Tag Archives: Reflection

180 Days Book Review

Many moons ago I had the opportunity to take a workshop with Kelly Gallagher, the author of countless books on teaching reading and writing like Write Like Us (Stenhouse, 2011) and Readicide (Stenhouse, 2009). He is a mentor to me and all of his books are filled with teaching ideas that help build students’ reading and writing skills. Penny Kittle is another trustworthy teacher author with strategies for student success teaching. Together, these two publishing dynamos have written 180 Days: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents (Heinemann, 2018).

61x0tkx9hfl-_sx258_bo1204203200_

As the school year winds down, many teachers – including myself – are reflecting and reimagining what next school year will look like: What might we do differently? What should stay the same? Where do the students need to dive more deeply in order to help build on their literacy and critical thinking skills? Gallagher and Kittle’s book effectively takes readers on a journey into their classrooms and experience the planning and execution of a school year in a way that helps match students with the right books while at the same time, “creating a classroom conducive to raising engaged readers writers, listeners, speakers, and thinkers” (pg. xvii). Throughout the book they expose the process that goes into planning and doing, as well as what they wish they got to but ran out of time.

Teaching in different schools across the country provides parallels as well as distentions that arose throughout the year based on the personal needs of their particular students and school community. The focus was always on their students with the intention of “crafting engaging and relevant learning experiences” because instruction should be designed around people – not the standards or state requirements. Additionally, Kittle and Gallagher’s objectives include “developing reading and writing habits needed for success outside of school: in college, work, and in their personal lives.” Whether students are going to attend post secondary schooling or not, If students are considering college, this infographic in the beginning of the introduction is telling.

freshman20workload

Gallagher and Kittle are upfront about their own teaching values and how these values shape their planning and teaching:

Each academic year is a unique, living mosaic. Curriculum is rewritten yearly based on the changing students and changing world. As they state, “we teach students, not curriculum.”

There is beauty in our content. Reading and writing is essential and the authors state, “we personalize reading and writing, seeking the deep connections that happen when you trust students to choose what they read and write and then teaching into their developing understanding.”

Models. The teacher is a model and as models we must be active readers and writers, modeling for our students the same expectations we have for them.

Choice drives engagement. “Students should have choice in what they read 75% of the time.” And writing is not different. Students should have choices what to write throughout the school year.

Reading Identity Matters. Time for reading is dedicated in every class so that “students can increase the volume of their reading, the complexity of their reading, and students will develop allegiances to authors and genres.”

Writing Identity Matters. “Writing is for life, not just for school.” – I love this quote because it centers around our students thinking and lives. Teachers need to honor students as writers in order to discover and seek answers to bigger questions (than those posed in a 5 paragraph essay).

Talk deepens thinking and learning. Verbal, as well as written communication is essential for learning. Listening and speaking are just as important as reading and writing. This includes small group, large class, conferences with peers as well as the teacher. Talk allows students to connect with one another and articulate thinking and understanding.

Be fearless. If we expect students to take risks, we must also take risks as teachers and writers. By taking risks, we are talking about willingness to try things that are new and challenging,

Grade Less and Assess More. Not everything that students complete needs to be graded. Assessment is on-going and should drive feedback and coaching – not one and done.

Collaboration is Essential for Professional Growth. Teaching shouldn’t be an island and when we work with others, we grow professionally in order to teach and respond to students effectively.

The book maps out the year with the different units of study that both Kittle and Gallagher teach. The tone of their classroom is set the first day and students are reading and writing daily. Each day also begins with a book talk to help generate interest in reading and help students make plans for reading. Prompts for conferences and mini lessons are throughout the book with additional considerations to help teachers map out their own year of reading and writing. Both have a balance of free choice/independent reading along with two core texts and three book clubs units. Students maintain Thought Logs or Writing Notebooks. Writing is a balance between tasks, assignments, and free writing. There are ten writing units that include traditional writing assignments/essays to digital storytelling and portfolios. Students read a variety of texts from To Kill a Mockingbird to infographics, and Ted Talks.

This book is filled with engaging teaching ideas and lessons, thoughtful reflections and considerations necessary to personalize learning ALL students. Together, our mission is to help students succeed as readers and writers inside and outside of school. Gallagher and Kittle show their readers a balanced a approach.

 

Tagged , , , , ,

Reflections of a Flatclassroom Global Collaborative Project

This spring I had the opportunity to participate in one of the Flat Classroom global projects designed and facilitated by Flat Classroom co-founders, Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis.  The project that my students and I participated in was the NetGenEd Project.  The idea behind the project was for students to work collaboratively researching and contributing to the NetGenEd Wiki  about one of the 2013 Horizon Report Tech Trends through the critical perspective of Don Tapscott’s Net Generation Norms.  In addition, students created a video about the tech trend they researched to be judged by a set of external judges.  The project encompassed about ten weeks from February up until the end of April.  My students worked on the project everyday in class researching, adding information to the Wiki and Ning, communicating with their global partners from other schools, and creating their videos.  This being the first year that my students and I participated in the project, I asked my students to reflect on their learning and participation in this project.

My students gave me some insight in how I might do the project differently if I were to participate in this project again and confirmed for me some of my own thoughts post-project.

As a new teacher to this project there were meetings online every week or two to help set up the project but as one of the organizers said, “it is sink or swim.” I kept abreast of everything but a mentor assigned to work with me would have been beneficial.  I read Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds: Move to Global Collaboration One Step at a Time (2012) by Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis beforehand.  I read Grown Up Digital (2009) by Don Tapscott after being informed I was invited to participate in the project.  I read as much as I could so that I could manage the project effectively and successfully.

One thing I would recommend changing is streamline the websites.  It was overwhelming and confusing between the Ning and the Wiki.  As a Wiki user and advocate, I was comfortable and confident collaborating on a Wiki.  The Ning — think of a social networking sight like Facebook specifically for the project participants — I felt, was not necessary; and many of my students confirmed the same in their reflection.   Asking students to contribute to a Wiki and contribute to the Ning was tedious and confusing.  There was a handshake on the Ning, but project reports on the Wiki, discussions on the Wiki and on the Ning.  Why not have a page on the wiki to share handshake blog posts and keep everything on one website.

Returning teachers shared their project checklists online and this was tremendously helpful.  I used these as models to create daily checklists to help my students move through each element of the project requirements.  I wish I had gotten this information right at the beginning of the project.  In addition, I felt I needed to evaluate my students at every checklist to make sure that each piece of the desired outcomes was met.  I created my own rubrics, and would have loved other teacher participants to share their own.

I realize now, after reading student reflections, I need to better articulate the guidelines and desired outcomes for my students.  I thought that I was clear but found many of my students confused.  I need to create templates to support student research and offer models of solid final products to help my students understand the project requirements.

Here are some highlights of what my students said in their reflections:

“I found it interesting to work with students in other countries and see their point of view.”

“I learned that the future of technology has so much to offer.”

“If you were to do the project again, there should be less work.  It was too much and were graded too harshly seeing as we were learning as we were completing the project requirements.”

“I learned how to collaborate with other people through technology.”

“I think you don’t need to do the Wiki, students should just make a movie and the other people collaborating were useless.”

Now, you might be wondering, would I do another global collaborative project?

Absolutely, in fact I am working on another one right now connecting my students with students at a school in Japan.

To see my students’ Flat Classroom research, Wiki reports,  and videos CLICK HERE.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,