Teacher Talk with Kelly and Randi

January 2019 Newsletter

Dear Educator,

Happy New Year! Or better yet: Happy Half Way to Summer! This new year brings around a time of reflection and planning. This month we are bringing you ideas for goal setting, word clouds, and more virtual seminars to build your teaching expertise.

If you are looking for ideas on a topic in particular, we would love to dig in and feature ideas for you in the coming month's newsletters. Email us and let us know what you need. randi@kellyharmon.net

We are wishing you a happy and blessed 2019!

-Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson

New Year, New Goals!

What is Your Goal?

In 2019, I'm all about being intentional in my instruction. Since we never have enough time, my goal is to only spend time on what is most likely going to move readers, writers, and mathematicians forward. I am going to audit every minute of class time to make sure we don't spend time on things that aren't likely to make much difference. Unfortunately, basals and textbooks are full of this kind of fluff.

Achieving the purpose goal starts with having learners set goals based on clear learning targets. Start by asking three key questions:

  1. What will my learners to need to learn?
  2. How will I know they have learned?
  3. What strategies, activities, and assignments will help my students hit the target?

Sounds simple enough, but the real work comes in the planning. Once you identify the learning objectives you must turn them into learning targets your students understand.

One habit of highly effective teachers is to have students use a learning target to set their own daily learning goals. Here are three questions to get students focused on the learning:

  1. What is your goal today?
  2. What strategies will YOU use to reach your goal?
  3. What do you need me (the teacher) to do to help you reach your goal?

Before students begin activities or assignments, ask them how the work will help them achieve their learning goal? At the end of class and the end of the week, ask students to reflect on their learning. John Dewey (1933) defined reflective thinking as "making a judgement about what has happened." According to Dewey, "We do not learn from experience... we learn from reflecting on experience.” In order to take ownership of our learning, we must keep thinking about what we've added to our background knowledge and skill sets. This creates intrinsic motivation to keep learning.

So while we stop at this time of year to reset and determine goals for the year, we really need to do this reset daily. Purpose and focus drives use to achieve great things. In 2019, let's create daily habits of purposefulness that will change the world, one learner at a time.

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Make a Plan, Work the Plan!

I love the saying "Make a plan and work the plan!" It's important to not only set goals but, make a plan to see those goals come to fruition. This is where executive skills come in. Just like the CEO or major executive of a company sets goals and puts detailed plans in place to achieve them, we as educators need to model the same goal setting and planning, and expect the same from our students. After all, we are raising up the next generation of CEO's.

Executive skills are the thinking processes needed to see the goal through: planning, organizing, social understanding, switching and shifting, cognitive flexibility, working memory, monitoring, and inhibition. Using these skills, students (and teachers) make choices like which route would be the best for achieving their goal.

How is it Going?

Following those goals and plans up with a "How is it going?" each week is crucial. Tracking your progress towards big goals is not only motivational, but also allows us be reflective and see where we need to adjust or improve. This is also a great time to give and receive feedback from others. Getting others' perspectives on how to achieve goals enlightens the path to success. It's also great to have accountability partners. This tends to make us more committed to seeing something through to the end.

Here is a great tool to use with your students this new year. It's called 2 wishes 2 Stars. This is a tool that can be used for students to start setting goals and making a plan to achieve those goals.

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Word Clouds

A word cloud is an image composed of words or phrases. Individually or as a team, students create an image in which the size of each word or phrase indicates its importance to the overall meaning of the topic or text. Word clouds can be created for concepts, characters, events, and themes across content areas.
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To begin, after a lecture, class discussion, reading of a chapter or section of a text, have each student list the important ideas of the text, ranking each idea from least to most important. Students must defend their thinking about the importance of each idea. The creation process scaffolds thinking from retrieval to comprehension, and then to analysis and evaluation.

Students meet with a partner or team to share ideas and come to a consensus about the most important ideas. As students discuss the ideas, they deepen their understanding of the topic or text.

Word clouds are a great formative assessment technique that allow teachers to quickly gather data about the level of understanding of the intended learning. This five to ten minute activity will reveal a lot about the depth of conceptual understanding and each students’ reasoning process.

