#LitLead Preview 8.13.15 – Differentiating Instruction

Janice Schwarze

Janice Schwarze

For many, a new school year starts soon, and teachers across the country most likely have mixed feelings:  sadness that the summer (and the much-needed break) is almost over, excitement about teaching a whole new group of students, and anxiety about how to help each one of those students achieve the year’s learning outcomes.  The fact that each student has different needs, different skill sets, and different interests can be overwhelming, and well-meaning teachers often find themselves teaching to the middle because that is the only way they can survive.  However, there is a better approach:  differentiated instruction.  This is hardly a new concept; teachers who taught in a one-room school-house certainly didn’t teach the same thing in the same way to all of the students!  Still, differentiating a classroom can be daunting, especially if you try doing it without support.  Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone.  This Thursday, August 13, at 9 p.m. EST, educators across the country will share their knowledge about differentiated instruction in this month’s LitLead chat.  Whether you are just beginning to experiment with a differentiated classroom or are an expert at it, join us for this practical discussion.  Here are some of the questions we will consider:

Q1. How do you build a classroom community that is conducive to DI?
Q2. What resources have you found to be helpful when planning DI lessons?
Q3. What technology have you found to be helpful when implementing DI?
Q4. What classroom management tips regarding DI can you share?
Q5. What are some lessons you learned as you experimented with DI?
Q6. How transparent are you with students when differentiating?
Q7. What problems have you experienced when implementing DI?

Engaging in discussion about these important topics will ease the anxiety of a new school year and help prepare you to reach each of those students who will enter your classroom soon.  Hope you can join us!

Janice Schwarze (@jschwarzeteach)
Associate Principal for Curriculum and Instruction
Downers Grove North High School, IL

#LitLead Preview 4.9.15 – Using Blogs to Amplify Educator Voice w/ @NatBlogCollab

The current national narrative on education is one littered with misperceptions, politically laced rants, and many voices not even directly involved in education.  While taking back that narrative can be a challenge, The National Blogging Collaborative (@natblogcollab)believes that writing and blogging is one way to enable and empower teacher leaders in this quest to reclaim the narrative…OUR narrative.  Blogging and co-blogging allow teachers the chance to share their experiences with the rest of the world, helping everyone see the truth about all the amazing things going on in classrooms across the country.  Additionally, blogging provides educational leaders with the opportunity to develop a collaborative culture built upon sharing the written word both within their school and across the country.  Through blogging teachers and leaders are able to not only share their success and seek help for their challenges, but they are able to learn from others in a safe and collaborative setting.  For all these reasons, The National Blogging Collaborative was created for teachers by teachers in an effort to provide free, one-on-one, writing coaches to educators who are looking to get started with blogging as well as those who have been blogging for years.  Simply put, we are here to help YOU share your your story.  So, join us as we talk about the power of blogging and co-bogging for teachers and leaders.

Please join the National Blogging Collaborative (@NatBlogCollab) on Thursday, April 9 at 9 p.m. EST as they co-host #LitLead on Twitter.  

#LitLead Preview 3.12.15 – Tech Tools for ELA Classrooms

Technology has become as integral a part of English classrooms.  English educators must integrate digital tools into their instruction in ways that are purposeful and authentic.  But with so many websites, apps and communication systems, how do teachers choose which digital options are best to meet a unit’s objectives? Please join three CEL members, Kate Baker, Oona Abrams and Matt Morone, on Thursday, March 12 at 9 p.m. EST as they co-host #LitLead on Twitter.

Here are some questions we’ll consider:

Q1 How have you evolved as an educator since integrating technology into your instruction?
Q2 What tech tools are most versatile in your classroom? How do you apply them?
Q3 What tools do you use that are scalable and allow for successful differentiation?
Q4 What tools would students use on their own if you didn’t use them in class? Why?
Q5 How have you “smashed” apps or tech tools together in your classroom?

