Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Snapshots of Learning at School

The images below represent some of the work consultants from my company, Blueprints for Learning, and I are doing with primary grade teachers in Newark, NJ.  In order to support kindergarten, first and second grade teachers reading aloud to their children, I created three e-books (available for free via iTunes) that contain units of study and provided these books to teachers in our projects.  Each unit has several texts (print and non-print) and lesson ideas for each title are included.  The lessons are thorough and contain specific comprehension and vocabulary strategies, as well as text dependent questions that are aligned to the ELA-CCSS.

These examples of learning are from Hawkins Street School in Newark. Annette Nekoukar and Louise Tracey are the consultants working at this site. Sandra Marques is the principal of Hawkins Street School.



Second grader quickly sketching the setting while he listens
to the opening of The Chiru of High Tibet. 

While listening to his teacher read aloud, The Chiru of High Tibet: A True Story, this second grader sketches what he hears and imagines. Children then turned and talked, sharing their quick sketches. The teacher then showed the students the images from the text and led the children in a brief discussion about visualizing while listening.


Close up of Vocabulary Knowledge Rating Chart. Children write their names on post-its and then
place the post it in the column that best represents their knowledge of each word.

First graders from Hawkins Street School
completing a vocabulary knowledge rating chart.

First graders at Hawkins Street School in Newark, NJ rate their vocabulary knowledge prior to listening to their teacher read aloud North: The Amazing Story of Arctic Migration. The completed chart allows teachers to better gauge students' vocabulary knowledge prior to reading.



Monday, February 25, 2013

Artists' Sketchbooks: A Few Recommendations

from 

The Art of Urban Sketching: Drawing On Location Around The World.



Behan, Teju. (2012). Drawing from the City. Tara Books.

Campanario, Gabriel. (2012). The Art of Urban Sketching: Drawing On Location Around The World. Beverly, MA: Quarry Books.


from 

An Illustrated Journey: Inspiration From the Private Art Journals of Traveling Artists, Illustrators and Designers


Gregory, Danny. (2013). An Illustrated Journey: Inspiration From the Private Art Journals of Traveling Artists, Illustrators and Designers. Cincinnati, OH: HOW Books.

Gregory, Danny. (2008). An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers. Cincinnati, OH: HOW Books.

Hearld, Mark and Simon Martin. (2013). Mark Hearld's Workbook. London: Merrell Publishers.
Heller,Steven and Lita Talarico. (2010). Graphic: Inside the Sketchbooks of the World's Great Graphic Designers.The Monacelli Press.

from David Hockney's A Yorkshire Sketchbook

Hockney, David. (2012). A Yorkshire Sketchbook. Royal Academy Publications.
Kalman, Maira.(2007). The Principles of Uncertainty. New York: Penguin Press.


from Angie Lewin: Plants and Places
Lewin, Angie. (2010). Angie Lewin: Plants and Places. London: Merrell Publishers.
Rothman, Julia, Jenny Volvoski, Matt Lamothe and Dave Eggers (2010). The Exquisite Book:100 Artists Play a Collaborative Game. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.
Sokol, Dawn DeVries. (2008). 1,000 Artist Journal Pages: Personal Pages and InspirationsBeverly, MA: Quarry Books.

When March is Scarcely Here




When March is Scarcely Here (M.A. Reilly, 2013)












          A Light exists in Spring
          Not present on the Year
          At any other period —
          When March is scarcely here


              - Emily Dickinson






Thursday, February 21, 2013

Creating Conversations Worth Having at School: Leading with the Heart


Community is Infinite (M.A Reilly, 2012)

I am engaged with primary grade teachers in a workshop when one says, "If I run over the scheduled time I will be written up. Teachers cannot deviate from the posted schedule." 
Another adds, "I was told by my principal that I had to time students when they read and that a running record without it being timed is wrong." 
A third chimes in: "I realized my students were struggling and instead of continuing in the small group as a guided situation, I read the story to the children and we discussed it. I was told  that I had done the lesson wrong and not to do it again."

