Welcome back! As we begin the New Year, we continue to reflect on the connections that we made during our session at the Learning Forward 2016 Annual Conference held in Vancouver, BC, in December. We were struck by your level of engagement at 8:00 am on the final day of that conference and were so … Continue reading Connecting and Reflecting
Like you, we are avid professional readers – books, articles, blogs, tweets – we read them all. For the past several weeks, Brenda has been particularly fascinated with an article by Carol Ann Tomlinson in which she compares lesson design with making dinner. Brenda and a guest writer extend the metaphor (appreciating the truth and … Continue reading Learning Destinations and Making Dinner
For us, learning is in large part about listening, asking questions, and making connections. As we listen to the leaders whom we serve and support, here are a couple of the questions that we have been hearing. Question: What does research show to have the most significant impact on student learning of anything ever documented? … Continue reading Connecting the Work of School Leaders and Classroom Teachers
In early September, Brenda shared an experience with colleagues on the Louis Riel School Division Literacy Team in Winnipeg that reminded her of the value in taking the time to think deeply and collaboratively about things you’ve already done – before you DO something else. In May of the last two years, this team asked … Continue reading Using Samples…Not Just Collecting Them
It’s June. Even though none of us can believe it, the year has gone by in the blink of an eye. Again. We seem to have a clear focus on “the end”… graduation ceremonies, farewell assemblies, final sets of report cards, retirement celebrations, and the list continues. And yet, as we quickly move to the … Continue reading What We’ve Learned About Being a Teacher This Year… From You
“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African proverb This African proverb, sent to us by a valued colleague and very reflective professional, uses only sixteen words to say so much about professional learning and leadership. As a teacher, I go far when I … … Continue reading If You Want To Go Far
April is poetry month. Free verse poetry is one of Brenda’s absolute favourite writing genres for kids. She finds it to be a genre that is accessible to even the youngest of our writers because poems tend to be short and the focus on message – what you want your reader to feel – is … Continue reading Involving Young Writers in the Assessment Process
We have heard it said that our youngest learners cannot really communicate evidence of their learning, or that in order to do so, they must rehearse and rehearse and rehearse. We’d like to share a story that we hope will cause you to look at this notion with new eyes and to see just how … Continue reading Students Making Their Learning Public
What is one idea or strategy that you are taking away with you back into your school? In what ways might you apply one of the strategies to your next instructional sequence? In what ways has the content and processes of the day informed your current role? These questions, or ones like them, seem very … Continue reading What Might Someone Have Learned Because You Were in the Room Today?
We have been asked why we would spend professional learning time on creating a writing continuum rather than simply “working on the teaching of writing.” Our response is that by building a continuum collaboratively, we are working on writing. The process of moderating samples as a team – be they writing, math problem solving, reading … Continue reading It’s More Than A Continuum
We believe that asking questions – taking an inquiry stance as professionals – can lead us to deeper understanding about the craft of teaching. Sometimes the understanding comes from answers, or at least responses, that move us closer to an answer. Sometimes the greater understanding comes from questions – questions that make you realize what … Continue reading Taking An Inquiry Stance
6 Things Brenda Is Thinking About The Teaching Of Writing As She Reflects On Her Own Writing Process
Brenda has spent the last year writing a book – our newest publication, Making Writing Instruction Work. Now that it has actually gone to the printer she finds herself thinking about what in her own writing process could inform her teaching. She doesn’t mean to imply that a sample of one is enough to generalize … Continue reading 6 Things Brenda Is Thinking About The Teaching Of Writing As She Reflects On Her Own Writing Process
“In other words, teaching is a thinking person’s job.” With that statement, Charlotte Danielson argues that professional conversations should be about cognition and sharing perspectives about the hundreds of decisions that teachers make each day (Framing Discussions about Teaching, Educational Leadership, April 2015, Volume 72, Number 7). The simplicity of this nine-word sentence is striking; … Continue reading Leading is a Learning Person’s Job
Back to School – the time when students and teachers reunite with friends and colleagues and often begin the conversation with the question, “What did you do this summer?” The time when students write to various prompts that could be summarized as “How I spent my summer vacation.” For me, “back to school” began mid-August … Continue reading What I Learned About Being a Teacher…This Summer
It is August and for many educators (except those who have already begun the school year in July or last January) it means our thoughts turn to the approaching school year. August can be a time to set goals for that new school year. Anne’s newest blog post revisits five of her most popular back-to-school … Continue reading Beginning the New School Year
In North America, it is the end of one year. It will be the beginning of another school year before we know it. As teachers engage in ‘end of year’ activities, we reflect back and plan forward for next year. They are having students do the same. Celeste Krochak, when teaching Grade One students in … Continue reading How Have You Bloomed This Year?
Of late Brenda has been visiting French Immersion classrooms, exploring ways in which teachers are describing quality as students write in French. In Michelle Follow’s Grade 2/3 classroom at École Howden in the Louis Riel School Division, students are engaged, in the words of one of the writers, “In three easy steps…I do it, we … Continue reading Writing…in French Immersion
Recently I was able to spend two days in Fort Nelson, BC, with a group of dedicated high school educators. They were taking time to reflect on what was working in terms of grading and reporting as well as what was not working. Like other high school educators, they are serving students whose needs are … Continue reading The Top 7 Questions High School Teachers Consider When Reporting
In the last four weeks and across several provinces, there is one question that is being asked over and over again – “I know that it is a good idea to gather evidence of student learning from more than products, but when does it make sense to gather evidence from observations and conversations?” Maybe this … Continue reading Triangulation: I Understand the “Why,” Now Please Tell Me the “When”
In March I co-presented with Anne and Sandra in Mississauga on the topic of Facilitating Adult Learning. It was an anniversary of sorts, as the first time I had the honour and pleasure of working with them was at the very same location almost three years ago. That first session was designed for school and … Continue reading Walking the Talk
As educators, we know so much and yet we have so little opportunity to put our experience and knowledge to use in support of others – particularly our colleagues. Last week Brenda Augusta, Sandra Herbst, and I had the opportunity to work with a packed room for a one-day Institute focused on facilitating adult learning. … Continue reading We Just Don’t Know How Brilliant We Are!
The ability to create a personal relationship with our students is one of the most important tools that we have as educators. As Margaret Wheatley says, “Relationships are all there is.” This sentiment has been echoed over and over again by educational authors and researchers. We work deliberately and intentionally to not only remember our … Continue reading Relationships: Reflecting on Alignment
If you knew of a strategy so powerful, so adaptable, so guaranteed to work that you could use it in Kindergarten, the middle years, high school, and with adult learners, would you be interested? This strategy works not only with a huge range of learners, but also with an immense variety of topics and in … Continue reading What Counts in a Strategy Worth Adding to Your Practice?
Too often in our work we have seen leaders, with the best of intentions, tell others what they should do. Yet, successful and systemic implementation of assessment for learning eludes many schools and systems. Telling is just not enough. In our work with positional leaders and leadership teams over the past 15 years, we have … Continue reading Stop ‘Should-ing’ on Others: Three Actions Successful Leaders
Thursday, December 18, 2014 “What do you do about students who don’t want to write?” This time, the question came at a session where we were moderating writing samples, sharing a process designed to create a continuum. It is a question that comes up almost every time I talk with teachers about writing. It is … Continue reading Inspiring All Students to Write
Wednesday, December 12, 2014 Assessment, evaluation, and reporting is changing. These changes require that we thoughtfully build plans to support the learning of our teachers, administrators, Trustees, and senior leaders. A mindful plan also includes involving parents in the conversation. Bridging home to school and school to home is an important pursuit. In our work … Continue reading Making ‘It’ Make Sense For Parents
Wednesday, November 19, 2014 What does quality look like? How can I describe proficiency to my learners? We know that one response to these questions is to engage the learners – whether students or adults – in the process of co-constructing criteria. This process often begins by sharing samples to illustrate quality and proficiency. However, … Continue reading Using Samples for Quality and Success
Tuesday, November 4, 2014 I have a confession to make. There was a time when the teaching of writing, not to mention the assessment of writing, overwhelmed me. It just seemed so BIG…I didn’t feel I had a handle on it at all. I knew I wanted a workshop approach. I knew that student choice … Continue reading Identifying the Learning Destination for Student Writers
Thursday, October 23, 2014 Recently I read a piece by Bennett (2011) questioning the true impact of formative assessment. And, while I appreciate the powerful questions he asked, there are also some significant, unstated assumptions. One of those assumptions is that there is a lack of observational evidence to inform the work of teachers and … Continue reading Classroom Assessment
Thursday, May 29, 2014 Co-constructing criteria with students, regardless of the grade level or subject matter, takes time. We don’t mean hours and hours, though. Once students and teachers are familiar with the four-step process, it requires, generally, about 30 or 40 minutes. However, if at the end of thirty minutes we think that the … Continue reading Observation with Intention
Friday, May 9, 2014 Reporting is a hot topic in Canada today. It is important for parents to be informed about their child’s learning and achievement in school. Many jurisdictions are revisiting their evaluation, grading, and reporting practices. In the past, the options were limited to report cards using a symbol system – codes such … Continue reading From Reporting to Informing: Students and the Language of Assessment