Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Tuesday Slice of Life: Heart Mapping and What Matters

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Tuesday Slice of Life: 
Heart Mapping and What Matters 
What matters to them?
I have been pondering this question all year, especially for my students who have not found a lot of success in school. Many of my high school students insist that they don't care about much, mostly when it comes to learning. 

Enter Heart Maps. 

I have been a fan of Georgia Heard's Heart Mapping for a while now. In Heart Maps (Heinemann, 2016), Georgia Heard shares this, "Heart Mapping is a metaphor for what all writer's know: to write is to delve into what matters to us, to keep our feelings alive, to be vulnerable, to tell the truth, to question, and to speak what many people keep inside." 

What matters to my students? What matters to me? These are questions that I have tossed around all year, not just in an effort to reach more of my students but as a personal inquiry as well. 

Below are two Heart Maps I created with students this semester.The first one is a general Heart Map of what currently matters the most to me, and the second is a Heart Map that is a zoomed in version of one item from my Heart Map - writing. 

One of my Heart Maps

A Zoomed In Version of a Heart Map - on writing 

As a class, we revisited Heart Maps throughout the school year, especially with my ninth and tenth grader learners. I was often surprised at what my students revealed to me through Heart Mapping, even my students who are the most reluctant to read and write and share. Often Heart Mapping was a springboard for writing, and it often created a perfect opening for conversation. Heart Mapping helped me better understand what my students were reading and thinking about. 

In my classes, Heart Maps aren't fancy. My students used their notebooks. I provided colored pencils, crayons, and markers. Making Heart Maps didn't take a lot of planning time. My high school students reported that they enjoyed the process of creating Heart Maps and often pleaded to work on Heart Maps when we had time.Creating and sharing Heart Maps helped me get to know my students better, fostering a positive classroom culture.  
One student example of a Heart Map (used with permission)
Another student example of a Heart Map (used with permission)
When one of my sophomore students, Tina, unexpectedly passed away in February, I felt paralyzed as a person, not just as her teacher. Tina was a close friend to many of my students, and grief arrived in many ways. One of my classes particularly struggled for an extended period of time, and I knew that I could not simply press on with our scheduled learning, even though deadlines were looming. We used Heart Mapping as a part of our healing. We didn't get to everything in my literacy support course that I wanted to, but I do not regret spending this time to process through Heart Mapping. Crafting Heart Maps also helped me recognize who needed more support than I could offer as a classroom teacher.  

Friday will conclude my nineteenth year of teaching. Still, as a seasoned teacher, I am always surprised at how long it often takes to build trust with students and to discover what they care deeply about. Knowing what matters to my students helps me recommend books for students to read, nudge them in issues to write and learn about, and meet their needs better. It helps me build trusting relationships. My teaching will continue to focus on what matters to my students so that I can serve them better. Heart Mapping is one way that has helped me know my students better, and I will keep using it. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Tuesday Slice of Life: Notebook Work

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Tuesday Slice of Life: Notebook Work
I have not felt particularly inspired as a writer this month. Although I have had plenty of topics to write about, I have had a challenging time articulating my thoughts in words and coherent sentences. Each time I have sat down to blog, my process has looked a little like this: I start writing. I get stuck. I write about something different. I get stuck. I try writing again about a new topic. I get stuck. Inevitably, I do not get a post published.

However, as much as I have dragged my feet in writing, I have continued to write daily in my notebook. Late in April I read the great visual artist and Professor Lynda Berry´s Syllabus. Instantly, I fell in love with the sketches infused with multimedia in Syllabus, the Emily Dickinson poems and other important quotes scattered throughout the book, but mostly I appreciated how Dr. Berry encouraged her students to explore and record what they noticed. For a great example of Lynda Berry´s work, read Brain Picking´s post

Throughout May I used Dr. Berry´s Daily Diary format for at least one page a day. The Daily Diary includes a list of seven things you saw, seven things you did, something you heard, and something drawn. By far, the most challenging part for me was drawing something every day. When I first started creating a Daily Diary it took me a while (about thirty minutes!) to create one page. Then I reread the instructions in Syllabus, and Daily Diary pages are meant to be created quickly, so I set a timer for each section and now I can complete each page in about fifteen minutes.

Below is an example of a recent Daily Diary page: 

One of my favorite things about creating Daily Diary pages has been rereading my past Daily Diary Pages and noticing emerging patterns, such as how I notice a lot about nature on dog walks, things my students and my own children say and do, how many of my days are spent. Ultimately, my favorite part of a Daily Diary page is recording what I heard. Often I include what I overhear at stores in in the hallway. Itś such great stuff! The page I posted (see above) is an exchange between a teenager and a middle age women at Target. 

