authentic learning, Be the change, Personalized Learning, Reading, Reading Identity

Join the Global EdTech Academy – 14 Weeks of Free PD

Pernille Ripp Speaker GETA Card.png

This morning I received my final email alerting me that every single education event I am supposed to have been a part of between March and September have all been cancelled. While it was expected, my heart still sank for so many reasons. When I interact with others, I learn so much. When we learn together, we all grow. When we come together and share not just our accomplishments but also our moments of failure, we can continue on the path of learning we have been on for so long, together. I know I grow further when I walk with others and get to question my own practices.

So imagine my sheer delight at being invited to be a part of an incredible collaboration between CUE and Microsoft that will run for the next 14 weeks featuring global education speakers on a wide range of topics. Need ed-tech inspiration; there are sessions for you, need to further your pedagogy; there are sessions for you. There are so many sessions and so many speakers available, it is pretty amazing.

The 14 weeks will feature hour-long sessions from many international presenters at many different times, as well as master classes where you can go deeper into a topic with the speakers offering it (I am hoping to learn from Ken Shelton’s!). There will also be weekly office hours offered, a chance for you to collaborate and brainstorm with the speakers that you choose to work with. Bring your questions, they will try to help. The sessions will be live, but they will also be archived to be accessed later if you want. This is definitely helpful when it comes to navigating time zones.

But did I mention the best part? It’s free. Yup; FREE.

So how do you get signed up, well, this week’s sessions can be seen right now – note, that these are not the only speakers involved, just this week’s.

And what will I be doing? I will be offering three separate master classes, with one being repeated, the first one kicking off tomorrow at 11 AM PST! Join me there if you can or join me in the future when it works for you.

DateTimeSession Title
5/1911 AM PST/1 PM CSTMasterclass – How Do We Learn Best – Embedding Authentic Choice and Voice: Part 1
5/2611 AM PST/1 PM CSTMasterclass – How Do We Learn Best – Embedding Authentic Choice and Voice: Part 2
6/211 AM PST/1 PM CSTMasterclass – How Do We Learn Best – Embedding Authentic Choice and Voice: Part 3
6/107 AM/9 AM PSTMasterclass – Reimagining School Part 1
6/177 AM/9 AM PSTMasterclass – Reimagining School Part 2
6/247 AM/9 AM PSTMasterclass – Reimagining School Part 3
7/231 PM CSTPassionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child
7/291 PM CSTMasterclass: But They Still Hate Reading – Establishing and Cultivating a Personal Reading Identity Part 1
8/61 PM CSTMasterclass: But They Still Hate Reading – Establishing and Cultivating a Personal Reading Identity Part 2
8/131 PM CSTMasterclass: But They Still Hate Reading – Establishing and Cultivating a Personal Reading Identity Part 3
8/177 AM/9 AM PSTPassionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child
8/247 AM/9 AM PSTMasterclass: But They Still Hate Reading – Establishing and Cultivating a Personal Reading Identity Part 1
8/317 AM/9 AM PSTMasterclass: But They Still Hate Reading – Establishing and Cultivating a Personal Reading Identity Part 2
9/86 AM/8 AM PSTMasterclass: But They Still Hate Reading – Establishing and Cultivating a Personal Reading Identity Part 3

Thank you Microsoft and Cue for offering up this partnership and including me in it. I can’t wait to learn with all of you.

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page. I offer up workshops and presentations both live and virtually that are based on the work I do with my own students as we pursue engaging, personalized, and independent learning opportunities. I also write more about the design of my classroom and how to give control of their learning back to students in my first book, Passionate Learners.

being me, Reading, Reading Identity

My New State of Reading

Normal Design

I haven’t really been reading much. Not like I normally do. Not like when I am home and the days are long and my to-be-read shelf beckons every moment I pass by it. Where I swallow a book a day, share it with the world, eager to pick up the next one.

Right now, my shelf makes me feel guilty. The abandoned books piled around the house. Starting the same book over and over again because I am sure it is good if I can just pay attention. Reading comes in short bursts between kids needing me, my computer pulling me away, my phone a distraction. The need to sleep. To simply sit and ponder. To be outside trying to connect with a world that feels very far away right now. It’s simply hard to read right now.

It’s hard to read when my children demand attention through their yelling matches and “I’m bored, Mom…” and their school work consumes hours of our time and it hasn’t even really begun yet.

It’s hard to read when my favorite genre, dystopian, hits a little too close to home.

It’s hard to read when the to-do’s of my job keep piling on, navigating new territory every day, not quite sure if what I am doing is even close to effective.

