Category Archives: Reading

Fear of imperfection; deep practice; just make a mark

Do you know any learner’s that are stuck?  Are they convinced that they can’t?

“Fear of imperfection keeps us perched on the edge, afraid to dive in and start writing. If we sit and wait for the perfect words, they don’t come. Inertia sets in. Our mind halts. The clock slows. Much like hesitating at the edge of the ocean, afraid of the shock of cold, we wait. And in waiting, our anxiety spins.” (Anderson, 9 pag.)

Hesitating at the edge, afraid, we wait. How might we develop brave, bold learners who wonder – on paper – what they are thinking so that they might see it? What do we do to overcome the fear of the blank page? This fear, as real as it seems, is just a doodle away from getting your feet wet, right? The editor in my head – no, not the editor; the critic in my head convinces me to wait: wait until I know, wait for someone else, wait. What force is needed to overcome inertia? Is it just as simple as a doodle?

Are math and writing this closely related? Wow! Far too many students will not write the first step in math because they are not sure if they are going to be right? If they are going to be right, are they learning anything?

In Daniel Coyle’s “The Talent Code,” he writes about deep practice, working at the edge of your ability so that you make mistakes, learn, and repeat.

Deep practice is built on a paradox: struggling in certain targeted ways — operating at the edges of your ability, where you make mistakes — makes you smarter.  (Coyle, 18 pag.)

The second reason deep practice is a strange concept is that it takes events that we normally strive to avoid —namely, mistakes— and turns them into skills. (Coyle, 20 pag.)

In SMP-1, “I can make sense of tasks and persevere in solving them,” the first level asks for a visible attempt to think and reason into the task.

Are our young mathematicians and writers stuck due to inertia? Is it blank page fright? Is there space in class to draft and redraft, making revisions as you go? Are missteps celebrated and seen as opportunities to learn?

How can we help students dive – or tiptoe – in to get their feet wet? What if encourage learners to just make a mark and see where it takes them?

It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time… or does it?

Anderson, Jeff. 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know. Stenhouse Publishers, 2011.

Coyle, Daniel. The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Reynolds, Peter H. The Dot. Library Ideas, LLC, 2019.

Embolden Your Inner Writer – plans and resources

How can we strengthen and deepen understanding, confidence, and efficacy in the art and practice of writing? Joe Marshall, Marsha Harris, and I are facilitating a series for interested Trinity School faculty and staff.

Screen Shot 2020-01-18 at 7.50.13 AM.png

In this course, we will discuss, sketch, and write to deepen our flexibility, critical reasoning, and problem-solving. Writing should be anchored in reading rich literature and developed through a cycle of reading, writing, and feedback.

At the end of the course, participants should be able to say:

  • I can write more frequently and confidently.
  • I can heighten my awareness of the craft and conventions of writing.

Session structure:

  1. Motion and Models (01/17/2020)
  2. Energy and Words (01/31/2020)
  3. Focus and Form (02/14/2020)
  4. Cohesion and Frames (02/28/2020)
  5. Details and Clutter (03/13/2020)
  6. Celebration (03/27/2020)


Preparing for Session 1: Motion and Models:

Challenges to take up:

  • Read and write daily with the goal of building stamina
  • Read and write daily with the goal of strengthening this habit
  • Notice and note sentences that inspire or challenge and share in your journal so that others may learn alongside you

Joe, Marsha, and I have been planning this course for several months.  In one of my early journal entries I wrote:

I seem to have fallen into writing reports of PD and plans and posting them on my blog. I seem to fail to tell exciting stories associated with adult learning.

And now, I have done just that… again. For the next six sessions, I will share the agenda, learning goals, and tasks. AND, I will share my take on each session, my outcomes, learnings, ah-ha’s, and struggles.

Summer Learning 2019 – Choices and VTR

How do we learn and grow when we are apart? We workshop, plan, play, rest, and read to name just a few of our actions and strategies.

We make a commitment to read and learn every summer.

Below is the 2019 Summer Learning flyer announcing the choices for this summer.

