Entries Tagged as 'reflecting'

Using Historical Fiction Picture Books Part Two

December 7, 2011 by bgaskins · 1 Comment · Common Core Standards, Disciplinary Literacy, history, learning, literacy, Literacy in Social Studies, Picture, Picture Books, reading, Reading and Writing Enrichment, Reading Comprehension, reflecting, social studies

In the Article “Comprehension Strategies for Reading Historical Fiction Picturebooks” by Suzette Youngs and Frank Serafini in The Reading Teacher, October 2011 the authors offer suggestions for moving readers from the literal details to the interpretive assertions.  Yesterdays post focused on the considerations for using historical fiction picture books.

I think consideration must be given to teaching the teacher before teaching students from the transition from literal to interpretive assertions.  To a certain degree the teacher must own the content or have a clear understanding of the content before moving further.  With inquiring minds of all ages (teacher included) we hope the multimodal text will plant a seed in the learners head to inquire further. At the completion of the reading- pre, during, and post- I would hope the book would help the reader form an emotional attachment with the book. The article by Youngs and Serafini offers three strategies:


Phase I: Previewing, Noticing, and Naming

As readers approach a picturebook, we encourage them to focus on these elements or thoughts>

  • What visual and design features do you notice?
  • How do the visual, textual, and design modes relate to one another?
  • What did the illustrator, author, and publisher include in the peritext?
  • What type of historical fiction might this be?
  • Focus attention to Historical fiction as a Genre. Are they aware of different examples of historical fiction? I suggest keeping a chart somewhere in your room of different historical fiction books you have read and be able to talk about what they notice in the differences.
    • o   fictionalized memoirs
    • o   fictionalized family histories and stories
    • o   fiction based on research
  •  Essential Questions to Ask When Reading Historical Fiction
    • ·         Is this true? How much is this true?
    • ·         How can we distinguish between fact from fiction?
    • ·         How do the authors know?
    • ·         How much of it happened like this?
    • ·         How can the auto rote help to construct meaning?
    • ·         What type of historic fiction is this?
    • ·         How do the illustration and the text work together?
  • Attention to Visual and Textual Elements
    • ·         What did you notice about the cover, back cover, title page, end pages.
    • ·         What did you notice visual and design elements of the picturebook”
    • ·         By allowing readers to determine what is important by focusing on what they notice, teachers can shift the focus of the discussion to what matters to their readers. (Youngs, 2011)
  • During this first read-aloud, we take note of the balance between narrative and factual elements, how color is used throughout the text to suggest moods and themes, how characters are portrayed in the written text and images, how the story unfolds and how it makes us feel, and other narrative features such as setting, character, plot, and resolution. By focusing readers’ attention on the visual, textual, and design elements of the picturebook, we establish a foundation for readers to move from attending to the visual and verbal features of a picturebook to the interpretation of these elements. (Youngs, 2011)

Phase II: Moving Beyond Noticing to Interpretation

  • Read the book a second time!
  • Invite readers to consider the meaning potential of various visual and textual elements embedded within the picturebook and how these individual elements contribute to the story as a whole.
  • Help the learners pay attention the one telling the story and their perspective.
  • Help the learners pay attention to how the image is framed, the setting of the image or illustration. Framing is a way illustrators invite viewers into an image or distance them from what is being presented.
  • Character-reader relationship- A technique that illustrators use to develop a relationship between the character and viewer is called demand and offer. When a character in an image or illustration makes direct contact with the viewer, this is called demand and when a character looks at other characters or objects within the image, it is called an offer. (Youngs, 2011, p. 120) Demand offers the reader an interactive role and demands the attention of the reader where as an offer does not bring the reader into a direct relationship with the character. Rather these scenes and actions serve as information for the reader to consider. The author and illustrator works together to create a relationship between the reader and the characters and events in the story. (Youngs, 2011, pp. 120-121) This is an important position to consider in the genre of historical fiction.

