DIY Literacy Video Series – Episode 5

Welcome to the fifth episode of our DIY Literacy video series. Check out some of the latest #DIYLiteracy teaching tools people have been making and sharing this week!

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KEEP YOUR DIY TOOLS COMING! As you make your own DIY teaching tools,please share them by…

  1. Using the hashtag #DIYLiteracy when you post them on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)
  2. Upload your teaching tool to our DIY Literacy Google Drive Folder for others to see OR
  3. You can also email the photo of your teaching tool here kateandmaggie2@gmail.com and we’ll do our best to post them for you.

Here is a list of our social media sites so we can stay connected:

Each week we tackle a new problem that you sent in. Then, we match that problem with a teaching tool that can help. This week’s problem is from Los Angeles, CA sent to us from Angela Bae, a literacy coach.

Problem of the Week  –  We’ve all been there. We are sitting with a student and are left struggling to figure out what to teach him or her! This week’s problem focuses on teaching and conferring with higher level readers. It’s the struggle to know what to teach more proficient readers, especially if we don’t have a ton of background knowledge on reading strategies, skills or literary practices.

Teaching Tool of the Week – A Student-Led Bookmark

You can find a download of the teaching tool here.

Thanks for watching!

-Kate and Maggie


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/164494317″>DIY Literacy Episode 5</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user50344348″>Kate &amp; Maggie Roberts</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

DIY Literacy Video Series – Episode Four

Welcome to the fourth episode of our DIY Literacy video series. People have been sending in their #DIYLiteracy teaching tools this week – check some out!

 

KEEP YOUR DIY TOOLS COMING! As you make your own DIY teaching tools,please share them by…

  1. Using the hashtag #DIYLiteracy when you post them on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)
  2. Upload your teaching tool to our DIY Literacy Google Drive Folder for others to see OR
  3. You can also email the photo of your teaching tool here kateandmaggie2@gmail.com and we’ll do our best to post them for you.

Here is a list of our social media sites so we can stay connected:

Each week we tackle a new problem that you sent in. Then, we match that problem with a teaching tool that can help. We are returning to a popular tool this week based on the problem sent in from Laura Weber, 8th grade teacher at Forest Park Middle School in Franklin, WI:

Problem of the Week  – Laura’s 8th graders are having trouble showing in their writing…instead they are just telling what happened. For example, when describing a character in a narrative scene, kids are telling all about the character, and not showing him or her in action. Like this: Mark was an average kid, decent grades, good friends, but Mark always knew he was different, and hated it. Laura wants to help her kids move from just describing their characters to showing them in action.

Teaching Tool of the Week – The Demonstration Notebook

You can find a download of the teaching tool here.

Thanks for watching!

-Kate and Maggie


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/163485213″>DIY Literacy Episode 4</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user50344348″>Kate &amp; Maggie Roberts</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

DIY Literacy Video Series – Episode Three

Welcome to the third episode of our DIY Literacy video series. Something great is happening – people are starting to share and send in their own versions of teaching tools that we’ve been featuring in this series!

Like this one, from Tricia Ebarvia in Berwyn, PA:

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 4.07.07 PM

Tricia generously shares a link to the file for download. You can find it here. Check out her recent and full blog posts on this work, here and here

KEEP YOUR DIY TOOLS COMING! As you make your own DIY teaching tools,please share them. Let’s create a digital gallery of your teaching tools by…

  1. Using the hashtag #DIYLiteracy when you post them on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)
  2. Upload your teaching tool to our DIY Literacy Google Drive Folder for others to see OR
  3. You can also email the photo of your teaching tool here kateandmaggie2@gmail.com and we’ll do our best to post them for you.

Here is a list of our social media sites so we can stay connected:

 

As you know, each week we tackle a new problem that you sent in. Then, we match that problem with a teaching tool that can help. We are featuring a different tool this week based on the problem sent in from Jen from CT, a 6th grade reading teacher at Mansfield Middle School:

Problem of the Week  – Students are successful at stating an opinion or thought and then giving the appropriate text evidence as support. However, they are struggling to explain why the evidence supports their opinion or thought. They are struggling with analysis of evidence.

Teaching Tool of the Week – A Micro-Progression 

You can find a download of the teaching tool here.

Thanks for watching!

-Kate and Maggie


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/162706681″>DIY Literacy Video Series Episode 3</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user50344348″>Kate &amp; Maggie Roberts</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

DIY Literacy Video Series – Episode 2

Welcome to the second episode of our DIY Literacy video series! We are honored that you are watching and responding to this series. There is a lot of excitement around the demonstration notebooks and more episodes will feature working with that tool. Thanks for all the comments!

