Monday, June 30, 2014

Monday Day Four

Opening moment by Pat who read Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham and Paul O. Zelinsky

CC shared that she posted a poem on NWP and received responses from all over the country.
There was a problem using the hashtag which was a great introduction to a silly hashtag monologue with Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake.

We had five powerful and emotional learning autobiographies today starting with Dani.  Here are some highlights of their stories:
  • Don't depend on strangers to get you where you want to go.  You'll never reach your destination.
  • My entire teaching career was made worthwhile in an instant.
  • You are stronger than you know.
  • Be careful not to let the business define your values.  Lose the script and improv the rest of the scene.  (Just what teachers do all the time).
  • If life is so easy, when do we learn.
The remainder of the morning was spent learning how to present our portfolios on Thursday.  We had time to explore Google Sites if doing an electronic portfolio. 

Our afternoon began with a presentation by Lorrie on the step-by-step process for completing Teacher Action Research.  Teacher Action Research is a good way to answer those burning questions about something that you care about. 

JoAnne led us through a Mindfulness In Schools activity.  This was perfect for our stressed out state with portfolios due on Thursday.  Students will definitely benefit from learning how to be more mindful of their present state, also. 

After a nice, solid chunk of writing time, Rebecca got our creative juices flowing with poetry prompts. She pushed us to break the rules, and to encourage our students to do so as well. We made Sound Lists, Cut Up words and phrases, wrote poems with Paint Chips, and journeyed through an Emotional Landscape. Rebecca has generously shared all these juicy ideas with us in the ISFI shared folder in the drive.

To round out the day, we got to watch Taylor Mali tear a dinner-party lawyer to shreds, while restoring our faith in what we do as teachers. I make a difference...What about you?

Included is a picture of Danie's stunning visual from her LA today!

Don't Forget the Hashtag

Thursday Late Marathon Day Blog of the Day

First of all thank you to CC for reminding me there were actual assignments we had to do for this class. (Well, maybe not really thank you because now I have work to do, but at least now I won't flunk out for not doing anything that is required!)  :=)  I realized (thanks Pat!) that as a host Thursday, I was supposed to post the day's blog...oops! Better late than never.

As people were finishing up their learning autobiographies today, I couldn't help but be amazed at the bravery in so many of our stories.
  • Traveling to Israel
  • Giving up your baby and adopting a baby
  • Hitchhiking to Virginia with nothing but the shirt on your back (and surviving)
  • Teaching in New York City (and surviving)
  • Fearlessly coming out
  • Fighting and beating cancer
  • Changing careers
  • Becoming a teacher even after such a difficult time in school yourself
  • Running through town wearing a coconut bra or a toga
  • Going into those needy students' homes
  • Sharing personal, tragic events that would crush anyone's soul
  • Sharing all these things out loud to a group of strangers
  • and so much more...
You are all very inspiring!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Day Three!

Stephen Fry kicked off our day with his diatribe against the self-proclaimed “keepers” of language and reminded us that Shakespeare “chaired the meeting” and “tabled the agenda” of the verbing of nouns.  Brigid shared Diigo with us during Ten Minute Tech.
Our morning batch of Learning Autobiographies were INTENSE (note to self:  bring a box of tissues on LA days!) and a testament to the bravery, trust, and creativity of our Fellows.  We were properly wowed, boy-howdy.  Phew.  The afternoon Learning Autobiographies were equally compelling and reminded us of how great it is to get to know one another in this intimate and deeply moving way.  The talent in this room is enough to knock one’s socks clear off.  Here are some doozie lines from the LAs we heard today:
  • “She had the body for grading papers”
  • “The Russian Department gave great parties”
  • “The sun never sets on a badass”
  • “Girls don’t hunt until they’re married”
  • “Destiny has a way of finding you wherever you’re at”
  • “Comparisons cheat happiness”
  • “Our bodies hum in sympathy with nature”
  • “Own your slippers”
  • “The tentative space right outside the comfort zone”
  • “I’m here at the center of the room to do my laptop dance”
Your visuals complemented your words.  Gigi, thanks for sharing the pictures of your younger selves; CC, that snippet of “Like A Prayer” was tantalizing; and Lucinda, cookies are always welcome!
Though summer has barely begun, we did have a short introduction to the expectations for the Fall which -- sad to say -- will be upon us before we know it.  You don’t have to make any decisions just yet, but you’ll want to let your mind graze over it now and again.  You’ll have a couple of opportunities next week to meet with your mentor groups to kick some ideas around -- and you can always check in with us, as well.  Just a reminder that there are a couple of documents in the shared folder to help you in your thinking, and we posted the presentation slides under the links section of this blog.
Following some much-needed writing time, Patricia presented her teaching demonstration on Writing Across the Curriculum and Writing to Learn, which we think is a great model for the workshop.  (Another great thing about Patricia is that she always has chocolate!)
It was a day of inspiring videos.  In addition to Stephen Fry as the opening moment, we got to watch “Our Story In Two Minutes” and a TEDTalk on the power of simple words.

