Posts Tagged ‘digital literacy’


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I know “pantser” isn’t a real word.  It’s derived from the phrase, “flying by the seat of your pants.”  I’ve seen this term used in reference to writing style, “Do you plot or pants?”

This tweet from Ralph Fletcher during the Two Writing Teachers Twitter chat jump-started my thinking about this idea.

I started thinking about my first week of teaching and how often I veered off the plan. Pantsing it is where I find my creative teacher self. It’s when my students tend to respond more authentically.

I understand the purpose of planning, and I am certainly capable of falling into a planning zone when I’m writing my lesson plans for the week. I research to find the resources I may need to use. I write out an outline of this, this, then this. But once the day starts and there are real live children sitting in front of me, I begin to fly by the seat of my pants.

Actually I like the phrase, “Go with the Flow” better. As a teacher, my calling is to respond to the needs of my students, or to the creative flow they direct.

This is a silly example: I bought a chair at Goodwill that had an exercise ball in it. I spray painted the black plastic part orange. I brought it to my classroom. When we had writing workshop and were ready to share, the students brought out the ball chair to sit on. I said, “This is our new author’s chair” like that was my plan all along. The kids called it a snail. I said, “Author’s snail” which became “Arthur the author’s snail.”

I wanted to have a soft start to the day this year. This is the kind of thing that if you don’t start on day one and continue, it won’t happen. The planner in me put on some quiet music (I had carefully selected and downloaded it to my phone), and we all read silently for 20 minutes. I read, too, which felt like a joyful rest from the rush of getting to school.

Then my pantser self kicked in, but only because I had read Dynamic Teaching by Vicki Vinton this summer. Following the quiet reading session, I asked my students to take some time to write about what they knew so far and what they were wondering about. Then to turn and talk to their neighbor about the book they were reading. This started meaningful conversations about books that have continued all week.

Being a pantser comes with experience. I have lots of strategies in my tool bag just waiting for the right time to be used. I think it’s time for me to stop feeling guilty when I run off the lesson plan. Actually, I want to embrace my pantser self and bring her out more often. That’s when the real teaching happens.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

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Sometimes you just need a plan.  When the calendars come off the wall and you haven’t bought the 2017 calendar yet, where can you find the plan?  Digital calendars don’t end.  Not only can you go forward indefinitely, you can go back as well. When I scrolled back, I made it to 1770. Crazy!

Recently on the #Good2Great Voxer chat, Kari Yates talked about making a 5-year plan.  Most of us cringed and were overwhelmed by this thought.  But there is something comforting and practical about having a plan.

So here I am back at DigiLitSunday after a few weeks off, and I have no plan.  I know that I want this meme to continue, but I feel like a failure as a leader.  Where are we going?  What is the purpose?  What is the goal?

To alleviate my  anxiety about this, I have a tentative topic plan for January:

  • January 15: Fake vs. Real news: How do we teach our students to be discerning?
  • January 22: Balancing Goals with Needs
  • January 29: Digital Design

Please check in on the Google Doc.  I’ve cleared the topic area, so add in new topic ideas.  If you are not listed, please add your contact.  My goal is to Tweet the topic on Thursdays.

If you haven’t seen it yet, I’ve started blogging for Kidblog.  My first post was published last week.  Check it out here. 

With a plan or without, if you wrote a DigiLitSunday post, please link below.



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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

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“Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’

I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. There goes the shawl again!”

― Lewis Carroll

Welcome back to DigiLitSunday. Believe it or not school has started for me. Summer break flew by, and my focus has quickly changed to being prepared for my students. I have not prepared as much as I would have wanted to. I have read some professional books. I’ve had conversations with my colleagues. I’ve been reading blog posts from #cyberPD.

When kids come into my classroom, however, who they are is the most important thing.

I am lucky that I teach my students year after year. Once they’ve been identified as gifted, they become mine for one academic subject every year while they are in elementary school. My relationship with them is most important to me. It matters. It endures.

Last week teachers sat together to review policies and learn about new curriculum initiatives. We decorated bulletin boards. We arranged desks, prepared supplies. I enjoy this part of the process. Like cleaning your house for guests, the tasks have a purpose.

When the guests arrive, the preparation stops and you spend time together telling stories and making connections.

