Monday, August 27, 2012

Aligning School Values with Literacy Learning

I asked a staff developer a few weeks ago, “How do I help my district move our instructional design to one that mirrors the excitement and authenticity of writing and reading workshop?” and his answer was simple:  value, vision, and resources.  A district must identify its values.  What are the things that are most important?  It must establish a vision to set up success for those values, and it must provide the resources to support the vision.  Today, on our first day back at school, it was very clear to me that our district, first and foremost, values technology. Of course, learning activities that engage and excite students are folded into technology to create an educational experience that is authentic, relevant, and lifelong.

So how do Reading and Writing Workshops fit into the innovation that must happen in classrooms to keep the district’s values in line with the changing initiatives ahead with the Common Core State Standards, assessment changes, and other curriculum revisions?  Well, perfectly. 

Click here to (re)view the TED Talk that our Vertical Team (a committee of interdisciplinary staff from K-12)  watched this afternoon.  Dr. Michael Wesch discusses the mindset of our twenty-first century students and the way that we must address instruction to move students from knowledgeable to knowledge-able.  Students must connect, organize, share, collect, collaborate, and publish their ideas and thinking in an appropriate way to create meaning.  Doesn’t that sound a whole lot like the writing process?  A whole lot like a mini-lesson?  Yup.    

When I talk about twenty-first century learners, I am not referring to students who use technology solely.  I am referring to the College and Career Ready standards in the CCSS, which require students to read, write, speak, and listen collaboratively and effectively.  It just happens to be that the students in front of us are also well equipped to use, apply, and explore technology in ways that we can only dream.  Yes, there are technological obstacles ahead.  But, I felt confident today that we are on the right track. 

Wesch asserts that schools must embrace this transfer from knowledgeable to knowledge-able and:
  •           create inquiry driven experiences that are relevant and real world focused,
  •           complete this learning and teaching with the students; and
  •           harness relevant tools for learning (technology, other tools appropriate to task). 

In reading and writing workshop, students are reading and writing under the mentorship of teachers, authors, writers, and peers.  Students are reading and writing texts that are relevant to their ability and their interests.  Students write in authentic ways.  Teachers act as coaches and mentors as they confer with readers and writers individually and in small groups.  We're on board!

But, we have work to do.  A lot.  Aligning our work to the Common Core State Standards while keeping the performance tasks in mind and juggling technology and new behavior initiatives leaves a lot elbow grease ahead.  We have to get our hands dirty.  One at a time, we have to keep doing what we can.  

Now we know what is valued; I am thinking that the vision to come in tomorrow's convocation will be one revoled around thinking.  A thinking, authentic, relevant and engaging curriculum is one that I hope to help create in the years to come-  one that is cohesive to rigorous literacy standards and creates lifelong readers and writers in this twenty-first century world.  And... Resources?  Well, not this year, perhaps, but 2 out of 3 is a good start.  

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