My TCRWP March 22, 2014 Saturday Reunion Notes

Three Books – a Gazillion Mini-lessons by Shana Schwartz
Shana read to the audience 3 books and shared MANY ways they could be used while teaching RW and WW in a Kindergarten or first grade classroom.

1. That is NOT a Good Idea by Mo Willems
* a way to build traditional literature background which will lay a foundation for the reader’s intellectual future.
* fun book to act out
* fun as a shared reading for fluency work or can cover words and decide what makes sense
* demonstrate how to look at punctuation as clues on how to read the text
* do a character study on a 2nd read of the book. It has a surprising ending but are there character clues shown earlier to help us anticipate the ending?
* Writing – we try to include the 3Ts – talking, thinking, riny action; What can Mo teach us in this book about the 3Ts? LOTS!
* Mo is the author and illustrator, just like the kids in WW are. Point this out to them. Mo is also the KING of “action lines” in his illustrations. Point this out to kids and encourage them to do what Mo does when they draw so their illustrations have action in them, too.

2. If You Hold a Seed by Elly MacKay
* K/1 students appreciate loveliness as well as silliness. They will appreciate this half poetry / half informational book.
* It has LOTS of strong vocabulary which is what we need to help build with our struggling students. Includef lots of domain specific words
* can model ways to figure out what a word means by using the pictures as clues
* use during a Tree Study to review the life cycle
* use during an art study as the pictures combine watercolor, pastel and tissue beautifully
* In WW, talk about including specifc words and how to set up the book, just as this author had to decide

3. Those Darn Squirrels! by Adam Rubin and Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri (who growing up was taught using the WW model and gives credit to that helping him become an illustrator!)
* This book is part of a series so you can read other books in the series and discuss how the character stayed the same and how he changed
* a great mentor text to show how to write with details

Shana also said that the book So Much by Trish Cook stays in her mind as a great book because she read it almost ever day of her first year as a kindergarten teacher . It was a book that as a class, connected them together. That is what reading aloud books does – connects us!

Teaching Interpretation and Craft through Poetry and Song by Audra Robb
Suggested reading: Teaching with Fire: Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Teach. Edited by Intrator and Scriber. The format of this anthology is a collection of poems picked by a teacher as a favorite and then a reflection on that poem by the teacher. Idea: As a staff, a school could recreate their own version of this book – pick and post a poem and your reflection about that poem.

WHY POETRY? Reading it has us turn inward, reach out, and think about social change. Poems and songs are powerful. When has a poem or song affected you? What lines/images still stay with you? Why? (great questions to ask adults to turn and talk about!)                                                                         Audra’s favorite:    Artichoke by Joe Hutchison –   Oh heart weighed down by so many wings.

Demonstration: We listened to Let it Go from Frozen
1. Listen and think about the images, the theme, why is this song so popular?
2. We read Sisters and partner one was to read and think about what we know about the narrator and partner two, the sister. Reread and think about everything we know about tofu and ginger? How does this relate to the poem.
3. Read In Mother’s Shadow thinking about the positive feelings of the narrator. Reread thinking of the negative feelings of the narrator.


She calls me tofu
because I am so soft
easily falling apart.

I wish I were tough 
and full of fire, like ginger–
like her.

In Mother’s Shadow By Janet Wong

I walk behind Mother
through the woods
not to touch the poison oak
she points to with her stick.
She sees snakes before
they move.
She finds her way
by the smell of the trees.
She stops to rest
the very moment
my shoes grow
and gives me water,
gives me shade
in her steady

Suggestion about Reading for Metaphor – it is a natural way of being as a human. We naturally make metaphor. Be sure NOT to do this:

Dreams by Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
A metaphor

Instead ask:WHY did he pick this image of a brokened wing – turn and tell your partner…
Now take that idea and connect it to dreams…study the comparisons.
Now carry metaphors from poems into other reading and into their lives.
Who or what else in our world could we compare in similar ways.


