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Collaboration: Self-Reflection Plus Two Skills Assessment Rubrics

I'm working on growing my teaching skills for 21st Century Learning. My first formal introduction to such skills was through Tony Wagner's book The Global Achievement Gap and I've recently been reading his Creating Innovators.  Additionally, I'm taking courses in the Microsoft Educator Community.  Reflecting on how 21st Century Learning is defined (which varies a bit from source to source),* I believe as a teacher of almost thirty years, I've always valued purposeful, student-led learning, collaboration, problem-solving, creativity, and communication.  Still, there is a lot to keep thinking about and growing into, especially considering our ever-changing technologies and our students' unprecedented global access.  I've just completed a course on collaboration through the Microsoft Educator Community which helped me think deeper about how much of my work with students has truly been as 'collaborative' and 'student-led' as it can be.  Yes, I've had students work in groups with what I thought was shared responsibility and choice, but I think I can stretch by giving groups even more decision making power over their content, process, and/or product. Additionally, I'm investigating ways to ensure student collaborative work is 'interdependent'--that they have to rely on one another for the group to succeed and their parts come together into a cohesive whole (whether that's a presentation, event, project, or other).  One way to guide these efforts is by having clearly defined goals which I've put together in two 'Collaboration Skills' Rubrics.  One is for self-assessment and one is for group assessment.  I really prefer working with students to create rubrics or success criteria, but I believe these will remind me of the direction we're going...that is in the direction of more student-responsibility and the active building of collaboration skills.  (Obviously, as we work with these rubrics, or something like them, we would have to define what each of these criteria looks and feels like in order for students to be successful.  Even so, we teachers have to trust in the process and our students and in the truth that they will grow into these skills with practice.  Remember, embrace approximation.  Make mistakes, debrief, and learn.  That goes for all of us.)

As I work with my K-6 students this year, I'd like to take more risks and give over more of the learning power.  When I strive to do this, I'm often surprised and excited about the results.

Here are the rubrics.  I'd love some feedback.  The google doc link is for both.  #happycollaboration #happylearning
Blog post by Janiel Wagstaff:  Reflecting on collaboration.  Links to two collaboration rubrics are included.

Blog post by Janiel Wagstaff:  Reflecting on collaboration.  Links to two collaboration rubrics are included.

*Depending on the source, 21st Century Learning Skills include:  collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity and innovation, communication, self-direction, visual learning, information literacy, and global and cultural awareness.

My New YouTube Channel

Janiel Wagstaff Youtube Channel and links to other videos
Click the picture to visit my YouTube channel.
     I'm excited to announce I finally started a YouTube channel!  As of now, I've uploaded the Stella Writes an Opinion book trailer and short book talks for the other three books in the Stella Writes series (narrative, informational, and poetry).  I hope to add other instructional videos.  There are already some of these posted by different entities that show snippets of my teaching demonstrations. Given they were uploaded by Scholastic and BER, I can't feature them on my channel.  However, I'll paste the links below.

     I hope you'll take a look at the book talks (these are brand-new)!  I posted the book trailer on a few social media sites, but this is its debut on YouTube.  Woot! 

    I'll keep you updated--some big Stella news is coming soon!

Additional YouTube video links:
Using Differentiated Word Sorts Gr. K-3 (Live at ILA 2016) 
Using Word Walls to Strengthen Students' Reading and Writing at the Emergent Level, Gr. K-1 
Using Word Walls to Strengthen Students' Reading and Writing at Early/Fluent Levels, Gr. K-2
Enhancing Students' Growth as Writers, Gr. 2-3, Part II: Strengthening Students' Independent Writing 
Enhancing Students' Growth as Writers, Gr. 2-3, Part I: Boosting the Writing Skills of All Your Students 

I wish you a fabulous, literacy-filled, thinking-rich, community-friendly school year!

Beginning the Year: Preparing Students to Support Each Other Within a Community of Writers

Hello again!
     Setting the right tone for Writing Workshop at the beginning of the school year is a goal at the forefront of my thinking.  I want my students to feel like a community of writers who can work and grow together and support each other every day. I've been working on a set of classroom posters with some of my favorite quotes to share with students.  Here is one of them:
Blog post by Janiel Wagstaff about working to create a supportive community of writers at the beginning of the school year.

(Poster Artistic Credits:  DJB Fonts, Babbling Abby, Darcy Baldwin Fonts)
I say something like this to my students when I show them the poster for the first time:  

“We are all writers!  We all have ideas to share and stories to tell.  We are all at different places in our journey to grow as writers.  Some of us may have an easier time getting words on the page than others. Some of us are more confident artists and have had more practice drawing, and that shows up in our writing.  Some of us find spelling words really easy, while others have a harder time.  And, some days, some of us have an easier time coming up with ideas to write about than others.  It doesn’t matter.  We are all here to support each other to grow.  We do our best, we ask for help and response when we need it, we aid each other the best we can.  Over the year, I will help you learn many ways to support each other.  We are all writers!  All of us!   Our writing may not always look ‘right’ on the paper.  It may not look like an adult’s writing.  Well, it shouldn’t, because we are not adults!  We are kids.  And, we are growing.  We will grow leaps and bounds this year!  So remember, no matter how someone’s writing looks on the page, listen to their mind, listen to their heart.  It is their ideas that matter most.  Never forget that!  Then, help each other, support each other, and encourage each other to keep writing and keep growing!  That is the most important thing we can do to build our community of writers!"

