Thursday, April 13, 2017

disrupting thinking: bhh framework

I just got through the second part of Disrupting Thinking - all about their BHH framework and I'm so excited to share it with you! (Check out part one of my review here.)

But first, something I loved, something I'm taking to heart. (I'm practicing the strategy!)

I really appreciate the teacher researchers, Kyleen Beers and Bob Probst who came up with this strategy and are sharing it with all of us in their new book for a multitude of reasons, but first because they are vulnerable and funny, and it's so refreshing. As they began to share the story of how their BHH framework came to be, they talked about the first instances when they tried - and failed - at it with students. On page 62, they shared how their first lessons went with kids, and how they didn't work.

This was so refreshing to me because it's so teaching. You have this idea, and you want to experiment. You try it out with kids and it totally flops - we've all been there. It takes weeks and months and years to refine our craft, and so it's so nice for me to see that I'm just like them in trying new things out and seeing them fail sometimes. And I'm especially engaged by their writing, as it comes with words from the mouths of babes - responses to their first attempts at sharing these lessons with students: 

Will you be here all week? one student inquired.
Is this for a grade? another asked. 
I  love the vulnerability they show, which translates to me, a teacher thinking, "Hey, Michelle, it's okay to try new things even if they fail. That's how we get to greatness..."

And now that I've shared my heart, we can get on to the framework!

BHH is Book, Head, Heart.

You share with kids that good readers consider what's in the book, this work coming from many teacher researchers, but my faves to the likes of Fountas and Pinnell and Kelly Gallagher:

  • What's this about?
  • Who's telling the story?
  • What does the author want me to know?
Next, you teach students to think about what's in their head, this work coming from Lousie Rosenblatt, Nancie Atwell, and Donald Graves:
  • What surprised me?
  • What does the author thinking I already know?
  • What changed, challenged, or confirmed my thinking?
  • What did I notice?

Finally, you add a third component, my favorite part! Penny Kittle, Georgia Heard and others help us look at what's in your heart:
  • What did I learn about me?
  • How will this help me to be better?
  • What life lessons did I learn?
  • What did I take to heart?
  • How did it make me feel?
So part two of the book includes a few chapters that call up past work that led Beers & Probst here, strategies that fit with BHH, samples of student conversations from first, fourth, eighth, and college freshmen, a sample for you to try out on your own with a poem, misconceptions that were revealed as they did the work with students, examples of anchor charts, funny anecdotes... definitely enough to cause me to think about how I can try this out...and I did, yesterday!

The more I read from this book, the more I continue to feel that it's a great framework for helping students think through text, thinking that includes their own feelings and thinking that can make them more compassionate people, which will lead us to create even better citizens.

Do you have a copy of the book yet? If not, I have a book to give away! If you'd like to be considered for the give away, leave a comment with your thoughts and ideas about this framework, or a response to one of my favorite questions from this part of the book:

Do you think its important for students to think about how a text is changing them? Do you share with students how reading changes you?

Leave your thoughts, let's keep the conversation going!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

review: disrupting thinking part 1

So excited that Stephanie from Scholastic reached out to me to review Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters by Kyleen Beers and Robert E. Probst. I'm only through the first part, but it's coming to you *highly recommended.

So let's start with what I'm loving about this book. First of all, the book is beautifully put together. I love the colored pages, the quotes that are set off in the text, the conversations that are included between Kyleen and Bob and the students, and the funny anecdotes from the authors, like this one...

If I can speak for a moment about the conversations that are included with the text, I have to impress upon you how powerful they are. The Opening Comments to part one include conversations between students and either Kyleen or Bob about how students feel about reading. They begin with a first grader and continue with a child in third, fourth, seventh, eighth, and a college freshman. The change in the children's thinking as they grow... it's disheartening. It will certainly cause you to pause and consider the counterproductive methodologies we are using to instruct children in reading, and lead children to be young adults who can read but choose not to.

Beyond that is the philosophy that this work is grounded in, that of Louise Rosenblatt. She wrote the Transactional Theory of Reading, which states that when any person reads a text, a transaction takes place, one that will be slightly different from the next person's because each reader brings something different to the text. I was thrilled to come upon a heading, "From Extracting to Transacting" and a thorough explanation of efferent vs. aesthetic reading.

I'm only through the first part, which is theory based, but I'm loving it. It discusses the readers we want in our classrooms - responsive, responsible, and compassionate. I was particularly excited to see, in the chapter on responsible readers, that part of that work is responsibility to others, which then gets into fake news and social media's role in perpetuating that. In the chapter about compassionate readers, they lead with the recent political climate of the 2016 election cycle, and after a discussion about what a compassionate reader is, they end the chapter this way:
And perhaps, as adults, they will enter into conversations with one another with more civility, with more generosity, with more kindness toward one another.
Seriously. Swoon. 

