What would Lucy Calkins do?

An example anchor chart from our friends in Portland

Are you one of those teachers who asks yourself WWLCD? (What would Lucy Calkins do?) Or are you one of those teachers who feels if Lucy said run out of a burning building, you would run back in? Or are you just afraid she is somewhere in her cloud fortress, knitting, drinking tea, and looking down omnipitantly , silently judging you?

Yeah, me too.

Many of my  co-workers  got to be whisked off  to the Big Apple to get the training right from Mecca. They returned enlightended, inspired, and with a bright new outlook on writing.

By the time I showed up at our school, they figured out this was way too expensive. They hired consultants and forced us to stay two weeks after school ended to learn the curriculum. As a side note this is the worst approach a school can take. It was the end of the year. People had no nerves left. They were raw, and cagey. It was a little bit like uping the torture on a prisioner of war. We sat motionless, taking our training in dutifully, and wondered if all of this was real?

Eventually we were released and as fall came, it was true: we would be teaching like Lucy would do….

And its been good. I had been out of teaching since the mid 2000s.  I started working in fourth grade; a younger age than I was used to. There was so much to learn. I had been teaching middle school, and the developmental differences are deceptively huge . Lucy gave me the tools to talk about writing. I got time limits on what I could say.  I got scripted teaching points, and mentor texts picked out for me. Best of all I could make, (or my school could buy from the massive LC merch machine) nifty gospels called Anchor Charts that summed up what good writers/readers do.

But,  I have more than once been in fear that I have strayed from the path. That I have imposed an idea about a subject and basicaly told my kids what and how to write.  Lucy sayeth:

In a writing workshop, a lot of actual writing happens in the classroom and right then and there, teachers give feedback and kids give each other feedback, too. Revision often begins before a draft is completed. There’s more of an emphasis on teaching in the midst of writing. (Calkins 2016)

I feel I have been doing this for sure.  My kids write after the mini lesson. They sign up on a parking lot. They come see me. I ask what their questions areor concerns are. I take that moment to do some teaching/suggesting.

But sometimes, when deadlines are approaching., when the most appauling thing a child can find about Japaenese Incarceration was “they had to share bathrooms with other famalies,” I lose it a little.

I write all over their papers. I highlight parts of their research for them and ask them to read it aloud, and then explain it for me. I give them sentence starters like” Harvey Milk’s agenda included…” I take them back to their original research even when the due date is tomorrow and find out when and why the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed . 

I have them look at passages and write the main ideas, causes and effects, then ask them to explain it back, often leading them to a point or idea. I think I have done what Lucy wouldn’t do. I worry that the gods on Mount Columbia College may be vengeful!

Mary Ehrenworth, Deputy D of TCPWP , hath  warned not to turn to a path where:

“kids are supposed to be compliant writers, and all they’re doing is flipping through the pages of a text looking for evidence of the teacher’s idea.”

So I worry I have sinned. That I have strayed into old ways of just correcting and not teaching. I see posts like this and run for the shadows in shame!

But  besides craft, sometimes I need kids to learn to learn about what they are writing. I need to teach them about people, places, and events. I need to put in their hands the things that will help them learn indisputable facts, and tell them  GOOD WRITERS WOULD INCLUDE THIS IN THEIR PAPER!

The kid who was missing  the horrors of the incarceration of Japanese Americans figured out on his own that he needed to talk about the bombing of Pearl Harbor first. He also knew he had to talk about American misconceptions about Japanese Americans and Order 9066.

But what his writing lacked was the evidence. He knew the bombing was bad, but he didn’t know he needed to site numbers of ships sunk and deaths associated with the fifteen minute attack.  He listed a few facts about the  conditions in Japanese Icarseration camps, but had to learn that he needed to support it with fining out there were 120,000 people wrongly imprisoned.

I taught him about Fred Karimatsu, discussed seeing his daughter speak and hearing her story about finding out from a textbook in middle school that her father had defied 9066 and taken it to the Supreme Court. I found a bio on his foundation’s website and walked my student through some of the harder bits to tweak out the importance of Fred as a Civil Rights hero.

So, I am left wondering ” Am I not letting my kids grow as writers? Am I screwing up my ten minute mini lessons? Are my metor texts not mentoring enough?”

I may never know the answer to these questions but now Max knows who Fred Karimatzu is.

 

 

 

 

 

Stealing is the best form of teaching

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Teachers steal. We are unapologetic thieves. We are so hungry for the very best things for our students, that we will unabashedly take others ideas, use them, twist them, break them into pieces and parts, and USE USE USE them!

