Wednesday, September 25, 2019

14 Ways to Inspire Kids to Love Writing

1.      Provide opportunities for kids to express their true feelings, wants, desires verbally.
2.      Expose kids to high level conversations, concepts and vocabulary without expectation.
3.      Provide opportunities for kids to combine pictures with words (comics, graphic novels).
4.      Provide opportunities for kids to express their true feelings, wants and desires, in writing without correcting their “mistakes."
5.      Don’t focus foremost on grammar or mechanics. Focus first on expression of thought and self.
6.      Give kids many varied opportunities to write freely without judgement and criticism.
7.      Explore private journals where kids are free to write their true thoughts and feelings without an audience. Keep the journals in a locked box and do not betray trust by reading them.
8.      If private journals are too scary, explore interactive journals where you model your own love of writing and write back and forth with your kids.
9.      Gamify writing. Have it be part of a scavenger hunt or serial story where you make writing part of a playful and creative game. (See photo of three Walgrove Monarchs engaged in writing a collection of serial stories.)
10.  Teach grammar and mechanics in small discrete doses -- in mini-lessons -- and at the VERY end of the writing process, once students have developed confidence and the desire and/or need to polish their writing. Grammar and mechanics are the packaging meant to enhance the reader’s understanding. They are not the purpose of writing.
11.  Let kids follow their own process. Don’t insist they use your methods, including graphic organizers, etc. Let kids write out of order. Let them be messy. The goal is getting students to LOVE writing. Avoid making writing laborious, tedious, and/or a negative chore. 
12.  Deliver writing as an opportunity to create and be heard. 
13.  Publish student writing in a widely distributed literary journal so their writing is curated and celebrated which adds layers of meaning, increases motivation and strengthens community. (Look for Walgrove's literary journal called "Wings" just before the winter break.)
14.  Otherwise reinforce the purposes of writing, which are self-expression and human connection. 

Monday, September 16, 2019

Welcome and OLD v NEW

Welcome to the Principal's Corner where I will occasionally share info, news, research, conversation starters and other educationally related tidbits as they relate to our kiddos at Walgrove Elementary in Venice, CA. 

This particular post is about OLD v NEW. This weekend during my travels, I overheard an educator say something that surprised me, which prompted me to create this table:

Content Standards
Common Core Standards
Knowledge based
Skills based
Product oriented
Process oriented
Processes are demonstrated and copied. Answers are given expeditiously. Students are carried across the river. The goal is completing the work quickly and “correctly.” Teachers, not students, are typically functioning as the heroes of the story. The hope is that students will remember.
Productive struggle is encouraged. Students discover processes through trial and error. Students swim across the river. Teachers and aides wait, watch and encourage from the shore OR they swim alongside. But they don’t carry students across the river. The goal for students is to go through the process of thinking and exercising the mind. Students must connect the synapses and become the heroes of their own story.
Low-order Bloom’s, e.g., remembering and understanding theoretically, but not conceptualizing down to the bones
High-order Bloom’s, e.g., reasoning: applying; analyzing; evaluating; creating...
Teacher driven
Student driven
Teacher is "sage on the stage" lecturer or mommy robin that places already-chewed knowledge into the mouths of babes
Teacher is event planner and/or facilitator. When facilitating, the teacher asks leading questions (think Socrates) and offers wait time and provides as many students as possible the opportunity to share their thinking (not necessarily with the whole group; could be with a partner or journal...)
Students are empty vessels in need of being filled with information. They come with “deficits.”
Students come with richness and life experience and are eager to connect their own richness to new ideas when those ideas are presented in ways that acknowledge their richness
Guided Practice with "gradual release": I Do, We Do, You Do. Teacher demonstrates a specific way; the class practices that way to get the hang of it; students each practice independently the teacher’s way. Beforehand, students are "front-loaded with info that they must memorize in order to later do.
Constructivism: You Do, We Do, I Do. "Fiddle about 'til you figure it out." Students experiment, attempting to carry out a challenge; they share questions and ideas with peers; they return to the teacher for validation and/or a new challenge. Any "front loading" is instead "side-loading" (like a chart, map or reference guide) that may be immediately applied in context.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
Homogeneous groups
Heterogeneous groups
Single entree
Menu of options
Teacher choice
Student choice
Students limited to the confines of the teacher’s offering (and the teacher’s content knowledge) and to the collective wisdom of the homogeneous group
Unlimited (not even limited by the constraint of time because students will take their curiosity, meaning-seeking and agile minds with them wherever they go)
Teacher does the high order thinking in analyzing, comparing, evaluating, synthesizing, preparing
Students do the high order thinking in applying, analyzing, comparing, evaluating, synthesizing, choosing, creating
Students do individual work to show “standards mastery” 
Students go on individual quests during which they practice skills, solve problems and seek meaning
OR students do group work, often for group grades (which have a tendency to stifle the fringe/genius voices that are not also the dominant voices and that typically involve an imbalance of participation)
OR students work together to solve a problem, answer a guiding question or create something purposeful (roles may be chosen/assigned and equitable OR chosen/assigned and hierarchical to include a lead visionary or project manager so fringe/genius voices, whether dominant or not, are encouraged and fostered)

When it makes sense to use guided instruction (and gradual release):
  • High-stakes procedures like driving a stick shift, flying a helicopter or performing brain surgery
  • Tasks where speed and standardization facilitate language and reasoning as with procedures related to writing, such as printing, handwriting and typing 
  • Routines and procedures for engaging in Constructivist lessons so there is more time spent on the meaningful work than on the transitions into the work
When guided practice is potentially stifling:
  • Low-stakes procedures where no one will die (or get seriously injured) if things are done a different way, and whenever guided practice shuts down reasoning (and ultimately atrophies reasoning), and/or when the "correct" or standard way of doing something lacks purpose and is "just because"
Questions to ponder:
  • What kind of tasks does the SBAC (end of the year state assessment) include?
  • What kind of problems do/will students encounter in life?
  • Which column likely leads to higher SBAC scores?
  • Which column likely leads to students being "successful" in college, career and in life?
  • Which aspect of the table gives you the strongest emotional response?
  • Which aspect are you most intriqued by?
Of course, after answering these questions, we are always encouraged to answer the ultimate question, which is "why?" "Why is this so?" and "Why do I feel this way?"

I would love it if you were to reach out and engage in conversation with me/us about this or other education related topics via

Thank you!

Dr. Andrea Kittelson

Educators' Glossary

Click to enlarge