Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More
Leading literacy learning – Doug Fisher at the 2019 Literacy Summit in South Australia

Leading literacy learning – Doug Fisher at the 2019 Literacy Summit in South Australia


I’m going to start with a story from my literacy
life. A few years ago, I was going to these conferences and people were talking about
kids’ brains and saying it’s brain based. Have you all heard that? I have this pile of books at home that I get
in my membership and I haven’t read them. Have you seen ‘Celebrate your Neurons’? ‘Teaching,
reading with the brain in mind’. Did you ever teach reading with the brain not in mind?
I haven’t read these books and I was feeling guilty about it. I decided in our summer that
I’m going to go back to school and I’m going to take a brain class because everybody I
know talks about the human brain. I don’t know anything about the brain. I’ve
never taken a brain class so I felt guilty. In the summer when I have free time, I said
I’m going to go take a brain class. I signed up for a class. Thursday nights seven o’clock
to 9:40 pm. 9:40 is very late for me because school starts at 7:30 my time, but I’m committed,
I’m there, I’m super happy. I decided I’m going to buy the book in the
summer and read it because I am busy in the fall. The book comes to my house. I’m going
to read it. It says, “Somites are blocks of dorsal mesodermal cells adjacent to the notochord
during vertebrate organogenesis” This is from chapter one introduction. I am
now a struggling reader. Are you a struggling reader? Let’s remember when we talk about
kids who struggle; it’s not part of their identity. It is the situation. It is not who
they are. We often talk about kids as if struggle is their identity. I can create situations
in which all of you will struggle, or I can create situations in which all of you will
thrive. It’s the situation that determines struggle. When we used to meet kids who struggled with
reading, our solution was a phonics intervention. Do I need a phonics intervention? Do we not
have a first grade teacher in the room? No, I hope you would say no. Do some kids need
phonics intervention? Of course they do. Assessment tells us which kids need which things. In
the US after phonics, we got super obsessed with fluency. If I read this faster, will
that help you understand it? Do some kids need fluency work? Yes. Right
now in the US, we are obsessed with comprehension strategy instruction. I invite you, make a
prediction about what the author is going to say next. Visualize this in your mind for
me; I think the book said play the movie in your mind. Does that work for you? It starts
with analyzing the text to figure out what got in the way. For me, this text is complex because I don’t
understand the vocabulary and I don’t have background knowledge. My teacher would have
to work on background knowledge and vocabulary. The teacher has to know what makes the text
complex for that kid. Some kids need phonics work. Yes, some kids need fluency work. Yes,
some kids need comprehension work. Some kids need vocabulary work. Some kids need background
knowledge. Anyway back to my experience. I close the book, I decided I’m not going
to read, I’m going to go to class. On my first night of class, my teacher says to all of
us, I don’t know how you’re going to learn this, but it’s on the test. I showed up not
knowing how I was going to learn it. Now my teacher doesn’t know how I’m going to learn
it. Do you see the problem in our relationship here? I should have quit this class but I was too
embarrassed because I told everyone at Health Sciences High that I was taking a brain class;
I bragged about it. I was too embarrassed to drop out. The next day at school, I was
talking with some friends and the 10th grade biology teacher said to me, “You can borrow
the 10th grade book.” There are 65 pages on the human central nervous system in this book.
I don’t know where I was in grade 10 but I missed this whole unit. I don’t remember anything
about it. I read this, which I can read. I can read
a 10th grade book. At the end this book talks about lobes and hemispheres and blood supply
and the circle of Willis and all this stuff. The second week of class, my teacher talked
about lobes and hemispheres and blood supply and all that and I was right there with her.
It feels amazing when you struggle with reading to all of a sudden get it. I called Nancy on my way home that night and
I said, I don’t need a cupcake party. I don’t need a gold star. I feel awesome on the inside
because I know I struggled and tonight I got it and it feels awesome. I was so pleased
with myself that on the way home that night, I pulled over and I stopped at a bookstore.
In America, we used to have bookstores, where you could go to places and touch books before
you bought them. Now we have Amazon; it’s coming to you soon. This is the book I found at the bookstore
that night. I might have said some bad things about this series and I’d like to take it
back. When you are a novice, this kind of information is super useful. I was on Amazon
looking for more things to read and I found this book. I think you have to be super brave
as an author to title your book, ‘Clinical Neuroanatomy made ridiculously simple, interactive
edition’. There’s a lot of promise in that title. I bought this book, three DVDs, totally engaged
myself with learning this book. That semester, I watched over 100 YouTube videos, I bought
our public broadcasting five DVD series called ‘The Secret Life of the brain’, and I went
on the internet and I quizzed myself. That first night of class when I got my syllabus,
there was a midterm and a final. That was it. I was hoping for a paper where I could virtually
go to the library, read some things, write my paper, get an A. Nope, midterm final. I
practised a lot. I will talk to anyone who will listen to me talk about the brain. The
midterm comes and it is 17 pages long, single spaced, 200 multiple choice questions. At
the end of the test, I handed it back to my teacher and I said to her, this is the best
example of Total Recall that I have ever seen. My teacher said, “Thank you.” In my brain,
not out loud, in my brain I said, “That was not a compliment.” I got a B plus on that
midterm. I’ve never worked harder for anything in my life academically than the B plus on
that midterm. Some things I’ve learned about myself and about reading. You can’t independently
learn from books you cannot read. Sending a grade 10 student home with a book, when
that student reads at the grade level six, will do no good. We persist in sending kids home with things
they can’t read. That is not intervention. That doesn’t mean they can’t learn. I got
a B plus. I had to read way more stuff every week than anybody else in that class. Reading
widely builds your background knowledge in your vocabulary. I had to read more pages
than anybody else. Interacting with other people keeps me motivated, clarifies information
and extends understanding. Unfortunately, there was not a single time
in 16 weeks of class, my teacher said, “Turn to your partner and talk. Here’s a question
for the four of you to process.” Not a single time, but I know better. I believe learning
is a social endeavor. Human beings learn best when we have opportunities to interact with
other human beings. Every Monday night, I would send an email to the 18 other people
enrolled in the class. All of them were unemployed, full time doctoral students. I would email them and say, “If you meet me
in the Commons at five o’clock,” our class was at seven, “I will buy you whatever you
want to eat or drink.” I purchased a group of friends for myself. We would talk and a
big part of me, the lowest achieving person in the class, a big part of me passing that
class was the vocabulary, the interactions, the discussions that I had. I had to read
a lot and I had to process it with other people. That’s how I passed that class. I think about that and I wish my teacher knew
more about how to teach and the role that literacy plays in everything we learn. She
just didn’t. My teacher went to a school you might have heard of, it’s called Harvard.
Have you heard of the school? Kind of a popular school? She went to Harvard. She got her bachelor’s,
master’s and doctoral degrees at Harvard. Not one time did she ever have to take a teaching
methods class, because everybody out there, every politician, every parent believes they
can do my job at least as well as I do it. Because everybody’s been to third grade once
and they’re an expert in that. Teaching is a hard process. Teaching reading
is difficult. It is rocket science. It is brain surgery. There’s a knowledge base, and
it is difficult to do. I wrote this sentence a couple years ago, and I’m very proud of
this. Every student deserves a great teacher, not by chance, but by design. What do all
those words mean? Every kid, great teacher deserves. It’s their right. Not because they’re
lucky, and they live in that area versus that area. Not because they’re lucky and they went
to that third grade teacher and not that grade three teacher, but teachers who design amazing
learning experiences. To design learning, you have to understand
the content and the process. You have to have both. That’s your role as leaders. Are you
helping teachers with the content of literacy and the processes to get kids to read, write,
think and listen in much more sophisticated ways? That’s my hope…is that every single
kid in every single school has an amazing teacher and those teachers know how to design
learning, not script learning. A couple lessons I’ve learned from doing this
work. The first lesson for me is your role as leaders. You have to ensure there’s teacher
clarity. Teacher clarity is an important part of literacy learning. Teacher clarity has
a huge effect size. Do you know this guy named John Hattie? Have you heard of him? I hear
he’s popular. Do you know him? This is his work, his effect size work. Teacher clarity,
and a couple of points I want to make about teacher clarity. The teachers have to know
what the students need to learn. In part, your literacy guide books outline
what kids need to learn. The what side of literacy. They also talk about the how. Teachers
have to know what students need to learn. Teachers have to communicate learning intentions
to students, they shouldn’t have to guess or infer what we want them to learn each day.
