“A child who can read will be an adult who thinks.” By Sasha Salmina

The goal of literacy instruction is to build students confidence, ability and skills in reading and writing. There are numerous engaging, effective strategies to get students to think about, write about, read about, and talk about content. Below are five of my favorite books (in no particular order) to help improve literacy instruction.

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  1. Mindsets and Moves: Strategies That Help Readers Take Charge, Grades 1-8 by Gravity Goldberg
  2. Who’s Doing the Work?: How to Say Less So Readers Can Do More by Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris 
  3. Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration by Pernille Ripp
  4. The Reading Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers by Jennifer Serravallo – She also recently came out with

    The Writing Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Writers and I have heard great reviews but have not personally read it yet.

  5. From Pencils to Podcasts: Digital Tools for Tansforming K-6 Literacy Practices- A Teachers Guide for Embedding Technology Into Curriculum by Katie Stover Kelly and Lindsey Yearta

If there is a literacy book you think that should be added to this list, please add it in the comments section, as I am always wanting to build my toolkit and book list.

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” By Aesop

Random Acts of Kindness Week, February 12-18, is a week-long celebration dedicated to encouraging people to do one thing: be kind. You can follow the thread at #RAKweek2017.

kindnessThe Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Foundation is a great site to help you integrate RAK in your classroom. RAK goal is to “ultimately striving to make kindness the standard in every aspect of life. Whether it’s helping a stranger in need on your way to work, instilling the importance of kindness in students in a classroom, or a mutual demonstration of appreciation of those closest to us, our end-goal is to make kindness not an act at all, but a reflex. And to make the need for kindness obsolete by the overwhelming and undeniable presence of it everywhere.”

RAK is apart of the hidden curriculum in schools but there are lots of ways to integrate it seamlessly so that it is apart of your classroom culture. Below are five ways you can integrate RAK:

  1. Talk about RAK during morning meetings and/or advisory time.
  2. Start a bucket filling program in your classroom or school
  3. Make it apart of your Interactive Read Aloud. Here are some book titles to get you started:
    1. Have You Filled A Bucket Today? A Guide To Daily Happiness For Kids by Carol McCloud

    2. Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson, Fumi Kosaka

    3. We All Sing With The Same Voice by J. Philip Miller and Sheppard M. Greene

    4. Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

    5. A Sick Day For Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead

    6. Last Stop On Market Street by Matt de la Pena

    7. Horton Hears A Who by Dr. Seuss

    8. Enemy Pie by Derek Munson

    9. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

    10. The Three Questions by Jon J Muth

  4. Show video’s demonstrating RAK. You can use the RAK Video Library as a resource!
  5. Ripil App is a free “kindness tracker” where you can post daily RAK goals.

You can start integrating RAK by also becoming a RAKtivists = Random Acts of Kindness activist! You can apply to be a RAKtivist here.

More Articles and Information about RAK:

Random Acts of Kindness Week: Encouraging Empathy and Appreciation of Diversity in Your Classroom

RAK Blog

102 Random Acts of Kindness – Ideas to Inspire Kindness

9 Ways to Introduce Students to Random Acts of Kindness

Discover Educations: Discover Kindness in the Classroom

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” By Walt Disney

I am so excited to have Bena Kallick and Allison Zmuda be guest bloggers this week! I met Allison a few years ago at an ASCD conference and we instantly bounded over trying to figure out what Personalized Learning meant for schools and classrooms, while on the floor waiting for the keynote doors to open! This encounter turned into a partnership and friendship and I am so glad to have met her not only because she is an amazing thought partner but she has introduced me to so many amazing educators including Bena.

Guest Post by Bena Kallick and Allison Zmuda

How can we encourage student reflection and growth in each of the four attributes? We have found that it is helpful to pay attention to key Habits of Mind associated with voice, co-creation, social construction, and self-discovery. If you want to take a look back at each habit, take a look at Bena and Art Costa’s page on Learning Personalized.

This post explores how modeling and growing certain habits in conjunction with the attributes nurtures the learning partnership between teacher and student: one grounded on trust, increased autonomy, shared responsibility, and thoughtful actions.

