Joy Kirr is a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. Her 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of their learning experiences... Want to have her speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is Joy's PORTFOLIO.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Hacking Literacy - My Take Away

I am on Gerard Dawson's (High School English teacher) email list to get updates to his blog, so I was able to get a PDF copy of Hacking Literacy before it was published! I then proceeded to read this gem in two days...

The first three hacks (focus on the reader, develop a reading culture, and develop a classroom library) assumed that the teacher is a reader him/herself. I almost feel that a chapter was missing - how to read A LOT as a teacher. If teachers who are non readers (of children's / YA literature) actually read this book, they may get the hint that it's pretty imperative they start reading children's books. These three hacks validated what I've been trying to accomplish in my ELA class, and would benefit those who are on the edge of turning their classroom reading culture around.

The fourth hack - Implement Assessments that Build Community - is where, suddenly, my brain began thinking, "What if?" If you've been following my blog at all, you'll know I'm focused on feedback instead of grading. How DO teachers assess independent reading? How can my students use their independent reading to prove that they're learning? As Gerard was talking about the various ways students can share their reading with the class, I nodded my head as I notice familiar ideas, such as Penny Kittle's Big Idea Books, book talks, book reviews, and so on. I then added some of the ideas to the document I'm going to give students next year to keep track of their writing, grammar, and reading comprehension. This portion looks like this:
I then had an "aha" moment! I am so focused on feedback - how can I make it easier for me to give specific feedback about what students did well sharing publicly, and on what they can improve? Create a simple Google Form to fill out! So... I did. Here is my first attempt at creating a form that I can use to quickly check off boxes that apply to students sharing their books publicly - whether it's a book talk, video, on Instagram, etc. - Feel free to copy it and make your own!

What makes me geeked about this form is that I can copy and paste the information as a narrative into the online gradebook as feedback for my students. I'm excited for this short cut! The more feedback students receive on the books they share, the more they may try to improve by sharing even more books with their peers.

As the author states... "Building a culture of readers is not easy. It takes time, patience, and consistent application of effective strategies ... It means empowering students to manage their own learning and measure their own progress. As the teacher releases rigid control and invites students to collaborate in building a culture of readers, the energy of the classroom transforms itself..."

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