Saturday, November 8, 2014

Nov 8 - Conferences all over!

What a week!
I worked a regular week of five days of teaching fifth grade Writing Workshop. It was fun to introduce DEBATE around a picture book, Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting, with these kids. Over 3 days we took notes and planned our debate with the claim: The airport is a good place to live OR The airport is not a good place to live. Then caucused to plan our counter-argument. On Thursday the students flash-drafted an essay using all their notes. All the oral practice allowed ALL to successfully write an essay!!

Before and after this work, I had the pleasure of meeting the parent of each student in my homeroom. It really was a pleasure! All these kids are so great and it was fun to tell the parents that. I could hear what their concerns were. I ending Thursday night thinking at 7:15pm (as the last conference ended) how great it is to be a part of these kids lives for this brief year!

Then while ALL that was going on, I had an amazing hour meeting on Monday to discuss student work in regards to my personal teacher goal of the year. Such a strong discussion. Such a smart group of people. My big ah-ha was that as I was given suggestions on how to help one student after two colleagues read his most recent narrative on-demand, I heard what they said as narrative writing suggestions. When I questioned how I address this now that I am teaching opinion writing, they very kindly reminded me that goals go across genres. If the goal is to work on lead in narrative, it can still be the goal in opinion writing. As I type this now, it sounds so simple but personally and humbly I admit that I really was seeing the writing skills as "genre specific" and my colleagues opened my eyes to seeing the bigger picture!! SO grateful for the hour conversation!!

Then while ALL that was happening, I was asked if I would participate in a school "Walk-Thru" with the leadership team (P, AP, and 2 coaches) and school PD consultant and 2 other teachers. I of course said yes and quickly hand wrote out a lesson plan for the sub to follow while I was out of the room. WOW! What a great experience.

The lens of the walk was PURPOSE. How are the teachers planning for purpose and how are the students receiving purpose? I was taught to jot down in a t-chart what I notice on one side and what I thought on the other side. And I was taught that even though I am a human-judgmental person, I was to share non-judgmental statements aloud (a hard task! but the consultant was really good at helping us to rephrase our statements).

Here are some of the wonderings stated by the group in our debriefs after walking through a total of 8 classrooms for about 5 minutes each.
* What purpose do students see during the Morning Meeting share?
* How do students connect the purpose of one lesson to something bigger?
* How do teachers see purpose in ALL parts of the day?
* How is purpose presented to students?
* Does student purpose match teacher purpose?
* When can students set the purpose?
* How can we find and name purpose in all parts of the day?

* What is the role/connection of feedback and purpose?
* How does purpose help us plan for feedback?
* How do tools students use affect their sense of purpose?
* How do students self-assess around purpose?
* How do teachers plan for tools?
* Setting / content - does it change the students' purpose?
* How do teachers live their purpose outside of the moment?
* When is purpose whole group vs differentiated?
* How do teachers know what the students understand to be the purpose?

* How do we provide opportunities for kids to develop a purpose?

We discuss when students tell us the goal of the lesson/unit, are they just mimicking what they expect we want to hear OR do they get it and it is their purpose? We pondered the balance between giving kids the language and allowing them to own it. It seemed that when we asked them WHY...why are you using that tool? Why are you following that strategy? Why are you writing that? their answer allows us to know what the student knows.
We further pondered:
* Is the WHY talked about by the teacher?
* Do kids know WHY the why is important?
* Is the WHY connected to something bigger? Is this shared?
*Are we creating spaces to allow kids to create their why and then using what kids created from then on, AS THE CONTINUED PURPOSE?

The goal of the walk-thru process was explained to collect trends across a building, to drive PD, and to sustain a strong school by including more teachers and more diverse perspectives.

Personally, I feel the walk-thru experience WAS a PD. I learned so much by seeing a 2nd grade Writing Workshop. I learned so much by just having time to think in a room of REALLY smart people. I learned so much by not being judgmental and instead, having time to WONDER!

When I arrived home on Friday, ready for a 4-day weekend (The gift of having conferences all week long is that now Monday is not a conference day and Tue is Veteran's Day - a school holiday!), the new Writing Pathways book by Lucy Calkins arrived!!

The first paragraph of chapter one says:
" It feels audacious to be writing a book about assessment at this time when the world has gone so data-crazy that many teachers flinch at just the mention of assessment. But the truth is that we cannot let assessment be regarded as part of the Dark Side. There is good reason for the emphasis on assessment. For example, John Hattie, in his seminal text, Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement (2008), reviewed studies of more than twenty million learners to understand the factors that maximize achievement - and found that it is important for a learner to have crystal clear, ambitious goals, to be given feedback that highlights progress the learner has made toward those goals, and finally, to know of next steps that are within reach. The checklists, rubrics, and benchmark texts, within this resource will help you to provide students with that sort of potent assistance so that they aren't just writing, writing, writing, but they are instead working with deliberateness toward specific goals."

Is this the perfect resource for me to receive as this week, a week focused on goals across genres and on PURPOSE, comes to an end!

So excited to ponder more over my 4-day weekend.
So excited to plan my Opinion unit with writing goals in mind.
So excited to plan with PURPOSE!

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