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Voice

Habits of Mind to Pay Attention To: listening with understanding and empathy; thinking and communicating with clarity and precision, questioning and problem posing.

Typically, students are driven by the school’s curriculum agenda. They become passengers in the journey adults have mapped out. As a result, students have grown accustomed to being told what to do; what to read, what to think, etc.

In personalized learning, every student is seen as a respected and valued participant. Empowerment comes from an environment in which students recognize the power of their own ideas and recognize the shift that can happen by being exposed to others’ ideas.

When developing voice, it is as important to listen to what others have to say as it is to learn how to voice your own thoughts. Often, when we are listening closely to another, we begin to seek greater clarity about what the other is trying to express.

We raise questions that help to clarify our understanding and we pay attention to what the other person is thinking and feeling. At the same time, as we establish our own voice, we try hard to choose words that help express our thoughts with specificity. So, for example, instead of saying “everyone thinks that is the case,” we might say, “when I was at the meeting the other day, I heard at least three people say that this is the case.”

Growing student voice through building the habits that focus on both expressing yourself and thinking clearly about what it is you really are trying to say is an essential key to the sense of empowerment we want all students to experience as they engage with the world.

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Co-Creation

Habits of Mind to Pay Attention To: creating, imagining and innovating; thinking flexibly; persisting.

Students assume a significant design role in the development of the idea, challenge, problem, or inquiry. They are being invited to the design table to co-create a personalized plan using “backward design” principles.

The student works with the teacher to:

  • develop a challenge, problem, or idea
  • clarify what is being measured (learning goals)
  • envision the product or performance (assessment)
  • outline an action plan to be successful on that performance to achieve the desired results (learning actions)

When we invite students to become co-creators of their own learning, we want them to persist as they consider many new and innovative possibilities for learning. We want students to realize that the first idea may not be the best idea.

They need to be willing to let go of ideas that they predict may not work and to come up with another idea that leads them in a new direction. They must open their minds to what others think and say as they shape the actions they might take. They need to learn that creativity is often an interactive process of thinking collaboratively as well as individually.

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Social Construction

Habits of Mind to Pay Attention To: thinking interdependently, taking responsible risks, gathering data.

Students build ideas through relationships with others as they theorize, investigate, and develop in pursuit of a common goal. There is real power in feeling that you are not alone, a sense of camaraderie when you are working to cause a change, create a performance, or build a prototype.

As Riley indicated based on his own observations of many schools:

“The experiences that have most inspired me have shared one singular feature: They have involved rich conversations among a community of scholars. The most compelling classrooms are ones in which learning goals are shared, and knowledge is fostered through social interactions.”

When students are in a conversation with others, they need to be open to the influence of other people’s thinking. They must be able to hear what others are saying and remain open to the continuous refinement of ideas as they deepen their understanding of what is at hand. They might need to reach out to experts in the field they are studying.

Although this is taking a risk, it also often leads to enormous rewards. Students learn which risks are most likely to give them greater clarity in their thinking. Developing the habits for social construction broaden the students’ experiences beyond the walls of the classroom or school.

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Self Discovery

Habits of Mind to Pay Attention To: thinking about your thinking, responding with wonderment and awe, applying past knowledge to new situations.

Students need to know enough about themselves to be able to make wise decisions as they navigate through the turbulence of a rapidly changing environment. Being educated is more than being knowledgeable about a series of topics and fluent in key skills; it also is having students come to understand themselves as learners and know more about what they want to do both in the world as well as in future learning.

Our ultimate aim is for students to become self-directed learners who know how to manage themselves in a variety of situations.

When students build the habit of reflecting on their learning, they are becoming more self-directed. They are able to consider what they learned from a given study and celebrate their successes as well as paying attention to what did not work. They are able to distinguish what is important so that they can transfer that learning to new situations.

They begin to discover their passions, interests, dreams as they experience the adrenaline that flows from what they have accomplished. They stand back and gaze with wonderment and awe!

