Trust: Article Smorgasbord


On our annual Labor Day trip, my son and I drove down the dusty drive to the Krueger Family Pepper Farm to get produce to make fresh Pico de Gallo. After bagging up bells, aconcoguas, jalapenos, roma tomatoes, onions and garlic, we discovered we were short on cash.

The cashier quickly dismissed our concern, “Just send us a check when you get home from your vacation. We trust you.”

“That just doesn’t happen,” my son said. “We don’t come across trust like that often.”

In professional development I want the teachers in attendance to feel like we did—that they are trusted to know what they need for their own learning. Article Smorgasbord is a small- and large-group activity I’ve been perfecting to meet this need.

If you think of a smorgasbord you probably envision a multitude of dishes crowding a table. That’s the idea. I’ll take a topic like research, for example, and provide five or six different articles exploring unique aspects of the topic. If I have a diverse group, I consider brand new teachers and veterans as well as kindergarten teachers and middle school folks.

Before inviting participants to the smorgasbord, I do a quick article talk explaining what each choice is about and why it might be appealing. Then I place several copies in different locations on tables or around the room as if I’m setting up a buffet. When I’ve finished, participants stand up and take the article or two that whets their learning appetite. After about ten minutes of independent reading time, adults congregate where they picked up their article and have a chance to discuss it with one or two others.

Here’s an example of four free online resources that might work if you are discussing elementary research:
Student Research: The Right Information at the Right Time
Doing Internet Research at the Elementary Level
Research IS the Project
Why Kids Can’t Search

As a professional developer I want my participants to hear the message loud and clear: I trust you to know what you need and I’m attending to your learning.

What ways are you trusted in your own professional development? How do you apply that in your own leadership?

And while Pico de Gallo means “rooster’s beak” in Spanish, there are no animal parts to be found in this delicious fresh salsa. Here’s a recipe and some beautiful pictures from the farm we visited:

Pico de Gallo Recipe
Krueger Family Pepper Gardens

7 thoughts on “Trust: Article Smorgasbord

  1. As a co-presenter with you, I’ve loved the smorgasbord because it matches one of my core teaching values: that the learner has choice. This summer, though, when you used the smorgasbord in our coaching institute, I truly came to appreciate the idea. Being able to pick the article that best fit where I am in my learning made me feel like you had considered my needs. Additionally, it was kind of exciting hurrying up to the table to get the article I most wanted to read!

  2. OK, truth is choice tends to make me worry that I’m missing something. What if that wonderful kernel of an idea that I need is in the article I don’t choose? Yes, I’m that person swiping copies of every article. Just in case. . .

    • Yes. I’ve learned to be prepared with extras for those who want the WHOLE smorgasbord. You are a learner through and through.

    • Jen, I also grab copies of everything when given the chance! I think that’s because of how relevant the resources have always been. When I attend a workshop, I always leave with a sense of anticipation as I envision trying out new strategies. Articles gathered from a smorgasbord make me feel supported as I go out on my own. They give me a way to continue my learning.

      However, I’m rethinking my strategy of grabbing them all. Choosing just one that best supports my need in the moment could help me focus. I often forget I have many of the articles that I don’t read right away. Maybe that’s a filing problem?

      • I have a file I keep called “Articles That Made Me Think” and I’m picky about what goes in there, but I go back to those key pieces over and over. You smart thinkers gave me an idea about a future post about which coaching articles I keep in there and why. Then others could contribute their favorites too.

  3. I’m going to try the smorgasbord idea again in an upcoming session. I did something similar when working with middle school social studies teachers on the idea of close reading. I printed out articles/blog posts from 8 different authors on the topic of close reading and gave participants an opportunity to select several to read. Our discussion following focused on the general themes that all of the writers discussed and then turned to discuss differences. Because all of the texts were available on line, I also included QR Codes on the agenda so that everyone felt like they could have access to every article without having to make 65 copies of each document.

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