In case you are interested, links to reviews of each book are shared below as well as the set of TED Talks for Voices from Diversity. #SoGood

Big Potential and The Power of Moments are repeats from last summer’s list because of faculty/staff engagement and enthusiasm. Blindspot and Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners are being used in book study groups during the current school year.  We hope to harness the power of the re-read and spread this ideas.

We will continue to use the Visible Thinking Routine Sentence-Phrase-Word to notice and note important, thought-provoking ideas. This routine aims to illuminate what the reader finds important and worthwhile.

Sentence-Phrase-Word helps learners to engage with and make meaning from text with a particular focus on capturing the essence of the text or “what speaks to you.” It fosters enhanced discussion while drawing attention to the power of language. (Ritchhart, 207 pag.)

However, the power and promise of this routine lies in the discussion of why a particular word, a single phrase, and a sentence stood out for each individual in the group as the catalyst for rich discussion . It is in these discussions that learners must justify their choices and explain what it was that spoke to them in each of their choices. (Ritchhart, 208 pag.)

What are you reading/watching/doing to grow as a learner over the summer? Please feel invited and encouraged to watch us (or join us) learn by following #TrinityLearns and #TrinityReads in June and July.

Ritchhart, Ron, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison. Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2011. Print

Book study: #ChoralCounting and #CountingCollections – session 1 #TrinityLearns

In Making a Case for ‘Timely, Purposeful, Progressive’ PD, Brian Curtin writes

Want to maximize professional-development opportunities? Provide specific content that suits teachers’ most pressing needs—when they need it most. In order to ensure relevancy, teachers must be able to use the new insights they’ve gained right away.

As a community, we are focused on high-quality instruction that leads to deep understanding.  The teachers of our youngest learners take action to develop young, strong mathematicians.  Together, we are studying Choral Counting and Counting Collections: Transforming the PreK-5 Math Classroom to deepen and strengthen our understanding of learning and teaching early numeracy.

Prior to our first meeting on February 4, 2019, 16 teachers and administrators committed to learning together by studying the first chapter of Choral Counting and Counting Collections.  The plan for the Feb. 4 meeting is shown at the end of this post and included time to discuss what we read as well as practice together.

We started with this collection.

And ended up with this:

How might we anticipate ways students will show their thinking and record their work?

Were teachers able to use the new insights they’ve gained right away?

The authors of Choral Counting and Counting Collections: Transforming the PreK-5 Math Classroom tell us:

These activities help us enact our commitments to equity. We know that a sense of belonging and investment, of being seen, known, and heard by teachers and classmates, is fundamental to creating schools where children and families feel welcome and where they flourish. Because these activities foreground student sense making and cultivate a joy for doing mathematics, they can be powerful tools for teachers to counter narrow views that only a few can identify with mathematics or that mathematics is disconnected from students’ home lives, their communities, and their own interests.

We are motivated and driven to learn more so that we continue to serve our young learners in the spirit of our mission and vision:

Trinity School creates a community of learners in a diverse and distinctly elementary-only environment, in which each child develops the knowledge, skills, and character to achieve his or her unique potential as a responsible, productive, and compassionate member of the School and greater community.

Celebrating the present and preparing our students for the future within a nurturing and caring educational environment, we:

  • Cherish Childhood
  • Deepen Students’ Educational Experience
  • Empower Students in Their Learning

So that our students:

  • Build Academic Foundation
  • Develop Character Foundation
  • Exhibit Continued Curiosity, Creativity, and Confidence

Curtin, Brian. “Making a Case for ‘Timely, Purposeful, Progressive’ PD.” Education Week Teacher, Education Week, 19 Feb. 2019,

Franke, Meghan L., et al. Choral Counting and Counting Collections: Transforming the PreK-5 Math Classroom. Stenhouse Publishers, 2018.

Sheep Won’t Sleep #Mathematizing Read Alouds – implement tasks that promote reasoning and problem solving

How might we deepen our understanding of numeracy using children’s literature? What if we mathematize our read aloud books to use them in math as well as reading and writing workshop?

Have you read Sheep Won’t Sleep: Counting by 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s by Judy Cox?

