#ECOOchat takes on #OneWordOnt

Happy New Year to Everyone!

The Ontario Educator Community at large is embracing 2018 with …. well, with words that will support, guide, and possibly teach them throughout the year.

Yes, my friends, #OneWordOnt is back bigger than ever this year and to help spread the word (intended), #ECOOchat has invited #OneWordOnt to take over their next session!

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Essentially, #OneWordOnt is a community of educators who have decided to use one word to focus their attention and growth for the year. You can learn more about this community by reading this Introductory Post, by following the hashtag #OneWordOnt in Twitter, or by joining the G+ Community of bloggers.

Please join me and the ECOO Board of Directors this Tuesday, January 9 at 8:00 pm for an #ECOOchat on Twitter for the conversation to inspire you to choose your #OneWord!

 to send this message to Twitter – “I’m attending #ECOOchat on Tuesday, January 9 at 8 PM to discuss #OneWordONT.”

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2018: One Word.

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Last Thursday (December 28, 2017), I was invited to join #ONedMentors to chat about #OneWordOnt. I had given my word lots of thought…

But at the time of the invitation, I had not definitively chosen my word. I was leaning towards “empower” because the students’ feedback shone a light on their fears and showed me where I need to focus my efforts. I need to work at building their confidence and empowering them.

So far so good, right?

tattooerr-cart before the horse

What I hadn’t yet done though was complete the process of vetting the word. I think I know what the word means, but I am keen to discover how others ‘see’ the word. Like Jen Aston, I want to consider to what contexts my word connects. Like Derek Rhodenizer and his guests (on his weekly voicED podcast, “A Word in Progress with Derek”), I want to ‘poke and prod’ the word to see what it will give up. Like Stephen Hurley, etymologist extraordinaire, I want to dig a little deeper into the word because my knowledge of the word may only reflect current usage and not its historical meanings or connotations.

While “empower” means

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it also means to “boost confidence” which is the way I was thinking about the word until I did Google Image search on the words “empower education quotes”. To my surprise, the page returned did not support many ideas about enabling. Rather, it reflected back to me a word that emphasizes power and societal/class struggle. There are contexts where this understanding of “empower” is necessary and right, but this is not what I am after.

I kept digging.

I find John Wenger’s article on empowerment revealing. His audience is the workplace leader or manager, but I don’t think that matters because as a therapist he comes at the challenge of motivating and engaging others with much the same perspective as do educators. Here he unpacks his thinking about the word and why you can’t empower anyone.

 I bring my understanding of the word “empower” from my days as a therapist when I was working with clients whose lives were characterised by a deeply felt lack of power, or potency, in their lives. They were not the star of their own life stories, in other words. They were subject to decisions made by child protection authorities or social service authorities or parental authority or some other kind of powerful person or statutory body which held sway over important aspects of their day-to-day lives. While it is true that so many people in their lives were the agents of disempowerment, it seemed to me that to presume that I could empower them was just the opposite side of the same coin … Empower, to me, presumes that the one who empowers has the power to begin with and grants it to the other; it reinforces a paradigm of power and control to which the other person is subject. If I am the granter of power, there is still a power imbalance. This relationship presumes that I hold some kind of hierarchical authority over you and that, only by my good grace, are you exercising any authority. While I am in the position of granting power, I remain in the position of taking it back.

“Empower” is not the right word for me. I want to provide the means by which my students can develop the courage to take on their fears. I want to equip my students with the tools that can support their courageous decisions and actions. I want to encourage them to set goals, prioritize their studies and focus on personal progress. I do not want to leave any doubt as to where the power lies. 

Wenger argues for the use of “enable” over “empower”, teasing out the subtle differences between the words to make his case. And although this word can have some negative connotations, I am compelled by Wenger’s thinking. To “enable” is to emphasize “capability development and a worldview that, when fully able, people can put their abilities to good use.” And to enable,

encompasses what someone does to ensure that others have the requisite capabilities and skills to carry out a job well, to take up their own power (potency) and when necessary, showing them the door to gaining new capabilities and skills. It seems to be more akin to equipping and supplying than conferring power. Once equipped, the enabler can then get out of the way and let the person access their own power to get on with it.

