Archive | September, 2013

Practice Exchanges

30 Sep

Hey, this sounds familiar!

I’m fairly new to the Literacy in Learning Exchange. If you haven’t checked them out, you should. Their basic premise is a solid one – to connect entities working in literacy to one another. Essentially, they pitch the practice exchange as an alternative to professional development in which educators are engaged in

  • adult learning as a shared responsibility,
  • shared accountability for student learning,
  • using evidence to discuss teaching and learning with others, and
  • collaborative learning that is captured and shared with others.

This sounds exactly like what we aspire to do with our College-Ready Writers Program. I have actually never participated in professional development of this type. All of the professional development I have received (or, embarrassingly, offered) until this fall was 90 percent sage-on-the-stage style. The message is: we, the presenters, have the right answers; you, the teachers, do not. Yikes!

So, in our schools, we are working hard to create a true collaboration with teachers teaching each other and equal access to research for all. What a waste not to learn from the other educators in our community, be they from the next town or even the next classroom over.

What’s it like in your school? Do teachers get time to work together? Do you have any horrible or wonderful PD stories to share?

Happy Monday!



Summaries and Superfudge

27 Sep

The NYTimes Learning Network is a great place to look for interesting lessons. I am particularly looking forward to this new series in skills lessons, which begins today with summarizing. Our sixth grade teachers told me a few weeks ago how much trouble their kids have with summaries, and I remember from my years as a graduate assistant teaching freshman comp that the skills don’t come a whole lot easier to college freshmen. It shouldn’t be a hard sell to get kids to buy in to the fact that summarizing will be important in their lives, no matter what they decide to do after high school. So, check out the ideas posted in this article, and let me know if you try them out.

As a parent, I’m trying to start early. My husband and I have begun reading chapter books to our first grader, and last night, as we finished Superfudge, we started thinking about what to read next and realized we already couldn’t remember what books we’d read to her so far. (Charlotte’s Web has been everyone’s hands-down favorite up to this point.) Anyway, what came from that discussion was the idea of having our daughter start keeping a scrapbook of her reading. I’m thinking she can write the title of the book, a few sentences about what it was about and maybe a reflection or two; illustrations are also allowed 🙂 I mean, other than the drawing part, that’s pretty much what we asked our freshman comp students to do. Oh, poor offspring of a nerdy English teacher – she’s working up annotated bibliographies at 6!

How can we help our kiddos become natural summarizers? Also, if you can think of any awesome chapter books for six-year-olds, please let me know 🙂

Diane Ravitch

27 Sep

So, did you hear NPR’s interview with Diane Ravitch this morning? Have a listen.

I didn’t think, for some reason, that I was going to end up in her camp, but based on what she talked about this morning, I’m thinking I need to read her new book. This was a brief interview, but Ravitch spent most of her time focusing on what she sees as the “real” problem of education – poverty. I was particularly drawn in by her point that the kids we need to help the most are getting the least, and that we need to focus on doing things like decreasing class size, and making sure that impoverished kids receive arts and have access to things like guidance counselors and school librarians.


Have you read Ravitch’s book yet? What did you think?

Telling Stories

26 Sep

Um, how amazing is this?

TED curated a series of six lectures on the topic of storytelling, all of which are so wonderful and would be so rich for kids to watch in school. I particularly love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s piece on the danger of a single story. You can find her piece as well as the five others in there series here.

It’s narrative-writing time in our school, and I’m also in an essay-writing course at the local U. So, stories are on my mind these days, big time.

I don’t know any human being that would have the ability to lead this bunch.

25 Sep

Regardless of what you think about the current political situation, you have to LOVE this metaphor, which is new to me:

First of all, he’s a skilled legislator who cares deeply about the process, and he is attempting to manage a wheelbarrow of frogs who, you know, every time he thinks he’s going down the garden path, a couple of them jump out. I don’t know of any human being that would have the ability to lead this bunch. You’re dealing with some people who just don’t want to be led. But at the end of the day, he is the leader of the Republican conference, and as long as he is in that position, he does sort of have an obligation to follow the will of the conference. (Here’s a link to this interview.)

Could someone please pen a political cartoon right quick? I need to see this illustration. Pronto.

And if you want to learn more about this idiom, you might check here.

One Book, One Community

24 Sep

I’m excited for the One Book, One Community events this fall. Our community is reading Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness. I haven’t read it yet, but considering the events in this country over the last few months, I think that the mental health crisis is definitely much more in the limelight than it has been in a long time. I’m curious to see if any of our high school teachers will bring this book into the classrooms. I know my University instructor friends will.

Have you read the book? Do you have ideas for how to teach it? Do you want to join my book group? 🙂

You can read the first chapter here.

Common Core Text Exemplars

20 Sep

The Literacy in Learning Exchange posted this link to a column from Voices from the Middle (Sept 2013) that evaluates the text exemplars found in Appendix B of the CCSS. This is a really interesting article looking at how these exemplars were chosen and what value they have for the classroom. Moss quotes from Appendix B, where it is written that the texts in the list “[…] expressly do not represent a partial or complete reading list.” Yet how many people have you heard calling these books the new canon? Ugh. Anyway – guideposts, people. guideposts – as long as we aren’t forced to teach those specific texts, we should be good.

In the process of reading this piece, I also became interested in Zitlow’s article from Young Adult Literature in the 21st Century. While I couldn’t find a full-text version of that piece to link to here, I did remember this excellent top 100 list that NPR published last year. There are all novels, but it’s still a pretty interesting list. There’s a lot of dark material there, which explains some of what I haven’t read. And, way to go John Greene. My friend Michelle (check out her blog) just passed on a whole box of Looking for Alaska, which I’m excited to hand off to my teachers. Yeah! Thanks, Michelle.

Which are your personal favorites? Are there any on this list that you wouldn’t allow your kids to read?