If we happen to meet by chance or even if you’re a close companion, the odds are good that I’ll bring up the Literacy Design Collaborative at least once in our conversation.
Some people obsess over reality TV or the latest diet trend. One of my fixations revolves around a framework for embedding rigorous literacy experiences into the classroom through a teacher-designed module, called LDC for short. I have been involved with LDC for going on five years now, and I’m just as excited about it today as I was years ago.
As educators, we may not remember the details of all of our years teaching, but our first year teaching remains crystal clear in our minds. When I started my career 25 years ago, I couldn’t have been more excited to get into my classroom and work with my sixth grade students. So anxious, in fact, that I showed up in the middle of the summer and begged for my classroom keys so I could get started. I was given my keys, told that my materials were in my closet, and was wished “best of luck” in my first year.
It’s that time of year when teachers start thinking about how to keep students reading and writing over the summer. To assign or not assign the summer reading or writing project? That is certainly the question.
As a middle school English teacher, I always struggled with how to encourage summer reading and writing without making it a chore. I remembered all too well the time my own English teacher assigned our class to read and reflect on 100 poems over the summer. With the first ten poems, I appreciated the fact that she had helped me go beyond my usual genres. But by the time I got to the 99th poem, I was done with poetry!
So, how do we encourage our students to continue their literacy skills without squashing their passions? I tossed this question out to the Teaching Channel community and got some great ideas.
As my fifth graders were nearing the end of our unit on volume, I went back to the Common Core State Standards to ensure that we had covered all required concepts thoroughly. I reread the fifth grade standard on measurement and data (5.MD.C.5b), where students apply two formulas (Volume = length x width x height and Volume = base x height) for volume of rectangular prisms to solve problems. I felt confident that my students understood and could efficiently use the first formula; however, I knew we needed to spend some more time with the second.
In our problem solving work, my students were intuitively solving using the second formula, but they were not aware that multiplying the area of the base by the height was a separate formula.
In my classroom, I never just give my students formulas. I have two reasons for this. First, formulas they memorize but don’t understand are quickly forgotten. Second, if I want my students to think like mathematicians, then they need to discover formulas for themselves. Our experience building rectangular prisms had led naturally to the understanding of the formula V = l x w x h.
“All great changes are preceded by chaos.” — Deepak Chopra
As a math teacher, currently in my first year of Common Core implementation, the above quote resonates with me. As educators, we are sometimes challenged with out-of-date curricula and little professional support. The chaos we might experience in attempting something as new and big as Common Core seems to bring more questions than answers.
The quote, though, reminds me that change is uncomfortable, and great changes can make us feel as though our foundation has been shattered. It’s imperative that out of the potential chaos that precedes change, we identify small, achievable goals. Narrowing our focus can increase our productivity, reduce stress, and engage learners.
We teachers know it’s a myth that we take our summers off.
Actually, we’re busy improving our practice through professional learning opportunities, from summer classes to one-day workshops to district-mandated PD. We’re busy reading professional books, watching Teaching Channel videos, planning curriculum.
Or sometimes we’re busy learning just for the sake of learning. Figuring out how to grow and harvest the perfect tomato may not seem like it’s related to professional growth. That is, until you think of it as following an interest and passion and all that implies: research, the drive to succeed, trial and error, relevance, and authenticity. And it’s similar to what we would want to see in our students, as they endeavor to be lifelong learners about any of the myriad of curiosities that exist in the world around them.
Enter May’s #TchLive chat! Share what kind of learning opportunities – professional and personal – you have planned for the summer. Bring a favorite thing you’ve learned from this past year to share. Let us know how you plan to continue to grow as a person and a teacher.
The #TchLIVE chat will be on May 28th, at 4pm PT.
Now that’s a big question for the Big Tent!
As I sit here thinking about how to start this blog, it reminds me of how challenging it can be to actually get started on something new. Over the past four years, our district has been engaged in developing an early literacy model that uses classroom demonstrations to highlight writing strategies on a preschool through third grade learning continuum. We believed moving this structure to a video platform would encourage collaboration, coaching, and continuous improvement of teaching practices and student learning. In order for our team to introduce Teaching Channel Teams as a way to align and sustain our early literacy work, we needed to clarify our vision, purpose, structure, and expectations for teachers. Here is the framework that has guided our process of starting the very important work of ongoing professional learning, using Teaching Channel’s Teams platform.
As a teacher, I was lucky to work consistently with teaching partners that pushed my thinking and helped me become a better educator. Out of our collaboration sessions came lessons that engaged our students in deeper thinking. But beyond just lesson planning, these sessions nourished me. They gave me the opportunity to ask questions, get advice, and feel connected in a world that often felt isolating.
In a new video series we’ve produced with Illustrative Mathematics and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, we get to see the power of collaboration across grade levels and settings. Working in elementary, middle school, and high school groups, teams of educators come together to plan, teach, and reflect on student learning. Though many collaboration sessions often focus on planning lessons, this series shows how helpful it can be to come back together with colleagues after lessons to assess student learning.
If you heard me use the word “colleague” in a conversation a few years ago, I would have been referencing the people I work with face-to-face.
If you heard me use that same word today, the people I’d be referring to would be much different. In addition to my face-to-face coworkers, I would be gushing about my incredible Illustrative Mathematics Elementary Team members, and all the amazing educators I interact with in the #MTBoS (MathTwitterBlogosphere). While the majority of these interactions are solely online, I have had the extreme pleasure of learning and growing with my Illustrative Mathematics Elementary Team — both online and in person — over the course of this school year.
Our journey together began in September through a collaborative project between Illustrative Mathematics, Smarter Balanced, and Teaching Channel. Having always used illustrative tasks in my classroom, I was beyond excited to have the opportunity to collaborate on the mathematics and student learning of the tasks with professionals of diverse educational occupations. The team consisted of the varying perspectives of a county math supervisor, district math specialist, college professor, and classroom teachers, all the while supported by the mathematicians and content specialists from Illustrative Mathematics and Smarter Balanced. Each team member brought interesting and insightful perspectives that challenged my thinking during every conversation we had.
The teaching of literature, and novels in particular, has been a subject of some controversy and confusion since the advent of the Common Core.
The standards’ call for a greater percentage of informational text (increasing from an equal percentage of informational and literary in fourth grade, to 70% informational and 30% literary by grade 12) was seen as a sign the standards were trying to phase out literature. However, these percentages were cumulative across the whole school day and reflect reading that should be happening in content area classes, like science and social studies.
While the amount of informational text read in most ELA classrooms will increase, the introduction to the standards clearly states, “The ELA classroom must focus on literature (stories, drama and poetry) as well as literary nonfiction.”