March 18 – Reflections on hearing Tony Wagner

Tony Wagner
At 10am on Saturday during the NBPTS Teaching and Learning Conference at the Washington Convention Center, over 1,000 educators gathered to listen to this strong voice in education. Writer of many books, Tony has spent many hours interviewing top business leaders, asking them what skills they want their newly hired employees to have. From these interviews, he created a list of seven major skills that companies value most:
1. critical thinking
2. collaboration – in person and virtually
3. agility/adaptability
4. initiative/entrepenurial spirit
5. can communicate strongly both orally and in writing
6. ability to access information
7. curiosity and imagination

He then stressed to this audience of teachers that we can ensure that these skills are taught if teachers incorporate the 3Ps – play, passion, and purpose – into the school day. This got me thinking.

Do I allow my 4th graders time for the 3Ps?
PLAY – One plus of the many snow days we have had in VA this winter is that we’ve had lots of indoor recess which has given me the opportunity to watch my 10 years olds play. Mancala, paper airplanes, beanie babies and white board markers have been used the most. However, it is also play when I ask groups of four to work together in science to create an image and research interesting facts related to a planet. It is play when students read and jot down thoughts as they prepare for a book club discussion. It is also play when a fruit basket and a scale is set out and students in math class must weigh each piece in grams and pounds. My natural approach to teaching by having my students do, by having hands-on learning, is play!

PASSION – I know my students’ interests, their passions,  because they read and write about them. Reading and Writing Workshop are the perfect structures that allow a teacher to know the interests of a student. In Reading Workshop, I foster students’ interests by matching kids to books related to their passion. In Writing Workshop, I teach students how to write in a variety of genres while encouraging them to write about what they know and love. For this reason, I will only work in a school that allows me to teach using the Reading and Writing Workshop structure. I guess this is my passion!

PURPOSE – My students fluently read and learned many new vocabulary words by learning all the military songs which we performed for our families and friends at our Veterans Day celebration. They researched all there is to know about a plant or herb so they can create a marketable product to sell at the 4th grade Farmer’s Market in June. Through purposeful events, learning occurs. I have made it a habit to ask WHY as I plan. This helps me to ensure that purposeful work is being done by my students. I never want them, when asked why they are doing something, to say “I don’t know. The teacher said so.” I want them to know the purpose of why they are asked to do what they do at school.

By reflecting on the 3Ps, I still have room for improvement but I am incorporating play, passion, and purpose into my school day! The by-product is that my students are learning the skills they need to be college and career ready. My students are 10 years old. I can’t even image what jobs they will be applying for in 12 years. Yet, I am confident that they will have the skills they need!
How about you?

Tony ended his talk by sharing a 7 minute preview of a documentary he is making that shows strong 21st century teaching. Look for it soon at a neighborhood theater. To see video, click here.

More info can be found at his webpage.

March 17 – Doris Kearns Goodwin

My district paid for me to attend the NBPTS Teaching and Learning Conference on Saturday in Washington DC. As the alarm went off at 5:30am on Saturday morning, I thought about not going. Who would know?  But then I rolled out of bed and I’m so glad I did! I decided I’ll share some reflections I had from attending this conference as my slices this week.

I amost did not go to hear the afternoon keynote – Historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin. I was thinking how she is not a voice in education. Her books are SO thick that I have never read one, though I did like the Lincoln movie that her book was based. So I joined the 1000s of educators in the big convention center ballroom as she sat to have a discussion led by Dennis Van Roekel, NEA President. At one point, she spoke about her newest book – Bully Pulpit.

The book jacket states:
“The gap between rich and poor has never been wider…legislative stalemate paralyzes the county…corporations resist federal regulations…spectacular mergers produce giant companies…the influence of money in politics deepens…bombs explode in crowded streets…small wars proliferate far from our shores…a dizzying array of inventions speeds the pace of daily life. These unnervingly familiar headlines serve as the backdrop for Doris Kearns Goodwin’s highly anticipated The Bully Pulpit – a dynamic history of the first decade of the Progressive era, that tumultuous time when the nation was coming unseamed and reform was in the air.

I was inspired by Doris to push myself to read her newest book. She said we can go forward by looking back. Doris’ book is about a time that matches so much of what our nation is dealing with now in 2014. I’m motived to see how Teddy and Taft solved the problems of their time. Doris said that people make the problems and people are needed to solve the problems. After Doris spoke, I bought a signed copy of this 8oo+ page book. I tend to challenge myself to read this long book.As a reader, Harry Potter was the last time I read such a long book. Instead, I tend to spend my reading time mostly reading picture books and YA novels. Bully Pulpit will be a harder read but then I can tell my students honestly how I felt when I was reading a hard book.

Doris Kearns Goodwin taught me Saturday the importance of historians. We must look back and record and reflect on the past. It is the only way to see clearly into the future! I hope I can accomplish my new reading goal…I plan to start the first Saturday of Spring Break!! Wish me luck.

March 13 – Katie DiCamillo!!

Last October, I heard Kate DiCamillo speak as the Keynote at TCRWP Saturday Reunion. She shared how her story of Flora & Ulysses came to be. As she spoke, I kept thinking that it really is SO important to gather our stories, only the stories we can tell, in our Writers Notebook. Her mother and her mother’s vacuum cleaner and that almost dead squirrel found on her front stoop were then used to create this new story. We must, as writers, be like Kate, and keep gathering our stories.Who knows when we might use them!!

After hearing the backstory of this newest book of hers, I immediately bought it on Sunday once I returned to VA and started reading it aloud to my class on Monday. My 4th graders LOVED it. Needless to say, we were excited when this book then won the 2014 Newbery Award and when Kate was named Ambassador of Children’s Literature by the Library of Congress.

I’m not sure if anything gathered on this blog over the past 12 days or next 18 days will ever become more than just words on this blog, but I am glad I am gathering my stories that only I can tell.

To view her speech given at the Library of Congress’ Ambassador of Children’s Literature ceremony where she states: This happened because of a story.This happened because of a story read out loud, a story read together. So what I want to say to you today is this, stories are a glass-bottom boat ride. We sit together and look together at this world and at the worlds hidden inside of this world and looking together, listening together, helps us to connect. We are able to see each other, we open up, we change.” CLICK HERE:

To learn more about Kate: