#BlackLivesMatter

Today I was gifted the opportunity to talk at a Black Lives Matter march in the community I have been teaching in for the last 8 years. I was extremely uncomfortable and out of my comfort zone. But the organizer, a parent at my school reassured me that I can do this and I should. She even said that as someone I have come across in my journey it’s her job to push me. I needed to write out what I wanted to say to make sure I had my thoughts right. Here are the words I chose to share thanks to Katie.

I know my story isn’t the most important one right now. I know I should be elevating and amplifying voices of color. But, maybe my story will help someone else. So here I am! I’m not perfect and I’m definitely still learning. 

I haven’t always been on this journey. I used to think all lives matter I didn’t understand why people were separating black lives from everyone else. I didn’t understand my white privilege. I thought because I grew up in a working class home we struggled too so how bad can it be. Over the last several years I have leaned into discomfort. I’ve spent time listening, reading and learning about race and racism in America. That’s my white privilege – to learn and not experience. I’ve learned that while my family struggled, we didn’t struggle because of our skin color and our struggles haven’t been because of generations of descrimination. That’s my white privilege. I learned the reason we say black lives matter is because black lives are in danger. An just in case this is new to you, it’s ok to change your mind when you learn new information. You can change your stance on an issue. I did. Black women matter. Black men matter. Black lgbtq+ matter. Black lives matter.

I see myself as an ally in this fight. I’m here today as an ally. But I’m working to be more than an ally. I want to be an accomplice. So I’m here to talk to other allies. You see, an ally knows that racism is a problem in this country. An accomplice speaks out against the injustice. An ally is self reflective and knows their implicit bias. An accomplice helps others discover theirs. An ally carries a sign and posts to social media but an accomplice continues the work when it’s no longer trending. An ally sees race and values it. An accomplice appropriately centers the conversation around speaking their truth and opening themselves to the perspectives of POCs. An ally does the work on themselves. An accomplice educates their children. An ally shows up but an accomplice holds your hand. An ally is not racist. An accomplice is actively anti racist.

Thank you Katie for trusting me and for helping me take one more step toward being an accomplice in this fight.

Better than Carrots and Sticks

Why I chose this book

I chose this book because I have been wanting to learn as much as I can about restorative practices and how to implement them in my classroom. This book came highly recommended by many people in my PLN.

Major Take Aways

The authors didn’t waste any time redefining classroom management. Which I was pleased by because I don’t particularly like that term. They refer to classroom management as defined by Cassetta and Sawyer,

about building relationships with students and teaching social skills along with academic skills.

page 2

I fully agree with this definition of classroom management and believe that my relationships with my students are paramount to being a successful teacher. I also believe that students will always mistakes and they are essential that I, as their teacher, help them to learn from those mistakes. Behavior needs to be taught just as academics.

I love that this book talks about the importance of goal setting and reflection to students learning social skills, problem solving, and self regulation. Kids need chances to make choices and learn from those choices.

Restorative practices aren’t mutually exclusive from rigorous content and instruction and they are not a replacement for rules. The book explains that rules need to communicate high expectations, be consistent, and fair. When misbehavior happen or rules are broken, it is in the role of the teacher to figure out what has caused the behavior. Finding the cause of a behavior isn’t excuse making, it’s about finding a way to help the child solve the problem they’re dealing with.

One of the biggest things I learned from this book at the restorative practices are more than circles. Circling up and building community and solving problems are a huge part of it. It also includes adults tone of voice and word choice, conferencing with individual and small groups of students, questioning, teaching students to dialogue about problems and solutions, and relationship building.

It’s extremely important that we separate humans from the unacceptable behavior. Teachers must speak to students with respect and from a place of love. “We have to learn to focus on restitution rather than consequences.” (page 111)

Making it Accessible for Littles

Explicit teaching and patience are skills most early childhood educators need to reach students. Restorative practices means teachers are calm in the face of heightened emotion, teach students ways to problem solve, and help students navigate ways to communicate their big emotions. Littles need this in all areas of their life.

