Tag Archives: collaboration

Connecting Families to What Is Happening in Schools

literacyAs educators, we understand the shifts we are making in our own practices. It’s important to think about how these changes are being communicated to families. What is essential to share? It seems best to keep it simple. Better yet, our challenge is to show not tell as we involve families in the literacy learning happenings within our schools on an ongoing basis.

Here’s a group of educators that didn’t need to tell families about the importance of reading and writing more complex texts across the disciplines because they are showing it:

  • Meet third-grade teacher, Bev Gallagher. She made notebooking a regular part of her instructional practices. These notebooks will become a treasured part of each child’s school career long after third grade.
  • Julie Wollman, a ReadWriteThink.org and NCTE author, shows us how to get started with family message journals as a means for students to write to an authentic audience about their learning.
  • Because the ways we teach writing are often quite different from the ways most of our students’ parents learned to write, it is important to think about productive ways to get families involved as strong allies for excellent writing instruction. The authors of “Inviting Parents In: Expanding Our Community Base to Support Writing” describe workshops and other methods for getting parents productively involved in their children’s literacy development.
  • Watch as a parent who is in a Community of Practice with teachers shares what it means to learn, talk, and design activities as a full CoP member with teachers.

Join us over at ReadWriteThink.org on the Parent & Afterschool Resources site for engaging ways to introduce children to reading or to encourage teens to write. Need some age-appropriate book suggestions or rainy day activities? These materials are your answer—all of them created by experts to be fun, educational, and easy to use outside of school.

What role do parents and families play in your school?

Dispelling the Myth That Intelligence = Instant and Easy

This is a guest post by Robert Ward

A startling number of students believe that if you are smart, correct answers and brilliant ideas come quickly and with little exertion. They think intelligence equals “instant and easy.”

Consequently, they also assume that students who pause, ponder, or take pains of any sort must not be brainy. They even equate scholarly labor, multiple attempts, and waiting with weakness and incompetence.

Struggling and Stellar Students Require Growth Mindset

This fixed mindset concerning intelligence is problematic for both low-performing and advanced students because these misconceptions are alternately used to judge others and oneself, and aren’t helpful in either case.  Instead, teachers must cultivate in every student a growth mindset that grants measure and grace to oneself and extends a generosity of spirit to others.

Harsh criticism toward those who struggle academically is not only unkind, it overshadows the tangible benefits of trying, travailing, and tackling any task that is nowhere near easy—and these arduous endeavors vary from person to person and from subject to subject, including the arts and physical education. Because all children will (and should) frequently find themselves in formidable or unfamiliar situations, where the tasks before them are at once complex, worthwhile, and personally meaningful, lessons in the advantages of growth mindset are crucial and transformative.

Intelligence = Attention, Effort, Time, and Thought

Emphasize to every student that acting intelligently usually entails extensive attention, effort, time, and thought. In fact, those who ardently observe, strategically strive, earnestly invest, and carefully contemplate are the same students who not only achieve academically but who thrive emotionally. Most often, innate intelligence had very little to do with it.

As has been noted by Carol Dweck, it is important to also realize that effort alone is not enough. Students must be taught and given praise for using processes and action plans that change the mere act of trying hard into purposeful perseverance that pays off.

Intelligence = Patience, Persistence, and Practice

In one way, instant access to information, media, and “gratification” is doing a disservice to our youth, many of whom do not know what patience is—they just know they do not like it. Sorry, but one cannot always “fast forward to the good part,” especially when a teacher is trying to show students that every bit of a discussion, text, lesson, or film is the good part and a vital piece of the whole!

As far as persistence, too many students liken commitment to folly. Dedicating oneself to something that may or may not materialize for quite some time unfortunately seems a fool’s errand to students transfixed by “instant and easy.”

If practice makes perfect, what does a woeful lack of routine and repetition make? Well informed educators have long progressed beyond drill-and-kill, but students still need to see and embrace the benefits of preparation and purposeful iteration, as well as see how that type of adherence directly serves them, both in the long and short run.

The value of showing students patience, persistence, and practice in action cannot be overstated. All students must witness these positive, productive qualities in real time and over time. They should view firsthand what it takes, as well as how long it sometimes takes, to see results.

Intelligence = Conversation, Collaboration, and Cooperation

Class discussions are fruitful in modeling the distinct advantages of a growth mindset. Often it takes the germ of an idea from one student to spark a more thorough or profound answer from another. In fact, it may take several insights, opinions, and pieces of evidence for an entire class or a small collaborative group to arrive at a complete answer or compelling theory.

Explicitly point out to students that no one has to go it alone or have every answer (and certainly not immediately). Also, provide opportunities to prove that two or more heads in true collaboration are often better than one.

In order for students to become resourceful and independent, first equip them with a wealth of dependable strategies. Then create structured practice—both individual and collaborative—augmented by those trusty systems and scaffolds. This is the basis by which working intelligently replaces merely working hard.

