ready to dig in? :)
In the introduction to his book, Miller claims "...this book is about evolving and finding better ways to teach (p.2)." He assists in equipping our proverbial tool belts with practical, hands-on ideas that incorporate technology to globally connect our students to the world. Most likely, we all have the desire and the power to unlock the doors to fully engaged students. However, first, we must get uncomfortable, jump into the unknown, seek more advantageous ways to engross students in learning, and, of course, take risks.
On page 5, it states, "Ditch That Textbook is designed to be a support system, toolbox, and manifesto. It's a collection of ideas, considerations, and suggestions to help you free yourself as an educator to create the classroom and the teaching style you want." Let's take a look at Miller's DITCH model, which will help you get started in revolutionizing YOUR classroom.
Why Go Digital?
Chapter 1: Free Access
Miller started out the chapter by jumping back in time with a scenario of aspiring to connect with John Dewey, the groundbreaking educational thinker and reformer from the 1900s (p.9). Miller went on to explain the lengths it would have taken him to have a mere dinner conversation with Dewey back in 1904, when Dewey was at the University of Chicago. The duration of time necessary, including the hypothetical traveling and boarding expenses, were all considered. Needless to say, it would have been quite a laborious effort for Miller to have had a professional conversation with John Dewey.    

Nowadays, however, we live in a digital world. We have access to technology, which provides an unrestricted ability to globally connect with others at a much faster rate, including researchers, authors, educators and groundbreaking educational thinkers. Using Skype, Google Hangouts, Voxer, FaceTime, and many more, are all possible from the comforts of our own home. As teachers, it is our obligation to harness these platforms, not only for our own professional development, but to apply within the classroom to better expand students' digital citizenship skills, and more fittingly prepare students for the future.      
The best thing, of course, is that connecting worldwide is FREE (for the most part). Students are now able to move from local to global connections at the touch of a button. They can learn from classrooms around the world, not just peers in their school. Take a peek below at some valuable quotes from Chapter 1Free Access. The gist? Get out there and try something new, alongside your students!
  • These previously impossible connections can revolutionize education-- if teachers are willing to give them a shot (p. 12).
  • Instead of testing a new idea or tool, "paralysis by analysis" takes hold. We overanalyze new options, mull over all of the things we don't know, think about how students will react, and then we don't act! (p. 12).

Chapter 2: Boost Your Efficiency
Who wouldn't want to be more streamlined when it comes to preparing lessons for the classroom? This chapter justifies how technology can make life much more simple by working smarter and faster, not harder
Teachers now have the power to digitally distribute files and information with students through the use of Google Forms and Documents, as well as get assignments auto-graded with Google add-ons like Flubaroo (p.15). Miller stressed that, though we may love it, teaching is not our entire identity. It shouldn't consume our lives. Using technology to our advantage in the classroom, then getting out in the world to enjoy life with family and friends, is a wise decision. #agreed ;)
Chapter 3: Use Technology to Defeat Insecurity
This chapter proposed a way to provide support to students who may be weary of contributing their opinions and thoughts aloud in class discussions. Backchannels, or online discussion spaces, give a voice to every student. Using them is a worthwhile way to encourage students to privately contribute to classroom discussions, until they become comfortable in outwardly sharing in class.      
Miller discussed a particular student, named Kay, whom he had a difficult time connecting with and getting to participate in class. Only after various failed attempts was Miller able to find a way for Kay to express herself through the use of TodaysMeet.comHe claimed it to be a simple and easy-to-implement backchannel to get his students engaged in discussions and to ask and answer questions. Regarding his student, Kay, Miller stated, I wish I would have given her more alternative opportunities to showcase her genius in my class. Our best course of action is to allow those 'I wish I would have...' moments to motivate us to improve for the next round of students (p.19). So true!
On another note, unfortunately, is no longer up and running. I'm so sad about this! I thoroughly enjoyed using this backchannel platform with my students because it displayed students' thinking in real time. (Click HERE to learn more about how I use backchannels with my kiddos.) 