As an early childhood educator one way I can ensure I’m using restorative practices is to help littles gain the language they need to communicate. I name the big feelings they might be having (beyond happy, sad, and mad). Then help them work toward communicating about that feeling by talking more about the situation.

The book recommends teaching students sentence frames to help them learn to communicate problems and emotions. One it recommends that I use often is,

I felt ____ when ____ because ____.

page 88

The Book Study PLN

I read this book along with others around the country with a digital book study I co-facilitate. We discussed the book on twitter and flipgrid weekly. The twitter conversations happened in September – October 2018 on #FlipBookStudy. And you can check out our video conversations here: https://flipgrid.com/carrotssticks. It was great to connect with others while reading this book to see ways they were already implementing restorative practices and new things the will try. I was able to ask questions, bounce ideas, share my ideas, and learn for others!

Flipping for Substitutes

Flipping the classroom is a teaching practice in which a teacher videos themselves teaching and send it to students to watch at home. The idea is that teachers can lecture for students to take notes outside of class time. Students then come to class prepared with knowledge and questions. Class is then interactive and hands on because students already had direct instruction.

This may be an unpopular opinion, but I don’t think teachers should be flipping their classrooms. We can’t expect students to watch videos at home and learn from them. It is inequitable. Not all students have access to devices and internet at home, some students work, some play sports, some help out with other siblings.

A few years ago I taught a multi track first grade. In our year round schools, we run on 4 different tracks or calendars. At any time there are 3 tracks in and 1 track out. Each track is in for 9 weeks and out for 3 weeks. In my multi track class, the students tracked in and out every 3 weeks and I was an 11 month teacher and tracked out less frequently. During my track outs, I had a substitute so instruction could continue. This is the year I started videoing my teaching and leaving those videos for substitutes because I needed to teach at 2 different paces depending on the instructional day for the tracks that were in at the time. This made sub plans………. challenging.

I began doing flipped videos in math for substitutes so I could ensure the strategies my students needed would be taught correctly. The video served twofold – it taught the strategy to my students and the substitute. In my sub plans, I left directions to assist with students as they watched the video and practiced. My videos followed the same structure of my typical lessons with dry erase board practice while I modeled. At the end of my videos, I gave directions for independent practice.

This seemed to work well and I got good feedback from substitutes because the knew exactly how to help students. My students like to see my face or hear my voice even when I wasn’t with them.

Later that year, I realized I could get more bang for my buck with these videos. I started to upload them to google classroom so my students could access them at any time they needed a reminder. After a parent conference in which a parent asked for a how to on math strategies, I stared uploading them to Seesaw as well so families could see me model a strategy. Please note – though I shared the videos with families, I never required students to watch the instruction at home.

I still flip my classroom for substitutes. I’ve even started making videos for literacy instruction. This year I plan to incorporate science or social studies videos into sub plans as well. This method works best when you can plan ahead for a substitute because it can be time consuming to make the videos. I don’t flip my classroom for substitutes when I am out sick because my plans are usually a little more hurried.

Here’s one example of a video I made for a substitute:

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1XWHz6KIVl9XCyqo3e5NhqNwtBtLgfFXjab7LBNlKDKA/edit?usp=sharing

Do you flip your classroom? Does it work for you? I would love to hear your experiences in the comments below!

For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too Book Study Reflection

Why I chose this book

I read this book because it had been recommended so many times by so many people that I trust. As a white woman, I was looking for a book I could read to help me understand the perspective of my black and brown students. I wanted some introductory information on restorative practices (which are similar to the cyphers discussed in the book) in school. I knew this book was more about high school students but I knew I could find ways to apply it to my work in the elementary classroom. Since it was highly recommended, I just knew I would learn a lot.

Major take aways

I loved that Chris Edmin shared mistakes he made after first getting into the classroom. I learn a lot from mistakes, my mistakes and the mistakes of others. He refers to students in urban schools as neoindigenous. Too often the educators who work in urban schools come from outside the community and don’t spend enough time in the community and the students are the ones who are native and know the culture of their neighborhood. Educators have a lot to learn from their students. He invested the time learning about, from, and with his students. I spend a lot of time and effort building relationships to learn about my students. I would love to incorporate more ways to learn from and with my students.