Phase III: Moving Beyond Interpretation to Critical Analysis

What happens in the phase depends on the background knowledge readers bring to the text and the intention of the books use in the content area. Let me point out whether one is using historical fiction or another type of fiction the three phases need to be taught along the continuum of early and intermediate literacy stages. The more background knowledge learners have prior to reading the picture book, will help them assume a critical stance.  This path must be modeled and taught.  The path is a forward movement from early literacy to intermediate literacy and the higher level would be disciplinary literacy.  Important considerations include:

  • Many historical fiction picture book illustrators draw on cultural, political, and social symbols to make inter-textual connections within the illustrations and to other visual images. (Youngs, 2011)
  • Here are some open ended questions that will promote this type of thinking”
    • o   Whose view of history is being presented in the book?
    • o    How are historical characters portrayed?
    • o   What systems of power and social issues are being challenged?
    • o   Whose view is privileged in the telling of the story?
    • o   What has been left out of the story?
    • o   How do the images presented affect the readers’ interpretations?
  • Visual Symbol Analysis: “Illustrators of historical fiction picturebooks often embed historical images within their illustrations. Analysis of these images requires readers to construct an image as a historical symbol, to place the image within its original historical context, and to make intertextual connections between the book being read and the embedded image. Anstey and Bull (2006) referred to the use of intertextuality and described it as “the ways one text might draw on or resemble the characteristics of another causing the consumer of the text to make links between them” (p. 30).” (Youngs, 2011, pp. 121-122)
  • Placement of Characters within an Illustration- How the character is placed in the illustration carries additional meaning to the whole text. It tells us lots about the characters social standing and power structures with other characters. Characters placed at the top of the image are given higher social status or power compared to those place near the bottom of the pictures. Characters placed side by side might be entering into an adventure  (Youngs, 2011, pp. 122-123). Other questions to consider:
    • o   What might the spatial relationship suggest?  (Youngs, 2011, pp. 122-123) How might we interpret the placement of characters or objects on the page and throughout the book?  (Youngs, 2011, pp. 122-123) Who or what is privileged in the various images?  (Youngs, 2011, pp. 122-123)
    • o   What systems of power are represented? (Youngs, 2011, pp. 122-123) (We must teach learners to take a critical stance of various images and symbols represented in historical fiction picture books) (Youngs, 2011, p. 122)

These strategies presented by Youngs and Serefini need to be considered as we prepare our learners for the real world. This framework can better prepare teachers for using historical fiction or any fictional picture book in the content curriculum.  It serves as a guide, but should help to focus on the teacher how picture book could be possibly used. I think it is important the teacher understand the framework so that parts as necessary can be modeled and taught to all learners.


Piercy, T. a. (2011). Disciplinary Literacyq. Englewood, Colorada: Lead and Learn Press.

Youngs, S. a. (2011). Comprehension Strategies for Reading Historical Fiction Picture Book. The Reading Teacher , 115-124.

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What drives reading instruction?

November 30, 2011 by bgaskins · No Comments · reading, reflecting

Are we teaching kids the wrong thing about reading comprehension?

What drives reading instruction?

  • Reading Skills
  • Fluency
  • Decoding
  • Phonics
  • Vocabulary
  • Basal
  • Testing
    • Formative and Summative Assessment
    • State Standardized Test
    • Measures of Academic Progress
    • SAT, ACT
    • Any Universal Screener
    • Ability to choose A, B, C, or D on a multiple choice assessment
    • Reading an informational text and completing a graphic organizer: main idea and three supporting details

Yes, I am serious! What drives reading instruction in school?

I wonder why some kids think reading is so boring?

Choose the right answer:

  1. Creativity
  2. Critical thinking
  3. Innovation
  4. Recall the main idea

I wonder why some kids think reading is an endurance test.

Read the story to complete the storyline graphic organizer. Don’t leave any story element or you will have to read the story again.

Choose the correct answer:

  1. What is the main idea?
  2. What is the setting of the story?
  3. How did the story end?
  4. If you were the Rifka, what might you have done differently? What would you have changed?

What reading skills are kids learning in school to help them in life?

How will the multiple choice test help them>

What drives reading instruction in school?

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Channeling your attention

November 21, 2011 by bgaskins · No Comments · leadership, learning, literacy, professional development, reflecting, social networking, writing

Here I wrote about Controlling our Attention and today I wanted to continue thinking about this topic. I have another post in the making but having trouble with getting my thoughts together that should precede this post. But as you read you will see I have two-blog post here and probably should refocus my writing. Once again,  want to celebrate the draftiness of this post in a public space and celebrate I am still learning.  Is that what really matters? Somewhere I saw this quote over the last few days: “Writing is my visible thinking.”


