Kylene Beers and Bob Probst have written many a gifted text for those of us seeking answers to questions we as educators carry around with us in angst, day after day, about how to solve inadequacies we see in student comprehension, in bridging gaps in reading achievement and so on. But this one is a particularly noteworthy one, as it “busts through all the bull” that students face as they approach upper elementary into middle school years and run straight into fake news; Beers and Probst provide strategies to help students find their voice in social justice and all else they read while feeling their way through, to help themselves understand why how they read is so important. Students begin to approach text as critical thinkers: thinking — in which the student improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it. Critical thinkers self-direct, self-discipline, self-monitor, and self-correct thinking.
Whoa. For students to get to that point through strategies learned, that really is disrupting thinking…theirs and ours.
I got reminded today that this New Year requires a “renewal” on my part as Literacy/Instructional Coach to help my teachers through looking inward, through self-assessment and self-reflection, to determine what it is they envision for their students from now forward. What does that look like? Sound like? Feel like? What changes does it require from their students, in order to make that vision a reality? In other words, what assurances exist or need to be put in place to cause student buy-in?
Although the vision board above is a wonderfully detailed example of what one can look like, it definitely doesn’t have to look like that one! It just needs to communicate visually the steps to the goal and the goal itself. It can contain writing or not.
I have had the wonderful opportunity to be coached by the Coach and Consultant that reminded me today of the re-envisioning process I need to revisit with my teachers, and below I share with you her link:
Also, please visit https://dianesweeney.com/our-resources-materials/and https://dianesweeney.com/student-centered-coaching-blog/ for all the latest and greatest from author and professional consultant Diane Sweeney, whose book StudentCentered Coaching I am about to fray the pages of because I use it so much as a reference and go-to for my teachers and in my Coaching Cycles. By the way, she also has a freebie– a downloadable Study Guide that accompanies her Student Centered Coaching book!!
Literally, for some students, this next idea will be just like taking a giant leap, from their comfort zone of “I really don’t like to write, but I can stick to what I know and just turn in what I have to”, to this:
Teacher: “Okay, guys, I see you’ve found the slip of paper on your table/desk. That’s your EntranceSlip, and it’s going to tell me what I need to get to you (library fact books, checked out ahead of time; online website urls, etc.) to research quickly at your Team Tables (or with a small group). On that slip is the beginning of a sentence, written supposedly by an ocean animal of one type or another (we’re supposing he/she is animated, can talk, show feelings, etc.). Your assignment right now is to fill in the remaining portion of the sentence and hand it to your Team’s Captain, who’ll get it to me quickly; I’ll bring over the info you’ll need to get facts about your animal. You are goingto become that ocean animal and tell us through writing what’s going on down there, what’s bugging you, or maybe how wonderful things are, who knows? The purpose? Tolearn more about ocean life and how it is sustainedand to learn more about ourselves as writers!
(Example of a couple Entrance Slips beginnings:
My name is Taz, Taz the Loggerhead Sea Turtle, and I was showing off some of my coolest moves when I heard this loud explosion sound that_____________________________________________________________________________________.
My name is Diamond, Diamond the Dolphin! I love to show everyone how far I can jump out of the water, except if_________________________________________________________.
*Of course the teacher or coach could do this with whatever curriculum area and subject is currently being studied.
How many of us as students have had to write as a punishment? There are usually two outcomes to this scenario: the first one is more obvious, especially with the younger students. Writing used as a disciplinary tool has the unfortunate consequence of teaching the student to dislike writing, as it soon is seen as boring and mundane, especially when coupled with repeating sentences.
Then there is the unlikely other outcome (which I personally was a “victim” of): “playing” the victim because that is the role assigned, but deep down actually getting a sense of enjoyment from the writing task as punishment (unless it truly was copying five hundred times the same sentence or something close to it), because I really loved to write, in all its forms. As a punishment, to me, that was not a biggie. I wonder sometimes how many other “me’s” there were and are out there who fall in this category.
Frankly, I wonder how much this task/punishment is still being employed in classrooms.
Writing is a precious commodity because it is THE TOOL used in measuring depth of knowledge across the curriculum, in formative and summative assessments and as a beacon for the highest achievement by colleges and universities, medical schools, government agencies and potential places of employment.
Should we not then begin to find other ways outside the traditional, to access the potential students (like the little girl above who hates writing), may have? To know the little girl, as her teacher does, means to know that one of her very favorite things she loves is music and singing. How can her teacher use what she loves to help her begin to like writing? Then, how can the teacher use that to get the little girl to maybe start getting her homework done?