This week’s Embolden Your Inner Mathematician session is designed to learn and practice both a Mathematics Teaching Practice and a Standard for Mathematical Practice.

Implement Tasks that Promote
Reasoning and Problem Solving.

Effective teaching of mathematics engages students in solving and discussing tasks that promote mathematical reasoning and problem solving and allow multiple entry points and varied solution strategies.

Jennifer Wilson and I use the following learning progression to help teachers and teaching teams calibrate their work.

From the Standards for Mathematical Practice,

Construct viable arguments and
critique the reasoning of others.

Mathematically proficient students understand and use stated assumptions, definitions, and previously established results in constructing arguments. Elementary students can construct arguments using concrete referents such as objects, drawings, diagrams, and actions. Such arguments can make sense and be correct, even though they are not generalized or made formal until later grades. Students at all grades can listen or read the arguments of others, decide whether they make sense, and ask useful questions to clarify or improve the arguments.

We choose to reword this for our students. Instead of I can construct a viable argument, we say I can show my work so a reader understands having to ask me questions.

We use the following learning progression to help students self-assess and reach to deepen their learning.

Now, Sheep Won’t Sleep: Counting by 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s by Judy Cox gives away the mathematical thinking on some pages. We decided to read the book and ask our students to listen and take notes as readers, writers, and mathematicians.  Mathematicians notice and note details, look for patterns, and ask questions.  To support listening and comprehension (a.k.a. empower learners to make sense and persevere), we created visuals for quasi-reader’s theater and spelled sheep, alpaca, llama, and yak.  (Level  2; check.)

We also practiced a keep the pace up and get kids collaborating instead of relying on the teacher strategy we are learning from Elizabeth Statmore.

And every day I used 10-2 processing to keep the pace up and get kids collaborating instead of relying on me. For every ten minutes of notes, I gave two minutes of processing time to catch up and collaborate on making their notes accurate. (Statmore, n pag.)

Instead of 10-2 processing, we took a minute after every couple of pages to intentionally turn and talk with a partner with the express purpose of comparing and improving our notes and mathematical communication.

As teachers, we are striving to implement tasks that promote reasoning and problem solving.   Sheep Won’t Sleep: Counting by 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s is a counting book so 1st graders can tackle the math. 2nd and 3rd graders can use this to connect skip counting and repeated addition to multiplication and to use and connect mathematical representations. 4th and 5th graders can use this to use and connect mathematical representations while attending to precision. (Level 1; check.)

Here’s a messy version of how we anticipated student work and thinking.

These read-aloud moments open up the opportunity for rich discussion and engaging questions. Students have the opportunity for more organic and deeper understanding of mathematical concepts thanks to the book that brought them to life, and it is an engaging way to look at math through a different lens.

As Professor of Mathematics Education at the Stanford Graduate School of Education Jo Boaler explains in her book Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students’ Potential through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching, “Mathematics is a subject that allows for precise thinking, but when that precise thinking is combined with creativity, flexibility, and multiplicity of ideas, the mathematics comes alive for people.”

Boaler, Jo. Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students’ Potential through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching (p. 115). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

Leinwand, Steve. Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All. Reston, VA.: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2014. Print.

Standards for Mathematical Practice.” Standards for Mathematical Practice. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.

Statmore, Elizabeth. “Cheesemonkey Wonders.” First Week and AVID Strategies. 25 Aug. 2018.

Establish goals to focus learning – Reading Workshop 5th Grade

What if we design a lesson to orchestrate productive discussion, critique the reasoning of others, grow as readers and writers, and deepen understanding through reflection?

The 5th grade team invited me to co-labor with them to help our young learners deepen their understanding of reader’s response journals. As a team, they are focused on implementing and deepening their understanding of Wiliam and Leahy’s  five strategies in Embedding Formative Assessment: Practical Techniques for K-12 Classrooms :

  • Clarify, share, and understand learning intentions and success criteria
  • Engineer effective discussions, tasks, and activities that elicit evidence of learning
  • Provide feedback that moves learning forward
  • Activate students as learning resources for one another
  • Activate students as owners of their own learning

From our Instructional Core work during Pre-Planning, we are working to  establish goals to focus learning.

The 5th Grade team drafted the following learning progressions to make their thinking visible to our new students. As a team, they have established these goals for students. (Level 3 for I can establish goals.)

How might we use these established goals to focus learning? What student outcomes should we anticipate, and what teacher moves should we plan based on prior experience?

At their invitation (#soexcited), I facilitated a lesson on using the drafts above to improve and strengthen reader’s response journal entries while modeling the use of assessing and advancing questions to focus student learning. (Level 4 for I can establish goals and Level 3 for I can focus learning.)

Here’s the plan:

And, the slide deck:

These learning progressions are in each student’s reader’s response journal so they can use them in class and at home.

It was a crisp 30-minute lesson. All of our anticipated outcomes presented during the mini-lesson.

We wanted our students to learn more about

  • making their thinking visible to another reader,
  • adding text evidence to support their ideas,
  • including details that support understanding,
  • participating in productive discussion,
  • critiquing the reasoning of others,
  • growing as readers and writers,
  • using learning progressions to improve their work.

After reading one of my reader’s response entries, our students’ frustration at not having read Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis surfaced during  their feedback loop to me. This offered me the opportunity to ask their teacher if he or she would have read every independent reading selection made by his or her students. It was a strong “ah ha” moment for our students.

The students’ comments could be categorized in themes. Samples of our students’ reflections are shared as evidence of effort and learning.

  • An ah-ha for me is that my teacher has not read every single book in the universe.
  • I learned to pay attention to text evidence and explaining my text evidence so the reader understands why I added the quotes and page numbers.  I also learned to pay attention to visuals and formatting.
  • I don’t know what an ah-ha moment is. (Oops! Needs more instruction and time to learn.)
  • I know that everyone has not read the book and that I need to add enough detail for people who haven’t read the book.
  • An ah-ha for me is that I think that adding the definitions was smart because I didn’t know some of the words.
  • I learned to pay attention to science experiments. (Yikes! Needs more instruction and time to make sense of the task.)
  • I learned to ask myself if it makes sense and if another person could understand.
  • I learned to ask myself “how can I improve this? What details should I add?”

We know this is not a one-and-done event for our students and our team. We learned about our students and know what me should work on next. We must continue to practice making our thinking visible and hone our skills to use goals to focus learning.

Our school’s mission calls for us to deepen students’ educational experiences and empower students as agents of their own learning while we help them build strong academic foundation.  We strive to make our thinking visible to each other and to our students.

What is to be gained when we make our thinking visible to our students and use established goals to focus learning?

Wiliam, Dylan; Leahy, Siobhan. Embedding Formative Assessment: Practical Techniques for F-12 Classrooms. (Kindle Locations 493-494). Learning Sciences International. Kindle Edition.



Traverse session: Experiential and Instructional: Promoting Productive Mathematical Struggle #tvrse18

At Traverse Boulder, I facilitated the following session on Tuesday, June 5, 2018.

Experiential and Instructional:
Promoting Productive Mathematical Struggle

How might we implement tasks that promote reasoning and problem solving to deepen conceptual understanding? Let’s identify and implement high quality tasks grounded in real experiences. Advancing the teaching and learning of mathematics cannot be accomplished with decontextualized worksheets. Discuss, sketch, and solve tasks that promote flexibility, creative and critical reasoning, and problem solving. Learning math should be anchored in depth of understanding through context – not pseudo context – and built on conceptual understanding as well as procedural fluency.

Here’s my sketch note of our plan:

Here’s the slide deck:

Just say no to worksheets.

Say YES to productive struggle and grappling.

Embolden your inner storyteller and leverage the art of questioning.

Context is key.

#KSULit2018: Mathematizing Read Alouds

At the 27th Annual KSU Conference on Literature for Children and Young Adults where the theme was Reimagining the Role of Children’s and Young Adult Literature, I presented the following 50-minute session on Tuesday, March 20, 2018.

Mathematizing Read Alouds

How might we deepen our understanding of numeracy using children’s literature? What if we mathematize our read-aloud books to use them in math as well as literacy? We invite you to notice and note, listen and learn, and learn by doing while we share ways to deepen understanding of numeracy and literacy.

Let’s debunk the myth that mathematicians do all work in their heads.  Mathematicians notice, wonder, note, identify patterns, ask questions, revise thinking, and share ideas.  Mathematicians show their thinking with details so that a reader understands without having to ask questions.

What if we pause during read-alouds to give learners a chance to analyze text features, to notice and wonder, to ask and answer questions in context?

How might we inspire and teach learners to make their thinking visible so that a reader understands?

Here’s my sketch note of the plan:

Here are more of the picture books highlighted in this session:

And, a list by approximate grade levels:

Early Learners, Pre-K, and Kindergarten

Kindergarten and 1st Grade

2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade

4th, 5th, 6th Grade

I know something!

A motley band of brothers traveling as a pack ambled in at 7:58 for Pre-Cal. Just in time. From a distance they are handsome and well dressed in coats and ties. Up close, they are a little disheveled, like they stepped out of their clothes last night and into them again this morning.  My favorite part is the peacock-ness of their hair.  They slept hard, and it shows. It helps me remember how young they are when they look so grown up. I wonder how many of them brushed their teeth and decided not to go there.

They live together, play together, and learn together. Boarding school builds family and familiarity and deepens connectedness.  Yesterday’s test results require a preface. I prep them by explaining what I learned about them and what we need to do now.  Learning is our focus, and this moment in time tells us that we need to do more, go deeper, and practice harder. This milestone marker says that we need to back up and try again.

I made a 42!” he exclaimed with genuine jubilation. It’s what he said next that confirmed his glee.  “I know something!

“I know something!”

I am in awe of what happens next.  Every man, child, boy learner, in their coats and ties, stands and high-fives him as if he as won a gold medal, sunk the winning shot, made the field goal in the final 30 seconds.

And then, just as quickly as it started, they were all seated as he said “Bring it, Ms. Gough. What do we do now?”

Group culture is one of the most powerful forces on the planet. We sense its presence inside successful businesses, championship teams, and thriving families, and we sense when it’s absent or toxic. (Coyle, xvii pag.)

Culture is a set of living relationships working toward a shared goal. It’s not something you are. It’s something you do. (Coyle, xx pag.)

Live, learn, work, and serve in a community that highlights what is going well. Focus on learning. Build living relationships. Work toward shared goals.

CULTURE: from the Latin cultus, which means care.

Coyle, Daniel. The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups. Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Available for learning

I feel it coming.

Have you seen surfers catch big waves? They paddle out, wait and watch.  Some waves pass by. Others crash over them. Sometimes the surfer gets up, punches through and rides it out.  Other times they wipe out. It is fascinating that they get back up and go back out. They persevere. I wonder how I can do that.

I feel it coming, but I cannot predict how I’m going to handle it. It is different every time. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I turn and fight an internal battle to stand my ground to punch through the wave. Sometimes I can ask for help, but not always.

I am afraid it won’t be perfect.

I am afraid I can’t do it.

I am afraid others will laugh at me.

I am afraid I’ll disappoint my parents.

I am afraid I’m not good enough.

I am afraid I won’t be accepted.

I am afraid I don’t belong.

I am afraid I am not enough.

I am afraid.

I am afraid.

Labels make it easy to attribute student disengagement to a lack of ability or motivation, when disengagement often results from a lack of confidence. (Hassan and Lennard, 70 pag.)

The key to creating psychological safety, as Pentland and Edmondson emphasize, is to recognize how deeply obsessed our unconscious brains are with it. A mere hint of belonging is not enough; one or two signals are not enough. We are built to require lots of signaling, over and over. This is why a sense of belonging is easy to destroy and hard to build. (Coyle, 13 pag.)

How might we learn more about our learners? What actions are needed so that learners know they are psychologically safe?

What conditions must be set so that more learners punch through and rides out the wave?

CULTURE: from the Latin cultus, which means care.

Coyle, Daniel. The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups. Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Hasson, Julie, and Missy Lennard. Unmapped Potential: an Educator’s Guide to Lasting Change. Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc., 2017.