Cathy Davidson in her book Now You See It states that we need to put emphasis building out institution structures to support forms of collaboration. We need training on participation and productive activity that is necessary for collaborating with others for the success of the whole. Amazon has opened a plant in my home state of South Carolina and this article Amazon plant could be model for innovation appeared in this past Sunday’s edition of the Sun News in Myrtle Beach. Workers are told that innovation is a part of their job! Wow! How long since in public education since a teacher has been told that innovation is a part of our job! I am not sure I have ever been told to be innovative! That model of thinking might be difficult for employees of South Carolina where public school are struggling to produce creative and innovative learners! (Not just a SC problem, but a nation wide problem)

If we want to produce this type of innovators for a work force, we must start working right now! Cathy Davidson tells the story about Chuck Hamilton (IBM executive) and IBM This story is worth sharing here to get an understanding of how we might to begin to get at the heart of innovation from a school leadership perspective. This story is about their multi-person conversational culture. It is a process of deemphasizing typical hierarchical meeting which we are all so comfortable. They make this change with the use of technology!

“Let’s say 15 people are on a conference call among Vancouver, Toronto, New York, Rio, and Beijing. Everyone chats using SameTime, IBM’s internal synchrounous chat tool, and has a text window open during the conversation. Anyone can be typing a comment or a question (back chatting) while any other two people are speaking. Participants are both listening to the main conversation between whichever two people happen to be talking while also reading the comments, questions, and answers that any participant of the other participant might be texting. The conversation continues in response to both the talk and the text.” (Davidson, pg. 193)

At first everyone found this to be distracting and now members of the team report when they are in a conference call with out chat features, they find their attention wondering. Through time team members have become proficient at backchanneling. Everyone’s ideas get exposed and expressed and heard. When two people are talking, a conversation continues, everyone gets to participate, offer ideas and responses, coming up with new twists that creates new ideas, solutions, or turn to a new direction without interrupting the flow. You can save all this information, the historical text and refer to them later.

My participation with Educon 2.0 was the first conference where I was exposed the backchanneling via twitter. I was amazed at the powerful conversations that take place, the new ideas, the clarifications, questioning, the responses, and the new twists and plus the relationships that have lasted.

You walk into to classrooms and you see kids carrying on back channel conversations. In faculty meetings there is always this issue. You see teachers and administrators texting during a workshop.   Lot of it is due to holding and controlling one’s attention.

I have seen twitter work for back channeling! What if we encouraged these conversations! I wonder how much more productive we would be! Would we all be heard? Everyone would be expected to participate in the conversation! In the beginning it would be most uncomfortable as we learn to constantly shift our thinking between what is being spoken and the text coming across a twitter feed!

Davidson, Cathy, Now you see it, Viking, 2011

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Addressing Rigor in our Schools

November 20, 2011 by bgaskins · 1 Comment · change, Common Core Standards, leadership, learning, reflecting, Rigor

A Good thing: There seems to be a wide spread concern about rigor in our schools, but addressing the change that is needed is challenging. This is especially true in those schools that the learning culture has been set by previous building leaders and well established tenured teachers in the building. Change is daunting. Most teachers have different beliefs about teaching and learning and in some cases school culture has captivated teachers thinking especially teachers who have spent many years contributing to that culture.

Bruce Torff points out in his article “Teacher Beliefs Shape Learning for All Students” that effective teachers have always delivered the same high level of rigor to all their students. Usually these teachers do it daily behind the confines of the four walls in their classroom. Everyone knows she is a great teacher but very few try to find out why she is so successful. It happens from working in isolation for so many years and usually this teacher gets all the best kids. But regardless who walks through her classroom door, the same expectation is the same for every child and she is able to hold the child accountable for learning. Usually these teachers teach with high expectations and higher level thinking skills are expected from every student.  Effective teachers have always delivered the same high level of rigor to all their student

But most teachers have different beliefs, and these beliefs are resistant to change, both during teacher training and on the job. Beliefs about learning and teaching seem to be etched in stone and difficult to rewrite.

