Saturday, August 25, 2012

Pied Pipers Need Not Apply: Harnessing Technology to Track Children

Banner topping web page for Northside ISD in Texas. Found here
I. Pied Piper

A few days ago, Rob gave me Alan Block's book, I'm Only Bleeding: Education as the Practice of Violence Against Children, and asked me to read the chapter, "School as the Product of Adult Fantasy of a World Without Children." The chapter opens with Block describing a run he was taking through his neighborhood late summer when he realized how unnaturally quiet the town was and remembered that the children were all at school. As he runs he begins to link the Pied Piper story with the function of schools. He writes:

So I think of the story of the Pied Piper as I run. And I think of the story's relation to school. You see, I begin to think that school is a vast cave to which children today have been piped; that solid red brick building over there is the cave to which our laughing and dancing children have been led. I am alarmed as I suddenly realize that school may be the product of an adult fantasy of a world without children...I wonder, with whom did we negotiate in such bad faith to have lost our children to this place..." (p.127).

When I read it, I thought it to be over the top. The sinisterness of the Pied Piper did not seem an apt metaphor for schooling.  Block does go on to write some convincing arguments to support the belief that we situate children as "empty vessels into which the state might pour its standardized materials" (p. 129). Nonetheless, the sinisterness of the Pied Piper story gets to me and I can't see the parallel between it and schools as the Piper's task is ultimately harmful.

II. No Piping Needed, Just Tracking

I'm thinking about the Piper when I follow the tweet about two schools in Texas. Starting this school year at Jay High School and Jones Middle School in San Antonio, TX, students will be issued 'smart' ID cards containing RFIDs (radio transmitter becons) and be required to wear their IDs while at school.  These are the same transmitters used to track cattle and boxes at Walmart and now children in San Antonio.

At each school site, hundreds of readers have been installed across the campuses so that the administrators can track the movement of each and every child.  One reason for the tracking says administration spokesperson is that parents insist that school officials know where their children are each and every moment. Another reason is about money.

“If they're not in their chair when roll is taken, we need to find them,” says district spokesman Pascual Gonzales. “The state will not give us money for that child to support that school if they're absent from school...We have got to maximize every revenue stream we can.” (from here).
Huh? This school system is tagging kids in order to maximize the money they receive from the state?  

“In our high schools we have 200 digital cameras,” says Gonzales. “You don't go anywhere in a school without being on-camera. Now the important thing to keep in mind and for the public is that this technology doesn't extend beyond the walls of the school. We don't care if they're at McDonalds at night. That's not our problem or issue. But we do want to know between 8 and 4:00 where they are in our schools.”
Yet, according to Papers, Please blog, the ID cards can be read by anyone who possess a reader.

The school district’s spokesperson also claims that, “The important thing to keep in mind and for the public is that this technology doesn’t extend beyond the walls of the school.” And the school district’s website says categorically that, “‘Smart’ ID Cards will only work inside the school.” But that simply isn’t true. Students carrying RFID badges can be tracked by anyone, anywhere. Nothing in the technology or the law limits the use of the RFID badges to school premises. Anyone carrying an RFID badge can be tracked, legally, by anyone, anywhere, with a suitable reader.

Tracked by anyone, anywhere? Somehow it feels akin to the ankle bracelets criminals wear.

According to the district information sent to parents, these schools were selected for this pilot because attendance is low.  It also indicates that teachers will wear cards too, but it does not seem that they will be tracked. The language is a bit ambiguous, though.

This is a drawing of the cards and lanyards that students are expected to wear.


The Pied Piper has always been a symbol of harm to children.  Oddly, in San Antonio, there's no need to enlist the help of a Piper to keep the children in their place when they can be tracked instead. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Throw Them Out: They Are The Wrong Sort of Map

