It is not down on any map; true places never are.
A Ghurka rifleman escaped from a Japanese prison in south Burma and walked six hundred miles alone through the jungles to freedom. The journey took him five months, but he never asked the way and he never lost the way. For one thing he could not speak Burmese and for another he regarded all Burmese as traitors. He used a map and when he reached India he showed it to the Intelligence officers, who wanted to know all about his odyssey. Marked in pencil were all the turns he had taken, all the roads and trail forks he had passed, all the rivers he had crossed. It had served him well, that map. The Intelligence officers did not find it so useful. It was a street map of London.
It’s not the first time I’ve read about someone completing a long journey using the wrong map. The reason these stories of irrelevant maps resonate is that most of us have had the experience of resisting being told where to go and exactly how to get there.
A map you seek out yourself can give you confidence that you’ll eventually get where you need to go. But a map someone else thrusts upon you gives them confidence you’ll get where they want you to go. And the wrong map can still work if you trust your internal instincts enough to let those instincts be your ultimate guide.
Curriculum gurus give detailed maps for literacy success, and administrators scoop them up and require teachers to use them because they provide a semblance of control and consistency. But in the end, what serves teachers best is an internal compass of bedrock values about teaching and learning.
If you had to write four compass points to guide your life, what might they be? Here are mine:
Every day learn something new.
My word is my bond.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
If you had to write four compass points to guide your literacy instruction, what might they be? Take just a moment to write them down. Is student choice on your list? Access to lots of books? Building a literate community? Unlike a real compass, those markers might change a bit over time. But there is something powerful about writing them down to affirm them.
If you have to choose between your internal compass and an external map created by someone else, always trust your instincts. Enjoying the classroom journey each day means allowing yourself to be surprised by your students and where they take you with their learning. And those landmarks will rarely show up on any map.
This week we look at creative ways to write and think about characters. Plus more as always—enjoy!
Founder, Choice Literacy
Gigi McAllister shares how she combines vocabulary instruction with analysis of character traits in her fourth-grade classroom.
Melanie Swider finds word sorts are a great way to help intermediate students master new vocabulary for describing character traits.
Here are 33 suggestions for strengthening characters in writing. Each one of them could be the catalyst for creating a minilesson about crafting characters.
In The Limits of Levels online course, Cathy Mere demonstrates a range of strategies for understanding and meeting the needs of young learners. The course runs June 18-30. Choice Literacy members receive discounts of 20-40% on the course fee.
The Lead Learners Consortium is offering a 20% discount to Choice Literacy subscribers to their Summer Institute on June 20 and 21 in Warsaw, Indiana. Use the promo code CHOICE to claim the discount. For more information, visit their ticketing site.
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.
Melanie Meehan shares activities that help students talk about their characters before writing about them in a realistic fiction unit.
We continue our video series on student annotation strategies in Franki Sibberson’s fifth-grade classroom. In this installment, Lizzie uses her notebook to focus on expectations and reality for characters, especially when it comes to stereotypes.
Jennifer Schwanke explains why sometimes the best thing teachers can do to foster better conversations in their classrooms is to step away and let the talk unfold among students.
In an encore video, Gigi McAllister helps her fourth graders develop the characters in their writing with a minilesson. She uses three mentor texts, one of which is her own writing.
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.
Matt Renwick rejects the notion of “carrots and sticks” for school improvement when it comes to understanding and motivating teachers. He provides a template for a professional development session to help teachers celebrate and reflect upon growth.
Kathy Provost leads a demonstration lesson on tracking characters with fourth graders. The lesson includes prebrief and debrief sessions with their teacher Jaime Leger.
Kelsey Carter explores the power of teachers learning like they teach in well-designed professional development sessions.
I live more than a thousand lives . . . through the eyes of the characters I read in books.
That’s all for this week!