When my students start coming to me this week, I’ll be ready. I’ll talk to them about their summers, the books they’ve read, the places they’ve been.

I’ll also leave space for believing the impossible.
A new year.
A new notebook.
Clear pages ready to be written.
We are still becoming our best selves.
Leave room for who you want to be.

For the first day of school, there was a rainbow in the sky.  Not kidding!

For the first day of school, there was a rainbow in the sky. Not kidding!

I invite you to jump into this journey with me and join our DigiLitSunday community. You can join the Google+ community here. Put your information into the shared Google doc. Link to this post weekly and Tweet using #DigiLitSunday. We are a community of educators who support each other. Please visit at least 3 blogs and leave a comment.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

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I have taken a few art classes. In art, perspective is important and obvious to the eye. One of my favorite artists is Georgia O’Keefe. A series of her paintings focuses in on the center of a flower. Looking closely changes the perspective. Seeing the center without white space to guide your eye makes the image more focused.



My school year ended ten days ago. This period of time I have worked hard to relax and be present. I have actually avoided thinking at all about school. However, teaching is never far from my radar.

Today, I can see more clearly the white space. I understand the structure of my year and have some perspective on things.

At the center of focus is always literacy.  Writing is an important component in my class. We wrote daily about our lives, about our reading, sprinkled with poetry.

But as I look forward and begin to shift my perspective to the horizon line, I see where my focus should be next year.  I will have the same students. In many ways this makes the transition to a new grade level much smoother. They know what to expect. They know me.

Because of this, I will have to be intentional about changes and make them happen early on. I am reading Katherine Bomer’s book, The Journey is Everything. The intended audience is teachers of middle grades 6-8. The highest grade I teach is 6th, but I can see ways to incorporate her ideas in my lower grades as well.

While we need to pay attention to structure in the essay, that is not the purpose. I will continue using blogs as the main format for writing. A few points of perspective their writing will take are 1. writing to discover and 2. writing to explore language.

I want to be more aware of my students’ perspectives and allow them to discover them safely in our classroom. When we focus on the single poppy in the field, we can see more clearly the unique individual. We can honor their voices and work toward developing authentic, valuable writing.

In order to prepare to teach essay differently, I am experimenting with my own writing.  I am trying out “writing for discovery” and “exploring language” with more intention in my blogging.

Perspective as a writer gives me a clearer lens for teaching writing.

you have a story to tell

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

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I have three days left of school. That statement gets stuck in my throat. I’m not ready. In my position as a gifted teacher, I have the privilege of teaching my students year after year. But the sixth graders move on to middle school. This will be a week of goodbyes.

My students wrote their final blog posts for the year. Our space on Kidblog has become a meaningful, safe place for writing. I asked a 5th grader last week to do a graph of our blog posts this year. The most blog posts went to 6th grader, Kielan, with 139! We’ve written a total of 1121 posts this year!

Here is a sample of a few goodbye posts. I am proud to read that they feel like writers.

Sorry everyone, but this is the last week of GT. Soak it in while you can. Good-bye blankets, read aloud, parties, and GT and Mrs. Simon in general.

We have all learned so much from past writings to now. We have learned grammar (by force, AKA Grammarly), we have learned phrases and metaphors and similes, we have learned everything a poet and writer must know in life. Tobie

Today is the last day of Gt and I will miss Mrs. Simon and GT. I have learned many new forms of poems, like Abecedarian and Diamante. What I will hate about summer is summer reading. I will miss all the art projects and the forts and the pillows and read aloud, but I will not miss the Sol’s. Andrew

This site has let me talk to Mrs.Simon about problems that I had when I couldn’t talk to her face to face. This site has given me ideas from my classmates and connections. This site has let me share my life story with the world. This site has made me who I am today. This site has let me give ideas to my classmates and connections. This site has made my day or made me want to scream. But this site has so many memories that I hold so close to my heart. Erin

It is time to hit the refresh button, time for winding down, relaxing, reading, and reflecting. I have books ready for my summer reading. Here are a few of the books I’ve got waiting for me.

books 3books 2books 1

How will you hit the refresh button? Please join our conversation by leaving your blog link below.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

In my world of teaching and writing, revision is a constant companion. I look at my teaching and revise. Rarely am I following the lesson plan I wrote. I revise based on the direction my students need to take. And last week revision was something we needed to talk about.