However, don't fret. There are many alternatives out there, including Padlet, Flipgrid, Twitter, Google Docs, and now Yo Teach!, known as "the new alternative to TodaysMeet." A thank you goes out to Mona, an iCoach in my district (who is also part of this book study), for sharing a tweet about Yo Teach!  
Chapter 4: Empower Students to Find Their Passions
Miller describes how students are certainly capable of "playing school" and having ways of being compliant, such as studying for and doing well on tests and completing all assigned activities, worksheets, and more. However, students also seem to be graduating ill-equipped for real life, even if they are able to graduate at the top of their class.   
It's time to stop the old-fashioned sit and get mentality of schooling and start developing engaged, innovative, self-starting students. That is what future employers desire and seek to have in the workforce. Students who are able to tap into the ample resources available at their fingertips and the eagerness to explore those resources. Fostering creativity and cultivating students' imaginations will give them the drive to find their passions and purpose in life. We've all come across people in uninspiring jobs, but would we want that for our students? Of course not. Take a peek below at some constructive quotes from Chapter 4Empower Students to Find Their Passions.
  • Students everywhere are drowning in busywork: worksheets, workbook pages, and repetitive, simplistic activities. For decades, students have been stuck in the 'do what I'm told' mentality (p.22). 
  • When teachers determine to ditch their textbook mentalities, practices, and curricula, they often find it easier to help students discover what motivates them (p. 24).
  • When you use the Internet and online tools to expand the scope of your class, you can open your students' minds to new possibilities and empower them to explore what drives them (p.25).

Thanks for stopping by Literacy Loving Gals to support the kickoff of the #D100bloggerPD book study. As the study continues in the upcoming weeks, the hyperlinks to each #D100bloggerPD crew member's post will be added HERE, to keep Matt Miller's tips from Ditch That Textbook in one spot. Click the image below to access Miller's Podcast to dive a bit deeper into his content. There are over 100 podcasts. #impressive :) We hope you continue to follow along with us! Next up, Tales of an iCoach with Chapters 5-9. 

Friday, September 21, 2018

A Glance into "Responsive Literacy: A Comprehensive Framework"

This book is glorious! When my copy of Responsive Literacy: A Comprehensive Framework arrived in the mail, I was happily surprised to see an abundance of vividly colored photographs depicting real classrooms spread across the pages. The authentic examples of anchor charts and student work allow readers to better experience the components of the comprehensive literacy framework more closely. 
Responsive Literacy is backed by decades of research and practice. It was written by literacy leaders affiliated with The Ohio State University Literacy Collaborative, alongside the amazing Patricia L. Scharer as Editor. On page 10, it states, Our goal was to create a reader-friendly book brimming with illustrative photographs, easy-to-navigate charts, and essential understandings to support professional learning and student achievement. The book is geared toward K-6 teachers as a way to increase the effectiveness of literacy instruction, but could easily be expanded to the middle grades.
Check out the topics in the Table of Contents to get a better sense of what this book provides. Take notice of the educational leaders that contributed to the contents of this book. Gay Su Pinnell is among them.
As you've probably noticed by the Table of Contents, the book is divided into six sections containing the essential ingredients of responsive literacy: Professional LearningOrganizing for LearningReadingWritingBuilding Blocks of Language, and A Learning Community. Each section delves deeper into topics, such as the complexities of the language learning, organizational practices for reading, writing and word study, and developing a learning community encompassing students, staff and families.

I have many favorite aspects of this book. One being the mentor text suggestions. The book references an abundance of mentor texts  correlating to lesson examples or ways to implement the texts in the classroom. Another aspect I find helpful is the teacher-student dialogue examples, consisting of ways to support students during writing conferences, for example. 

Furthermore, the book provides readers with an online, password protected site that includes videos of Writing and Reading Workshop Elements with transcripts for all of the videos, in addition to downloadable resources. Below you'll find screenshots of what the site offers. Having access to the site allows readers flexible opportunities to grow professionally, even while at home in pajamas. #mytimePD #myfavorite

As a Literacy Coach and Reading Specialist, I love all things literacy. I feel this book highly promotes enjoyable reading, writing, speaking and listening experiences for students. It's definitely a new favorite I'll be referring back to when planning for literacy instruction and staff development. If you are a literacy leader, a classroom teacher, and even part of an administration team in the field of Education, I highly recommend this book. 

Scholastic never ceases to amaze me with their ability to continually publish invaluable literature to better equip educators with the knowledge necessary to support students. Before you go, read some quotes found on Twitter highlighting the book. Thank you, Scholastic!

