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Professional Reading

June 7, 2011

Teacher Musings:
I have been really getting immersed in professional reading in the past few weeks.  It all started with Penny Kittle’s Write Beside Them which I devoured this summer, and then re-read before I attended a workshop where she presented her multi-genre project.  Then, while cleaning out the book room at school with fellow English teachers I came across They Say, I Say and read a few chapters from that, which really helped me develop some last-minute sentence starters for my student’s current writing project.  Then, after being inspired by Kittle I finally cracked open In the Middle by Nancy Atwell and couldn’t put it down.  I mean, she is describing my dream class, and reading this book has really opened my eyes to the actual goals of a reader’s and writer’s workshop.  Finally, I’m currently in the middle of Bruce Penniman’s Building the English Classroom, which I am finding particularly helpful as I plan out my curriculum for next year.

As I read these books (some for the second time) I am struck by how much my context changes how I understand what I am reading.  I tried to read In the Middle three years ago as a literacy coach and I just didn’t get it!!  I didn’t understand how the beautiful, progressive writer’s workshop that Atwell created in her own school could ever be connected to my MCAS-crazy, overheated, overcrowded ELA classroom.  And I still think they are different classrooms in fundamental ways.  However, I now see the pieces of Atwell’s class that can work in mine.  I see how the “mini-lesson” idea is not just about keeping my teacher talk to a minimum (although that is a big part of it) but how it plays a different type of role depending on my kids, the time of year, the focus of a unit, etc.  And last school year I bought Penniman’s book and skipped right to the chapter about assessment on the never-ending search to find a way to reduce my painful grading load.  Now I’m in a place where I can read his whole book (and others) and not just take strategies and classroom practices directly out of these books; instead I am now understanding some of these teacher’s/writer’s underlying principles about teaching, and how they enact those principles.  I think this new way of reading and understanding professional literature is what is making me so excited to read it.  It is invigorating to read something where you know you will be inspired to think deeply about your practice.  I am finding this far superior to reading a professional book on futile hunt for the next latest-and-greatest teaching strategy.

Yummy Stuff:
Lately we have been enjoying the summer weather with a cool dinner – sushi!  Both the G-man and the little guy enjoy sushi in different forms.  We each have our favorite rolls, but what I love best about vegan sushi is how easy and inexpensive it is.  The only real “tools” you need are a sushi rolling mat, and then you are ready to go!  I suggest that you get all your sushi rolling tips from the lovely ladies at post punk kitchen.  They do some cute stuff with their sushi, but here at the L-P household we keep it pretty basic with lots of tempeh and avocado for me and the little guy, and a bit heavier on the cucumber and avocado for the G-man:

Three delicious sushi-filling options (to be used after becoming a post-punk kitchen sushi master!)

tempeh (1 block cubed, steamed, and mashed up with 4 TB of vegan mayo and 1 tsp of sriracha sauce!)

  1. Jackie Smith permalink

    I know what you mean about Kittle and Atwell. I’m currently reading between Readicide and Teaching Adolescent Writers (both by Kelly Gallagher). I agree that there is a certain kinship that I feel with certain authors.

    • After I published this post I remembered that I gobbled up Readicide two weeks ago and should have included it in my list! I like that description of kinship with authors. I feel that way when I read anything where they describe their classroom in detail – that is what makes their ideas come alive to me.

  2. Sarah permalink

    Would I like “In the MIddle” — or is it mostly for ELA?

  3. In the Middle is exclusively focused on Readers and Writers Workshop, with lots of suggestions for mini-lessons and systems that would work in these classes. While I have no doubt it could be adapted to a math class, I don’t think this book really would help you do that. I have some other ones about “workshop” instruction on my bookshelf waiting to be read – I’ll see if any of them would be more helpful! And then you can write the book about workshop-style in math and make millions 🙂

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