Tag Archive for professional books

Why School?

Image from Edtechworkshop

This weekend I downloaded the book Why School? by Will Richardson after seeing numerous educators on Twitter recommend it.  It was a whopping $2.99, but one of the best reads (and a quick read) to challenge our thinking about school.

Here is a TEDTalk given by the author, Will Richardson, talking about how the internet resources available to us today are making learning different.  Even if you don’t watch the entire video (which is 14 minutes) please watch the first 1:28 minutes of it as he tells the story of his daughter learning to play Journey on the piano.

I cringed when he told about the piano teacher saying his daughter wasn’t ready to play Journey yet.  I then wondered if there are any times that we put similar limits on our students?

Why School? is a great summary of why schools must be different than they were when we went through school.  Schools are no longer the place to go to receive information and then memorize it to regurgitate it on a worksheet or a test.  That is the type of school that prepared children for factory work.  We are now preparing students for jobs that do not even exist today.  Richardson quotes psychologist Herbert Gerjuoy who predicts that “the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write. The illiterate will be those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”  I had to think deeply about that quote, but really can connect to how true it is with changing technologies. Think about how many times you have had to change something you do technology-wise because the program has updated (Microsoft word is the perfect example) or had to completely stop using a program and learn a new one (ex: change of gradebook to a new student information system).  At the rate web 2.0 tools are coming out, this learning, unlearning and relearning can happen daily!

In the video clip above (which was from 2011 so I’m sure the numbers have changed), Richardson says that by using their phones, a student could have access to 2 billion potential teachers…no, not certified teachers, but people who can teach them how to do something.  Information and knowledge is everywhere, not just in the teacher’s heads to impart to students.  I just checked the web history on our home computer and found that we have learned the following in the past month from youtube/google:

For our students to be successful, they will need to know how to find accurate information, think about and solve real world problems, be able to create and share with others and collaborate with others…not just in the classroom but at a global level.

Here are some of the “nuggets” I highlighted in Why School?:

  • “Remaking assessment starts with this: Stop asking questions on tests that can be answered by a google search.” 
  •  “Performance-based assessments, where students actually have to do something with what they know, tell us volumes more about their readiness for life than bubble sheets or contrived essays.”
  • “We can raise the teaching profession by sharing what works, by taking the best of what we do and hanging it on the virtual wall. Many would argue that it is now the duty of teachers to do so.”
  • “We have to stop delivering the curriculum to kids. We have to start discovering it with them.” 
  • Be a master learner…”in times of great change, learners will inherit the earth, while the learned will be beautifully equipped for a world that no longer exists.” (quote from philosopher Eric Hoffer).  
  • “There’s no competitive advantage today in knowing more than the person next to you. The world doesn’t care what you know. What the world cares about is what you can do with what you know.”
  •  Do real work for real audiences.
  •  “Don’t teach my child science; instead, teach my child how to learn science -or history or math or music.”

A Day with The Book Whisperer

I recently was fortunate enough to spend the day in a workshop with Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer, on Creating Classrooms Where Readers Flourish. I read her book over a year ago and immediately shared it with my staff in this post  and have continued to follow her on twitter, as well as the Nerdy Book Club blog and the monthly Twitter chat #Titletalk to gain book ideas.  So, you can just imagine my excitement of finally getting to meet her in person, greet her with a hug and get my picture taken with her:

Now, beyond my excitement…

Her session was AMAZING! You can read my full notes HERE (warning, it’s a lot!).  I honestly wished I had a classroom to go back to and start implementing her ideas and inspiring my students to read, but I just had my office.  I did share my notes with all of the teachers in my building, but I know it is an overwhelming a lot of information to read.  I sat down and reread my notes, asking myself “what pieces can I share with all teachers in my building to continue to create a culture of readers in our building?”  I was still struck by the following statistic Miller shared:

“56% of unenthusiastic readers did not have a teacher who shared a love of reading, while 64% of enthusiastic readers did have such a teacher.” (Nathanson, Pruslow and Levitt, 2008)

While I typed pages of notes with great ideas, my 2 biggest take-aways were that:

  • The adults in the school need to model a passion for reading.
  • We need our students to develop the habits of readers.

