Cards are one means of bridging differences in age and habits, drawing children and parents, old and new friends together in fair and friendly competition.
Every afternoon around 1 or 2 p.m., a few members of my family log in on Zoom from across the country to play cards with my 83-year-old mom in Florida. Grandkids, nieces, cousins, siblings all rotate into the schedule. The participants are scattered from Maine to California, but we are all proud midwesterners at heart so our card game of choice is euchre (YOO-ker). We spend a moment at the start greeting each other. Then we each bring up the game on a phone app, sit down at a virtual table together, and while away an hour playing cards.
Sometimes there is a lot of chatter during and after the game. Sometimes there is little, as participants have to rush from a late lunch break back to work from home. But we all leave the game feeling a little more connected and comforted. The cards are an excuse to get together, but they fulfill an important role. They provide a routine and a focus. They fill the void that might appear in a conversation with a fun activity that takes some concentration and camaraderie. And they keep at bay the fear about how long it will be before we can finally get together again physically.
The education philosopher Parker Palmer might say the card game is a “third thing”—something outside ourselves that allows us to deepen our connection. As Palmer explains,
Rightly used, a third thing functions a bit like the old Rorschach inkblot test, evoking from us whatever the soul wants us to attend to. Mediated by a good metaphor, the soul is more likely than usual to have something to say.
In classrooms, read alouds might be the most powerful third thing we have for building connection and understanding. They are the literacy campfires we gather around every day, giving even the most shy child a chance to see their experience in others, and maybe find the courage one day to share their own.
It’s trickier to find what third things will work best in the new routines we’re all establishing with distance learning. But a poem, a quick video, or even a simple read aloud as a blessing to start any daily class routine online gives everyone the change to warm our hands at stories together. And they open up possibilities for everyone to see some beauty in dark times.
This week, we look at creative ways to encourage response in students and teachers. Plus more as always—enjoy!
Founder, Choice Literacy
Stephanie Affinito finds the secret to helping teachers get creative with reading responses is to try them out in their own reading first.
Christy Rush-Levine integrates reading responses into her preparation for reading conferences, and then uses the responses as a tool to build goals and insights within the conference.
Melissa Quimby shares the many creative ways her students continue to respond to the texts they share and each other from a distance.
Our new online course from Ruth Ayres, Better Student Feedback, will help teachers and coaches think through how to talk with students about progress and goals, as well as what to do with their responses. The course fee of $39 includes two months of access to the entire Choice Literacy library of 4000 articles and videos. If you have a current paid subscription to Choice Literacy, there is no charge for the course. Click here for details.
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.
Tammy Mulligan contemplates how to respond to a student who experiences the unique pleasure of finishing a piece of writing, as well as the challenges of helping students figure out what’s next.
Julie Johnson learns some important lessons about connecting with students remotely, and few of them are about technology.
Mandy Robek continues her series on picture books for understanding emotional turmoil in students. In this installment, she shares books that can help children name emotions.
In an encore video, Katie Doherty confers with sixth grader Kristina during reading workshop. Kristina is new to the classroom, and Katie demonstrates how to gently move a student from retelling to more thoughtful responses to literature with a few simple and carefully worded questions.
Jen Schwanke reflects on the challenges of helping our youngest learners with distance learning, and shares examples of how teachers she works with are meeting them.
In this quick video, Lee Snider talks about how principals can support struggling teachers by keeping the focus on instruction.
Clare Landrigan explains how to create a virtual bookroom to share with teachers and students.
Our responses are the fingerprint of our heart and the DNA of our conscience.
That’s all for this week!