PLN1 Final Reflection: Where Do We Go From Here?

Overall, I found this course and project to be very beneficial to both myself and my students. A common theme that stands out to me from our conversations throughout the course is the need for a common language to implement this framework at perhaps a district level. As a person working with grades K-5, I lend a different perspective to what this model could look like if implemented across the board. I think it would be helpful to our learners, both students and teachers, to be using the same language, if not framework, K-12. The quality of work produced by my students would be richer and at a deeper level if the four lenses and five processes were introduced in the early elementary grades, and then spiraled as students progressed.

In thinking about my library curriculum, I would wonder if a project like this one could be used as a pilot to look at one project within one grade to start to introduce ideas of project-based learning or higher order thinking skills that the PA Core demands? Having looked at a variety of school library curricula (New York, Pennsylvania, Iowa, etc) there is a need to increase the rigor and depth of thinking required of our students. While I appreciate the PA Model curriculum for libraries and its fidelity to the PA Core standards, I think it could be supplemented by being approached from a PLN mindset that moves beyond standards and focuses on not only the learning by also the metacognitive piece.

That being said, having completed this project for one unit in one of the six grade levels that I teach, it is overwhelming, at times, to consider creating something of this caliber for every lesson at every grade level. Looking forward, I would like to start looking at a kindergarten or first grade level to see how this could be implemented and then grow with the same cohort of students as they move from kindergarten to fifth grade. As a person new to my role and also to the district, I’m still learning where my students are at. While I love trying new things and approaches, it is important to be mindful of what my students are used before radically changing their routines and/or processes. An example of this would be our shift from a significant amount of teacher talk to student talk. Though some time was devoted to explicitly teaching the language needed to collaborate and listen to peers, in the long run, students are now more accountable for their talk and on their way to becoming better, more active listeners.

I love a quote mentioned at the Collins lecture, “kids need to know about words and the world.” In developing this project, it was important to me that my elementary students share their learning, both product and process with a wider audience than their homeroom. The ability to use technology to connect and collaborate with one another as well as mentors at our high school allows students to see and take ownership over the connection between their words and learning and our 21st century world.

A final thought throughout the building of this project is the role of technology within a PLN framework. In creating these lesson plans, the technology tools seemed to fall into place naturally and were not added on as an afterthought.  While I attempt to integrate technology in a way that is meaningful and relevant, I wonder how or if this link should be looked at more explicitly. Thinking about models of technology integration, SAMR being one, I wonder what it would look like layered on top of a content area curriculum developed with these lenses and processes in mind? I like to think that technology provides teachers an opportunity to accelerate our pedagogy, and that this is done most effectively when the technology becomes invisible and just another tool at our disposal. Yet, taking transacting with text as an example, do the skills we teach and strategies we use change when the texts shifts from physical to digital? While the lenses are constant, do the processes change? Should they?

Words & The World: A Common Language for Writing

“KIds need to know about words and the world.” In a lecture at the University of Pennsylvania, John Collins presented ‘The Ten Percent Summary: the Perfect Writing Assignment?’ His model seems to blend the words/vocabulary with the world/context and audience across the writing process. I appreciated how he began the presentation by identifying three key shifts that are necessitated by the Common Core: building knowledge through content-rich non-fiction, grounding reading/writing/speaking in evidence from text, and practicing regularly with complex texts. Looking at Collins’ five types of writing within the contexts of these shifts creates an interesting framework for teaching writing across content areas.

A key take away, for me, from the presentation was the idea of the ten percent summary. I loved the S “T” A r t model and could definitely see it being used with my upper elementary grade students. In thinking about the I-search project that my 5th grade students recently started, this model lends itself really well to their reading of a variety of informational texts, while summarizing & synthesizing the information they find along the way. I”m not sure what the model might look like with younger learners, but would be interested in also applying it to the work of my K-2 learners in the future.