As you know, each week we tackle a new problem that you sent in. Then, we match that problem with a teaching tool that can help. We are featuring a different tool this week based on the problem sent in from North Carolina teachers, Emily Rietz and Lilla Clark:

Problem of the Week  – Readers are in a slump with their reading notebooks. Despite being taught lots of creative ways to respond to their reading, Emily and Lilla notice their students gravitating to only retelling the plots in their books. They are struggling to have students respond to their reading with variety and choice.

Teaching Tool of the Week – A teaching chart.

You can find a download of the teaching tool here.

Thanks for watching!

-Kate and Maggie


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/161859378″>DIY Literacy Video Series – Episode 2</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user50344348″>Kate &amp; Maggie Roberts</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

DIY Literacy Video Series – Episode 1

Welcome to the first episode of our DIY Literacy video series!

This series will take place for the next eight weeks. Each week we take on a problem YOU sent to us. (Thank you!) This series is squarely in the spirit of Do It Yourself –  please forgive any rough cuts. (And huge thanks to Adam Garcia for helping us along the way!)

Problem of the Week  – Writers aren’t using much punctuation as they write. They struggle to use punctuation independently.

Teaching Tool of the Week – A demonstration notebook

You can find a download of the teaching tool here.

Thanks for watching!

-Kate & Maggie


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/160963829″>DIY Literacy Video Series Episode 1</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user50344348″>Kate &amp; Maggie Roberts</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Stay tuned for our new DIY Literacy video series!

In the spirit of all things DIY, we are currently filming a homemade video series for our upcoming publication, DIY Literacy: Teaching Tools for Differentiation, Rigor, and Independence.

We gave an open call for your problems and did you deliver! Each week, we will field one of your questions and design a teaching tool to help address that problem in real time.

Tune in Wednesday, March 30th for our first episode! We thought we’d share a sneak peek first here:


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/160024957″>DIY Literacy Video Series Promo</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user50344348″>Kate &amp; Maggie Roberts</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

-Kate & Maggie

Send us your problems!

We need your help! (And your problems.)

We are creating a video series here at indent about our upcoming book: DIY Literacy: Teaching Tools for Differentiation, Rigor, and Independence. In this 8-part series, starting in early April, we are going to make a teaching tool (like this or this!) in real time to help address a persistent problem in teaching and learning.

We would love to feature one of you in each episode, tackling a real problem that you face in your classroom. Maybe your kids are (still) not using word solving strategies, or maybe their essay introductions are stagnating. Maybe you want your kids to be more independent, or perhaps you dream of your students calling forth information they’ve learned in the past and applying it as they learn now.

This means, we need YOU! Write us, tell us what’s troubling you, what’s not working right now. Share a problem you face and we’ll do our best to join your side and help tackle it.

It is our hope that these videos will help you continue to solve problems, make helpful teaching tools, and laugh a little along the way – without worrying too much about whether they are absolutely perfect and beautiful. (Ours will be neither, we can assure you.)

Shoot us an email letting us know what problems you would like help solving, and we will do our best to help. Don’t forget to include:

  • your name
  • where you teach (school name and/or state)
  • your grade level(s)

Email us at kateandmaggie2@gmail.com – and thank you.

-Kate & Maggie

We Have News!

We made a book!

DIY Literacy: Teaching Tools for Differentiation, Rigor, and Independence, is coming out in April 2016 through the ever wonderful Heinemann Publishing.

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Can we give a high five to Monica Crigler, who designed the cover? Swoon.

DIY Literacy is written to be your loudest cheerleader and helpful tour guide as you embrace your inner Pinterest to create (and use) tools your kids need to become more independent and engaged learners. When we work with our students, we often sense that they could do a little more, reach a little higher, push themselves a little harder if they only had some help. It is in these moments we crave the right tool, chart or visual for our kids.

We search Pinterest, we scour the internet, we scan through pictures of slides from the latest PD session, but sometimes we aren’t totally sure (or totally confident in) how to make our own. We hope that DIY Literacy can help.

DIY Literacy carries the spirit of the handwritten note you still have from passing your best friend in the hallway in high school, the homemade valentine from your son, the quilt passed down from your great-grandmother. It’s about the personalized touch; it’s about being playful in our teaching while reaching toward academic excellence; it’s about being imperfect in the most perfect ways.

All books stand of the shoulders of colleagues, mentors, and kids, and this book might especially do so. We would not be talking about tools without the groundbreaking work of our friends Marjorie Martinelli and Kristi Mraz in their books Smarter Charts K-2 and Smarter Charts for Math, Science, and Social Studies. Our mentor Lucy Calkins and colleagues Brooke Geller and Ali Marron at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project have pushed and nurtured our thinking on this topic (as well as many others!). We feel proud to stand with these educators and are grateful for their inspiration and guidance.