Enable—>faciliate, make possible, provide the means. This is a good place to start.

Last year, I believed that providing opportunities for students to make choices in their learning would help them become persistent and productive learners. I was wrong. As one student clearly stated in her feedback to me,

Choices revolve around one of the worst phrases anyone could ever be told, ‘It’s up to you.’

This year I hope to enable my students to overcome their academic fears and to then be in a position to make decisions about their learning.

And in the spirit of making this process (of enabling) as open as possible, I’ll begin the year with a post on academic fear and academic courage. What is academic fear? Is academic courage grit by another name? Or growth mindset?

Stay tuned, and thanks for stopping by!

#OneWordOnt 2015— Innovate

#OneWordOnt 2016— Discipline

#OneWordOnt 2017— Choices

 

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2017 #OneWordOnt Reflection

It’s hard to believe another year is at its end and that it’s time to reflect on my #OneWordOnt for 2017.

Remember how I told you about wanting my students to see the walls in their lives? The ones that interfere with their learning? The ones that hold them back from engaging in and with the broader community? The walls we grapple with everyday?

I also told you about choices–how we make choices

“to participate, to be optomistic … to inquire, be curious and to challenge the status quo … To find hope instead of fear in the face of uncertainty” (Seth Godin).

We began the semester with a frank conversation about creativity, openness, and fear.

We created “Stories of Me” and posted them in a public gallery. 

We built blogs where we posted our thinking about the course content.

We read self-selected novels.

We conferenced about our reading.

We collaboratively annotated texts using Hypothes.is. 

We curated our best work into an Evidence of Learning Document. 

We made choices in our learning everyday.

You know, decisions about criteria, about our learning goals, and where we needed to go next.

But the choices remained narrow, superficial, conventional.

So, we found the walls. We can see them now.

20171228_14484220171228_14491420171228_14495920171228_145035We just didn’t tear them down.

My next step is to find ways to empower enable students to make the choices to have the courage to tear down their walls.

Three guesses what my word for 2018 is. The first two don’t count.

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Synthesize, Evaluate, and Draw Conclusions

This the sixth post in a series that explores IQ: A Practical Guide To Inquiry-Based Learning by Jennifer Watt and Jill Colyer. Here are the links to post one (IBL and Learning), post two (In the Mess of Learning, what will stick?), post three (Questioning and Expertise in Inquiry-Based Learning),  post four (Supporting Conversations), and post five (Gather and Analyze).

How can I help my students make sense of their evidence and data?

This is THE question.

To synthesize is to weave themes and ideas together to create a cohesive picture of line of thought (108).

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The key to synthesizing, to be able to weave themes and ideas together, is the depth and breadth of knowledge we have. It’s unlikely that I will be able to see patterns or make connections if my knowledge on the topic is superficial.

Notice the number of sources the student in the cited examples has gathered.

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(I love this chart and will definitely incorporate it in the inquiry process this year.)

In order to do the level of thinking that synthesis requires, students must 1) draw on their background knowledge and 2) conduct sufficient new research. And they need to engage in this process in an efficient manner. This means that students need to have fairly good fluency with most of the research steps. But if students struggle to read, to make meaning with the sources that they have found, then they will get bogged down at the very outset of the process. If it takes a student days to wade through an article then not only is there not enough time but even if and when more time is allocated, students can become discouraged and frustrated at their lack of progress. When teachers are designing the learning (deciding on the topic of the research etc. ) then there may be some opportunity to locate resources that better suit the students’ needs. However, since we believe that the inquiry process works best when students make their own choices, we ask students to find their own sources.

I need to identify those students who struggle to work through the early part of an inquiry (whole class articles for back ground knowledge building) and work with them regularly to strengthen their reading skills. Reading for meaning sheets and summarizing in their inquiry journals offer frequent opportunities for students to push their thinking.

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Building Baby’s Library: Some old. Some new. Some tried and true.

My first grandchild was born on January 29, 2017, and she has been born into a family of readers! That she would receive many, many books from me was never an issue. BUT having an event like #pb10for10 to focus my thinking about what to get her when is terrific. For #nf10for10  last February, I choose 10 non-fiction board books as a foundation for my grand-baby’s library. This time around I have added 10 fiction board books to that foundational shelf. So without further delay, let’s begin to build a library for baby!