Torff believes there are six factors at work when teachers opt for a less-rigorous curriculum for their disadvantaged students:

-          Students’ level of prior knowledge;

-          Students’ level of academic achievement;

-          Students’ level of motivation;

-          Time constraints;

-          Parents’ influence;

-          Colleagues’ influence.

And he further believes that change can happen by-

  • Conversations, journals, and assignments designed to get teachers to reflect on their existing beliefs. Telling people what to believe doesn’t work, but getting them to think about their own beliefs in light of other evidence just might.
  • Involving teachers in writing curriculum that gets all students working at high levels.

 For more reading on the topic of rigor, check these blog posts.

Common Core and Rigor

A Lack Of Rigor Leaves Students ‘Adrift’ In College : NPR

Podcast: Rigor – What is it?


The Benefit and Danger of Education Technology – Edudemic

“Teacher Beliefs Shape Learning for All Students” by Bruce Torff in Phi Delta Kappan, November 2011 (Vol. 93, #3, p. 21-23), http://www.kappanmagazine.org; Torff can be reached at [email protected].

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What is the best we can offer our kids!

November 17, 2011 by bgaskins · No Comments · Education Reform, reflecting

A recent post by Scott McLeod triggered more thinking about this topic that seems to resonate on my blog. School reform or not! Are schools heading in the right way?

Scott writes “But until we change the process of what kids do on a day-to-day basis, we will fail to realize the systemic changes we need in our children’s learning environments. We must start teaching in a way that helps kids see relevance and helps them actually care about what they’re supposed to learn so that they don’t just memorize it short-term and then forget it as soon as possible.”

I honestly think most educators see and know what has to be done. But we are stuck under NCLB. The time has come to bury it.

In the New York Times article What We Learn (or Don’t) From Test Scores Middle School teacher and author Linda Rief states that she fears public schools where teachers are trusted to make learning fun are on the way out. Schools are busy preparing students for the multiple-choice test and this tells is what our government determines whether a school or district is making continuous improvement.

If we look at our economy and we take inventory how our country is shaping up for this century, many industrial jobs may be gone forever. A hundred years ago we started this system of education to prepare them for boring and monotonous jobs in factories and assembly lines.  It is a time that rethink and re-envision our country.  I think educators understand the change that is needed, but we are all hog tied to a system and society that does not trust us.

  • We need active learners and problem solvers.
  • We need life time learners who are constantly learning to re-invent themselves. Learners need to know how to learn, unlearn, and relearn.
  • We need a society that is capable of change throughout their life time.
  • We need communicator- We need global communicators.
  • We need multiple assessment systems base on performance, processes, communication, composition, and achievement.
  • We need to embrace multiple intelligences.
  • We need to embrace multiple ways of knowing.

I know students are tired of the game of school, but I think many school leaders are just as tired. We have to move forward.

We all must embrace change!

Are we offering our kids the best we can give them?

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Controlling our Attention

November 14, 2011 by bgaskins · 1 Comment · reflecting, Some Thoughts Along the Way

I wish I really could control my attention! I feel like I need to go to some AAA meeting or join a self-help group that will help manage it! Do you have that same problem? I do know that I am the only person who can control it.

This morning I sat through a meeting and caught myself not paying attention. The principal talked about how they were using benchmark test at the end of the quarter. At that point my mind started wondering about those kids who are not able to perform well on those test.  At another point the principal was telling us about his Friday school. Again I could not keep my focus but began to wonder how it might work and what parents thought. I found my attention drifted in a different direction.

The same thing happened in an earlier meeting when the principal was talking about the school learning environment and how he was working toward changing it with his staff. And the fact he was being met with lots of resistance from his teachers. My mind wondered again thinking about the conversation I had with a school administrator about how we all different in how we learn.

And in an early discussion I had a conversation about attention and most people’s attention changes on average every seven minutes.  Throughout the morning I focused on my attention and have been wondering how to control it.

