I had the good fortune to see Kate Roberts’ presentation on DIY Literacy at the TCRWP Saturday Reunion in March, and saw an in-the-moment demonstration of how to create a demonstration notebook page to teach a concept (generated by ideas from the teachers in the audience). Kate, of course, made the whole process seem easy and intuitively sound – but, I knew that I would need to read the book and chew on its ideas during the summer before I could venture out and do the same in my own classroom with my own students.
Of the three problems Kate and Maggie identify (memory, rigor, differentiation) I know that my sixth graders struggle with memory most – knowing how to “remember and recycle what they’ve learned”. The idea of “a concrete, practical, visual tool” which helps students “hold onto our teaching”, is a powerful one for me. I LOVE idea underpinning these visual tools: “I see you. I see your next steps. Let me help you. Here is this.” The message we send our students, when we create these tools in response to their needs, is that we value their thinking and want to empower them to be able to use what they know.
I have been questioning the use of anchor charts in my teaching practices and wondering if they serve my kids as much as I would like to believe that they do. In my writing workshops, for instance, I’ve been experimenting with mini-charts which students can refer to on as as-needed basis. So this chapter, with its overview of teaching charts, demonstration notebooks, micro progressions, and book marks, was so helpful. I can see how my students would find support in each of these visual tools, especially because they focused on small steps, which were distinctly targeted, and clearly presented.
The do-it-yourself process Kate and Maggie write about on pages 29 – 31 were important reminders to me to study and name what I do as a reader and writer so that I can explain that specific skill (in kid friendly terms) to my students. I know that as the school year progresses, I tend not to be as deliberate as I should be in this process…I tend to make assumptions and move along too quickly, with predictable results (confusion, time lost in the need to reteach). The what+the how+the why = my summer work, even as I write and read. Practicing this every day, even in small ways, will help me become more effective in being able to articulate skills when I am teaching and conferring with my students once the school year begins.