As a white woman, it is important for me to unpack my privilege and fully understand that my own history impacts the way I show up at school and interact with my students. I struggled with this at first. I didn’t want to see that I brought privilege into my work with my students. But I know that I do. Confronting my privilege made me realize that I can be myself but also learn to see and value my students’ experiences. This book talked a lot about seeing life experiences from different perspectives. The work is in asking questions to understand other’s perspective.

Understanding my privilege is one thing, but I need to ensure that I’m making real connections with my students. I can do that through telling stories about my life and listening to their stories. I loved the chapters “Coteaching” and “Cosmopolitanism” which were about creating a classroom culture of collaboration and shared celebration.

As I was reading this book, I couldn’t help but make so many connections to the work that NCAE is doing right now. Edmin talked a lot about how urban areas get a lot of charter schools coming in and trying to fix the kids and the neighborhood but that isn’t what they need. This work can and should be done by public schools. If you’re in North Carolina, interested in or are currently doing this work, and you aren’t a member of NCAE yet, I highly recommend you do your research and join!

Making it accessible for Littles

While this book was a lot more self work that direct application to my classroom, I believe that the work I’m doing will impact my students.

I particularly liked the chapter “Chuuuurch” because I made so many connections to my own classroom. Edmin explains how we should make our classrooms more like black churches. Kids should sit where they want and should be able to respond as desired. In my classroom, I use flexible seating because I believe it is best for kids. I’m also flexible on the whole raise your hand to speak thing. One of my class rules is one voice because I believe it is important for people to not speak over each other and to focus on the person who is talking. But, I try to keep my classroom conversational.

In the book Edmin talks about call and response and movement being essential to neoindigeneous youth. I have been trying to incorporate more of this in my classroom lately and I noticed that littles really love it when I do!

The book study PLN

Reading this book and having conversations about it with others who were also reading it helped me understand what I was reading and better apply it as I work to improve myself. It was nice to have face to face conversations with people who are nearby and looking to incorporate restorative practices with their students. I also participated in video chat conversations with people from across my state. I believe the most important part of social justice work is finding others who are doing the work too. We must build strength together in order to continue to grow.

Student Choice and Reading

I believe that student choice is important for lots of reasons. Student choice helps build relationships and trust. Students take ownership over their learning when they know they get a say. Students can make personal connections to the content through choices. Learning is “sticky” and memorable when students have voice and choice. Kids like having a choice. But, today I want to focus on student choice during reading instruction.

I teach reading in a workshop model with a mini lesson, call to action, conferencing, and small group instruction. Conferencing with students and small group instruction happen while students are independently reading. My mini lesson and call to action are whole group instruction. At this time, I make a connection, state a strategy, model the strategy, then ask students to try it when they get to their book boxes.

I give students full agency over the books they have in their book box. I have 2 rules: Students should have 10 books. They should have a variety of books. Students are assigned a day of the week for their independent book shopping. When students go book shopping, they have the choice to keep as many books as they want and trade as many books as they want as long as they keep 10 books. I teach several lessons about selecting a good variety of books ranging from: fiction vs nonfiction, finding books on similar topics (all books have bears but are different types of books), choosing books on topics they don’t think they like, making book recommendations and using them to choose books, leveled vs. non-leveled books, etc.

My classroom library is very organized. I have leveled books, theme books, author books, non fiction collections, chapter books, seasonal books, etc. I teach students how to put the books back so they stay organized and one of our classroom jobs is the classroom library helper. Last year, I purchased these dot stickers on amazon and I use them to label my personal books into their theme bins. I do have leveled books that belong to the school and those stay in the labeled leveled bins. I personally like to keep my books completely separate from the school owned books. Students have free choice to choose from leveled bins and theme bins. Choosing some leveled books is part of having a variety of books. However – I. 👏 Never. 👏 Tell. 👏 Students. 👏 Which. 👏 Bins. 👏 To. 👏 Select. 👏 Their. 👏 Books. 👏 From. 🙌

My quick thoughts on leveled books: Books have reading levels and can be categorized in that way. Children are not leveled and should not be categorized in that way. period

I have a flexible classroom and have blogged about it here and here. Flexible seating also applies to independent reading time. Students can read any where they want: under tables, at a table, on a pillow, on any flexible seat, on the floor, in any position they choose. As long as students are spread out, safe, and comfortable. They can be anywhere that works for them. This doesn’t happen by mistake or magic. It takes a lot of teaching, practice, praise, reinforcement, and modeling to make it work.

