Monday, October 14, 2013

I Want To Be A Teacher

I follow a wonderful Facebook page called Humans of New York. It’s a page that photographer Brandon Stanton put together to curate the images of the incredible cross section of humanity that resides in New York City. He talks to these people and photographs them and shares their stories on his Facebook page. You can access his page HERE.  As you scroll through his page, you’ll notice that on October 1st, he featured our own Heidi Hayes Jacobs, who shared the following:

"There's three things you can do when life sends a wave at you. You can run from it, but then it's going to catch up and knock you down. You can also fall back on your ego and try to stand your ground, but then it's still going to clobber you. Or you can use it as an opportunity to go deep, and transform yourself to match the circumstances. And that's how you get through the wave."

I’m so impressed with what Brandon does. He is visually cataloguing the people of the melting pot in New York City, but he’s also collecting their stories--sharing a positive side of humanity that is so desperately needed in our world today.

Today’s entry involved this young man:

Brandon had the following conversation with this boy:

"Why are you wearing a pilot's outfit?"
"I wear it every day."
"Do you want to be a pilot when you grow up?"
"No, I want to be a teacher."
"Why aren't you wearing a teacher's outfit?"
"I don't have one."

I thought this was a huge message for today’s teacher. We are still inspiring the next generation. We are still solidly having an effect on the future.

In this day and age of educational nitpickery, I think it’s extremely important to look for the bright spots and use them for both furthering our cause and believing that we are doing what’s best for our children.

I was going to write this week about standards based education and how we swim through the hoopla to get to the root of why we do what we do. This picture and conversation changed my whole mindset this week.

This child values our profession. What better validation do we need?

If you’d like to know more about Humans of New York, Brandon Stanton has just released a book about the portraits and stories he’s collected. You can access the link HERE. You can also follow him on Facebook using the link above or ACCESS HIS WEBSITE.

I thought it was important today to remind teachers how much of a difference they really make. I thought it was important to remind you that you are shaping the future outside of the bureaucracy and national fluff movements. You are needed, you are important, and you are incredible. Every President, every engineer, every scientist, every pilot--needs a teacher. It’s just really cool that this little pilot wants to be a teacher too.

Our value has not diminished. Your value has not diminished.

Pat yourselves on the back, teachers. You are still inspiring the next generation.

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Upgrade Your Curriculum, now available from ASCD
Digital Learning Strategies: How Do I Assign and Assess Digital Work? coming this Winter from ASCD

Picture and conversation copyright Brandon Stanton and used with permission.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Notice, Think, and Wonder: A "Close Reading" Upgrade

In the Fall of 2007, a close friend, Nancy Cook, and I wrote a piece for the New York State Middle School Association’s Journal, In Transition. The article, titled “Notice, Think, and Wonder: New Pathways to Engage Critical Thinking” asked the reader to consider using a discussion rubric that Nancy developed to increase the rigor of questions and answers around text. The link is to the entire journal, but the article and embedded rubric starts on page 15.

I still share the Notice, Think, and Wonder rubric that’s in the article while engaging in professional development with teachers. It’s become particularly useful in this age of Common Core standards and increased rigor in instructional activities, particularly around the close reading of text.

I’ve been teaching different versions of “Close Reading” to teachers, evolving over time as I strengthen my relationship with Common Core Reading for Literacy/Informational Text Standard 1: “Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and make inferences from it.” What started out as teaching teachers to write text dependent questions evolved into setting strong purposes for reading, understanding text complexity, relating the close reading to personal experiences and world events, and now, coming full circle back to Notice, Think, and Wonder.

The impetus for this blog post began with another blog post around Close Reading, written by Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts, authors of the popular blog, indent. You can read their blog post, The Five Corners of the Text, by clicking this sentence. In the post, they stress the importance of engagement and inviting students’ experiences into the way they think critically about the words they read. What they wrote invited a warmth back into this instructional strategy that was missing from my initial interpretation of the standard.

As I read their blog post and reflected on my current and previous work, it dawned on me that a merger of ideas and an additional instructional strategy around close reading was in order. Hence, I’m revisiting “Notice, Think, and Wonder.” The original Notice, Think, and Wonder strategy asked students to collect details around what they notice in text; what jumped off the page at them. It asks students to think about those details and make connections. Finally, it asks them to wonder about the “what if’s,” the “what next’s,” or the potential additional meaning-making that comes from deep engagement with text.

To use Notice, Think, and Wonder in a way that reflects the close reading of text, one simply needs to tweak the intentions of these areas of interaction. In this upgrade, students should be invited to do the following:

  • What are some of the big ideas in the text that’s being read?
  • What are some of the main points that an author wants the reader to know as a result of reading this?
  • What’s the major message or point of reading what we are reading?

  • Where in the text did we see support for what we noticed?
  • What in our experiences, as related to what we read, make us think of connections to the big ideas?
  • How do parts of the texts explicitly lead us to the major message?

  • What might the evidence we found in the text, as related to what we noticed, mean?
  • What potential conclusions can we draw from the evidence related to what we noticed?
  • Is there evidence in the text or in our connections to the text to support anything we might potentially wonder?

I like believing that students would be engaged by deep conversation about text--particularly texts that they are interested in reading, not just texts that the teacher thinks they should read. I’m reminded of high school, when my teachers were adept at drawing me into a text by both relating to my personal experiences while guiding me through metacognitions that created mental velcro for me. Everything stuck, from the prologue to The Canterbury Tales to my empathy for Benji, a central character in Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. I want students to live inside texts the way that I was allowed to. I want them to have rich literary experiences that feed their souls for the rest of their lives but also teach them to be evaluative thinkers and questioners of the status quo.

I want students to read voluminously and develop a love of reading that goes beyond the cold and analytical “close reading” and explores what I guess I would call “Close Reading Plus.” Evidence plus experience equals Deep Learning, versus just evidence alone. If we look at the standard and the key words: “close reading,” “what the text says explicitly,” and “make inferences,” then we are doing all those things with this upgrade of Notice, Think, and Wonder. We are also inviting a deeper analysis, a raise in the rigor beyond the standard, which represents the zone to which we should aspire with our modern learners.

Mike on Twitter: @fisher1000

Addendum (10/3/13)
I thought about this a little more and decided to add some additional information to this blog post in terms of extending Notice, Think, and Wonder to writing about evidence and connections.

For one thing, the “Wonder” could include a question about claims, such as, “What claims can you make about what you read? or “What do you wonder about any bold statements that the author made in the text?”

The answers to those questions would be an excellent jumping off point for writing about claims and evidence, engaging both the Reading standards around Key Ideas and Details as well as the Instructional Shifts around Writing from Sources and Text-Dependent questions.