The Book Fort

Instructional Ideas for Immediate Implementation

Welcome to The Book Fort: Issue 33

@BookFortNews #BookFort

Week 33: 180 Days of Awesome

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It's Finally Here!

The long awaited collaboration between two of the most talented and approachable secondary ELA educators has finally arrived. Those who have read and loved their past work, like me, have been checking the mailbox incessantly waiting for their pre-ordered (then back-ordered) copies of 180 Days: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents. Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher documented an entire school year intentionally planning, implementing, filming, and reflecting on their shared literacy practices in two very different schools on opposite sides of the country. I have been looking forward to this collaboration since I heard Gallagher speak about it in 2016 at Indiana University Southeast and Kittle did a Skype session with my JCPS Book Love cohort.

I am looking at the text through a unique lens; I do not have a high school classroom of my own right now and do not plan to have one next year. Instead, I am co-teaching in a 9th grade classroom and can already see how much of 180 Days, particularly the thought process in planning an instructional year with a trusted colleague, is going to shape my approach to the 2018-2019 work I will be doing both as a co-teacher and a doctoral student in the final year of study. 180 Days offers an approach to co-teaching and collaborative work that breaks down barriers of time and geographic location. Kittle and Gallagher show that with intention and shared values, instruction can be transformed in ways that engage and empower young people, something all effective and caring educators seek to accomplish.

While I am still digging into all of the text and you MUST purchase your own copy (immediately), this week I will share a few of my first thoughts on how incredibly useful and thoughtful this book is. Here is one of my favorite paragraphs from the Afterword as Kittle and Gallagher reflect:

"So why does it matter that now [the student] writes the lifeless, no-one-but-a-high-school-English-teacher-reads-it, five-paragraph essay in grade ten? Because it is devoid of Jack. It is a task (grocery shopping, laundry) and Jack will complete it, but he won't light up inside it. He won't stretch. He won't corral all the ideas that flood his mind at once. He'll just write the essay he's been assigned to write, another lap around a formulaic, mindless track. Perhaps this one writing experience won't hurt him, but the relentless repetition of this form will. Standardized thinking stifles what we most value in writers: insight, courage, creativity, and joy" (222).

Gallagher, Kelly and Kittle, Penny. (2018). 180 Days: Two Teacher and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Planning Decisions

Shared Core Values

When considering a co-teaching venture (which you should), determining shared core values is an essential first step. We tend to think of instructional ideas first, such as a project or outcome we'd like to achieve together, but Kittle and Gallagher clearly advocate for slowing that creative and often exciting process down to decide on the non-negotiables, so to speak. These values, once determined, will then shape all instructional planning and implementation details for the duration of the project, and should be revisited at every turn. Think of these like objectives that you create from standards you must cover. Ask yourselves: what do we believe about teaching and learning? Then, make a list of these, together, and you will have your why established. The first three from the list of ten that Kittle and Gallagher share in 180 Days (Chapter 1) is below to help get your brain working if you're considering taking this step into co-teaching.
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Establish Daily Practices

The second important factor in successful co-teaching is establishing shared daily instructional practices (Chapter 2). This is essential for research; if both teachers approach daily instruction in the same ways, you can better compare results and reflect on practices for purposes of future planning. This is good practice when you work in a Professional Learning Community (PLC) model as well. It becomes very difficult to discuss data when the members of the team "do school" in such variable ways that the team cannot determine what best contributed to successes and areas of growth.

Don't mistake this for lack of autonomy; I am the first to bristle when I feel like someone is telling me how to teach or suggesting what I should or should not do in my own classroom. That's not this at all. Instead, as suggested by Kittle and Gallagher, once you've determined your core beliefs about teaching and learning, agree on shared instructional practices that you both can utilize to ensure those beliefs are upheld. A few of the considerations are below to get you started with this thinking process.

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Teaching Essential Discourses

Multigenre Research Projects

While more traditional discourses such as narrative and argument are certainly included in the second part of 180 Days, the section ends with one of my favorite, high yield, potentially chaotic projects: the multigenre project. I was introduced to this idea as a 9th grade student by a teacher who I credit for making me want to be one. Ms. Becky Slagle, who I ended up teaching with years later, closed out my freshman English experience with a cumulative project called the Anthology that included found and originally created pieces from a variety of genre that demonstrated my growth as a reader and writer throughout the school year. This was really a creative portfolio, but it was the coolest, most artistic thing I had ever done as an English student and I still have mine, 22 years later. I recreated this assignment with my 10th - 12th grade classes over the years and I saw my students put in more work than they ever had before on the projects. They were proud of them and I was thrilled to see similar experiences in learning that I cherished so much.

For Kittle and Gallagher, the mutligenre project took the form of a research discourse in 180 Days (Chapter 9). They initially laid out a five week unit in which students worked through the entire writing process from idea generation to sharing polished work, but noted that students were so highly engaged (even at the end of the school year), and some students were unable to realize their creative visions due to time constraints. So, allow more than five weeks! I set aside six weeks for my projects, but students were still spending hours working in the library (I know, right?!) up until the last day before presentations. It also depends on your bell schedule and end-of-year events that can inevitably interrupt instructional time. If you'd like more info on my own project, please let me know! I have some things I am happy to share. I have included a few of the considerations from 180 Days below.

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Website of the Week

Cite This For Me

One of the AASL's Best Websites for Teaching & Learning (2017), Cite This For Me is an alternative to Son of Citation Machine that does a better job of helping users create a bibliography page to accompany their research. It is set up like Microsoft Word Online, so it will be familiar to most users and offers all common citation styles for free with an account. There is an upgrade option to eliminate ads, but we're all used to that by now, right? Follow them on Twitter for grammar and citation tips @CiteThisForMe.
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Ed Tech Tool of the Week


Love podcasts? Want to increase your students' listening skills, build their academic vocabulary, and bolster background knowledge? Then you should check out Listenwise, a tool that allows students to access curated podcasts on a variety of timely topics and can be shared to Google Classroom. The free version allows teachers to share the podcasts and daily current events with students; there is a 30-day free trial for the premium upgrade which is much like Newsela, which offers quizzes and lessons, among many other things. Follow them on Twitter @Listenwiselearn for new ideas!

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What Colleagues Are Reading

Missed Previous Issues?

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Kristie Hofelich Ennis, NBCT

In an effort to systematically study relevant research and stay connected to the teachers I greatly respect and with whom I have worked for years to successfully implement independent reading, this newsletter came about. It will offer research and practical ideas for quick implementation and may prompt further discussion or study with your colleagues. I hope you'll find it useful and thought-provoking; I also hope you will stay in touch if you implement any of the ideas with your students. They are, after all, why I do what I do!