#cyberpd: DIY Literacy – Week 1

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 11.24.24 PM

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.

Chapter 1:

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.

Chapter 2:

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.

Bonus Chapter:

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.


Posting on Two Writing Teachers today: Argument Protocol in practice!

Posting on Two Writing Teachers today: Argument Protocol in practice!


DigiLit Sunday: Historical Fiction and Digital Writing – Notes from #TCRWP

diglit sunday
Digilit Sunday was created and is hosted by Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche – join us and share your digital teaching ideas

Our historical fiction unit of study has always been one of the most looked forward to events in my sixth grade classroom.  However, I always felt that there was something missing at the end, some element that needed to be present in order to make it feel like an unqualified success.   So it was with great anticipation that I attended Maggie Beattie Roberts’ session “Blending Research and Literature:Teaching Across Historical Fiction Book Clubs, Reading Like a Writer in Clubs, and Writing Digital Historical Documents” at yesterday’s TCRWP Saturday Reunion.  I always learn something smart and inventive whenever I visit Maggie’s blog (co-authored by Kate Roberts) Indent, so I was sure I’d have the same experience at her session. I was right…and here are three “big ideas” that I walked away with:

Using digital texts to preview historical fiction work:

As Maggie put it: “Reading historical fiction is entering a land you will never exist in” , so  examining digital texts is an effective way to prepare for that kind of reading.  We watched the first few minutes of Downton Abbey, and were tasked to work with a partner to take note of the point of view of the story and the artifacts we noticed.

download (1)

I was amazed at how much historical evidence we were able to pick up through this exercise, especially as Maggie cued us with focused questions as we watched: what kinds of technology was present? what was the point of view of the camera? how do we “meet” people in the movie? how are characters introduced? This would be such an interesting and engaging way to begin our unit, especially because it would allow my kids to see that, as they read, they need to be aware of all the signposts that point to the historical time frame and context of their story.

Next, we talked about the other elements of historical fiction that readers need to be aware of and alert to at the  beginning of the story.  This kind of breakdown is essential for our kids, and having the following charted and in their reading journals for reference would be helpful:

  • what kind of place is this?
  • who is telling the story? what is the point of view and perspective?
  • who is represented?
  • are there signs of trouble and change?
  • what is the main characters’ response to trouble?
  • who has power?
  • are there signs of resistance?

Forming “text circles” and shared texts to model thinking/discussing:

A shared text reading of Patricia Polacco’s Pink and Say allowed us to practice “text circles” – small discussion groups of four with each member tasked with a specific noticing:

  1. study the character traits – what are they like?
  2. how characters have/fight more than one problem or pressure
  3. how does the problem of the historical world match the characters’ problems
  4. reading ahead – what problems will the character face?

Maggie suggested some alternate ways to play with text circles:

  • each group could get envelopes with each task written on strips of paper – their “mission” for the next meeting.  I love this idea of changing things up for each of the four times we meet  for historical fiction book clubs.
  • doing a digital version of this on class book blogs, so kids could share their thoughts as they were reading, before their class meetings.  I think this would lead to richer conversations all around, since my kids will have had a chance to pre-think, and allow ideas to percolate.

Creating historical documentaries as an culminating project:

This was so exciting to learn about! So often, my kids want to know more about a topic that cropped up in their historical fiction books (yellow fever, after reading Fever 1793, for example).  Researching, writing the script for, and then “channeling their inner Ken Burns” to produce a short video about the topic would be the perfect culminating project.  Viewing the student example through a writing workshop lens, we could easily see all the elements of  informational writing beautifully executed:

  • engaging introduction
  • problem/solution
  • cause and effect
  • interesting characters/people to anchor the narration
  • varying types of evidence presented
  • usage of domain specific words
  • quotes from experts
  • a layered story to catch and hold the reader’s attention

Our historical fiction unit is weeks away…too bad, I feel ready to get going with it now, thanks to Maggie’s workshop!