It’s hard to read when you worry.

When breathing is harder.

When loss is present.

When sleep is elusive.

When worry is a constant companion.

It’s hard to read when the world outside is scary.

(Even when I sit in my heated house, with a fridge that’s full and my paycheck still intact.)

I read to learn. To escape into worlds and stories unlike my own. To relax. To have my imagination lit up. To be transported and while right now may seem like the perfect time to escape, the tethers that hold me firmly in place are thickened steel, and my mind refuses to settle.

I cannot be the only one that feels that way. I am not the only one that feels that way.

My students tell me that they haven’t really been reading. That they sleep a lot. That there is so much work to be done now that school is back in session whatever this means. That they don’t have books. That they can’t find a good book. That they don’t like reading digitally. That they read the only book they had. That they tried but they have to keep going back to reread, hoping to grasp the story that slips through their concentration. That they don’t know what to read next because nothing sounds good.

And I get it. My assignment of reading 2 hours a week is merely an aspiration at this time. Of saying I hope you’re safe enough to read. I hope you are fed enough to read. I hope you are okay enough to read. That those taking care of you have what they need so you have what you need.

And so we send books to those who don’t have any (a survey and Amazon direct shipment helped us out with that). We send them links to digital books. We fill our Audible account with great books. We leave book reviews on Flipgrid in case they have a way of ordering books. We read aloud to pretend that we are still together.

Because that’s all it can be right now.

An invitation to those that are in a place to receive it.

A way to offer up a slice of normalcy for those who can access it.

Not as a way to punish or grade.

Not as a way to go on with life as normal, because it is everything but.

To demand someone read right now is to fail to recognize what may be happening in their world. Is to ask for the impossible for some.

That doesn’t mean we stop hoping but it does mean that we ask a lot more questions than we might usually: Are you okay? Are you safe? Are you feeling ok? Do you have what you need? Food? Heat? Books? Do you have a safe space to read? Do you have enough time to read? And we respect that students may not tell us their truth because they don’t have to. That all we can do is ask and try, not demand and want.

And we wrap our students in patience rather than demands. In understanding rather than expectations. And we fully sit with the knowledge that this reality is not like anything we have seen before and therefore our approach must change as well.

That perhaps a child can read but not think clearly. That perhaps a child doesn’t have the room for deep analysis right now. That perhaps they don’t have the energy to write but could speak? That perhaps a whole book seems much too much but a short story is accessible. That perhaps picture books are all they can do right now.

Choice, personalization, and giving options for students has to be central to what we do right now, to what we do all through the year.

That what we may be working through in our tiny slice of the world may look nothing like what our students face.

That if we, professional adult readers, are struggling, how does it feel for the kids?

Today, I am going to try to read. I have been fighting what my doctor assumes is Covid-19 but a mild case and the exhaustion is all consuming. I am going to get through 2 or 5 or 10 pages and then congratulate myself. Be happy that I tried, even if normally I would be able to finish a book quickly. Even if I normally would feel lazy if I didn’t read at least a book a day.

Today I am going to try again because yesterday I tried too. And I am going to encourage my students to try and to to keep trying. But I am going to continue to know that sometimes trying is all we can do. Trying is what will happen rather than completing and that is good enough for now.

Right now is nothing like normal. Let’s not push normal expectations on kids either.

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page. 

conferences, connections, Reading, Reading Identity

Reading Action Plans: An Invitation into Further Exploration

This blog has been quiet. Not because life has been by any means but because what we are doing in our time together in the classroom is quiet. It’s not very flashy. It’s not really that new, at least not for us. Every day, the routines we have worked on all year are in place; most students quietly reading during independent reading time, most students finding great books, most students knowing more about themselves as people than they did in the beginning of our journey. Most because not all, not yet any way; some still lament about how they dislike reading, how they do not plan on reading a book over the summer, but many others devour books, seeing their own accomplishments, challenging themselves to grow.

But for those who are not quite there yet, where reading is hard, where reading is not a comfortable activity. For those where reading is something they have spent a lot of time avoiding or simply don’t see the value in yet, at this time of year I add in an extra layer; a reading action plan. A quick invitation into further conversation about their reading life that runs 2 weeks and sometimes more.

I have written about them last year, but the idea is so simple and yet so powerful that I wanted to re-share it. Because all it is is an invitation into conversation every single day for a few minutes about their reading life. No pressure, but instead extra personal support, and an adult meeting them once again where they are at without judgment and helping them along their journey.