I'm so happy we have yet another example of research in the literacy field that reaffirms what I believe about teaching reading - we're not here to teach kids to pass a test. We are here to help children not only see the joy in reading, but also guide them how to use what they have read to become better people and make our world a better place. We want students that are responsive to the texts they read, who are responsible about reading - who do not fall for alternative facts and students who are also compassionate people, who have an emotional reaction to what they are reading, so they can become better people who create a strong democracy here in the United States.

I'm only a third of the way through this book and I'm already in love. I know you will be too, and I have a copy to give away! To be eligible for this giveaway, be sure to comment on this blog, and the other two that will be coming in the next two weeks.

At the end of each chapter is an option to turn and talk about ideas within the text, so share with me you thoughts on one of my favorite questions from chapter one:

In this country, we kept slaves from learning to read. Additionally, for a while in our history, you were adequately literate if you could simply sign you name - or even just make an X. In developing countries today, girls are still educated less than boys. What do these situations suggest about the potential power of reading?

Can't wait to hear what you think and I'll see you back in another week!

Friday, March 31, 2017

sol17 #31: thirty-one

What can 31 days of writing do?

It can allow a window into each other's lives, which helps us develop a better understanding for one another and also see our interests. (I feel a writing walk coming in our future!)

It can show you how wise your middle school students are.

It can help you find ideas a little bit easier.

It can create a space to compose your best work and some not so great posts, too, and the understanding that it's okay to publish stuff that isn't awesome.

It can help a writer find some NEW, FUN ways to craft text.

It can really elicit problem-solving skills, commitment, and creativity.

It can show you how compassionate your students are.

It can give you a voice, with your words on a mic to which others are listening.

It can create an opportunity for one student to inspire another.

It can help students find their writing interests; see one of my kiddo's who loves to write about sports, herehereherehereand here.

It can inspire you to complete next year's challenge (and maybe even create a challenge of your own!) hint, hint :-)

It can create a writer.

We made it! 31 days! I'm so proud of each of you, for writing once, five times, or 31 times. Just got an email from Mrs. Hauer, and she hopes that you will keep on writing, she's loving reading your writing! (So am I!) Cheers to you, writers!

I was writing when you sent this, Betz, and it made my day, thank you!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

sol17 #30: lots of emotions but mostly pride

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I sat on the bus to the Holocaust Museum with my class. They listened to music and talked quietly. I showed them how I left my self tanner on my hands too long and they were now orange and they laughed. I sat there, in the last seat, watching over them, thinking about how much I cared for these kids, and feeling so much

gratitude for this life's work.

And when we got off the bus and went through the entrance and down the stairs, our docent talked to us briefly. The first question she asked the kids had them standing there all quiet, too shy to share. And so I reminded them that they could turn in a ticket every time they participated, and so then they did. After the docent learned of the ticket situation, she remarked that they must have a good teacher and I remarked that I must have good kids and in that moment I was

proud to be with them.

And then we ate lunch - so fast, like in 10 minutes - and a few kids were at vending machines even after I asked them not to be and we didn't have enough time to eat and we were frustrated because of that but they didn't know what they were about to experience. And so even in our discontentment we got ourselves composed and cleaned up and started off on our way and I just felt

excitement for what they were about to encounter.

Our docent began a conversation with my students, sharing about why this museum exists. She asked if they knew what an Upstander was and they all raised their hand to share, and one student also added the definition of a bystander. And in that moment there was that

pride yet again.

We went into the first gallery and looked at all the pictures of Jewish life prior to the Holocaust on the wall. We saw families and birthday parties and business openings and holidays and we learned that this group of people who suffered the first genocide were people who were just like us. And knowing what was coming,

uneasiness began to creep in.

We continued on, learning about how Hitler came to power, watching videos, seeing real artifacts and pictures, walking across a floor meant to symbolize Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass. Our docent told us how they took away and murdered Jews under 15 years old and over 40 because they were unable to labor. She said, "I would have been done for, I can't pass for 40, I'm a grandma!" and one of my students said, smiling, "Yes you could have!" and we all laughed and he was a cheeseball but in that moment

there was that pride again.

We continued on our way, and saw a model of a ghetto packed with thousands of people inside. Barbed wire surrounded this particular gallery and my kiddos pointed it out to me. We saw a model of the extermination chambers and were told how the Jews were tricked to believe they were taking a shower, but in reality, they were gassed. We stood inside a cattle car - pitch black - and thought about how 100 people or more were crammed into them to move the Jews to the camps. And thankfully we were standing together as we imagined all these atrocities and wondered how it could have ever happened and so being together make the fact that our

stomachs were turning a bit more okay.