Daily Diary Pages did not necessarily give me confidence as a writer, but it has helped me continue with my notebook work and kept me noticing what I cared about. When I took the time to revisit my Daily Diary pages, I realized that I could go back and use these pages for future writing, too. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Tuesday Slice of Life: Three Things I Want More of Right Now

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Tuesday Slice of Life: 
Three Things I Want More Of Right Now

I wasn't going to post today. Lately, I have felt pretty meh, especially when it comes to my writing life. But then I read Elisabeth's post today, and it gave me just the nudge I needed to show up as a writer. 

Below is a list of three things I want more of right now: 

More patience. It's May. Many of my students (especially the seniors) do not want to be at school, expressing every opportunity possible to remind me of this. In general, my students are chattier with each other (about anything but the task at hand), skipping more classes, more bold about inappropriately using technology in the classroom, and not submitting assessments. 

More outdoor adventure. Last weekend I spend a lot of time with my daughter and her Girl Scout troop. We were outdoors most of the time, cooking as much as we could over an open fire, exploring our nearby local nature preserve's trails and pond, and learning how to whittle. I had forgotten how much better I felt after spending the day outdoors.

More meaningful conversations. Often I get lost in the mundane. You know. Those simple day-to-day interactions: "How's it going?" "Okay, what about you?" Quick, surface level conversations in between activities, passing time in the hallways or office, or even at the grocery store. I need more. I want time to engage in conversations with those I care the most about. These are the conversations that fuel me as an individual and help me to feel seen.  

What do you need more of right now? 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Tuesday Slice of Life: Blackout Poetry Respite

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Tuesday Slice of Life: 
Blackout Poetry Respite

Today began the first of three days of standardized testing for ninth and tenth grade students across our district. Our students test for the first two hours of each day and then follow a shortened class schedule for the remainder of the school day. It is an exhausting day for the students who take the exam and equally exhausting for teachers to proctor it.

By mid-day, I realized that most of my students were absolutely spent. So instead of our normal targeted literacy instruction, I decided to provide students with a break. Following our daily independent reading/conferring we headed to our school's maker space and created blackout poetry. You can see an example of a former blackout poem I created last month here

I emphasized to my students that the purpose for this activity was to play with words and create some sort of coherent message. It could be something serious, silly, or playful. Using old New York Times newspapers, I modeled how I create blackout poems, showed some student models (and our amazing librarian's model), and made a few blackout poems with them. 
Above is one of the blackout poems I created:

"The World's Juggernaut"
Today under construction,
reeling from disaster.
Spurred by power.
It will grow again. 

We needed something playful and fun after testing today. Creating Blackout poems was a perfect respite. I am thankful that each student successfully created a blackout poem, even my students who are typically the most reluctant to read and write. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Tuesday Slice of Life: How Can I Change My Instruction?

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Tuesday Slice of Life: 
How Can I Change My Instruction?  

I had the pleasure of listening to Pernille Ripp last week at the Wisconsin Title 1 Conference. (If you have never had the opportunity to learn from Pernille, check out her out her blog or one of her books! She is smart, insightful, genuine, and kind. She will leave you longing to serve all of your students better.) Following her keynote session and two breakout sessions and my teaching heart full, I had so many ideas for what I wanted to adjust in my teaching to effectively reach more students. 

Monday I returned to teaching my high school students. 

Good morning, reality

Ten minutes following the first morning attendance bell, at least one student sauntered in late, clutching Starbucks and donuts. Several of my students didn't show up for class that day.

In first hour, I helped students write a current essay through conferring with individual students and with small groups. At one point I paused, scanned the room and noticed these behaviors: 

  • a few of my students were on Snapchat and watching You Tube videos
  • one student was working on math homework
  • one student was sneaking a game on his Chromebook
  • two students were talking about the best places to schedule up-dos for prom


Based on conversations that I have had with students throughout the school year, rereading a few of my personal written reflections, and thinking about the quality of student work, I know that many of my students are engaged; yet I have a handful of students in every class who are disengaged in their learning. Sometimes daily.

Like many teachers, I struggle with the levels of student engagement in my classroom. I could blame this on the fact that I teach seniors and it is April. I could blame the disengagement on how many of my students have not found success with traditional school yet (and not just in my classes). I could blame this on the task and how I do not have choice in what the curriculum requires. I could blame this on the lack of parent involvement with some students. I could blame this on students who have a challenging time learning. I could blame this on cell phones or technology. I could blame the lack of student engagement of a lot of things. But blame would not change a thing. There are many so factors that I do have not control over. 