The beginning of the year is also an ideal time for reading favorite books that remind students how their reactions to one another's pieces can affect EVERYTHING.  First on my list of read-alouds is Ish! by Peter Reynolds.  This book is a perfect analogy for writing (though it is about the artistic process):  what happens when we write, when we struggle, and when someone responds with negativity to our writing.  

(I also use his book The Dot at the beginning of the year to discuss the importance of supportive response.)

Peter Reynolds understands the creative process inside-out, and seeks to support students' creative endeavors.  Check these out:
Blog post by Janiel Wagstaff about working to create a supportive community of writers at the beginning of the school year.

I love the pledge and the poster.  How perfect are these for the beginning of the year?  And these are just two examples of the engaging support materials found on his website:

Of course, it takes more than a couple of lessons and posters to really create a thriving writing community.  Every day, we have to walk the walk: modeling supportive response, explicitly teaching students how to support one another, lending them language, encouraging them to come up with their own ideas on how to boost the writing community, stirring up excitement about the risks writers are taking in their pieces, and celebrating their growth.  I start, right from the beginning, using students' writing as mentor texts to discuss, teach from, and enjoy.  And, lest we forget, students always have time to share their writing with each other--during and at the closing of the workshop.  Even just a few minutes at the end of a Writing Workshop (I call this "Everybody Share Time"), can make all the difference in helping writers feel their work is purposeful and valued.

I wish you the best as you begin a new school year.  You have the most important job in the world--and the best job in the world!  Watching writers grow, hearing their voices emerge and become bold, watching them become empowered--what could be better?
Here's to you and your writers!

P.S. If you'd like a copy of the poster I made ("We Are All Writers"), just email me and I'll send it to you (janielwag@hotmail.com).

Link to my SDE Webinars-Free to Watch At Your Convenience

      It's been a busy summer!  Just a week ago, I was in Orlando for ILA and in Vegas a few days before for SDE's National Conferences.  I always love presenting and attending conferences, but lately SDE has had me record some webinars and I just located the page where they are linked.  These are FREE to view at your convenience.  Here's a picture and the link is below.  I hope you'll take a look and give me some feedback here on the website. 

Links to Janiel Wagstaff's SDE FREE webinars

Click here to go!
Thanks to those of you who have continued to follow my posts! Thanks to the nice teachers who came up to me last week and let me know they are following.  That meant a lot.  It's hard for me to find time to write--I have so many ideas, but so little time (I'm sure many of you feel the same way.  A teacher's life is a busy one!)

New things are on the horizon, and I do plan to write.  Meanwhile, I hope you've all had a wonderful summer with some time to rest and play.  Renewing ourselves before a new school year starts is so important.
-Happy reading and writing!

Summer Writing Sure to Get Those Pens Moving: Spontaneous Poetry and Digital Journaling

Summer Writing Ideas Sure to Get Your Students Writing:  Spontaneous Poetry and Digital Journaling!

     I’m joining The Reading Crew for a month of insightful literacy posts during May.  This post will focus on a few of my favorite ideas for summer writing.  We all know about the ‘summer slide,’ wherein students’ proficiencies in reading go backwards because they don’t read enough over the break.  There are many resources available suggesting ways to boost reading over the summer, but thinking of how one might boost students’ writing is also worthwhile.  The more writing they do, the more their literacy skills and attitudes will be positively impacted, thus lessening  the effect of the summer slide.   

Spontaneous Poetry

     My last post was about the powerful effects of including poetry across the curriculum all year long.  I will be returning to this subject, as promised, with more specific instructional strategies.  However, today I’d like to share a particular strategy you can easily start now that can carry students into the summer with more impetus for poetry writing.  I call it “Spontaneous Poetry.”  Here’s how it works.  Something happens in the classroom, on the playground, in the lunchroom, in the gym, etc… a bee buzzes in the window, the bottom of the slide is invaded by ants, the lunch ladies serve a mystery dish, the whole class makes it to the top of the rope climb…whatever—good, bad, inspiring, depressing, frustrating, joyous.  I say, “This is a great time for some spontaneous poetry.” And, if the event occurred in the classroom, we drop everything and write!  Using the shared writing technique (I use chart paper, the document camera, or a word document projected on screen), I have students talk about what happened, what they thought of it, what words came to mind.  I listen in and record some of the key words I’m hearing as they talk together.  For example, once when a bee buzzed into a 5th grade classroom, I recorded this talk:

I hate bees!
Watch out!
It came at Larry
Hit the floor.
Open window
Nature’s surprise
Didn’t sting
Bee wimps

     I then asked students to “phrase around” some of these words…what can be added for detail?  What images do you want to create?  For example, what about “buzz?”  What happened when we heard the buzz?  What did it sound like?  What did you think about? Where did it come from?  Playing with the words and phrases can sometimes go very quickly, other times, we get stuck and come back to the poem another day, sometimes, we leave it unfinished for students to work on if they choose.  This 5th grade ‘bee’ cooperative effort took about ten minutes and ended up like this:
Bee Wimps
Buzzzzz, the sound froze us in our tracks!
In it flew, the treacherous bee
Prisoners in our own classroom.
The fly by—right over Larry’s desk
And he hit the floor.
All this from an open window
Trying to get cool air
Nature came in…
Not what we were expecting
But, out it flew
Stinging no one
Leaving behind
wide-eyed bee wimps.

     I think the students learned something about themselves that day!  More importantly they learned anything can inspire poetry and anytime can be a good time to stop, record some key words or phrases, play with them, and see what develops.  It’s a great deal of fun. 
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