Sunday, June 26, 2011

Making Meaning. Part 6: Sample of Process Work

Part 6. Sample of process work.

Our draft:
My first thought was I’m about to die like Daniel in the lion’s den.   As the mind drifted away, my body thrashed weightless, a snowflake in a gust of hot breath.  The shark’s teeth flashed lightning and the waves crashed thunder.  From some alien space, muffled cries of my rescuers flittered, fading fireflies in the night.  Even then, arms reached out to me, beacons of hope, drawing me, most of me, into the lifeboat.

This post is Part 6 of "UMdWP 1st Day Summer 2011 on Glogster.

Making Meaning. Part 5: Contextual information.

Part 5: Contextual information.

Our opening workshop for the University of Maryland Writing Project’s summer program offered important insights into the challenges of making meaning.  Cory fashioned her workshop from her engagement with Harvard’s Project Zero (footnote 1), especially involving “artful thinking” and figurative language.

In fine workshop fashion, she took us into the experience that was similar to what her 4th graders do but that was translated so that we were doing the learning, not just hearing about it or role-playing as if we were nine-year-olds.  The work of art was the same one that her students studied: John Singleton Copley’s Watson and the Shark (1778).   She led us step by step through guided practice in which we followed routines from Artful Thinking.  This included noting visual details, describing them in similes, translating selected similes into metaphors, and drafting a memoir.  She used think-pair-share in leading this activity.

During the discussion, I was stunned with my partner’s comment about the value of this activity for her elementary students.  She pointed out that they often had great difficulty making sense of metaphors when reading and that if they went through this step by step construction of a metaphor first, they would then be much more likely to read poetry with meaning and perhaps even with pleasure instead of failure and frustration.  This artful thinking routine moves from description which emphasizes what the composer knows, goes into comparison which while involving unlike objects still works in the known, and thus scaffolds the construction of metaphor so the initiate grasps the mystery of layering same and different together.  Emily Dickinson comes in range: “Touch lightly nature’s sweet Guitar/unless thou know’st the Tune. . .” (~1876, #1389).

This post is Part 6 of "UMdWP 1st Day Summer 2011 on Glogster.

[1] Information on Project Zero can be found at: ; artful thinking at: and ; and figurative language at: .

Making Meaning. Part 3: Transcript for XtraNormal Video

Part 3: Transcript

(If you had any difficulty making meaning of the video, try looking at the transcript.  A couple of notes about the text are shown at the end.)

Watson: Hey Sharky, do you see the Towers of London sticking up all over the Harbor of Havana?

Sharky: My dear Watson, why get distracted by the periphery of our canvas? You don’t have to search out something new all the time.  What is spotlighted?

Watson: Hmm. My naked body and my eyes looking back at you?

Sharky: Yes, it’s elementary.  And by using your two routines what did you learn?

Watson: Leona said her students have trouble reading metaphors.  Like if Ravitch* says teachers are robots, they’d go huh?  But if they made their own comic following Cory’s step by step going thru what they see, what it’s like

Sharky: That would be basic similes.

Watson: Yes and then making them into metaphors.

Sharky: I see and why would teachers be robots

Watson: Because they’re given a script to teach to the test.

Sharky: And what’s wrong with that.

Watson: Hmm. Let me put it this way: it’s like what happens when a person’s exuberant swim in the Caribbean gets ravaged by shark teeth.  The love of learning is damaged or killed.  Teaching to tests is deadly.

Sharky: I see you’ve learned my methods well, Watson.

Watson: Actually, Sharky, it was more about getting passionate about Web2.0’s paradigm of learning.

*Diane Ravitch, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing & Choice Are Undermining Education. 
See also:

This post is Part 3 of "UMdWP 1st Day Summer 2011 on Glogster.

Making Meaning. Part 2: Remembering the Struggle

Part 2: Remembering the struggle.

View the short video and note any places where you feel confused.  This activity might increase awareness of the difficulty that are obstacles for developing readers and English language learners.  From this increased awareness, we can better plan instruction that will increase success. 

Some of the possible difficulties include: 
1) Decoding the sounds due to the computerized speech or the speaker’s dialect. 
2) Lack of prior knowledge. 
3) Lack of contextual background.
4) Unclear allusions.

This post is Part 2 of "UMdWP 1st Day Summer 2011 on Glogster.

Making Meaning. Part 1: Introduction.

Part 1: Introduction

Expert performance depends on developing multiple routines, with lower-level operations functioning “on automatic,” so that conscious attention focuses  on more complex operations and on fine-tuning adjustments.  Expert readers often forget the subordinated functions that enable them to extract accurate meaning from a text.  Reading depends on 1) selecting the correct phoneme for a letter like “c” that has multiple possibilities, 2) deciding which of the acceptable definitions of a word fits with the context, and 3) figuring out figures of speech, allusions, ironies, and many other subtasks.  A good teacher remembers the basic operations and finds ways to assist would-be readers who are struggling.

