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Professional Development

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This spring, I had the opportunity to work with teachers from southern Erie and Cattaraugus Counties. Our initial sessions challenged teachers to define writers’ craft, the process, and the values and habits of masterful writers. Then, we considered how the progression of these skills and dispositions builds and evolves as experience is gained. Teachers returned to their classrooms with new ideas to consider and test. As I prepared to see them again last week, I hoped that…

Pedagogical documentation enables us to capture learning made visible and assess our students’ strengths and needs without disrupting the learning process. One potential anecdote to the testing mess, documentation inspires us to create rich narratives that deepen our understanding of learners and their experiences. This is a beautiful thing. Experience is teaching me that pedagogical documentation is also incredibly complex work that is not without its challenges. For instance, helping teachers and students choose the…

The Backstory: I’ve spent the last week helping Heather Bitka and Rachel O’Sheehan launch a brand new makerspace in Roy B. Kelley School in Lockport. This project began with solid visioning work that challenged all of us to think about and then rethink about what would happen in that space, how, and most importantly: why. This week has been an incredible learning experience for me, as I’ve tested new professional learning approaches and protocols while…

Over the last few years, some of the teachers that I support have begun assessing learning without interrupting it in order to test kids. Their commitment to documentation is leading to the development of far better interventions. That’s not why I’m blogging about it, though. It seems that steeping ourselves in this kind of learning isn’t merely increasing our expertise, it’s igniting our curiosities and re-energizing us. As we make our own learning transparent to students, our relationships…

I founded the WNY Young Writer’s Studio with two great intentions: First, I longed to create a lasting community where children could choose to write about the things that mattered to them in ways that were deeply rewarding. I envisioned a place where young writers would continue to learn from one another month after month and year after year, far beyond the confines of a workshop or institute. I wanted to created a place where…

Registration for the upcoming season is now open at the WNY Young Writer’s Studio, and while I often share the work of the kids in our community, I don’t often speak to what teachers do there. Why is that? Well, our teacher groups are kept intentionally small because the commitment teachers make to our program is HUGE, and the work that they do there is their own. Whenever I blog about Studio teachers, I do…

As an education consultant, I know all too well how easy it is to stand before teachers and speak to best practices. This is enjoyable work, when I can get it. I meet wonderful people who are hungry to know things that I’m particularly passionate about. And pretending to know things? Well, that’s quite an ego boost. It’s also delusion. I’ve been a follower of Steve Shann’s work for many years, and I was thrilled…

  This year, I’m supporting teachers across several districts as they work to implement the new Units of Study in Opinion, Information, and Narrative Text created by Lucy Calkins and her colleagues at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. In each district, it’s been important to bring teachers together regularly to unpack each unit and plan for future instruction. Debriefing has been just as important. The chart below is one that I used…

This chart was designed for yesterday’s session with intermediate level teachers who are just beginning to implement writer’s workshop. They are unpacking the Units of Study in Opinion, Information, and Narrative Writing written by Lucy Calkins and her colleagues at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project this year, and the chart provided a tidy snapshot of the anatomy of a quality mini-lesson.

Earlier this week, I recounted my first day of performance based assessment design with a new group of teachers and administrators. If you happened to read, you might remember that someone in the room that day shared a beautiful question, and the exchange that followed altered our design approach in significant ways. In essence, the question challenged us to consider how we might craft a performance based assessment that could help teachers develop closer relationships…