#clmooc teach writers

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Please read this important post by Kim Douillard:

I’m thinking about these powerful words Kim wrote

“I worry about who in our schools gets the most formulaic writing. Why are our English learners, our students of color, our students who live below the poverty line most likely to get writing instruction that is pre-chewed, scaffolded to the point that no thinking is required? In the name of being helpful, we are robbing students of the opportunity to make sense of their thinking through writing.

And yet, letting go of the formulaic means inviting messiness, losing control, welcoming confusion in order to find clarity and coherence. What replaces the formula? That is a question that I am asked over and over again. The answers aren’t easy, they aren’t neat, and they mean teaching writers rather than writing.”

The answer is there:
“teaching writers rather than writing” so that they can “make sense of their thinking through writing.”

We offer many choices for authentic writing and teach the writer– the wordsmith.

We can accomplish this through student planned frames rather than formulas. I’ve written about it here:

I’m also remembering the work of James Moffett: Active Voices- Writing across the Curriculum and others books. http://www.amazon.com/Active-Voice-Writing-Program-Curriculum/dp/0867092890#

His work reflects much of the Connected Learning Principles as students write in genres they choose for their audience and purpose. Important is oral language, peer feedback, and and choice in a workshop approach to teach each writer.

Isn’t that what we’ve learned from technology as well? We teach writers what they need ‘just in time’ for their needs and purposes.

What do you think?


A Small Voice Gets An Answer




One Does What One Can

A Small Voice is Answered

IMG_6947Our dog loves this walk in the park below the transmission lines. She checks every message left by every other creature that walks here. And the scrubby elm trees provide the shade needed in our hot, semi-arid scrublands. The small watershed in this area provides home to all sorts of critters from red-winged blackbirds to killdeer to coyotes to, well, any creature needing a spot to rest or shelter from the heat or cold. And this is a place that many local residents [and their dog friends] visit regularly. We are fortune to have a place with trees, and we are thankful.

On June 18th, 2014, we took our old friend for her last walk here.


She was so old, Scott had to pull her up and around so she could keep her balance. It was time. And on this day to reflect, we arrived to this:



Crews cutting down our trees.

The area is managed by three entities: Bonneville Power Adminstration, United States Bureau of Recamation, and the local Coulee Area Park and Recreation District, who is supposed to be consulted about any changes or actions in the area.

Scott immediately called Bob Valen, the PARD Commissioner, while I took numerous pictures. I went home wondering what I could do. Helplessness is a terrible feeling. Meanwhile Bob Valen talked with the contracted crew at the park.

I had no idea who was cutting the trees down, but I organized my images into an animation video.  While creating it, I decided to tweet the issue, directly to USBR, who have been known to seemingly indiscriminately cut down trees on our walking paths. I also posted on Facebook, but that received a few local comments only.




— Sheri Edwards (@grammasheri) June 18, 2014


I even sent out a tweet on the benefits of trees — so many people have no clue how important they are to the environment and to the health of our communities. And for city crews, it’s just more work for them — so why bother?


By this time Scott had informed me that it wasn’t USBR, but was the Bonneville Power Administration [BPA]. And Bob Valen was trying to contact whoever was in charge at BPA.



An already stressful day with our dog was now doubly so with the possible loss of one of our area’s few treed areas for public play.

I returned to the park and took more devastating photos to add to the Animoto video.

trees gone


When I returned home, I found a message from Washington, DC Bureau of Reclamation who wanted to talk to me about my tweets!  I called the number, and the manager explained carefully that they had not been notified of  the clear-cutting, and that they were now in contact with BPA and PARD and were working on the issue. She was actually in town that day from DC and would check out the area herself. Wow!  The local USBR had also been contacted by DC wondering what was going on. I told her that those trees have been their for over thirty years, in a wetland area, and that local residents frequently access the area for walking. The local parks department has plans for the area, and the loss of trees would hurt wildlife and people’s use. I thanked her for taking the time to find out what the issue was for the community.

I persisted with Animoto videos to BPA since I hadn’t heard from them.


To be sure we were heard, I continued to try to reach BPA:

I never did hear from BPA myself.

But, a small voice received an answer from one of the powers-that-be. I tweeted a thank you.


And here’s what happened: the different entities worked together to find a solution, and only a few trees have been cut down since the initial invasion. If you look at the pictures, you can see that these are not your average neighborhood power poles — they are huge, and these thirty-year old trees will never get close to the wires.


This is the story of a small voice receiving an answer, and Twitter, a social media, got the attention needed to start the conversation.

