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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Storytime: What my freshman college daughter wishes for K-12

The story begins:
So our daughter calls us from college (she is a freshman) at the end of her first week of classes, right before she returns home for Labor Day weekend. She was super excited about college but also suddenly super STRESSED.  The familiar freshman story unfolded before us. You may remember it like I do and it went something like this: "Mom, I have like 4 chapters to read in 3 classes each and there is so much to do and I don't know what's important and what's not. I took 11 pages of outline notes from psychology (*front and back she did LOL!*) but I can't remember much of anything. How am I going to get good grades and be happy?"

You have to be a PRO-LEARNER to do well in college. 

photo credit: Yen.® via photopin cc

Issue: K-12 is not about teaching kids to be ACTIVE learners or INTERACTIVE learners who attack texts for fun and revel in debating the ideas they read about. How can they be when high-stakes testing and DATA determine district money, rank, teacher salaries, and much more? Fear runs our schools and fear does not a good culture create. The very people that are the heart of schools (students, educators, parents, community) make none of the major decisions about what we do in schools and why we do it. It's predetermined by non-educators and companies/big businesses far away from our schools and districts. These people and the system as it exists *right now* have defined learning and schools as distribution centers--dispensing knowledge TO kids. Boring and sad. Test-centered clinical culture. 

Typical passive learning scenario:
Receive Worksheet + Textbook. Pull information out of text. Write correct answers/thoughts on Worksheet in the spaces provided. Do not mark in book/text. Turn in. Take a Quiz. Get a grade. Move on to next thing teacher says I need for tests.

I shared this story with colleagues and friends
Many of them, in their 30's, 40's, and 50's, remembered hitting the same wall in college. They didn't know how to study. What they really meant was they didn't know how to interact with and play with the texts and then grow and create from them.

The story continuesDon't worry, I told her. "We will sit down together and ANNOTATE the text side by side. We'll talk about your thoughts and look up things you don't know. I'll think out loud and learn out loud and then you'll do it with me and on your own...and you'll GET it, my dear, I promise. You will excel at college and enjoy it because you will OWN it. You'll be afraid of no text at all."

"Mom, what's annotating?!" :)

photo credit: rolleh via photopin cc
We sat down and started marking the text, highlighting, and ANNOTATING, or writing, in the margins. We added questions, ahas, connections, comments, summaries, and charts.

I'm new to the Workshop Model and I see its power for my 6th graders. It frees the EBULLIENT INNER LEARNER (nerd) in each child. It empowers. It encourages the learner to TALK BACK to the text and argue with it and spar with it and joke around with it and talk with it and connect with it. GET PERSONAL with TEXT!

Guess what?
SHE GOT IT, folks. She left on Tuesday morning refreshed, excited, and smiling. She read lots during the weekend and marked up the pages lots and TALKED to us about the IDEAS she'd read. She was on fire! She couldn't get over how easy it was and how she'd never been shown/taught to mark up text and talk back to it in school before. (Can't write in textbooks and worksheets/notes ask for right answers, not play and mental sparring/expression.)

My daughter's SUGGESTION FOR K-12: Teach, model, encourage, and allow kids to BE ACTIVE LEARNERS. Let us mark things up and get messy and personal. Let us talk about what we read and what we think. Let us dream and then create based on our interests. Don't give us test after test. There's no learning in tests for US.
  • The rote 'study skills' class will not do the trick. That sort of class is still dishing out to the learner how to learn and not INVOLVING the learner. 

Laura, Cris Tovani, Ruth Bontrager
WORKSHOP MODEL. I have had the privilege of 'watching' and learning with Cris Tovani and Samantha Bennett, workshop model powerhouses my district partnered beginning last spring. Cris and Sam live and breathe workshop model and they care about kids and teachers. Their work and mentoring has impacted me both at school and at home. Missing a picture of Sam Bennett, but that will change when she's back in KC in late September!

I've paired Workshop Model with Wreck this Journal and Smashbook mentality. (blogpost in the works)

My 6th graders and I mark and annotate text (often texts that I write) and then we smash them into our journals in our own creative and ARTISTIC way. The kids honestly enjoy the times we read and annotate/mark the text TOGETHER. It is a quiet, focused, honestly creative/active time even though it is quiet. They enjoy the discussions and the sparring that ensues in their groups or pairs after annotating. I encourage VISUAL representations and metaphors with all concepts/ideas. The kids aren't used to thinking that way but they LIKE IT. It allows for individuality and artistic expression...and deep thinking. Whatever we read in class, I do fresh with each group under the doc cam so they see me as a LEARNER and an enthusiastic one at that.

Get your students to WRECK their LEARNING using SMASH Book and Wreck This Journal mentality.

An example from our first go at marking and annotating. Find your style, kids. I'll give you time, then we'll share ideas and suggestions to help you get the most out of any text you ever meet so you can grow from it and go places!

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