Sunday, July 3, 2016

Towards a classroom vision - #cyberPD

I appreciate the do-it-yourself ethos that Kate and Maggie Beattie Roberts spread in DIY Literacy. In fact, I'm hard-pressed to think of a better first step for teaching reading or writing moves than what they advise on page 31: "Try to perform the skill yourself, as an adult, for a few minutes... Step back. Study what you did. Name how you did what you did." I'm all for seeking that space as often as possible: hip deep in a creative mess, noticing what's working and what's not. (Pause for self-awareness: like right now, hashing out this reflection.)

While I'm confident that process will continue fueling my literacy growth, what about my students? Team Roberts puts that crux question this way: "Are the teaching tools I offer my kids really helping them to grow?" (2) And that's what got me thinking beyond DIY. The classroom I'm envisioning in 2016-17 can't stop with each learner doing it themselves; we need a collaborative spirit of doing it ourselves, or DIO. For starters, that means robust feedback loops, willing cooperation, real and virtual mentors, generous sharing, plus open eyes and ears that can blend criticism with empathy. That's a classroom culture coming into clearer focus for me. While I also know I bear professional responsibility for tracking students' growth, I'm aiming to have students increasingly articulate their progress (along with lingering areas of challenge) themselves. Those words can spring from internal reflections as well as audience observations, taken to heart.

The roles to which I aspire in this environment: noticer, listener, question asker, connector, inviter, catalyst. I will succeed when I equip students with tools that either open doors or remove obstacles along their paths to becoming more literate citizens. Those tools, I suspect, do not offer unbridled good. Even as Team Roberts argues, "The tools in our lives improve our lives. They save us energy, time, and struggle," (3) I know those savings are never guaranteed. Not every tool is right for everyone, so choose purposefully, embrace trial and error, and reflect often on what to champion versus what to discard. Those, too, are processes I can demonstrate with my students and capture in teaching charts, demonstration notebook entries, micro-progressions, and bookmarks.

8 comments:

  1. I love the ethos of generating a DIO classroom - that's what it's all about, isn't it, creating learning that kids have ownership of?

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    1. Own it, indeed. Taken decades for me to get to that point, so my $64K question is, "How can I help accelerate that process for students?"

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  2. Your extension of the DIY to your classroom culture is perfect! It is like a self-extending help system that perpetuates. I personally think the tools help us create learners who learn to help themselves.

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    1. Tools that help learners learn with increasing independence -- those are the tools for me (and my students)! I'm excited to delve further into DIY Literacy with this focus in mind.

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  3. I love your idea of blending criticism with empathy. Last year we called this a "compliment sandwich" which would be juvenile for your 8th graders, but maybe a "slamburger" or something would work. (My 6th graders made fun of my name for this, but they did use the technique a lot when critiquing each other.) Students would start with something done well by the student they were evaluating, give a piece of advice for improvement and finish up with something else done well by that student. A collaborative, cooperative environment is essential for independence, rigor and differentiation to work in our classrooms! Thanks for your thoughts!

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    1. Have used exactly this compliment sandwich idea with 8th graders, who rolled with the name that they were familiar with from giving feedback in theater classes. Where I look for us to grow as feedback givers going forwards is more incisive, insightful observations. Too easy to go through motions with boiler-plate language and pseudo-feedback pantomime, I've noticed.

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  4. Can I be a student in your room? I appreciate how you extend the work of Maggie and Kate into a whole classroom environment that is centered on DIO. Just as we should never teach alone, we should never learn alone either. Having a trusting community of learners in your classroom will help foster deeper thinking and learning and help ease some of those rigor, memory and differentiation barriers.

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Rachel. My perpetual question: Can I coax my room closer to the vision I have in my head? :)

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