See an example below

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Acting Out Your Fluency!

Fluency is so much more than simply how fast you call words. Fluent readers read with expression, phrasing, and accuracy, demonstrating comprehension. Further, proficient readers adjust their reading rate to match the author's purpose. Fluency research tells us that how we read aloud is an indicator of how we read silently.

Reader's theater is a great strategy for practicing fluency and comprehension skills. Easily implemented, this powerful strategy engages learners in purposeful reading and rereading.

Students practice a script until they are ready to perform. The performance creates a platform for demonstrating understanding and receiving feedback. Click here to download a free fluency rubric you and your students can use to set goals and give feedback on fluent reading habits.

When executed purposefully, students gain as much as a year's growth in comprehension in as few as ten weeks! This strategy is easily integrated into math class to help students understand word problems and in other content areas to process new facts and key concepts.

Join Kelly on Saturday, January 19th to discuss how to set up and manage this fun strategy in your own class room. In this session, you'll get step-by-step guidance for implementing the best ten-minutes-a-day activity!

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RAFT Writing in Math!

When I started using the 6+1 Traits of Writing 9 years ago, I loved the strategy of RAFT to get students focused on a specific message for a specific audience. RAFT stands for Role, Audience, Format, and Topic. It really helped my students zone in on what was most important. Then as my instruction evolved, I found that RAFT was also an awesome strategy for writing in math.

In math, this strategy is great for getting students to think deeply about mathematical ideas. In RAFT, student construct an explanation or argument to a prompt. The prompt asks them to use their conceptual or procedural knowledge to address a prompt in a specific format for a specific audience and topic

Here are a few example prompts:

R: You are a big number.

A: Your audience is a smaller number.

F: The format is a letter.

T: The topic is "Ways we can become equal"

R: You are a math strategy for adding numbers (or multiplying)

A: Your audience is another strategy

F: The format is a debate

T: The topic of the debate is "How and why your strategy is better than the other strategy"

R: You are a square.

A: Your audience is a rectangle.

F: The format is a Venn Diagram.

T: The topic is "Ways you are the same and how you are different"

The response to the prompt will provide you and the student with data about the students' current understanding and reasoning about critical math concepts or procedures. Be sure to develop a rubric that includes the learning targets you are looking for students to demonstrate through the writing.

I love this strategy because it gets kids to think and develop new ideas. Learning happens when we are in a productive struggle and RAFT will take your students there!


Do Your Students See YOU as a Writer?

Seeing is believing and that certainly rings true when teaching your students reading and writing. One day several years ago, I had an epiphany about the reason my students weren't exhibiting reading and writing behaviors. I needed to share MY reading and writing life with my students. This included ME reading and writing for the same purposes and using the same skills I was asking my students to use. I immediately changed my lesson plans to include a daily sharing of my own reading and writing life as part of my focus lesson. When I planned a writing prompt or reading response, I wrote mine before I ever asked students to do the task. This helped me think about the mental processes students needed in order to do the task. It also helped me to determine what I needed to demonstrate for my students. This simple change of making time to read and write (model) in front of my students each day transformed my room to be more of a community of learners.

I also committed to doing book talks 3x's per week. My students needed to see me as a reader and writer to know that what I was teaching them was true.

What do you do as you read? How can you provide precise demonstrations for your students? What do you think about as you write for a specific purpose? How can you show your students that side of you?

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The Purpose Driven Teacher


Teaching Comprehension Strategies (Figure 19)

February 4, 2019

8:30am - 3:30pm

San Antonio, TX

Grades 2-12

In this energizing, fast-paced seminar, educators will learn research-based strategies students need to use to process a variety of texts. Take your students from think alouds to literature circles as they learn to think about the text and beyond. Explore ready-to-use techniques and activities to help student master Figure 19 Comprehension Strategies. Kelly Harmon will provide instruction, activities, and ideas for engaging students in close and recreational reading. Space is limited to 50 seats. For more info, click here!