We hope you have as much fun with this book as we had writing it. We can’t wait to see what you make, what problems you solve, and how you DIY the literacy in your schools!

Love, Kate & Maggie

It Goes Fast – 3 Ways to Cultivate Mindfulness in the Midst of a Busy Year

We climbed to the top of the dune after a late afternoon on the beach. We stopped to catch our breath and turned to overlook the ocean with our son.

“First time?” a woman sitting in a beach chair asked, looking up at us.

“For this little guy, yes,” I replied. “It’s my favorite beach from childhood,” I continued.

“Me, too,” she said, pointing down at a large family setting up for a sunset picnic at the water’s edge. “I’ve been coming here for 50 years. I’ve brought my children. And now my children’s children.” She lifted her cane slightly. “I can’t make it down anymore because of my knee, but it makes me so happy to watch them from up here.”

We watched her family far below us for a moment, running and splashing and eating and building sandcastles. We watched 50 years of history in that moment. She looked at us warmly and said, “Remember to enjoy it. It goes fast.”

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This is the one thing every single parent has shared with me  – it goes fast. Parents of toddlers, teens, grown children. All have said the same thing. Now, it’s debatable if we could possibly enjoy every minute. (Picture me about a week in to our new normal of “sleeping.”)

But, all in all, yes. Enjoy it. It goes fast.

And it’s easy to enjoy every minute when it’s easy or fun or exciting. It’s harder to enjoy every minute when it’s hard or mundane or gross or exhausting.

I am staying home with our son part time this year. In the beginning, it was easy to giggle as I picked his food off the floor or to find peace in the daily scrubbing of the egg pan. But now, six weeks in, there’s been a lot of egg pans. And a lot of food on the floor. The glimmer of the beginning of this year at home is dulling a bit, and I’m finding it harder to enjoy the tough stuff.

As we settle into the school year, a level of comfort and ease sets in. Parts of personalities come out that were once held back. Things that, at first, seemed cute are now beginning to lightly (or not so lightly) grate on nerves. Some rhythms of the school day might feel less like an enjoyed ritual and more like a redundant routine. In short – there are a lot of egg pans.

And yet, it is certain – May will come before we know it and we’ll find ourselves thinking,”Where did the school year go? It was just November.” The school year moves fast. Childhood moves fast. Life can move fast. There are ways to remember it. Ways to slow down. Ways to enjoy even the tough stuff.

Gratitude. There are many studies that connect gratitude to one’s well being. Giving thanks helps us feel better. Now, giving thanks is really easy to do when things are going great – an unforeseen check from the insurance company, a clean bill of health, the birth of a child. It gets harder when things are tough. It’s harder to have gratitude when the proverbial you-know-what has hit the fan – a bad evaluation, a tough first period class, a lack of funds for books or materials.

Tara Brach, author, psychologist, and meditation teacher, recommends a practice of saying yes. Instead of fighting the thing that’s hard or sad, she works at acceptance. When the funds don’t come in; yes, this. When the homework doesn’t drift in; yes, this. Rather than an overly sunny, forced optimism, saying yes to the tough stuff is an acknowledgement that this is – no mater what we want – what is happening.

Saying Yes does not mean approving of angry thoughts or sinking into any of our feelings…however, we can still say Yes to the experience of fear, anger or hurt that is arising inside us. Yes is an inner practice of acceptance in which we willingly allow our thoughts and feelings to naturally arise and pass away.

Saying yes creates a space for gratitude to live in the toughest of times. Yes, this. Yes, this.

Around this time last year, we wrote a post, The Grateful Teacher. In it, we talked about how gratitude can be an action. It’s something we do, not something that happens to us. By taking grateful actions, then, we become grateful people. During a time of a lot of egg pans, find an action, large or small, to do for another or even yourself. Actions create momentum. Momentum creates a shift. A shift can create space for gratitude.

Dedication. I remember walking to work when I was 8 months pregnant with my friend and colleague, Colleen Cruz. My ankles were swollen, morning sickness was still full tilt, and I was miserable. Colleen shared something that flipped my entire perspective on pain and discomfort.

When she’s uncomfortable or hurting or upset, she often dedicates her experience to someone who is hurting more.

When my knees ache climbing to the top of an old Brooklyn school building, I think about the those who might hike miles a day for fresh water. I dedicate my discomfort to those facing a greater challenge.