As I think about these comments and the potential conversations that are needed, I consider that the first important act in this work we are doing with inner city primary grade teachers and school administrators is to bear witness and listen.  The second is to remember that what I write here is more for my benefit than anyone else.  These are lessons I need to remember because it is  often easier to slip into evaluative discourse when confronted with the complexity of teaching and learning. At such time, I know it is hard to lead from the heart.

My response to the group today was a request that they begin to contemplate how they might initiate a change in the discourse at school so that richer and more complicated conversations can happen between and among faculty.  There are compelling reasons for everyone--students, teachers,  administrators, and coaches--to work and situate ourselves as learners.  In order to prevent reading and writing difficulties with children, we will need to problematize the work of teaching and learning through critical and caring conversations.  To do this well requires that we exercise our imagination and become (other)wise.

Listen to Maxine Greene (2007) who in a lecture on the imagination writes this:

For John Dewey, facts are mean and repellent things until imagination opens intellectual possibility...It is often said that imagination is the capacity to look at things as if they could be otherwise; and, surely, if we ourselves might come to a point of being yet otherwise than we have become, our altered perspective might well enable us to break with a fixed and one-dimensional view and look at things as if they too could be otherwise. 

Our capacity to become (other)wise is connected to imagining--to pausing and wondering why the administrator or the teacher did or said X.  Imagining and inquiring opens us to the possibility of richer conversations than those that are gotten when commands and counter-commands are uttered.

We have so much to learn about, from, and with one another--especially when we are trying on new or revised ways of teaching and leading.  Again, turning to Maxine Greene and listening carefully can be helpful. She closes the speech by saying:

To be enabled to activate the imagination is to discover not only possibility, but to find the gaps, the empty spaces that require filling as we move from the is to the might be, to the should be. To release the imagination too is to release the power of empathy, to become more present to those around, perhaps to care.
And so tonight as I think about the complex work at hand--how deeply the administrators and teachers and those of us working as coaches care about the children and the work, I am wondering how to nudge the discourse from one that is overly steeped in evaluative language--to one where the heart leads and our capacity to become (other)wise is strong and unwavering.






Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Preventing Literacy Difficulties in Kindergarten and Grade 1


Child who had not been reading,  reads from his book box while his peers and teacher listen. 

In this post, I want to highlight through images some of the ways we are working with inner city public schools to help them prevent reading and writing difficulties in grades K-1. Specifically, we have helped teachers to strengthen independent reading and writing in their classrooms by organizing and supplementing classroom libraries, scaffolding reading and writing, developing individual book boxes/bags for children, instituting turning and talking about texts, providing high quality read aloud books and e-book guides, introducing interactive and shared writing, and supporting kindergarten and first grade teachers as they implement these practices and reading and writing workshop. It is important to note that many of these images were made in Lenore Furman's kindergarten class in Newark, NJ. Lenore is a nationally recognized primary grade teacher whose work with children is nothing less than inspiring.


Science observation.

Reading bag support.

Observation page.

Lenore confers with a kindergarten writer,
helping her to add a lead to her story.

Writing supports that are in each child's writing folder.

Kindergarten child takes control of the conference. Agency matters.

Table card to suport reading. These cards change based
on what supports learners need.

Child's painting, neatly displayed.

Pretend center mural. Murals change based on themes.

Pretend center materials.

Writing where you are comfortable.

Writing Where you are comfortable.

Anchor Chart 
Read Aloud Books

Read  Aloud Books 
Independent Reading Book Boxes

Read Aloud Books
Close up of Interactive Writing 
1st Grade Children's ThankYou to
Blueprint's Consultant via Interactive Writing
One section of Classroom Library

Sandy Heintz, an administrator, reads with a child.

Book organization

Kindergartener practicing reading.

Kindergartener practicing reading.
Word Wall words on popsicle sticks
that are used by children when writing.

Word Wall


Spacing tool that is included in students' writing folder.

Interactive Writing

Initial Chart for learning workshop structures.




Center Organization




Reading Goal Reminder that is placed in Reading Bag

Individual Reading Bag with just right books
Sign Up for Teacher Assistance

Anchor chart made with learners
Reading Goal Card


1st Grader's Story


Leveled Books are Color Coded

Suport Card in each child's reading box/bag.

Building Community

Table card (These change based on
what children need to learn)
Interactive Writing based
on Non-Fiction Study