The note sheet I use to keep their journeys straight looks like this at the moment, or at least the front does, they change when I don’t see them fitting our purpose. You can see it here. This is not for the students to fill out but for me to take notes, which they can see me take because no one wants another person taking secret notes.

I usually use our reading data (which is just how many pages they are approximately reading within a week by signing in with their page numbers as inspired by Penny Kittle) to see who may be great candidates for some extra care. Who are the kids where reading is still a slog, where they are not really making progress or jumping from book to book? I try to keep it to 3 or 4 kids a class at any given time for a few reasons; I want to make sure I am really focused on them and I also want to be able to still meet with another few kids every day. While we typically start on Monday’s, you can start them any day.

I ask them to meet with me during reading time and explain my idea for some extra attention, I don’t want to force it on them but instead discuss what they could gain from it. This is important because too often when students are vulnerable readers we remove all choice from them which leads to further resentment toward their reading lives. If we are going to meet every day, I like their to be a genuine discussion of why and how it may help them. This is instrumental to everything I believe in; keeping a child’s wellbeing in mind before I implement anything. I can’t do that without conversation. If a child doesn’t like the idea, we come up with something else for them, however, this has not happened in my years of doing this.

The first day takes longer because we discuss their current book. Questions I ask are pretty standard:

  • Which book are they reading?
  • How far are they in it?
  • Why did they choose it?
  • How are they liking it so far?
  • Where will they be in the book in a week?

Then I move down into the notes section, where I ask them about their outside reading life – this is an ongoing conversation throughout the year- and we discuss what their reading plans are for outside of English. My job here is to listen and to ask questions that explain their thinking when it is not clear, not to judge. They also tell me where they think they will be in their book the following day. This is again an important aspect because we so often set the goals for the students and those goals are unrealistic and also have little concern for the reading journey they are actually on. So instead we discuss what is a realistic goal and what the steps are they will take to reach that goal. Some students don’t have any plans to read so we discuss why not and how we can change that. Some have other obstacles in their path and so we discuss those. Whatever is going on, we discuss, and we brainstorm together. Once we have a goal and a plan in place it is time for them to read, so I thank them for their time.

The next day, we meet again, except this time I only ask about how far they got – no judgement – and what their reading life looked like in the past 24 hours. If they read, awesome! If they didn’t, why not? Again, I am not here to make them feel bad but coach and support instead. As we wrap up our quick 3 or so minute conference, they set a goal for the following day and then they are off to read.

And then we repeat that for a week. At the end of the first week, we discuss successes. These range from reading more than normal, to knowing when to abandon a book and picking a different one. From reading at home one night – wahoo – to actually not hating the book. There is no success that is too small to be celebrated, this is important as the goal here is for the kids to learn more about themselves as readers and people, not for me to punish them into reading.

The following week, we continue with our quick check-ins, celebrating successes along the way, and at the end of the week we decide on what the next step should be. There are different options:

  • Another round of daily check-ins for those that are not quite ready to fly on their own.
  • A gradual release to a three time a week check-in for two weeks.
  • A once a week check-in
  • Or released back into the larger pool, which means a check-in every 3 to 4 weeks depending on what we have going on.

Once again the child and I discuss and decide together. So why bother with this? Beyond the obvious of all kids deserving as much as one-to-one time as possible in our limited time with them, you also uncover so much of what is really going on in their reading lives and what they may need to move further in it. From recognizing that some kids simply forget to bring books home – we have plans in place for that – to not knowing how to fit reading into their lives – we have a plan for that – to still not being able to find books they actually like, having a few minutes every day can get them steered back on course in a way that wouldn’t happen unless you had more time.

While I wish I had time to discuss reading with every child, every day, I don’t, but this takes me one step closer to connecting with all the kids, to helping all the kids. It is not anything flashy. It is not anything brand-new, but it works, much like we know it works. Perhaps the idea can work for others as well?

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page. 

Be the change, books, kids, Reading, Reading Identity

A High Five For All Of Us

I’m on the road again. February seems to have been a long list of travel. Of packing up the suitcase and saying goodbye to those at home, to the kids in my classroom. Sometimes that is the reality of what I do. It is hard, but worth it.

This week has been one filled with the worry that you get when one of your own children is sick. When they are up for hours at night with a fever so high you think your thermometer is broken as you call the doctor in the middle of the night. Sleep deprivation and the end of February in Wisconsin is a bundle not for the weak.

So I packed a book for my flight tonight, after all, the stack of to-be-reads is overflowing. A new book by my friend, Phil Bildner, that even though it definitely was about baseball and I still don’t understand baseball despite my 21 years in America, looked like it would offer me a world that I could sit in for a while and forget about the now two sick children at home, nestled securely in the care of my husband.