We can’t erase hardship. We all have troubles we face during a school year. A way to enjoy the moment even in the midst of trouble to to heed Colleen’s advise: If a certain class is unruly, dedicate their unruliness to those who aren’t able to receive a formal education. If an observation goes less than smoothly, dedicate it to those unable to find work or a profession they love.

Perspective. Sometimes we can’t change the tough stuff. But we can bend our perspective. A few ninja mind moves can help see the tough stuff with a new perspective.

Ninja mind move #1 – Someone really smart once said The only constant in life is change. When things get tough in the year, and they do, remember that it will change. It may take some time – and the trouble can drag on for a looooooooong time – but the only thing constant in life is change. In other famous words from someone really smart: This too shall pass. 

Ninja mind move #2 – When things are tough, look small. Really small. Study the pens moving (or not moving) during writing time, notice a kid pick out a book, watch a kid joking with another kid in the hallway. Narrowing your perspective to something much smaller than the actual problem at hand can help shift perspective enough to have some relief.

Ninja mind move #3 – Play a game I learned from the wise Brooke GellerIt could be worse. When you find yourself in a tough situation – your flight home is cancelled, there a budget cuts, you forgot your computer the day of leading the faculty meeting – play a game of Doomsday thinking of how it could be worse. You can always find the silver lining in imagining an even worse situation than you’re in at the moment.

As I find myself at the end of this post, I’m left thinking about the importance of mindfulness. It is easy to be mindful when things are lovely. It’s harder to stay mindful when things are tough. And there is a whole lot of tough in parenting and teaching.

But at the end of my career, when my child is grown, I want to sit high up on that dune, looking down at my life, knowing that I worked to enjoy it, even when it’s tough. Because it goes fast.

There are some incredibly helpful organizations and resources for cultivating a culture of mindfulness in schools. Here are a few favorites.

  • Mindful Schools – a not-for-profit training organization with online and in-person courses, content, and a network of mindful educators spanning all 50 U.S. states and 100+ countries.
  • The Association for Mindfulness in Education is a collaborative association of organizations and individuals working together to provide support for mindfulness training as a component of K-12 education.
  • Mindful Practices brings a student-centered and culturally relevant approach to wellness education. The organization features educators, social workers, dancers and administrators who display versatility in their approach to engaging teachers, students and communities from all walks of life.
  • Just Breathe: A Documentary on Kids and Mindfulness

Please add your own favorites in the comments!

Kate & Maggie

Big Idea: Teacher & Student Wellbeing      Tiny Detail: Ways to Cultivate Mindfulness Throughout the School Year 

Keep it Simple, Get it Right.

During my first year of staff development, I worked in a classroom in East Harlem. It was a tough school. I was fresh out of the classroom at that point and so still had some of my management mojo, but there was an 8th grade classroom where I consistently failed to work any magic. I couldn’t seem to inspire or convince the kids to listen to me for more than a minute, tops. The teacher, Andrew, and I talked at length about how to help his kids engage more with literacy and school.

One morning when I walked into the classroom Andrew was excited. He outlined a unit he wrote where his goals were clear, and within the kids’ reach. He had very few goals, one or two things that he wanted his kids to truly embrace. He decided to devote himself to those one or two things.

He said, “I just want to keep it simple – and get it right.” Andrew realized he had to narrow his focus and be super clear with his class. He needed to be more straightforward about what it was he hoped they would learn and why it was important.

As I return to staff development full time this year, I keep thinking of Andrew and his mantra. Keep it simple, and get it right. Walking in and out of schools across the country, I see teachers overwhelmed and students unsure of what is expected of them, regardless of the location of the school or the engagement of the kids. I find myself channeling Andrew’s question – what do we want kids to truly learn in this reading or writing unit?

In other words, I am thinking about the difference between what we teach and what we cover.

Hand drawing a concept about the importance of finding the shortest way to move from point A to point B, or finding a simple solution to a problem.

I’m back in East Harlem this year at a new school. There is a dedicated teacher working beautifully hard there. The kids are in a solid unit – learning to write literary essays. The lessons are well crafted and the teaching is tight. I watched them move from one lesson (or part of the essay) to the next – collecting ideas for thesis statements, into developing essay structure, into crafting introductions, then body paragraphs, then conclusions.

After moving through this process of constructing an essay, the final pieces of writing are good, solid literary essays. But each day the big writing skill required to make each part of the essay happen changes. And I’m left wondering: what did the kids just learn about essay writing?

To learn something new, we need support, immersion, repetition and response. Instead, we often fall into the rhythm of moving through a sequence of lessons. This sequence of lessons often results in good work product. But does this movement – this steady march towards publication – really give kids a chance to deeply explore one or two skills in writing or reading?

