Monday, December 14, 2015

#D100 bloggerPD Book Study: Coda

If you look up "Coda" in the dictionary, one of the multiple definitions that you will see is "anything that serves as a concluding part" which is obviously a fitting title for the ultimate section of this book. If you've been following along, you know that I am posting the final installment of the #D100bloggerPD blog book study of Donalyn Miller's book Reading in the Wild. If you are here for the first time today, I'd love for you to check out the previous posts- as they include a multitude of resources, reflections, and thoughts from some very intelligent members of my district and our blogging professional development crew. Here's what has happened so far:

Miss G Does 5th with Vignette: Creating a Workshop Schedule that Works for You
Courtney O'Connor Guest Blogging on Literacy Loving Gals with Chapter 2: Wild Readers Self-Select Reading Material 
Social Justice Superheroes with Vignette: Curating a Classroom Library
Responsive Literacy with Chapter 3: Wild Readers Share Books with Other Readers
Pershing Principal Blog with Vignette: Conferring: What's the Point?
That Literacy Lady with Chapter 4: Wild Readers Have Reading Plans
The Bazz Blog with Vignette: Building a Personal Canon
Reading is Thinking with Chapter 5: Wild Readers Show Preferences
*You can also read my post on the making of a blog book study here*

As I read the final section of Donalyn's book, which is a touching story of a reading relationship between her and her students, I couldn't help but think back to all the times I have had similar relationships with my students.  As some of my readers know, I am a reading specialist in an elementary school- and formerly in a middle school. As part of my job, I teach RTI (Response to Intervention) groups- which is basically a reading group for students who are struggling for a variety of different reasons with reading at their current grade level and the group is designed to help them grow to their reading potential.

I always stop people when they say that my job is to "fix" student's reading. I'm not a handyman- I don't fix anything.
I do, however, build a relationship with students to determine their current reading abilities and work with them to set a path to achieve their own potential. Because of this, I encounter students on a daily basis who finding their way to a love for reading. I believe that if I can help a student find that love for reading, while helping them bridge some of their gaps, that they too can become lifelong wild readers and begin to fulfill their full reading potential. This is my passion. This is my lifelong journey. 
Like Donalyn Miller talks about in this Coda section of the book, I, too, share wonderful moments with my readers. A couple weeks ago I reached a milestone with one of my fifth grade students. She has been in the RTI process for a couple years now and until recently did not identify as a reader. This story is proof that when students begin to identify as a reader, that they can transform their ability- just with a positive mindset. I started seeing this student in August at the beginning of the year. She was polite and well behaved in group but never really excited to be reading. This continued on with us- me trying to find a "hook" to ignite her reading passion and her making slow but steady improvement toward grade level. Then one day our Assistant Principal Ms. Bazz, a definite wild reader herself, went into this 5th grade classroom and performed (I say performed because it was, no doubt, an epic show!) some book talks. Later that same afternoon, this student came to my group and was raving about how exciting books can be.

Let this be a lesson- one amazing book talk can change your life- because for this girl, it did. Ever since that day, she has been devouring books. She has been zealous in group and improving daily. It's been a joy to see. This all culminated with last week, the student walked into our group with a book in hand and declared, "You MUST read this book!" As an RTI teacher, my students don't usually come to group with their independent reading books- let alone proclaiming their love for them. As a teacher, these are the moments I live for. These are the moments that are imprinted on my life forever.  I sometimes wonder if kids know, when we look at the with awe, how amazing they are. This student now has a new outlook on life- all because of a book.      

I think the only thing left is to leave you with this quote- which Donalyn used to begin her Coda chapter. I think it fits perfectly the summation of this book study as it is not, in fact, a coda at all, rather a beginning for all of us.

If you've enjoyed being a part of this study or enjoyed reading along with it, please  stay in touch! Keep up with future blog studies by following #D100bloggerPD on Twitter.  

Speaking of twitter, my district, Berwyn South School District 100, is hosting a #D100chat on 12/15/15 at 8:00pm CST.  I am guest moderating along with Colleen over at Literacy Loving Gals and the topic is about #D100bloggerPD! You can join in if you'd like to discuss wild readers and how blogging/social media impacts your teaching. If you can't make it for this chat, be sure to catch a future one- they happen every other Tuesday at 8:00 pm CST. We'd love to hear from you!

  I want to thank each and every blogger who took part in this inaugural book study as part of the Berwyn South District 100 #D100bloggerPD crew.

 Each of you are special and talented and I am lucky to work with all of you. 

P.S. It was especially great to see our #D100bloggerPD hashtag trending on Twitter back on 11/29- I love the fact that we are all getting together to spread the learning in our district and share our thoughts with the whole twitter-verse! Remember: we are all in this together. The more we share and the more we learn from each other- the better!! Thanks for reading this and being a part of my PLN!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Blooming Reflection