Watching (2009, M.A. Reilly)
I. Watching

In "The Naturalist" Barry Lopez talks about his habit of visiting the McKenzie River in western Oregon on a daily basis.  Lopez writes:
Almost every day I go down to the river with no intention but to sit and watch. I have been watching the river for thirty years, just the three or four hundred yards of it I can see from the forested bank, a run of clear, quick water about 350 feet wide. If I have learned anything here, it’s that each time I come down, something I don’t know yet will reveal itself.
If it’s a man’s intent to spend thirty years staring at a river’s environs in order to arrive at an explanation of the river, he should find some other way to spend his time. To assert this, that a river can’t be known, does not to my way of thinking denigrate science, any more than saying a brown bear can’t be completely known. The reason this is true is because the river is not a thing, in the way a Saturn V rocket engine is a thing. It is an expression of biological life, in dynamic relation to everything around it—the salmon within, the violet-green swallow swooping its surface, alder twigs floating its current, a mountain lion sipping its bank water, the configurations of basalt that break its flow and give it timbre and tone.
Rereading Lopez always gives me pause: much like the river he references.  There is so much to not know and watching opens us to these possibilities. How different might formal education be if emphasizing not knowing was seen as keenly necessary as knowing. 

II. No Standardized Codification

Complex matters refuse to be understood fully, codified neatly, presented completely. And so the last few months I have tried in earnest to see a positive light in relationship to the new national standards, the tests that accompany them, the curriculum and professional products that are streaming into classrooms and teachers' hands daily, the packaged curriculum and I keep coming back to Lopez who offers us this insight about ways of knowing and although he was not writing about the Common Core and other such documents, the insights nonetheless can be applied:
I would like to tell you how to get there so that you may see all this for yourself. But first a warning: you may already have come across a set of detailed instructions, a map with every bush and stone clearly marked, the meandering courses of dry rivers and other geographical features noted, with dotted lines put down to represent the very faintest of trails. Perhaps there were also warnings printed in tiny red letters along the margin, about the lack of water, the strength of the wind and the swiftness of the rattlesnakes. Your confidence in these finely etched maps is understandable, for at first glance they seem excellent, the best a man is capable of; but your confidence is misplaced. Throw them out. They are the wrong sort of map. They are too thin. They are not the sort of map that can be followed by a man who knows what he is doing. The coyote, even the crow, would regard them with suspicion. (from Desert Notes) 
III. Thinking

It is tempting to hold in one's hand the ready made map and think I hold all I need.  There are many types of map we are seduced by, fall victim to, yes?

Ready made maps, especially the slickest, are unauthored.

We would be wise to follow Lopez's advice and "throw them out. They are the wrong sort of map."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Sea Series

There is a beautiful moment towards the end of Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse when this observation of the sea is made by Lily:
So fine was the morning except for a streak of wind here and there that the sea and sky looked all one fabric, as if sails were stuck high up in the sky, or the clouds had dropped down into the sea. A steamer far out at sea had drawn in the air a great scroll of smoke which stayed there curving and circling decoratively, as if the air were a fine gauze which held things and kept them softly in its mesh, only gently swaying them this way and that. And as happens sometimes when the weather is very fine, the cliffs looked as if they were conscious of the cliffs, as if they signaled to each other some message of their own. For sometimes quite close to the shore, the Lighthouse looked this morning in the haze an enormous distance away.

‘Where are they now?’ Lily thought, looking out to sea. Where was he, that very old man who had gone past her silently, holding a brown paper parcel under his arm? The boat was in the middle of the bay.

Although I was not on holiday on the Isle of Skye like Lily, I did have a few days along the Atlantic and on two separate mornings I made a few images.  Please enjoy.

Three Parts (Florida, August, 2012, M.A. Reilly)
Moon Longing (Florida, August, 2012, M.A. Reilly)
Umbrellas (Florida, August, 2012, M.A. Reilly)
Into the Mystic (Florida, August, 2012, M.A. Reilly)
The Pier (Florida, August, 2012, M.A. Reilly)
One Bird (Florida, August, 2012, M.A. Reilly)
Being There (Florida, August, 2012, M.A. Reilly)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What Was the Question To Which PARCC Is the Answer?

Waiting on Icarus (2009, M.A. Reilly)
I. The Absence of Complexity

I took a look at the new release of PARCC assessment items the other day and specifically spent some time thinking about the demands these prototypes represent and the contexts in which these demands will occur.  PARCC situates the assessments as "next generation, technology-based assessments"  and makes these claims (here):
Better standards require better tests – and the shifts in the standards call for critical advances in assessment quality. PARCC will develop custom items and tasks aligned to the Common Core State Standards.
In regards to the ELA/Literacy assessments, this means PARCC will include:
  • Texts worth reading: The assessments will use authentic texts worthy of study instead of artificially produced or commissioned passages.
  • Questions worth answering: Sequences of questions that draw students into deeper encounters with texts will be the norm (as in an excellent classroom), rather than sets of random questions of varying quality.
This made me a bit uneasy, not because I don't want my son to read or engage, but rather because the language here reminded me of the discourse that typified the high school I attended several decades ago--years before the Internet.  At that time information was thought to be scarce and a private school education was supposed to afford its students access to the coveted information (preferably ahead of others) and in doing so gain its clients entry into select colleges (where even scarcer info could be had). Yet even then a belief that there existed an agreed upon collection of 'texts worth reading' was being challenged.  So too was the idea that a deeper encounter could be had devoid of person and context.