Digital Reading – #LitLead Preview 2.12 @ 9pm ET

On Thursday, February 12 at 9 p.m. EST, CEL’s guest host, Sara Kajder (@skajder), will join us to discuss “Digital Reading.”  Here is a preview of the chat:
Sara Kajder

Sara Kajder

What it means to read; how we access, select, and hold onto texts; and the strategies we use for constructing and sharing our meaning making have been dramatically impacted and enabled by newer literacies and technologies. So, if reading in digital spaces is different, what are we doing to create instructional opportunities for students and teachers to explore practices now open/available?  Or, are we simply applying print reading strategies (and putting out other fires as they are burning a bit hotter?)  In this hour, we will talk about our own digital reading practices as well as the ways in which we might support students practices and meaning making in digital spaces.

Questions will include:
1.  What counts as “digital reading” in our curricula?  Is that only on-screen reading, or are there other attributes?
2.  We often ask teachers to model their active reading lives for students.  Does that need to include their digital reading practices?
2.  How are we cultivating digital libraries?
3.  What does “social reading” require/invite?
4.  What are the scaffolds needed as we help students navigate and annotate digital texts?
5.  Where and when do we open our digital reading work to include readers outside of the classroom?
6.  If you are a literacy leader, how are you providing PD and supporting teachers through this learning?
We look forward to learning from all of you!

#LitLead Preview for 1.8.2015 – Designing Authentic Writing Experiences for Students

On Thursday, January 8 at 9 p.m. EST, #LitLead will spend the hour considering how we design authentic writing experiences for students. In our educational culture where timed, on-demand writing is king (according to the powers-that-be), it is crucial that students also experience the real writing process and the thrill of composing pieces that reach a wider audience and matter deeply to them.  On Thursday night, #LitLead will discuss how we create these opportunities for our students and support teachers in these efforts.   Below is a sample of some of the questions we’ll discusScreen Shot 2015-01-07 at 10.12.46 PMs on January 8.

  • What does it mean to design “authentic writing experiences” for students? What makes them authentic?
  • What is your planning process for creating writing assignments? What factors are most important?
  • What authentic experiences do you create when asking students to do informative/explanatory writing?
  • How do you make a literary essay more authentic to students?
  • When writing opinions or arguments, what topic choices do you offer them? Why?
  • What authentic writing experiences do you provide students to show them how writing can help them think?
  • To be authentic, Ss need a wider audience than you.  Where do you publish/share student work?
  • How do you respond when someone asks if these writing experiences prepare students for standardized tests?
  • If you are a literacy leader, how do you support teachers with this work? What PD do you provide?

We hope you can join us at 9 p.m. EST on January 8th!

Heather Rocco
CEL Associate Chair
Supervisor of English Language Arts, Grades 5 – 12
School District of the Chathams, NJ

#LitLead Preview for 12.11.14 – Purposeful Professional Development

Whether administrator or teacher, professional development plays a crucial role in our growth as an educator.  On Thursday, December 11 at 9 p.m. EST, the Conference on English Leadership (CEL) invites you to participate in our #LitLead Twitter chat during which we will examine ways to plan and participate in purposeful professional development.  We’ll reflect on professional development sessions that changed us for the better and discuss how to effectively seek purposeful professional learning opportunities outside your school district.  We’ll discuss the planning process for designing professional learning experiences as well as the follow-up to ensure teachers are supported as they implement their learning.

Here is a preview of some of the questions we’ll discuss:

  • What are your “musts” for PD sessions? What must it offer/include/provide?
  • What are effective ways to decide what a department’s or school’s PD topics will be?
  • How can we create and/or participate in sustained PD (study same topic over time)?
  • If you plan PD, what process do you follow to prepare the sessions?
  • If you plan PD, how do you get buy-in from the attendees?
  • What are the most effective ways to engage attendees in the PD session?
  • If you present PD, how do you know attendees are learning?
  • If you attend off-site PD, how do you decide what workshop/conferences to attend?

