The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.
Hands being rubbed over eyes and foreheads.
Lips formed into frowns or pressed together.
These were the body language signals I noticed during a recent presentation I was leading for teachers. The shock for me was the abrupt turn of events. Just one minute before, these same individuals had been nodding their heads, smiling, taking copious notes, looking online for some of the resources mentioned, and fully engaged.
What had happened between the first 45 minutes and that fateful 46th minute was the question that kept running through my mind. How had the learners morphed from tuned in to tuned out?
To my surprise, several people stayed behind to talk with me at the end of the session, and shared how thought-provoking the session had been for them. I thanked them for their kind words, but asked if there was a point in the presentation that had overwhelmed them. Their frank answer was yes. They enjoyed the first two sections of the presentation, but when we got to the third section, their brains couldn’t handle any more information.
I reflected back on all the amazing professional development opportunities I’d had over the years as a participant, and can distinctly remember that feeling myself of hitting my capacity for information. I started thinking about how overwhelmed students must feel at times as well, and why the workshop structure is so powerful for student learning. Minilessons, strategy groups, conferring, share times — they all have one thing in common. Each of them involves no more than 10 to 15 minutes of explicit instruction, which is probably the maximum amount of time students can focus deeply before they feel overloaded and shut down.
In workshops we can divvy up information into small parcels, returning to the same concepts over and over again. The most important part of the workshop structure is providing time for students to use what they’ve learned in their own choice reading and writing.
Whether I’m planning for adults or students in the future, I will keep this workshop framework in mind. And if I still feel participants reaching their breaking point, I’ll make sure the adults have some treats on the tables too.
This week we’re featuring resources to help you bring out the best in the boys and girls in your classrooms. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Karen Terlecky has been been teaching for almost 30 years. Her most recent position is in a 5th grade classroom, focused on language arts instruction.
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Here are two articles from the archives to help you think through gender issues in your literacy program.
Tony Keefer gets a little discouraged early in the year while conferring with boys, and finds a few adjustments make all the difference in building rapport. He describes the changes he made in Engaging Boy Readers: Beginning with Teacher Behaviors:
Heather Rader helps a teacher deal with some communication challenges in A Class with More Boys Than Girls:
Our Pinterest board Strong Girls in Books features many courageous and fun female protagonists:
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In She Wants to Be Katniss for Halloween!, Shari Frost celebrates a tomboy who finally finds a female character she wants to emulate with a booklist highlighting courageous girls:
In this week’s video, Franki Sibberson meets with a group of girls reading Amber Brownand shares other books with fun female protagonists:
Katherine Sokolowski is dismayed when many of the boys in her fifth-grade class admit they don’t like to write. In Choice, Content, and Format: Understanding How Boys Write, she explains how she changed her writing program to meet their needs:
New PD2Go: In The Lunch Lady and Gender in Reading, Franki Sibberson and her fourth-grade students take on the question, Are there books that should only be read by girls or boys?
This video and workshop guide fulfill Common Core State Standard 4.RI.8: Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.
That’s all for this week!