Every success story is a tale of constant adaption, revision, and change.
[Now you can listen to the Big Fresh as a podcast!]
We Are Where We Are
My teenagers and I enjoy watching late-night TV together. Recently they began watching seasons of Survivor, and although I didn’t gravitate toward their decision, once it was on the screen every night, I found myself looped into the drama of recent seasons. When we hit a late-night-TV-watching drought, my son suggested watching season 2 because he was curious about the early seasons. We started it up and immediately noticed the stark differences between season 2 and season 38, the last season we had watched.
Season 2 was less glitzy. The host wasn’t at ease in his questioning at tribal councils, and he was less vocal during the challenges. The film editing was rougher. What we were noticing at the beginning of the episode, we were laughing at by the end. We were charmed by how much the show evolved over the 40-ish seasons, from show ideas to technology.
Recently, I spent some time revisiting the first videos I made for Gradual Release of the Primary Classroom Library, a course for Choice Literacy. When I made the videos, just a few years ago, the technology was new to me and felt clunky. I had little background knowledge, aside from the YouTubers I occasionally saw my kids watching on the iPad. I was willing to try but had no idea how to do it. To prepare, I diligently watched some tutorials, got the software sorted out, and gave it a whirl. And then another whirl. And another. I finally had to stop trying to perfect the videos. They were what they were, and I was what I was.
Who would have thought that making videos would become such a part of my teaching life? I’ve been in remote teaching for almost a year. Filming myself and creating videos is part of my teaching routine. Since recording my library series for Choice Literacy, I’ve learned so much.
While watching the library videos I couldn’t help but cringe at myself, and I even asked if I could remake them. Although this was an option, I was asked if it would be better to put my energy into looking ahead and creating new content based on my current passions and curiosities. I realized it was the right advice. Survivor doesn’t go back and refilm or even re-edit past seasons. It just keeps looking ahead, learning and growing and improving the production. Although my first videos may feel clunky to me, they are just as worthwhile to watch.
It still takes me several attempts to get a clip I like, and I still cringe when I’m watching myself on video, but I’m learning to be better at accepting that this is where I am. Maybe when I’m at season 38, it will all look as fluid as Survivor. Until then I’ll keep at it—learning, growing my teaching, and using video to enhance my students’ experience—and share it with others.
This week we look at argument writing. Plus more as always—shine on!
Featured Contributor, Choice Literacy
This month’s Featured Contributor is Bitsy Parks. Bitsy has been an elementary school teacher for over 20 years. She is a first-grade teacher in Beaverton, Oregon, where she finds joy in nurturing young students to discover their reading and writing identities and build a foundation for a love of learning. Bitsy has degrees from Colorado College and Lewis and Clark College. She is an adjunct instructor at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. You can find Bitsy on Twitter (@BitsyParks). This month you’ll find her on the Big Fresh Podcast, taking over our Instagram feed, and offering Choice Literacy courses. Find all of Bitsy’s articles and videos on the site by clicking here.
On the podcast, Tara Barnett and Kate Mills discuss their new article (linked below) about teaching argument with mentor texts.
Join the Choice Literacy Book Club! Christy Rush-Levine selected an Own Voices middle-grade fantasy novel for the February read.
Louise Wrobleski uses video clips, children’s literature, and newspaper articles to teach middle school students new ways to craft persuasive writing. “A Fresh Take on Persuasive Writing” was first published in 2019.
Melissa Quimby shares how she encourages her students to consider their audience when writing. In “Dear Young Writer, Your Audience Matters” Melissa offers how-to steps and wise advice to lift the level of writing in her classroom.
New York Times critics A. O. Scott, Maya Phillips, Jennifer Szalai, and Jon Pareles share their review writing advice for students. Among their suggestions: Express a strong opinion, use descriptive details, and don’t be afraid to edit.
New members-only content is added each week to the Choice Literacy website. If you’re not yet a member, click here to explore membership options.
Tara Barnett and Kate Mills share the many ways they use mentor texts in targeted ways to teach argument writing and move students away from five-paragraph themes.
In a video, Christy Rush-Levine helps Ezekial draft his literary analysis.
In an encore video, Heather Rader uses Kincaid’s intricate system for analyzing books to build a writing agenda in this writing conference. (Video first published in 2012.)
In a course, Bitsy Parks takes you into her primary classroom for a close-up look at how she organizes and then gradually releases the library to students over days, weeks, and months. She provides lesson tips, strategies, and templates to help you plan and make choices about when to introduce bins and browsing skills. You end the course with the information and resources needed to integrate instruction on how to use the library into your daily minilesson and conferring routines. Free to members.
New PD2Go: How do you help students move away from a casual tone in formal writing? In this session, Christy Rush-Levine shares how to help student writers understand and develop a scholarly tone.
Have you accessed our PD2Go resources? If you plan professional learning, then PD2Go is just the jump start you need to make planning for a session a breeze. We do the legwork of connecting timely content and organizing the agenda, as well as creating a slide deck for you to quickly pull together everything you need to lead a professional learning session. You will also find a template to help deliver PD2Go remotely.
In a new course, Matt Renwick guides instructional leaders to implement and strengthen instructional literacy walks. Through literacy walks, leaders seek out promising practices, note and name them during formative visits, and lead coaching conversations with teachers. The outcome is not only school improvement, especially in literacy, but also a community of learners who engage in continuous improvement as a natural stance. Free to Literacy Leader members.
Say what you mean, but don’t say it mean.
That’s all for this week!