Some old.

And when I say “old”, I simply mean that the book has been around for awhile in general and in my home specifically.

My kids LOVED Carl and his antics. While I was getting ready to write this post, my husband re-read the book and laughed just as hard this time. Baby is sure to make this a favourite since she is from families who LOVE their dogs.

No Matter What is a gorgeous book. It’s the story of Small, a mischievous fox cub, and his mother Large, who tries to explain the unconditional love a parent has for his or her child. This book is not one that will be out grown soon. With stunning illustrations and witty details, this story will be pulled out and re-read for years.  While the lyrical rhyming text will grab hold of baby’s ear and her attention, the need for assurance that “no matter what I will always love you” is ongoing. Munsch may tell baby that mommy and daddy will love her forever, but Gloiri provides the assurances that it’s true.

Some New

Obviously, these titles are new to our family. Published long after my own children had grown past picture books (some of us never do though!), I have read these books to children in classrooms while working as a literacy coach.

Olivia by Ian Falconer is a terrific match for my granddaughter. Olivia is big in spirit and life is grand! Falconer’s minimalist approach (dark lines on white background with accenting red) combined with his deadpan humour is sure to get mom and dad smiling as baby explores her world.

For one such spread, demonstrating “”She is very good at wearing people out,”” Falconer shows Olivia engaged in a variety of activities in 13 black-and-white vignettes, using red sparingly-for a hammer handle, a yo-yo, a ball, a mixing bowl spatula and a jump rope-as she progresses from energetic to spent. Against a completely white background, these vignettes seem to bob on invisible undulating waves, with the intermittent splashes of red creating a sense of movement and urgency-until Olivia’s collapse at the lower right-hand corner of the spread beneath a single line of text (“”She even wears herself out””). Publisher’s Weekly

Now, some will say that the next two books are a bit ahead for our little one, but like baby clothes, you never know exactly what books you’ll need when. AND I think we can often underestimate when children are ready to listen to longer stories with bigger ideas. So, I’m including 2 Jeffers’ books because they are fun and the brightly illustrated pages draw you in.

Up and Down does a great job involving the parent and child with sharp visuals and a story that gets the child thinking about why things are the way they are. Why do penguins have wings, if they don’t fly? What’s your theory?

In A Little Stuck, Floyd gets his kite stuck up a tree. He throws up his shoe to shift it, but that gets stuck too. So he throws up his other shoe and that gets stuck, along with… a ladder, a pot of paint, the kitchen sink, an orang-utan and a whale, amongst other things! Will Floyd ever get his kite back? A hilarious book with a wonderful surprise ending that Like Up and Down can generate conversations about predictions and solutions to the problem. Both books help parents and baby think about the world and ask questions to understand it better.

In 1995 my mom passed away and the son whose daughter’s library I’m building never knew her. She was inimitable, but today her great-granddaughter carries her name and already I can see my mom’s love of life in her. My mom’s favourite song was “What a Wonderful World” and this lovely version of the song is a must. Look at the richness of the illustrations and of course, the lyrics will never grow old.

I would be completely remiss not to include a sing-a-long book on this picture book shelf. Pete, of course, is just too much fun.  James Dean brings us a groovy rendition of the classic favourite children’s song “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” sung by cool cat Pete and perfect for sing-a-long time with baby. Our girl is growing up near farms and we have farming friends, so she’ll be able to make some strong connections to the book and the song. Oh, and daddy loves to sing, too!

Balloons love the moon, and a tuba loves a tune, but these don’t compare to the love we have for you. Canadian poet Lorna Crozier uses evocative rhyme, complemented by Rachelle Anne Miller’s whimsical imagery, to provide babies and toddlers with common concepts that explain just how great love is. Reading poetry to our kids helps them hear what language can do; how it dances and stretches and shrinks. More than Balloons is a treat.

Comparisons are creative and lovely…The constancy of the rhyme scheme is remarkable…The artwork is exquisite: simple, yet elegant lines, delightful animal characters, warm washes of color, and plenty of details to build young vocabularies. (Kirkus Reviews 2017)

 

Some tried and true.

