Thursday, February 24, 2011

NAIS Annual Conference

I'm so excited to be attending the NAIS Annual Conference again this year. Thanks to Jason Ramsden of Ravenscroft School, I'm able to live blog the sessions I attend. Those are hosted on another blog, and I'd welcome visitors, comments, observations, etc.

So far, the conference has been exciting and invigorating. I've already had one big take-away. Peter Gow showed Beaver Country Day School's new teacher wiki. I don't have the link yet, but I think everyone in the room is planning to go home and set one up at their school. The site includes short video welcomes from key people at the school, links to information about books that have been all faculty reads recently, and a host of other information that takes a while to learn when one is new, such as a BCDS lexicon.

This post will definitely be edited later today to include links!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What if we taught spelling with adaptive expertise in mind?

What if we taught spelling with adaptive expertise in mind?

Such an approach would incorporate Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development along with the best practices of differentiation and would include the habits of mind associated with adaptive expertise.

We would begin with the end in mind. Students would learn common orthological spelling patterns in sequential order; learning to apply the patterns they know when they encounter words in their writing that they want to include, but are uncertain how to spell.

According to Invernizzi, Johnston, Bear et. al, each student should be working to master a spelling pattern s/he is “using but confusing.” Such a spelling program will be differentiated and developmentally appropriate for each learner in the classroom.

What would this look like in practice?

Step One: Each class would take a developmental spelling inventory to determine groupings for spelling instruction.

Step Two: Word study units for each group of students based on their developmental stage of spelling. Typically, there are 4 or 5 groups in a classroom of 20 students. Word study includes reading and writing activities such as word sorts, games, and writing activities. The words included follow the spelling patterns being studied. At this point in the fully differentiated classroom, each student would move at his/her own pace. In a partially differentiated classroom, groups would progress together, but students would move between groups depending on ongoing formative assessment.

Step Three: A summative assessment of each student’s ability to use the pattern s/he studied. This assessment should include words that students have and have not seen before but that follow the same patterns as those studied. This will allow students to demonstrate mastery and adaptive expertise. For example, if the student was learning to spell words with r controlled vowels, word study might include words such as fir and fur. During the assessment, the word furry would appear. A sentence might be “my pet cat is very furry.” Students who have mastered fir and fur should be able to generalize that the new word is spelled with the letter u.

In sum, students demonstrate mastery of a pattern before moving on to study a new pattern. There is no abandonment of skills not mastered. No student spends time studying patterns s/he has already mastered.

Sounds simple. Why is it so hard?

Preparing for NAIS

Wow--in just two days I am heading up I85 to the NAIS annual conference. I've set up liveblogs at, which is the blog that the teachers at my school are familiar with. However, it is certainly not an exclusive group--anyone is welcome!

I've spent this weekend getting ready for the sessions I'm leading or, in the case of the panel I'm moderating, sessions where I just need to stay out of the way and feed the panel questions. This is going to be a great conference!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Pick your popsicle?

This past week, my daughter caught some kind of viral bug. At one point, I offered her a choice of popsicles as part of the campaign to keep her from getting dehydrated. Her response left me nonplussed. She looked in the box and mused aloud "Well, I threw up a green one. I saw some orange in my puke the other time, so I guess I'll pick purple."

Fortunately, the purple stayed down.

Lately, I'm collecting stories that happen in my life and trying to think how I can use them or make them meaningful. This one got me thinking about faculty development. How?

All to often, teachers approach faculty development "choices" the same way my daughter approached the popsicle box. Which ones haven't already been, well, nauseating.

Why? That takes me back to Dan Pink's Purpose, Mastery, Autonomy.

The experiment I did recently with unstructured time for faculty developmentwas well-received, but I'm not sure what the results are going to be. That's okay. For a while. The waiting is tough. But, that's what I'll have to do.

Wouldn't it have been easier just to make everyone "learn" about something I picked for 3 hours with a series of moderately engaging or entertaining activities? Then I wouldn't be waiting. . .