Bring In the Kids


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.


Tech Tips for Presentations








When you are presenting, something will likely go wrong. I know that doesn’t sound like me, but this is one place it pays to be pessimistic. If you think about the number of details that go into a presentation, there is a high possibility that something won’t work, something will be forgotten or something won’t connect. We can’t control what happens, but we can control how we react. Breathing and shrugging help me. When my wifi goes down in the middle of streaming a video I say, “Well, we weren’t meant to see the rest of that right now, may be we can come back to it after the break.” I have to accept it and let it go. That’s what is. But the good news is you can prepare for many mishaps. Here are some tips I’ve discovered and learned from other presenters:

*Have a backup.

Whether it’s a laptop, charging cord or projector, having a backup on site is important.

*Don’t forget your dongle.

Often when I go present outside my district I’m hooking my MacBook Air to other projectors. There are two main types of connectors with projectors: VGA and DVI. I carry dongles for both.

*Think twins or triplets.

If my presentation is only saved on a flash drive, that flash drive could be corrupted or lost. If my presentation is only saved on my desktop and I have something happen to my computer, I’m out of luck. If my presentation is only on my Google drive or saved in the cloud and I lose internet access, I can’t get to it. So I make sure to duplicate my presentation in at least two different spots. When I present with a team, we make sure two of us have the presentation. I’ve also printed off my presentation slides and kept the copies. Worse case scenario, I could show the copies of the slides under a document camera.

*Doublecheck handouts.

If someone else is going to be running handouts for me, I keep things as simple as possible. I’ve found “as is” masters are the best approach. That way I can say, “When you make the copies you can look back at this and make sure they are the same.” Still, it’s so important to spot check those copies to make sure they are right before it’s go time. It’s tough to be in the middle of a presentation and have people say, “I don’t have that page.” Also someone running copies isn’t going to notice that they cut off the last sentence on page 6, but I will.

*Wifi waffles.

While connections are constantly improving, I’ve still had many occasions where the wifi was not dependable. Do you need to play a video? See if you can download it. Do you want to show a website? Take some screen shots. Anticipate a problem and see if you can create an alternative.

*Make sure your sound is sound.

A presentation with poor sound will not do. Make sure your microphone or speaker system is adequate for your needs. A portable system will work fine for an audience of about 60 people or less, beyond that you need to be sure that you have enough volume. You can always turn it down so plan for your largest possible audience.

*Dress for your tech

If you are going to need to use a lavalier microphone (a hands-free or lapel mic), think of your attire. Do you have a collar to attach the clip? You may have a power unit that goes with it so you’ll want a waistband, pocket or belt to attach it to. If you happen to be wearing a form-fitting, one-piece dress, it is possible to attach it to a cuff or strap or even tape it to your back, but be aware, wherever you attach it, make sure you (or someone you know) can reach the mute button! Whatever your situation, plan how your clothing can accommodate your needs.

What other tech tips help you navigate presentations?



Because It Makes Me Smile

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Years ago I was at a toy shop downtown and saw a seven-foot giraffe and said, “I have to have that in our house.” Little did I know when said giraffe was being auctioned off for a good cause that my husband would outbid everyone else so he could get it for me. “Savannah” as I’ve named her has made our living room her home ever since. In the lead image, you can see what she looked like as we moved her to our new home in the back of the pick-up. I was recently telling the story to someone who asked if she matched the decor of our house.

“Not at all,” I replied.

I’ve loved and collected giraffes for many years. Maybe it’s because they are very tall animals and I am a very small animal. Or maybe it’s because they have the largest heart of any land animal, but those gentle (except when they are neck fighting) giants make me smile.

Physically when we smile, we tell our brain to feel good and in return our feel-good brain tells us to smile. That’s a cycle I like to tap into. As Mother Teresa said, “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.” I’m comfortable answering questions about why I bought a certain outfit or why I gave a certain gift or why I have a kitsch seven-foot giraffe in my home, “Because it makes me smile.”


Where Are My Sleeves?
















At the Herb Farm in Woodinville, Washington, owners Carrie Van Dyk and Ron Zimmerman work alongside their servers, sous-chefs and sommelier. They dress in the traditional manner of fine dining restaurants: black on bottom, crisp white on top. For one course they might be topping off water goblets while another they are describing their dishes with mouth-watering adjectives. What they are not doing is standing back and surveying the work–they are right in the mix with their sleeves rolled up.

August brings many professional development opportunities. Depending on our roles, sometimes we lead them, sometimes we attend them. I often observe what top decision makers in districts do when they attend workshops and conferences. Some administrators come in and sit way in the back. They’ll wave off my offer of handouts and say, “I’m just here to see how things are going.” Without knowing it, they can send the message, “I’m not here to learn.” Others sit with teams, take notes, ask questions and participate fully. I hear them say, “How can I support you? What can I be doing?” Like Carrie and Ron, their sleeves are rolled up and they are fully engaged in the work.

I believe leaders are doers. I don’t want to ask my team to do things I’m not willing to do. How will I participate in upcoming professional development? Will my sleeves be rolled up or buttoned down? Where will your sleeves be?