What are ways that adults can model passion for reading?  Aside from the teacher reading him/herself and sharing books with students constantly (just read The Book Whisperer!) some ideas I want to start are:

  • Continue to share my reading life with staff and students. Here’s a post in which I reflected on my Reading Life. 
  • Including what I am currently reading in my email signature–each time you send an email you’re also sending out book recommendations. 
  • Write reading resolutions…I am asking all staff to do this in January for themselves and for their students. 
  • Everyone with a door (that would be everyone in the building) display book covers on their door of either books they’ve read throughout the year or what book they are currently reading.  My door isn’t visible to everyone, so I put mine up on the library door for all classes to see as they go to library. I also included a little blurb to explain why mine has 3 books of what I’m currently reading.
  • Create a basket of “light reading” books (I’m thinking magazines, joke books, etc.) in the hallway where kids line up for lunch with a basket to turn them in at the lunch room. Last year we let students bring their books to the lunch room, but had a few library books get wrecked.
When I discussed these ideas with teachers in grade level meetings, they came with additional great ideas that we want to to implement:
  • Leave a book, Take a book shelf in the hallway. (completely on the honor system)
  • Stop, Drop and Read during February. Wherever students go they will need to have a book with them, because I could go on the announcements at any time and say it’s time to Stop, Drop and Read!
I would love to hear what other schools are doing to model a passion for reading and helping students develop the habits of readers!
(By the way…just realized this is my 100th post on this blog!)

Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works

With the increasing rate of new tech devices and web 2.0 tools being developed each day, it is very easy for both teachers and students to get excited by something flashy and lose sight of the purpose.  We often have to remind ourselves to start with our learning objectives and THEN decide what technology can enhance the learning process.

I recently finished reading the 2nd Edition of  Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works published by ASCD and found it to be a great resource to maintain this focus on the purpose.  This book is a  follow-up to Marzano’s original book of Classroom Instruction that Works. In Marzano’s original book we learned about 9 research based strategies that can have a direct impact on the learning in your classroom.  In this technology resource book, the authors take Marzano’s strategies and explain a variety of a ways that technology can be integrated into the classroom as a tool for these instructional strategies.  This book is chock-full of ways to integrate technology for:

  • Setting Objectives and Providing Feedback
  • Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition
  • Cooperative Learning
  • Cues, Questions, and Advance Organizers
  • Nonlinguistic Representations
  • Summarizing and Note Taking
  • Assigning Homework and Providing Practice
  • Identifying Similarities and Differences
  • Generating and Testing Hypotheses
In the beginning of this book there is a simple chart that identifies which tech tools in the book relate to each of the 9 instructional strategies.  After seeing this, I was curious if the authors had done any similar work on iPad apps related to these strategies, so I simply asked one of the authors on Twitter and received a reply within hours (you’ve got to love how convenient Twitter can be!)…
You can find the Google Spreadsheet of iPad apps HERE
I am not one to typically read a book on technology (because I learn all about new technology from my Twitter PLN), but as I read through this book, I was constantly tabbing pages of ideas that I then shared with a variety of teachers in our district.  For teachers that are not connected online, this book is a great resource to get started with learning ways to integrate technology into the classroom with purpose.  
Will Richardson says it well in his forward to this book when he says “technology in all of its forms is no longer an add-on to the work that we as educators do. It is now a fundamental part of the way we live and learn and teach.”  This book is a great place to begin the work of integrating technology into learning.  

Monday Musings

Image from Sparkle and Shade

I’ve previously shared how I used my staff memo blog to share weekly updates with staff, as well as a method to model my own personal reflections with staff (you can find my previous post explaining it HERE).  Earlier this year I gave staff a survey to see what they think of my Monday Memo and Friday Focus which led me to make a change.  Basically, my 2 posts for the week have flip-flipped.  My Friday Focus, which used to be my reflective post, is now the post that includes: “Great Things I Noticed This Week”, “Events Next Week”, “Nuts&Bolts Notes”, and “Blogs, Pins & Tweets…Oh My!”  This was in response to staff wanting to know what’s coming for the next week before leaving for the weekend.  My reflective post is now called my “Monday Musings.” I have found this change much easier for me, because it is so much easier to reflect on the weekends to write that post.