“Life is filled with tests, one after another, and if you don’t recognize them, you are certain to fail the most important ones.” By Brian Herbert

fake

In a  recent study from Stanford, Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning, displays that a vast majority of students can’t determine it what they read on websites is true or false. (I would also be interested in a further study to see how many adults can identify fake news as sometimes I see adults posting fake news too.) The skills of evaluating fake news and information are a very important part of Digital Citizenship and Digital Literacy. 

As educators we need to have an understanding ourselves where information comes from so we can help guide students. We need to explicitly teach if an article, blog post etc is reliable and accurate. We can start doing that be utilizing these three core ideas: 

Consider the Source: Where was the information published? Remember anyone can make a website.

Check the Author: What do you know about the author(s)? What else have they written?

Check the Date: When was the information posted? How long ago was it updated? 

Below are some resources you can use in the classroom for teaching how to spot fake news:

Chrome Extension: Fake News Detector 

Snopes (Put in a url you are wondering about and they will fact check it)

Fictitious, Satirical, Bogus, Fallacy-laden Websites (Sites that are fake you can use to teach students about digital literacy and spotting fake news. I would make this into a web-quest mixing real and fake news to see how many they can identify)

Lesson Plan: Fighting Fake News

Lesson plan: How to teach your students about fake news

Fake News and What We Can Do about It: HS Lesson Plans

More articles on fake news:

Mission Critical: How Educators Can Help Save Democracy

Who Stands Between Fake News and Students? Educators

Evaluating Sources in a ‘Post-Truth’ World: Ideas for Teaching and Learning About Fake News

Most Students Don’t Know When News Is Fake, Stanford Study Finds

How to Spot Fake News

411 on Makerspaces

“The mind has exactly the same power as the hands; not merely to grasp the world but to change it.” By Colin Wilson

A Makerspace is a learning environment where everyone can discover, collaborate, and create things. It is not defined as a certain space but rather an area of exploration, experimentation and tinkering. Many schools have been adding Makerspaces into their media centers but that is not the only place they have to be. You can add them into your classroom as well. There is a misconception that Makerspaces have to have technology such as a 3d printer and this is not true. I have seen many awesome Makerspaces with no technology in them such as Fashion Makerspaces. Ask parents to donate supplies or apply for a grants through Donors Choose or Go Fund Me: Education to help launch your Makerspace.

Here are some examples items you can put into your Makerspaces but not limited too:

Helpful Articles and Resources:

www.makerspaces.com

7 Things You Should Know About Makerspaces

Book: Invent to Learn

My previous Makerspace posts:

Makerspace in Education

Ways to Use Blokify – Without a 3D Printer in the Classroom

Adding Creativity and Imagination to the Classroom

I would love to hear what you put into your Makerspaces.

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” By Tamika L. Sims

One of my goals for 2017 is to help educators see that Personalized Learning (PL) is not “another thing” and not something that is hard to do in your classroom when you start small and are intentional in how you start. Below I offers 26 ways to incorporate the PL philosophy into your classroom practice. I suggest choosing one and start making small changes in your practice. To read how to get started with PL, check out my previous blog post here.

 A. Authentic: Create authentic experiences for your students that align to the real world and are fun.

B. Brain Breaks – Having an Action Based Learning (ABL) classroom that allows brain breaks keeps students engaged through movement.

C. Choice – Allow students to have choice in the classroom from the room design to the tasks they complete.

D. Data Trackers – Having students keep data trackers helps them understand what they are strong in and what they need to work on; allowing them to build a growth mindset about learning.

E. Empower – Empower students to have agency in their learning.

F. Flexible environments –  Let students pick where they sit and offer flexible seating options. It can be as simple as allowing students to stand if they chose or you can re-design your room with different types of seating.

G. Goal setting – Have students set academic goals.

H. Habits – Let go of old habits. As teachers/educators we get stuck in habits because they become comfortable for us and not always what is best for students. Reevaluate your teaching habits and think about why you _____ (fill in the blank with practice.) Ask yourself is it best for students? Why or Why Not?

I. Innovation  – Give students time to be innovative and think outside the box. You can do this through Genius Hour or PBL’s etc.

J. Journey  – Personalized Learning is a journey and always evolving for both you and the students. There is no one right way and you will at times make mistakes.