No idea, worksheet, or neumonic is safe. But the good news is there is honor amoung our guild of bandits. We all admitt it and thank our lucky stars that  resources are things we should all share. Most teachers fall over themselves to help others. There is a reason why your average teacher has three hundred free tote bags: because they need everyone of them to stuff with good ideas from other people!

So, recently, when it was time to teach conclusion paragraphs, I did what all good teachers do: I Googled it! At this time we are using Lucy Calkins Writer’s Workshop,  but I just wasn’t feelin’ the current lesson on it, so I did a search and found this wonderful post on the topic,.

I was looking for one of those great anchor charts that would let me bang out the instruction with the kids in ten minutes (per Lucy) and I had many choices. But  I was so happy when I found Two Writting Teachers. This blog has a special mission:

Two Writing Teachers is a cooperative blog that unites a community of teachers through the practice of writing while inspiring and guiding the teaching of a writing workshop approach. It is our hope teachers will create and lead robust writing workshops, which will aid in the development of engaged and literate citizens. 

I got giddy just reading this. Long story short, they provided a perfect post on constructing conclusions for the unit of study I was in. They provided this great anchor:

anchor

So after finding this great resource, all I to do was tweak it a bit.

I left out the chapter preview bit as it didn’t fit our current assignmnet.

Here’s how I would teach it:

“Today I am going to let you see how good writers create conclusion paragraphs”

First they read my example. We are writing about  civil rights in a historical context, so I start with an example that is familiar and part of our mentor texts:

Introduction Paragraph

The story of Rosa Parks is familiar. Rosa became a hero for what seems like a very small action but at the time was a huge risk for an African American person: deciding to refuse giving up her seat to a white person. She took a stand,was sent to jail, and became an inspiration for many people in the civil rights movement.

Now read my conclusion paragraph:

Conclusion.

Rosa Parks was a Civil Rights hero. She took actions that were not easy or always safe for African Americans at this time. She took action that then got her arrested, but she became famous and an inspiration. I have to wonder, if I were her, if I could have been so brave? If that were you, would you be able to stand up to a white person during segregation? I am glad Rosa showed us that one person could make a difference!

I let students answer these questions

How is the conclusion like the introduction? List two specific ways:
Circle a sentence in the introduction and in the conclusion  that say the same thing,  but in a different way.
What was different about the paragraphs? List two examples.

After that I have kids pair up and and complete this activity in like two minutes:

A good way to make a conclusion effective is to connect it to today.

With a partner, write a sentence that would do that for this topic.

Possible example

Movements likie Black Lives matter could have never happened without the brave actions of people like Rosa Parks.

I then review answers, and restate the anchor chart points and release them to compse.  Lucy would say I was wasting time by having them pair and answer and reviewing and she may be right. I’ll bank on letting my kids have time to process and think before  I have them finish the process.

And here is the handout.

Have fun teaching!

 

 

 

A Wrinkle in Time : Part Two

 

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So the last time we talked I mentioned “Time Scripts.” I like this idea. It’s a story where you can pick out the connections, the causes and effects of different events. This resource can serve as a graphic way to organize text, and show the progression of time.

Last time I noted the difficulty in teaching the concept of time in the BIG sense of it. I think if we begin to chunk our history for kids into digestiable bites, over  the long haul, we will see them connecting eras, and periods more easily.

So here’s how I’d teach it

  • First I list two words (without the accompanying definitions)

chro·nol·o·gy

cen·tu·ry

  • I ask students to turn and talk  and share what these words mean, and also if they know their roots. I do this any chance I get. I don’t know that it is needed. I just like to.

Chronology is the order in time. Its root is Chon which literally means time.

Century’s root is centi, which means 100.

  • I then wrote two numbers on the board 1700-1900.

Q: How long a period is this?

A: 200 years

  • Now I ask for another turn and talk:

Q: What kinds of events from history do we put on timeline?

(Give them a good two minutes)

Responses:

They will be varied. But probably will be births of famous people, wars, establishments of cities, inventions, deaths. The list will go on.

“Today I want to show you that events don’t just happen. They happen because of causes that came before. They also have efeects after they happen. We can look in and around the events in the texts to determine these causes and effects.”

  • I share some sample text:

 

In 1869 the final link in a transcontinental railroad was finished, connecting Nebraska and Califrninia. A local Railroad went through the town of Walla. The Northern Pacific Railroad completed a second railroadline from the Great Lakes to the Puget Sound in 1886, followed by the Great Northern rail in 1893. Before the railroad, a trip to the eastern states took four long months by wagon. Travel and overland shipping of farm products and timber was mucheasier.