Here is a cross-post of this week’s “Monday Musings:”

I recently read the blog post What the Kardashians Taught me About Reading (No, For Real)  written by Chris Lehman, co-author (with Lucy Calkins) of Pathways to the Common Core. To be honest, I love reading everything written by Chris, but I saw this tweeted several times and ignored it, because I couldn’t care less about the Kardashians. I’m not sure what got me to finally read it, but when I did I read it several times through.  Please take a few moments to read the article HERE which is actually on Donalyn Miller’s blog at Edweek (the author of The Book Whisperer that I raved about last year).

OK, you read it now, right?
Here is what stood out to me, that I’m still thinking about…

Brand Yourself as a Reader, So Your Students Will Emulate

Lehmann writes about using the Kardashians as a metaphor for how we can see our instruction in a new light.  He says, “we need to take a lesson from Ms. K and brand ourselves as readers just as carefully so our students have that vision to aspire to.”

Are you known as a reader to your students?  Do your colleagues know they can ask you for a book recommendation or share with you a book they just finished reading?  

This has me wondering if you all think of me as a reader? I have certainly tried to by sharing my Shelfari account bookshelf on my blog and sharing my reflections of what I’m reading and learning about.  Do students think of me as a reader?  After reading this article (which I have actually read several times) I want to start my own little bulletin board in the media center to post a picture of what childrens’ book I am currently reading to model for our students. 

There were several other great ideas shared in the comments section of the blog post that made me wonder if any of you would be willing to share your ideas on this in the comments of this blog post?  If you’ve never gone from the emailed post to the blog, go to johnsonmemo.blogspot.com and scroll to the bottom of the post and click where it says No Comments. This will open up a box for you to add your comment of ideas to share with the rest of us.

The No Complaining Rule

I’ve read a number of books by Jon Gordon and have never been disappointed.  His books are quick reads, but always inspirational with powerful, positive messages.  I recently read The No Complaining Rule: Positive Ways to Deal with Negativity at Work.  Who doesn’t encounter issues of complaining, whether it’s your spouse, a colleague or even yourself?
Complaining is very prevalent, however, the negativity it spreads is like cancer.  In Gordon’s book, he shares the cost of negativity:

  • Negativity costs the U.S. economy between $250 to $300 billion every year in lost productivity according to the Gallup Organization.
  • 90% of doctor visits are stress related, according to the CDC, and the #1 cause of office stress is coworkers and their complaining, according to Truejobs.com
  • A study found that negative employees can scare off every customer they speak with–for good (How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath).
  • Too many negative interactions compared to positive interactions at work can decrease the productivity of a team, according to Barbara Frederickson’s research at the University of michigan.
  • One negative person can create a miserable office environment for everyone else.
This list could go on, but I’m sure you get the point: Complaining breeds negativity, and negativity makes it difficult to accomplish anything. So, how do you handle the Complainers?  One could imagine handling complaining this way…

Gordon’s book is all about putting The No Complaining Rule into effect with suggestions to do instead of complaining (replacing a bad habit with a better practice):
1. Practice Gratitude
2. Praise Others
3. Focus on Success
4. Let Go
5. Pray and Meditate
(The list with descriptions can be found here).

The most memorable part of the book for me was an explanation from the “yard guy” on how he eliminates weeds. Instead of attacking the weeds with chemicals he uses an organic mixture that “creates an environment where the good grass can grow healthy and strong.”  This allows the grass to grow and spread to the point that the weeds get crowded out and can no longer grow.

What does this “organic mixture” look like in schools?  For the adults, I see this as building on teachers’ strengths, creating an environment in which teachers are constantly learning together and from each other.  Teachers share new ideas, or read some of the same books together, and even observe each other’s classrooms to help improve the teaching and learning in their own classrooms.  For students this is also building on strengths and positives, versus focusing on wrongdoings and consequences.  For many schools this is being done through PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports) or character development programs.  This year our school is going to use the “Bucket Fillers” theme, which I thought of the entire time I read The No complaining Book.  We already have a positive culture in our building, but I am excited to see what this theme will add to it as we focus on praising others and celebrating our success.