Thanks for another great day, Fine Fellows!

Rebecca & Brigid

"The Rundown"

A discussion that came from our group....get right to the heart of a matter. Here is Starlee Kine's from "This American Life" take on it.

Images from the Writing Marathon!

 How about chocolate vegetables?
 One group visited the Historical Society and were regaled by this upstanding gentleman.
Happiness = Cupcakes

The Aliterate Reader--At Home

Last evening I was talking (maybe arguing) with my 13 year old son about reading a book this summer. His school "requires" two summer reads. Since many of you teach kids this age, I was hoping you could suggest some terrific books that will hook him. He is a bit of a history buff. In fifth grade he read every World War II book in the school library! In Sixth grade they told him to try a different genre. I'm not sure if it was that or the XBox that made him decide reading isn't his thing.
Thank you so much for any ideas you may have!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Memoir Author, Mary Carr

Mary Carr is mentioned in the Stephen King memoir on the syllabus. Thought I'd share because I was thinking about her today while writing. Such good stuff. #inspiration

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

More fun with words!

Day One!

Well, here we are in Bailey enjoying the pink halls of the second floor (who decided that was a good idea?!) and the first day of the summer portion of the Invitational Institute.  Hooray!  We began the day negotiating USM bureaucracy -- parking, email accounts (huzza to the Help Desk!), and other what-nots.  For her Opening Moment, Brigid read from an essay on the similarities between running and writing, which was a great way to begin our writing excursion.  As a set up for our Quiet Conversation about Donald Graves’s Testing is not Teaching, we watched SIR (yep, that’s right, he’s knighted -- how cool is that?) Ken Robinson’s RSAnimate version of his TEDtalk on Changing the Paradigm.  Later, many noted that moving toward proficiency-based grading is at least a small paradigm shift.  Personally, I envy Pat and Wendy for being able to work with 98% genius divergent thinkers all day.

The Quiet Conversation led to a thought-ful and reflective Spoken Conversation about Graves’s book, our current times, and our hopes and fears for education.  Is standards based learning a true paradigm shift?  Are we all in danger of becoming robots?  A big shout-out to Wendy for keeping the Bean Lesson alive and well in Saco!  


Google drive discussions came next.  We lamented that we cannot block certain students from using the chat feature and bemoaned the temptation of cursor races.  But don’t forget all the tips and tricks we listed in the “Google Docs Resources” document.

Fun times were had by all as we assembled our writer’s toolbox.  I’m looking forward to hearing more about the time Thurston Rathbone actually objects at his daughter’s wedding.  The story of “Little Red Writing” was oddly appropriate; she knows that for a good story you need characters, a setting, trouble, even bigger trouble and a solution to the trouble.  She also found some pretty good words on her journey, like verdant and russet.

Keep the writer’s toolbox in mind tomorrow, when you go out on your writing marathon (and don’t forget your umbrella!).IMG-20140625-00101.jpg

Favorite Fictional Heroine

To inspire the rest of our summer reading, I invite you to comment on this post with your name, your favorite fictional heroine and the book she appears in.  (If you came up with something new, by all means include it and don't feel that you are limited to one).

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What Happened to Time for Teaching?

"The length of the school day is the same today as it was when I first began teaching, in 1956, the year I got out of the military."
This quote is amazingly true and explains why each day is so fast paced and hectic.  There are so many interruptions and things to accomplish.  I agree with Graves that the teaching life is constantly changing.  There is always something new to learn and do. As the author suggests, it is very hard to be in the now when you are always thinking about what needs to be done and what hasn't been completed, yet.  This past school year, I tried very hard to make sure the children had time for quality learning by changing my schedule to give the children more time for writing.  This year, we wrote every day.  I saw such an improvement in the quality of writing and the confidence and enthusiasm of the students. 


From P. 80

"But continual composing, searching, questioning, reaching for a story, a metaphor, a line, delivered the main insight that helped me report my data successfully. I have to be sure to allow information to flow freely between compartments or categories I may have artificially constructed. I've come to understand that these types of activities are part of the act of continual composition. While we compose we try to connect disparate understanding, like connecting what we've observed about fruit trees to what we see in humans."