My students take our reading time seriously. It is important to them that they choose a spot where they can focus on their books and not their friends and they take some serious time selecting books for their book boxes. While I don’t believe that students should be leveled, my reading assessment data has proven that giving students voice and choice is beneficial to their growth as readers. At the end of last school year (2018-19) 100% of my students met proficiency or better. 2 readers even grew from exhibiting reading behaviors to decoding and comprehending a level I and K book.

An amazing thing happened today (7/17/19)

An open letter to NC Superintendent Mark Johnson

Mark,

Happy Independence Day! I appreciate the email you sent through the Read to Achieve email account. The FAQ list was informative. However, I’m concerned that a 15 page document addressing 26 common questions that generates more questions than answers is a red flag. Below are 20 more questions I would like to see answered:

1. Will I get more planning time to review assessments and analyze the results to use in my instruction?

2. Do I get to have blocks in my first grade classroom for students to play with?

3. What about students with speech needs or quiet voices? What about background noise when recording students’ reading?

4. Does the game like interface have an effect on students not taking the reading assessment seriously?

5. Are we getting the curriculum and the assessments?

6. Why is this information coming from the read to achieve email and not a person, like Mark Johnson?

7. Who helped Mark Johnson reach this decision? Since he only has 2 years teaching experience and neither of those years were spent in k-3.

8. You keep saying istation has multiple research studies that support its validity but, does it have predictive, valid, and reliable measures that educators can use for instruction? What are those measures?

9. Will schools receive more devices in order to administer these digital assessments?

10. How much is this costing taxpayers?

11. How will this impact EVAAS since I’ll begin my year with mclass assessments and then transition to istation in January?

12. Do we really need to focus on improving students test taking skills? Does that indicate true learning?

13. What was wrong with mclass?

14. Who benefits from this adoption since it’s the same company as class wallet?

15. With istation home, what about families who don’t have access to devices or high speed internet?

16. I noticed the screen shot with a character on it. He is white. Are people of color represented in the visuals students will see?

17. What about our blind students or students who receive visual assistance?

18. Is this appropriate for English language learners?

19. Were year round schools take. Into consideration with the training and implementation schedules?

20. Is there a printable report to send home to parents informing them of each subtest, what it means, how their child scored, and activities they can do at home to support their child?

Other thoughts –

A fun, engaging, game like interface does not make it developmentally appropriate.

I’ll be filing my open records request tomorrow.

Sincerely,

Aubrey DiOrio

WCPSS First grade teacher

Cary Resident

I’m a Teacher Advocate

I moved to North Carolina to be a teacher in the summer of 2007. I didn’t know anything about the area and I didn’t know anyone here. All I knew was that I needed to get some classroom experience so I could go home to New York and get a teaching job. It’s been almost 12 years and I’m still here gaining classroom experience and I don’t see myself leaving.

Not long after I got my first teaching job, the state of public education in North Carolina started on a downward spiral that we are still trying to get out of. Since moving to NC, per-pupil spending has gone from $8,615 in 2007 to $9,528 in 2018. Not only are both of those numbers below the national average for that year, but the difference between NC per-pupil spending and the national average has increased over time. We currently rank 39th in the country in per pupil spending.

Teacher pay follows a similar story. I was excited about moving to North Carolina because the teacher pay scale had a scheduled raise every year. Before the end of my first year teaching, that pay scale froze. It remained frozen for 4 years. It was fine. I never got into teaching to get rich. I was living paycheck to paycheck and wasn’t able to save money but I could pay all of my bills. I have a master’s degree. I shouldn’t have to live that way. No one should.