The trains brought more settlers to the territor. Towns sprang up along the railroad routes. Many African American,  Chinese and Japanese people came to work on the railroads. Between 1880 and 189, the population increased from 75,000 to more than 350,000, enough people to apply for statehood. On November 11,1889, Washington became the forty second State.

I show students a copy of my Time Script. Its just a fancy term for creating a graphivc representation of events like in a time line. Kids will use multiple copies, or create their own, to breal down events and come to a conclusion about why and how their event in time happened.

You can see a kid example here, but let me bullet out what I hope the kids and I will discover together.

We know that our event is the day Washington became a state, November 11, 1889.

So, lets start looking around the text to find out why that happened.

They might see that just above it says:

Between 1880 and 189, the population increased from 75,000 to more than 350,000, enough people to apply for statehood.

But what happened before that?

some responses could be:

The Northern Pacific Railroad completed a second railroadline from the Great Lakes to the Puget Sound in 1886, followed by the Great Northern rail in 1893

or

The trains brought more settlers to the territory.

Answers will vary. It will give you a chance to dive into the text with kids and find out what they need or want to know. Depending on the source, and the assignment you can have them sandwhich the event in the middle of the organizer and build events before and after.

Match your scroipts to your guiding questions. Maybe they are studying when people of Asian discent first arrived in Washington, or when towns were established? Whatever your aobjective, I hope this approach helps.

Happy Teaching!

 

 

 

A Wrinkle in Teaching Time: Part One

Time. I really want to insert my favorite Dr Who quotes here but I won’t. Teaching kids the idea of chronology and time is tough. For a chunk of my education career I worked in a nineteenth century living history museum. Teachers would book our field trips to cover content such as Native American studies, Westward Encroachment, colonial period, or just because they wanted to show kids old timey things.

Old Timey: it’s a real thing. Teachers and students  have said it aloud a million times. It becomes default as teachers look into the eyes of students who may not be as old as the car they are driving ( and let’s face it we’re teachers, so Dodge Dart drivers REPRESENT!) and realize that their kids have no concept of time.

This is especially difficult because every state has some kind of standards dealing with time.

Here is some language about time for five year olds in the great state of California:

 

  • K.6  Students understand that history relates to events, people, and places of other times.
  • Identify the purposes of, and the people and events honored in, commemorative holidays, including the human struggles that were the basis for the events (e.g., Thanksgiving, Independence Day, Washington’s and Lincoln’s Birthdays, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day).
  • Know the triumphs in American legends and historical accounts through the stories of such people as Pocahontas, George Washington, Booker T. Washington, Daniel Boone, and Benjamin Franklin.
  • Understand how people lived in earlier times and how their lives would be different today (e.g., getting water from a well, growing food, making clothing, having fun, forming organizations, living by rules and laws).

 

Disclaimer: I do not teach kindergarten kids. In the words of one of my favorite parents: “I couldn’t do what you do!” (He was a corrections officer.)  Most K teachers would knock these out of the park, but they wouldn’t be human if they didn’t wrestle with the ideas: “Understand how people lived in earlier times and how their lives would be different today”

Ok sure, if you lived in old timey times you wouldn’t have a cell phone, you would sleep in a castle, have to ride a horse instead of a bicycle, and play chase instead of video games. But eventually, even as they enter say, the fourth grade,  kids go from things were different to:

4.4 Students explain how California became an agricultural and industrial power by tracing the transformation of the California economy and its political and cultural development since the 1850’s….

This is unquestionably a study of time . It is also really daunting.  But in hunting around for how to help kids understand time  I discovered something called “time scripts.”

 “Time Scripts”   are basically  about putting things together in a temporal way that are related in cause and effect. It is related when there are significant changes that then lead to events or other changes in time.

In the end, it may not put squarely in your students psyche when the Homestead Act occurred in relation to their birthday, or the time Tommy Handsworth swallowed three earthworms on a dare, but they might be able to anchor it in their thinking in relationship to why where they live was able to become a state. And learning that one thing affects another thing, that affects a bunch of others and leads to them have their seventh birthday party in the state of Washington.

 

So how do I teach it? Join us next time to find out!

 

Happy Teaching!

 

Activity: Civil Rights Story Book Reviews

 

Teaching social justice, civil rights, and history is the best part of my job. I also love primary sources, thick high level texts, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE the sound of my own voice droning on and on about these topics. Surprise: my students DO NOT love it!
So I look for books that can keep me from boring people to death. Recently we were looking at issues of school segregation. For years I have had kids analyze the painting   The Problem we all Live With as a jumping off point. There is great supporting material, but it tended to be me doing too much pontificating so I wanted to put the learning in the kids hands.  I needed something super accessible and redaily availible to achiebe this goal.