I've always referred to this act that Graves calls continual composing as "percolating". Just like an old fashioned percolator coffee pot, thoughts, knowledge, research and ideas need time and space in which to "brew". If we do not allow enough time or attention to them, or enough time to allow the ideas to simply come to us, we may never make those connections. Our beverage will be watery, weaker than it should be. I find that my best ideas and connections percolate while I am alone driving.
I often wish I had one of those voice recorders so I could record my ideas while driving; I often fine that I have forgotten them by the time I get around to trying to write them down.

I worry that in this age of continual structured time and constant barrage of media input, students may never have the experience of making those connections. How can we ensure that we allow students time to follow their thoughts down complex paths? How can we ensure that the act of thinking is valuable enough for students to choose it for themselves, over a video game or cable t.v.?

Testing Is Not Teaching Reflection

I liked this book because it inspires me to stand up and fight for the underdog. In this case, the underdog is our students. The love of learning and curiosity of our students is being smothered by statistics and testing. Learning should be enjoyable- it is something we do for our entire lives. Learning is not sitting for hours and hours staring at a fill-in-the-bubble answer sheet. Learning is not reading a dry, lifeless text and answering multiple choice questions. 

This line of page 75 resonated with me: “Children need to know that as human being they are more important than what I have to teach them” Our children are human beings, not statistics. I think an effective teaching strategy includes the human side of all of the students. In order to maximize learning in the classroom, students need to feel safe, accepted and understood. With all of this testing, the human side of our children is being pushed away and ignored. Children are perceptive, they know their test scores and performance in the classroom is under scrutiny. Graves also touches on this on page 19: “What young children can’t handle, and is dangerous to their health, is the look on the faces of adults, the tone in their voices, as they evaluate the scores.”

Sunday, June 22, 2014

"IF scores go up, this must mean that children have become better readers." (page 1)

Any standardized test given on a specific day gives only a snapshot of a student’s abilities and can reflect only a part of the multiple facets of a student’s skills. Students are truly not tested only on specific skills, such as their ability to multiply two numbers together, or comprehend a reading passage, but they are being tested simultaneously on their ability to persevere through a long and grueling series of questions, some with multiple parts. We all know of the research that shows us that children who have experienced trauma often self sabotage their school work, have difficulty sustaining attention or diligence in a task requiring any kind of stamina, and are very quick to give up when presented with a difficult task. Why would we then give them a high stakes assessment such as the NECAP or any other difficult and lengthy test that  produces high anxiety in even the most even-tempered of children? Tests which ask 8 year old children to sit SILENTLY for 90 minute blocks for 5 days?

The ability to take a standardized test and keep working in the face of extreme anxiety is a skill that children need to learn in order to succeed in this world. They will need this skill in order to take their SAT, their drivers’ test, and in order to overcome their anxiety and perform well in a job interview. But children who have experienced the hardships of poverty, trauma, and neglect need to overcome larger hurdles than those who don’t. Therefore, the tests themselves are inherently harder for these children. And we know and have seen children from challenging backgrounds simply give up, and say “I won’t!” because it is much less painful than stretching their comfort level and finding out, possibly, that “I can’t.”

 I am convinced these tests are damaging our children. Yes, they need the skills, but they need to learn the skills in the comfort and safety of a classroom where mistakes are allowed, encouraged, and acknowledged as a critical component of learning.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Testing is not Teaching Reflection

page 45
"One of the major problems we have in the teaching of reading is the aliterate reader, a reader who can read but doesn't. Until students read on their own, books have not become a part of their lives and the function of reading has not been understood."
     Graves gives some good ideas for the teacher to try. I want to know how to motivate today's kids outside of school. To choose reading over video games, iPads etc. Some of my kindergarteners tell me they don't read. I expect to fight with my thirteen year old son, but it is sad that 5 year olds already are choosing not to read.

page 68
"Everything we do when we write is an act of convention so that both you and the next person can understand what you mean."
    My student had trouble reading back his writing the other day mainly because he didn't use spaces between words. I thought of this quote and told him that finger spaces aren't just for teachers, they are for him too. He was genuinely surprised by that. He even reminded another student about that when she forgot her spaces!!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

"Testing Is Not Teaching" Reading Discussion

Our first reading discussion is scheduled for day one of the institute. As you read Testing Is Not Teaching, select a line (or two) that strikes a chord with you and/or deserves discussion. In a comment to this post, record the line(s) and a brief response. We will use these responses to frame our discussion on June 25.

Happy reading!