It can. What if we thought about units of study as having two layers – the stuff we are going to cover, and the stuff we are going to teach. What we cover is one day’s lesson, or a task we need them to complete, or an activity meant to enhance the work. We present it to kids and they try it out – writing strong thesis statements, writing clear introductions. What we teach – one or two larger goals – is what we keep coming back to teach again and again, giving kids lots of opportunities to try with new lessons, scaffolds, and models. What we teach will become the spine of what we do. We will keep it simple, and get it right.

Let’s think about that unit on literary essays. Traditionally, the unit might look like this:

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…and so on….

Alternatively, we could approach this unit by thinking about what bigger work, broader goals, do most of our kids need help with during this unit? How can this unit move kids along in big ways as writers or readers? It helps to have a framework in mind for naming these bigger goals. One favorite is Carl Anderson’s work on the qualities of strong writing: meaning, structure, detail, voice, conventions. Or the Reading and Writing Project’s latest writing assessment tools include structure, development, and language conventions. By naming a bigger goal for our writers and readers, we create a backboard to hit against as we consider the lessons we teach.

We can now angle our teaching, our lessons and small groups and conferences to address these larger goals. Take the above literary essay example. Perhaps we assess the kids and see that most kids need help elaborating, – saying more – when writing essays. The same unit could look like this:

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When we take a moment to back away from fast pace of lesson planning, it helps us see the forest for the trees. When we tether lessons to the big, goal-centered momentum of the class, we keep it simple and get it right.

That way, we can tell kids exactly what we’d like them to learn, and can offer multiple opportunities and supports to get here. Kids can self assess more surgically, thinking, “how am I doing in elaborating here” rather than, “how am I doing with essay writing?”

If we want to keep it simple and get it right, we will need to:

Assess our kids quickly – and usefully. Much has been said about assessing our kids ahead of time, before a unit starts, to find out what they know. But of course this assessment is only as useful as we are able to use it. Often we see teachers giving grand assessments that they then cannot really digest or use to craft a purposeful, simple, unit. Instead of asking students to write entire essays on demand, for example, see how they do if you break down those assessments into separate, smaller skills. For instance, have students craft a thesis off of a read aloud. They can write these down on post its with their name on them for easy sorting. Or assess their sense of essay structure by asking them to plan an essay for a particular claim off of a read aloud. Then they could write one body paragraph off of that structure to get a sense of how well they know how to select, angle, and analyze evidence.

Find places to repeat strategies and lessons.  If we introduce a strategy – say growing our ideas by using thought prompts – we can help students to truly learn to use it only in as much as we allow them to try it again and again. Look across your unit and pull out the key strategies, lessons or tools you think will be most helpful to your kids and then find places to give kids repeated practice and access to those (as Mary Ehrenworth calls them) high-leverage strategies. One easy way in writing workshop is to use the writing process, to look for a place in each stage of the process that kids can use the strategy to help them. In the case of using thought prompts to grow ideas, we could teach kids to try them while collecting ideas, and then in drafting and revision kids could lean on them as transitional phrases and as ways to elaborate

Create tools to support rigor and independence. In our upcoming book (title forthcoming… also, YAY!), we suggest that the tools we introduce in our classrooms are best used when we have a sense of some of the root issues getting in the way of student achievement and engagement. In other words, yes, I can hang a chart, but that chart is going to be so much more effective if I have a sense of what work I need it to do. If I feel like my kids are not working as hard as they can for example, then I can use my chart to push them to do their best work, perhaps by creating a continuum of skills to help students assess their progress and take next steps. If, on the other hand I sense that my kids are just not working independently, if they need constant reminders of what work to try next, I can use the tools I create to help them hold onto my teaching, perhaps by using a repertoire chart (as referenced in Marjorie Martinelli and Kristi Mraz’s Smarter Charts For Math, Science, and Social Studies).

Over and over again, I am hearing teachers say that they feel overwhelmed with the amount they are trying to teach. The truth is, if we are that overwhelmed with the sheer number of skills, lessons, and tasks that we are trying to teach our kids, then the kids are too. We can give ourselves permission to step away, take a deep breath, and know that trying to do too much will result in too little. We can reflect on what we are covering versus what we are teaching. Because we know that when learning something new, especially something challenging, it helps to surround ourselves with practice, support and response.

When we keep it simple, get it right and see our kids’ accomplishments, that’s the feeling of a unit well taught.

Kate and Maggie

Big Idea = Curriculum and Planning      Tiny Detail = Strategic Goal Setting (and keeping it simple!)