Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Upcoming Book Study on Hacking Education by M. Barnes & J. Gonzales!

The #D100bloggerPD book study schedule for Mark Barnes' and Jennifer Gonzalez's Hacking Education is ready to be made known, so mark your calendars!  Some gals in my school district have banned together and are excited to get things underway.  The kick-off for the book study starts Wednesday, March 2nd on Reading and Owl of the Above.  Each Monday and Wednesday during the month of March and the first part of April, a #D100bloggerPD crew member will post a reflection on their chosen *Hacks* from the book.

Feel free to join in on the book study by hopping from blog to blog and reflecting within the comment sections.  I will be linking up 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. Kristin, over at Reading and Owl of the Above, will be doing the same!

Happy reading! :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

What I Learned from Dr. Roz Linder's Writing Jumpstart Conference

I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Rozlyn Linder  speak at the Writing Jumpstart Conference in Chicago.  When Dr. Linder contacted me via Twitter in early October to let me know she'd be in the Chicagoland area and that she'd offer a discount code for my followers and me to attend her workshop, I was ecstatic!  I own her K-2 and 3-8 Chart Sense books for informational text and literature. 
Both books are dog-eared, highlighted and tabbed.  Needless to say, she's well respected in my book.  After meeting her in person, I can say she is one of the most down-to-Earth, brilliant and amusing gals I've had the honor to meet.
She discussed how the Common Core Standards have caused shifts in writing, which not only impact writing but reading scores as well. Since this is the case, she began to deconstruct the state tests to see how she can better support her students and to get them to be better writers.  She tested many ideas and collaborated with teachers from all over.  After much thought and hard work, she documented her useful tips and created anchor charts and strategies that align with Common Core via Chart Sense for Writing. 
Dr. Linder's main focus for the day was evidence-based writing.  Since state tests ask students to communicate their ideas via constructed responses, they need to be able to explain or argue a particular point using the text.  They are required to go back into the text and show evidence for their thinking.  Text evidence is the cornerstone for everything in constructed responses.  What we did ten years ago is not working anymore, now that the standards have changed. 

How does this connect to the reading standards? 
Anchor Standard One states "refer explicitly to the text".  In terms of finding evidence, students seem to snag anything they can and call it text-based evidence.  As we know, what they snag is not always necessarily from the text and may merely come from their background knowledge.  As teachers, we need to get students into the habit of supporting their thinking, not just regurgitating what they feel is text evidence without real proof.  

Dr. Linder commented on how some kids just want to give teachers exactly *what they want*.  Ever hear a student say, "Well, how many sentences do you want me to write?"  The best response to this question is, "Write how many sentences it will take you to support your thinking."   

How school tends to work to DIScourage evidence based thinking:

Teachers tend to model evidence quickly within the text and then have students go back to their desks and write down their own evidence. This brief modeling is very ineffective for most students, especially those who tend to struggle in reading and writing.  She claims, "It's tempting to go straight to writing, but consider how much more effective it is when you scaffold and help students move into something is small chunks."  Her suggestion is to have students jump into hands-on activities to practice finding clues or evidence before any type of writing even begins.  Teachers need to get into the habit of "Teaching evidence ALL day, EVERY day."

Teachers should want students to think and have ideas, not just strive to "have the right answer".  
Dr. Linder stated, "Don't create a culture of thinking outside the box as being wrong.  Create a culture that gets students to support their own thinking."  Students are allowed to have an opinion, but get them to prove why they think that or have that opinion.  Get students to think in terms of evidence.  PROOF,  PROOF,  PROOF!  

Teach students to use clues by asking, "What clues do you see?"  Let students know it's not about people agreeing with them, it's about them showing or providing evidence for their thoughts.  Students shouldn't strive to just get to the teachers point of view.  They should have their own point of view as long as it can be supported.

Teachers can prepare an evidence based class by using these two *Big Questions*: What do you know? and How do you know?  Teachers need to immerse students in finding evidence without even using a text at first.  Dr. Linder tells students, "When you tell me something, I want to know how you know!"  She claims this is a necessary precursor to evidence biased writing.  "Evidence based TALK has to happen."  Teachers need to make sure students know how to point to evidence before they can write about it.

