Celina, as usual, inspired me to jump on the blog and reflect on what I have read so far this summer. So far my Kindle has been my go to resource for reading, as I can stay up and read as late as I like without complaints!
My first read was the book Well Spoken by Erik Palmer about teaching speaking to all students.
This book caught my eye when I was researching the CCSS in speaking and listening anticipating where we will be going in the fall with our next shift in instruction. Our kids have done a lot of speaking this year, as we chose to work with what they are really good at: TALKING! We consciously focused on teaching our students how to turn & talk effectively. I quickly noticed a transformation in the way kids communicated with each other. Conversations were more purposeful and students began to add on to their partner's thinking as opposed to simply telling their one-sided point of view. We used more debate in our classroom, as well as building on our work with Arts Impact to help students more effectively express themselves in character.
Well Spoken is about teaching speaking skills and so much more, making it highly relevant for the 21st century classroom. Several things that stuck with me: Effective communication requires building and performing, not unlike reading, writing and skills in math. Speaking requires being mindful of audience, content, organization, using visuals effectively and the way in which you present yourself. We work on many of these same skills in writing, building effective beginnings and endings, organizing our writing to explain or entertain and viewing our work through the lens of what makes writing interesting to read. When we presented our Passion Projects throughout the year, students also had the opportunity to use visuals and presentation skills, yet from reading Well Spoken I can see some areas where we can help our students to more effectively share their message. Palmer also suggests 6 Traits of effective speaking, otherwise knows as PVLEGS or Poise, Voice, Life, Eye Contact, Gestures and Speed. I saw many connections between these performance needs and building fluency in oral reading, such as expression (Life) and pacing related to what you are reading for effect (Speed).
I can't wait to use these ideas to effectively draw our students into effective communication, not only with speaking but also listening actively for these traits, writing clearly in building essays and speeches, as well as reading with expression and fluency. When the work connects across more areas, I see my students finding greater relevance in the learning and more meaning in the strategies and ideas. Plus I love finding ways to prepare my students for the uncertain future, as Palmer says, "Now, let me make a radical statement: the mission of education should not be to make students better at school but rather to prepare them for life."
My second read was Who Owns the Learning? Preparing Students for Success in the Digital Age by Alan November, a recommendation I found via Twitter.
This book pulled me in with thinking about the digital age and how students can be helped to take their learning on a larger scale. It speaks to a Digital Learning Farm model of instruction where students are doing authentic work with purpose, working as tutorial designers, scribes, researchers, and global communicators and collaborators. The model reframes the educational structure by increasing autonomy for students, publishing student work to a global audience, and creating a community of contribution within the classroom. November sees technology as a "transformational tool to change the culture of teaching and learning" not just pushing in lots of technology where it just becomes the "thousand dollar pencil". The significant take away was the shift in control, as November states, "Much of what used to be teacher directed in the traditional model is powered by students in the Digital Learning Farm model." This so fits my thinking about education, the more that students have the opportunity to direct their learning, the more they are engaged with the learning itself. ~Ann