In an early part of Pernille's keynote, she shared a story of when she was struggling with teaching and sharing this with her husband. Her husband responded with this gem, "you cannot change the students, but you can change the way you teach." I kept hearing Pernille's words echo in my mind yesterday. 

Pernille reminded me that our biggest job is to see our students. To listen to them. To make decisions based on how they act, what they know, and how they respond. Based on the behaviors I saw yesterday in first hour, what can I do differently in my instruction to serve these students better? 

Last night before I fell asleep, I spent some time reflecting about my day, intentionally writing about what was successful what was not about my instruction. 

How can I change my instruction so that I can reach more of my students each day? 

Today I still had students who arrived late and a handful who didn't show up. In addition, I noticed a few students were still distracted by technology and personal conversations. However, during my first class hour this morning, I was more intentional in checking in with each student. I softy asked this question to many of my students, "What do you need?" I gently listened to each response and was able to provide better targeted feedback today. 

My instructional approach was more student-centered today. It made a positive difference for several of my students.

My experience Monday and Tuesday echoed what Pernille shared: observe, listen, and see your students; reflect about your instruction and student responses; and make small, but meaningful changes in your instruction.   

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Spring Check-In: #Mustreadin2019

Spring Check-In: #Mustreadin2019

For the first time, I am participating in Carrie Gelson's #Mustreadin2019. So far, I have read of three out of sixteen books I selected to read for this challenge. 

Below are the three titles I have read so far and a few thoughts about each: 

Brené Brown's Dare to Lead
A thought-provoking book about leadership, including what it means to rumble with vulnerability, living into our values, braving trust, and learning to rise. I will return to this resource often. 

Sebasian Beckwith and Caroline Paul's 
Who knew there was so much to know about tea? Learn in an accessible way about things such as the tea plant, the different types of tea, history of the tea, how to select tea, etc. I will never think about tea in the same way again! 

Jamey Bradbury's The Wild Inside
Since I was born in Alaska and haven't been back there since I was small, I am always fascinated with stories that take place in Alaska. However, this Gothic fiction title wasn't what I thought it would be. It's a dark story of love, family secrets, and a bit of a psychological thriller. 

I am currently reading Meg Wiviott's Paper Hearts
So far I have found this to be a powerful, heart-breaking novel in verse about a friendship during the Holocaust. Many of my students are captivated with reading books written in verse this year. This will make an excellent addition to my classroom library. 

To see the list I set at the beginning of the year, read my blog post from January hereI have many more books that I still would like to read from my list. I cannot wait to get time to read a few more titles.  

Thank you to Carrie for setting up this challenge. Part of the fun is seeing what others are reading as well! 

April Check-In #letswrite2019

April Check In: #letswrite2019

Back in January, I committed to some writing goals when I wrote and published this post. I am grateful to Leigh Anne Eck for her thoughtful work in  organizing #letswrite2019 

Below are the goals I outlined back in January: 
  • Continue to blog regularly. For me, this means writing and publishing at least three posts a month.
  • Continue daily writing in my writer's notebook - at least three pages each day.
  • Participate in March Slice of Life 
  • Participate in December Haiku-A-Day
  • Write and submit at least one professional piece of writing
  • Submit at least one poem locally or nationally
  • Apply for at least two professional opportunities - one in the form of a grant for classroom needs and the other in terms of professional growth 

So far, here is my writing progress for #letswrite2019:
  • I have continued to blog regularly. Although I haven't written at least three pages for the month of April yet, this is my second post this month. 
  • With the exception of one day when I was sick, I have written at least three pages a day in my writer's notebook.
  • I successfully participated in Slice of Life this March.
  • In February I applied for a professional growth opportunity and was recently selected to participate in fellowship this coming June. 
I am confident that I can continue to blog regularly each month, write daily in my notebook, and participate in the December Haiku-A-Day. However, I do need some direction and advice concerning two of my goals. Can anyone help me out? 
  1. Where is a good place to submit some professional educational writing? (How do I even get started with this?) 
  2. Where is a good place to submit a poem? (This does not need to be about education.)

Tuesday Slice of Life: Heart Mapping and What Matters

Looking to connect with a positive, supportive online community?  Consider sharing  a slice of your life  with  Two Writing Teachers . All...