While I found the presentation to be full of great resources and ideas to try with student writing, I began to wonder about the potential of the writing model. What would happen if we had a common language to do this across grades and content areas? As someone who works with students K through 5th grade, I would love to see some sort of continuity so that we could take the model/skills that each grade level has and run with it. Imagine the powerful summaries students could be writing by 5th grade if the concept was introduced in kindergarten. Perhaps then we could look at not only the words but connecting with the world at every grade level.

The Writing Process: Where Does Collaboration Fit In?

This weeks’ class introduced and explored the 5 types of writing as part of the Collins program. I’m not sure I agree with all of its components, but I think the model provides an interesting framework for guiding students through the writing process. I appreciated how the facilitators guided us through each of the steps, even though it was on a smaller, more compressed, scale.

In thinking about most of the writing my students do during library, we seem to be in the phase 1 and 2 of the writing process. Occasionally we will have a project, typically in the older grades, that moves into stages 3-5. Part of me wonders how much this is due to our schedule and fixed amounts of time together. Would we be able to publish more level 5 writing if we met more frequently and/or for more extended periods of time? I’m not sure. I’d also be curious to know what types of writing they are doing in each of their different subjects.

As part of a 5th grade I-search project in library, I’m hoping to get to the 3rd, 4th and 5th stages of writing. Yet, for this particular project, I think I’m more interested in process than product. Does this also hold true for their writing? Is the process of making it through to step 5 valued more or less than the quality of the writing produced? This framework also has me thinking about my own writing. I’ve recently become involved in drafting an article that’s a work in progress, yet being written by librarians and scholars from across the country through Google Docs. It can be found at As adult learners, we are using the commenting, suggesting, and editing features of the tech tool to collaborate and communicate with one another. I wonder if the same process and tech tools could accelerate or ramp up student writing if used in a similar fashion?

Social Professional Learning? The Story of #ITEC14

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Iowa and present at the Iowa Technology & Education Connection fall conference. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to meet and connect with so many inspiring educators over the course of just a few days. Upon arriving in Iowa, I discovered that a weekly twitter chat that I participate in (#iaedchat) would be broadcasting live from Des Moines. Twitter has completely changed how I view and approach professional development, and also the idea of ‘knowing someone.’ Although I had never met or spoken to anyone on the #iaedchat team, they are a group of people that I consider to be friends and colleagues. After learning and sharing with one another virtually over the past year, it was so exciting to be in this space where these teachers and administrators gather weekly to discuss and pose questions to all the rest of us across the country. Although they will all say that the smartest person in the room is the room, the energy in that space that evening was contagious; confirming the passion that these people have for what they do every day, working with kids.

Over the next two days, the conference unfolded. The two keynote speakers were Adam Bellow, Founder and President of eduTecher and eduClipper and ISTE emerging leader, and Peter Reynolds, NY Times best-selling author and illustrator. Adam and Peter each presented inspiring messages about technology, education, and creativity. I particularly like how Adam emphasized ‘living a life in beta’ and that we live and teach in an amazing time where technology can help us create amazing things. Yet, education seems to be at a crossroads with a dichotomy emerging between the maker movement and standardized testing/CCSS conversations.

I then had the opportunity to attend break out sessions on a variety of topics. These included ‘Speedgeeking’ with tech tools, Connecting the Dots, Lessons from Entrepreneurs, Let Kids Be Amazing, and Mirrors & Windows for e-portfolios. I also led a presentation on Re-imagining Libraries. I loved the energy that all of the presenters and panelists brought to their sessions, and was so excited to meet many of the educators and administrators I’ve learned so much from over the past year, like Shannon Miller and Adam Bellow pictured. I think of them not only as mentors but friends, who I am very grateful to have been able to meet in person.