Then teachers have to ensure that students know what success looks like. This is pretty
basic. Some of you when you walk in classrooms, ask
the wrong question. Some of you walk in classrooms and you pick a kid at random and you say to
that kid, “What are you doing?” And that drives the learner’s attention to the task in front
of them. When you walk in someone else’s classroom, I beg you to say what are you learning today,
not what are you doing today. Because if you ask that question often enough, what are you
learning today? What are you learning today? What are you learning today? The teachers
will make sure those students can answer that question and school becomes about what we’re
learning not the task we’re using to learn that. Some of you have objectives. You all know
objectives, SMART objectives. You’ve seen this before. One of my problems with SMART
objectives is they don’t have to be interesting. Some teachers teach boring things. Do you
all know that? I think kids also have to answer the why question. Why am I learning this?
Why should I care to learn this? Why should my writing improve? Why should I learn to
read at higher levels? Why is this important? I’d like to show you two very short videos
from the same school on the same day. The principal and I walked around to random kids
and we said to the kid with a little iPad, what are you learning today and why? We went
back to his office and we cut these two videos, the first video, these kids have no clue what
they’re learning. We’ll compare that with the second video where the students have a
better sense of what they’re learning. Why do you think that’s important when you
write to have all these senses in there? Why does that help? I don’t know. I haven’t thought about that. [inaudible 00:12:01]. We need to learn all the physical properties
in matter. Why? Because you’re going to have science test. You’re going to have test. We need to memorize. I really haven’t thought about that. Who are you writing this to? Who’s going to
get that paper that you’re writing? [inaudible 00:12:19]. Do you actually share that writing with anybody
or you just put it in your folder? We just leave it in here. Very good. Why is it important to learn the
word colossal or any of these other words …? We expand our vocabulary. Why is that important? So you have a big vocabulary,
who cares? Because it’ll help us out later in life to
get a job. To get a job? I haven’t thought about that. It also will
help you in the future to get an A in classes in high school and stuff. Very good. [foreign language 00:12:59]. [foreign language 00:13:02]. Okay, so why do we learn that? Because it’s the California standards. [foreign language 00:13:14]. [foreign language 00:13:14] Why do we do summary writing? What’s the point
of that? To practise it. Yes definitely for practice. Why do you write
about the five senses? Why is that important? Why we learn that? Why is that important?
You guys want to help? No, I haven’t thought about that. I like those last two girls. Maybe if we turn
away they’ll go away. Same school same day, these kids have a better sense of what they’re
supposed to be learning. Why do we learn similes? Why do you think? To make your stories more entertaining. Why do you think the teacher makes you do
this? What’s the point? So we understand how to draw conclusions and
stuff like that. [foreign language 00:14:55]. [foreign language 00:14:59]. Doing vocabulary like this. To show our understanding of vocabulary words
and or criteria. Why do you think that’s important to learn
more vocabulary? Well it widens your vocabulary therefore it
widens your understanding of complex literature. Not bad. We do main idea and details, what’s
the point of that? Why do you do that? We do it because… So we could know what
main ideas are and topics are. Learning that because we need… We’re scientists,
and we’re trying to learn what the properties of an apple is and figure out what you can
describe it. Okay. Because it describes the paragraph more and
it takes out all the things that don’t really care. Very well said. Last question. [foreign language 00:16:54]. [foreign language 00:16:54]. [foreign language 00:16:54]. [foreign language 00:16:54]. [foreign language 00:16:54]. [foreign language 00:16:54]. Why is it important to have adjectives? Because if you want to say like… They will
be like… maybe trees, it wouldn’t be a really good story. That’s one day, we go to school 180 days.
Multiply what you just saw times 180. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Kids
who have no idea what they’re supposed to be learning are probably not learning it.
Kids who know what they’re supposed to be learning are three times more likely to actually
learn it. Why is this important in literacy? If they don’t know what they’re supposed to
be learning in writing and reading and oral language, they’re probably not learning it. This is low hanging fruit. We could choose
to change this tomorrow. We could choose to let kids know what they’re learning and why
tomorrow. As you think about your classroom, your school, your system that you work in,
your role in supporting other teachers. Is it time to resuscitate like CPR? Is it time
to resuscitate learning intention and success criteria? Did that video spark something in your mind
to say there’s things we need to do to support the kids in our school. That was Salt Creek
Elementary School, a bilingual school that serves children from age five, up to grade
eight. That day we showed the videos to those teachers, we had a conversation. Every teacher
had an objective posted on the wall but it didn’t always translate to kids learning. There’s a difference between compliance of
putting a learning attention and learning criteria or whatever on the wall and whether
or not kids actually know it. Sometimes you walk in rooms and you’re super proud because
there’s something on the wall. That doesn’t mean the kids know what they’re supposed to
be learning. There’s a difference between commitment and compliance. I’m looking for
teachers who are committed to making sure their kids know what they’re supposed to be
learning every day. At Salt Creek, we agreed to these three questions,
which became the district framework for us. When visitors walk into a classroom, a coach
or a principal or someone, we walk in and we say to some randomly selected kids, what
are you learning today? We then say, why are you learning that? That’s the relevance part.
Third, we say, how will you know if you learned it? Most of our students right now, if you flow
back with me and you went to a random school in our community, most of our students, almost
all of them will answer the questions one and two correctly. We’re still struggling
with question three. Most of the time they answer how their teacher will know they learned
it. Not how they will know they learn it. I’m okay if they know how their teacher’s
going to know because that’s good assessment stuff but I also really want kids to know,
how will you know you’ve learned it? That’s our current work? Yes, we’ve gotten to the
place where kids can say, here’s what I’m learning today, here’s why I’m learning it.
We want to move them to the place where they can say, here’s how I will know I’ve learned
about main ideas. Here’s how I will know I learned about spelling or whatever they’re
working on. That second question gets skipped a lot that
relevance question. I think it’s important that kids know why they are learning this.
What role will literacy play in their lives? Why is this important? I said this earlier,
I’m going to make a claim. I think for a lot of students school is boring. When I make
a claim I’m supposed to provide evidence for the claim. So my first piece of evidence comes
from a student named Edgar. My second piece of evidence that school can be boring. Today I’m going to share with you the most
important, most profound lecture and the reasons that we do what we do. The importance of formatting,
and documenting your work in the modern language style. You will notice that this is the seventh
edition. I will not accept anything less than the seventh edition, which is the most current
up to date most accurate information available from the modern language Association. The modern language association is very convenient,
somewhat cumbersome, but expedient way to do your documentation. We are using what edition?
What edition will we be using class? Funny because it’s true. That second question
is really important and gets missed a lot. Why are we learning this? Why is this literacy
work so important? Teachers have to make learning relevant. We have to get to the point where
this is important. This is why we’re learning it. My experience is that third point that
teachers and students understand success criteria gets missed a lot. We get so obsessed with the learning intention,
the objective, the learning target, the goal, whatever you call it, that we forget that
students have to know what success looks like. I’m going to introduce you to Sarah. She’s
five years old. Sarah is going to talk about her writing development. I’m going to ask
you to consider does Sarah know what success looks like in her writing development as a
five year old? Sarah, can you tell us how this chart works?
Go point to them and tell us about it. I know nobody’s on this, but some people may
not be on this. How come? Because some people won’t do that because
we’re in kindergarten, but some people might do that. Good. Now go further up the chart and tell
us about the middle of it. Sarah, around the orange crayon. Well, some people sounded out and try and
make their letters neat on this one. Good. What about further up the chart, Sarah,
then what happens? On this one, they try to sound it out. They
try to make the letters neat and tried to make the thing right. This is where I am.