At the conference, Dr. Linder had us looking at images then sharing our observations (what we knew) and then explaining how we knew what we knew.  One of the images used was a painting by Norman Rockwell.  We made inferences and noted evidence for why we thought what we thought.  This gave us first-hand experience of how to implement *Reading Images* with the students. 

The next day, I tried this out with my own students.  You can use post-it notes of explicitly named evidence on chart paper containing the image and use it as your anchor chart. Remember students should be asked to find evidence before reading and writing even begins.

For this reason, I photocopied a few illustrations from a story we were going to read and placed them onto chart paper.  I then asked my students to look at the picture and answer the question What do you know?  Their responses for what they knew were "He is messy", "It's morning", "It's around the holidays", "It's winter" and "It's cold outside."  I then asked the students, How do you know? What makes you say that?  The students began to tell me how they came to their particular conclusions.  For example, when they said "He is messy", they proved their thinking by saying "There is stuff all over the floor", "His drawers are all open with things hanging out of them", etc.    
I made hand-held signs, in addition to the sign below, to reminder my students to stop and think about the two *Big Questions*.  Click on the image for a copy of your own, if you're interested. :)  
Dr. Linder went on to share additional ideas for students to practice, so they get the hang of finding text evidence in meaningful ways. Below are some of those ideas.
Strategies to introduce evidence in FUN ways: Out of the text ways to get kids to give evidence:
  • Use movie trailers!  According to Dr. Linder, "Because movies are visuals, all students have access to the information and it doesn't matter if they are a great readers or writers.  They still get to practice thinking and supporting their thoughts with evidence from the text."
  • Use concrete and tangible experiences for making inferences, such as comparing shoes.  Here's the image used at the conference.
    Ask students, "What do you know?  How do you know?  What makes you say that?  Tell me more!"
  • Have students Read Images: For example, take a look at magazine covers of the same topic and explain what they think and why they think it.  The example used at the conference was O.J. Simpson.
    Of course, it's best to pick images your students can connect with to make it more powerful.  Dr. Linder mentioned using i
    nterest surveys to find out what impacts or connects to students.  It's also okay to allow kids to bring their schema into the conversation until they've had some practice for the purpose of getting them talking.  However, make sure to require the students to stick to evidence in what they see in an image, not bringing in other schema, once they get the hang of it.
      (If you'd like more information on inferring from visuals and multimodal texts, see my previous post HERE.)
  • Use sentence frames when asking and responding to questions.  For example, "So you're saying...", "Based on the image, you think...", "Based on the cover...""According to..." , "___ explained..." , "One point made (in the news)...", etc.  This will allow for a smoother transition when the students begin writing their constructed responses.  Give students lots of  time to chat about images then ask, "Tell me what you know and how you know it."  Have them practice using the sentence frames in their oral responses before their written responses.
  • Play *Get Trashy*! The idea is to gather random items that may get "thrown away" from two separate types of people (A.K.A. "your neighbors") and have the students infer what types of people they are.  I heard of this idea at the Illinois Reading Conference from Tanny McGreggor.  So fun for the students!  Dr. Linder mentioned, "Kids remember these things.  If you skip the effort and time connecting with kids outside of the pen and paper, you are missing a chance to teach skills they need to write thoughtfully and thoroughly."
Well, there are a few ideas Dr. Linder shared at her conference.  There were a ton more, so if you're ever able to see her speak in person, I highly recommend it!  You'll walk away with easy-to-implement ideas for your classroom, no matter the subjects you teach.  Be on the lookout for Dr. Linder's soon-to-be-released book called Big Book of Details to help students elaborate when writing.  If it's anything like her other books, it will be a must-own resource! 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Move Your Bus #D100bloggerPD Book Study Kickoff! Chapters 1-3

Welcome to the Move Your Bus Book Study presented by the #D100bloggerPD crew!  I'm excited to launch the study of Ron Clark's inspirational book alongside 12 amazing colleagues in my school district.  The crew is thrilled to share our thoughts on this perceptive and relatable book.  Within the introduction of the book, it states "Ultimately, this insightful book is all about the relentless pursuit of excellence, in whatever role you may play."  Hopefully, this book study will help you define your role or, better yet, change your mind-set to attain the role you wish to play.

