I’ve been reluctant to write lately. I think this is partly due to being mid-masters degree and knowing what academic writing looks like and this blog being a weird hybrid between academic and “hey, friends, here’s what works for me…”
I write partly as a reminder to myself of what works, partly to share and seek feedback from my peers, and partly just because I think writing is fun.
Here’s a feedback strategy I have started to use for student writing, which is the latest iteration of my many varied methods of providing students with feedback over the years. I find this one suits my needs right now and is accessible for my young learners.
Highlighter & sticky notes
I use bright sticky notes with a highlighter in a matching colour. The goal of this colour-coded feedback is for students to be able to identify the error and how to fix it. For the moment, I am trying to stick with two stars and a wish, both of which should be specific. The sticky note feedback is a new iteration of my old colour-code system where I just marked with five highlighters the types of errors students were making without providing much for written feedback.
I have a love affair with coloured pens and many teachers I know do. I always sort of figured I wanted my words to pop out for students so they would find them, but the more I reflect on the purpose of feedback, the more I think pencil makes sense. Students generally want work that looks tidy and reflects their best work. When parents come in and thumb through their notebooks the thing that stands out should be the student’s work NOT the teacher’s. Those with anxiety or a bit of perfectionist tendencies can remove it and have “perfect” final work. My fear was always that students would erase it… “But it won’t show parents what I told the kids…” What is the purpose of the feedback? It’s for students not for parents.
Iris and student process portfolios
As I mark, I keep student profiles open to make notes. This helps with providing students feedback, meeting with parents, and providing next steps on summative reporting like report cards. If the stickies do get lost I have a copy of the next steps for each student, although I don’t take the time to copy everything into the portfolio.
Mark it twice
I have been trying to provide students with this actionable feedback and then allowing them time to respond to it and improve their work. This often leads to a mini-lesson but sometimes the written feedback is enough.
I certainly don’t have it figured all the way out and I’m feeling a bit lax for not providing citations for my writing here… it’s just a personal reflection and nothing more.
Happy teaching, colleagues. I’d love to have your ideas for feedback,too!
“How do you know if a book is a good fit for you?” I honestly asked the question to my class and quickly lead a conversation about how a good-fit book was a lot like finding a good fit shoe. The “five finger” rule was discussed. Then off to the library we went.
And some students still had a hard time picking a book. So I thought some more about how to pick a book. After all, finding a good-fit book is a lot like finding a good fit shoe, but you don’t wear the same shoe to run a 5k as you wear to your best friend’s wedding.
For many of us there is a visceral pleasure in walking book stacks and browsing titles. Being the first to discover a new book with the still uncracked spine or stumbling accross a well-worn tome with someone else’s annotations in the margins. But for many kids, the library or book store is too full of books and overwhelming or a place where magic simply doesn’t live. So we need to support them as a community of readers.
In my classroom, when students read something good they are encouraged to share. We save a few minutes each week for students to read aloud to one another and tell why the LOVED a book. Not for marks. Just because books are awesome and need to be shared. I also stock the classroom library with books from the school library, carefully curating for my students so that there is a little of everything. My goal in the coming months is for my students to take over the job of curating. How should we organize the library? What kinds of books should we include? What do the children in the stories look like? Where are the writers of the stories from? Why should we care?
Ask a friend
In addition to creating formal time for sharing books (we do a breakfast book chat 4 times a year where students eat breakfast together and talk books), I think there needs to be a network of readers built into our classrooms. We come to know one another’s tastes in books and know that Kevin enjoys funny books while Jane loves sweet stories about animals. If you’re looking for your next great read ask a friend.
Keep a list
My students keep a book box and I’m asking them to keep a TBR (to be read) list at the back of their Daily 5 journals. It’s a nice way for them to keep track of what they are reading and what to read next.
Find a topic, character, or author you love
When students are looking for something to read I often send them of in the direction of an author they already know and love or to check out a section of books on a related topic.
Try a new genre
Take a risk! You might find something you love! I always knew I loved wordless books but never considered reading graphic novels. Until I did. I’ll never look back.
Read to learn
Some kids really just don’t get into fiction. And that’s ok. If a made up story isn’t turning their crank how about a good non-fiction or a historical fiction. There are so many to choose from. So what are you wondering right now?
Read for fun
We have to let students read because it’s fun and interesting and not because they will be required to report on their reading.
Use technology and social bookmarking
Social platforms allow for interaction about reading. This is to be used carefully with young readers but they can easily use a classroom “tweet” wall where they share a thought through a sticky note or a quick book talk on a closed website.