I sounded out. I try to keep them nicely written, I try to make the right words, I try to keep
the letters with a space before they start. I’m going over to here, because it’s the last
step, and I’m over at nine step. This is the ten step. Five year old, I saw you… Because I believe
if a five year old can do it, a nine year old can do it. If a nine year old can do it,
a 15 year old can do it. If a five year old can say, here’s where I am on my learning
journey, here’s the evidence that I have to argue my status, then any kid in our school
system should be able to understand what success criteria means, and where they’re going in
their learning journey. What must Sarah’s teacher have done to be
able to get Sarah to do that? She did not show up at the beginning of the school year
able to do that. To understand what writing development looks like. Something happened
in that classroom that we need to magnify to lots more places. At the school where I
currently work, a grade 11 teacher said, “I want students have more responsibility and
understanding their writing development.” She went to the container store, bought four
buckets and labeled them like this. Rather than her collecting student writing and assessing
it, students had to look at their own writing and assess it. Then tomorrow she intervenes
based on where they put it. Imagine the conversation Kayla has with a student who puts it in bucket
one and she thinks it’s really more bucket three. Imagine the conversation she has with the
kid who puts it in bucket three and she thinks it’s more like bucket one. Imagine the conversation
she has with a kid who puts it in bucket one and she totally agrees. Students have to learn
to assess what does success look like? Am I making progress? Am I learning this? One
of the lessons I’ve learned is in schools that do not have clarity around the teaching,
do not get good outcomes for literacy. If kids don’t know what they’re supposed to
learn, and if kids don’t know what success looks like, they’re probably not learning
that. As leaders in our school systems, when you go back to school, I challenge you to
walk your building and ask kids what are you learning today? Why are you learning that
and how will you know you learned it? If they can’t answer that, that’s your starting
place. Without clarity, they’re probably not paying attention to the amazing instructional
experiences their teachers are providing them. My second point, though, is once we get some
clarity, we should magnify effective instruction across the school. There are really interesting
studies out there about the role of school leaders. One of the most profound things you
can do as a school leader is magnify the effective instruction that’s happening in some places
in your school, to the whole school. We all have these amazing teachers who have
amazing repertoires with their instructional tools and get excellent outcomes. Our job
as school leaders is to magnify that across the whole building. To take it as a school
wide approach. When I think about effective instruction,
I think about the gradual release of responsibility. That’s how I’ve internalized. This is Nancy
and my view or vision, how gradual release of responsibility works. We drew these triangles
in 1998. They’ve been around a lot. They’re all over the internet. Some of you have probably
seen them. When we drew these triangles, all we were
trying to show is that in every lesson we teach, there are times where the teacher is
doing more of the work and there are times where the students are doing more of the work.
The misinterpretation of this particular graphic is that we said, which we never did, you must
start at the top and go focus guided collaborative, independent as a linear process. Learning is not linear. It’s recursive. You
can start a lesson anywhere you want. You can start with collaborative. You can imagine
kids coming in after recess or after passing period, and the first thing they do is an
independent test. They write a journal entry, or a collaborative test. They talk to someone
else. It doesn’t matter where you start. The most common question I get is do I have
to do all four of these today or can I do two today and two tomorrow? I have a very
flip answer to that. You’re the teacher, do whatever you want if you don’t care what kids
are learning. If you want kids to learn, all four every day and there’s good evidence on
that. I’ll start with collaborative so I don’t reinforce this top down approach. Collaborative learning, student to student
interaction. Getting them to talk to each other using academic language. Do any of you
work with kids who are acquiring English as an additional language? Let’s pick Chinese
Mandarin. If it were easy to learn Mandarin, many of you would already speak Mandarin because
you hear it all the time. No one learns a language from listening to
a language, we learn a language when we produce a language. Are your students producing enough
academic language to become proficient in the language. Jump to the high school people
for a minute. If you are trying to teach kids science and they never talk science, they
will not learn science. Vocabulary in science in a secondary school
is about 3000 words a year. Biology, Chemistry, Physics, about 3000 words a year. In our Spanish,
one textbook for a foreign language, there’s only 1500 words if you get all the way to
the end of the book. Biology has 3000 unfamiliar words, chemistry 3000 unfamiliar words. It’s
a huge amount of vocabulary. If they’re not producing the words, they’re not learning
it. We set aside time every day for collaborative
learning, student to student interaction, using academic language. If I jump up one,
to guided instruction that is around prompting, and cueing and questioning kids. Guiding their
thinking not telling them answers. The rookie mistake is I call on you when your answer
is incorrect, I tell you the answer. The risk of that is I call on you and I prompt
you and I question you and I prompt you and I question you and I turn it into individual
helping and the rest of you don’t need that lesson. You start to misbehave. We are way
better as a profession at guided instruction, small groups. We’re not so good at it whole
class. Madeline Hunters dream was we’d have this guided practice. Some of you know that
phrase, with the whole class. Whole bunch of kids check out. They don’t need that instruction.
We’re better at small group. Here’s the risk with this telling kids answer.
I call on you, your answer’s incorrect, I tell you the answer. One day that’s not going
to hurt you, but I do it 10 days or 20 days or 30 days, and at some point I create learned
helplessness in you. There’s never been a child born in the history of the universe
with learned helplessness. It is always induced by well meaning adults, their parents and
their teachers who rescue them and tell them information. When you’re visiting classrooms, be very careful.
Watch for teachers telling answers. We should be guiding the thinking, prompting and cueing
and questioning. If I jump up to the top. We call it focused instruction. You can call
it whatever you want. There’s a whole political reason in California why we called it focused
instruction. We do two things in that phase of learning. Number one, we set the purpose for learning,
which I think you say learning intentions, we say, purpose. What are we learning today?
Number two, we model our thinking, we explain and model. It’s where the direct instruction
comes in. It’s where the modeling comes in. It’s where the explanations come in. The last
thing we do in whatever order is independent, where students both practise and apply what
they’ve been taught. I’m obsessed with the idea of practice. I
think our profession is so focused on instruction and we’re forgetting that kids actually have
to practise things to get good at it. What is the role of practice in writing and reading
and oral language? Are your students engaged in sufficient practice? If you get the instruction
to be amazing, and they never practise it, will they ever master at higher levels. I was using yesterday an analogy about a piano.
I go to my piano teacher, my piano teacher does the lesson with me. The lesson is about
an hour long. I participate in the lesson, I get the feedback, but I never practise.
Am I going to become rapidly proficient in playing the piano without practice? Probably
not. The other side of it. What if I go home and I just practise with no instruction? Am
I going to get very good very fast. It takes both instruction and practice. I’m worrying about this a lot. I don’t think
our students are engaging in sufficient practice. One of my aha moments was that book ‘Blink’,
some of you read it? 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert. Have your students read
for 10,000 hours to become experts? Now, just reading is not going to change it. They need
amazing instruction. Breaking the code, building fluency, building
vocabulary, but if they don’t practise will they ever be proficient? This is my dream.
This is my hope. This is my vision. This is not rocket science by the way, this is pretty
basic. But when I go to a lot of classrooms, I don’t see all four of these happening. Sometimes
I see this classroom. Have you seen this classroom? I call this the sudden Release of Responsibility
classroom. Not the Gradual Release of Responsibility
classroom. This was my math teacher, I’ll pick on him for a minute. When I was in grade
nine, my math teacher, I was in algebra, we would walk in every day, he would say one,
three, five, seven. He would go to the chalkboard and he would do that problem and he would
publicly criticize or commend you based on what you put on the chalkboard. I did not do well in math in grade nine. I
waited outside until he ran out of problems, I would rather take the tardy, than show the
whole class I didn’t know how to do the problem. Then when the problems were all handed out,
I would sneak in, he would mark me tardy. He was talking about the chalkboard, then
the overhead projector would come out. There was plastic on it and he turned it and the
plastic went across and he turned out some more. Do you remember these days? He wrote
with a blue visa V marker with a left hand hook. As he was writing, you couldn’t see what he
was doing because the shadow was there. Then he smudged it a lot with his hand that touched
some mess and he liked to erase with spit on his fingers. That’s what I remember from
algebra. That’s it. You probably are not surprised. I failed algebra at nine weeks, at semester,
at year, and at summer school. I got all those F’s from him. When I got my first report card, my mom opened
it. I don’t remember this. She says, I said this. I apparently was being questioned by
my mom, why are you failing algebra? I said to her, “I don’t know why I’m failing. I watch
my teacher do algebra every day and he’s really good at it.” Do you see the spectator sport
part of this? If you work with kids who already know the content when they show up to school,
this classroom will work okay, because there’s a huge practice effect. I don’t believe we are paid to teach the kids
who already know the content. We’re paid to teach all the kids including the ones who
don’t yet know the content. This is not going to do it. There is a classroom that’s worse
than this. Have you seen this classroom? Welcome to school, do it yourself. This is not teaching.