Happy Reading!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Schedule Revealed for the Upcoming #D100bloggerPD Book Study on Ditch That Textbook

The #D100bloggerPD book study schedule for Matt Miller's Ditch That Textbook is ready for reveal, so mark your calendars! Some colleagues in my school district have banned together and are excited to get things underway. The kickoff for the book study starts on Tuesday, October 2, 2018 right here on Literacy Loving Gals. Each Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday during the month of October, a #D100bloggerPD crew member will post a reflection on their chosen chapters from the book. The book study culminates on Reading and Owl of the Above on Wednesday, October 17, 2018.
Feel free to join in on the book study by hopping from blog to blog reflecting within the comments section. I will be hyperlinking each of the crew's posts down below, so once the book study has been completed, all links to the study will be in one place for easy access.

Happy Reading!

Friday, June 8, 2018

A Sneak Peek Inside "The Megabook of Fluency" by Timothy Rasinski & Melissa Cheesman Smith

As many of you know, I'm an addict when it comes to reading professional books. The minute a new title is being discussed on social media that piques my interest and supports my ability to implement next practices in literacy with my students, I must get my hands on it immediately. As a teacher, literacy leader and lifelong learner in the education field, I must take charge of my own professional development. Right?

When The Megabook of Fluency by Timothy Rasinski and Melissa Cheesman Smith arrived on my doorstep, I turned into that heart-eyed smiling emoji. The book is just what it claims to be, MEGA, and it's filled with amazing, hands-on fluency practice for students that can be used straightaway. Just as Jennifer Serravallo gives you hands-on strategies to support students with reading and writing, Rasinski and Smith provide 50+ engaging strategies to nurture students' fluency in The Megabook of Fluency! The book even gives you access to an online site with downloadable resources. Cha-ching!

The Megabook of Fluency is not a front cover to back cover type of read, but a handy guidebook of sorts. The format allows teachers to choose from research-based strategies that will best support their students' fluency needs. Check out the Table of Contents!

Melissa Cheesman Smith's wrote an article, Today, Choose Joy: Joyfulness in Fluent Reading, explaining more about her co-authored book. I added an image taken from the article, but click the link above to read it in full. 
Since I'm a huge fan of the book, I've added some quotes and pictures taken from the book, as well as tweets from the authors giving you further insight into The Megabook of Fluency.
  • A growing number of studies have examined the effects of authentic fluency instruction. By "authentic," we mean real reading of real texts for real purposes, to communicate meaning. We contrast authentic fluency instruction with programs that tend to require readers to increase their reading speed (p.9).
  • If fluency concerns are not addressed early, during the foundational years, it is likely that those concerns will find their way into the middle school and high school grades (p.10).
  • Furthermore, because fluency is a foundational competency, difficulties in fluency can also lead to difficulties in content areas that rely heavily on reading (p.10).
  • ...without a solid foundation in reading fluency, other reading competencies, such as comprehension and close reading, cannot develop (p.10).
  • A more common name often associated with repeated reading is rehearsal. Interestingly, the Common Core State Standards refer to repeated reading as close reading (p.12).
  • Research has demonstrated that each time students read a text, their reading improves on many fronts: word recognition, accuracy, automaticity, expression, and comprehension... More importantly, when they move on to a brand-new text to read, their gains "stick" (p.12).
  • Most fluency activities are naturally engaging and even fun (p.13).
  • It is a good idea to provide students with an audience of even just one person for their reading who can provide positive feedback (p.13).
  • Despite a growing recognition of the importance of reading fluency in students' reading development, that message is often lost because of how it is typically understood and taught (p17.).
  • Richard Allington called fluency "the neglected goal of the reading program (p.18)."
  • ...words in print don't just convey meaning; the ways those words are expressed do, too (p.20).
  • Additionally, when telling stories and reading to children, we should take the time to talk with them about how we use our voice to help convey meaning to develop an awareness of fluent expressive reading (p.21).

Discover any worthwhile insights? I certainly hope so. If you're on Twitter, you can track down some additional content under the hashtag #TheMegaBookOfFluency, as well as follow the authors, @MCheesmanSmith and @TimRasinski1. The book is definitely worth owning, so if you don't already have a copy, hop on over to Scholastic or Amazon ASAP!

Enjoy the rest of your summer,

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