Story many ways
I have had more than one student come to me in tears because their ability to decode text did not match their ability to understand story. Wanting to read a novel but unable to access the text they felt helpless. So we tried many ways, finally settling on reading the book with the support of the audio book. This can be an especially powerful tool for our immersion students who benefit from hearing words at the same time as they see them.
Pick a book off the shelf. Turn it over in your hands. Read the back cover and the about the author. Read a sample chapter. Give it a chance, but know that…
It’s ok to quit a book
Please don’t plod through a book you hate. If the book jumps the shark or just plain peters out it’s ok to walk away.
A word about the five finger rule
I respect this general guideline, but that’s all it is. In the end students need to understand that the goal of reading is to understand the text and I’m not sure many of them understand that, haltingly decoding their way through a book that exceeds their reading ability and confidently declaring their level but unable to talk about their book! It’s not about the number! Please let kids love books. When they stumble through it they enjoy it in a different way than when they read it for the fourth time fluently and with expression. I am living proof that I can read a book with fluency and expression and have no idea what the book says… hello bedtime stories. Sometimes I love them. Sometimes I have no idea what I just read… take chances. Read way above your level. But also take chances and read below your level and find a book that speaks to you in another way.
Happy reading everyone! I’d love to hear your ideas on how to hook kids on books!
Today I reflected on not having blogged in a while and what keeps me inspired lately. Here, in no particular order, is a list of things I’m loving right now:
Teaching art. When I get to look at a piece of art for a long time with my students and just talk about it. They have such interesting and unexpected ideas.
Teaching reading and writing. I’ve been concentrating lately on disciplinary literacy – teaching reading in math, science, and social as intentionally as I teach it it language arts.
Remembering what it’s like to be an author. I decided instead of writing a throw away piece like I often do when modelling for students that I would write a piece I was actually working on. I think it might actually be something and that’s a fun place to be in.
Watching my students run the classroom routines. Seriously, this time of year the classroom just thrums like a well-oiled machine.
Student portfolios and reflecting on just how much they have learned.
Comfy shoes stashed behind my desk (and the student who comments how she likes them so much better than the other ones I had on – I confessed they were a bit pinchy.)
I initially struggled with how to present my learning in this course; how can a non-linear understanding of course material be wrangled into a linear presentation? My final a-ha moment of ETEC540 is that I should present the information as I understand it and not necessarily in a linear fashion, but still put it in a format that makes sense to meet the grading criteria (insert emoji face here). For that reason, I have chosen a hypertext environment to present, knowing that my reader will be pulled off in many directions while performing the webquest that is my final multi-media project.
This project explores the impact of social media environments on literacy development among second-language students. Immersion students’ learning tasks are double as they progress: learning a second language and learning to read and write. How can teachers take advantage of social media environments to speed up vocabulary acquisition and support literacy?
“Weblogs, wikis, trackback, podcasting, videoblogs, and social networking tools like MySpace and Facebook to give rise to an abbreviation mocking their prevalence: YASN (Yet Another Social Network)” (Dobson, p19). While students may be familiar with the tools for socialization, they also provide a powerful opportunity for developing literacy skills when leveraged in the classroom.
“WebQuests favor cooperative and project-based learning, as they are used for interaction and problem solving. As learners work in pairs or in teams, “they need skills to plan, organize, negotiate, make their points, and arrive at a consensus about issues such as what tasks to perform” (Aydin, 769)
This is your invitation to adventure! The Webquest to improve student literacy begins here!
Delicious feed with links to above social media platforms. This course has pushed my thinking, and in deciding how to represent my learning, I decided to fully leap into some of the digital technologies that I may have been reluctant to embrace to this point and found that my own learning improved by leaps and bounds.
This class gave me the theory behind some of the practices already in my classroom and introduced some new ideas. Technology is a tool for learning that changes the way learners interact with text. I realized that the digital tools provided in classrooms are not an accommodation to meeting the learning needs of a few but tools to allow all students to express understanding.
Forgive my cross-posting. This was originally written for a class and I’m reposting here to share with those educators I frequently interact with. Thoughts welcome.
When reference is made to classroom accommodations, there is often expressions of distress — concern that if the student just can’t cut it in the classroom with the “normal” expectations then there will be adjustment in the tools available or to the curricular expectations. But, if, as Cazden posits, the fundamental purpose of education is “to ensure that all students benefit from learning in ways that allow them to participate fully in public, community and economic life”, then providing tools for students to do the job is not an accommodation to meet their learning needs — it is part of the job of teaching. Digital tools for teaching and learning are simply the latest iteration in a long line of technological advances. When discussing a return to the “good old days of teaching and learning” the reference is not to a return to wax tablets nor to a return to one-room school houses with ink-wells and chalk and slate. To what, then, is the return to basics advocating?