This is coursing and assigning work. You don’t need a teaching credential or a
graduate degree to do this. You just need to be organized. My philosophical orientation
is human beings are social animals, and we have to interact with other people. The most
common misapplication of our work is this classroom. In the world of literacy, people
are afraid of collaborative learning. Teachers end up doing this. There are literacy frameworks out there. Thankfully,
they’re not the one in your guidebook but there are frameworks out there that say things
like shared reading, guided reading, independent reading, have you heard this before? Let’s
take this logic. I do a shared reading lesson. We call it focussed, but let’s say shared
reading lesson. It’s an awesome shared reading lesson. It’s about parts of language and how
language works. It’s this amazing lesson then I meet with these four or five kids for 20
minutes, these four or five kids for 20 minutes, these four or five kids for 20 minutes, sound
familiar? If you did the math, the maximum number of
kids I’ve seen is 15 and it’s taken an hour. The rest of the class has been sitting for
an hour doing independent work. Do you know any five year olds who can read independently
for an hour? Have you heard of silent sustained reading? You’ve heard of this, right? Five
year olds silent, sustained? Not happening, right. What we see when teachers do this,
is below grade level practice to keep kids quiet and busy. A whole industry of worksheets to keep kids
quiet and busy. Because for me to get to my small groups, I have all these other kids
who are going to bother me and interrupt me. If you are a first grader and your job is
to circle the silent E on that worksheet, and you can do this by yourself for the next
45 minutes, you did not need to do it. You already knew how to do it. It just kept you
busy and quiet. If you’re a grade four student and your job
is to write fact and opinion next to all those sentences on the three page worksheet, you
did not need to do it. You already knew how to do it. It kept you quiet and busy. Most
educational conferences I go to there’s an exhibit hall. In the exhibit hall, they will
sell you shut up sheets. I hope you don’t buy them, but there are shut
up sheets for sale. They will keep kids quiet and busy. That is not deep learning. For me,
getting kids to talk, interact, engage in argumentation and solve complex reading and
writing tasks is what we need in a classroom. I didn’t say it was easy. If we’re not getting
kids to negotiate meaning with their peers, to use academic language, they cannot consolidate
before they apply. The thing about working with other people
is it forces you to consolidate your understanding. Before I ask you to apply and practise by
yourself, our classrooms should be filled with student to student interaction using
academic language. I’m super pleased when I read the guidebooks, they clearly say that.
Classroom discussions are important. Third area is how we align our literacy strategies.
How do we line up this world of research and literacy? I want to argue that in the world
of literacy, the strategies work along a continuum. There’s nothing wrong with surface learning.
Surface learning is important. It’s just not sufficient at the end. Surface learning is
when kids learn a skill or a concept. There are fast ways and slow ways to get to surface
learning. Here’s an example. You have the letter S.
Should kids have to discover the sound for that? Do you think that that would be really
useful? Could they discover the sound for S? Yes, three months later, they might figure
it out on their own. I think it’s faster to tell them. That’s called phonics instruction.
Here’s how S blends with other letters. Here’s the sounds they make. Faster. Could they discover that on their own? Yes,
few years from now, and some will never figure it out. There are things that are faster and
things that are slower to build surface learning. Knowing what sound the letter S makes, and
in combination with what, is not sufficient. You eventually have to use it. Surface learning
is where it starts. Everything you’re all good at, everything you’ve learned at some
point started at the surface level. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just not the end
point. At some point we go from surface to deep. Deep learning is when students see connections
relationships and develop schema. You all know graphic organizers, concept maps, you’ve
heard of these? Effects size 0.61, super useful. If you actually read the research on graphic
organizers, they only work for deep learning. They are a terrible strategy for surface learning. Yet how many textbooks the very first thing
in a unit is to create a graphic organizer. You don’t know anything yet about the solar
system but here’s a Venn diagram. That’s a stupid use of time, right? That makes no sense.
If you now have surface learning at the conceptual or at the strategic level and you’re able
to take all that stuff you’ve learned at the surface and organize it visually, it’s pretty
powerful, but you’ve got to actually know some stuff to use a graphic organizer. If
not, what do kids do? They copy from the dry erase board of the teacher’s work? That’s not deep learning. Eventually, we want
to get students into transfer where they self regulate, where they continue to learn on
their own, and where they apply those concepts and those skills in unique situations where
we’re not there for them. That’s the ownership of literacy that we’re looking for. Is when
kids can take their reading and writing and oral language and apply it out there when
we’re not there with them. It all started at the surface learning. If
you’ve read John Hattie’s work, you know he’s been obsessed with what works. Specifically
what works best. When we met John, when Nancy and I met John, we were talking; in the world
of literacy, it’s not just what works. It’s what works when? Timing is super important
in literacy instruction. There are strategies in the world of literacy
that simply work better for surface, there are different strategies that work for deep.
Your role is to make sure teachers are lining up their literacy instruction with the phases
of kids’ learning. Surface learning is important. Let’s not discount it. Surface learning is
valuable. We just don’t leave kids there. Of the, I don’t know, 2018 strategies that
we have in the world of literacy, here are some of them that work well for surface learning. Importantly, they don’t work very well for
deep learning. You have to use these things that you’ve developed surface for deep. I
was looking at this list and I was looking at the guidebook and I was wondering how many
of the surface learning strategies in the evidence base appear in the guidebook? Well,
there’s phonics instruction that’s definitely in the guidebook. Vocabulary’s in the guidebook.
Reading comprehension is in the guidebook. Wide reading’s in the guidebook, space practice
is in the guidebook. It’s as if someone who worked on the guidebook
actually read the research. Amazing. There’s evidence that these things work to accelerate
students’ learning. They work at the surface level and there’s nothing wrong with that.
I promise we’ll get to deep in a second. Couple things about that I want to highlight for
you all. Volume of reading still matters. It’s not talked about a lot, but volume matters.
The next three slides are correlational research, not causation research. I’m aware of the difference
between a correlation and causation, you probably are as well. I want to show you some worldwide
data on how many words a kid reads, and their achievement on whatever tests are given in
that country. There are kids from Singapore in this database,
there are kids from Shanghai and this database, from Ontario in this database, from the United
States. They’re all kinds of kids. It turns out that if you get a kid to read 20 minutes
a day outside of the school day, that kid will read on average 1.8 million words and
that kid will score in the 98th percentile. My take on this research is, it’s not the
20 minutes outside the school day that’s causing the achievement. It’s the instruction that’s
causing the achievement. These kids just practised enough so the instruction would stick. I wonder
at your schools, are your students engaged in sufficient reading practice so the instruction
that’s being provided has a chance of sticking? Student B reads five minutes a day, the volume
drops at 282,000 words, and the kids scores in the 50th percentile. The instruction is probably the same, very
likely to be the same. It’s there’s not enough practice to allow the instruction to stick.
Students C reads on average, one minute a day outside of school, the volume drops to
8000 words read, the students scores in the bottom 10 percentile. There’s not enough practice
to allow the amazing instruction to stick. You might have heard me say every single slide
on this I said outside of the school day. All of this research is on how many minutes
kids read outside of the school and I know some of you have your teachers stop the school
day and make kids just read. I struggle with that, honestly. I did it for years. I taught
at Rosa Parks elementary school, we stopped the school day and read every day. I visited a school, Bird Rock in La Jolla;
very wealthy people live there. I was with a teacher and about three quarters of the
way through the day I said to the teacher, “When are the kids going to just read?” She
said they do that at home. I had the struggle moment for me because I worked in a high poverty
community with all English learners. We made them read during the day. I struggle with this. Here’s an internal fight
I have with myself. If the kids read at home, and not for the 25 minutes during the school
day with two minutes of transition in and out, so let’s say 30 minutes average times
180 days, her kids got 14 full days of instruction that my students didn’t get because they were
engaged in practice. 14 full days all day long more instruction than my students. I struggle with this because if they don’t
read at home, I’m going to make them read at school but I feel like I’ve given up the
fight to get them to read at home. Because if I can get kids to read at home, I get more
time for instruction during the school day. Now, I did not say in small groups and literature
circles, they couldn’t do some collaborative reading and read on their own. I did not say
close reading was a book they’re reading. Kids should be reading texts all day long
in school, but the wide reading part could be done at home. Last summer, Nancy and I
read everything we could find. There’s over 100 journals, articles, studies on how to
increase reading volume at home. I hadn’t read them before. All over the world, British
journals all over the world. There are about over 100 studies on how to get kids to read
at home. They all say four things matter to raise the
volume of reading. Here’s what doesn’t work to raise volume of reading, putting kids on
a computer and giving them points to read. Giving them pizza parties for reading. This
doesn’t work. Here’s what works. Number one, providing access to things to read. Our classroom
and school libraries need to get restocked, so there’s enough things that kids can take
them home. Unfortunately, some teachers have created
classroom museums, not classroom libraries. Do you know the difference? Look, but don’t
touch. Kids have to take the books home. If you go to your apartment and you want to read
and there’s nothing to read, you will not be able to engage in practice. Number two,
choice matters. There is clear evidence that if you increase choice, you increase the volume
of reading at home. The high school English teachers, the literature
teachers, hate this because they think everyone has to read Romeo and Juliet today. There’s
nothing wrong with reading Romeo and Juliet in class, but if you want to raise the volume
of what kids read at home, you have to increase choice. There are two parts of the research
on choice. Number one says free choice. Here’s a library of books, pick whatever you want. The second is called constrained choice. We
are studying this, and here are 20 books on this, you have to pick from that list. Both
work. If you want to raise volume, kids have to be able to take the books home and they
have to have choices on what they read. Number three. The research says that kids want to
talk about what they are reading during school, even though they read at home. Having literature
circles, and book clubs, and save the last word for me, all these different protocols
gets kids to actually practice at home if you give them a few minutes to talk about
what they’re reading at school. The fourth piece of research on raising volume
at home for reading is teacher-led book talks. Most people say you should have five books
a day, that you hold up and you bless those books. You sanction those books. You don’t
say, “Anthony, this book’s for you.” You say, “If you’re the kind of reader who likes vampire
stories, I got this new vampire book.” I was at the bookstore around here. There’s a book
called 500 Minutes. Some of you know this Australian book, 500 minutes. It’s all these horrible things that happen
in Australia, with these animals and quicksand and all these crazy things. I bought it because
I’m super excited to show my students this. I’m going to book talk that when I get home.
If I talk about books, and I let them talk about books, and I give them choice of what
they read, and I give them access to take things home, I can rebuild their at home reading. Then I save some minutes during the day. As
you think about that, whether you have these all in place or not, do you need to rethink
the practice time for your students’ reading, writing and oral language, because you’re
all focused on instruction and I think appropriately so. The other part of that is when will they
engage in the enough practice to learn. Wide reading, strong effect size, reasonable
effect size, getting kids to read builds background knowledge, builds vocabulary, gets the instruction
to stick. Another surface learning approach is vocabulary; actually teaching kids words.
As I was walking down by the water here in Adelaide, and I walked past the sign. The
sign said, “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” Right here in this
town. I was thinking about this in preparation for
today. If we don’t give kids lots of language, lots of vocabulary, we are limiting their
worlds. Because if you have a word, and some word knowledge, you have some background knowledge.
Background knowledge is the single best predictor of reading comprehension. If we’re not giving
them language, we’re making their worlds small. When you think about vocabulary instruction,
there are all kinds of words that kids need to learn. Researchers call them tier one, tier two,
tier three, some people call them generalized specialized technical, some people say general
academic, domain specific. I put all the researcher’s language up there. No matter how you label
it, there are different kinds of words that we need to learn. Teachers have to make choices
about the kinds of words their kids need to learn. Do they need to learn more domain specific
words, do they need to learn more general words? The general words, the tier two, the specialized
words are the hardest to learn. If I say the word set, and prime, they mean something very
specific in mathematics and something general out there in the world. Those tier two words,
they’re hard to learn and they change a lot. We have to, as teachers, we have to think
about do my students need some tier two words, some tier three words, or do they do some
general words? We have to teach vocabulary intentionally. The research on vocabulary says kids don’t
like it very much. They get really tired of our vocabulary strategies pretty fast. You
can have the coolest vocabulary strategy anywhere and three weeks later, they never want to
do it again because it’s not cool. Your role is to help teachers develop all kinds of ways
to trick kids into learning words. One strategy is not going to be enough. Let
me show you a rapid set of them. The next one I think Nancy Frye invented. When we show
a video at our school, video clips, we do not allow feature length films to be applied
at our school. That’s just a rule in our school. We do not show two hour videos at our school.
When you show a video clip, there must be a writing attachment or a vocabulary attachment.
There must be either a writing task or vocabulary tasks for every video clip we show. So Nancy did this and she I think she invented
it. You watch the video in advance, you identify eight or 10 or 12 vocabulary words, you cut
them out on slips of paper, you give them to either each kid or each partner, depending
what you want to do. As they watch the video, they move the slips of paper in the order
that the words occur. When the video is done, they turn to a partner and they retell the
content of the video using the vocabulary words. That’s super cool for a couple of weeks and
then they never want to do it again. Because you have to rotate it. She calls it vocabulary
stepping stones. That’s one way to get kids to pay attention to words. This is from the
Pillars of Islam video. What are the pillars of the religion Islam, which is a grade seven
lesson for us in California. Here’s another one. This is a vocabulary card
– Frayer Model Card. 1956 this was researched. It’s been around a really long time. It’s
cool, here’s the word, here’s what it means, here’s what it doesn’t mean, here’s an illustration
or a sample sentence. They like this for a little bit and then they hate it. They don’t
want to do it anymore. You gotta change it. Here’s another one. A vocabulary self awareness
chart. This is from Physics. Here’s a bunch of words. Here’s your level. Level A, I have
never seen this word before. Level B, I kind of know this word. Level C, I’m super familiar
with this wor., And they put the dates. I know the dates are backwards for you. You’re
having… Just turn the numbers. That’s how the kids did it. Here’s another one, an A to Z chart. Super
simple. The kids in Earth Science were learning about volcanoes. The teacher hands out the
A to Z chart and says write down all the words you know about volcanoes. Here’s one student’s
example. If every kid had magma on their paper, why would you spend time teaching magma? They
all know it. They wrote it down at the initial unit. A few days later, you hand the cards back.
I’ve color coded them so you can see the difference. You ask kids to update the vocabulary charts.
Here’s what she writes. A few days later at the end of the unit, here’s what she writes.
You’re just learning to collect vocabulary words. As leaders, I hope you’ll do some vocabulary
strategy instruction with teachers and say to teachers change them up all the time. Vocabulary
learning is important, but students don’t like the same strategies over and over. If
you work in a middle school, high school, I hope that your teachers don’t use the same
strategy all day long so the kids have to do it in Science and they have to do it in
History. They have to do it in English. They hate it. One last approach or strategy in surface learning
is teacher modeling. How we open up our brains and model. I’m going to give you the areas
of reading modeling. I could talk about writing modeling or other areas. But, we’re going
to limit this to reading. When we read, we can model our own comprehension. You all know
those words. It’s not my point. If it was a teacher audience, I’d spent time on that.