Remember, “One does what one can.” We’ll miss our walks with Pooka, but we are glad for those people and furry friends that still have their shade.

legend sparrow.001

#nablopomo #nablopomoed Blog A Day 24 If only Professional Development

#nablopomo #nablopomoed  Blog A Day  24 If only…

… all schools would learn this model, presented in this post, and the comments, by Tracy Watanabe


  1. They respect teachers by empowering them to solve the issues regarding the school’s vision through teacher-led Instructional Rounds.
  2. They consider the shift in instruction required by the Common Core State Standards  and focus on project based learning.
  3. They provide the time and resources needed for collaboration to build a culture of learning for students and staff.

If you have read any of Daniel Pink’s work, you will recognize his research shining through Apache Junction Unified School District’s vision and work:

“The secret to high performance and satisfaction—at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.”

“the three elements of true motivation—autonomy, mastery, and purpose”

Tracy’s school district is building a caring, trusting, professional learning community in a shared purpose through autonomy to reach mastery.

I’m sure it’s not always easy; I’m sure there are struggles, but the community will work out the issues together.

If only…


#nablopomoed #nablopomo Consider Grading Practices

gradesDay 7

Today in class I explained a little about grading, not realizing this prompt today. Two of my students were upset at the question today because they were unsure of the answer. I reminded them that I would be giving them feedback, that we’d have more conversations and practice, and when they were ready, we’d have an “assessment for learning.”

We talked about the fact that the practice before the assessment is not part of the “average;” the record of the their work would be of the quality of their mastery. How well did they learn it, not an “average” of the beginning practice sessions with the final. That’s fair they said, and added to their assignment.

My grading practice needs to reflect student learning, not averages. Many educators are struggling with grades, standardized testing, and assessments. As teachers, we offer feedback daily to help students succeed. But what should a report card look like?

Here are a few pieces I’ve been reading on grading practices:

3Ps: Participation, Progress, Performance by Vanessa Alandar

ASCD Nov 2011: Effective Grading Practices

Grading from Pernille Ripp

It’s Not What We Teach; It’s What They Learn by Alfie Kohn

Abolishing Grading by Joe Bower — a ton to read and review

Edutopia: Courageous Conversation: Formative Assessment and Grading

Joe Bower blog with interview of Dylan Wiliam and link to book Embedded Formative Assessment

How To Grade for Learning by Ken O’Connor

Enhancing Your Layered Curriculum by Dr. Kathy Nunley

A person could blog forever on this topic, until we do something about it. What are your doing?




What in the world… #teachtheweb Week 4

choose2matterplain For week four, I wrote learning goals using the provided template for a project I have started with my sixth grade students which we will continue next fall, hopefully in grades 6, 7, and 8. I will share this “Share the Web Soapbox” project with my students.

Here are our first projects and directions: What In the World…

We will apply our Common Core State Standards which apply for  #teachtheweb while following our interests and passions, writing the web with media literacy.

The goal is to introduce students to an open web, a transparent, sharing web in which their projects matter, and their voice can be heard. We will read, write, and share on projects that matter to us, learning to code, to search, to read, to write, to convince, to collaborate.


What do you think?


Reference Projects

Angela Maiers Choose 2 Matter

Denise Krebs What action will I take?

Karen Fasimpaur What is open?


Considering Issues and PLNs for Support #etmooc

I struggle with the issues of today’s education policies in the US. I know every teacher in my school is focused on our students’ learning. So all the negativity of “accountability”– degrades who they are, and they are wonderful teachers.

So I ask this:

Weather and Whether: education is more than tests; #etmooc from Sheri Edwards on Vimeo.

Weather or Whether #etmooc

Instead of spending millions on tests and teacher “accountability,” why not spend those millions on the infrastructure and technology to create neighborhoods of connected learners, neighborhoods online that connect experts, universities, and classrooms to the K20 education system so all students have access to learning with and from the world. Spend those millions on the tools that students use to learn and develop their passions, creating with others the possibilities and solutions for tomorrow.

How do we, classroom teachers, build the environment that truly fits our students’ needs — teaching to the whole child?

 How do we support each other in the midst of these pressures to continue moving forward?
Then I answer with this:

Our PLNs guide us and offer support as we transform education to meet the needs of students and their futures.
We’ve got to think deeper, promote talents and passions.

“You’ve got to jump off cliffs and build your wings on the way down.” Ray Bradbury

We’re jumping off that cliff, spreading our wings, and building neighborhoods of support!  I can’t wait for the lipdub “Don’t Stop Me Now” — because we are moving forward!