Monday, January 26, 2009

The Mightiest Word

What if the mightiest word is love?

Poet Elizabeth Alexander

[*Her words keep chiseling my thinking. Those of us who live with children as parents, teachers, and adminstrators witness this truth everyday. For all the people of all the world, love. To sooth and heal Somolia, to build bridges in Gaza, to feed all the hungry, to mend the souls of wounded spirits, love to all, love forever.]

The "Why's" of My Workshop...Apprenticeship Guided by Connected Relationships

It’s about apprenticeship… L. Benson, 2001

[Through the lens of a nonfiction focus, here is a bit of the thinking behind workshop learning and teaching.]

First and foremost, you can initiate and nurture students’ nonfiction comprehension before, during, and after reading by being a role model. Think Alouds in which you model and demonstrate your ways of creating understanding as you read are the foundation upon which to build any of the following learning experiences. As quickly as possible, students can and should serve as additional mentors for one another by thinking aloud and articulating their own ways of creating understanding as they read.

Equally important is collaborative practice. Students need to practice comprehending with their teacher and with each other. As Eric Jensen tells us, all learning is a social act. It’s vital to make the invisible and internal world of reading a more public arena for students’ learning. Asking questions during a guided reading group, reading with a partner, talking about a text in a book club fashion, or predicting what will come next with a partner or small group of book mates are just a few of the ways you can forge collaborative comprehension practice into your students’ literacy learning.

Of course, the goal of all before, during, and after learning experiences is student independence. Building bridges between modeling and collaborative practice to students’ independent reading/learning practice is critical. In other words, the ways we practice comprehending with students are always meant to mirror, if not exactly replicate, what each child needs to do when reading on his/her own. Being explicit about this is essential.

Likewise, modeling, collaborative practice, and independent practice with feedback are critical in supporting students’ growth as nonfiction writers. In addition to our writing demonstrations, encourage and ask students to serve as peer mentors by sharing their nonfiction writing with one another (including their reasons, processes, inspirations, etc.). And lean on your favorite nonfiction writers as you work to reveal all the possibilities that this genre holds for your students.

Most of all, help your students know that none of us is ever done getting better. Let them see you struggle and triumph with your own nonfiction reading and writing. Great teachers exhibit the disposition of learning from their students (Ritchhart, 2000) and are wide awake to their own literate lives (Benson, 1993).

Essential Literacy Learning Experiences to Support Students' Reading and Writing Growth

How Literacy Is Taught at Our School
Because we believe students learn best in an apprenticeship, we employ balanced literacy teaching practices. This means that we mentor our students by frequently modeling, demonstrating, and practicing literacy skills and strategies with them. Paramount to their academic achievement, our students also engage in daily literacy practice with our continuous feedback and guidance. The following graphic helps to capture our teaching rituals and routines.

Comprehensive Literacy Learning & Teaching

*living a literature life; phonics; vocabulary; fluency; grammar; comprehension

+ Modeling & Demonstrating Reading by Teacher(s) & Peers
+ Read Alouds

+ Shared Reading
+ Small Group Fellowships/Guided Reading
+ Teacher-Student Conferences
+ Peer Conferences
+ Partner/Buddy Reading
+ Book Clubs/Literature Circles


*living a literate life; writing process (such as drafting, revising, editing, etc.); grammar; vocabulary; spelling; fluency

+ Modeling & Demonstrating Writing by Teacher(s) & Peers
+ Read Alouds

+ Shared Writing
+ Small Group Fellowships/Guided Writing
+ Teacher-Student Conferences
+ Peer Conferences
+ Word Work/Study

Teachers and students engage in ongoing assessment and evaluation to monitor and determine each child’s individual progress as reader, writers, and learner. To develop responsive and rigorous apprenticeships for and with our students, we must know each child as an individual reader, writer, and learner. Accordingly, we monitor your child’s literacy growth continuously and thoroughly by assessing him/her with multiple tools and data sources. We further evaluate our students’ literacy learning by utilizing developmental continuums which outline the ten stages of reading and writing development as well as the key indicators or behaviors of reading and writing acquisition for each stage of development. By understanding where each child is developmentally, we can customize instruction for all our students so that their literacy learning is relevant and powerful.

Marinating Students in VOCABULARY

6 Steps to Effective Vocabulary Instruction
Robert Marzano [2004], Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement:
Research on What Works in Schools

Step 1. Teacher provides a description, explanation, or example of new term

Step 2. Students restate the explanation of new term in their own words

Step 3. Students create a nonlinguistic representation of term

Step 4. Students periodically do activities that help them add to their knowledge of vocabulary terms

Step 5. Periodically students are asked to discuss the terms with one another

Step 6. Periodically students are involved in games that allow them to play with the terms

*pages 91 – 103

Posted in honor of treasured colleagues at The American School of Dubai...You help your students fall in love with words brilliantly.
Rock on!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Words to Live By

Words I will long reflect on and return as a compass, lighthouse, and spirit well from President Obama's inauguration speech (writing as I hear him now - Oh, how my heart inflates with joy and hope and gratitude!):
...judge you on what you can build, not what you can destroy...
...feed hungry minds...
...We can no longer afford indifference to those who live outside our borders...
...a willingness to (devote) ourselves to something greater than ourselves...
...the selflessness of workers (to help a co-worker keep his/her job)...
...a parent's willingness to nurture a child...
...tolerance and curiosity...
...loyalty and patriotism...
...What is demanded then is a return to these truths...
...We have duties to ourselves, our nation, our world...
...Nothing so satisfying to the spirit than giving ourselves to a difficult task...
...The source of our confidence...the knowledge that God (asks us to engage in this difficult and selfless work)...
...Who we far we have traveled...
...Let it be told to future worlds....our country came forth to meet it...
...Let us brave the icy currents...
...When we were tested, we refused to (give up...)...and to feel the full measure of happiness (this last line is not fully capture and out of order)...

*From the poet Elizabeth Alexander
Praise Song for the Day
...All about us is noise...
...repairing the things in need of repair...
...words to consider and reconsider...
...I need to see what is on the other side... find a place where we are safe... walk into a place we cannot yet see...
...seeing the names of those who brought us here...
...What if the mightiest word is love? that casts the widest pool of light...
...Any sentence can be begun...
...Praise song for walking forward in that light.

Rev. Joseph Lowery
...our faith does not shrink... us make decisions for love, not hate... the joy of a new beginning...when brown can stick around :)...when white will embrace what is right...Say amen!

Monday, January 19, 2009

He had a dream...he grew our hearts...our hope is expanded

Growing up, I always hoped for and I always believed that all people should and would be judged on the content of their character...and tomorrow Dr. King's lighthouse words become our reality and our hope as President Obama is sworn in! Dreams come true for all people! Hooray!!!