For you all, when teachers model we’re looking for two behaviours. Number one, the teacher uses an ‘I’ statement,
not a ‘you’ statement or a ‘we’ statement. I can make the following prediction. I can
visualize this. It causes the human brain to move into empathetic listening, when the
speaker says I. That’s why counselors use it. That’s why conflict resolution uses it.
It causes a different kind of listening. Number two, there has to be some sort of metacognition
behind it. I can make the following prediction because the author told me x. I can visualize
this in my mind because of these three words. It’s not enough to give kids an example. They
have to know how you did it. Thinking is invisible. The only thing we have is talking about our
thinking. We’re apprenticing students into more complex
thinking, than they can do on their own. Second area, we can model is how to figure out unknown
words. What do you do when you come to an unknown word? There’s some times when we directly
teach vocabulary. There’s other times we teach word solving. How do you figure out an unknown
word? I was in a school in the state of Texas. I walked into a classroom and there was a
big poster in a grade four classroom. It said what to do, when you come to an unknown word.
They bought it at one of these conferences; it was big, teacher made. Number four on the
poster of what to do when you come to an unknown word said ‘skip it’. Do you know that’s bad
advice to a reader, right? If you have any kids who struggle with reading in that grade
four classroom, they’re going to skip that word, they’ll skip the whole thing, you can
have it back. The first thing on this poster of what to
do when you come to an unknown word said ‘get your mouth ready’. Apparently, when you’re
learning vocabulary words, and you don’t know one when you’re reading, you go, and then
you skip it. This is terrible advice to a reader. Readers should work to figure out
unknown words. These are the tools we have. We don’t skip words. We don’t get our mouth
ready. We look at context clues. We look at word parts, and we look at resources and we
make an effort to unpack that word. We can also model text structures, the internal
workings of a text. How does this text work on its inside? In the 50s, they talked about
X-raying text, looking at the bones of a text. That’s what they’re talking about, text structures.
We can look inside a text to figure out how it works. By the way, when you spend a lot
of time on text structure work, kids’ writing improves, because they start to learn the
conventions of Western writing. Last area we can model are text features.
The graphs, charts, diagrams, bold words, all these features that were added to improve
our comprehension. I thought we’d practise this. I bought a piece of text. I’m going
to read it to you and we’re going to practise what could we model for students on these
pieces of texts. The text I brought is from Discover magazine. It’s an international magazine
that publishes factual information in science and anthropology and history and those kinds
of things. It’s a interesting international magazine. The title of the article is “What happened
to Phineas”. Attend the tale of Phineas Gage. Honest well liked by friends and fellow workers
on the Rutland and Burlington railroads. Gage was a young man of exemplary character and
promise until one day in September 1848. While tamping down the blasting powder for a dynamite
charge, Gage inadvertently sparked an explosion. The inch thick tamping rod rocketed through
his cheek, obliterating his left eye, on its way through his brain and out the top of his
skull. I’m reading this piece of text and I’m thinking,
I’m going to make a prediction. I predict he’s going to die from this injury. I love
CSI. Do you know this TV show? I love CSI. I watch reruns of CSI. I love this show. Here’s
what I’ve learned from CSI. 100% of the time, when it goes through your head, you die,and
they spend the whole rest of the episode figuring it out. I think he’s going to die from this injury.
Second paragraph. The rod landed several yards away, and Gage feel back in a convulsive heap.
Yet a moment later he stood up and spoke. His fellow workers watched aghast, they drove
him by oxcart to a hotel where a local doctor, one John Harlow, dressed his wounds. As Harlow
stuck his index fingers in the holes in Gage’s face and head until their tips met, the young
man inquired when he would be able to return to work. I’m looking at that image up there. I’m not
a big fan of this artist. Here’s why. I think it looks like that rod got stuck in his skull.
From what I remember reading, the text said it went through, out and landed. I don’t think
the artist did a very good job showing me that. If I were the artist, I would want animation.
You click it, the rod goes flying through his skull? Don’t you think that would be better?
You could click it again and watch it go through again. If the magazine wouldn’t let me do that, I’d
have a little arrow head on the top, and I would probably bend the red line so my reader
knew it was traveling through. Now, why am I saying that? Because if you’re teaching
grade four and five students, and they don’t know how to analyze visual information, they
are going to believe that rod got stuck, because the visual is too powerful and they have discounted
the words. We have to teach them how to analyze extra
textual information and compare it to what the text says. It is not true that the top
of his skull popped off like that. Do you see that up there? I think the artists drew
it that way to try to show us where it went through in his brain. Do you hear me talking
to students about what I’m doing? Third paragraph, the last one I’m going to
read to you today. There are nine after this, but we’ll stop on the third. Within two months,
the physical organism that was Phineas Gage had completely recovered -he could walk, speak
and demonstrate normal awareness of his surroundings. But the character of the man did not survive
the tamping rod’s journey through his brain. In place of the diligent, dependable worker
stood a foul-mouthed and ill-mannered liar given to extravagant schemes that were never
followed through. “Gage,” said his friends, “was no longer Gage.” I’m three paragraphs in; I have lots of questions.
If I could call the author right now, here’s some of the things I would like to ask the
author. Number one, how did this guy Phineas survive a penetrating brain injury? From what
the TV taught me It should have killed him. Number two, how much longer did he live? I’ve
heard of these very strange cases where someone survives an awful injury, but you just told
me two months later, he’s up walking around. Did he have a normal life or was his life
shortened? Number three, what was the quality of his
life? You told me he’s foul-mouthed and ill-mannered. He’s a liar. Are the friends still the friends,
was family still around him? Did he keep his job? What was the quality of his life. I wanted
to remind myself to say, teacher modeling is not a teacher monologue. Kids are allowed
to try things on that we model for them. Please do not have teachers going 25 minutes of them
talking and kids never practising. We model something, they try it on. That can
be fine, because that can be comprehension. Whatever you’re working on. We model it, they
try it on. It is not a monologue that goes on for a really long time. A couple of connections
for you. That injury was 1848, this one’s 2004. This guy’s on a ladder with a drill
and an 18 inch drill bit… I don’t know how long that is for you, for me, it’s 18 inches.
He gets wobbly on the ladder, he throws the tool and then falls on top of it. You can see the drill I think up there. Below
the drill bit are his teeth. Above the drill bit is his eye socket. The drill bit went
in here. He’s alive, he’s fine, yet his personality changed. He’s foul-mouthed, he’s ill-mannered
and he’s a compulsive gambler, which he was not before. Another story. This guy named Patrick is nail
gunning the floor with a big nail gun in a commercial building. He loses one of the nails.
He finishes working his rest of his shift. He goes home and then six days later goes
to the dentist to complain of a toothache. He’s alive and he’s fine and they took the
nail out, but his personality changed. He’s foul-mouthed and he’s ill-mannered. Are you
seeing the text to text connections? If you’re like this like I like this, there’s
an international book (it won an Orbis Pictus Award International Award for nonfiction)
called Phineas Gage, a gruesome but true story about brain science. Phineas lived 13 years
after the injury, he had a seizure one night and he died. He was obsessed with the railroad
rod, he carried it around, he slept with it. His wife left him after six months. He lived
in the state of Massachusetts in the US. He was voted out of town in two different town
hall meetings, all in favour, you out. When he died, the doctor kept his skull and
the railroad rod. When John Harlow died, he donated the skull and the rod to Harvard Medical
School. To this day, you can find it at Cambridge, Massachusetts. You can go to medical school
in the library, and you can see the rod that went through the skull. So hot that it perfectly
cauterized all the way through. Because in 1848, you could survive the injury but not
the infection. Doctors do not routinely wash their hands.
We didn’t totally understand germ theory, latex gloves had not been invented and we
did not have robust antibiotics. He survived because the injury had already been cauterized
when his doctor put his dirty, unwashed, unloved fingers in the holes until their tips met.
