Learning Together: Slice #7 Conversations with Eileen

Here in New York, it’s been a pretty dreary day but thankfully, only snow flakes that don’t seem to be sticking to the surface.  But where’s that sun I fell in love with just one week ago in Mexico?  I’m sure it’s still there heating up the lucky sun worshippers occupying our room this week… sigh!

My goal for this post is to capture yesterday before the details and the colors of the day leave me.

Here’s our inquiry team: Science and Social Studies teachers, pairs of teachers from grades 5-9 who never get this golden opportunity of spending a full day together and let me take this time to figure out just what we did yesterday.


We have been working together since last October as a full team. Yesterday was our 4th session together. I will be spending time with each teacher from now until our last team session in May coaching and documenting their work on our multi-genre project that will culminate, (finger’s crossed) with a digital essay.  Last year many of teachers I worked with were ELA teachers. Sure, some of these elementary teachers do wear the ELA hat  but their focus this year is infusing  their work in Science and Social Studies with dynamic writing strategies.

They are supported by the luxury of time provided by Andrea Tejedor, the central administrator in charge of technology and innovation, who has invited this group of teachers to participate in this project and makes these full-day workshop days happen.  It’s unusual and wonderful and it turns out, Andrea is a great educator to collaborate with as well.

So yesterday we were making up a team session that had been originally scheduled in February but canceled when snow got in our way, so yes, we lost a few precious weeks for the last leg of this project to get going, but we can just just extend the deadlines. One by one the rest of the group arrived for the day.  The air was charged with the ever-present pressure of uncertainty, but here for the time we would be spending together I felt confident that the group could put their weighty pressure on the side and dive into our pool of positive stimulation. We would be unveiling the final details of our inquiry project.

    One by one and in clumps the team arrived for the day by 8:15. The air was charged with the ever-present pressure of uncertainty, but here, for the time we would be spending together I felt confident that the group could put their weighty pressures to the side and dive into our pool of positive stimulation. We would be unveiling the final details of our inquiry project.

   We put enough energy into this session to send them off to their students. I had  one last multi-genre strategy to model and then there would lots of time for teacher teams to identify and develop their project focus and create their list of multi-genre  portfolio writings that would support student engagement. The teams would also locate an initial  set of articles for students to begin their research project. There was a great vibe in the air, a sense of community?  I think so.
  As usual, we began the day Writing into the morning, reflecting on their experiences with the most recent strategy, the 2-Voice poem.  Most of the group members had student work to share. We wrote, we shared and just before I led into the morning with my Found Poetry Workshop, I shared a wonderful TED talk presented by a young, passionate Science teacher.  His focus was the difficulty his students had with engaging with their textbooks.  Our TED teacher maintained that the textbook company set ridiculous demands on students, writing in a serious way that made it impossible to understand or care about the information.  The antidote was story telling and this newbie shared some examples and some of his videos he has created to make Science digestible.  
                     I was up next with a Found Poetry workshop
   I debated about what texts I would share as I modeled this strategy and ultimately had the group work to create a poem from a first person-account of the Blizzard of 1888. The second text was  much more demanding text written by Teddy Roosevelt, his foreign policy Corollary
   We read the first text together and then teachers worked by themselves to create a poem using just the words and phrases they selected from the text.  Some teachers in the group had never written a poem before.  But everyone wrote a Blizzard poem and shared it with the group. Each poem captured the over-riding issue of the winter’s severity in a world without the 21st century tech basics.


As in past sessions, teachers began to spontaneously consider how they might take this strategy back to their classes, incorporating it into the body of our big project coming.  For Social Studies teachers on the team, I had a new online resource for primary sources and lesson plan ideas for them to leave with already and it was only 9:30.
Once again, teachers were asked to share their classroom work on the previous modeled strategy: 2- Voice Poems.  Lucas had videos. Jenn, Nicolette, Nicole, Paul, even Maureen who had to miss the last session, had work to share.  Once again, that sharing was documented. 
Okay… now it was time to unveil the promised DIGITAL ESSAY!  Even though this final piece of our project was now in jeopardy, I was pretty confident that we could make this piece happen, even if it might not  be with all of our teachers.  I shared Troy’s examples and Lucas got it right away.  “Hey this is what we are now used to.  A digital newspaper article includes text and images and links.  The kids will get this.” No one expressed any fear or resistance.  I kept pushing for commitments even with the news that computers would not be easy to get hold of but I was confident that Andrea would do her magic here, for the good of our culminating activity.  I could see that we had people on board, ready to be flexible. 
The teacher pairs met together in the afternoon session working on  the projects and MG list of writing strategies.  Everyone left loaded with considerations.
 Time will tell where we go from here.
I left smiling 🙂
Categories: Conversations with Eileen, Highland Falls School Dist 2012-13, Slice of Life 2013 | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Learning Together: Slice #7 Conversations with Eileen

  1. Sounds like an amazing experience!

  2. Wow! I was so tired, and I feel energized just reading this. It reminds me of the Reading and Literature Project. I work in a school where we work closely on interdisciplinary projects, but it is so exciting to hear the amazing things that can happen when teachers get time to think together. Thanks for sharing!

  3. So much wonderful learning took place. I want to attend one of your workshops someday.

  4. Fabulous Bonnie! Your excitement came through and I know that it was caught by the teachers. I will be watching for the finale.

  5. Hoping for a video of this….:)

  6. I wish I could be part of that group working with you Bonnie. Sounds terrific!

  7. This kind of team work is luxury. The teachers may not realize it yet, but they have stretched themselves and it will have a lasting impact.

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