As you sit through your next profession development, pay attention everyone in the room. Take notice of what they are doing. Are they texting? Tweeting? Grading papers? Staring blankly in to open space? Notetaking? Doodling? Talking? You see all sorts of behaviors, but yet most of the teachers would not permit many of these behaviors in their classroom.

Spend the day watching kids! Don’t watch the teacher! What are the kids doing? What are they not doing? What can you tell about their attention?

I love visiting Kindergarten classrooms especially when they are gathering on the rug around the teacher as she reads a book.  Great teachers talk about the book before reading!  Watching the looks on the kids faces get bigger! Then the reading starts. A kid interrupts to tell about a connection they have. Another talks about something he did with his Dad that the book reminds. Another talk about the pictures on the picture book page! And the chatter goes on as the teacher reads! The teacher allows the chatter and I am thinking, “Wow”. This teacher understands how important it is for kids to share their thoughts! The teacher allowed the story and the picture to grab their attention! She allowed the learners to share their thoughts!

But yet in another classroom, the kids had learned that this was inappropriate behavior to talk while the story was being read and there seem to be interruptions from fidgeting and kids touching other kids and even more disruptions during the reading.

In this first kindergarten scenario the teacher promoted creative thinking. The believed that learning is social and learning happens in a network. The teacher knew how to channel their attention.

I am presently reading the book Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn  by Cathy Davidson and her book discusses this topic of attention in the chapter about the changes in the work place..  This chapter brought me to this writing, but the point I want to make is this. I am reading this book differently from a fictional writing. I am reading the book to learn and I am very interested in information that is presented in the text. While reading, I need to manage my attention. Certain topics and cues trigger’s connection or interesting points that stops me from reading further. My mind wonders off and many times have this “a Ha” moment(s). Many times I begin to wonder and formulate questions. In order to control my attention I may highlight sentences, passages, phrases, or words or write in the margins or write on a sticky. I might even write a blog post about what I am thinking like I am doing now.

I started this book a week and half ago and I am only on page 175. Last night at 9:30 I had to put the book down to think through what I was reading. And this morning I had a conversation with colleague about what thoughts this led me to. And now I am writing this blog post.

But I think this is important to think further about as we think about the attention spans of the learners in our classrooms. As I am reading Davidson’s book I have tools in place to help me control my attention as I read. In another book I read earlier in the year Because Digital Writing Matters, I controlled my attention and thinking by tweeting my thoughts, wondering, and connections as I read.

What tools do our students have to help them control their attention? What tools do you use to help control yours?

I think this something we must address as we move into full implementation of Common Core Standards. What tools are going to give our students to control their attention and scaffold their reading when the text becomes more complex?

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November 14, 2011 by bgaskins · No Comments · reflecting

For the last 2.5 years I have focused on social studies instruction in K-5 schools in the fourth largest district in the state of South Carolina. During this time with many school district support staff are under duress, my school district is fortunate enough to be awarded a 5 year Teaching American History Grant totaling around 1.5 million dollars. This Foundations of American History grant focuses on K-5 social studies instruction in all 22 elementary schools and I am fortunate enough to facilitate the grant and be able to look closely at social studies instruction in the district. The last 2.5 years has been a learning experience and have been highly motivated to understand the underlying issues of instructional issue in teaching social studies. As you can imagine, the number one issue is time and an underlying issue has been content knowledge. Many elementary social studies teachers have not had a history course since they were in high school and most of the time their content knowledge is limited to what is in the textbook. Throughout the nation and noted by ELA Common Core Standard Guru David Coleman, very little social studies instructions happen in K-5 classroom throughout the nation. Fortunately for the state of South Carolina, most students in grades 3-5 are given an end of the year exam in social studies. 

I feel very fortunate to have been able to see the issues with teaching social studies in one South Carolina School district. I am fortunate enough to have worked with over 120 K-5 elementary teachers and administrators over the last  few years who have taught me so much about the real challenges of teaching and learning in these classrooms.  The issues are real! And the issues are time consuming especially when teachers and administrators have such lack of support from the public.  But in the schools that I visit teachers and administrator  are the heroes to the majority of the kids who enter these buildings daily. And they are my heroes as well.

Do schools have issues within to deal with? Absolutely! We measure good schools by standardized test! One test each year measures how good a school is and most of the other days of the school year, teachers are busy preparing the kids for this one shot deal.  Everything is standardized and standard based and one size of shoe must fit every shoe!