Why do I tell you all that? Number one, it’s super fun to watch you all,
because you’re at a literacy conference and some of you are so grossed out by this. You’re
looking away, you’re covering your face. Others of you are leaning forward like you can’t
get enough of it. So excited. For about the last six or seven minutes that we’ve been
talking about this, almost every one of 1500 people is all in this lesson. You pushed aside everything else that’s going
on. The subs that are ruining your schools right now. What your kids are doing, all that
stuff went away for a little bit. You were right here with me. You were building very
fragile connections in your brain, that if I don’t reinforce in 48 hours, are going to
get trimmed away. But if we practise this every day, if I model for you every day, those
pathways get built and reinforced, and when kids are by themselves, they will activate
all of those approaches. The decoding approaches, the vocabulary approaches,
the comprehension approaches. They need to be apprenticed at the surface level so that
they eventually will start to move into deeper learning. I only left you three strategies.
Deep learning is also important. We don’t leave kids at the surface level, deep learning
is super important. Here are some of the strategies that work for deep learning. You’re probably not surprised, they’re all
in the guidebook. They all work to accelerate learning. My point in this is as leaders,
I say this to you all, as leaders, deep learning approaches don’t work any better at surface
learning than surface learning approaches work for deep learning. We have to help teachers
make strategic choices about their strategies, their instructional tools. Are the kids at
surface learning? Here are the things that work. If they’re ready to move to deep here the
things that work, and eventually we’ll get to transfer. There are different strategies
that work for transfer. If we don’t line up our strategy, we just jump into deep learning
and jump over surface, our students do not learn very well. I do want to get us into
transfer learning. Transfer is important. There’s this book out, Understanding by Design.
Some of you know this book, UBD. Number one best selling book in curriculum history. This is from the second edition, it was also
in the first edition. Transfer has been around a really long time. It’s one of our little
secrets in education is we rarely teach to transfer. Most of the time, in year four,
the first month or six weeks of school, the teacher is teaching year three because we
didn’t get to the point of transfer. Here are some of the tools that work to move to
transfer. Importantly, these are terrible approaches
when kids don’t know anything. How many of us just want to jump in to do this? They have
to move surface to deep to transfer. In the guidebook, three of those are in there. One
is not clearly called out and I’ll comment on that in a second. I was super impressed
by the way to see the guidebook call out extended writing. That is not popular right now. What
we’re seeing is lots of short writing. Teachers giving kids short writing tests. The research evidence says for them to transfer,
they have to write longer connected pieces. I’m very impressed, because in my state we
have no standard, in my State of California, on extended writing. I think that’s a huge
gap. The one that was not clearly called out that I could find in the guidebook was about
peer tutoring. I get it. It’s not specifically a literacy strategy but I want to argue, when
you teach someone else something, you get a chance to learn it a second time. I think in the world of literacy learning,
we should set up opportunities for kids to tutor each other. In class, cross classes,
cross grade levels, because when you are required to teach someone else, you end up learning
it at a very deep and transfer level. One of the things I hope you’ll leave here with
today is for me and literacy strategy instruction, it’s the right approach at the right time
for the right kind of learning. We need to investigate what are we doing?
What are we thinking about? Where are kids at with their learning? What are the right
approaches to get them the right kind of learning? Are we matching literacy strategies with the
phase of learning our kids are. As I think about strategies, I want to also
remember that the tasks have to change. It’s not just the strategies, it’s what we’re asking
kids to do. It’s the kind of tasks we design for them. Without more complex tasks, we cannot
deepen learning. One of your roles is to look at the tasks
that kids are being assigned. There was a study that was published two months ago, where
they analyzed 22,000 tasks that were given to kids. 22,000, I think that’s a miserable
job that someone had. To collect and analyze 22,000 tasks. Only 17% of those tasks were
on grade level standards and expectations. Most of what’s given to kids is below grade
level practice. There’s a word going around educational circles. It’s rigor. Do you all
know this word? I know for you all, it needs to be this way I get it. I know that makes
you calm to see it spelled that way. Rigor, and I will bet you, when you go back to school
tomorrow, you grab five teachers and you say to those teachers, define rigor. I encourage
you to do this. Say to your colleagues, write down your definition
of rigor. What do you mean by it? I promise you’re going to get a mess. Someone is probably
going to say, you know it when you see it. Do you recognize that’s not helpful? We need
to help people think about what they mean by the word rigor. I want to propose to you,
rigor is a delicate, careful balance between two concepts, difficulty and complexity. Difficulty
is how much work, how much time or how much effort you require from the student? Complexity is the kind of thinking, actions
and background knowledge required. Our students are not looking for more work from school.
They are looking for more complex, interesting tasks. There was a study of 57,000 teenagers.
57,000 teenagers. 82% of them said, I wish my teachers gave me more complex tasks, not
just boring work. I like to pick on math in this… I have to say it the right way, maths.
That’s hard for me. Maths… I’m trying hard. I pick on that subject. Nine more problems
in that subject do not automatically increase complexity. It certainly increases difficulty.
Nine strategically chosen problems could increase complexity. As teachers, we have to plan,
what are the tasks? As leaders, you should be looking at the task. When you go in a classroom,
you don’t just look up at what the teacher is doing, you look down at the task kids are
doing to match the learning outcomes. Is the task sufficiently complex? I went online, and I stole some assessment
items. I searched around for some assessment items. Here’s one I found. I would argue,
this item has no complexity. Will some of your students find it difficult? If I give
this to year three students, is that way more difficult than year 10 students? If I give
this to kids who speak Mandarin at home, is it more difficult than kids who speak English
at home? Probably. Here’s another item. I would argue there’s
more complexity to this item, but it’s not very difficult. If you can estimate, if you
can use ratios and if you can use process of elimination, you’ll get this problem, right?
Even though it’s not a very difficult item, there’s more complexity to thinking. As I
was doing this work, I ran across this article about this guy named Mark, and Mark is obsessed
with the number pi. He holds the Guinness Book of World Records for being able to recite
pi longer than anyone else on planet Earth. He can recite pi on video, 15,314 digits.
The logical question is why? I’m going to ask you a different question.
Are the families in your community more enamored when their kids do difficult things or complex
things? Most parents celebrate difficulty, memorization. We have to teach them to celebrate
complexity. My aha moment. Nancy Frye had her grandkids down. They live in Seattle.
We live in San Diego. I went over her house. It was Martin Luther King Day which is a January
holiday for us so they were down and she invited me over for breakfast. Nancy at her house has that little Amazon
Echo Dot. Have you seen this? It spies on you all the time and you can talk to it and
ask questions. Right. Have you seen this? It’s in your house? Nancy has one of those
and the oldest grand kid, grade five, he’s super into math, his name is Graham, Graham
is talking to Alexa. At one point Graham says to Alexa, “Alexa, tell me the number pi.”
Alexa starts going on with numbers. I get bored. I say to Alexa, “Stop talking. Graham,
ask her a different question.” I have this aha moment. If Siri can answer the question, it’s no longer
complex. We need teachers designing tasks that Siri can’t answer. Surface level Siri
can answer. I get that. There’s some learning you have to do that Siri has to do. But the
complex task to move into deep learning, are things that Siri can’t answer. That’s my new
criteria. When I look at tasks, if we’re moving to deeper learning, can Siri answer the task.
If so, it’s not deep enough. That then led to this four quadrant model.