My mom was a grade three teacher, and when Dennis Lee’s first anthology, Alligator Pie, was published she bought it and taught with it every year until she left teaching. I was a teenager then, and I can still recall her reciting the title poem at home. It gave her such great delight. I never forgot the poem and Alligator Pie was the first anthology I bought when I became a mother. This book is just the title piece, on its own. It’s a board book and it’s awesome. Like the illustrations in Olivia, Sandy Nichols uses dark lines and sparse colour allowing the vignettes to pop off the page at us.

Finally, here is Are You My Mother? for my son because this was one of his most favourite books. Are You My Mother? follows a confused baby bird who’s been denied the experience of imprinting as he asks cows, planes, and steam shovels the Big Question. In the end, he is happily reunited with his maternal parent in a glorious moment of recognition. We want to find lots of ways to let our children know that we love them and that we will continue to love them “no matter what”.




#PB10for10 Information

by Cathy Mere

Here’s how you can participate:

  1. Grab a Badge (just copy the URL address of the one above or take a screenshot)
  2. Join the #pb10for10 Google Community
  3. Choose Your Favorites:  All you need to do is choose ten picture books you cannot live without for whatever reason.  In the first days of this event, everyone shared their ten very favorite titles.  This still works.  You will notice, however, that many past participants choose some type of theme to determine their selections.  We’ll leave this up to you.
  4. Narrow Your List to Ten:  It isn’t easy, is it?  We’ve seen some crafty ways to get around that number.
  5. Write Your August 10th Post:  Write a post about the ten books you cannot live without.  Share your post on August 10th and link it to the Picture Book 10 for 10 Community.
  6. No Blog?  No Problem:  If you don’t have a blog, this might be the perfect time to start one — or there are a million digital ways to join (see post below).  Of course, now with the Google Community it is quite easy to just post your favorites directly into the community without a blog.  We will also be tweeting from the #pb10for10 hashtag.
  7. Comment:  On August 10th (and maybe for a week — there are a lot of posts) take some time to read posts from other participants.  Please comment on at least three.

So…

Pull out your library cards, load up your Amazon accounts, or better yet – plan a trip to your local bookstore on August 11th because you’re going to be unable to resist checking out (or purchasing) a few new picture books.  We hope to see you on the 10th!

A Few Historical and Informational Posts:

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Gather and Analyze

This the fifth post in a series that explores IQ: A Practical Guide To Inquiry-Based Learning by Jennifer Watt and Jill Colyer. Here are the links to post one (IBL and Learning), post two (In the Mess of Learning, what will stick?), post three (Questioning and Expertise in Inquiry-Based Learning), and post four (Supporting Conversations).

What I appreciate about IQ: A Practical Guide to Inquiry-Based Learning’s Chapter 5 “Gather and Analyze” is the strong focus on teaching students how to find and evaluate sources. Too many teachers ask students to “research” without teaching them how to find appropriate sources online. Not only is so much time wasted as students aimlessly wander the web, but the struggle they encounter to locate sources leaves them feeling frustrated and incompetent. This is not the productive struggle that cognitive psychologists claim we need to engage in during the learning process.

To help students get the most bang for their buck, I will use the lesson activity from the ENG4C elearning course, which can be accessed in the Ontario Education Resource Bank (OERB).  The first 13 pages of this lesson is a modified version of that elearning lesson. Here students are introduced to or reacquainted with Google’s advanced search features. For many students, this is their first encounter with tools like the key word search, and it blows their minds!

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What I find lacking in this chapter (and thus, in the book) is the inclusion of the note making process. While note making may not be a significant part of young learners’ research process, certainly it must be for older students as the ideas, questions, and sources being explored become more complex.

Students first learn to unpack the sources they discover by asking questions of the text, locating the pertinent information in the text that provides evidence that supports their claim (inquiry question), and ultimately deciding if that source is sufficient, current, accurate, relevant, and suitable (SCARS).

Students make notes by collecting the relevant evidence (facts, statistics, expert opinion, analogies) and noting their thinking about the evidence. Initially, this step is tough for students. I am asking them to not only find evidence that supports their claim, but to also think about how it does. By including their ideas in their notes, they are constructing new knowledge. They are building connections and relationships between the ideas of the various sources and their own thinking. Typically, there is a wide disparity between a student’s first research note and her last note, and not just because better sources are discovered. Since the thinking in each note builds on itself, the first note will generally include little evidence of student thinking (mostly superficial connections) while the latter notes will reflect more sophisticated and significant thinking. Note making also supports many effective learning strategies like summarizing (Marzano) and paraphrasing.