I think Peggy Orenstein captures this pretty well in her column in the Times this week which described the tension between test scores and learning at a New Hampshire middle school that was featured in the paper earlier:

In the end, I guess, I believe in the quality, competence and creativity of her teachers. And perhaps that’s a type of faith worth having; one that in public education is being permanently (and sometimes understandably) eroded. Linda Rief, one of the Oyster River teachers, told Mr. Winerip that she feared “public schools where teachers are trusted to make learning fun are on the way out.”

“Ms. Rief understands that packaged curriculums and standardized assessments offer schools an economy of scale that she and her kind cannot compete with,” Mr. Winerip writes. (Orenstein, 2011)

I remember feeling this pain when I returned to the classroom in 2002 after serving as a school technology coach for three years.  I felt I had been stripped of my creativity; however, I pushed ahead and when my door was closed we all learned together including me. My principal trusted and believed in what I was trying to accomplish.

As I have listened to teachers in my twitter feed and blogs I follow, most teachers across the nation has been stripped of their creativity in the classroom. We still measure school performance by standards and standardized tests.

We have been busy creating a nation that is equipped to choose between multiple choice answers and have the ability to bubble the correct answer. 

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How are you using Twitter for PD?

November 12, 2011 by bgaskins · 2 Comments · reflecting

Even though I have been using Twitter off and on for several years I have never fully taken ownership of Twitter as a learning tool. I use TweetDeck on my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook. I have the following columns set up in my TweetDeck

Educators around the world are so willing to share and provide ideas and suggestions to the things I am learning. Those helpful conversations have been powerful as I am seeking answers and data to my own inquiry.

Earlier today I posted this post: Lost at School. The idea from post came from tweet to pay attention to Darcy’s Blog post.

And I write about twitter as tool for learning here.

How are you using Twitter? I invite you to share in the comment box below!


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Finding Value in What I am Learning……

November 11, 2011 by bgaskins · No Comments · 21st Century, reflecting, school reform

Today my reading journey too me here and here and here and here and here and here. I am not sure I am making a point, but rawness of the writing below is helping me clarify what I value in education and what I am learning.

Here I wrote “Old school is so intimidated about the huge change that is lurking around the corner. We have educated generations of people with a vision for public education based on their experiences inside the classroom for 12 plus years of their life. Public education as we know is spiraling in a direction that a tipping point of change is in the air. If we don’t embrace change, the crash is going to be eventful at the local level. We will wake up day and not understand what has hit us.”

Four years ago Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen predicted that online education would take off slowly and then hit everyone by surprise.

Then Khan Academy, founded by Salman Khan in 2006., Khan’s business model is simple, yet impactful. It flips education on its head.  Rather than filling the day with lectures and requiring students to complete exercises after school, Khan focuses on classroom exercises throughout the day and allows students to download more lectures after school. The idea of a flipped classroom was born.

Then this article Khan Academy Snags $5 Million To Blow Up Education.  This is frightening.

Then there are a plethora of change that surround and engulf us – we expect school to stay constant, to remain immune to world forces, to be almost outside of time.

Mind Shifts reinforces that idea the one that teaches learns the most. The teacher is the classroom is the most learned one in the class.  The mind shift has to focus on what the learner does with the literacy skills in the practice of learning.

In a recent blog post Will Richardson writes about Redefining Our Value. Will states  “the biggest challenge we face as educators is redefining our value as schools and classrooms and teachers, not just to the taxpaying public but to ourselves as well.”

Will makes mention of Pearson and their answer to the disruption of education.

“One of the largest textbook publishers in the world is making its digital course offerings more data-driven and individualized. Pearson announced Tuesday an extensive partnership with Knewton, a startup that specializes in adaptive learning technology. Students in these courses use the computer during class time to work through material at their own speed. Through diagnostics taken along the way, the program creates a “personalized learning path” that targets exactly what lessons they need to work on and then delivers the appropriate material. Points, badges and other game mechanics theoretically keep students chugging through courses with more motivation. In the meantime, teachers learn which students are struggling with exactly which concepts.

