Do what you do best and link to the rest.
When I remember my favorite teachers through the years, I realize that each of them had a distinctive style. Mrs. Thompson from fifth grade was all theater — with her brilliant red hair and a penchant for bursting into show tunes at any moment, she was Annie all grown up. Doc Gilbert was the genius with the bow tie, a crazy-smart high school calculus teacher who hosted pizza parties on Sunday nights to talk through algorithms because they were just so darn much fun. The most memorable people we know are branded — they have signature looks and passions that stick with us long after their contemporaries have faded from our minds.
Lately I’ve been reading more from teachers who are considering branding and learning in their classrooms. No worries — they aren’t selling the rights to Coke for adorning desktops with advertising placards (though maybe I shouldn’t be giving some administrators any ideas!). What they are doing is helping students connect that concept of “branding” to passions and expertise, and using branding as a way to help students find their place in a literate community. When Andrea Smith discovered interest in student blogging was flagging in her fourth-grade classroom by November, she had students reintroduce and redevelop their blogs by focusing on one interest or passion. The quantity and quality of the writing, as well as the number of student comments on blogs, shot up.
When Christy Rush-Levine found she was losing energy for responding to student work late in the year, she created Last Chance Workshop. Instead of noting errors and needs on her middle school students’ papers, she flagged skills and expertise. After branding each student as an expert in anything from elaboration to punctuation, she then gave these students the responsibility to teach classmates who had a similar need.
Your brand — your quirks, passions, and expertise — defines who you are. And there is no one else exactly like you. This is why marketers fixate so much on branding — a product needs to be unique, otherwise anything else relatively close to its style will do. We all save time and sanity when we have more time to focus on what we do well, and learn from others who are experts in the skills we lack. Students grow confident and stay engaged when their expertise is celebrated and valued. It is joyful to learn from someone who knows what they know and loves presenting it with pizazz. That’s what a good brand is all about.
This week we look at ways to keep students engaged. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Founder, Choice Literacy
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Katrina Edwards looked around her first-grade reading workshop one day in winter, and it wasn’t a pretty picture. Many students were doing anything but reading. In Reading, Engagement, and Kidwatching, she develops a plan to approach the issue of time on task thoughtfully:
Franki Sibberson shares some of her favorite nonfiction books with more than one entry point. Each way of entering can provoke engagement and new lessons:
If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, there is no greater gift this time of year than a snow day. Matt Davis has some fun snow day resources to share with students and families:
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Melanie Meehan has tips for keeping students engaged during minilessons:
Mark Levine finds that the secret to engaging students in what might be perceived as dry historical topics is to create curiosity with story:
Andrea Smith’s students explore nonfiction through free-range roaming. She explains how she sets up expectations and resources early in the year in this first installment of a two-part series:
In this week’s video, Gigi McAllister gives a minilesson on engaging book talks to her fourth graders:
In an encore video, Aimee Buckner confers with a student who is learning how to choose books for independent reading. Aimee gives advice in the first conference, and then returns ten minutes later for a follow-up meeting:
That’s all for this week!