Friday, June 6, 2014

Hanging Out With Stephanie Harvey

I'm going to start this post with an apology for the pictures.  I totally take all my blog pictures with my iPhone.  No fancy cameras here!  So, while my pictures are never amazing quality, they are usually a little better than these.  I think it's because they are pictures of photocopies that themselves were not super clear.  Oh well, it's the content that matters!

At the end of May, I went to an amazing workshop by Stephanie Harvey.  You probably know her best from her book Strategies That Work.  It is well worth checking out if you don't know it.  On this day, she was giving a presentation on comprehension.  

I'm not really going to dissect the entire workshop here, because I couldn't do it justice.  I will, however, share a small hodge-podge of ideas and thoughts.
  •  First, much to my surprise, it was a small gathering. There were only about 30 or so people there.  We were able to interact and converse with Stephanie in a way that you just can't when you are in a large crowd.  It was great to be so up close and personal with an educator of her caliber.
  • One of the things stressed was the importance of living a curious life.  The best learning happens when there is a genuine desire to know something new. Stephanie went on to stress the importance of teachers modeling this by being inquisitive ourselves and sharing this with our students.  She told a story about a teacher that was telling her kids how she knew it was Spring because birds had come back and built a nest in the eaves of her house.  She wondered why they always picked that particular eave to build every year.  She wondered if it was the same birds that were coming back every year.  This was a conversation she had with her students which led to them asking questions as well which led to investigation, research, reading, and writing to find the answers.  Because the topic came from a genuine question, there was genuine interest in finding the answers.                                                                                                                                                                                    This sounds great, but if you are like me you are thinking that we have specific curriculum to cover and birds in eaves doesn't exactly lend itself to what I need to teach.  Well, it's not about the exact content.  It is about approaching any content with a good measure of curiosity. What is it about this subject that I want to know?  As the page in her handout below noyes, ask questions and care about finding the answers.  Perhaps rather than approaching those content area topics with a "this is what I have to cover and I'm going to do it in x number of lessons with this topic on day 1, this on day 2, etc." we might be able to get our students better invested if we find out what they are curious to know about the topic.  I would imagine that what we "have" to cover will work its way in.

  • Stephanie related a quote by P. David Pearson that I also liked. "The questions a student asks after reading a text are a better assessment than the questions a student can answer about that text."  So true if you really think about it.  To ask a good question about a text requires you to comprehend and synthesize that text, which absolutely requires higher level thinking skills. When a child asks an awesome question about a text, you know they got it.  You know they understood, thought about what they read ,and were able to move beyond to think outside the text.  When a child doesn't ask those great questions, but asks questions that show basic understanding or misinformation, you know there is still work to be done.  Stephanie suggested that asking something as simple as, "What questions do you have about what we read?" will provide you with a nice assessment of the reader, perhaps better than a story quiz will.  (If you want to know more related to Pearson's quote, this blogger did a synopsis of his speech from which this quote comes, and you can view the slides he used in giving the speech by clicking here and going to the link "Reading Assessment: Still Time to Change." There are also a lot of other interesting articles linked on the page you might like.)
  • The amount of time children spend reading on an average day was also discussed.  There are so many studies that show the more time spent reading in a school day, the higher the reading achievement.  Stephanie did point out the significance of other factors such as socio-economic status, but one of the largest factors of success was the amount of time spent reading in the school day.  She backed up the importance of this siting many different studies that support the correlation.   One study showed that the lowest performing classrooms spent about 30 minutes a day reading while the highest achieving classrooms spent almost half the day reading. My first thought was that half a day reading seems like an unachievable goal with so many demands on our instruction time.  The most obvious solution is that our students need to be reading across the curriculum to get in that reading time.  Stephanie went on to say if we teach science and social studies in a day, taking the first ten minutes of each class to have the students read a topic related text and write down a question is twenty minutes done and added to that total reading time.  In my school, we don't teach our content classes every day so increasing our reading time in this way is still somewhat of a challenge.  However, any increase in student reading time that we can make happen is a step in the right direction!
As I wrote, there is so much more I could write about, but I will end my recap with one more thought from Stephanie Harvey.  She ended the workshop discussing some of the difficulties we face as teachers these days; curriculum demands, time constraints, the overall attitude towards teachers these days, common core, and more. As teachers, we are pulled in so many directions and given so many directives that impact our teaching.  In light of all that, her final advice to us was this:  Good instruction is good instruction, so stay the course!  In case you can't tell, it was a great workshop!

I am also going to do a little plug here for Rutgers University, specifically their Center for Literacy Development at Rutgers Graduate School of Education.  I'm lucky enough to live close enough to the university that I am able to attend their literacy workshops and experience amazing literacy leaders like Stephanie Harvey.  Below is a flyer for an upcoming development day this summer; Children's Literature in the Elementary & Middle School.   I am planning to attend because I love Seymour Simon's books and would like to hear him speak.  He is a great author of science books that just grab my students' interest every time.

But, what I am most excited about is their next literacy development series.  They are always able to get great literacy leaders to come and present.  You can sign up for the entire series or as many presentations as you like.  They aren't two day workshops, instead they offer two options.  The first day is a full day workshop, or if your time is limited, the second day is what they call an after school series which usually runs 4:30-6:30 and offers an abbreviated presentation of the full day workshop.

You can see from the flyer below that they have some phenomenal speakers coming up.  Harvey Daniels wrote, among his many publications, a great book about literature circles you might be familiar with.  One of Debbie Miller's more recent books, No More Independent Reading Without Support, is on my summer reading list.  Beers and Probst have a great book out now about close reading that is also on my to-read list.  Kylene Beer has a blog you might want to check out if you have an interest in literacy, which I have to assume you do if you are still reading this! I especially like her post on the importance of summer reading.  Finally, the last presenter in the series is Donalyn Miller author of The Book Whisperer.  I love that book!  If you need one professional book for your summer reading list, I would suggest that one. It is an easy read for the summer and will change how you think about reading.

My plan is to attend all four workshops.  I'm hoping I can get my district to pay for them or at least a couple of them.  If not, I will pay out of pocket because they are so worth it! When I find a good thing, I like to share a good thing.  That is why I am telling you all about these upcoming professional development opportunities.  If you are in the tri-state area, I encourage you to try and attend one.  They are never less than amazing!

On a different note, I wanted to let you know that I updated the post on t-shirt book talks.  Even though the post is two years old, it is still a popular one.  And, despite noting that I don't have a rubric available for the project, I still get emails asking for one.  So much so that I decided to find you a rubric.  I found a great one!  I updated the post to link to the rubric.  It is a Teachers Pay Teachers product, but it is only $1.50 and well worth it!  So, if you are still looking for a book talk rubric, click HERE to go to the post and the link.

Finally, I will see you Sunday for some new Weekend Words! My weekend words this week come straight from the Stephanie Harvey workshop and just may be my favorite so far! Check back on Sunday to see what she said.  If you've missed some past Weekend Words, you can see them here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Any thoughts on the Stephanie Harvey workshop?  
Any one interested in attending any of the Literacy Center workshops?  
We can have lunch together! :-)

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