Monthly Archives: August 2014

Teachers College Reading August 2014 Day 1

My promise to myself… to blog my impressions and initial take aways during my week at Teachers College. This is my third institute. I am in the advanced reading section but by no means a seasoned participant. I sit across from an amazing woman, Julie, who has attended 25 institutes. She took classes from Ellin Keene as she was writing Mosaic of Thought; she went through grad school with my small group leader, the amazing and entertaining Natalie Louis. She is gracious and knowledgable. She makes me want to sit and listen as she teaches along with the group leader. I feel like a novice compared to Julie but still work toward the same goal of furthering my craft so that students may benefit. This is the beauty of Teachers College. Picture joining a week long pep rally where everyone is cheering in unison for the same team. Some are cheering louder than others, some are leading the cheers, but all share their voice and all cheer for the same team.
There has been an underlying theme present in my first two days, throughout all of my sessions with Christine Cook Robson, Natalie Louis and Lucy Calkins – the idea of goals and transparency.
When students work, do they know what they work towards? Do they know the next goal in their journey as a reader, as a writer? How do we support their understanding of not only how they approach text today but how that approach will shift tomorrow?
Students must know what quality work entails in order to make strides with deliberate practice when reading and writing. Without this the work is loose and lacks focus. There is no work toward mastery or growth, there is only work.
Lucy tells us that the idea of checklists and learning progressions brought forth in Units of Study have taken the educational community by storm. These have given students a clear sense of what is expected and the ability to check themselves against a standard. They have taken some of the onus out of the teacher’s hands and provided a structured means of students taking ownership in their learning and understanding what their next step should be. They have given students “the sense that I can get visibly, concretely, better.”
Clear feedback gives the learner a vivid image of the next step in their learning. Take inference, for example. How many of our students have a clear understanding of what inference is and can articulate that understanding in a meaningful way to others? How many of our teachers? Now lay the skill out and picture how it spirals and weaves in and out of reading levels. What are the demands of the text and what does inference entail as we climb the ladder of text complexity? Do our students understand that how we approach text shifts and changes as we grow as readers? Do we as teachers understand that the skills they build as they move through reading levels will shift and shuffle based on what they are building in their repertoire within that given level? How does the notion of clear feedback and clearly understanding where they are going next help students in deliberate practice?
Another big idea that I am excited to explore more throughout the week is one brought up by Christine Cook Robson, the idea of the role of inquiry in Readers’ Workshop. How would your reading instruction change if you deliberately shifted toward an inquiry approach when conferring with readers? This was tried in lieu of the much used demonstration and other more teacher-directed conferences in 1st and 2nd grade in NJ. TC found that students relied on the teacher to verify their thinking in the traditional workshop structure. When inquiry was introduced, students began to do the thinking and naming. They began to own their learning at a deeper level rather than waiting for a teacher to tell them they were on the right track.
We learn more about this idea, as well as the idea of students applying to move up a reading level based on evidence of their work. Hopefully I have more of both to share tomorrow!



Summers are hard. I had no idea when shifting roles from teacher to district support just how hard summers would be. This summer we trained a lot of teachers. When I say a lot, I mean drop your jaw, holy cow a LOT.
Summers are exciting. They hold the promise of new learning waiting to be brought into classrooms. They are also in the “honeymoon” period of teacher learning, when everything sounds awesome and implementing large scale change looks completely do-able. By progress report time, some of us have gone from honeymoon straight to “parent of a newborn” mode where we have no sleep, no time, we are totally frazzled and sometimes, admit it, wonder what the hell we were thinking.
Summers are 7-5. Summers are waking my kids and getting them into the car by 6:45 am (most of the time) My guilt of robbing them both of the summers I knew as a child where we slept late, played all day and went on adventures in the woods behind my house is eased a little knowing the work we do in the summer will make a difference for my boys in their classroom each and every day.  (The rocking field trips that daycare provides doesn’t hurt either)

Now, this summer is almost over.  I am wrapping up the end of this season by going back to Teacher’s College next week. I have been inspired by so many of your blogs, tweets and chats that I think it’s time to hold myself a little more accountable. My goal is to write about what I’ve learned each day next week. I’d realy like to follow that up with more online reflection and collaboration.  The work we do is too important not to share.  It is too hard to do alone.  Irene Fountas said it beautifully last year at IRA, “Collegial Generousity goes beyond teachers sharing brownies in the lounge.  Today, teacher isolation is a matter of choice.”

If you happen to be one of the three people who have stumbled across my blog, please feel free to hold me accountable.