Monday, October 8, 2012

Revisiting Pathways

I am attending a conference tomorrow with Lucy Calkins and Mary Ehrenworth centered around their new title, Pathways to the COmmon Core:  Accelerating Achievement.  Chris Lehman is also an author of this book, but he will (unfortunately) not be there tomorrow.

In preparation for the discussion, I reread Pathways this weekend, and was struck, again, by the insights and practical solutions to the CCSS.  I highly suggest that everyone who teaches reading and writing devour this book:  write in it, sticky-note it, and dog ear the pages.  The conversations that I have had with, and inside, this book about our school, our community, and our next steps have been the ones that have inspired me into bigger, deeper communications with our staff.  It's like the authors spent a week in our school, identified what works and doesn't work, and then wrote this book about us.  It makes me realize how similar our school really is to so many others across the country, Blue Ribbon status or not. It makes me realize that we're all in this together.  It makes me realize the wonderful things that we already do, and the long road ahead of us to accelerate achievement in reading and writing.  

My book is filled with sticky-notes, margin high-lights, and reactions.  It was really hard for me to pick out a few of my favorite points.   But, I wanted to share a few with those of you who haven't read the book yet, perhaps to get you thinking, or perhaps I'm hoping to inspire you to read the book, too.  
  • "Some middle schools have made ninety minutes for literacy or even double that when leveled reading is inserted in content areas, and students in those schools have surged ahead, but it takes educators wrestling with the schedule to make sure kids get time to read (and write) in school"(69).   
    • My takeaway:  We had a structure set up to allow students this time.  We need to revisit our schedule and our instruction to match our values.  Or, we need to revisit our values to match our vision.  
  • "As long as kids are reading, they are bound to be ready to read more closely" (65).
    • My thought:  Our students read.  A lot.  We can take them to new places with strategic, focused instruction.  
  • "You will probably need to start by owning the problems in your classroom and your school- and frankly, our hunch is the problems are serious" (88). 
    • My connection:  Yes!  We need to take a closer look at the non-fiction content area reading to make sure that students are actually reading (and researching)  45% of non-fiction throughout the day.  
  • "Finally, students may be reading without engagement-  and engagement is the sine qua non for learning."  
    • My question:  How can we integrate more reading and writing choices in content areas?  A plug for Chris Lehman's book, Energize Research here.  A great resource for teaching non-fiction with choice in the content areas.  Click here for recent blog posts about Chris's book.  
  • "... writing is treated as an equal partner to reading, and more than this, writing is assumed to be the vehicle though with a great deal of the reading work and reading assessments will occur.  The CCSS, then, return writing to its place as one of the basics of education" (102).  
    • My reaction:  Bravo!  Bravo!  Bravo!  Writing IS so important, so integral, and so critical for student success:  academically, socially, and emotionally.  I'm happy to see it regain its importance.  Now, (and back to the first bullet point), we must restructure our values and TIME to approach this call to action.  
  • "Human beings grow up on narratives, on stories.  We come to know our parents by hearing their stories of growing up.  We make friendships by sharing the stories of our lives" (113). 
    • My takeaway:  I love that this book discusses the importance of all three genres of writing high-lighted in the CCSS; not just one.  Click here to see an earlier post that I wrote discussing my embrace of the CCSS writing standards.  
  • "Both teaching and learning should be visible.  That is, teachers need to monitor student learning, provide feedback, and let students know when learning is successful" (124). Paraphrased from  pg. 37 of John Hattie's work, Visible Learning:  A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement (2009).
    • My thoughts:  Yes!  This reminds me of the Grant Wiggins article from 1996, "Embracing Accountability" that we just read in our PLC's last week.    Our teachers need to be coaches, providing specific, relevant feedback to students along their journey.  Likewise, teachers need specific feedback from colleagues, students, community members, supervisors, and inner reflections to help them celebrate successes and improve weaknesses.  
  • "Writers need time to write, which means they need time to take their writing through the steps of the writing process" (125).  
    • My reaction:   Seems like such common sense.  So, how can we reframe our schedule and our instructional approaches to match our values and what we know is right?  
  • "Reforms in writing instruction, in contrast, take no additional resources; schools can right now begin to emphasize writing in general and opinion writing in specific, and we believe this work will empower writers, make learning more active, help vitalize reading, and elicit more civic involvement and engagement" (137).
    • My takeaway:  Our teachers are already so skilled.  We must support them and build upon their strengths.  We must create performance tasks that are authentic, rigorous and relevant.    We must come together to guide and build off one another's strengths.  We must work together; we are all in this together.  
  • "Education is at an important crossroads.  The development and adoption of the CCSS have created forward momentum, but the future is still to be determined" (180).
    • My final thought:  In Lucy Calkins and Laurie Pessah's book, A Principal's Guide to Leadership in the Teaching of Writing (2008), the authors push readers to identify values in their school culture.  To reform our schools, we must establish our values and our visions to be sure to align them to our practices and our instructional models.  This is the time!  

Oh, there are so, so many more ideas, thoughts, and conversations that I have had with this text.  This is just skimming the surface.  Please, please leave a comment if you've gobbled up this book, too.  What are your favorite parts? 

I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's workshop;  I'm finding myself invigorated and inspired each and every day.  In this society that believes that schools are failing, public schools need overhauls, unions need to be abolished, and teachers need more accountability, I feel refreshed when I read books like this one that talks about literacy and schools in a professional, common sense way.  Am I a literacy nerd? Probably.  But that's okay with me.  Nerds make change, right?  

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