A common theme that emerged across many of them was the idea of how connecting with others ignites passions. This reminded me of the 4 lenses we’ve been discussing for student learning, and how they are applicable to professional learning too. In each setting, presentations were language-based, and meaning centered, and human, though the social learning piece is most interesting to me. While there was not much, if any, social learning/talking during presentations/sessions, some of the best learning took place either in the hallways between sessions or on Twitter via the conference hashtag (#itec14). This idea of social professional learning seems quite powerful, at least in the context of ITEC, yet typically lacks more formal acceptance. I wonder: What it might take for this type of learning to become more established? How might we spread the idea of sharing shamelessly with others, particularly in the field of education?

Transacting with Text: The Bridge Between Reading & Writing?

I loved all of the different strategies that were presented during this week’s class. I could definitely see applications of all of them to different content areas as well as within library instruction. I have used variations of the ‘Somebody Wanted But So’ strategy in the past and am interested in trying another version of it and/or similar graphic organizers with my students. I really loved the Fact or Fiction idea and could see this strategy being applied to different genres, library/research skills. It also seems like a great way to potentially connect older and younger students by having one group create topics/questions/statements etc for the other or later going back and ‘fact-checking’ the work of another group.

In thinking about our readings, the overarching idea of transacting with text is one that I find to be particularly interesting. It seems as though it could be a bridge between the processes of reading and writing. In thinking about how I interact with a text as a learner, I can see many parallels between marking up a text and composing one. I love the emphasis on writing as a process that should be meaningful and necessary for students. The idea of learning to compose for different purposes and to select the processes most appropriate for these purposes (p 47) is one that I think lends itself well to what we could be doing in library.

This idea of composing texts with specific audiences and/or purposes in mind is one that, at the elementary level, is not explicitly addressed on a consistent basis. Last year, my 5th grade students worked through the research process with a topic and question of their choosing. They then had the choice of creating either a presentation or website with their information. Though we spent a lot of time learning the technical skills behind these tools, the project did allow for conversations about audience. The student who had looked at different designs of sneakers decided to present his information in the form of an advertisement, explaining the design choices behind a popular shoe. Another student decided to create a website all about ballet for kids and began to think about her audience as she was selecting video clips to add to her site. In shifting from transacting to composing texts, I wonder what role technology plays? Are technology skills similar to grammar? At what point do they shift from being a necessary foundation to an integrate skill within a larger process?

Weird Stuff in the Lost & Found: Composing & Transacting With Text

What stood out to me most from this week’s readings and class #2 is this idea of interacting with a text to co-construct its meaning. I like how our text identified a shift in how we bring readers and texts together. “Students learn to read and read to learn at the same time. From the beginning then, reading is about making sense of the world” (p. 17). The idea of viewing reading as a dynamic spiral instead of sequential process is such an interesting shift in perspective. Working with all students (K-5) at the elementary level, I tend to prefer upper elementary grades. Yet, when thinking about how this idea of transacting with text, the lesson that first came to mind involves some of my younger students.

The piece of our reading about co-constructing the creative arts, particularly poetry, reminded me of one of the projects we worked on last year as part of Poetry month in April. A librarian friend, Shannon Miller, from Iowa and I were brainstorming ways to involve our younger students in the poetry fun. We decided to connect a group of my first grade students with Shannon’s kindergarteners through Google Hangouts. Shannon and I read a few poems for two voices from Messing Around on the Monkey Bars by Betsy Franco. The students loved listening to ‘Weird Stuff in the Lost & Found.’ Shannon & I thought that this would be a great poem for us to re-create with our students’ voices. We took turns typing their ideas into a Google Doc that both schools could see/edit at the same time. Each student had the opportunity to add a line to our poem. We all then read our finished poem together. Click HERE to read a copy! For more information, Shannon wrote a blog post about our connection. You’ll find it here:

In applying the lenses of learning to this experience, it seems to reflect all four. It was meaning-centered, pulling from their background knowledge of the lost and found as well as social in that there was authentic conversation happening not only among my first graders but also between them and our friends in Iowa. The language-based lens involves our purposeful use of language in building our poem, as well as the human lens that allowed students to hear different opinions and ideas. I also think this blends well with the idea that “as students become more familiar with a poem and hear the teacher using alternative interpretations, students will be better prepared to suggest alternative readings” (p 32). This was the case as our students worked with the pattern of the original poem when creating their version, and formed a piece of their transaction with the text.