Move Your Bus is divided into three parts~Part 1: Get on the Bus, Part II: How to Accelerate and Part III: How to Map the Route.  Each #D100bloggerPD crew member will give you a peek into the parts represented in the book.  Within each part are valuable take-aways to support your organization and to guide the *passengers* on the proverbial bus to move your organization forward.  Because the take-aways can support such a wide range of organizations, such as schools, businesses or even your family, readers can easily apply them to their personal circumstances.  The crew is hoping to spark thoughts on a plan of action that inspires and motivates you to support the various passengers on the bus in your organization. 

I'm kicking off the study by saying Ron Clark is definitely one to be admired.  He is considered a world class educator by many.  Clark's devotion to the education profession and his accomplishments as a teacher and founder of the Ron Clark Academy (RCA), are astounding. RCA is known as a "model school with a vision to transform classrooms around the world by demonstrating transformative methods and techniques that are embraced and replicated everywhere."  Because Clark is such an inspiration to so many, a film based on Clark's life was produced to share his story.  Impressive.
Clark's approach to leadership centers on the parable of the bus and categorizes passengers on the bus as Runners, Joggers, Walkers, Riders and Drivers.  For this post, I will be focusing on Runners, Joggers and Walkers.    
The bus represents the goals you hope to achieve as an organization. Your bus has no *gas tank*, so the energy of each passenger is what fuels your bus.  Readers are asked to think of the bus in terms of "Flinstones-style" transportation. :)  
Readers are introduced to a Cast of Characters representing the different types of passengers aboard the bus.  These characters are referenced throughout each chapter.  Clark states, "I wanted to write this book using parables that will resonate with people across industries and job titles.  Even though we may all be in different professions, the content of the story unites us."  Notice the beginning of each character's name is the same as his/her role in the organization. :)  
As I read through the book, I found myself snickering because, over my twenty years as a teacher, I've either been, encountered or directly worked with a Rufus, Joan, Wanda, Ridley and Drew.  If you've already read the book, I bet you found these characters relatable as well.  When Clark first started teaching, he became cognizant of the connection between teachers and students: 
"And I gradually came to recognize that the success of the students in each class had a direct correlation to the characteristics of the teacher that they were spending their time with.  Energetic teachers were inspiring energetic learners.... Surely, not only our students, but also our communities and the entire world would benefit if we could move at top speed to inspire our young people and get them tapped into their own potential." 
It makes sense, yes?  How do you view yourself as an educator? Would others define you as an "energetic teacher inspiring energetic learners?"   Think about it while I get started on what exemplifies Runners, Joggers and Walkers.

Chapter 1: Runners Need Support
Runners are those who consistently go above and beyond what is required, simply for the good of the organization.  They want to make their contributions to help refine the organization, not to seek praise or attention, just like Rufus the Runner.
"Rufus loves the momentum, the exhilaration of the wind on his face, and the thrill of passing every other bus on the road...Rufus longs to be part of something really special, something out of the ordinary- a bus that could fly, perhaps...Rufus can make things happen, and he has a way to get things done!"
Runners prove themselves when they are first starting out in their organization.  No one is an *off the cuff* Runner.   Instead, Runners observe their surroundings, then take the actionable steps to move up in their organization.  Here are a few characteristics of Runners:
  • Focused and dedicated
  • Driven by the goal of professional excellence
  • Supply the forward momentum
  • Strong work ethic
  • Superior attention to details
  • Aspire for system-wide success
  • Never makes excuses or complains
  • Positive spirits
Needless to say, Runners are definitely devoted to their job and enhancing their organization.  However, Runners are constantly running.  They...never...stop!  It's very difficult to keep up such a feverish pace.  Something's got to give.  Right?  

