Who’s Telling Your Story If You’re Not?

storytellStorytelling is as important today as years past – perhaps even more so. There are many competing forces and it is challenging to capture audience’s attention.  Questions to consider might be “What is your story? How are you telling it? Is it getting to the audience you wish? Why bother?” Answers will differ depending on who you ask – teachers, students, administrators, community.

Social media is an easy way to get the word out. These include blogs, wikis, Twitter or even various online magazines. Even QR Codes placed on class windows and bulletin boards lend to a sharing of story. (It becomes easy for parents to use their smartphones to capture and take home little snapshots of information.)

Using multiple platforms can be challenging. A blog is a good starting point— it offers many ways to bring out your creative genius as well as a place to share what is happening in the school or class. The platform allows for inclusion of images, audio, video and text (something for everyone). Posts can be short or long, ‘newsletter-ish’, or just capture the ‘moment-ish’. It offers students a chance to flex their voice and create a positive digital footprint. Especially when the commenting function is being used to go beyond superficial communication, to ‘lift and clarify’ thoughts.

Why bother? Your voice, your story much like your students need to be heard. You may think that there are only little things but they may be huge in the life of someone else. You’ll never know until you share and celebrate the great learnings that are happening in your class or school.

So how is your story being told?

Secret to the Universe When Motivation Wanes

silhouettecircle_201403One of the things I do is coordinate the Fast ForWord program in our district.  This program uses the knowledge of neuroscience to provide intensive intervention to students identified (using Response to Intervention Model) in Tier 3 or Tier 2 who are significantly struggling in reading.

Many times I’ve been asked “how do you motivate students”? This is usually during the time when the newness of the Fast ForWord exercises (plays like video games) wear off and it’s clearly drudgery that takes over.  This might happen during week one (sigh) or perhaps pop up in week three.  If you’re lucky, you won’t see the effects for quite some time.

One of the challenges of any program is that teachers expect the program to be the motivator and all they have to do is get the student into the building.  While Fast ForWord does have embedded bells and whistles, when you hit the wall, it just isn’t enough. My secret to the universe is no secret at all.  It is simply … “relationships“.  Relationships that build on being the champion of the individual student.  It is overt and open and honest, not simply implied.  In good times and bad. Students need to know that you are the ‘wind beneath their wings’, especially when they get tired and frustrated. The act of learning to read is a strenuous workout for the brain (equal to a marathon run). Knowing that you have a safe harbour to rest, gain strength and much needed encouragement goes a long way.  Put another way, Bev Ogilvie says,


“connectedness makes the world go round. It brings out creativity and helps everyone around us flourish. … It engenders hope, rekindles our inner light and allows us to feel joy. Our power comes from who we are, not from what we do or what we have.” [ConnectZone.org. p.162]

These words ring even more powerful as we go through our busy days. Sometimes I feel it takes super powers to stop, remind ourselves to purposefully and intentionally take the initiative to connect deeply with our students, to listen with open hearts and in doing so, help them feel they have a belonging place. Relationship is foundational to the process. However I have no right way to go about this. How do you go about building relationships or connections with your students?  Would love your comments or suggestions.

How Do You Communicate?

tincanMore than any other initiative we’ve been a part, none have reached the level of activity as our wordpress blogging platform. This pilot grew from humble beginnings with the simple goal of “tell your story”.  Our question – what would happen if we gave our people an opportunity to open a window into classrooms or professional thinking. Many of our teachers started with posting homework or sharing events and activities from their class. And our administrators shared their thoughts on the larger school community. But we do more than just share.

Blogs are meant to create the conditions for multi-way communication. So back into literacy we went – literature circles was screaming to be remade! Those who took the challenge reflected how using blogs increased deeper level responses from their students. It also allowed those quieter to enter into the conversation. This level of engagement was born out in other activities such as writing process from primary on up. Students who authored their own posts took more responsibility for making sure their thoughts were clear. After all, they were writing for the world, not just their teacher. Engaging in dialogue took on a whole different meaning.

Our blogs respond to needs of the participants. Teachers apply for student IDs (our id creation process focuses on student safety) allowing all a place to practice their skills of communication in a blended environment. Classes are encouraged to use the blogs to practice digital citizenship. Adult role modeling is a strong component of their learning world.

What adds bling to our blogs? Why its all those plugins. Some of you may have wp_lightbulbnoticed a number of new plugins added to your blog’s dashboard. Communication in different ways like polls, google doc embedder, translator, gallery or image sliders for pages and posts. If you are interested in connecting other social media like Twitter or Pinterest, ask us about this plugin for your site.

The story hasn’t ended. Over the next while, we will be looking for creative ways to use and extend the blogs. If you are interested in joining our growing number of bloggers, please let us know.

Book Love

Book Love

Book Love by Penny Kittle shares stories on how readers develop depth, stamina and passion. Though written with adolescents in mind, the message is absolutely appropriate for elementary age.  She states that the path to difficult reading begins with books that students enjoy. To build capacity for reading requires practice and lots of it to build stamina.  This reminds me of exercise. Anyone who’s tried distance running can attest to the need of gradually increasing exercise over time. Building stamina to get over that hill and then add another hill the following week takes energy and committed focus.

Kittle does a great job of offering strategies integrated into the day to achieve the desired effect – passion for reading. A great read for those who are interested in supporting the reading process.