We would love to hear your comments and questions, so please join in the chat for a few minutes or all sixty.  We look forward to learning with you!

Heather Rocco (@heatherrocco)
CEL Associate Chair
Supervisor of English Language Arts, Grades 5 – 12
School District of the Chathams, NJ

14 Takeaways from #CEL14

Paul Henry

Attending the Conference on English Leadership Convention in Washington, D.C. provided me a needed retreat. I was encouraged, challenged, and, most of all, inspired by those around me. In an effort to navigate my thoughts and hopefully take the next step, I want to briefly identify fourteen takeaways from CEL ’14. I must give credit to the presenters responsible for the thoughts. I learned from Doug Fisher, Nancy Frey, Sarah Wessling, Matt Marone, Oona Marie Abrams, Jim Burke, Heather Rocco, Chris Bronke, and more. Some of my thoughts were simply inhaled in the rich atmosphere of the convention, or ideas that blended and connected among multiple sessions. I very much enjoyed connecting more with colleagues from the North Jersey area and beyond.

Here are 14 from CEL14:

1. Students have a fundamental right to know what they are learning each day, why they are learning it, and how it will help them. We need to be clear about our purposes….and my purpose should never be to prepare them for another class or for college or for a test. (Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey)

2. As we guide students, we must guard against cultivating learned helplessness. Are we making students dependent upon us as teachers? A good question to ask each day: How did I prompt students to think for themselves and find answers to my questions and theirs? (Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey)

3. The ones working the hardest in the room are the ones learning. Make sure I’m not the only one learning. (Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey)

4. Am I simply performing texts or am I assisting students as they contend with a complex text? I want to put them in a position of tension with a text and help them work through it. (Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey)

5. Rigor doesn’t just mean difficulty. Rigor is better understood as complexity. Complexity is a measure of the thinking, action, or knowledge needed to complete a task. How many ways can a task be accomplished? Does it require multiple steps, multiple modes of thought and action? (Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey)

6. Precluding failure means teachers are doing all the work. We must give students permission to fail, to learn from failure. Students should be more afraid of mediocrity than they are of failure. The same applies to us as teachers! (Sarah Wessling)

7. Matt Marone provided an excellent example of students studying non-fiction in a way that matters. An earlier session spoke to the belief that a text, closely studied, should prompt action; it should want to make us want to DO something. Matt’s work with his students was an amazing example of truly authentic outcome of his students’ research and study. Though there is not space here to go into all the details, I was reminded of the importance and the potential rewards of having students read, write, listen, and speak with real purpose. No “letters to the board of education” here. (Matt Marone)

8. As we teach writing, we should often ask students, “Are you a better writer after having written this essay?” We should ask this question early and often. In what ways are they improving? Are they aware of their weaknesses and their areas of growth? Does our feedback about one essay inform their approach to the next? (Oona Marie Abrams)

9. Students should lead writing conferences. Based upon their own reflections about their progress, they should identify the things that are working and the things they are struggling with. (Oona Marie Abrams)

10. Effective leaders and teachers disrupt embedded (ineffective) practices. Disruption or interruptions is difficult and sometimes painful, but it leads to growth. (Jim Burke)

11. I am proud to be in a profession where I feel like I’ll never get it completely right. We are always revising, always growing, always learning. (Jim Burke)

12. Being positive in a negative situation is not naiviete–it’s leadership. (Heather Rocco and Chris Bronke)

13. We need to embrace fear and encourage others to embrace fear. Stepping outside our comfort zone is the only path to growth. (Heather Rocco and Chris Bronke)

14. My final takeaway is the lasting knowledge that I am surrounded by inspiring colleagues who are doing brave things for all the right reasons. I am encouraged and challenged to continue to collaborate and build professional relationships that will benefit my students and teachers. Thank you to all who played a role in CEL14 and I look forward to collaborating in the future.

Paul Henry
Supervisor of English
Mountain Lakes High School, NJ

*This blog was reblogged with permission by the writer.  Thank you, Paul!