What a week! As I mentioned in last week’s post, 25 FMCSD educators attended the Open Up Resources HIVE conference this past week. I’m bursting with pride and excitement about the impact that the HIVE conference had on so many of us… did I mention 25 of us attended??? Even more exciting – the impact that the learning from the conference will have on our colleagues, and most important: our students! Soooooo… what’s the buzz? What is there to be so excited about? I won’t be able to capture it all, but again, as I mentioned last week, the importance of taking time to process that learning in the form of writing is super important, so here goes…
Phone Calls, Texts, and Emails, Oh My!
The biggest buzz comes from the phone calls, texts and emails I have received from teachers about their excitement around the EL Education curriculum. This is a much-needed and long-awaited for excitement. As the literacy coach who has many deep regrets over the roll-out of our new curriculum, and who has felt like she is fighting an uphill battle as a result, I couldn’t be more excited to see the “I finally get it!” sentiments rolling in. Many teachers have reached out to me this week to express this sentiment. I have to admit, I’m grappling with some frustration amidst the excitement. Our coaching staff has been sharing the exact same concepts covered in the conference for the past two years with our staff. However, I realize two things: 1) often times, hearing it from someone outside of the organization for which you work has far greater impact (“if they live 20 miles or further away, they are smarter” mentality; I totally get this mentality and often live in it!) and 2) it takes time to let new ideas soak in; we often need to hear/experience things many times before the ideas take hold.
We adopted the EL Education curriculum 2 years ago; the adoption was met with much resistance, which is to be expected for several reasons, the two most prominent being 1) change is hard and 2) the “Why?” behind the adoption was not explained before adoption (this is the source of my deepest regret and where I feel I am primarily to blame). The “Why?” behind the curriculum is probably touched on in most of my posts, as well as in my Science of Reading Resources page, but the posts that hit it the hardest are from some writing in March: The Science of Reading… and Love and Knowledge and Reading Comprehension. As a result of the HIVE conference, I feel confident that the uphill battle is a thing of the past. I feel confident that we have an army of teachers ready to share their excitement and knowledge with the rest of the staff (as Kristy Woodley said in a debrief session, “OK guys: it’s up to us now. We have to bring this back to the staff and help them understand the Why.” Thank you Kristy!!!). So. Much. Self-reflection. In many conversations this past week and throughout the summer, Kristy and I have revisited the idea of “Know Better, Do Better.” This concept reminds me of the quote shared in my May 9 “You Don’t Have to Be Bad to Get Better” post:
What Kristy was hitting on with these comments is the idea of collective efficacy. As shared in the conference, and explained by ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development): “When teams believe and are confident in their abilities to make an impact, they tend to perform better. This phenomenon—which is called collective efficacy—has a powerful impact to make good teams great. In education, collective efficacy influences student achievement and can create positive change in schools.” In other words, when the people in an organization are driven by a common purpose, have a common understanding of the purpose, and have mutual accountability to uphold that purpose, collective efficacy is in place. As much as I wanted to believe we had substantial collective efficacy in place, I was fooling myself. When the understanding of the concept (in this case, the science of reading as the “Why?” behind the EL Education curriculum) rests with the coaching staff, administration, and a handful of teachers, collective efficacy is not in place. But collective efficacy is essential if we want to truly impact student learning… for ALL students.
We are so fortunate in FMCSD to have the structures in place to develop and support collective efficacy. With the support of Solution Tree, we function as a Professional Learning Community, where all teacher teams meet weekly as their own PLC’s. Our teams’ work is centered around Solution Tree‘s four Critical Questions: 1) What do we want our students to know? 2) How will we know if they know it? 3) What will we do if they don’t? 4) What will we do if they do? Our commitment to functioning as a Professional Learning Community is illustrated by the fact that all of our teachers, administrators, and school board members have been trained in Solution Tree’s PLC process. When new teachers are hired, they are slotted to receive the training, as well. Speaking of new teachers, we have a ton of amazing educators joining our FMCSD team for the upcoming school year!
The One Doing the Talking is the One Doing the Learning
Jackye Morrisey, Partnership Development specialist, and Liz Freitag, senior Professional Development Specialist for EL Education, drove this point home time and again during the HIVE conference. The EL Education curriculum grounds each lesson in the Read, Think, Talk, Write Cycle. At the HIVE conference, those of us who were in the Administration and Leadership pathway experienced this cycle in each session. Taking the time to process learning, for adults and for students, is the guarantee that the learning will take hold. Although we experienced all four parts of the cycle all five days of the conference, it was this phrase, “The one doing the talking is the one doing the learning,” that resonated with me most. As an educator, I am often guilty of being the one doing most of the talking. It happened in my 4th, 5th, and 6th grade classrooms, and it happens when I am working with teachers as a literacy coach. It is the reason that I keep a “Listen” sticky note (frayed and worn) on my laptop: it is my reminder to shut up and listen!
