If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to attend a large national conference, you know that you can often come away feeling exhilarated, but overwhelmed. So many ideas, so little time to reflect and then implement them all. I have found 2 approaches to be helpful in supporting my learning and assisting me in coming away with actionable ideas and I believe they could help you, too:
I’ve been doing this for a few years now, and it has really shaped the way I think about new information coming in. As presenters share their ideas, my brain is thinking about what does that mean for ME and MY STUDENTS/STAFF? What are the big ideas I want to be able to remember and take back? What words resonate with me? What resources do I want to seek out? What quotes will inspire me to act? If I don’t think it is something I would intentionally use, I don’t jot it down. If it doesn’t inspire me to grow, it doesn’t go in my notebook, I just listen and absorb it.
These are a few of my #NCTE16 Sketchnotes. You can see them all by CLICKING HERE.
During the conference, I start thinking about how the sessions relate to one another. How could this presentation, support that presentation? What do many of these have in common? What is a theme I could extract from these? That helps me to categorize sessions by topics such as: writing strategies, teaching inspiration, book/author love, power of reading, etc. I often find myself choosing sessions that fit into themes I want to explore more deeply rather than sampling a huge variety of topics.
On the trip home, I continue synthesizing these ideas. Sitting with my sketchnote book, I begin to pull my takeaways-the big ideas I want to hold onto. Here are 3 of the biggest for me. I’d love to hear what yours are!
#1 Reading/Writing Reciprocity
This isn’t new to most of us, but a renewed emphasis on the correlations is helping me to think about how to scaffold my students more effectively. When we asked our students about what they have read (comprehension) we can invite them to ask, “What did the writer do to make you think that?” (composition). Everything we do as readers is because of something the writer did. Helping them to understand that purposeful connection as seamless can help them reflect on their own process for composing and comprehending.
We teach inverses in mathematics that help our students develop numeracy. If we think about teaching inverses with literacy we can help them to become more literate. Rather than teaching writing workshop and reading workshop separately, how can we make them more seamless? How can we help those worlds communicate with each other more effectively rather than dividing them up?
- How can YOU help students use these literacy inverses to help them grow as readers and writers?
#2 Students as Learning Partners
The key to encouraging students to become more self-directed in their own learning is to cultivate engagement rather than compliance. Too often our classrooms are structured to ensure compliance to our rules, our expectations, our instructions. If we shift our focus toward increasing engagement, we will have students invested in their learning for themselves, and not just to please us.
First, we need to understand and cultivate the 3 Dimensions of Engagement
- Behavioral (the quality of students’ participation in the classroom and school community)
- Emotional (the quality of students’ sense of belonging and degree to which they care about learning)
- Cognitive (the quality of students interest, ownership, and strategies for learning)
I’ll examine these dimensions in a future blog, but we can begin by creating relationships with students that don’t just foster a more positive classroom climate, but that establish a dynamic in which students feel invested and included in the design of the classroom. These relationships are essential for understanding the complex identities of our students in order to partner with them in their learning. Building strong relationships says, “I see you. I hear you. I am here for you.”
We can then develop “partnerships” with students by:
- Using students’ writing as mentor texts
- Asking students to teach/lead “expert” groups if they have a desire and strength in a particular area.
- Inviting students to create the anchor charts in which to teach/learn
- Asking students to weigh in on planning lessons and assessments
- Encouraging students to give the book talks/recommendations to classmates
- Helping students create FLIPPED lessons that can be taught to others
There are dozens more ways, but you get the idea. We don’t need to be the gatekeepers of learning in our classrooms when we can energize and encourage students to be our allies in this journey.
- How can YOU partner more with students to create engaged learners in your own classrooms?
#3 Books Save Lives
Literally. I can’t tell you how many stories I have heard from authors and speakers who tell of the influence of a book on their lives-even to the point of saving it. But more often than preventing someone from taking their life, books save lives in ways we may not see or be aware of for years. They can save someone from a life of:
- fear & bigotry
- anger and hatred
We need to have books that act as mirrors (in which we can see ourselves) and windows (in which we can see into the lives of others) now more than ever. The fear of “otherness” has done great harm to people throughout history, and those who fail to learn from history are, as they say, doomed to repeat it. We need our students to see that ALL children have hopes and fears, dreams and aspirations, friends and family just like they do. We need to get those books into the hands our children and into our read alouds and lit groups. Not because they are ‘politically correct’ but because I really do believe that they save lives from being intolerant, fearful, and angry from a lack of understanding. We can prevent those beautiful children in our classroom from growing up with prejudices and biases that close off a wonderful world to them and harm the world for the rest of us.
- How can YOU find and use books that could save a life?
What’s On My Book Radar?
GHOST by Jason Reynolds
Castle Crenshaw (a.k.a. “Ghost”) can run…fast. He needed to the night he and his momma escaped from his daddy who tried to kill them. But now he finds himself running for an elite track team and trying to figure out how or if he belongs. He finds that he can’t run from his anger and pain, but with the help of his coach and his new team mates, Ghost is learning to trust again and maybe become a great runner. Jason Reynolds writes with such passion and raw voice, you are immediately drawn into this world and walk in the shoes of another.
Winner of the 2017 NCTE Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction and a National Book Award Finalist..for GOOD reason-this book captures the truth and trials of many of our youth today who are marginalized and traumatized. A story that NEEDS to be told and it is told so brilliantly by Reynolds. As Jason Reynolds said at the NCTE keynote, “Magic is in the mundane. One of the greatest forms of advocacy is in the mundane.” The everyday stories of people trying to live their lives in the face of adversity may seem mundane, and that is why they are so powerful. Check out GHOST, you will be so glad you did.
A Poem for Peter by Andrea Davis Pinkney (illus by Lou Fancher & Steve Johnson)
For Picture Book Month, I chose this amazing book. The story of The Snowy Day began over 100 years ago with the birth of Ezra Jack Keats. This beautiful biography told in verse by Pinkney shows us the incredible story of the man who brought Peter to life and how he never gave up until his dream was realized. I always loved Ezra Jack Keats’ work, and now I have grown to love the man as well. This book is a MUST for every classroom or home for children who are fans of Peter and his family/friends. Inspiring and illuminating!!