Finally we heard a survivor speak. Ruth told her story of how, once resettled in the ghetto, her father bought illegal passports for her and her mother to save their lives. They went on to live on a train for 6 weeks and then tried to find work but lived in a constant fear that they might be found and killed on the spot. About how she finally made it to America only to be called names and made fun of by children in her new class, but finally, after yet another move, she found a place in Chicago that was home where she fit in and could live in peace. And her story will forever be with us, but in the moment she found peace, we found a bit of


This story reminds me and should remind all of us that we must look out for one another, we must not be silent when we witness injustice. We must stand up for our neighbors and groups of people who are targeted and push back against those who spew "alternative facts" and not just be idle in these moments because silence is

the most tragic problem of all.

Many emotions filled my day yesterday: joy and love for my students, complete bewilderment at the thought of a Holocaust, wondering how events like this continue to still happen, a bit of embarrassment at how our country has not been more welcoming to refugees in need, annoyance at traffic on the way home, but through all of it, there are no other people I'd rather share it with, because watching them learn something that can empower them to make our world a better place brings me

so much pride.

We have one more day, you made it! Congratulations to each of you, I'm so proud! Could you do me a favor for your last post? Could you write about what you think about writing now? Now that you've completed so much in the way writing, what do you think about writing now? Did you find a new hobby? Does it help you relax? Will you keep on writing? Write a post about... writing!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

sol17 #29: pinky promise

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Today in my 8th grade exploratory class, my kiddos were using a checklist to put the finishing touches on their reports. As they finished, they came to talk to me about it.

"Are you proud of your work?" I asked A, who finished first.

"Yes," he replied exuberantly.

"Okay, I just printed it, run over and grab it and then bring it back to me to turn in," I told him. He was on his way.

The next kiddo walked up to my table. "I'm done, Ms. Brezek."

"Awesome," I replied. "Are you proud of your work?"

A sweet smile emerged and she softly replied, "Yes."

"Okay," I told her, "go grab your paper from the copier and bring it back to turn in."

Class continued in this fashion for about thirty minutes. One of my kiddos (who sits in earshot of my table) was also finishing up a presentation with her group when I called out, "M, is your paper done?"

"Yes. But I need to resolve the comments on it, can you show me?"

"Ask the kids in your presentation group so I can finish conferring with J."

"Okay," she said, already interrupting the conversation to find out.

Five minutes later, J and I finished up and I called out again, "Okay, M, you done?"

"Yes. But....well, I'm not proud of it," she said as her eyes took another one-over on the checklist.

"So, if you don't print today, will you work on it tonight?" I have to ask this. Many times kids say they will, but it comes back the same.

"Yes, I will."

"Pinky promise?"

She smiled and stretched out her pinky towards me, but didn't walk up to me.

I said, "For real, pinky promise?" She nodded. "Well come over here and make it official then!"

She took her paper home. I'm hoping for eyes and a smile beaming with pride on Thursday.

Ideas on the padlet! Leave a comment for another student blogger!

Or maybe you would like another idea for a blog post? Write about your experience on the field trip!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

life is beautiful post

I hope you loved Life is Beautiful! It's one of my favorite movies to share when we study the Holocaust.

Life is Beautiful is just one way that one director thought to portray the Holocaust. How is this version similar to and different from the pictures, videos, poems and other articles we have read about the Holocaust?

Write a blog post that compares and contrasts Life is Beautiful and the other things we've read (pictures we read, videos we have already seen, Butterfly Poems, and the Rise of Hitler Article).

Be sure to say what was similar about Life is Beautiful and the other sources.

Then, tell how Life is Beautiful and the other sources are different.

Organize your blog post into four parts, using these sentence frames to guide your work:

Part 1: In the movie Life is Beautiful, there were many examples of a beautiful life. They include... (give at least three examples and elaborate on each.)

Part 2:  Life is Beautiful and ___ (another source) are similar in ___ way because they both... (Give at least three examples of similarities and elaborate on each.)

Part 3: Life is Beautiful and ___ are different in these ways...
Life is Beautiful portrays ___ in this way....
____ (the other source) portrays ___ in this way...
(Tell at least two differences and elaborate on each.)

Each paragraph needs evidence and elaboration! Be sure to read your work and make sure it makes sense.

sol17 #28: growing weary

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I'm too tired to write, but I'm here.
I have no ideas to share, but I'm here.
My computer has 5% battery left, but I'm here.
All I *really want to do is watch The Mindy Project, but I'm here.
I need a break for a bit, but for today, for these five lines at least, I'm here.

Grab an idea on the padlet and leave a comment for another blogger!

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