Adult learners have the experience with tools to decide which tools are necessary for which jobs. While occasionally handwritten work may trump digital tools (when the writer experiences difficulty wrangling a sentence into the desired form, when the learner feels like the task is not engaging or that they are falling asleep during reading, when the learner desires a bodily-kinesthetic connection between concepts), adult learners, workers, citizens, rely heavily on digital tools for work and play. Lists are made on a phone. Reading is done from digital textbooks where the reader can highlight, annotate, and export notes, which are then turned into written responses in longer form using digital mind mapping tools to plan and google docs to write, wordpress to publish, share and interact.
Digital voice assistant-controlled software, including Siri and Google, are frequently used to interact with devices. Of iPhone users, 98% have used Siri to interact with their phones, although a smaller percentage use a digital assistant regularly. “Hey Siri!” or “Ok, Google” have already become common vernacular among young learners. Blog posts, essays, letters, and emails can be dictated via talk-to-text tools that are fast approaching the accuracy of humans, although there remains reluctance to engage in voice engagement with digital tools while in public. Yet classroom educators continue to insist that if a child cannot write with pencil and paper with flawless spelling and grammar with only the support of a photocopied graphic organizer as an outline tool and a ten-pound-brick of a dictionary that they cannot write and the hand wringing begins.
As stakeholders in education, let’s let go of the double standard and denying tools to learners until after they have mastered “the basics”. Luke and Luke assert that competence with one domain is often inappropriately reconstrued as incompetence with print-based literacies and “that the crises of print literacy and their preferred ameliorative social strategies are being used as a nodal point in public discourse both to delay and sublimate the emergence of new educational paradigms around multiliteracies, around new blended forms of textual and symbolic practice and affiliated modes of identity and social relations” (Luke and Luke p. 96). The paradigm shift will happen with us or without us.
As in the 70s with the introduction of calculators into calculus classrooms there was considerable concern that the new technology would suppress learners’ abilities to master the basics. Calculators are now standard tools in the classroom and there is an app that can easily read and solve handwritten complex equations. The work of classrooms is not to deny learners access to tools that facilitate learning and working with information but to teach them “to be information literate, […] to recognize when information is needed, and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information” (ALA, p18)
American Library Association (ALA) (1989). Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. Final Report. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.
This one got buried in my drafts folder and I’m pulling it out to share since it was such a happy bit of “this never happens” that happened for my students when I stuck my neck out and made a “the worst thing that can happen is he says no” request of a writer I have long admired.
Our author visit with William Joyce came about quite by accident. I wish I could say I planned it.
As I often do with students, I watched a wordless short film, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore, as a vocabulary building activity. We shook loose juicy vocabulary in a PWIM-type activity.
The following week I was at a dental appointment and had an extra minute after getting a gleaming smile but before I had to pick up the darling children, so I swung into Chapters where Ollie’s Odyssey jumped off the shelves and into my hands. I read it myself and adored it and decided to share some of it with students as a book sell.
That night I tweeted to William Joyce that I was loving his book and would he be interested in Skyping with my class. To my enormous surprise, he said yes!
Prepping students for the meeting was a wonderful experience in pushing them to ask more open questions as we sought to ask questions that would make him talk more. “We don’t want him to just answer yes or no! That’s boring!”
Other books we read included:
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore
The Guardians of Childhood
Thanks to my amazing team of teachers the Skype chat was an enormous success! Would you believe I had a tooth extracted days before the visit and my face swelled to the size of a pumpkin… so I missed it! But my students were incredibly excited to share when I got back.
This goes to show for me what a powerful experience digital tools can help create for our learners when we bust the “silos” of solo classrooms!
I’m not sure what to call what I’m attempting… maybe “author study plus” where the “plus” means more authors and more subject areas? The following is a list of the books I plan to read aloud with my Grade 3s this year as we work to find our place and tell its story. It is far from exhaustive and the work of planning is in another document. It’s a bit hard to say at the beginning where exactly our work will end up because there is always an element student questioning to drive the learning, but in planning for inquiry, there is a great deal of laying ground work for student and teacher understanding. I am using the Designing Worthwhile Work template available through the Galileo Network and would be happy to share or collaborate if you leave a comment or message me.