I believe that revision is a mature behavior. Revision is having the confidence in a piece of writing to take the risk of changing it. Without even realizing it, I write in constant revision. As I write this post, I backspace. I save and read. Go back. Rephrase.

My students do this, too, as they type their pieces into the blog. Many of them are resistant to the two steps of rough draft in their notebooks, then typing into a final draft. But as I watch them, I see that revision becomes organic to this process.

Sometimes, revision comes from talk. We read the piece together. Discuss what we like. And look at where the words can be stronger.

I sat down with Kaiden to revise his abecedarian about wonder posted here. For the most part, this was an excellent piece of writing. The repeated word, wonder, was intentional and served a purpose. Yet there were a few words that weren’t quite working. So we looked at a list of Shakespeare words. This elevated Kaiden’s poem. There we found kindle. What a great word for K and for wonder! Engaging in this work with him was fun for both of us.

Ralph Fletcher tweeted:

revision by Ralph Fletcher

Let’s relax about revision. If a piece of writing is a stepping stone to another piece, let it be. Use revision strategies on those gems, the ones you want to embrace and hug a little longer.

Revision canva

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts


For National Poetry Month, I am not only writing a poem a day myself, but I am also asking my students to do the same.  Something I have noticed this week as they go from the written form to the typed form, my students are thinking about line breaks.  They are making their poems look like poems on the page.

Attention to form is made easier by digital media.  When they type into a blog post, they can press shift enter to make the lines fall directly below each other.  To create stanzas, they simply press enter.

They haven’t all caught on to this easy solution.  Kielan made a note in her post “Every stanza ends when the text color changes.”

We haven’t had explicit conversations about line breaks.  I talked with Erin about her poetry style.  She tells me she is using a list poem style.  “Today I am going to stick with my list poem style.  I like the way it looks on the page.”

Kaiden said he didn’t think his poem was a poem.  “It’s more like a story.”

I said, “That’s OK.  When you type it, think about line breaks.”  His line breaks made the difference.  He was proud of the result.

Every day I am providing some sort of prompt, but I am allowing freedom of form.  I think, for now, that is working well.  I like to see my students experimenting with form and sounds and styles in poetry.  Poetry is like that.  Freeing and fun!


Don't feed the boy

Madison’s poem response to Don’t Feed the Boy by Irene Latham.

Do not feed
me. I’m like
a zoo animal.

Yes. That is true.
And I moo at you
like a cow.

And snap at
you like a

I care
like a

I’m fat
like a

I cluck
like a

I spread
my tail feathers
like a peacock.

I stick to
things like a

I am
strong like
an elephant.

Madison, 2nd grade

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for March Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for March Slice of Life Challenge.

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Happy Easter, friends!

I considered taking today off from writing a post; however, an issue concerning digital literacy occurred in my classroom this week that needed to be addressed. There are two ways that I process things, by talking and by writing. In fact, today on the Two Writing Teachers call for Slices, there is this quote, “Writing floats on a sea of talk.” Britton. This weekend my sea of talk was with my father and with my Voxer writing group. Both helped me think in a deeper and more logical way about what happened.

My students use Kidblogs daily. They have since the first day of school. As a teacher of multi-grade gifted students, blogging is the way I encourage individuality and independence. One of the many advantages is that students can continue to work on their writing projects outside of class and when I am not at school. Last week I had an inservice, so I wasn’t at school. When I checked the blogs, I discovered that one student had “hacked” another student’s blog and wrote a post about it. I know she was just being playful, but I took it seriously. I commented to this student personally and removed the post. I also had a conversation with the whole class about trust.

When we read posts, we assume that the person who owns the blog wrote the post. I explained that I get an email whenever there is any activity on our Kidblog. I am watching, but more importantly, hacking is wrong. It breaks our trust and messes with the community we have built.

Another more serious incident occurred. As I have mentioned, I teach different grade levels, so my students have social lives with their grade level peers that our class is not a part of. There is safety in our community to talk about and write about things outside of our class. One student wrote a post about a conflict she was having with friends. Fairly typical sixth grade social issue; however, a 5th grader decided to take the matter into her own hands. She printed the post and gave it to one of the sixth grade girls. This post made the rounds all the way to the assistant principal. Not the intended audience of the original post.