More recently, I’ve used the ‘Most Important’ summarizing framework, from last week’s class, in a lesson with first grade students. We’re just wrapping up an author study of Peter Reynolds. After reading one of his books each week, we re-read one together, this time with the purpose of pulling out the main idea/most important part, and modeling the framework. Students then worked in groups of 4-5 to create their own poem based on one of the other books we’ve read. They worked really well together deciding on which words/ideas to include using some of the collaboration techniques we’ve also been trying. I’d love to extend what they’ve created on chart paper into some sort of digital project, but am still looking for the right tool/format.


“Thank You For Sharing”- How Listeners Attend to Talkers

I’m currently enrolled in a course through the Penn Literacy Network. In an effort to blog more frequently, I am hoping to share my reflections here on a weekly basis. Our first class looked at the 4 Lenses of Learning (Meaning-Centered, Social, Language-Based, and Human).

My notes from class #1

My notes from class #1

A theme that stood out in our readings and discussion is the idea of student/teacher voice and the importance of listening.

“Listening is one of the most important things we can do for one another. If we care, we can listen” -Fred Rogers

I recently received this quote as part of a Remind 101 course led by Angela Maiers. It appeared on my phone at the most perfect moment, and connects with some of the topics discussed during our first class. I’d like to think that listening builds empathy and compassion, both of which seem to fit in across all four of the lenses of learning.

Angela’s campaign Choose2Matter is one that is near and dear to my heart, and one that I had the opportunity to witness in person last June. The idea is rather simple: when people know they matter, and understand that their actions count, they can change the world. Yet, when asked if they believed that their actions mattered and could have an impact on the world, a large percentage of my 5th grade students said ‘no.’ As a result, I have spent this first month of school listening to them.

Across all grades (K-5) we started our year in library by reading books that celebrate creativity and sharing ideas. Some of our favorites include: The Dot, Ish, Going Places, What Do You Do With An Idea, and The Most Magnificent Thing. We then went on to talk about, and create visual representations of our individual superpowers. Students then combined their superpowers to form teams of 4 to 6 students with whom they will be working for the next few weeks.  To me, this aligns well with the Human Lens of Learning. I’d like to think that spending this time sharing our heart maps, passions, and super powers will provide us a foundation of ‘mattering’ as we begin to dive into content. One that we can also revisit throughout the year. Teachers have been sharing some of our and our students’ learning through the hashtag #havpassion too. A visual representation its evolution is available HERE.


Heart Maps Created by 5th Grade Students

The importance of listening is what has stood out most to me from the readings and experiences in our first class. I have learned so much about all of the individual students I have the opportunity to work with by listening to them. Yet I also noticed an approach by the facilitators of this course to model active listening and reflection while working with our group of teachers and administrators. Seemingly simple things, like individually thanking those who share something with the group, validate the voices in the room. While we all encourage our students to have a voice in our classrooms, it’s important for teachers to feel as though their voices are valued too. If we care about our students to listen to their voices, don’t we owe that same courtesy to our peers?

Our text notes that, “Writers assume readers, readers imagine writers. Talkers focus on listeners, and listeners attend to talkers” (p 7).  I love the word choice of listeners attending to talkers. This portrays listening an active, instead of passive, choice. Going back to the initial quote from the first session, if “paying attention is one of the hardest things any of us is asked to do,” then active listening takes this to a deeper level. Speakers may be able to focus on their audience of listeners, but is it then up to the listeners to validate the speaker’s voice? Can the same be said when translated from oral to written texts with regards to readers and writers? Is it the skills of reading and listening or otherwise consuming text that enable students to create their own?