When we first put this out in the world, some people said… some leaders said I want to
eliminate low difficulty, low complexity tasks. I think that’s a huge mistake. Let me process
with… I promise you the slides going to get way better. When I said this, low difficulty,
low complexity, some of you are taking notes right now. I see paper pen, pencils, phones,
tablets, some of you are taking notes. I think for you all, note taking is not a
difficult nor complex task. It is in your low, low quadrant. That doesn’t mean it’s
not important. Note taking is important for you all. You’re going to have a whole bunch
of ideas over yesterday and today or just today. Some of them you want to write down
so you can think about later. It’s just not difficult or complex. We would call that a
fluent task. In the research world, that’s called automaticity. In the popular press
and psychology it’s called a habit. John Hattie calls it transfer. That’s where we want to
go. All of our literacy work has to result in
kids building habits. The reason we care about phonics instruction, is so they become automatic
with it, so they don’t have to spend working memory on that. The reason we care about vocabulary
instruction is they start to learn a bunch of words. They don’t have to spend working
memory on that. It’s always about freeing up working memory by automating things, anything
we can. That’s not the only task we give kids. We give them some tasks that are fluent behaviour. When we move into high difficulty, low complexity,
we call that a stamina task. A perseverance task, a grit task. I believe for many of your
students, ‘at home reading’ is a stamina problem. I believe for many of your students, extended
writing is a stamina problem. If we give them one writing task over the course of a school
year, it will never become fluent behaviour. The way to move something from stamina over
to fluent behaviour is practice. You’ve got to practise and practise and practise. If
I go to the top, what we call that quadrant, this low difficulty, high complexity, we call
that strategic thinking, where you’re consciously aware. It’s effort full, it’s intentional.
When you first teach kids how to make logical inferences in their reading, they have to
be consciously aware of it. With teacher modeling and feedback to the
learner, it moves out of strategic thinking down into fluent behavior. If you have kids
setting goals, monitoring their progress, it starts off at strategic thinking and becomes
an automatic habit with modeling and feedback. The last quadrant we call the struggle quadrant.
Some people email me that they wish we didn’t call this struggle. Someone recently said,
Can you call it grapple instead? Wasn’t that just a synonym? I like the word struggle because
I believe that education right now is in an anti struggle era. We over scaffold, we over front load and we
over pre teach. There is nothing wrong with sometimes getting kids to struggle at school.
We’d have struggle as a language that’s bad. I want to turn that around. As teachers as
leaders, we should make sure there are times in the school day where kids struggle through
things, not every day and all day because there’s other tasks we want to give them. When you go back to school, I would encourage
you to show this grid to your grade three teachers or your grade nine English teachers,
and ask them in the last 30 days, what tasks, assignments and activities have you given
to students. Put them in the boxes. I promise you, there’ll be almost nothing in the struggle
quadrant. Because we don’t do that a lot. We have a lot of tasks that kids can already
do. We have a lot of tasks that push their stamina side. We have a lot of tasks that
cause some strategic thinking. It is rare for teacher groups to identify tasks where
kids really struggled. I think you can’t get kids to high levels
of achievement in literacy unless they have some opportunity to struggle with their writing,
with their reading and their oral language. When kids struggle, teachers should be watching
them to figure out what caused the struggle, because the cause of struggle is tomorrow’s
lesson that we teach to remove some of those struggles. My last point is, we should help teachers
determine their impact, and we should provide feedback. Unfortunately, not all feedback
is useful. Here’s some evidence. I figure 75% to you Pa and Ma, and 25% divided
between the five of us, Geoduck, Crowbar, myself, Tom and the baby. That makes 5% for
each one of us. Billy you’re cheating yourself. If there’s
25% divided among the five of you, that’s 14% a piece. Oh no, listen pa, I wouldn’t cheat you. You
know I wouldn’t. Now look, look here. I’ll show you. Let me rub this out here. 25 divided
by five is five. You see the five won’t go into two, will it? No, but five goes into
25, five times. You see. No, you’re wrong Billy. I’m a pretty good
mathematician. Now five into 25. Five won’t go into two, will it? No. But five goes into five once. Now, we didn’t
use the two before. So we bring it down here. Now five into 20 goes four times. There you
are. Five into 25, 14. No look pa, let me prove it to you now by
multiplication. Five times five. Five times five is 25. Billy, I’m surprised at your learning. I’m
surprised at your learning. I’ll show you. Five times 14 is 25. Five times four is 20.
Five times one is five. 25, that’s it. No, look ma. You’re wrong there because…
I’ll prove it to you. We’ll put down five 14’s here. There, now, I’ll prove to you by
addition that five 14s is not 25. Four, eight, 12, 16, 20- 21, 22, 23, 24, 25. There you are. Got to
brush up, Billy. I don’t want to see you boys cheated. People are always according to me the feedback
research. There’s a lot of people talking about feedback. If you actually read it, it
says the feedback has to be received. Now apply that to five year olds, and 35 year
olds. Many of you give teachers feedback. Giving the feedback does not change behaviour,
unless the feedback is received. The best evidence how to get people, children
and adults to receive feedback is to get them to ask for it. When people seek out feedback,
they are way more likely to incorporate and change. At our school, I created some posters.
I laid them in a room. I didn’t tell anybody what they were about. I didn’t confess that
I had created them but here’s what they said. Welcome, please observe our class. As a teacher,
I’m working on. Three blank lines. I look forward to feedback. Because I only made five
of them, the teachers were fighting over them because false scarcity works. They’re like,
where did you get this? How come you got one, I didn’t get one. Now if I gave everybody
one they wouldn’t have done it, but there was only five of them. They were trading them
because they were nice framed with glass. The poster on the inside, they could write
on the outside, they’re very happy with this. When you ask for feedback, you are much more
likely to incorporate the feedback you receive. When you show up at someone’s classroom and
give them a laundry list of all the things you noticed, they become immune to your feedback.
What do you want to get better at right now? We have to think about our feedback both to
the kids from the teachers and from teachers from us. How can we make feedback? How can we leverage
feedback so it actually works? We need to help teachers determine their own impact.
You all know visible learning, and you know this barometer effect. You know John said
that this 0.4 is one year of learning for one year of schooling. You’ve all heard that,
right? We were playing with this. Could teachers use this hinge point to determine their impact
on students’ learning. I will say on teacher-created assessments,
there’s not evidence that the 0.4 is the magic number because you created your little writing
assessment, whatever. We were playing with us at school saying, “How do I help teachers
determine did they impact their kids’ learning in language and in writing, et cetera.” For
example, here’s how you do it. If you haven’t got the secret of effect sizes, you take your
post-assessment, subtract from your pre-assessment and you divide by the standard deviation.
Your Excel spreadsheet will do this. Super easy. Example, teachers working on writing
for argument. They are the two standard deviations, there’s the average, they calculated the effect
size above the threshold. Here are the students’ scores they looked at in the Excel spreadsheet.
Here’s the effect size. Now I can’t argue that 0.4 is the magic for a teacher-created
assessment, but I can tell you when teachers finally put something in writing and say,
did we impact our students writing from the pre to the post? Some teachers only do post-assessment and
then they take credit for learning. What if the kids learned it from someone else? Have
you seen this study that 60% of instructional minutes are on things kids have already mastered?
If we don’t give pre-assessments, we don’t know where to start our instruction. We’re
looking at determining impact from a pre-assessment to the post-assessment. I can’t argue that
the 0.4 is the right number, but I will tell you, it will get teachers talking about impact. Another example, this is about writing and
public speaking skills. They did a whole bunch of lessons together. They focused on prosody,
planning and practising speeches, et cetera. It turned out that the effect size was only
0.30. One of the teachers says they don’t seem to be getting much better at this. Just
that conversation about ‘here is our public speaking skills we’re working on, it’s not
really working’. Now again, you can argue with me that the
0.4 is not the right place for a teacher-created assessment. I totally get that. They decided
to change the unit. They analyze videos of people who are effective and less effective
speakers. They had lessons around planning speeches to sound like reading, not a friendly
conversation. They had kids write drafts of speeches that included a body and an introduction
and a conclusion, and they had an anonymous peer review of those draft speeches. They recalculated the effect size after a
few more weeks and it went up to 0.75. Again, I don’t know if that’s… If I can say that’s
a … of learning. I wouldn’t say that, but the teachers by determining their impact pre
to post said, “It’s not working, what are we going to change.” That’s what you can help.
You can give teachers feedback, and you can help them figure out ways to determine their
impact. It does not have to be the effect size calculators, but how will your teachers
know that their post-assessments are better than their pre-assessments in the world of
reading and writing and oral language. I hope that in our time together, you got
at least one thing you could use with the teachers who are lucky enough to have you
in their school. With that I say thank you so much. Enjoy the rest of your conference.

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