Journaling With Kids via Screencastify

Online teaching is hard. It’s really hard. To my fellow classroom teachers trying to navigate this without much to go on or follow, hang in there!

Today, my fifth grade teaching team and I talked about using the Chrome extension, Screencastify, to start journaling with our students from afar. We’re going to give it a try.

This morning, I watched a tutorial from Screencastify, put together a Google Slides presentation to share my examples, and just went for it!

Here’s my first attempt with it- it’s not perfect, and it’s not mass made for all. It’s from my heart, for my students, at this moment in time. Maybe it can give you some ideas for journaling with your students at this time. I encourage you to try making one on your own. You can do this! We all can. Good luck, friends!

Small Language Shifts, Big Classroom Difference

When Kari Yates and I were collaborating to write To Know and Nurture a Reader (Stenhouse, 2018), we engaged in many long conversations around the idea of rethinking how our teacher language impacts students in different ways. We often referenced the work of Peter Johnston during these discussions, always reminding ourselves that our words in the classroom must have intention and center students, not ourselves. In his book, Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives (Stenhouse, 2011), Johnston tells us

“The purpose of feedback is to improve conceptual understanding or increase strategic options while developing stamina, resilience, and motivation—expanding the vision of what is possible and how to get there.” (pg 48).

If we really think about it, everything we say to students can be considered feedback of sorts. Our language choices are a source of ongoing feedback for every single one of our students each day they are in our classrooms. These choices have the power to affect student motivation, understanding, and more.

If this idea is new to you, a few simple language swaps are all that’s needed to get you started in applying this thinking. Once you more consistently start considering the language you use in the classroom, incredible things start to happen. More often than not, small language shifts can make a huge difference. Consider these three language swaps below.

Swap #1Next Steps Rather than telling students what they are not doing, offer a next step to help them grow.

Instead of “You’re not indenting your paragraphs. You need to do that.” Try “You’re ready for a next step as a writer. Would you like to hear it?” “Each time you start a new paragraph, either indent it or skip a line to give your reader thinking space.”

Swap #2Redirection If a student’s chatting with a friend is keeping them from their reading or other classroom learning, and the chatting is not productive, consider using empowering rather than condemning language.

Instead of “Stop talking to your friend. Get back to reading.” Try “You deserve to lose yourself in this story. What is something you might try to support yourself to really get into this book you picked?”

Swap #3Decentering Ourselves Our classroom language can also send messages about pleasing the teacher or supporting one’s self to work toward solving problems. After all, a student’s education is about them, not about us.

Instead of “I like how you used a different strategy to solve that problem.” Try “You used a different strategy to solve this math problem. Perhaps you can try this strategy each time you come to a problem like this.”

Our language choices matter. They can determine the difference between a student centered or adult centered classroom. They also impact motivation, learning, and the overall school experience of our students. I’d love to hear some of your language swaps that have improved your students’ school experience!

Kari Yates and I have talked and written a lot about language! If you’re interested in learning more, you can check out our book To Know and Nurture a Reader at Stenhouse or visit our blog series from 2018 around Power Language.

The Last 20 days of Literacy Learning: 17 Days to Go, Interruptions Galore is No Excuse

Post #4 in the Last 20 Days of Literacy Series… Written after a day of not much instructional time.

All posts in this blog series can be found here.

Take a look at today’s teaching schedule. As you can see there was not much instructional time. If I had absolute control over my teaching day everyday, it would probably look different than this. Alas, I teach in a school community that highly values learning outside of the traditional elementary school subjects of reading, writing, and math as much as it values learning inside of those subjects. While the lack of traditional academic instructional time irks me on days like this, when I take a step back and think about the benefits of all of these programs, I realize how fortunate my students are to receive consistent learning in the arts and physical education. It’s rare. It shouldn’t be.

Where I teach, days like this are a common occurrence. The scheduled assembly, music class, and PE class are completely out of my scheduling control. Plus, every Wednesday is an early dismissal day for students. While all the other days of the week students are dismissed at 2:30, on Wednesdays, they are released at 1:20. Our Wednesday afternoons are dedicated to staff, grade level, IEP, SST, and parent meetings. On the rare Wednesday where we don’t have a meeting, we might have a district-wide professional development afternoon, collaboration time, or teacher prep time. Obviously, my instructional time is limited on Wednesdays- even more so today due to the hour long assembly this morning.

However, lack of instructional time is not an excuse for robbing kids of precious learning moments. I’m a firm believer that we must make use of the valuable little time we have on days like these. Also, the saying that we make time for what we value is so true. If we value it, we do it.

Years ago, I made the deliberate choice to make time for self-selected independent reading every single day. Some days, independent reading time lasts 45 minutes. On days like today, we independently read for 15. Those 15 minutes of time matter.

We should never discount even small chunks of time- we must make the most of the valuable little time we have on the days where we feel like we have no time at all.

See you at NCTE 2018!

My favorite weekend of the year is quickly approaching! The annual NCTE conference feeds my literacy teacher soul in a way that is not replicated any other time of the year. There are many sessions I’m looking forward to attending, and many opportunities to spend time in conversation with friends old and new. If you’ll be in Houston for NCTE, I hope to connect!

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My NCTE Schedule

Mini Session with Kari Yates, Conferring with Readers: A Map for Decision Making, 12:15-12:35, Saturday, November 17th, Exhibit Hall, Stenhouse Booth

Responsive Teaching: The Courage to Follow the Lead of the Reader, with Kari Yates, Jan Burkins, Kim Yaris, & Dani Burtsfield, 2:45-4:00, Saturday, November 17th, Room 361 A

CEL Session with Tom Newkirk: Literacy Instruction Worth Fighting For: What Do We Advocate and Why, I’m excited to facilitate an elementary roundtable, 4:15-5:30, Saturday, November 17th, Grand Ballroom A

8:30-9:00, Sunday, November 18th: Exhibit Hall, Stenhouse Booth: Kari & I will be signing copies of To Know and Nurture a Reader

10:30-11:45, Sunday November 18th, Room 362 DEF Words Matter: Shifting Instructional Language to Empower Students, with Kari Yates, Jan Burkins, & Kim Yaris