Strengthing Partnerships in Reading Workshop
Mentor text used during Workshop – Five Dollars from Hey, World. Here I Am! by Jean Little (lvl S)

1. Who’s at Bat Talking Board – a square in the middle to place your post-it note.
Partnership’s Job – to sqeeze that post-it for all its worth! It is like a SNOWBALL that grows and grows and builds; Goal – to stay with ONE IDEA longer. (NOT popcorn where one reads a post-it and another reads a post-it. Yet no one makes a comment about anyone elses post-it.)

2. As you plan the RW Unit, plan the questions and the prompts that can stretch thinking.
Also provide the vocabulary that matches the unit of study. Encourage partnerships to TALK LIKE AN EXPERT! Phots are examples to use when teaching character, fantasy, and social issues.

3. Introduce vocabulary to life the level of conversation. Instead of saying the character is NICE or hte story is GOOD, push partnerships to use the PRECISE WORD off of the levels of meaning paint chip cards!!

4. Encourage partnerships to talk in the way that they speak in essays by having them orally practice using a type of Mad Lib fill in the blank template:

I think _______ is _________ (character name in blank)

I think _______ is _________ because in this part he/she ___________.

Then later in this part, he/she ___________.

This evidence shows that _______ is _________ because _______. 

5. Provide partnerships with a variety of options to do when in a partnership. An idea is to use a file folder filled with post-it note ideas and as one task is done by the partnership, move it to the otherside. This folder keeps partnerships busy when the teacher can’t listen to each one during the RW share time.

6. Provide a partnership with a spinner. Spin and talk!

Falling in Love with Close Reading by Kate Roberts
This talk is her intro to the book she co-authored with Chris Lehman!

Close reading has been something humans have done since the beginning of time. NOW it is a focus due to the wording in the CCSS.

Her Definition: reread at least once – look at details made by the author – think BIG about the text (reflection) – done independently (so I CAN’T teach with an emphasis on dependence).

Suggested starting to demostrate the steps using a close read of a song, a video game, a movie clip to engage the students. Then move so doing the same steps with text.

1. Read with a lens
2. Look for patterns
3. Have an idea

She demonstrated using Let it Go from Frozen
1. We listened and responded “What is this song really about?
2. Listen again and jot down all the words or phrases that go with what it is about.
3. Look at jots and group details together and jot down WHY you grouped them together. Fun to circle using colored markers!
4. Now revise your thinking using this evidence – What is this song really about?

NOW move to TEXT – she demonstrated with Stray by Cynthia Rylant
1. What kind of place is this?  COLD
2. Reread and make a list of words and phrases
3. Group like-text together
4. Now revise your thinking using the text evidence.

“You close read what you love.
What you spend time closely reading, you come to love.”

Final Keynote: What Matters Most by Kathy Collins
At the final Keynote by Kathy Collins at the March 2014 TCRWP Saturday Reunion, she suggested an alternative way to assess teachers. Presently, in many districts in our nation, end of year standardized tests are given and the reuslts are used to evaluate a teacher.

Her suggestion: Short Answer Essays using my class list
1. Circle the 17th name. Write everything you know for sure about this child’s life outside of school. Include their loves, fears, quirks, etc. Write how this knowledge impacts your teaching of this child.
2. Underline the 8th name on the list. Share a classroom anecdote about this child and indicate what that anecdote can tell you about this child’s humanity.
3. Put a star next to the 11th child’s name. Describe the child’s relationships to his/her peers and with other adults in the school. Provide an example of a collaborative classroom interactions involving that child.

It’s been said that good teaching is a 3-legged a stool: engagement, content, and pedagogy.
* I can know the content so well but without understanding the children, I won’t be able to teach them a thing.
* I can understand the children but the content may still not be delivered using the best method so it doesn’t stick.
* I can have the best relationships with all the children and use the best methods but if I don’t know the content, child will not learn the content that they are to learn.

As a teacher, I must focus on ALL aspects. I try to focus on ALL aspects. Kathy Collin’s got me to focus on the importance of relationships during her keynote and reminded me of how important they are. Standardized test results show that children know content. I have come to believe that the workshop model and authenic, hands-on activities are the best method to use to teach content to the children in my classroom.

It is a balance…one I am still striving to juggle well.
It is a balance…one that I will always work hard to accomplish.

