How’s It Going?


#sol17- September 12, 2017

It has been a crazy busy start to the school year for me (I am sure most of you can relate)! As a self-confessed PD junkie I have had lots of opportunities already this year, including a four day Adaptive Schools Seminar  (near the end of September), 2 day Numicon training (last Friday and Saturday on a long weekend), and now, this week we have Carl Anderson visiting for 3 days. All of these were at our school and the first two were totally optional.

This morning our team had two hours with Carl Anderson and I thought I would use his tag line (“How’s it going?”) to synthesize some of my learning (any errors are mine):

  • It’s going – we are in year 2 of using the Teachers College Units of Study as a primary resource and our discussions and observations of Carl conferring with some of our students was a combination of affirmation and stretch. I loved how simple his routines for working with students were. An “aha” was that the student goal, to really be worthy and developed, has to remain in place for some time- otherwise, progress is unlikely.  Somehow we get caught up in new goal, new goal, new goal- he reminded us that if they achieved a goal after one conference it probably was not something they needed to work on.
  • The stretch for me was pushing my area of weakness. I told Carl at the outset that I default to telling/reminding not teaching in conferences. With his use of mentor texts, having the student start the work right then and there, and checking in with the student after the very next conference to make sure they are trying out the new learning right away makes the student more accountable, but also demands that I follow up right away. My problem in the past has been that I never really knew whether students were trying out this new learning- now I will know and can recalibrate within minutes if I see it is not working out. No more “butterfly” conferences, just checking in- real work to be done!
  • We got to see a range- Carl conferred with 4 third graders and we got to see a range- both in terms of content and in the level of the writers’ work. Observing his work with one of my more reluctant writers was powerful because I could see ways to frame conferences better so that they are more productive.
  • My next step- no excuses– the majority of writing conferences is for teaching, so I have to be ready for that. I already have a small stack of mentor texts we have used in class (and I have student examples and my own writing I can pull from as well), so I have the basic tools. I am going to follow Carl’s advice in terms of schedule: conference 1, then scrawl notes, conference 2, scrawl notes, check in with child 1, conference 3, scrawl notes, check in with child 2, etc. I have a chart I am happy recording notes on (used it last year too), so that part is already easy too.

After a few weeks of lots of PD it is time for me to pause for a bit (although that is never really true- case in point I am involved in the Voxer book club for Feedback That Moves Writers Forward). I need time to more fully absorb all this recent learning and try it out to make it mine (which is, I guess, what my students feel with all the input they are getting every day). So, what it comes down to, is, it is going well. I am happy to be continuing to learn and grow!



*** Zhi Hong keeps slicing!


8 thoughts on “How’s It Going?

  1. dmsherriff

    It’s fun to be a “PD Junkie”! You get to do exactly what you are doing – synthesize all the learning so it makes sense for YOU and then for the kids you teach! It’s energizing! Your ideas are spot on and I admire your growth mindset!

  2. jcareyreads

    Great tips! Carl visited our district a few years ago. He is masterful and a joy to watch. Many of your big takeaways were similar to mine. I like the conferring schedule. It makes a difference to check back in with kids. They light up and you’ll see a difference. Good luck!

  3. dogtrax

    It’s always good to bring in outside voices, and outside perspectives, but facing our own shortcomings (or areas where we could be stronger) is always difficult. Good luck!

  4. maryannreilly

    It’s always a plus when the learning you do with others is beneficial. Sounds like that was the case for you in what must have been a busy opening to school. Good luck this year.


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