And I read, and then I finished the last page, and then tears came, because this book, A High Five for Glenn Burke, is yet another book we have so desperately needed. That our students so desperately need. They they deserve. That I fear will be ghosted by some educators or school districts because it is about a boy who loves baseball above everything else but is also finding the courage to share what he has known for while; that he is gay and he worries how the world will handle his truth and his heart as he bares it all. And this book is written for our middle grade kids. The kids that so often do not get to see themselves represented in our books because a long time ago someone deemed that anything that has to do with sexual identity or gender is “too mature” for ten-year-olds or younger.

I had tears for the kids who tell me their parents don’t understand. And I worry for the kids who tell me that their libraries don’t carry these books because they go against their “values.” And I get angry at the adults who stand in the way on purpose of these books being placed in the hands of children. Children who so deserve to be seen and heard and loved and protected because the world is already cruel enough.

So I write this post to not just highlight the incredible masterpiece that is Phil Bildner’s new book, but for us, the adults, in the lives of these children to understand just how much it matters for our kids to be seen. How much they hope to be represented in our libraries, in our classrooms, in our curriculum, in our teaching staff. That some kids don’t get to be accepted at home so they hope that school is the place where they will be. That some kids face hatred before they come into our rooms and hope that with us they will be accepted for whoever they are, wherever they are on their journey. And they hope but it doesn’t always happen and soon they learn to hide that part of themselves, because it is safer to live half-hidden than be known for all that they are.

So we can say that we value all kids. That our school strives for success for all. That we have high expectations and support for all. But it is a lie when we gatekeep our libraries. When we don’t ban outright but simply never purchase. When we shield ourselves behind doctrines that do not follow one of the biggest doctrines of them all; love others as you love yourself.

Sometimes love comes in the words that we share. Sometimes in the treats. The smiles. The opportunities that we provide after we plan lessons long past our bedtime. But love also comes in the books that we place on our shelves. The ones we talk about. The ones we make a part of our curriculum and ask all of the kids to read, to hear, so that they too can know about each other and so that every child, no matter who they are, will know that with you they are safe because you showed them a book that was about them.

Because your actions will always speak louder than your words.

You should buy, read, and share Phil Bildner’s A High Five for Glenn Burke and many more LGBTQIA+ books, it’s the least we can do.

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page. 

Be the change, books, global read aloud, Literacy, Passionate Readers, Reading Identity

Auditing Your Read Aloud – A Whole School Conversation

In 2010, I created a project called The Global Read Aloud, for the past 11 years I have been the driving force behind this global literacy initiative. For 11 years, I have asked educators to recommend books for us to read aloud on a global scale. To suggest books they feel would make for an incredible connection around the world. That will inspire students to learn more about others. That will inspire students to learn more about themselves. That will generate connections that maybe were not possible before.

You could say that for the past 11 years, I have seemingly had a front row seat to the most recommended read aloud books in America. And I am here to tell you something; they are almost all by White authors featuring White kids.

Probably not a shock to many, but still something to sit with for all.

I used to not notice. That’s what happens when White privileges blinds you to seemingly obvious things. I would gladly go with the suggestions not thinking about skin color or ethnic heritage as the read alouds were selected. Not thinking past the book and into the life off the author, after all, a read aloud is separate from the person who creates it, right? And these books were great. These books would generate conversations. These books had merit. These books had endured and would guarantee a beautiful read aloud experience for all of us. And they did.

And yet, a few years in, someone kindly asked; when will the “Global” part of the name come true? When will you pick a book that isn’t set in America, that isn’t written by a White author? I felt so dumb when the comment came my way. How could I have not noticed? How could I have forgotten to think deeper about what the project recommended?

Now looking back at the years of recommendations, patterns emerge quickly. Despite asking for #OwnVoices authors and stories set outside of the White dominant culture, these books continue to be the most often recommended. The same authors keep popping up. The same titles even. Even when they have been chosen in previous years, I am told that they would make for a great read aloud again because surely nothing can beat the experience we already had. Even if the books have been deemed problematic, they are still recommended.

This is not a trend limited to the Global Read Aloud. I see it play out on social media all of the time. Someone asks for a recommendation for a read aloud and in that list are the same White books. The same books that we, White educators, have loved for years and years and continue to read aloud because to us they mean something more. The same authors but with new titles. The same situations. The similar story of yet another White child overcoming obstacles. And of course, we need these stories too, however, we do not need them as much as we are using them right now. With a teaching profession in America that is dominated by 80% White people, it shouldn’t be a surprise, and yet, it should be something that we, as a profession, recognize and see the harm in.

Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, of course, reminded and continues to remind us of the power of seeing yourself in books. We Need Diverse Books started from yet another moment of exclusion in a White dominated conference field. The CCBC continues to remind us how White children’s books are. Lee and Low reminds of how White the publishing industry is. But that doesn’t mean our read alouds need to be. In fact, quite the opposite. This is the once again urgent reminder to all of us, White educators, and those who choose the books that we hold up and venerate enough to make a part of our curriculum, of our experience, that we need to audit our read alouds.

That we need to look past the books we have loved for a long time and see what else is out there.

That we need to start recommending #OwnVoices books. Books written by people who are marginalized within our society.

That we need to expand our loyalties. Our lists should contain numerous names of BIPOC authors who are writing incredible stories.

That we need to start reading more widely ourselves in order to discover the new authors who are creating stories that we so desperately need in the hands of our children.

That we need to stay current.

That we need to audit across grade-levels so that we can see what the read alouds are from one year to the next and disrupt the pattern of White dominance that inevitably occurs within most schools because an audit is not done.

That we look around and ask ourselves; what is the story told of kids of color? What is the story told of White kids? And how often is the story told? How does my read aloud cement or disrupt the dominant culture and how we view others?

Whose story is highlighted? Whose story becomes a part of the community we weave together? Whose stories hold power for all of us?

We need to think of the patterns we continue to perpetuate when we fail to see how much power a read aloud holds. Especially if we teach in White majority schools or in schools with White majority teaching staff. Our kids deserve stories about kids whose lives may not mirror their own, but who are still living incredible lives.

Because that’s what a great read aloud does; it creates connections, it leads to revelations, it it binds us together in deeper sense because we have lived through the story of another.

So we need to keep asking; whose stories are we living through? And how does that impact the students we teach? Because it is, and it does, and it is up to us to do something about it.

PS: I would be remiss to not thank those who have pushed my thinking on this. I am so grateful for the work done by the #DiversityJedi #DisruptTexts Chad Everett, Sara Ahmed, #WeNeedDiverseBooks, Dr. Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, and countless others

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page. 

being a teacher, being me, conferences, Literacy, Reading, Reading Identity

What’s Important in Your World – A Small Question to Boost Conferring

I have been having small conversations with students. Isn’t that what teaching is in so many ways? Much like we live life in the moments in between the big, we teach in the moments in between the big as well, the big assignment, the best draft, the presentation. We go throughout our day using our voice to connect, our bodies to show our listening, our eyes to show we care. We seek out those moments in between hello’s and goodbye’s to make sure that with us, these kids, our kids, feel seen, challenged, and cared for.

So in thinking about how I could structure more conversation to build trust, I have been starting each reading conference with a simple yet meaningful question. Inspired by Sara Ahmed’s work in Being the Change, after I have asked them how their night was, how their day is going, I then ask, “What is important to you in your world right now?” It took some finessing with the question, in some conversations it flows seamlessly and the students latch onto it and take it in the direction they need it to go. Others ask for clarification which I typically bumble through, but what it shows me each time, is that continued need to connect that drives everything we do in room 203.

That there is still much to be done.

That all of the community we think we have built is still not enough. That each child is still carrying so much within them that ties in with their day, their mood, their thoughts, their actions, their dreams. From the worries about homework as the end of the quarter nears, to friendship issues they are navigating. From coming to terms with sports ending and figuring out what else to use their time on, to not quite knowing what to do with something they know, these kids take that question and allow us one more glimpse into their lives. One more way to build a way for them to trust us with the emotions that are tied into the work we are doing.

Because I can start a conversation asking just about their book.

Because I can start a conversation getting right to the skill.

Because I can start the conversation by asking what they are working on as a reader.

Because I can start the conversations moving into the work as quickly as possible.

But what that will never do is build the kind of trust we need to have with each other when kids tell me how they really want to grow. Why they worry about reading. Why they worry about writing. Why they worry about being in a community where some seemingly don’t understand them. Why they worry about grades, about the future, about the news.

So for now our conferences are taking a little bit longer. So for now, I am not quite sure how the conversation will go. I am not sure when we will get to the work they are doing as readers. But we will and we do.

But before then. Before that.

I get a tiny glimpse into their world and isn’t that what teaching is also about in so many ways? A tiny glimpse so we can help them capture the world the way they want to.

It is for me.

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page. If you like what you read here, consider reading my latest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students