This post is Part 1 of "UMdWP 1st Day Summer 2011 on Glogster.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Curating #EngChat on Unlocking Adolescent Literacy

Curating Twitter’s #EngChat Archive (6/13/11) on Unlocking Adolescent Literacy
Moderators: Kylene Beers & Bob Probst.  
Archive available at: 

Presuming to “curate” this chat: Joseph McCaleb (@dochorsetales)

     Twitter at its best refines all the stuff that’s out there; at its worst, it proliferates an already overwhelming overload of verbiage, word-garbage.  In my estimation, the construct of “curation” assumes significance in relation to the need to sift the volume effectively and efficiently.  The construction of meaning has long (perhaps forever) marked the edge of human consciousness and civilization.  Looked at constructively, Twitter pushes this edge and offers a playground or workshop to practice curation.
     As Twitter-users shape this new public forum, practice comes in several ways.  First, participants choose persons and hashtags to follow in order to manage the flow.  We also mark distinctions with RT (retweeting), like, and block. 
     “Chat” particularly pushes the need to curate due to the speed and volume of relatively disconnected messages.  Unless managed, the disorganized pattern of input produces a kind of dizziness (as noted by Probst at the end of this #EngChat session).  Despite its disorganized character and the resultant dizziness, many participants also note the value of the chat.
     I sometimes cope with this richness of confusion by skimming during the live chat, possibly throwing in one or two tweets, but mostly waiting for the archive.  In the case of Unlocking Adolescent Literacy, I found a considerable number of tweets and topics that were particularly provocative.  Without planning to do so, I seemed to curate for myself and since the heritage of that construct includes sharing, I decided to put my selection, sorting, and occasional commenting in a semi-public space.  I’ve moved tweets into categories that contributed to the construction of meaning that I found useful.  Of course, other curators would and should do this quite differently.  (**For resources on "curation" see the end of this post.)

On defining “Next” Practice as preferred to “Best” Practice

@KyleneBeers Bob & I have been talking about "accepted practices," "best practices," & next practices. What next practices are important?
@KyleneBeers @leslie_salley We don't talk enough about next practices; best practices are about what HAS worked; Next is about what will work
@KyleneBeers  Next practices, by definition, will fail and as we get better at them they will eventually become a best practice
@hrmason @CBethM @KyleneBeers Have to create the env. where failure is acceptable. Goes against they're hearing abt education right now.

@BobProbst @feministteacher --"Next" practice is untested, experimental, likely to be inadequate at first but with potential to grow.

@budtheteacher @kylenebeers @bobprobst I think we miss too many of the basics - doing good work is never old fashioned or out of style

Suggestions for best next practices

@spillarke @kylenebeers One next practice in my own classroom would be digital fluency--fluency using digital tools much like reading fluency
@mrspal next practices would be digital literacy in writing, collaborating & reading
@budtheteacher @KyleneBeers Too often, folks rush the digital and forget the good.
@KyleneBeers @spillarke  Yes to digital fluency. Fluency allows for a degree of automaticity & that allows more ability to cope with complexity.
@KyleneBeers @williamkist  Interesting next practice--that type of writing that encourages that fluid of thinking. Like it.

@MaryAnnReilly @KyleneBeers Next practices, like that so much better than "better". Focusing on composing as a way of being in the world

@mrspal   next practices would be digital literacy in writing, collaborating & reading 

@LindaReed Next practices-creating and sharing new thinking with those outside of your sphere of influence.

@katyvance  I think one of the best examples of "next practices" in literacy today is the idea of transliteracy def on left

@williamkist @KyleneBeers Helping kids with learning to write in an online (screen-based) format (with hyperlinks) should be a next practice.

On Storytelling as a best next practice (extended into digital media)

@erinneo I'm changing next year to a model of storytelling to improve literacy. I think 'hearing' the story is important but getting lost
@erinneo @spillarke @maryannreilly I think an important question to ask students is if they are ready to take their own story seriously.

@BobProbst @erinneo--Most people like being read to. Storytelling and reading aloud capture many kids who think they don't like reading

@erinneo @BobProbst Hearing a story told well is a powerful experience, and I think a skill that can/should be taught.

@padgets  there are some really great websites to help students bring stories to life like Story Creator 2

@gmfunk @erinneo @BobProbst I teach oral interpretation (storytelling) in speech.

@cybraryman1 My Story Telling page (+ Digital Story Telling page):

@gmfunk @KyleneBeers Part of being good storyteller is thinking about the audience's understanding. Composing story to be understood

[Tweets I could have offered on this topic:
@dochorsetales Recommend Origin of Stories (B. Boyd) to connect narrative w/ social justice (evolving human capacity for cooperation)
@dochorsetales Recommend all of Vivian Paley (eg Wally’s Stories) for rich text of a masterful teacher telling (w/ exquisite narrative) power of narrative in classroom community ]

MaryAnnReilly Let's not forget that text can mean many things. I think photovoice is a fab way to build a comm set of texts
Just need a camera (phone will do). Cd post as a set on flickr.
@MaryAnnReilly @PaulWHankins sending them home w/ a camera to document an aspect of their lives & combining those images into a class text, is:)
@MaryAnnReilly @gmfunk Photovoice seeks to put cameras in the hands of ord people 2 document their lives. Shooting Back on Reservation" is an ex.
@MaryAnnReilly @judyjester Caroline Wang's work. here's a link I have used it a lot as a teacher.