Over my 11 years of teaching, I have seen a lot of changes in schools. From a decrease in teacher assistants to an increase in testing requirements. At first, I was baffled that the schools in North Carolina didn’t have a full-time nurse in every building but that is just the beginning. I now have fully scripted programs I’m required to teach for phonics and math. It’s coming soon for reading, I fear. My creativity and professional discretion has been stripped from me in the name of fidelity and equity.

It took me 9 and a half years of teaching in a deteriorating system to finally see the importance of joining our educators’ union, NCAE. I recognized the importance of organization and communication among educators when working toward better learning conditions for our students. I was starting to get frustrated with legislators taking advantage of passionate educators. I watched the work in Virginia and West Virginia and realized NEA was where the work was being done. I immediately joined my state and local chapter. I was even more excited to see the work in more states.

In May 2018, a march and rally were planned to show solidarity and begin to make moves on our general assembly. It turned into about 42 school districts closing and 30,000 educators, parents, and students showing up in downtown Raleigh to fight for schools our students deserve. We could have that same strength and power every day through membership.

After the rally, we worked together during the midterm election to support and vote for candidates who support public schools. We broke the supermajority in our general assembly which is a major win. Could you imagine the changes we could see in North Carolina through more members in NCAE?

In January I attended a full day meeting on a Saturday with other educator advocates. We discussed our dream for schools in North Carolina, the past and current political climate, and where we are going as an organization. We learned how to talk to elected officials and use social media to our benefit. Above all that, we build community. We made connections and friendships with like-minded educators from all over the state.

Last week, I had an appointment with my state senator, Wiley Nickel. I went prepared with a bulleted list of some of the important things we are asking for from the general assembly for public schools. I handed him my list and we chatted. I was so nervous. I had never talked to a legislator before. Turns out, they’re human. He was really easy to talk to. He wanted to know about my school, how we’re staffed, what is important to us, and what I love about teaching in North Carolina. He seemed genuinely interested and he asked to visit me at my school. Then he asked me not to leave North Carolina public schools. I look forward to meeting with him again.

Through all of this, I’ve learned that teachers shouldn’t be afraid or nervous to advocate for what they know is best for students. Legislators make the laws, but we know what we need and we need to make that transparent. We don’t need to be doormats that get walked all over and taken advantage of. We need to welcome the community into our schools and share the reality of educating young people.

I love my job. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Teaching is rewarding in so many ways. Senator Nickel, I’m not going anywhere. I will continue to fight for Strong Students, Strong Schools, Strong Communities for as long as it takes. Will you join me?

Reflections from #NSTA18 conference

In late November 2018, I attended my second National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) conference. This year was different from last year because this was a national conference and last year was a state conference. I was fortunate enough to get accepted to co-present with Caitlin McCommons on one of the many topics we are passionate about. We ran a hands-on session for teachers to grow their Professional Learning Network (PLN) through a real-time Twitter chat. This is the second time we have led a similar session and we have gotten good feedback.

I’d like to take some time to digest and synthesize my learning from the other sessions I attended. We attended 2 sessions on integrating trade books with science instruction. My Amazon cart is stuffed with books I want to add to my collection. When integrating literature with science curriculum, it is important to remember that the science content in the book should be accurate. The books shared during science lessons don’t need to be nonfiction all the time. Stories and poems can teach science content in a relatable way. In the second session on trade books in science instruction, we talked about partnering hands-on activities with trade books. One example was reading a book like Red Eyes or Blue Feathers and then having kids play with plastic insects and fabric samples to see if they can find where an insect will camouflage best. It was surprising that not all pairings were what I initially expected. Both sessions touched on including poems with science instruction. That is something I am going to try in the unit I am currently teaching on earth materials. Here is one of the lists of science trade books from one of the sessions (slides at the top and list around page 20).

We attended another session on maximizing your time in science class by streamlining your lessons and experiments. The presenters’ idea was that if you follow the same process for every science lesson, the kids will become fluent and will be able to complete an activity or experiment efficiently. Their framework involved 2 similar experiments one with an expected outcome and one with a different outcome that would inspire a question. Students would then need to come up with a hypothesis, written in an if/then frame. And begin testing their hypothesis. I used a framework similar to this when teaching kids about rock hardness in our scratch test lesson. It went well but I’m not quite sure where I can fit it in again.

By far my favorite session was by my friend Lindsay Rice and her colleague. They presented on the importance of movement within lessons and kinesthetic learning. By adding purposeful movements to instruction, teachers can help kids build their memory of content-specific vocabulary words. Brain research supports movement rich learning because it helps to fire up the neurons and get the blood flowing. They had us up and moving the entire time. It is always such a good reminder that movement shouldn’t be a reward or a break but can increase engagement and solidify learning.

I also really enjoyed the hashtagging with a purpose session by a local colleague, Kyle Hamstra. This idea has me hook, line, and sinker. I am not a fan of teachers pay teachers because I think teachers should be sharing freely with each other (that’s a soapbox for another post). Kyle’s brian child is #Hashtag180 and idea in which teachers add curriculum standard hashtags to their social media sharing of things happening in their classroom. How awesome would it be to search a curriculum hashtag and find tweets from other teachers teaching the same standard to help plan for learning experiences? He also shared his Flipgrid project (#GridSciNC) in which teachers can post videos to share activities and ideas organized by grade and standard. If you’re reading this, I encourage you to check out that resource now and add your own ideas to help it continue to grow! http://flipgrid.com/gridscinc

The last session of the conference was one on Citizen Science. I had no idea what citizen science was until I attended this session. Citizen science is a way for kids to actually do science in their community or on school grounds in a meaningful way that can even add to research happening by real scientists. I love the idea of getting kids involved in real science rather than controlled experiments but I’m still thinking hard about how to fit this into my current curriculum standards.

Over all, this was another great conference filled with meaningful connections with science teachers from my local district to Kalamazoo! While my post here focused on the content of the sessions I attended, it is important to state that the personal connections I made with people I knew, didn’t know, or recognized from twitter was by far the best part of the conference. I can’t wait to attend another NSTA conference next year!

#Culturize #CYS Book Study

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is thinking about their school culture and ways to make positive changes. Even if you already have a positive school climate that puts kids first, this book has some great community builders and the stories really help you to see how to reach “Every student. Every day. Whatever it takes.”

Why I chose this book

This book was the second digital book club I facilitated with a small group of teachers from my school and one other school across the district. We chose this book because it has a focus on reaching EVERY student in a school building especially those who can be difficult. I loved the personal stories Jimmy Casas shared throughout the book.

Major takeaways

Jimmy Casas shares the importance of relationship building conversations in the first chapter and the importance of kid-centered conversations. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the video “Every Opportunity.”

He talks a lot about disrupting average and going above and beyond for our students. I constantly reflected on my “why:” To cultivate lifelong learning through perseverance and personal interests. My why has a lot to do with going above and beyond for my students and I try to create the best learning experiences for them. To me, this is their only time in first grade and it should be the BEST first-grade experience ever!

On page 38, Casas talks about ensuring every student gets the necessary support they need to grow at their personal pace based on their needs but that students also need to be exposed to grade level content because if they aren’t exposed to it they will never reach that level. This hit home for me. I’ve always thought my one-on-one instruction for intervention was more important than the core instruction for struggling learners. Now I know that if I want kids to fill their gaps and reach grade level mastery, they need time with both personal level and grade level content. That is true individualized learning. “What is important to remember is that working with all students, regardless of their level, takes time, patience, a positive attitude, and a certain level of persistence to inspire our children to believe they can do anything.” (page 40)

The section about being a leader struck me as well. You don’t need a title to be a leader. You just need to passion and mindset to make positive impacts in your school culture.

Core Principle 3 might have been the chapter that spoke to me the most. It talked a lot about taking chare of sharing the story of your school. Filling the community with positivity when talking about your school. I really liked the section about being life-fit over balance. I struggle with balance because I tend to focus on what I think is the most important at the moment. Being life-fit allows me to choose depending on the ebbs and flows of life and what I can ACTUALLY accomplish.

 

Making it accessible for Littles

This book was mostly about creating a school culture in which kids feel “safe, connected, and valued” (page 26) and that starts in elementary school. We need to create relationships with our students that help us understand who they are, where they come from, their interests, and how they learn so we can reach them. I don’t have specifics about how to make this accessible to littles because the book does a great job of showing how this is important in every school, every day, at every age.

