Category Archives: Reading

Lyrics and Improv – creating a flexible base

How many songs do we sing without reading and confirming the lyrics? How often have our lyrics been a source of enjoyment for others?

Be sure to make your instructional goals clear to your students.(Lehman and Roberts, 17 pag.)

Learning targets increase students’ independence by bringing the standards to life, shifting ownership of meeting them from just the teacher to both the teacher and the student. (Berger, 23 pag.)

It is not enough that the teacher knows where students are headed; the students must also know where they are headed, and both the teacher and the students must be moving in the same direction.  (Conzemius and O’Neill,  66 pag.)

Is it that, sometimes, what we hear isn’t really what is being said?

How often do we embrace improvisation?

While this may be a lesson introducing the steps of reading closely for text evidence, show [learners] how it can help them develop new ideas, like understanding their characters in deeper ways.  (Lehman and Roberts, 17 pag.)

Expectations that begin with the word “understand” are often especially good opportunities to connect the practices to the content. Students who lack understanding of a topic may rely on procedures too heavily. Without a flexible base from which to work, they may be less likely to consider analogous problems, represent problems coherently, justify conclusions, apply the mathematics to practical situations, use technology mindfully to work with the mathematics, explain the mathematics accurately to other students, step back for an overview, or deviate from a known procedure to find a shortcut. In short, a lack of understanding effectively prevents a student from engaging in the mathematical practices. (CCSS SMP)

How might we create a flexible base where we are moving in the same direction, singing the same tune, and confident enough to improvise?

Berger, Ron, Leah Rugen, and Libby Woodfin. Leaders of Their Own Learning: Transforming Schools through Student-engaged Assessment. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Conzemius, Anne; O’Neill, Jan. The Power of SMART Goals: Using Goals to Improve Student Learning. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree, 2006. Print.

Lehman, Christopher, and Kate Roberts. Falling in Love with Close Reading: Lessons for Analyzing Texts and Life. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Standards for Mathematical Practice.” Standards for Mathematical Practice. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.


Intersection of struggle and hope

Many days we stand in the intersection of struggle and hope.

We can observe our children carefully and look into their eyes and say, “Can I tell you what a great person you are?” and follow-up with concrete examples of the way they give amazing hugs and how kindly they treat their friends.  This is the stuff of our most important relationships: Aiming to understand and be understood. (Lehman, Christopher, and Kate Roberts)

But some teachers preached and practiced a growth mindset. They focused on the idea that all children could develop their skills, and in their classrooms a weird thing happened. It didn’t matter whether students started the year in the high- or the low-ability group. Both groups ended the year way up high. It’s a powerful experience to see these findings. The group differences had simply disappeared under the guidance of teachers who taught for improvement, for these teachers had found a way to reach their “low-ability” students. (Dweck, Carol)

Move the fulcrum so that all the advantage goes to a negative mindset, and we never rise off the ground. Move the fulcrum to a positive mindset, and the lever’s power is magnified— ready to move everything up. (Achor, Shawn.)

To pursue bright spots is to ask the question “What’s working, and how can we do more of it?” Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Yet, in the real world, this obvious question is almost never asked. Instead, the question we ask is more problem focused: “What’s broken, and how do we fix it?” (Heath, Chip and Dan Heath)

And so the challenge of our future is to say, are we going to connect and amplify positive tribes that want to make things better for all of us?  (Godin, Seth)

 Move the fulcrum. Pursue bright spots. Amplify to make things better.

Aim to understand and to be understood.

Achor, Shawn (2010-09-14). The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work (Kindle Locations 947-948). Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Dweck, Carol (2006-02-28). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (Kindle Locations 1135-1138). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Heath, Chip; Heath, Dan (2010-02-10). Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard (p. 45). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Lehman, Christopher, and Kate Roberts. Falling in Love with Close Reading: Lessons for Analyzing Texts and Life. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Transcript: Seth Godin – The Art of Noticing, and Then Creating.” On Being. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2014.