Right!  Even though Runners have commendable qualities, they tend to neglect their personal lives, which may hinder their relationships with family members at home.  Often times, their health is affected...eating on the run, not getting enough sleep or exercise, missing doctor's appointments, etc.  This is why Runners need support, especially if the organization depends on their fuel to keep the momentum of their bus going in the right direction.  As Clark mentions,
"It is very tempting just to let Runners do their thing and pay very little attention to them.  After all, they do the most for the organization, they seem to be heading in the right direction, and it's much more tempting to focus your energies on the problem areas, not the areas where you're seeing success already." 
However, the leader of an organization must intervene when guidance is necessary, but they also need to critique Runners in a way that doesn't deplete their energy and enthusiasm.  In other words, be careful not to *break the spirit* of a Runner!  Clark raises the point that, once a Runner's spirit has been broken, he or she won't run as fast anymore, which, in turn, affects the whole organization.  

Take-away: Let  Runners keep running!  To do this, leaders must guide Runners with a gentle hand, have an appreciation for them and truly realize what they are sacrificing for the greater good of the organization.  If guidance and time to discuss their ideas are offered, Runners become even more driven.

Anyone out there consider themselves a Runner?  Before you answer, let's learn about Joggers. 
Chapter 2: Joggers Want Validation
Joggers desire to have validation from others and will rise to meet high expectations, but will not exceed expectations on a daily basis. They do not decelerate the bus, nor do they make it fly.  Joggers value a work-life balance, so they will not neglect their personal lives for the good of the organization, unlike Runners.  Clark voiced, they "aren't going to blow your mind, day in and day out."  This is totally fine, though!  We can't expect to have all Runners on the bus.  It's hard being a Runner.  However, Joggers desperately want to be recognized as Runners.  Clark made it known that, at his book signings, many claim themselves as Runners.  As they are claiming this, Clark thinks to himself, "Hmmm...Jogger."  How does he knows this?  Runners never *toot their own horn*.  Ha!  Let's meet Joan the Jogger.      
"Joan has a great job on the bus, and she just knows that she does it very well...She pulls the bus along at a brisk yet carefully controlled pace; no one has to give her a boost!...she is okay with doing extra work...because she always receives praise for it and, hey, it makes her look good!"    
Because Joggers contribute to the forward momentum of the organization, they are considered valuable passengers on the bus.  They have the ability to switch gears when challenges arise.  Here are a few characteristics of Joggers:  
  • Steady and dependable
  • Conscientious
  • Successful at their jobs
  • Contribute to the forward momentum
  • Rise to meet high expectations
  • Break into a sprint when necessary
  • Meticulous about performing their set tasks
  • Tend to lack confidence in their abilities to consistently go above and beyond
  • Reluctant to let personal lives slide
  • Usually claim themselves as Runners
To get a better idea of Joggers, Clark compares them to high school basketball or football coaches.  They cruise along successfully doing their duties as coaches, but when it comes to game-time, they exert high amounts of energy~shouting from the sidelines, motivating the players with encouraging words and propelling the players towards a win.  Once the game ends with a victory, coaches fall back into a more relaxed mode of coaching.  Helpful comparison?  I think so. 

Clark notes that "Joggers have the ability to absorb the energy around them, speeding up when surrounded by Runners and slowing down when surrounded by Walkers."  Because of this, it's better to keep Joggers near the Runners and not the Walkers.  You'll find out why in the upcoming paragraphs.  Nonetheless, Joggers may resent Runners because Runners don't need praise and validation like Joggers do. Allow Joggers the opportunity to productively collaborate with Runners to develop their skills and to cease the resentment they often have toward Runners.  Remember, Joggers have the ability to sprint when necessary. 

Take-away: Praise Joggers often for their efforts to keep them happy and to keep the bus moving forward!

Anyone out there consider themselves a Jogger?  I think I may fall into this category.  I work hard, do my job well and sprint when duty calls.  Getting recognized for hard work is appreciated.  I make time for my family and my health, but yes, only on certain occasions, get *the look* or comments like "Remember us?" from my hubby during my sprinting moments.  I also tend to speed up when I'm in the company of Runners.  Yep, you could say I fit nicely into the Joggers mold.  To those of you out there who know me well, thoughts? ;)  
Chapter 3: Walkers Lack Motivation
Walkers do not contribute to the forward momentum of the organization and enjoy pointing out anything and everything that is wrong.  They tend to *drag their legs* and are the ones being pulled by the bus.  Walkers often complain to others that "Runners are making them look bad, and that they shouldn't be expected to do things that aren't in their job descriptions."  Let's meet Wanda to get a better idea of a true Walker.      
"Wanda has been working on the bus for many years now, and has the amount of effort it takes to get through the day down to a science...Wanda doesn't like change and, oh boy, she lets the driver know that when he announces an inconvenient detour.  It makes her very nervous when Rufus starts spouting ideas and plans for so-called improvements.  She also doesn't understand why Rufus and Joan have to rush so much."
Walkers want everyone else to just slow the heck down!  They're known to attach themselves to the newbies in the organization, so they can gain potential Walkers and, as Clark claims, grow their "posse of poison."  Since Walkers want to make themselves seem helpful and kind to the newbies, they may even "make a bundt cake" for the newbies and offer them friendly advice.  However, "Don't trust the Bundt cake."  
Walkers have a plan.  Their true motivation is to prevent other passengers from moving so quickly, so further demands aren't placed on them to speed up.  If everyone is moving faster than the Walkers, their lack of effort is highlighted.  Here are some characteristics of a Walker:
  • Uninspired
  • Negative force
  • Complainer
  • Focused on themselves
  • Do not contribute to the forward momentum
  • Point out what they see is wrong in the organization 
  • Talk negatively about Runners and administration
  • Deflect blame that could be placed on them
  • Spread bad energy
  • Seek to *slow down* any new hires in the organization
  • Feel picked on 
Clark goes on to explain the differences between those in the corporate world and those in Education, in terms of rewarding performance.  
"Take our education system, for example.  Teachers are paid based on how many years they have been in the system, rather than having their salaries based on their performance...Can you envision telling all of the corporate executives that they will get paid the same amount, with no hope for a promotion, as long as they hang around and manage not to get fired?"
Great points, right?!  With that being said, of course, the Walkers (in Education) don't want to do more work, if they're going to get the same pay as Runners and Joggers no matter what they do.  Regardless, Walkers actually CAN be motivated to speed up and pull their weight.  They will "often improve under a system that rewards performance."  The reward may not be a larger salary or bonus, as is the case in the corporate world, but it may include being chosen to attend a special conference, getting new tables for the classroom or additional funds to buy a new classroom library. Hey, in the teacher world, I consider these definite perks!

Take-away: Provide mentoring opportunities for Walkers because their talents and abilities can be developed!  You never may have a Walker on your hands that wants to be a Runner, but thinks no one values their worth.  However, heed this warning: "...don't let Walkers take over your job, because they will if you let them." 

Anyone out there consider themselves a Walker?  Even if you did, would you claim that role?

Below is a picture of the school bus I have sitting on my desk as a simple reminder to move my own bus, to pull my weight and to be my own inspiration. 
I hope this post helped you better understand the differences between Runners, Joggers and Walkers.  Next up is my #teachertwin, Kristin, from Reading and Owl of the Above.  She will be discussing the other passengers on the bus by reflecting on Chapter4: Riders Are Dead Weight and Chapter 5: Drivers Steer the Organization.  Check the schedule for more information on the upcoming reflections from the #D100bloggerPD crew.  I will make sure to link all of their posts down below, so you will have access to the complete book study in one place.

Have a great week!

Part 1: Get on the Bus

Part 2: How to Accelerate

Chapter 22: Pay attention to details
Part 3: How to Map the Route

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