 

Using picture or non-fiction story books to teach is as old as the genre itself. I have a math curriculum that invokes it to teach a number of math concepts. One of my favorites is A Remainder of One. Kids get a graphic representation of the concepts and even the steps involved in a relatively complex structure. But ,when dealing with hard historic,  and social topics, it can be difficult to find texts that accomplish similar instructional goals.

Seperate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh  may be one of my favorite all time civil rights picture books.  Its a bit long for a read a loud, but I have seldom seen the issues of race, segregation, and the democratic process spelled out better for learners. It met all of my criteria for a useful teaching tool!

Good news: Finding good books on teaching civil rights is easier than ever and there are so many good places to find books  on civil rights and social justice topics, but there are times the titles I buy, borrow or appropriate don’t have all the things I need. Recently, I came up with  what I wanted students to be able to connect or identify with when using picture books.  So I read the book and ask myself:

“Does this Book Contain?”

  • Images of Oppression:
  • Images of Difference
  • Obvious  Questions
  • Denial of Legal Rights
  • Acts of Resistance
  • Hard Facts
  • A Realistic Ending

 

If they do, then I know I have a pretty good teaching tool.

So here’s how I’d teach it

  • I would draw on prior knowledge regarding the Civil Rights movement. Kids could do a turn and talk, then put what they know on post its. I would have them put them up where we could all see it. 
  • I’d ask how we could sort: people, places, events, actions, vocabulary, whatever…
  • I’d commend them on their knowledge and tell them that they are going to help decide if the books we have in class will be effective to learn about this very big topic.

Now it is time for a  vocabulary sort . Use this link to find the document. 

A vocabulary or content sort can be sorting words into groups, but you can also match definitions or concepts with words or phrases.  I keep everything in ziplock baggies, pass them out to small groups, and give them five minutes for the matching.

Today I want you to look through the baggies and match words or phrases with definitions.

  • When the groups are done I just call on kids and see if we have the ideas matched with the correct terms.
  • In pairs, students will select books and use sticky notes to indicate where they find evidene from the vocab sort done earlier.

This takes a while. Kids have to read the books, look for evidence of the criteria and mark them with stickies. It can also be done with a worksheet, but I haven’t developed one for this activity yet.

  • To wrap up, I do a simple share of what they found and I ask them why they think having these criteria help indicate if the story is worthwhile or not.

Today we looked at some pretty big ideas like Oprresion  and images of difference. We found out that effective stories about strugglles for civil rights include realistic images, language and ideas. We will use these criteria in creating projects in coming days.

I’ll save the projects for an upcoming post. Meanwhile:

Happy Teaching!

 

The New Blog

pexels-photo-301926.jpegWhen I started teaching I was lucky enough to be at a school where we created and adapted our own curriculum and lesson plans. We based our instruction on thematic units, and from these we built in core content to work with whatever we were teaching. I often taught social studies ( I was certified to teach all subjects at the time. A wacky very weak system cooked up by the Florida DOE) or language arts so I was often teaching content literacy.  But often I struggled with “How am I going to teach this?”

The time was early 2000. Blogs,Teacher Pay Teachers, Pinterest and all those goodies were yet to emerge, so often I was looking in actual books, or sifting through what was available online for the perfect way to share content, engage kids, and meet standards.

I still look on the interwebs for good ideas, but often they are monetized and are usually teasers. How many times have you signed up for something to get the free trial, only to forget you did, and now you are stuck with a monthly bill to Teacher Spot or Lesson Hole, and in the end whatever you pulled down tanked with your students anyway?

So I am going to try and write a blog. I will do my best to share links and content that are free, or when you do have to pay, at least tell you a bit about what you are getting into before you do it. Warning: I teach upper elementary through middle. I focus on language arts and social studies, BUT I also dabble in math and science. It would be great when I am 40 posts in to have guests in other areas contribute, but I just want to be clear that you will get a lot of teaching history, and language but in the end let’s hope formats can cross subject lines.

So I will write posts about (insert topic,standard, content piece) and then tell you how I would teach it. I won’t list standards or connect 21st century butter churning benchmarks, or write objectives, or essential questions or DBQs. At least not on purpose. I don’t want to teach you how to please whatever boss, government, or grade level you are in. I just want to show you what I think is authentic, helps kids learn to think, and share stuff that makes our world a better place.

So if you read any of this and like it. If you want to share some of your knowledge, resources, or want a 5 x 7 glossy of me that I use for local theater productions, just drop me a line.

Happy Teaching!