I would highly recommend anyone read this book.  You can find additional resources here whether you have read the book or not.  And I challenge you to take a Complaining Fast. Start with just a day and then try a week of No Complaining!  Focus on the things you “get to do” instead of “have to do” and turn your complaints into solutions.

Sharing my Reading Life

*This is blog post #4 in the 2012 Summer Blog Challenge*

I have had the pleasure of learning directly from Regie Routman in her Leadership in Literacy conference twice in the past two years. If you ever have the opportunity to attend a conference/workshop with Regie, I would highly recommend it. While I could write for days about why I have learned from Regie and the impact it has had on our school literacy practices, this post will actually be about how she has impacted my reading.

The first time that I heard Regie, she talked about how important reading is in her life and that she reads a wide variety of books…not just professional education books. I’m not sure why, but that was a shock to me. I spent every spare moment I could reading professional books to improve my practice, but Regie helped me see that I wasn’t actually enjoying reading by only reading this type of books.  (She also said that it’s important to have a life outside of school so that you have interesting things to write about…I’m still working on this one!)

Then she did something that really had an impact on me—she passed around her reading log to share her reading life with us. It was just a simple journal that she used each page to record the books she read for that month. For each book she included the title, author, makes fiction or non-fiction and also marked.a star by it was a great read for her. By logging books in a simple way and each page being month, she could easily see which months she was falling behind on reading (and also which months she traveled a lot since she does a lot of reading while flying).  If you want to see what Regie’s reading and read more about how and why she started logging her books, you can read it here on her site.  I’m sure that my readers know by now that I’m one of those crazy people that is eager to learn and implement right away, so I recorded a few (ok, several) book recommendations that she had starred in her book log and then on my drive home I stopped at the store and bought a nice notebook to start my own reading log journal.

April 2012 of my reading log

I started my reading log December of 2010 and have found that it has really pushed me to read more.  When I see a blank page, it motivates me to shut off the tv and read more (quite honestly, tv has become boring to me).  During the year 2011 I read a total of 26 books–6 fiction, 20 non-fiction.  When I saw that break down I realized I have got to read more fiction or I am going to become a boring person.  We are now half way through 2012 and I have surpassed the total of books I read last year. With today being the last day of June I have read 27 books–15 fiction, 12 non-fiction.

What have I learned from all of this reading?

  • Reading fiction is a big stress relief for me. I enjoy escaping into a good story.
  •  By keeping a log, it is much easier for me to share book recommendations with others.
  • I find myself talking about books with students in the lunch room that I’ve read, which leads them to talk about books they’ve enjoyed and then I read their recommended books (the same happens with adults).
  • It seems like the more I share my reading, the more teachers in my building are reading.
  • I spend a lot of money at amazon ordering books! (I partially blame the #educoach folks on twitter for this!)
After my first year of logging my books, I didn’t feel it was enough to model and share my reading with my teachers.  In December of 2011, I read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, which is a MUST read if you have anything to do with teaching literacy.  One of the studies she sited in this book found a link between the reading habits of teachers and the reading achievement of their students (Lundberg and Linnakyla, 1993).  The take-away from this study is that if we want our students to read and enjoy it for the rest of their lives, then we must show them what a reading life looks like.  I decided to take this one step further and do a better job of modeling reading for my teachers.  I was already maintaining a staff blog for a weekly memo, so I decided the best avenue would be to start logging my books onto shelfari and then add a widget to my blog so that staff could easily see what I’m reading (you can see my shelfari bookshelf widget on this blog to the right as well).  Since doing this, it seems like most of my teachers are reading more–both professionally and for pleasure.  It could be that they were reading this much before and it just got them talking about their reading more? Even if that is so, I know that the discussions and book recommendations help build our learning community…impacting our staff and students.