This world is a better place because of Justin Endicott, Open Up Resources Community Coach. This guy has a wealth of knowledge about the curriculum, he lives and breathes it every day with his fourth grade students (or he has up until now; Justin has taken an administrative position with his West Virginia school district for the upcoming school year), and he is the curriculum’s most influential cheerleader! In almost every session that Justin hosts, both at the HIVE and and at Open Up’s bi-monthly PLC meetings, Justin reminds us that the EL Modules are rooted in the 3 ELA shifts released by the Common Core and explained here by Achieve the Core: 1) Complexity: Practice regularly with complex text and its academic language. 2) Evidence: Ground reading, writing, and speaking in evidence from text, both literary and informational. and 3) Knowledge: Build knowledge through content-rich nonfiction.
Close Reading serves as a powerful tool to align with the three shifts. At the heart of every EL Module is work centered around a complex text, which is made accessible to all students through close reading. Close reading requires careful planning before executing a lesson. As explained in EL’s Your Curriculum Companion, “Three main ingredients contribute to the design of close reading/read-aloud sessions: 1. …text which must be carefully chosen… 2. …purpose. Why are students reading this text closely… 3. …the process by which students read the text…” After that careful planning has taken place, executing a close read will ensue over several lessons. Students (and teachers) must understand (so teachers must explain and promote) that portions of the text will be read multiple times, each for a specific purpose. In doing so, we help students tackle a text that may have been out of their reach without careful planning and support in place. Close reading is further explained in EL’s Transformational Literacy, where authors Berger, Woodfin, Plant, and Dobbertin repeatedly remind us to avoid too much front-loading of complex text.
Language Dives occur within a close reading sequence. Within complex texts live compelling sentences, and it is these sentences that are worthy of closer examination. As explained by EL’s Your Curriculum Companion, “A Language Dive empowers students to analyze, understand, and use the language of compelling sentences, which can often seem opaque to students. During a Language Dive, the teacher and students slow down for 10 to 20 minutes to have a conversation about the meaning, purpose, and structure of a compelling sentence from a complex text.” Teachers and students “deconstruct, reconstruct, and practice” the compelling sentence. Language Dives unveil the complexities of the English language, digging into grammar and parts of speech, without being “grammar lectures.” Language Dives , targeted to “help all students learn how to decipher compelling sentences and say and write their own,” offer fun and challenge, and are best explained by Open Up’s Community Coach Sarah Said. Among Sarah’s many areas of expertise, Language Dives are an area of the curriculum that she absolutely brings to life! I only wish that I could bring Close Reads, Language Dives, EL protocols, and high-leverage practices to life in the way that Sarah and Justin do. I certainly haven’t even come close in my attempt to describe Close Reads and Language Dives, but again… this writing is all about processing learning, right? 🙂
Connecting with Others
I cannot imagine teaching in isolation; collaboration is King, Baby! Participating in the HIVE conference was yet another reminder of the power of collaboration, and made me so grateful for the Open Up Resources Community. Throughout the week, participants made connections with educators from across the country. I am particularly grateful for connections made with educators from Rhinelander Community School District, Somerset Academy North Las Vegas, as well as school districts in Kentucky, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Michigan. Jackye Morrisey and Liz Freitag did an amazing job of leading district administrators and coaches through the in’s and out’s of the curriculum. These gals are professional, knowledgeable, approachable, and amazing leaders! Behind the scenes were folks like Brooke Powers and Morgan Stipe, who organized the event, not to mention the HIVE Math Conference that they put on the week before!
Did I mention that the HIVE conference was virtual? Virtual events were certainly taking place before the pandemic, but if the pandemic taught us nothing else, it is that connecting with others can happen in virtual spaces, and can be just as impactful as connecting at a live event. When telling my husband how thankful I was to have met so many people this week, he responded by saying, “Yeah, but you didn’t really meet them.” I couldn’t disagree more (and of course I told him so!). I met them, I learned from them, and I look forward to maintaining connections with them in the future.
As I anticipated, I did not capture all that I walked away with from the conference (not even close!), but have processed some highlights. I’ve already begun my next post (in my head, not necessarily in writing, yet!), which will touch on the parts of the conference that didn’t focus on the EL curriculum directly, but rather on how being our best selves benefits our students. So much learning – my brain is just a’buzzing!