Also, reinforce that help and feedback are always available and that accessing these supports is an ordinary aspect of intelligence. Cultivating the openness to accept and seek out advice and assistance is a hallmark of a growth mindset. Encourage your students to avail themselves of the resources offered so they develop the initiative and drive to advocate for themselves instead of silently waiting for someone to come to them.

Intentional effort, endurance, and assistance can be made familiar, fruitful, and fulfilling when combined with the reliability and reassurance of a growth mindset.

Empower all of your students with these qualities that exemplify true intelligence!

Robert Ward is currently in his twenty-fourth year of teaching English at public middle schools in Los Angeles. He is also a blogger and is the author of three books for teachers and parents. Follow Robert on Twitter @RewardingEdu

Collaboration, Innovation, and Contextualization: Enduring Themes in an Era of Digital Literacy

This post, written by members Julie Gorlewski and David Gorlewski, is a reprint of “From the Editors” from the January 2017 English Journal.

ejjan17coverOne of the benefits of editing English Journal is that we are entrusted with bound copies of every issue ever printed. These journals, displayed in shelves in the journal office, remind us of the constancy and the relentless change that marks our field. Times have changed; that is certain. In some ways, contemporary classrooms would be unrecognizable to educators teaching English in 1911, when the journal was established. And yet many of the debates and challenges prevalent in classrooms 100 years ago remain relevant today. Our work still centers on learners, teacher, and texts.

This remarkable collection of articles, curated by Suzanne Miller and David Bruce, attests to the complexity of this work as well as our need to adapt and evolve even as we sustain our principles and vision. Throughout this issue, the guest editors and authors remind us that we consume and produce various kinds of media on a daily basis.
Acts of consumption and production are mutually influential; what we consume affects what (and how) we produce, and what we produce affects what (and how) we consume. Moreover, contributors inspire us to extend our own learning in order to model for students the importance of stretching past comfortable practices and materials.

As we read and thought about the articles, with a century’s worth of EJ infusing the air that we breathed, three themes emerged. These themes reflect the intersections of innovation and tradition, and are as present in the bound journals as they are in the 21st century literacies emphasized in this issue. The first theme is collaboration. Teachers and students thrive in environments when collaborative opportunities abound. Multimodal literacies are particularly well-suited for students and teachers to become partnered in the learning process, and for teachers to experience the joys and frustrations of exploring new media and technologies. The second theme, innovation, is generally associated with bold new initiatives. While such initiatives are seductive, it is instructive to note that the word “innovation” is not defined strictly as a product; it is also a process – a process that builds upon what already exists. The third theme we noted is contextualization. Now, as always, the contexts in which teaching and learning occurs are critical. As our lives, inside and outside of the classroom, become increasingly digital, we must maintain our focus on learners and teachers as embodied human and social creatures.

We deeply appreciate the generosity of Suzanne Miller and David Bruce in developing this special issue. We trust that readers will be inspired, exhilarated, and revitalized by the ideas shared throughout. Educators who embrace the principles of collaboration, innovation, and contextualization flourished in 1911 and, with luck, will be flourishing still in 3011.

JulieGorlewskiJulie Gorlewski is chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning at Virginia Commonwealth University.

 

 

DavidGorlewskiDavid Gorlewski works with preservice and practicing teachers and conducts research on professional dispositions. Both are former secondary English teachers and members of NCTE.

A Collaborative Effort

This post is written by NCTE member, Lauren Petri. 

LaurenPetriI have not spoken for almost ten entire minutes in my classroom, and it is both uncomfortable and humbling. They don’t need me today. My seventh hour is participating in their third Philosophical Chairs Debate, and buried underneath my anxiety is a well of pride bubbling over as my students create a deliberative discussion about the prosecution of child soldiers. While I certainly am not the facilitator of this conversation, I can see my thumbprints in their words. More specifically, I can hear the insight and language I gained in Teaching Deliberatively: Writing and Civic Literacy, a 2015 summer graduate class offered through the University of Northern Iowa and Iowa Writing Project, becoming part of my students’ academic and interpersonal interactions.

Many of my students are not tactful. They’re eighth graders and they’re nearly always ready to battle with their words. Their worlds revolve around hallway exchanges and social media sparring. When I started to delve into classroom discussions, I was abruptly met with an uphill battle. My students had plenty of disagreements, but few had the vocabulary to sort through their conflicts productively. So, I started small. I worked with one of my classes to create a list of “sentence starters” to use when in a discussion that involved conflict. We practiced, and practiced, and got better each week. A classroom initially fraught with haphazard comments slowly became one where words were chosen with care and purposeful thought. I began to trust them, and as their positive experiences in my classroom piled up, they began to trust me.