#HLTA: High-Leverage Team Actions

I’m reading Beyond the Common Core: A Handbook for Mathematics in a PLC at Work  written by Juli K. DixonThomasenia Lott AdamsEdward C. Nolan and edited by Timothy D. Kanold.

In their handbook, they offer tools that scaffold collaborative pursuit.   They identify 10 high-leverage team actions (HLTAs) to  impact learning and improve team work, instruction, and assessment.

What if we use this to set goals for our team and guide our actions in one team meeting per month/week/quarter? If we are not there yet, could we pick 1-3 and take concentrated action?

Dixon, Juli K; Adams, Thomasina Lott (2014-10-13). Beyond the Common Core: A Handbook for Mathematics in a PLC at Work™, Grades K-5 (Kindle Locations 3-5, 241-243, 273-279, 286-289, 300-302). Solution Tree Press. Kindle Edition.

VTR: Sentence-Phrase-Word to dig deeper into Standards for Mathematical Practice

From Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners:

Sentence-Phrase-Word helps leaners to engage with and make meaning from text with a particular focus on capturing the essence of the test or “what speaks to you.” It fosters enhanced discussion while drawing attention to the power of language. (Ritchhart, Church, Morrison, 207 pag.)

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 7.26.45 PMWhat if we read and learn together, as a team? How might we develop deeper understanding?

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 7.29.46 PMAs a team of learners, we first read Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them independently and highlighted a sentence, phrase, and work that resonated with us.  In round robin fashion, we read aloud our selected sentence so that every member of the team heard what every other member of the team felt was important.  Just the act of hearing another voice read and callout an idea was impactful.

After completing the Sentence-Phrase-Word Visible Thinking Routine for Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them, we asked everyone to take another Standard for Mathematical Practice to read and markup, highlighting a sentence, a phrase, and a word.

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 7.36.57 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 7.37.09 PM

We divided into teams where each of the remaining Standards of Mathematical Practice were represented.  Each learner shared the SMP that they read highlighting a selected sentence, phrase, and word. My notes are shared below. I was amazed at the new ideas I heard from my colleagues when using this routine.

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 7.40.51 PM

Seek diversity of thought. Listen to others.  Hear differently. Promote engagement, understanding, and independence for all.


Ritchhart, Ron, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison. “Sentence-Phrase-Word.”Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2011. 207-11. Print.


Positivity ratio – productivity, motivation, flourish

Even the smallest shots of positivity can give someone a serious competitive edge. (Achor, 48 pag.)

Tis the season…Either exams were just completed or the prep for them is beginning. I wonder how we might employ the positivity ratio in our feedback, comments, and marks as exams are scored and returned to learners. Usually exams are considered summative assessment, but at the end of first semester, could they be also be used as informing assessment?

Once positive emotions outnumbered negative emotions by 3 to 1— that is, for every three instances of feeling gratitude, interest, or contentment, they experienced only one instance of anger, guilt, or embarrassment— people generally flourished.  (Pink, 107 pag.)

As we have seen, even the smallest moments of positivity in the workplace can enhance efficiency, motivation, creativity, and productivity. (Achor, 58 pag.)

What if we experiment with influence of the positivity ratio? What if every learner found a note attached to the scored exam that identified details of strengths exhibited on the exam as well as areas for growth in a 3:1 ratio?  How might we enhance motivation and productivity? How might we impact opportunities to flourish?


Achor, Shawn (2010-09-14). The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Pink, Daniel H. (2012-12-31). To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others. Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

E. B. White Book Club evaluation (Round 1) – #LL2LU

How do learners know if they are on the right track? Are the targets clear? Do we offer enough opportunities for formative self-assessment? What if we offer learners the opportunity to self-assess, peer-assess, and ask questions to calibrate their understanding with others?