Like most students of education, I learned about Bloom's Taxonomy in college during one of my many educator prep classes. As a person who loves rubrics, routines, etc.- I immediately jumped on board with this idea of Bloom's Taxonomy. I love the structure of it, I love the concise but ambiguous nature of it, and most importantly, I love how it always seemed to be pushing me to go up, up, up with my students and my instruction. Recently, I came across the image below- which I have made huge so you can see all of it, but in case you can't- access it here where I found it on This image represents so much about me as a teacher that it's almost scary. Let me walk you through how Bloom's Taxonomy and I have evolved in my time in education.
On the far left, you have the traditional Bloom's that we all know and love- starting at Knowledge and going all the way to evaluation. This is, as the visual shows, the created in 1956 version and is probably what most people think of when they hear Bloom's Taxonomy. However, times began to change and as you can see in the middle- Anderson and Krathwohl revised the original version in 2001. There are some significant changes- most notably the base level of knowledge is now referred to as remembering- a change that I was a bit resistant to at first but have come to appreciate. The other big change is that it seems like synthesis and evaluation on the original became just Evaluating on the revised- leaving space for the new top tier of Creating. I love this change mostly because when students are capable of creating something new then does that not show a true ability to evaluate and synthesize? Not to mention the shift in thinking that students who can regurgitate information can be masters of it. This is just not true anymore. We have to provide more opportunities for our students to make their education just that- their own.  Sure it probably seemed scary at first- and I'm guessing that in 2001 this was probably a polarizing issue (meaning some probably loved the idea of Bloom's Taxonomy changing and some probably didn't) but I'd be willing to guess that in the field of education- the kinds of changes that cased the most waves were the kinds of changes that needed to be made. 

Moving along the image to the right, you see that in 2008 Churches came out with Bloom's Digital Taxonomy- no doubt to fall in line with the ever-changing educational climate and match the increasing use of technology in the world. But here is what strikes me as interesting. I graduated college and started teaching in 2008. I can still remember using the original Bloom's Taxonomy with my students. I remember the exact activity in fact- it was a worksheet with six cubes on it. Starting at the bottom, I had a box for each of the original levels of Bloom's Taxonomy with a sentence starter (including a Bloom's verb) in each box. I then assigned this worksheet to my students for whatever we were doing at that moment (my guess is some type of literature study) and had them complete the worksheet. I thought I was being clever and ensuring that my students were working their way up the pyramid of understanding. 

Now, I'm not here to debate whether or not that was the best way to incorporate Bloom's into my classroom- but the intention was there. I was sending a message that simply hanging around at the Knowledge level with verbs like define, duplicate, and recall was not going to be enough to prove to me your understanding. Even during my 1st year as a teacher, I knew I wanted more. 

Which leads into why it's interesting that, in 2008, I was still using the 1956 version when the subsequent two new versions had already come out. My gut reaction is to say "if it's not broken, don't fix it" because my Bloom's worksheet crafted from the 1956 taxonomy was certainly helping students. But if I was using that worksheet to get more out of my students, why wasn't I also aware of the "more" that was out there for me!  It wasn't until maybe 2010 (yes, I'm behind the times apparently) that I even knew that the new 2001 version of Bloom's had come out. Like I said above, I embraced the changes in the pyramid- I thought they made sense and made things a little more clear for students- which is always a plus. 

Right around 2011, my school district made a big change to incorporate 1:1 technology into every classroom K-8. This was a huge and significant undertaking that we took on for the betterment of our students and to prepare them for their undeniable future in a different world than we grew up in.
Take for instance, this quote from Tom Leonard (who happens to have been my high school principal!) that he said at iEngage Berwyn last year. My district saw the need for incorporating technology into the lives of students and acted on it. Because of this, and our desire to continuously push students toward better, we now need to start working on that far right column of the visual above- on the Bloom's Digital Taxonomy version. This version allows for traditional teaching to be mixed with modern and current ways of learning. What I find interesting at that this digital version came out in 2008- the same year that I started teaching and using the original version. It just goes to show that you will use whatever you are ready for- but please, be sure to make sure that you, as the teacher, aren't monopolizing the need in the classroom. It shouldn't be about us. It shouldn't be about what we are ready for. It should be about the students. What are they ready for and capable of? What can they accomplish if given the tools to do so? 

This is where the SAMR model (Ruben Puentedura) came into play in our district. When you get to know the SAMR model, you will see that it has 4 levels-
 Substitution: the technology acts as a strict substation and there is no functional change- for example: reading a textbook on your iPad instead of reading the paper version.
 Augmentation: technology acts as a substitute but with some functional improvement- for example: reading that same digital textbook on your iPad but being able to click on a word to find out the definition or extra information.
 Modification: significant task redesign is taking place- for example: you are able to annotate your reading in notability and begin to create an iBook of your own.
Redefinition: new tasks which were previously inconceivable- for example: making the iBook that you were creating interactive and sharing it with other classes, schools, and even countries for commentary and collaboration. 

As you can see, technology plays a role in making the ways we teach better- but we need to harness it. In my district, we have created SMARTD100- which is a committee designed to work with teachers to help bring their teaching up the SAMR ladder. We can't afford to hang out at Substitution anymore- just like we can't afford to hang out at Knowledge (now remembering) on Bloom's Taxonomy. We must be doing more for our students and constantly reflecting on our teaching to do so. Here's a (very overwhelming but) fantastic image that combines the digital taxonomy, the SAMR model, and iPad apps. It's definitely a lot to take in- but I think it's pretty fantastic. You can find the original post here- called A New Wonderful Wheel on SAMR and Bloom's Taxonomy and view a much better and more detailed PDF version of the image if you go to that site. I highly encourage it.
Notice in the middle you have Bloom's levels and how they correspond to SAMR levels- all while including iPad apps, action verbs, and activities to accomplish it all. It's a daunting yet incredibly helpful resource!

I want to sum this up with a quote from Albert Einstein. I think it explains perfectly the need for this blog post. Thank you for reading and if you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.
Courtesy of