Celebrate: Reminders and Other Essentials

I need reminders.

This week I went to the Right Question Institute’s seminar and was reminded of the power of the Question Formulation Technique that teaches kids to make, revise and prioritize questions around any subject matter. I discovered this work a few years ago and used in my classroom. Read about it here and here and here. Watch a few videos with students using the technique here.

Last year I did not use it. Not because last year’s group of students didn’t need it. Not because it took too much time. But because I was overwhelmed with the next new thing. The new (that was good) took over and drove a lot of good out of the class. My fault.

This week I was reminded by Dan Rothstein, Luz Santana and a room full of educators of the power and process of questioning.  My students need this work every year to reflect on ideas. This week I was reminded of something I knew but forgot: to blend new practices with older powerful practices.

This week I was fortunate (thank you #g2great Voxer) to be amongst a group of teachers treated to learning with Trevor Bryan. He took us through the Art of Comprehension Access Lenses. For a look-see at the possibilities of his work check out this link.

I hope, for the sake of students and teachers, his approach to teaching comprehension through artwork is published and shared widely. His tools allow students to “read” artwork with lenses that can be used to read a text and can be used to drive student writing.

Trevor’s access lenses teach students the skill of reading a mood in a painting and finding evidence for that mood by breaking down what appears in the artwork into patterns. Think color, facial expression, spatial relationships. And I’m just scratching the surface of this new tool I will add to my tool box of reading and writing strategies.

The Question Formulation Technique and the Art of Comprehension Access Lenses will bring my students to new understandings. This week I celebrate the brilliance and dedication behind that work.

This week I celebrate the necessity of reminders and working with others. Collaboration is the ingredient that emulsifies the work,

This week I celebrate passionate educators who step up to learn and support each other with energy and enthusiasm. It grows our practice that blooms in our classrooms, every year.

Celebrating Our Writing AND the Process of Learning

celebrate link up

This week has been a typical teaching week: up and down. The beauty of this celebration blog is that it forces me to orient myself to a place I don’t go naturally. It is my tendency to obsess on the student I didn’t get to or the lesson that fell short. Reflecting on these moments are essential but the celebration of the successes is at least equally important for growth. Looking at what did work in a balance with what didn’t, makes for positive moves. Bless you Ruth Ayers for starting this ritual and pushing me to this realization.

A Little Background….Students have been working on researching the Western Expansion of the US, developing ideas from this research, and then writing thoughtfully about it. Anyone who does this work knows it is challenging. Students want to do the right thing, they want to please, they want to know the formula. I nudge them to read, think. I give them examples, mentors, and lots and lots of modeling. They are looking for the answer and ultimately, my approval.  I am looking for their decisions and their thinking about it.  We are often at opposing ends of the spectrum.

On Friday, we reached the end of a “bend” in TCRWP’s Writing Unit of Study on Research Reports.  After lots of (sometimes) painful work, a celebration was in order and we did it in a way that was instructional and just plain fun — we blogged a section of our reports. In the process of celebration we learned how to upload media and how to link websites to words in our text in the blog. We celebrated by spending over an hour blogging and learning. This was by far the best writing celebration ever.

Prior to the celebration, a couple of things happened.

The First Thing:  Results from a survey of students on writing showed one of the biggest problems/concerns they had with writing was not enough time. They worried about how they could get so much done in a short period of time. At first I thought, welcome to the world. But I also get this. I need time, space and quiet to do thinking work. I always marvel at the ability of students to work in classroom spaces. Time is limited and on demand work is tough.  So I resolved to give them time. No pressures, just process in this celebration.

The Second Thing:  I prepped a few students to be tech teachers. I have a group of students who come voluntarily to work with me once a week at lunch recess on tech issues. Most of the time we are learning together. This Thursday we learned how to link and upload media to the blog. They learned quickly and as usual, added to my knowledge in the process. Friday morning, they became classroom experts and teachers during our celebration. This made it possible for me to have my teaching base grow geometrically as the more and more students learned. I could readily team up students who didn’t know with one who did. Most had one on one teaching. As they learned, we found ways to make the process better and easier. Working with one student, we came upon a problem I had no idea of how to conquer. He did. Genius.  It was collaboration at its best.

Encountering problems is standard operating procedure with anything that is technology related. The beauty of this is the process. Students and I know there is a way and an answer and if we work toward solving it, we can. What a powerful lesson. That is the reason I love technology. It promotes problem solving, thinking, persistence and success.

I celebrate my students’ process of working towards what we know we can do.