Bring In the Kids

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The past weeks have been a whirlwind of professional development for educators. Even though the students won’t arrive until next Wednesday we’ve incorporated them into our adult learning in multiple ways.

Live running records

When we were asked to present to a staff on running records in August, we pulled out Peter Johnston’s classic Running Records: A Self-Tutoring Guide to make sure we weren’t too rusty with our record taking and then asked my fifth-grade daughter–pretty please–if she’d come be a live model for the staff. You can take a running record at any time with any child with any text and the most compelling way to make that point is to have a student and teacher demonstrate. Ahna brought How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied by Jess Keating and worked with my colleague Sean Moore to do a running record fishbowl style. The adults listened in and took notes as Sean transitioned from a challenging running record (she’s a speedy reader) to conferring with her about the book. Sean had never read the book before and they didn’t rehearse a thing beforehand. The demonstration married the “why” and “how” of running records right there in front of our eyes.

Capturing on-demand assessment

Teachers in our district are going to be giving a pre-assessment before our writing units and a post-assessment toward the end. We knew the on-demand assessments would bring many questions so last June before school let out we captured video in a first- and fourth-grade classroom. I gave the assessment while a colleague ran the camera. With some simple editing tools we created a short video for teachers to watch this week as they prepare to give their own pre-assessments. They heard my language as I outlined the expectations, watched as the students brainstormed and then observed the writers at work.

Conferring practice as students

I hear “I want to get better at conferring” from so many of my colleagues. At six different elementary school writing presentations, we sent our colleagues off to write and gave them choice. “You can write as yourself or as the age children you work with.” Then we walked around with our conferring sheets and spent just a few minutes with several writers. We encouraged the surrounding teachers to stop writing and listen in if they wanted to. I worked with one writer as herself who expressed appreciation of the power of noticing what she was doing well and naming it. Another writer pretended to be a first grader who wrote, “The summer in Kentucky was so hot on my feet. It was really hot. It was super hot.” As I conferred I nudged the writer to think of another time he’d felt heat like that. He mentioned a stove and I encouraged him to try one of the writing moves we’d studied during the minilesson that involved making comparisons. In his reflection he said, “It helped me see how the thread of the lesson can weave through conferring too.”

Soon the hallways will be noisy and those empty bulletin boards will be covered with student work. There will be many running records to take, writing pre-assessments to give and conferring to do. After a long holiday weekend, we’ll be ready for them.

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