Kato (@KatoNims) sent me the 4th Grade Team’s E. B. White Book Club evaluation.  Here are some of the children’s responses from the first round of the book club evaluation. (It is my understanding that they will complete this evaluation after each meeting of the book club. I believe they meet to discuss each chapter.)

From SK:

Level 3: I can read all of my assigned reading and complete all book club role requirements.

Level 3: I can have on topic conversations by sharing my role and listening to others share their roles.

Level 1: We can share our roles.

I wish that my group would listen more. Next time I would like my group to listen more.

From BB:

Level 1: I can read some of my assigned reading and complete some of my book club requirements.

Level 2: I can have on topic conversations while I share my role and sometimes fully listen to others share.

Level 3: We can share our roles, have on topic conversations, and listen to the comments of each other.

From AF:

Level 4: I can read all of my assigned reading and include more than what was required for my book club role requirements.

Level 4: I can have on topic conversations by sharing my role, listening to others, and furthering discussion by adding related comments and questions.

Level 2: We can share our roles and listen to each other.

I wish that [CB] didn’t just walk away and say “we are out of time” when I was still presenting, I never got to finish presenting.

From [CB]

Level 3: I can read all of my assigned reading and complete all book club role requirements.

Level 3: I can have on topic conversations by sharing my role and listening to others share their roles.

Level 4: We can share our roles while also having meaningful on topic conversations so we learn new things from each other.

I wish that [FA] would shorten his questions.

I want to share more of their feedback.  I have been underestimating what these young learners can do.

I wish we had a book club check-in to make sure we are on the way to completing what we need to.  Also so everyone is doing the right chapters because from experience it is very annoying when someone forget to do a chapter and then the rest of the book club does not get all the information about the book that they need.

Awesome. Feedback that is actionable.  Let’s check with our members. Are we all reading and studying the same chapter? Has everyone completed the chapter prior to the book club date?

I wish that we will have another great book club. I liked that [CB] aways listened to me. I wonder if next time when we all have different jobs if we will do better or worse. Next time I would like if [AF] listened a bit more to me.

I love that they are using “I wish…,” I liked…,”I wonder…,” and “Next time…,” as their prompts for feedback.

Will we see improvement in book club participation and structure? Kato says she’s already had the opportunity to talk with individual students about their participation, their feedback for others, and how the level needs to match the feedback.

Just completing the form will help learners think about their work and the work of others.  The face-to-face conversations to clarify expectations, ask questions, and encourage honest leveling offer additional layers to the formative feedback.

What if we help our learners understand group dynamics, working in a team, advocacy, persistence, meeting expectations and more? What if we practice self-assessment, peer-assessment, and feedback for learning?

PD in Action: #LL2LU Faculty Forum Oct. 30

PD causes action.  On Wednesday, October 30, we offered a session of Leading Learners to Level Up.  The next day, Kato Nims (@KatoNims129) sent us a message that her 4th graders are asking for levels? We are creating feedback monsters! Awesome.

Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 4.55.50 AM

While Kato and Arleen Honick wrote a math learning progression during Wednesday’s workshop, they quickly transferred their learning to a brainstorm for the 4th Grade Book Club evaluation. After calibrating the learning progression with the rest of the 4th grade team, Kato sent me an update to their E. B. White Book Club evaluation.

Today, Kathy Bruyn (@KathyEE96) sent the following action feedback about her learning from last Wednesday as well.  Notice that the children love challenging themselves and their questions were focused.  

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 7.06.01 PM Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 7.06.17 PM

I love that Kathy and Kato know and embrace that they are experimenting.  They are prototyping learning progressions, formative assessment, and communication strategies.  How often do our young learners see and hear their teachers learning? Kato and Kathy are discussing and showing our children what they are working to learn.  They model lifelong learning.

How might we improve the quality of communication in our classes? What if we take the time to write learning progressions that offer learners language to ask targeted, specific questions? What if we focus on growth – how to level up? How might we learn and grow together?

How might we impact confidence, advocacy, and success?