Visible Learning for Literacy: Chapter 1

As an educator, it is always a good idea to keep up with new methods and research. This summer Heather from Creation Castle is hosting a book club through Facebook. The Beyond the Blackboard Book Club is discussing the book Visible Learning for Literacy by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and John Hattie.

Chapter one opens with a simple, resonating statement. Every student deserves a great teacher, not by chance, but by design. This is easy enough to say and believe, but when you think about the development of a "great teacher", their educational journey does not stop with a diploma. Our book club found that many districts are not providing teachers with enough opportunities for meaningful professional development. That's right... we don't enjoy watching the blood born pathogens film every year to earn an hour towards our PD credits. It is NOT helpful.

We also talked about the fact that a lot of PD is now focused on technology. Technology is wonderful. Without technology, you couldn't read this blog post... but it isn't the answer to everything! Melissa from our book club said it best:
"I know technology is important and ever-changing but so are many of the best practices and instructional strategies. To say that we all have unique classrooms with special quirks is entirely correct so I think as educators we really should be allowed and even encouraged to decide which professional development would be most beneficial to us."
During our discussions, we also talked about teacher credibility. As a student, I always had more respect for the teachers who showed an interest in my life (within the class or about extracurricular activities). I think this is easier to achieve at the elementary level, but important to remember as students get older. There were some teachers in high school that didn't even learn our names. It is so important to build relationships with your students and their families early on in the year. When students trust you and feel like they are in a safe environment to make mistakes, you will definitely see improvements academically.

On the other hand, as an educator I feel like admin is more credible when they honestly want and try to help you and your class successful - not when they stop by to chat about things that have nothing to do with teaching. As a first year teacher I had a mentor that only talked to me a few times throughout the whole year and even then it was usually just superficial chit-chat. My assistant principal that year constantly checked in with me to make sure I wasn't overwhelmed and was really supportive. She definitely held more credibility with me.

Portions of this chapter were devoted to the differences between surface, deep, and transfer levels of learning. We talked about the importance of students engaging in more complex tasks with their peers in lower elementary classes. Nicole shared that she implements project themes in her classroom throughout the year with her kindergartners:

"The kids get so engaged in what they are doing and they amaze me at what they come up with. A couple examples of themes I've done are Olympics, election, pizza, Legos, watermelon, jelly beans, and peeps. I am doing an ocean project theme in August when we start back to school to go along with the new Finding Nemo movie. I try to pick topics that are current and relevant to their lives.

During my pizza project theme my kindergarten students worked together to set up a pretend pizza shop. They picked what their name was, what they wanted to sell and for how much. They also had to create a "new" type of pizza to sell. They made signs for their business and a menu. Then we had a day where they opened up "shop" and sold their pretend pizzas to their classmates wearing chef hats. We also did many other activities in the classroom around the pizza theme that involved reading, writing, math, and science."

This chapter had tons of great content - more than I could cover here! I highly suggest picking up the book for yourself. I'll be back next week to share highlights from our chapter two discussions. If you're interested in participating in the book club, we would love to hear your insights!

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