When we write on a blog, the world can take our work and use it for any purpose, whether or not it is our intent. This is the reality of digital writing. This reality hit home this week. No real harm was done, but trust was compromised. Our classroom community was broken.

My father (wise as he is) pointed out that my students were able to fail in the safety of my care. Making mistakes is part of the learning process. Breaking trust is part of life. We will all do it at some point. What better way for my students to learn the dangers of digital writing than in the safe environment of school and class blogging?

I could make new rules: no hacking, no printing, but rules will not keep kids form being kids. My friend Julianne talked about the reins of control, how we let them go and then tighten them up. Push and pull. This digital world is amazing and wild and wonderful. We need to be able to fail and pick up the pieces, move on, and be wiser.

Trust is a powerful word. Trust is fragile. Trust is difficult to build and easy to shatter. Luckily, my students were not harmed by their breaches of trust, and they learned an important lesson. These are not the kinds of lessons teachers can design or plan on. My first reaction was disappointment. How could they do this? In reflection and conversation, I realize that all will be well as my little ones maneuver their way through this digital world.

Continue the conversation about digital literacy and trust by leaving a link to your blog post and reading other posts here. Click the linky below.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

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For DigiLit Sunday lately I have been Tweeting out a topic. The word treasure came to my mind when I saw Kim Douillard’s photo challenge for this week. She is a photographer (teacher, writer, blogger) who captures beautiful images of the beach. Click here to see her blog, Thinking Through My Lens.

The treasure is in the details of Kim’s photographs, the open wings of a gull, the intricate designs of shells, or the silhouette of the surfer.

I am not usually a detail person. I try to be organized, but it’s an effort. I don’t remember people’s names. I could not tell you what you were wearing yesterday. However, when it comes to teaching digital literacy, the treasure is in the details.

Madison picture

On a field trip on Friday, Madison drew this picture from an art piece she saw in the gallery. Look closely. The details on the tiny girl in the foreground, and notice the motion indication on the cow’s tail. When I saw her drawing, these little details delighted me.

When we teach digital literacies, we need to take time to notice the treasure in the details. Even our youngest students can use these tools to express themselves effectively. Take a look at another of Madison’s recent creations. We were learning about Antarctica and poetry with Irene Latham’s book When the Sun Shines on Antarctica. Madison is in second grade, and this year is her first year in my class. She has jumped right into digital literacies and blogging. I love this poem she wrote about penguins. She used the craft move from Irene’s poetry to show the movement of the penguin diving into the sea. I didn’t watch her do this, but I am sure it took quite a bit of patience tabbing over and placing the words just right. What a treasure in that little detail! (Click on the image to see a larger view.)

Madison penguin poem

Take time to delight in the details this week. Notice when your students make an effort to be precise and intentional in their work.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

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Yesterday I tweeted a call for topic ideas.  Julianne suggested balance.  And now I’m stuck.  I liked that this was a topic that would make people think, but I wasn’t prepared for being stuck.

Balance is so open to interpretation.  Are we thinking about the balance of reading to writing, technology to paper, challenging to easy?  There are so many ways we can look at balance.  In my own life, I need to balance work with play, eating healthy foods, using my time wisely, and on and on.

I look at each one of my students as a small balancing act.  I need to give them enough but not too much.  This week we were behind.  Most of my students had spent their class time on creating digital Wonder presentations, so they hadn’t completed their writing assignments (Slice of Life and Reader response).  A few of them were actually in a panic over getting it all done.  The title of the day was “Finish it Friday.”

When I announced that I wanted to do a poetry activity, I heard groans.  I insisted that we all stop and take 5 minutes to write together.  This turned out to be a good decision.  Creative juices flowed.  My kids turned back to technology not as a chore but as a choice.  I posted some of the results on Poetry Friday.

Teaching gifted students is always a balancing act.  I want to challenge them to think deeper and work harder, and yet, I cannot forget that they are children.  They need creative play as well.  The best lessons are ones that balance the two.  The funny thing about my kids is even if the assignment is not all that creative, they find a way to interject their own voices.  They will be heard.

Kaiden’s presentation on how books are made included his own sense of humor as well as information on how paper became books.

Do you have "Da Knawledge?"

Do you have “Da Knawledge?”


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