@RdngTeach @clix Students could choose Animoto, MovieMaker or Photostory.

@RdngTeach @MaryAnnReilly Something so powerful when kids use words, pics and music to convey meaning.

@techielit  I plan on using for book trailers. I like that I can host Jaycut on my class website - easy for students.

@GreggGraham Agree w/ @PaulHankins IMO, storytelling - a human universal - is the foundation upon which we build student's literacy.

On Mirrors (&Windows)
@Shamlet @erinneo @spillarke @maryannreilly It's important to make texts mirrors, so kids can see the reflection of their own story
@spillarke Exactly Right! RT @shamlet: It's important to make texts mirrors, so kids can see the reflection of their own story
@PaulWHankins @BobProbst This group is primed to the three way mirror approach to literacy: looking back, looking in, and looking forward.

@MaryAnnReilly When selecting a range of texts for a class to choose from, impt to remember mirror & windows. Representation matters.
@MaryAnnReilly Voice happens alongside choice.
@MaryAnnReilly @feministteacher essay can be the underlying script to a game. It can Pine Point.

@maricelignacio Completely agree! RT @writer #engchat spoken word poetry often mirrors thinking in essay so we gather and reread & dig in then write our own

My note: As with any human activity, storytelling and storytellers are not automatically good.  Narrative can be used distract and manipulate.  Out of semi-consciousness or more evil motives, persons tell stories that do not resonate with truth or morality. The need for clean windows and mirrors is huge.  And this has always presented a major task for education.  The efforts to privatize and de-professionalize teaching escalate the crisis.

What is Adolescent Lit:
@RdngTeach @PaulWHankins I agree it is connections, but I also think adol lit is where it becomes about making those bog world connections
@RdngTeach @PaulWHankins I think adol lit is also where it focuses more heavily on those "big world" connections

@KyleneBeers  Novels named: Giver, Hatchet, Outsiders, Terabithia, Watsons, Bud, Not Buddy, Among Hidden, Holes, Riding Freedom, Tuck Evlastingand Maniac Magee and Esperanza Rising
@BobProbst @PaulHankins @KyleneBeers Ad Literacy is in part an ability to change your mind as a result of reading and talking.
@BobProbst @KyleneBeers Think we need focus on ad litrcy because beliefs and attitudes grow ossified in those years. Kids need to stay open.

@PaulWHankins: To awaken adolescent literacy, we must affirm how our students are already literate. Hard to find voice if convinced you're dumb.

@mardieteach @RdngTeach I've been thinking a lot about teacher's intuition: Ability to make those decisions on a moment to moment basis

@AtlTeacher @hrmason @ecarboni here's a discussion board my students created on goodreads with their independent novels

@MaryAnnReilly @judyjester I ask Ss to document what literacy means at beginning & end of course. Changes r significant.

Other assorted interesting items

@MaryAnnReilly Negotiating curriculum. Composing ourselves. Priveliging w "talking" with variety of languages

@KyleneBeers  Seems we need to use some of the writing lang w/ reading--we ask students to revise writing; can ask to revise understanding

@BobProbst @leslie_salley I read AP exams for about 7 years, mostly to find out what bright kids around country could do. An experience...

@gmfunk @KyleneBeers No place for choice or digital lit or writing on tests CCSS  will narrow curriculum. My district moving that way nxt yr

@techielit  Here’s the short videos I put together to announce the nominations for the Caesars

@KyleneBeers @writer  So agree that they need volume, but they also need to learn how to read with deeper understanding.

Conclusion, Extensions, and Next Time
@KyleneBeers  The hardest questions will take serious thinkers, risk takers, dedicated tchrs.Not more mandates.Not another kit. Thinkers...

@LYRichardson @KyleneBeers Hi, book you edited, Adolescent Literacy:Turning Promise into Practice is such a gem. A Twitter  topic for fall?
@Dwight_Carter: RT @PaulWHankins: Glad to see @WilliamKist here. #engchat-ers should not miss The Socially Networked Classroom. Great resource for the literacy discussed.

@mrami2: 6/20 #engchat w/ @emsingleton @magpete55 @ 7PM EST - How will you grow this summer? Summer PD ideas. Pls RT.

**Where to Go Next on Curation:

NWP’s space for curation of digital media work:

Tracing curation in cyberspace:

Definitions, reviews, application to student learning:

Further review and extensions into professional development for teachers:

Curation tools:

RobinGood curates curation from blogs, tweets, videos, etc.
Robin Good interviewed on curation (14 min).

Business application: