Using Dialectical Journaling to Foster Reader Interaction

Recently, I had my students reread a story that they have now read 3 times.  We have taken Cornell Notes on the story, replied to a constructed response on the author’s use of characterization, and identified making inferences 


as the strategy of choice to make meaning of what we read.  But I still felt that they really didn’t get the deeper meaning of the story – the impact that poverty had on the life of the main character.  I turned to my AVID English Language Arts Write Path book for help and found exactly what had been missing from my instruction – a framework for students to interact with the story.

After I quieted their groanings about having to read this story yet again, I explained to them that they were going to interact with the text a little differently this time.  I reminded them of how we had focused on vocabulary and the ways the author made the character more believable.  I then shared with them two words I’ve learned in a class I’m taking – efferent and aesthetic.  I wrote both words on the board and explained the difference – efferent reading has the main purpose of gaining information from the story to answer questions.  We were pretty good at that.  But aesthetic reading dealt more with how we interacted with the text – how we responded and reacted to what the author had written.

aesthetic efferent

The students were told to divide their papers into two columns (I’m not really a fan of the whole hot dog/hamburger fold thing, so I just told them they needed two columns and let them use their own judgement).  The left column was entitled What I Read – the right column was labeled My Response.  I copied a few of the sentence starters from the AVID book, modeled an example for them, and let them work quietly and independently for about 15 minutes.  As I walked around and reviewed their work, I was impressed – these kids were able to gain much more insight into the main character’s life and challenges than I would have been able to teach them!  (You can find a sample handouts for use in your classes here).  I’m sharing  a few examples from my class below.

dialectical 3


It was really important to me that each kid get a chance to share what they had learned, so we went around the room and allowed each of them to share their responses.  Time was getting away from us and we still had to take our end of year STAR360 test, so I skipped a boy who had reacted to a classmate’s response.  This kid has not willingly completed an assignment all year, so I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal.  But as the next student shared, I literally saw him shrink into his seat and slowly begin to disengage.  When the student was done, I apologized to my boy and allowed him to share.  The transformation was incredible!  He sat up tall, grinned a little, and proudly shared his reaction with his peers.  I learned to value each voice in my room – they are all learning, whether I can see it or not!

Have you used this strategy in your classroom?  How’d it go?

Formative Assessments in PD

Formative assessments are an ongoing way to determine student knowledge and mastery of skills and standards.  A quality formative can allow a teacher to gather a large amount of information in a short amount of time.  The data collected allows the educator to hone in on gaps in student knowledge at both the class and individual levels.

As a trainer, it is important for me to ensure that my teachers are knowledgeable about a wide range of technology tools and practices.  However, this is often difficult to determine at the end of a 40 – 60 minute session.  For this reason, I often introduce topics to my staff in a face to face setting and then assign a formative to be completed within a given time frame.  This allows the staff to review the covered material at their own time and pace, and affords an opportunity for them to show what they know.  I use the results of these formatives to determine the need for future deep dives or flexible small group sessions in order to provide further support on the given topic.

Below is a sample of a formative assessment involving the use of OneNote.  In this example, participants viewed a video and responded in the OneNote Staff Notebook which was the focus of our face to face session.  By reviewing entries made in the staff notebook, I had an immediate sense of those who had mastered using OneNote Staff Notebooks and those who needed more assistance.  Additionally, there was a section in the notebook for questions and requests to get these notebooks in place in the classrooms.

Using Technology Challenges to Encourage Tech Integration

As a technology coach, I’m always looking for a way to share the latest tech tools and fun integration ideas with my staff while at the same time, providing the required “how to” sessions on taking attendance, printing bubble sheets, entering electronic referrals…the tasks that are a necessary part of our day to day life. Time was (and is) never on my side when it comes to offering fun, engaging ways to get our students excited about learning.   After lots of research on blogs, Twitter, and other online resources, I stumbled upon The APPmazing Race and had a quintessential Aha! moment.  The collection of activities provided teachers and other participants to discover a wide range of technology tools that appeal to all sorts of learning styles in a very short amount of time. I immediately reached out via Twitter to Mr. Carl Hooker (@mrhooker), founder of iPadpalooza and the brains behind The Amazing App Race to ask if it would be ok to attempt such a task with my teachers.  He granted me his blessings and off I went.

With the week of preplanning quickly approaching, I decided to stretch the virtual race out over the school year and came up with a monthly Tech Challenge.  Each month, I select either a district software program, a fun new tech tool, or online resource and issue a challenge to our teachers to complete it.  At the end of the month, the names of those completing the challenge are displayed on our Faculty Site and those teachers become eligible to be nominated as our school’s Outstanding Technology Teacher of the Year.  These teachers are honored with a banquet and showered with prizes by our school district and corporate sponsors.  Examples of challenges include:

  • Adding a profile picture to their Office 365 account
  • Completing the orientation for our district’s online PD platform
  • Earning badges through pariticipation in online webinars sponsored by programs like SimpleK12
  • Creating a Twitter account and collaborating with other educators worldwide.

Each challenge has a verification process attached to it so that I can tell who has completed them.  These are totally voluntary, but the teachers have really begun to buy into the idea.  I’m really excited about the excitement that this will generate, and hope it helps teachers see tech integration as a way to engage students instead of “one more thing” they have to do.  Below is an example of a recent challenge.

Have you found ways to spice up your PD sessions?  I’d love to hear about them.

Happy Teching!

The Road to 1:1 – Rules for the Homefront

Feel free to link to this on your class websites. I’ll be posting more information as we move further in our 1:1 initiative.

Your Literacy Coach

There is a ton of research out there about the 1:1 initiative, in which students are issued devices by their school district in order to enhance learning.  Our district began hinting at this change several years ago and as I began to take a look at all the research, I have to admit to being extremely overwhelmed.  If it’s a ginormous (what a fun-sounding word!) idea for me as a veteran educator, I can only imagine what it will do to the minds of our parents.  So I have decided to chronicle our adventure and share the ups, downs, and realities of this experience here.  Look for periodic posts on this topic in the coming months.

My hubby and I have discussed the idea of our 4th and 5th graders bringing home devices, and frankly, we have quite a few concerns.  I can’t get them to put their shoes in…

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