Reading the claims from PARCC reminded me of that important Neil Postman question: What was the question to which this was the answer? 

 Hmm.  So take a moment and see what you think.
What was the question to which these next generation prototypes are the answer?
What world is posited?
What beliefs are held sacred?
Whose power is secured by maintaining such a system?
Who wins? Loses? Profits?

II. Take This Test

Go ahead and access and then read the two texts (Ovid's "Daedalus and Icarus" and Anne Sexton's "To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Triumph") and the four prototype questions here.  I am not asking you to answer the two essay questions, but do take a look, along with the two multiple choice questions.  Keep in mind that the sample ELA test items have been designed for high school sophomores.

So what did you think?  How did you work?

As I reread the poems on my laptop, I started searching terms in an effort to read against each poem, clarify questions, and pose new questions based on the meanings I made.  I am curious as to what you did when you read the texts. Did you seek external sources as well?  Did you talk to others?  Did you search for works you had written that connected?  There were many references that came up as I queried Daedalus, Icarus, Minos, and Perdix.  Just reading the links allowed me to call forth understandings I have had of the many Icarus texts I've taught/read/view/heard and composed (an example at the top of the post). 

As I worked it was painful to think that my child and yours too will not have access to their connected lives when they take this assessment. They will not be asked to make sense of texts through the dominant tools many use daily.  In fact,  my child will be disadvantaged as he lives in a highly connected world. When he has a question or is trying to frame a question, he often skypes with friends, clients, and colleagues across the world.  Just yesterday he shared a program he wrote and when I asked him how he learned to write script he said that he studied examples online, talked with a few people from one of his development teams who are more advanced programmers, and then gave it a try and revised as needed. None of these options will be afforded to him when he takes the 'next generation' test and this should give us pause.

As I read the prototypes I did not see a web 2.0 world, but rather a continuation of the last century, albeit somewhat slicker (the absence of #2 pencils, dragging, highlighting text, etc.).  But what is fundamentally unchanged is that the student is situated in front of a stand alone computer screen.  While the software maybe networked, the student is not. The isolated test taker is unable to interact at will with anything or anyone else and this is contrary to the very career and college world that CCSS purports to be readying your child and mine.

III. What Does It Mean to Be Ready?

I own a consulting business and I cannot recall a time when I was limited to working without any access to resources and not required to frame the question(s), determine resources, and collaborate within a given and nonetheless emerging context.  Most of my work requires me to interact with others and to make and negotiate meaning collaboratively.  This is not to say that I don't produce texts on my own, but rather that the texts I do produce are (in)formed by the client and the context which is always evolving.  As such, the work is complex.  And so in considering how I actually work,  I do not understand how the results from PARCC measures are going to help me and my child know if he is career and college ready.  At best, PARCC offers complicated tasks, but clearly not complex ones as there is no difficulty in tracing the journey each and every child will take well before anyone begins.

I want to say that PARCC and Smarter Balance assessments are little different, at a philosophical level, than the high stakes tests that we have subjected children to since we were first told that we were a nation at risk (mid 1980s).  Instead of valuing learning that children actually do in the myriad of contexts they work and learn in, we continue to create a separate testing reality that costs taxpayers billions, reduces learning time within schools, and is disconnected from important learning dispositions, strategies, and skills we want to cultivate with (not in) children.  Oddly, understanding and being able to perform a range of performance strategies that include collaboration, creation, critique, analysis, evaluation, and representation--while being responsive to emerging situations--cannot be included in measures where learners are isolated beings. Even though it is 2012, we continue to measure excellence with the belief that information is scarce and knowing is akin to that which you can prove on your own. Sadly, it's an every (hu)man for him/her self world.

IV. When Information as Scarce

Doug Thomas and John Seely Brown (2011) define this type of thinking as mechanistic. They write:
Learning is treated as a series of steps to be mastered, as if students were being taught how to operate a machine or even, in some cases, as if the students themselves were machines being programmed to accomplish tasks. The ultimate endpoint of a mechanistic perspective is efficiency: The goal is to learn as much as you can, as fast as you can. In this teaching-based approach, standardization is a reasonable way to do this, and testing is a reasonable way to measure the result. (Kindle Locations 336-338)
In contrast to this mechanistic view of learning Thomas and Brown offer a view to a new culture of learning, one that is absent from the PARCC prototypes:

learning should be viewed in terms of an environment—combined with the rich resources provided by the digital information network—where the context in which learning happens, the boundaries that define it, and the students, teachers, and information within it all coexist and shape each other in a mutually reinforcing way.  (Kindle Locations 329-332).
Instead of examining actual work that learners do for real purposes, we continue to subscribe to the belief that simulated assessment tasks are apt measures of knowing and doing.

It's the 20th  

                  all over,



Work Cited:

Thomas, Douglas; Seely Brown, John (2011-03-12). A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. CreateSpace. Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

An Exchange of Energy

Amethyst (August, 2012 by M.A. Reilly)

Sometimes I shoot pictures.  
Sometimes I make images.  
Corn (August, 2012 by M.A. Reilly)

The difference is all about energy. 

Something Like Magic (August, 2012 by M.A. Reilly)
When I make images,
there is a transfer of energy
between the subject and myself. 

Repeating (August, 2012 by M.A. Reilly)
This morning was image-making and I connected with the subject.

A Bird Singing (August, 2012 by M.A. Reilly)
Through the fog, I became the bird singing.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Building Foundational Reading Knowledge through Apps

Developing children's foundational reading skills can be enhanced with these apps.

Print Concepts
Print Concepts Level I (.99)

Teaches child how to use capital letters, punctuation, and to identify the first/last word in a sentence.

Sight Words
Kids Learn Sight Words 1-300 ($8.99) from Teacher Created Materials
Note: Available also: Sight Words 25 (Free), Sight Words 1-100 ($4.99), 101-200 ($4.99), 201-300 ($4.99)

Word Wagon HD - by Duck Duck Moose
Letters/Sound Relationships & Spelling
WordWagon HD (1.99)
Drag and drop spelling games.

Letter Formation/Tracing
Alphabet Tracing (Free)
Free app that offers tracing guides for upper, lower case letters and numbers.  This app would need to be used with parent or teacher guidance as there is no indicator of having traced the letter/number correctly or not. Provides picture(s) for each letter and numeral.

Letter/Sound/Word/Story Writing
Montessori Alpha Write App
With this app, children can compose stories with pictures, tap to hear sounds, practice spelling and writing with single letters (color coded vowels and consonants) and phonograms and save work to the camera roll.

For Teachers to Personalize Instruction
Show Me Interactive Whiteboard (Free)
Allows you to record voice over tutorials and share them with specific students online.  There is an online community that can be found here, along with examples of other teachers' use of the app. Here is an example by a teacher, Lynne Peabody teaching students the at and an family for word producing. I think it makes for an interesting way to up the production and learning at centers.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

10 Less Traditional Ways of Coming to Know Learners

School Yard
Talking with, listening to, and observing children's behaviors as they talk, read and write offer rich ways to come to know what children are like and can do, are almost able to do, and not quite ready to do as learners.  Without question, these are the methods I rely on most when I am trying to understand a learner.  These methods, like all assessment methods that are observational or task-oriented, are discursive practices and as such--are only as informative as my knowledge of the child, the context, and my understanding and confusions about reading/writing processes.  Here are a sampling of methods I like to use to help me better understand the child's intentions, strengths, and needs. It is important though to conduct these types of assessments after children are settled at school.  It pains me to think that formal assessments--regardless of quality, are scheduled for the opening days of school.  Settling in, getting to know one another, and becoming comfortable are more important than any data collected via formal assessments.  The former offers rich opportunities to understand learners.

I like to offer learners a range of engagements that learners can opt to do or not to do. I have no expectation (or desire) to have everyone do all of these. I do hope that learners will select some to do and offer their own engagements as well for our consideration.  In the years that I have been inviting students into engagements I have found that all do some and never in the time frame I first consider.  It has not been unusual to find ourselves in March and have a student declare that she or he is going to spend time making a self portrait, engaging in an art conversation, or doing some other opening engagement.

Here are a few:
Example of an art conversation and poem that a middle school student produced.

  1. I often ask learners to tell me and when appropriate classmates about interests they have at and beyond school. I am confident that I can parlay/recognize reading, writing, talking skills and strategies in work that children actually enjoy.
  2. Self portrait project. A great example of this can be found here.  I hope to engage 5th to 8th graders (who are interested in the task) in this type of engagement this fall. The only difference is that I don't want to limit the self portrait to what can be drawn and collaged.  Rather I would like to open it to video, drama, and musical expressions as well. 
  3. Writing/drawing/talking sample that a child self generates (without prompting) and is recorded in some manner.
  4. Record of an oral reading of a self-selected text (not from a kit like DRA 2). I tend to do this at the beginning of the school year very informally.  I sit next to a child who is reading and ask the child to read a page of text (or more depending on the book, article, web page, etc.) and make an informal record (if necessary). I am thinking about how to do this with moving text as I imagine that there will be students who are making video or remixes. How these are read is important, too.
  5. Choral reading/drama performance/classroom design. I find it interesting to observe how students conduct and organize a choral reading or dramatic skit or arrange the classroom (what to keep, get rid of and where to place what remains). 
  6. Building and making stuff yield artifacts (in classrooms that still have blocks, sand tables, art easels, collage station, iPads, laptops, cameras, recorders, musical instruments) that children freely produce and that together we can study (or not). 
  7. Art conversation artifacts. Nonverbal conversations we have using our hands, paint, and paper.  Pulling poems and other types of text from the painted conversation is often meaningful. 
  8. Visual letter exchange: I usually write to students and create some piece of art  at the beginning of the year that tells them a bit about myself and I have asked students if they might tell me what type of teacher they hope I will be. 
  9. Learning walks. I take these all year with students, but the beginning of the year allows me to have conversations with students outside of the school location. As students have the option of bringing phones, handheld devices, sketchbooks, etc. with them on the walks--some products are made. Often these are collaborative products and that helps me to build more understanding about each child.
  10. Photographs. With students permission, I photograph them at work/play. I share these images with students and we discuss them when that is appropriate and/or interesting. Likewise, students also have cameras and are making images too. Sometimes we pool these images after the first month and see what we notice.

I usually keep a sketchbook in which I record observations, questions, tentative understandings about each student. I am thinking about how to do this now as I imagine that keeping it digitally could be important.  Hmm.  Will need to think about this more.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Instead of Having Children Guess, Anchor Ways to Problem Solve

The Problem with Guessing

Several understandings emerged as I worked this summer in the prevention of reading difficulties project with teachers, coaches, and K-3 children at 16 public school sites.  When working with children who are having difficulty acquiring foundational reading skills the way we support them is rather important, especially given the regimented (and now national) understanding that all students  need to read by a specific date (i.e., end of grade 1).  Whether I was observing small group high intensity guided literacy lessons, one-to-one tutoring sessions, or whole class interactive read aloud--prompting children to guess was unfortunately present. I think it is guessing that David Coleman may have had in mind when he blasted pre-reading (an unfortunate error on his part). It isn't pre-reading instruction that is a problem, but rather the mistake of prompting children to guess, rather than to problem solve.  These are not the same and the language we use may well be contributing to reading difficulties.

During a read aloud session I was observing, the teacher read a small section of text aloud, stopped, and asked the children to predict what was in an envelope. The children were unable to actually make any cogent predictions as they did not have enough textual information to do so. What they were left with was guessing and avoidance of the task as posing their own questions to elicit more information was not a behavior that was familiar, prompted, or anticipated. So I watched as some children offered outlandish guesses and others misbehaved.  The problem was the nature of the question and the text sample the teacher provided.  In posing questions we need to ensure that students have enough information and prior knowledge (or access to information) to make meaningful assertions.  This is not to say that the information should be spoon fed, but it does need to be accessible.  For example, during the read aloud, if seeing the text is important in order to problem solve, then access to the text needs to be procured in some manner so children can search (if necessary) and reread. In the remainder of this post, I illustrate some ways that teachers created meaningful opportunities for children to problem solve, instead of guessing.