I started planning after having read a couple of foundational books. Foundational in that they influenced my thinking around what I understand to be true. This summer, I am participating in a Twitter slow chat surrounding the calls for Truth and Reconciliation by reading “In This Together; Fifteen Stories of Truth and Reconciliation” and discussing using the #2k16reads hashtag. The book and the conversation have pushed my thinking in a new direction and there were several “aha” moments.
I don’t claim to have the answers but I am willing to demonstrate that I am a learner, too. I begin with this:
North is not always up.
Richard Louv‘s Last Child in the Woods introduced me to the idea of “affinity for place”, which fits with the concept of situated cognition, in which what we know is directly related to where and how we know. I’m going to come back to this idea when I discuss Bouchard’s If You’re Not From the Prairie (Si tu n’es pas de la prairie).
The slow chat question asked was: In what ways do the TRC’s Calls to Action provide a roadmap for teaching and learning? How will you bring the discussion of #2k16reads into the classroom?
It took a really long time to come up with an answer. For me, the first step is creating empathy, which often starts in books. Bibliotherapy is a powerful tool in helping students to understand the perspective of others. I have deliberately chosen books written by First Nations and Métis authors because I want the perspective to be honest and authentic and I think the reading of these books will take the whole year. I deliberately chose bilingual titles because I want student thinking to happen in both languages. Many of the books I chose are also written in a First Nations Language.
What is the role of language in shaping our identity?
What does language have to do with “quality of life”?
I discovered David Bouchard by accident. Wandering through the library, the book Long Powwow Nights was on the top of a shelf and, knowing the question I was working on, I picked it up to read later. Later, it took my breath away. Literally. Which lead me to explore Bouchard’s other work. This reminded me of the importance of letting a question sit, sometimes for an uncomfortably long time. Answers come sometimes by accident.
An author study of David Bouchard plus others will lead into the work we will do for the year related to Canada’s 150th. Students will find their connection to these stories and my hope is that it will give them an entry point for telling their story and the story of their connection to this land and all of its people.
The first book, Voices From the Wild might be the most accessible of the ones I chose in that the subject matter, animals, is familiar to primary students, so I think this is where the work will begin. Inquiry, art and writing in French and English, and I see it continuing culminating in a year-end project that will include an interactive book and art project.
The Secret of Your Name begins with a message that it should be read without interruption an preferably in a natural place. Students will explore the power of a name.
Our author study will be a bilingual exploration of literature related to place. The beauty of these books is in the way they evoke emotion related to place. Visual journaling and the use of all of our senses to experience place will be a tool in our exploration.
The following books still need some planning on my part:
Long Powwow Nights by David Bouchard and Pam Aleekuk will provoke students to make connections (text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world). Because it’s written as a poem, the meaning of it is not necessarily accessible on first reading and it will take a couple of reads with lots of patience to make inferences and connections. In addition, “See, Think, Wonder” would be a powerful inquiry approach to this book as the art and story are beautiful and complex. For me, Long Powwow Nights was the most beautiful of the books I read and one that literally took my breath away, but it might be one of the most difficult books at the same time because I think it requires a deep understanding of what it means to inhabit one’s culture.
The books by Tomson Highway contain beautiful art and tell the story of a family caring for one another and living their lives connected to their environment. I hope they will lead to a discussion about how environment contributes to our quality of life.
Shin-shi’s Canoe and Shi-shi-etko by Kim LaFave explore residential schools in a way that’s accessible for young learners without being too frightening or overwhelming. I think they will lend themselves well to a conversation about home and education and what contributes to a good quality of life when paired with the documentary film Sur le chemin de l’école.
Tant que couleront les rivières (As Long as the Rivers Flow) by Larry Loyie is a touching true story about a young boy in the forties sent to residential school.
Wilfred Burton, an educator I met while working in Regina, Saskatchewan, wrote these stories that explore the Métis perspective and introduce the importance of dance and music as a part of identity.
A beautiful picture book that explores the what and how of peace, Hiawatha and the Peacemaker, will hopefully inspire a conversation about how we are better together.
How will we integrate technology?
I think that digital tools need to follow the learning. As I start to plan, I see the following being useful with lots of leeway for additions and subtractions. We will use:
Books, ebooks, audio books
I don’t know if I’ve done justice to my thought process here and there is still so much planning to do. This is just an overview as I start to plan and far from being a complete unit plan but it’s a starting point for me. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about this work; my intention is not to provoke a political conversation but to evoke empathy for myself and my students. There is enormous power in experiencing the story of others and in finding your connection to those stories.