The book study PLN

Having conversations about my reading with others reading the same text has pushed my thinking and allowed me to see different perspectives and perceptions. I truly enjoyed our talks on Culturize as we connected 2 schools on different sides of my district and helped to create a more positive school culture at both our school sites. View the conversation on Twitter and Flipgrid

Learn Like a Pirate

Why I chose this book

I chose this book because I was interested in shifting from a student-centered classroom to a student-led classroom.

Major takeaways

First off, I loved the Easter eggs in this book! The author, Paul Solarz, included additional content throughout the book using QR codes to his blog posts and documents he created that support the chapter. I felt like I hit the jackpot each time I scanned one of those things! I couldn’t get enough!

I am laying off the jobs and turning up classroom responsibilities. After reading this book, my class was charged with the responsibility of answering the phone and relaying messages, running morning meeting, running math routines, and changing the calendar and schedule. I wanted to get rid of classroom jobs altogether, but my firsties were up in arms and did not want those assigned jobs to go away. Instead, I let kids choose their jobs each week.

We had major conversations about growing as leaders in our classroom. When the kids were in charge, I would sit and wait for them to move things along rather than moving it along myself. This was awkward and uncomfortable at times because I would just sit and wait. Once they realized what needed to be done, 4-19 kids would jump up at once to do it. We had to talk about the difference between active leadership and passive leadership. I needed to explain that if someone gets up to do something, let them be the leader. You can be a passive leader by allowing them their turn.

Chapter 3 was all about collaboration. He talked about setting up your space to encourage collaboration which includes flexibility with furniture. This section challenged my thinking about flexible seating. The chairs and seating options shouldn’t be the only thing that’s flexible in your classrooms. Tables can move too. Kids should have the agency to decide when and where furniture needs to move to support their learning. This paradigm shift inspired me to write the post From Makerspace to Maker-Classroom.

After reading chapter 5, I tried my first literature circle with the support of our literacy coach Jessica VonDerHeide. We chose a book and introduced roles to a reading group and used the roles to help focus conversations about the book. Then, I decided to try this with the whole class and let them choose their books. The boys in the first group became the leaders and help to teach the roles. I made sure they were all in different groups so they could help to train the others. This worked so well, we did it twice before the end of the school year!

       

The 34 skills listed on page 180-191 are the skills I am now using to set goals for my students, PBLs, and other learning experiences.

Making it accessible for Littles

“Start small. Give your students simple jobs.” – Paul Solarz, page 20. This right here makes everything in this book accessible to littles. Pick one or 2 things then gradually release more and more as they are ready for it.

Paul talks about giving students the power of “Give me 5.” This is something I am going to do with my students this new school year. So many times littles come up to the teacher to ask a simple question that other kids might know the answer to. I would love my firsties to say, “Give me 5” then ask their question to seek clarification or get help. Teachers don’t always need to be the one with all the information or the one to jump in and save the day.

Littles naturally look for ways to improve. In chapter 4, Paul talks about portfolios and feedback. My students use Seesaw as a digital portfolio to collect their work. They leave each other comments on work as feedback. I ask them to focus their comments to glows and grows, say something kind, say something helpful, or ask a question. Focusing their thoughts and giving them sentence starters can really support littles in providing peer feedback.

The book study PLN

Caitlin McCommons and I wanted to lead a book study because we both love to read professional books but we’re both social and like to bounce our learning off of others. So we decided to launch our first digital book study using this book. We reached out to our PTA who was able to help supply some books to 6 lucky teachers! We gathered staff from our school and a school across our district who were interested in learning and growing with us. We decided to use Flipgrid as a platform for discussion because it simulates a face to face discussion but is much more flexible! You can check out our learning here: Also, feel free to add to it! We’ll never close it!

https://flipgrid.com/b39zdb?embed=true

We’ll also be launching a new book study in September so watch Twitter for the announcement!

If you’ve read this book I’d love to hear your thoughts and takeaways! Please share in the comments below!