Your entire life is a process of sorting out some of those early messages you got.
Last month I visited the marvelous Murkland Elementary School in Lowell, Massachusetts. Jason DiCarlo is the principal there, and I knew he and his staff were doing amazing things in literacy.
As children walk over the threshold into the school each morning, they are greeted by Jason with a smile. Next to him is a dry erase board and easel. There is a new handwritten message on it from Jason, cataloging simple things like the day of the week, an upcoming event, or a reason for the school community to celebrate. Just as important, students are invited to start the day reflecting on their literacy with a question or prompt at the end of the board, with space to write about it so that their ideas can be read by other children as they enter the school.
“It took awhile for students to become comfortable writing in that blank space on the message board, especially since the question changes every day,” Jason explained to me later. “Now that they are into the routine of writing on the board, I find it’s a wonderful source of data. I see when the language in the question is confusing to them, the differences in how older and younger students respond . . .really, I never know who will write or what they will say so it’s always interesting.”
These two girls are responding to the day’s prompt: I admire the character ______ because _______.
The concept of “first fruits” is powerful for me. In ancient times, these fruits were the choice agricultural produce that were offered up at the temples to the gods. In daily modern life, what we offer up in those first moments each day to each other and the children we work with defines what we value most. Jason stands at the school door and greets each child with a smile as they enter, and many move immediately to the message board, scanning the words quickly and grabbing a marker to add their own words to his. These are some of the first fruit messages that come from that handwritten board each morning:
I’m glad you’re here.
Important things are often written down.
Your ideas matter — please share them with everyone.
One other first fruit message was potent. Data has become such a loaded term in schools (perhaps because it is often used as a weapon). Data is a first fruit from that board — but it’s data that is unpredictable, charming, and fun for anyone to read. What a great reminder each morning that there are remarkable ideas to be harvested from any child, if we just give them the chance and choice to pick up a pen.
This week we’re featuring tech resources to enhance literacy instruction. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Founder, Choice Literacy
p.s. You can read more about Murkland Elementary School at this link.
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Here are two articles from the Choice Literacy archives to help you use technology to build literacy connections in classrooms and schools.
Colby Sharp has advice for connecting classrooms with authors in Adventures with Author Skyping:
Andrea Smith assesses the benefits of children blogging about their learning in Strawberries, Fun, and Student Blogging:
Mary Lee Hahn shares what she learns about her students when she invites them to participate in a “bring your own device day” in her classroom. This is a post from the A Year of Reading blog:
In a new podcast, Angela Maiers talks about teaching passion and technology tools:
Lead Literacy is our new subscription website focused on professional development tools and perspectives. You can get a sense of the range of content available at the site in this free sample newsletter:
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Katherine Sokolowski has suggestions for Using Skype in the Classroom, covering everything from student etiquette to special events:
Shared reading and shared writing are essential instructional techniques in the primary grades. How about shared blogging for teaching children basic blogging skills? Cathy Mere describes how she introduces Shared Blogging in her first-grade classroom:
If you’ve ever used a Kindle Reader, you might be fascinated by the highlighted notes of other readers. In this week’s video, Franki Sibberson uses those notes in a conference with Nicole:
The November installment of Megan Ginther and Holly Mueller’s yearlong literacy contract series has a theme of family and memoir:
New PD2Go: Franki Sibberson uses the website Wonderopolis with her fourth-grade students. By modeling how to navigate the site, she encourages her students to use the web in more thoughtful ways.
This video and workshop guide fulfills Common Core State Standard 4.W.9: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection and research.
That’s all for this week!