Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.
As I sat to the side of the classroom watching a community of second graders during their minilesson, I couldn’t help but smile. The writers were gathered on the carpet talking with their teacher about how poems can tell stories. There was a mentor text projected in front of the group, and they were talking about what they noticed in the writing.
It was late enough in the school year that there were layers to the conversation. Students directed the attention of their peers to particular stanzas, lines, and words selected by the poet to tell her story.
After the conversation, writers found spaces around the room to begin to write their poem-stories. Most began prewriting some ideas to help them get started. They searched for key lines and important pieces to add to their poem. Some began writing their narrative poem right away, as if the idea might be lost if they didn’t get it down on paper quickly.
As they worked, some talked to one another, offering encouragement, asking questions, and sharing snippets of their thinking. The teacher moved from writer to writer, recording snippets of the conference conversation in her notebook as she listened to the work they were trying to do.
It was all so seamless.
It was magic.
Later that day, I reached out to the teacher to thank her for allowing me to join her workshop. She quickly replied that she enjoyed having me and that she would appreciate some feedback on the visit. It seemed a fair request. I shared a few observations that demonstrated the strengths in the community’s work that I had noted. In the back and forth, I realized that my reflection wasn’t what she wanted to hear. It was as if she was sure there was more she should be doing, could be doing, to make workshop better for her students.
I get it. I am always looking for ways to get better in the work I do alongside learning communities. But what if instead of looking for what might be wrong, we celebrated what went right? When I catch myself in this pattern of looking for every weakness I have, I make myself take the time to write down what is going right. At the end of each day, I try to note one part of the day that went well. I try to find the one move I made that resulted in a strong step forward. What would happen if we took a breath and focused on our strengths instead?
This week we look at test prep strategies. Plus more as always—enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
High-stakes tests weigh on teachers and students through the winter and spring. Mark Levine shares mindfulness strategies for test taking, explaining how to help students recommit and refocus in the midst of an exam.
Two teachers are disappointed in student assessment results, but they have very different approaches to tackling the problem. Heather Rader explains her role as a mentor in assisting her colleagues.
Cathy Mere explains why test results will be met with a shrug and a response of “so what?” if we aren’t willing to delve into the story beneath the numbers.
You can meet many of your favorite Choice Literacy writers this summer at The Lead Learners Summer Institute in Warsaw, Indiana on June 22-23. Choice Literacy members receive discounts of 20-40% off the institute fee based on your membership tier. For more information on presenters and workshop descriptions, click here.
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.
Teaching the genre of tests can seem far removed from writing workshop. Matt Renwick explores how to teach constructed response in a way that is integrated with the tenets of good workshop instruction.
In this week’s video, Melissa Atwood leads a first-grade guided reading group. The focus at the start of the lesson is on chunking words. This is the first video in a two-part series.
Stephanie Affinito encounters an unexpected by-product of testing for her son—the uninterrupted reading time waiting for others to finish builds a good habit. She shares how teachers might reclaim ten minutes a day for independent reading.
In an encore video, Franki Sibberson prepares her grades three and four students for state examinations by helping them observe attributes and patterns in test questions.
Lead Literacy now has a new home as the Leaders Lounge at Choice Literacy. We’ll be posting the new content updates here in the Leaders Lounge section of the Big Fresh newsletter.
Low test scores can color the way everyone in a community perceives a school. Ruth Ayres shares how a principal changed the literacy story of his school from failure to success by having the courage to cultivate “lone nut” leaders.
New PD2Go: This video and workshop guide for professional development sessions can help teachers explore how to prepare students for tests. The reading is from Matt Renwick, and video is from Andrea Smith’s fourth-grade classroom.
Melanie Quinn and the teachers she works with face the hard truth of low test scores in their school, and develop reflective practices to tackle the issue.
The best way to learn from mentors is not to absorb what they know, but to internalize how they think. Collecting their knowledge helps you solve the challenges of the day. Understanding their thought process helps you navigate the challenges of a lifetime.
That’s all for this week!