NBPTS Teaching and Learning Conference – March 15, 2014

My district paid for me to attend this conference today. As the alarm went off at 5:30am on a Saturday, I thought about not going. But then I rolled out of bed and now, after returning back home 12 hours later, I am glad I went. I always get so much energy from hanging out with really smart people. Here are some highlights of the day:

Tony Wagner – I’ve heard him speak at TC before but it helps to be reminded of his ideas.
Three Challenges in Education:
1. Knowledge is now a commodity; a teacher is no longer necessary for a person to learn so now we need to ask, What is the role of the teacher? the school?
2. Work is changing profoundly; graduates need to ask What can I do with what I know?
3. In 4th grade 8 in 10 students are engaged. By HS, 4 in 10 are engaged. HS students. How can we keep students engaged?

After interviewing LOTS of major companies, he says the seven major skills that companies value the most are:
1. critical thinking
2. collaboration – in person and virtually
3. agility / adaptability
4. initiative / entrepenurial spirit
5. can communicate strongly both orally and in writing
6. ability to access information
7. curiosity and imagination

There are contradictions between the culture of schools:
  * measures individual achievement
  * classroom is passive
  * kids are measured and failure is frowned upon
  * rewards are given to motivate students
the culture that creates innovation:
  * emphasis is on students producing and creating
  * teacher acts as a coach
  * innovation demands that you fail “Fail early and often” motto!
  * intrinsic motivation occurs
  * emphasis on play, passion, and purpose

Based on the above, he suggests that teachers:
1. Advocate for portfolio assessment (e-portfolio!)
2. Just as Google and 3M, eachers should provide students with free choice time to PLAY! Give them time to work on their passion.

Tony shared a 7 minute preview of a documentary he is making that shows strong 21st century teaching. Look for it soon at a neighborhood theater.
Here’s the link to the trailer:
More info can be found at his webpage

Doris Kearns Goodwin
Entertaining storyteller! I could have listened to her all day long! Very enjoyable hour, ending with a standing ovation.

She grew up listening to the Brooklyn Dodges play baseball on the radio and would meticulously keep score, recording all the plays. Then when her dad got home from work, she would tell him the game, play by play. This experience was her first with telling history as a story. When asked if she was a Jackie Robinson fan, she shared this story. His line after a game to get an autograph was always very long. But one day she waited with her autograph book that most girls had at that time. Each page had a silly quote on it. When it was her time, he took time to look at her book and in the spirit of it, signed, along with his name, “Keep your smile a long, long while”!

She took seven years to write this newest book. Its book jacket states:
“The gap between rich and poor has never been wider…legislative stalemate paralyzes the county…corporations resist federal regulations…spectacular mergers produce giant companies…the influence of money in ploitics deepens…bombs explode in crowded streets…small wars proliferate far from our shores…a dizzying array of inventions speeds the pace of daily life.

These unnervingly familiar headlines serve as the backdrop for Doris Kearns Goodwin’s highly anticipated The Bully Pulpit – a dynamic history of the first decade of the Progressive era, that tumultuous time when the nation was coming unseamed and reform was in the air.

I bought a signed copy of this 8oo+ page book. I tend to spend my reading time reading picture books and YA novels… but I’m inspired by Doris today to push myself to read her newest book. It is said we can go forward by looking back. Doris’ book is about a time that matches much of what our nation is dealing with now. I’m motived to see how Teddy and Taft solved the problems of their time.
Click here to go to her website

I also attended two small workshops. One where two teachers shared how they are having their MS and HS students publish their stories. I enjoyed hearing their process. Another was all about Literacy Design Collaborative, a website that offers resources to help teachers teach reading in content areas to meet CCSS.

Vicki Kennedy also spoke about the creation of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the US Senate. I definitely want to plan a trip to Boston soon to tour this Institute. Click to go to the website

National Geographic shared their launch of the Geo-Educator Community, a plan for teachers to meet and collaborate in our global world. Click here to go to the website

I spent the day at the Teaching and Learning Conference being inspired by things going on in education that are bigger that me. This gives me energy to keep working hard as a teacher!!