Instead of Guessing, Anchor Ways to Know

Children meet with Ms. Senkiw to review directions.
Children are grouped to answer a text-dependent question.

In a first grade classroom, Ms. Senkiw posed questions in writing so that groups of students could respond after the read aloud to a specific question.  This task was enhanced as students had access to the read aloud text about Sonia Sotomayor.

Kindergartners study symbiotic relationships by keeping track of animal partnerships.
 In other classrooms, teachers used charts that they made with the students as places to pose questions which often contained quoted text and to model how information can be collected and then used to enhance knowledge. It is necessary to reread the charts as they provide children the opportunity to think about emerging patterns.  For example, during an interactive read aloud of the picture book, Weird Friends, teachers made charts with kindergartners in order to keep track of the animal partnerships discussed in the book.  Specifically they wanted to know which animals, what the partnership was, and who benefited from the partnership. In studying biological interactions, mutualism and parasitic relationships are illustrated in the book.

Page from a kindergartner's illustrated book based on Weird Animals that contains fact, illustration, and labels.
Another teacher (following the suggestions of the literacy coach, Jeff Williamson) had children reproduce the relationships by having children illustrate, label, and record a fact for each animal partnership. This work was introduced through teacher modeling. The teacher then supported each child through conferring. The children assembled their own books which they were able to reread. Drawing, labeling, and retelling facts help children to be curious about, understand, and name the symbiotic relationships.  Enhancing children's scientific knowledge is an outcome to this read aloud and may well require us to do our own research in order to better understand the concepts related to the text.

Ms. Spence uses post its to guide her discussion with students.
In conversation this summer with second grade teacher, Ms. Spence, she explained that she had to spend considerable time reading about the boreal forest, as she was unfamiliar with it.  She did this in preparation to reading, Life in a Boreal Forest to her students. This preparation allowed her to augment the text through shared writing, anchor charts, and morning message. It is not surprising given the level of preparation that Ms. Spence did that her students benefited.  Other teachers simply told me the text was too difficult for their children and they read it once (if that!) and then did not return to it. It is a mistake to assume children's picture books are going to be easy to understand. Many are about complex topics and require us to plan well which often includes developing our our knowledge.

Ms. Spence's morning message raises children's awareness of the text and embeds domain-specific vocabulary.

Preparing Questions, Artifacts, and Engagements Ahead of Time

Use post its to remember when & what you want to ask.
The importance of planning cannot be overstated.  Students are left guessing, instead of being strategic, when teachers fail to plan well, prepare for the lessons adequately, or mistake their knowledge for their students and ask questions or assign tasks that do not or cannot forward learning.  In contrast, when teachers are purposeful like Ms. Senkiw, Mr. Williamson, and Ms. Spence and research, plan and prepare what is needed ahead of time, children have more consistent opportunities to deepen their knowledge of content and strategies. This also allows teachers to make adjustments to their plans when teaching as they are not inventing, and can pay better attention to the children, noticing what they are and are not doing and saying.

Here are some examples of how Ms. Spence prepared and shared the knowledge she learned with students to augment the reading of Life in a Boreal Forest. 

Create shared reading text about the topic.

Contrast and compare read aloud texts.

In preparation to the summer school work, I created a 45-page multimodal e-book that provided sample questions, suggested anchor charts, and tasks for each read aloud that teachers were provided across the four grades.  (You can access that book through iTunes here.) The book is free and contains a lot of videos illustrating interactive read aloud techniques, management techniques, as well as questions, charts, and tasks.  Most of the questions are coded to the Common Core State Standards (at the K and 1 level, also mathematics CCSS).  In designing the guide I wanted to illustrate the nature of planning as I do believe this is rather critical. I hoped teachers would augment, like the teachers mentioned in this post did, and be selective in what they used from the guide. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Making a World: One Image at a Time

I haven't been making much art lately and so it feels good to edge my way back (perhaps forward?) to making a few images again.  Through photography, I often create the reality I desire, not necessarily the one that I first see.  There's a message in that I want to hear/better understand that extends beyond the physical art.

Here are a few images I have been playing with the last few days. I made these with my Nikon and/or an iPhone.

2 Men


Blue Ridge

Atlantic III

Something Like a Memory

Oat Grass


Fishing  (* This is the fourth year I have made an image of this fisherman. Began in 2009)

Guided Literacy Lesson for Transitional Readers

Guided literacy lesson being conducted by second grade teacher with students this summer in Newark, NJ.

This is a sample high intensity guided literacy lesson using the text, Carlos and the Cornfield/Carlos y milpa de maiz (text level L, DRA 20, Lexile level 660) that we designed this summer (using Jan Richardson's lesson plan) for the primary grade summer school project that was held at 16 school sites in Newark, NJ.

This lesson is designed for a small group (4 to 6 children) reading at a transitional level. The three day 20-minute lesson plan connects reading, phonics, and writing and makes it far superior to traditional guided reading.  This is an example of the work that was done this summer to prevent reading difficulties.

Title: Carlos and the Cornfield   Level: L     
Group: ________________________________________________________________
Strategy: Theme/Main Idea

Day 1 Date______________ Pages_____
Introduce New Book:  In this book, Carlos and the Cornfield, Carlos wants to purchase a red knife and finds a way to do so that involves him doing a job for his Papá.  Let’s read to see what work Carlos does and what he learns as a result of his actions.
New vocabulary: pedaled, reap, sow, good fortune, harvested
Day 2 Date______________ Pages_____
(Continue first reading) Notes/Observations
­­­­­Teaching Points: Choose 1 or 2 each day
­­­­­Teaching Points: Choose 1 or 2 each day
Decoding strategies:                                       Vocabulary Strategies:
q  Reread & think what would make sense.      Reread the sentence and look for clues.
q  Cover (or attend to) the ending.                 Check the picture or visualize.
q  Use a known part. (e.g. shouted)                 Use a known part. (e.g. compound words)
q  Use analogies. (e.g. saw – jaw)                    Comprehension Strategies:
q  Chunk big words. (re-mem-ber)                  Fiction:                       Nonfiction:
Fluency & Phrasing                                          BME                                     Recall information
q  Phrasing.                                                     5-finger Retell                     Write key words
q  Attend to bold words.                                S-W-B-S                               Compare/contrast
q  Dialogue, intonation & expression.              Compare characters              Ask questions
q  Attend to punctuation.                               Track character’s feelings   Summarize w/support
                                                                   Flag the V.I.P                        Main Idea/Details

Discussion Prompt 1: Why does Carlos want to give back the knife to the store owner?  Why does he need the money?
Discussion Prompt 2: Carlos doesn't know where blue corn cornmeal came from. Why is he embarrassed when his father tells him?  What lesson does he reap (learn) as a result of his actions?
Discussion Prompt 3: What does it mean when Papá says, “You reap what you sow”? Turn and discuss with your partner.

Word Study 
Making Words: Letters - a, c, e, l, m, n, o, r

1.     Take four letters and make the word corn.
2.    Add one letter and make the word acorn.
3.    Change one letter to make the word carol.
4.    Take away one letter to make the word cola.
5.    Rearrange the letters to make the word coal.
6.    Change two letters to make the word, mole.
7.    Add one letter to make mole say lemon.
8.    Rearrange the letters to make lemon say melon.
9.    Take away a letter and add another letter to make the word, lone.
10.  Add one letter to make the word, alone.
11.   Add one letter to make the word, loaner.
12.  Remove two letters and make the word, real.
13.  Change one letter to make the word, meal.
14.  Now add the remaining letters to make our mystery word that was in our story. (cornmeal)

Word Study
Making Words: Letters – a, d, e, l, n, p. t

1.     Take three letters and make the word lad.
2.    Change one letter and make the word lap.
3.    Add one letter to make the word plan.
4.    Add a letter and make the word, plant.
5.    Add a letter and make the word, planet.
6.    Remove a letter and make it say plant.
7.    Now use all the letters to make our mystery word. (planted).

Day 3 Reread the book for fluency (5-10 min.) & Guided Writing (10-15 min.)
q  Beginning-Middle-End       5-finger retell      X SWBS     Character Analysis
q  Problem – solution    Compare or contrast   Event – detail      Other:

Write a summary of the story using SWBS (Somebody, Wanted, But So).
Generate this chart with students but have them complete the final column on their own sheets.  They then use this information to write a summary of the story, answering the question: What did Carlos learn?

A red knife
He did not have enough money
Opening Sentence:

Closing Sentence: