Tuesday, July 5, 2016

#cyberPD: DIY Literacy - Week One

This summer I am participating in #cyberPD, an online book talk, with an amazing community of educators.  We read, respond and share our learning with each other. The summer's book is DIY Literacy Teaching Tools for Differentiation, Rigor, and Independence by Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts.  To learn the basics about #cyberPD visit Cathy's blog, Reflect and Refine.  It's not too late to join us!

Chapter One:  Extending Our Reach

In this chapter Kate and Maggie identify three obstacles we face when teaching our students.  These obstacles are memory, rigor, and differentiation. Our students struggle with remembering all of what we are teaching them. Learning is hard, and sometimes this hard work gets in the way of learning. Our classrooms are full of different learning styles and abilities, and sometimes those students' needs are not being met.

But the beauty of this chapter lies in the answer - "Teaching tools can be...the seemingly simple things that cause great positive change" (3).

I use many of these tools already, but Kate and Maggie have shown me how I can tweak them to help my students "become more powerful, independent readers and writers of a variety of texts".  Don't we all want these "powerful assistants" in our classrooms?

They give three reasons to use teaching tools with our students:
1. Make teacher clear
2. Bring big ideas and goals to life
3. Help learning stick

Simple tools...positive change. 

Chapter Two:  An Introduction to Teaching Tools

Teaching Charts - I love the label of "teaching charts" instead of anchor charts which is what I have always called them.  Looking back at my charts, I use them more as repertoire charts, or a list of strategies, rather than process charts which take a larger skill and break it down into the steps the students need to master that skill.

Demonstration Notebooks - Once again, this is one of those simple things that I think will make a huge difference in my teaching.  To have interactive lessons at my fingertips will be powerful as a teacher.  I have started a list of lessons I want to include, but would love to hear or even see what others are including in their demonstration notebooks.  

Micro-progressions of Skills - Personally, I think this tool will be the most difficult for me.  I know I will struggle to clearly define the three levels of work.  This tool is one I will certainly be looking for examples from all of you and the hashtag #DIYLiteracy.  In the bonus chapter, Kate and Maggie suggest "never teach alone," and that is one piece of advice I intend to heed. 

Bookmarks - I use several bookmarks in my classroom, but all are pre-made and copied for students.  Lightbulb moment -- Letting them make the bookmarks themselves will "create space for them to be self-directed and reflective on the teaching happening in the classroom."  Again, a simple tool for powerful learning.

Bonus Chapter:  How Do I Find (and Write) Strategies for Teaching Tools?

For me, this chapter was the Jackpot!  When I read this book the first time, I remember thinking to myself, "This is all great, but where do I find all of the strategy steps to include in the making of these tools?"  Then, as if they heard my question, Kate and Maggie wrote the bonus chapter!  I find that in my own teaching, I tell the strategy more than I teach the strategy in a clear way for students to use independently and to transfer to other work.

I know I need to do this strategy work for myself.  I need to determine "the what + the how + the why" with many strategies in order for this work to be successful in my classroom.

My personal call to action from week one:
  1. Think about how I can better use these tools in my classroom, especially the micro-progressions and the demonstration notebooks.
  2. Determine strategies I want my students to clearly understand and be able to do.
  3. Find or create examples of learning progressions.
The information in this book is powerful, but just reading the book is pointless if I am not doing the work myself.  I love how Julieanne shares her learning with us by creating her own strategy work with the book Pax.  She has truly set the bar for my summer learning, and I encourage you to read her post.

Now, it is time to get to work!


  1. Yes, that bonus lesson was the jackpot! I love the clarity with which Kate and Maggie led us through the thinking process. It looks simple...but it is most certainly not, right?!

  2. Leigh Ann, You read my mind! I am so with you on the micro progressions! I'm all for making my tools personal, but secretly I am thinking I may need to borrow ideas (samples) for these from others! I did a lesson when I taught 2nd grade where I had students design a writing rubric based on 4 samples that were clearly different levels. I think I could maybe do a micro progression in the same way, but again finding those different leveled samples... Like you I will be eagerly turning to others for ideas on this one!

  3. Leigh Anne,
    I am thinking right along side you! That Bonus Section was the jackpot! The first two chapters set the stage for the problem and possible solutions but the bonus section was the big what how and why work to dig into. Excited to read on with you. ( And so lovely to see your name in the book!)

  4. It was a lightbulb moment for me, too, when I read the part about students creating the bookmarks themselves. Of course, it makes so much sense - I should have thought of it!! The bonus chapter was great, it made me think, "Okay, I can do this." I also would love to see examples of micro-progressions and I will definitely post some of my own in the fall when I start trying out that tool. How cool to see your anchor chart and student sample in the book!

  5. I totally agree about the micro-progressions! I could not wrap my head around how this would look in 1st grade. Read on and again Kate and Maggie read your mind and explain it in detail.

  6. I like how you created personal calls for actions. Often I am so excited to continue reading the book but I need to slow down and think about what will be my calls for actions. Thanks for your post.

  7. I agree with Maria. Loved your personal calls to action. A great way to take your reflection even further.

  8. As always, I love reading your writing! I especially enjoyed your call to action part. Will have to include that next week in my post :)

  9. Like you, the aha about students creating their own bookmarks-so powerful. It's really about authentic teaching and learning. I noticed you were mentioned in the acknowledgments too! Woohoo! Thanks for the call to action list too. I agree that Julieanne's post where she tries it out is setting the bar high. I'm reading Pax right now and her post got me thinking more about the characters too-and how to demo this for students.