“It frees me up from having to address one lecture to 60 or 70 students at once,” says Scott Surgent, associate director of mathematics at Arizona State University, in a Knewton promotional video about the courses. “I can roam around the Knewton laboratory and help the students as needed.””

from Pearson and Knewton Team Up to Make Learning Personal

And we are in danger of more start up educational platforms like Pearson in digital spaces.  Education policy makers can find ways to hire fewer teachers and help with budget issues.

What is that we really value in education?  Will our classrooms be reduced to filling in the blanks (Will Richardson) when the computer software can’t help? And the teachers are there to fill in the blanks.  Would this be what we really value?

Another point, we continue talk about data driven decision making.  Have we gone overboard with data driven decision-making? Are we able to catch the needs of all students by just relying on the data? I am all for data driven decision-making.  We must rely on other filters when the data does not tell us the whole story.

“As Clayton Christensen and Michael Horn argued in Disrupting Class, insufficient money, the teachers’ unions, and large classroom size, all relevant issues, are not the root cause of our schools’ troubles. The real problem lies in the effects standardized education has had on a student’s internal and external motivation. As the authors point out, “When education is well aligned with one’s stronger intelligences, aptitudes, or styles, understanding can come more easily and with greater enthusiasm.””

from How Online Innovators Are Disrupting Education

 Closing Thoughts of Such Ramblings.

“In the end, I guess, I believe in the quality, competence and creativity of her teachers. And perhaps that’s a type of faith worth having, one that in public education is being permanently (and sometimes understandably) eroded. Linda Rief, one of the Oyster River teachers, told Mr. Winerip that she feared “public schools where teachers are trusted to make learning fun are on the way out.”

“Ms. Rief understands that packaged curriculums and standardized assessments offer schools an economy of scale that she and her kind cannot compete with,” Mr. Winerip writes.

from What We Learn (or Don’t) From Test Scores

And that says it all!

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Thank You Sarah

November 10, 2011 by bgaskins · No Comments · reflecting, writing, Writing Worksop

Sarah Josepha Buell Hale (October 24, 1788 – April 30, 1879) was an American writer and an influential editor. She is the author of the nursery rhymeMary Had a Little Lamb“. She famously campaigned for the creation of the American holiday known as Thanksgiving.” (Wikipedia). And today we are thankful for her for her persistence in having Thanksgiving as a national holiday.

Laurie Hale Anderson book Thank You Sarah offers great opportunity for kids of all ages to learn about Sarah Hale, Thanksgiving, and persuasive writing.  Thank You Sarah is one of those mentor text I love to have on hand to teach writers of all ages about persuasive writing and how repetition is writing can be a powerful tool in the craft of writing.

She wrote letters asking politicians and she wrote persuasive articles in magazine and newspaper editorials.

She wrote many Presidents persuasive letters including Buchanan, Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, and finally Lincoln. It was her letter to Lincoln that influences him to sign the proclamation about Thanksgiving. Lincoln felt the break in the war would help bring the country together.

It took her 38 years to achieve her goal.


When reading this book to young writers, I always ask them to listen for repeated lines.  That leads to a powerful discussion about how this craft can enhance voice and the message you are trying convey.  The line I love in this book is “Did that stop Sarah? No! She was bold, brave, and smart.”

And that line leads to a writing prompt for a quick write!

Did that stop Bill? Now! He is bold, brave, and smart. He picks up his pen and blogs more. His thinking is flawed some day and some days he is on target.

Did that stop Bill? Now! He is bold, brave, and smart. He visited his enemy and showed kindness and mercy, but scorned a way.

Did that stop Bill? Now! He is bold, brave, and smart. We still have standardized testing and the public has a different view of how to hold schools and teacher accountable. They think Bill’s thinking is flawed!

Did that stop Bill? Now! He is bold, brave, and smart. Bill continues to read blogs, professional books, and twitter feeds and shares through his writing. Sometimes he wonders how all this helps.

Did that stop Bill? Now! He is bold, brave, and smart. And Bill never gives up!

I wander what my legacy will be!”

Thank You Sarah


Wikipedia. (n.d.). Sarah Josepha Hale. Retrieved November 3, 2011, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Josepha_Hale





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