PD in PJs

We were so fortunate to be able to participate in The Educator Collaborative gathering today. From 9:45 until 4, we drank coffee, watched, listened, took notes, tweeted, and talked about MANY best practices that we heard through a variety of workshops.

Our brains are swimming, so we wanted to reflect before we forget some of these great ideas! As Kate Roberts  mentioned, research shows that we lose the knowledge that we don’t use! For us, part of blogging is to have a record of the great work we see being done all around us so that we can come back to it, dusting off our memories before they disappear.

Reminds me of the movie Inside Out when the Mind Workers start vacuuming up all of the memories that are fading.

Today was inspirational, so if you were not able to attend, or you didn’t see the same presentations that we did, here is a quick recap of our greatest take aways. (However, there were multiple sessions for each time slot, so we know we missed MANY other great points.)

If you missed today, here is a link to the archive

Keynote: Sara Ahmed and Smokey Daniels – The Curiosity Driven Curriculum: From Identity to Inquiry

Even though we had heard some of the ideas in this keynote when we were in Santa Fe, Sara and Smokey are so inspirational when it comes to student inquiry, that we loved them as much the second time around, maybe even more. They always make us think differently.

For example, when referring to teachers’ potential reluctance to inquiry because it is not “the curriculum,” Sara stated: What happens when the world hands you a curriculum?

Brilliant. Definitely going to use this question a lot when discussing curriculum with teachers.

Session 4: Heather Rocco and Friends- Independent Reading at the Secondary Level

First and foremost, we need to buy Book Love by Penny Kittle. She is the beloved guru of anyone who wants to use student choice in a classroom. It reminds us of Nancy Atwell’s Reading Zone, a book we LOVE for middle school.

We see more and more students who have fallen out of love with reading, or have never developed even a “like” of reading. This approach, 10 minutes of independent choice reading at the beginning of EVERY English class is something we have been thinking about for a while. However, this session presented two very new and refreshing ideas for us to consider, pushing us further towards trying to make this structure a reality:

  1. We need to build a community of readers, including parents. At back to school night, show parents the books you have read over the summer and discuss expectations for reading over the course of the year. A few times a quarter, update a link to a recommendation page and make sure you share it with parents and students. Parents need to be reading partners!
  2. Encourage students to create a school book club. They choose the book and run the conversation. Invite administrators, other teachers, the nurses, students, anyone in the school community. This further reinforces the idea of a community of learners.

Great slide from this presentation:Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 11.05.50 AM

Session 6: Kristen Ziemke and Katie Muhtaris – Amplify! Digital Pedagogy for Today and Tomorrow

Even though we work in a high school and their book  Amplify is for K-6, we have found so many useful tools in it. Their motto is that technology must be used purposefully and should never replace another tool if unnecessary. If you can use chart paper, then use chart paper!

New learning from their session included our excitement to learn about the Global Student News Network. It is a website curated by students in Missouri. Here is their mission:

“Every month, our team will tweet out a new theme using the hashtag #GSNN. The rest is up to you! Students K-20, all over the world, are encouraged to produce a multimedia project relating to that month’s topic. Once you submit a video, check our website to see if your video gets featured!”

We can’t wait to share this with students and teachers!

SIDE NOTE: Through tweeting about this session, we found this iBook from Don Goble with lesson plans for students creating their own digital six-word-stories. It is FANTASTIC and FREE!

Session 11: Mary Howard and Linda Hoyt – Maximizing Deep Thinking and Reflection through Independent Reading and Read Aloud

These masters of literacy had more ideas than we could keep up with! However, there were three ideas that really stood our to us.

  1. Two Word Strategy: Asking students to choose two words from a reading that reflects their thinking about the reading
  2. Information Equation: Help students to see the relationship between ideas

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 11.33.42 PMScreen Shot 2016-04-02 at 11.34.34 PM






Once again, even though these are targeted at elementary students, if we up the level of complexity of the reading, the same activities can be used with older students. For example, high school students can use the information equation to think about the complexity of characters in a novel or the cause and effect relationship of events in a social studies class.

Session 12: Amy Rasmussen and Shana Karnes – Choice as the Keystone in Secondary English Classes

Can you see that we are really serious about trying to change the way we approach reading in high school?

We are planning to read this article by Alfie Kohn on the fact that a democratic classroom needs be filled with choice.

In addition to student choice in independent reading, these high school English teachers use book clubs and whole class novels. They often let students choose the whole class novel they want to read. So simple and so smart!

Session 16: Wonderopolis and NCFL – Bridging School and Home with Fun and Family Friendly Resources

Unfortunately, a thunder storm caused major buffering problems in this session, but we are happy we can at least see it in the archives. However, we DID learn about Wonder Ground, a new resource from Wonderopolis that helps teachers collaborate with one another about student inquiry and wonderings. We have signed up and are really excited to participate!

Closing Session: Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts – The Right Tool for the Job: Practical Planning to Bring Big Ideas to Life

What an amazing way to end a day filled with inspirational teachings! Kate and Maggie focused on ways that we can teach students the tools they will need to succeed in learning when we are NOT there.

Returning to the beginning of this post, the purpose of this post, memory. Kate cited brain research that states that that:

  • it is hard to remember things you haven’t paid sustained attention to
  • we have storage issues as certain information never really sticks
  • it is really tough to move information from working memory into long-term memory

and the reason I am writing this blog the night of…

  • knowledge once remembered will fade without usage

The point is that when we plan the tools to use with students, we must think about using the right tools for our purpose.

Tools to use:

  • Charts – a tool that helps students remember information because it is in the classroom for them to refer to
  • Demonstration Notebooks – models how to use a strategy for students
  • Student-Made Bookmarks – helps readers remember familiar reading strategies

Each of these tools are ones that we have seen and used in our classrooms before, but this session made us think about deepening our understanding of them and being more purposeful in WHEN we choose to use each one.

In addition, Kate and Maggie reminded us of two other very important ideas:

  1. Rigor without relevance is simply hard.
  2. Differentiation is not making everyone the same, but rather helping students reach similar goals through thinking about what students need

As the day came to an end, Chris Lehman, founder of The Educator Collaborative gave his final remarks. In the background we saw one of our favorite quotes from Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax.  It really summed up why we loved today so much

The next Gathering is September 24. Mark your calendars.


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