Following Teaching Deliberatively last summer, I was adamant that my classroom would nurture a climate of conversation. As I anxiously anticipated my first year of teaching, I envisioned lively discussions and intrinsically motivated students. However, that is not quite what reality placed in my lap. I was, and still am some days, frustrated with the lack of buy-in from my students. Developing those sentence starters with my class was a huge step toward creating a community of students who are willing to take risks. When my students became more willing to take academic risks, I started to see growth.

In the process of trying to create learners, I can easily forget that I am one as well. In the days following the Teaching Deliberatively course, I realized that I needed to be part of a community of learners if I ever hoped to create one. Follow-up sessions with other cohort members helped. The time I spent engaging in civic discourse with colleagues renewed my own sense of curiosity. So, instead of bulldozing through content, I always stop to ask my students what they think of a particular lesson or activity. Their input has become an essential component of my daily planning. They know that whether the lesson goes without a hitch or flops, we’ll discuss it together. I ask for honesty, and they are experts at being honest with me. We craft the kind of language we need to let us communicate in a way that propels us forward, and I am certain that I am a better teacher because of it.

Lauren Petri is a first year middle school Language Arts teacher in Des Moines, and is a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa.

Voices from the Voxer- NCTE 2015

Jill DeRosa, Kari Yates, Jennifer Hayhurst, Dani Burtsfield, Justin Dolcimascolo
Jill DeRosa, Kari Yates, Jennifer Hayhurst, Dani Burtsfield, Justin Dolcimascolo

A bloxer (blog+Voxer) post about meeting an NCTE first time face to face Voxer family gathering, submitted by guest writer,  Erica Pecorale @epecorale

Voxer Walkie Talkie Messenger is an app that helps large groups of people stay in contact with one another by leaving voice messages that can be played and replayed at the listener’s convenience. I became friends with a group of educators on Voxer. We met through our voices, sharing our educational passions, questions, and goals. Our conversations have been feeding our professional souls for the past year and have led us to count on one another’s wisdom, inspiration, professionalism, and friendship as we contemplate teaching goals, career decisions, professional development, and even personal family endeavors. This community of teachers, administrators, authors, and colleagues opened arms, brains, and hearts to one another, and we are all stronger because of it.

Our Voxer family originally came together through a collective reading of Dr. Mary Howard’s (@drmaryhoward) book Good to Great Teaching. That inspired some Twitter messages between two literacy coaches, Jenn Hayhurst (@hayhurst3) and Amy Brennan (@brennanamy), both of whom were inspired by Mary’s book. That led to the development of the weekly Thursday night #G2Great Twitter chat. From that book and Twitter chat, an inservice class shared between two Long Island, New York, school districts set up the Voxer group and its original members.

Dani Burtsfield, Jennifer Sniadecki
Dani Burtsfield, Jennifer Sniadecki

Through this social media tool, we have a platform from which we can verbally rehearse our thinking before meetings, professional development sessions, and even writing blog posts. Our Voxer family — we call ourselves Voxer cousins — has created a safe, supportive venue for sharing our worlds with one another.

As our professional sharing grew and plans for the 2015 NCTE Annual Convention in Minneapolis firmed up, we realized that 16 of our 23 Voxer cousins would be going, and 5 of us would be attending NCTE for the first time! We began excitedly planning our convention. Since we live all over the country, we couldn’t think of a more appropriate venue than the NCTE Convention for us to meet face to face for the first time.

IMG_0046 Voxer 1
Jean Marie Mazzaferro, Kim Gosselin, Jennifer Hayhurst, Keri Ziemacki, Amy Brennan, Jill DeRosa

Waiting in the hotel lobby for each member of our Voxer cousins to arrive, going through registration together, choosing conference ribbons, and being greeted at the Elementary Get-Together by some of our educational heroes such as Lester Laminack; Ralph Fletcher; Ken, Yetta, and Debi Goodman; and many others helped us to kick off the most valuable professional learning experience for literacy educators each year. Some of us were welcomed home to NCTE, bringing along with us a new extended family. The rest of us were born into a newer, larger extended one.

Back Row: Kathryn Hoffman-Thompson, Erica Pecorale, Joan Moser, Justin Dolcimascolo, Jill DeRosa, Julianne Harmatz, Jennifer Hayhurst Front Row: Kari Yates, Dani Burtsfield, Amy Brennan, Mary Howard, Tiffany Coleman, Lisa Eickholdt, Keri Ziemacki
Back Row: Kathryn Hoffman-Thompson, Erica Pecorale, Joan Moser, Justin Dolcimascolo, Jill DeRosa, Julianne Harmatz, Jennifer Hayhurst Front Row: Kari Yates, Dani Burtsfield, Amy Brennan, Mary Howard, Tiffany Coleman, Lisa Eickholdt, Keri Ziemacki

Erica Pecorale is an Assistant Professor and the Director of Teacher Education for Long Island University at Riverhead. She is also a Literacy Coach and consultant.