K. Know  – Take the time to get to know your students including their strengthens and weaknesses, likes and dislikes.

L. Learning outcomes – Allow students to understand what the learning outcome is. Having students understand the outcome helps them focus on what steps they need to meet the outcome.

M. Mastery learning – Allow mastery to be measured in various ways in the classroom, including formal or informal assessments, performance tasks, or verbal responses.

N. Non-cognitive skills – Dispositions or non-cognitive skills are arguably just as important as understanding content or maybe even more important. Instilling skills such as communication, critical thinking and collaboration are important life long learning skills that help students become successful in life.

O. Opportunity – Provide students opportunities that are new or different to them opening up doors to possibilities.

P. Pace – Allow students to work at their own pace/speed.

Q. Quests – Learning quests allow students to research and discover content verse regurgitating.

R. Reflection – Reflecting on your work is one of the most under utilized best practices. Having students reflect on their work, assessment and learning process helps guide them to understand mistakes, ideas and problem solve.

S. Shift – You need to shift the role of the teacher from a lecturer and holder of all knowledge to a coach who guides students based on needs.

T. Technology – Technology is a tool you can utilize to help support instruction and deliver content based on the students needs.

U. Use Data –  Use data to make changes in your instruction, drive your lessons and tasks.

V. Voice – Have students share their voice  and knowledge with others. This can be done through blogging, projects, creating such as iMovie etc.

W. Whole Child – The concept of meeting the Whole Child is more than establishing  relationships with your students but also being aware of  each students health, safety, engagement and support.

X. Xamples – Have students collect eXamples of their work over time to see their growth. (Okay, so I cheated a little bit with this one but X is hard!)

Y. You Matter – Every student needs to hear they matter. Check out these resources from the You Matter Movement.

Z. Zigzag – PL is not going to be perfect all the time. You will have to be able to be zig-zag through what works for you in your classroom.

“Don’t confuse having a career with having a life.” by Hillary Clinton

With the holidays around the corner it is important to remember to self check your work- life balance. Over the years I have gotten better with my work-life balance. I am one of the lucky ones that truly enjoys my job but still needs to remind myself that work will always be there and never truely complete no matter how many hours I work. Here are some tips and tricks that I have learned over the years to help:

  1. Drop Activities/Tasks that Don’t Add Value: Ask yourself, “What is the end goal of this task, will it add value?” Sometimes we do things in our job or our personal lives because we have ‘always done it this way’. Reevaluate some of your activities and tasks to see if you can ‘gain’ time. I do this, every six months or so.
  2. Unplug: Set times when you will not look at work and/or technology and be in the moment. Examples: no technology at dinner, no work after 6:00 or no work until the kids are in bed. Do what works for your lifestyle but make a point to have set times. It also helped me when I took my work email off my personal phone. Sometimes I will do unplugged weekends and I find a lot of my best ideas come during those times!
  3. Exercise: It sometimes is hard to include this one into the mix but even if you walk for 20 minutes the benefits do wonders for you.
  4.  Learn to say NO: This is by far the hardest and something I am continually working on. This also doesn’t mean saying no just to work things but also personal. If you don’t want to go to an event or party, it is okay to say no. Sometimes I am asked to do ‘extras’ because I don’t have kids. This was confusing to me because not having kids, does not equate to, not having a life. Reminding myself this concept helped me say no.
  5. Don’t Worry about Others: If you work complete X amount of hours a week and complete your work while producing stuff you are proud of, who cares if Johnny or Sally works 50 hours. Maybe they aren’t getting their work done or using their time wisely, that has nothing to do with you. Also remember what others think about you has nothing to do with you and everything to do with themselves.
  6. Happiness is a choice: Do what makes you happy!  John Lennon once said, “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”

With all this being said, for the next two weeks, I will not be blogging. I am going to take the time to unplug and enjoy the holidays with family and friends. I hope you do as well!

More information about Work-Life Balance:

Work-Life Balance Information

Work-Life Balance Site

“When you’re gone would you rather have your gravestone say, ‘He never missed a meeting?” Or one that said, ‘He was a great father.’” by  Steve Blank.

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