Tuesday, July 19, 2016

#cyberPD- DIY Literacy- Chapters 3 and 4

For about the past five summers, I have participated in #cyberPD. This year, we are reading DIY Literacy: Teaching Tools for Differentiation, Rigor, and Independence. I'm way, way, way behind in my posts, but better late than never, right?

Lots to think about in chapters three and four. First, I thought about myself and my teaching. I loved this quote: Last paragraph on page 51. It is tempting to fall into the trap of getting exasperated when students do not remember past teaching. Before we know it, we have rolled our eyes and said, "But I already taught you that!" However, as educators from Chris Lehman to M. Colleen Cruz remind us, if we had really taught it, then kids would be able to do it. They would have learned. I'm thinking about using that at the bottom of emails at the beginning of the year. I may or may not do it-- a little worried that it might be too accusatory and might put some folks on the defensive, but I definitely want to post it somewhere where I will remember to look at it every day.

I continue to be intrigued by the idea of micro-progressions. Thinking that it might be true that before I can create microprogressions, I need to really decide which reading and writing skills are the most important for kids to learn in each unit. I do lots of backward planning with teachers. We work really hard at deciding what we want students to know and be able to do. This year, I want to work harder at creating microprogresions and charts to go with those strategies and skills. Maybe the most important thing about deciding which skills we are going to teach is deciding which lessons and skills are NOT important to learn. And then NOT teaching those.

After we decided exactly what we wanted to teach, Kate and Maggie's question, "What evidence of my teaching do I see in this student work?" seems like it would be a logical next step. I could see using the question, during data team meetings. I wonder what it would be like to say, "OK, so you taught X this week during writers' workshop?" Bring your student notebooks and let's look for evidence of your teaching. How many kids have got it? How many kids are on the way but need a little more support? And how many kids are not using that skill at all? How might looking through that lens change us as teachers?

 I also wonder how this question might work as a tool for coaching. I see this on two levels. First, I see myself stepping away from a teacher's classroom and asking myself, "What evidence of my coaching do I see in this teacher's work?" I work with some teachers where I could answer that question easily, but then I work with some teachers where I don't think that's necessarily true. Even after four years, I don't see much evidence of my work in their teaching. And I wonder what I need to change. A couple of ideas come to mind, e.g. I need to be more deliberate about helping teachers set goals for our work together, both long term and short term. And we need to revisit those goals often.

Process chart vs. Repertoire chart 
I have been surprised, over the past four years, at how much I have enjoyed working with our middle school students. If I had to describe these kiddos  in one word, I would choose "wonderful" but I would also have to admit that most of the time, they are also more than a little scattered. And they move from room to room, which makes them even more scattered I'm trying to think how our middle school team could set up some kind of notebook (not sure whether it would be a physical notebook or a digital notebook), where kids would keep some kind of replica of the processes/strategies they have learned. It might even be pictures on their phones. Could the repertoire charts go on a bookmark and then they could refer to a wall chart or page in their notebooks for the actual process? How do I help teachers physically incorporate the step of asking kids to look at the chart before they start to read, and to assess themselves on how they used it afterwards?

Chapter 4- Rigor
I had to admit that I was more than a little reluctant to read this chapter. Rigor is all the rage in Colorado right now, or at least in my district. Unfortunately, most of the time it falls into the first category described in DIY Literacy, "The first (type of rigor) focuses on the difficulty of the task that students are being asked to accomplish. There are many ways to make the task more rigorous: elevate the text complexity, raise the standards, increase the volume of writing... yet a conversation around rigor that centers on the difficulty of the task or text leaves out the performance, engagement and agency of the learner" (54). Kids are asked to read really, really hard, and also really, really boring texts (think along the lines of LITTLE WOMEN), that most adults would never, in a million years, choose to read, let alone write about; then after they sort of read them, they are expected to write reading responses and/or essays comparing them. Kids totally disengage, and then we complain that their thinking is not rigorous.

I am much more comfortable with Roberts' and Beattie Roberts second definition of rigor, "Alternatively, we focus on the second form of rigor as a description of a behavior rather than a description of a task. Rigor is performative-- it is a stance, an action, a state of being that is taken to move through the world, tackle tasks, or work toward a goal. And when we focus on the work and effort that students put into tackling a task and not just the task itself, we create opportunities to really see what's difficult for kids" (54). They go on to say, "Rigor has at least two components: (1) The difficulty of the task at hand and (2) the persistence and dedication of the students working toward that task. Without this second layer, it won't matter how advanced our instruction is or isn't; if the kids aren't working hard, there is no rigor (69). I wonder how I can work these ideas into conversations at my school and district.

I also love the idea that "Rigor is relative. It's important to honor the fact that rigor looks different from classroom to classroom and from kid to kid. What is simply a breeze for one student is a mountain of difficulty for another. We miss the mark if we only talk about rigor as a monolithic, static thing (66). What's rigorous for one kid, may not be rigorous for another. If we truly are differentiating, if we truly have adopted a growth mindset way of thinking, then we need to help teachers and kids define rigor, and work toward that, for themselves.

Finally, I'm intrigued by Cathy Mere's comments during the Twitter chat last week. Cathy talked about the microprogressions as a tool for professional development, then followed up with this thinking in her post last week. .My district has begun using exemplars more heavily as a tool for data meetings. I wonder, though, whether microprogressions might also play some kind of a role in these meetings.

This thinking feels big and unformed, but it's pretty much where I am right now. I hope that's ok....


Mrs.HWeber said...

You have made so many great points here! I like your idea of adding "if we really taught it, kids would be able to do it" to emails (at the very least it needs to be visible, right?!) I am frustrated when I hear a colleague complain about how students can't do this or that when they did this or that. If my students aren't doing something, I try to consider what I did or what I did not do effectively enough. Why are many so quick to blame students or make excuses? Especially with teaching tools like these as options? If students didn't learn it, we haven't found the way to make it stick.
I think this also connects to your point about looking for evidence of your teaching. While we look for evidence of learning and mastery, this too should be important. Sometimes those smaller steps (or evidence of our teaching) can be so insightful!
Great points!

Mary Lee said...

"Big and unformed." Describes my brain exactly. I'm TRYING to get my head around school stuff, but I also know that it's a little pointless until the kids walk in the room!