Here are the steps in my research process (pre-writing):

Here is one student’s process:

Here is one student’s note:

Here are the criteria for the note:

Research Note Evaluation Checklist                 

  • Bibliographic Citation information
  • Thesis/Lead of the article—identified
  • Headings
  • Key Words/Phrases
  • Your ideas—identified in some way (ALL CAPS, italics, colour, etc.)
  • Quotations—identified by “  “
  • Paraphrase—identified by (paraphrase)
  • Audience
  • Purpose
  • Summary  

Here is one student’s mid-term reflection:

When it comes down to researching and creating research notes, annotating, increasing vocabulary to understand harder texts, and learning about media portrayal, I have to say this is the biggest learning process I’ll ever go through. I have to say it is fun and hard, and in going through it I have learned about so many things: purpose questions, styles of text, elements of text/posts, learning new words and phrases. Furthermore, the process gives me more knowledge to use for when I head off for college.

You can see the intersection between my process and that of Watt and Colyer’s. Where they use Reproducible 15 “Assessing my point of view”, my students will use the KWL(revised) ,organizer. Where they use SOURCE (Source, Objective, Usefulness, Reliability, Context, and Evidence) as their method of evaluating websites, my students will use SCARS (Sufficient, Current, Accurate, Relevant, Suitable).

I’d love to hear your thoughts about note making. Do you teach note making explicitly for the research process? If so, how?

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Supporting Conversations

This the fourth post in a series that explores IQ: A Practical Guide To Inquiry-Based Learning by Jennifer Watt and Jill Colyer. Here are the links to post one (IBL and Learning), post two (In the Mess of Learning, what will stick?), and post three (Questioning and Expertise in Inquiry-Based Learning).

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Chapter 4 of IQ: A Practical Guide to Inquiry Based Learning focuses on improving students’ communication skills. I love this chapter because it dovetails so well with the ideas (Harnessing the Power of Talk) presented at the Adolescent Literacy Symposium (#LiteracyON) last month. Like all good professional learning, the Symposium provided layers of learning: participants as learners, participants as teachers, participants as facilitators. One of the threads connecting all the layers was the use of protocols.

Learning conversations do not just happen on their own when groups of people get together to “discuss,” but instead are a result of intentional, systematic planning of the learning opportunity. … Protocols are structured sets of guidelines to promote effective and efficient communication and problem solving (The Learning Conversations Protocol).

Watt and Colyer mention protocols (page 68) as a means of supporting student conversations. Below I have listed some resources where you can access various protocols that may be appropriate to support your students’ conversations.

For example, one protocol that I might use in introducing inquiry vocabulary is List, Sort/Group, Label. Before I give students the list of words and definitions (Reproducible 9), I would give just the words (LIST) to small groups of 3 or 4 students with the instructions that they SORT or GROUP the words into the four categories. Sometimes I’ll give students the categories, sometimes students need to generate their own categories. Finally, students need to explain to the class how they sorted the words. Often I will end this activity with a Gallery Walk so that students can see the variations in the sorting and we can together sort through misconceptions and misunderstandings.

But there are TONS of protocols available AND of course, you can always create your own.

For instance, I am thinking that before I assign a journal prompt to students (LOVE the inquiry journal idea–BUT should it be paper or digital or choice? Thoughts?), I might have students talk through a prompt together. To do this, I currently use the Reading for Meaning Statement sheet, in which students are given a statement and they have to decide whether the text agrees or disagrees with it, and, in the space provided, share quoted, textual evidence to support their agreement or disagreement. Thinking through what the text is saying and providing support for their thinking together gives students confidence in tackling individual thinking tasks like the inquiry journal prompt writing demands.

But there are caveats. It’s important to consider Katz and Dack’s cautionary note because simply using a protocol is not sufficient.

Screen Shot 2017-07-30 at 7.54.44 AMThe Learning Protocol

Resources

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Photo by TerryJohnston

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