Monday, July 16, 2018

Spotlight: You Never Know Unless You Try

Twitter is my summer PD! I learn so much from reading tweets and going down the rabbit holes of all the links. I want to spotlight Lindsay Barna (@litcoachmusings) for reminding me of my journey after reading her blog. I am the district lead for 3-5 Literacy team which means each building has one member that represents their school, and we meet several times a year. We focused on DIY Literacy, and I encouraged everyone to try one of the four new teaching tools.

  • teaching charts
  • demonstration notebooks
  • micro-progressions
  • bookmarks
As the lead, it is my role to model, in order to model you have to do the work. For some reason, I was hesitant to implement one of these tools. I was 110% committed to the book. Tweeted about it, heard Kate Roberts speak, talked to colleagues in my own building and even mentioned to my class in a meeting that we were going to try a new teaching tool. Time passed. Mentioned it again. Time passed. By now you see the pattern. Our third district meeting of the year was three weeks away, pressure was on for me to share my learning.

I mentioned it again in a Friday class meeting, HP said, "Mrs. Caplin when are we going to learn this new tool?" HP will be a future teacher. I replied, "Monday." I had 48 hours to choose the tool and decide how to implement it. As in all good teaching, when we allow our learners to be in charge, 90% of the time they hit a grand slam. Together we learned about the tool: demonstration notebooks.
  1. I asked my learners what do you want to learn about in reading? We brainstormed and we had a list of 21 ideas which became a list of 5.  Each learner chose their group from the 5.
  2. I set up a rotating schedule. Met with every group once a week.  4-6 learners per group. 
  3. I prepared the first week's lessons supporting their choice topic using my demonstration notebook model. Three columns labeled by them....I only set up the first column....they chose the criteria for the middle and last column. 
I learned several lessons from this hesitation in my teaching. First, it was a difficult experience to have to do something I wasn't comfortable with which is similar to what we ask our learners to do in our classrooms practically everyday.. Next, it was easier to be the cheerleader than the player on the field. Finally, there are always moments in life when you're unsure and you enter a task with the best intentions. It doesn't always work out well, but sometimes it does. You never know unless you try.


  1. Thank you for being vulnerable about your hesitance to try a new tool. Maybe I'll dust off the blank demonstration notebook that sat waiting at the front of my class room ALL. YEAR. LONG. and give it a go!

    1. I love your honesty...mine would have sat on the shelf too but a future teacher kept pushing me since I continued to mention it. Some of the most subtle nudges come from the mouth of our younger learners.

  2. Now this is what PD and collaboration is all about! I had such great plans for the demonstration notebook, but, like Mary Lee, they came to naught. I'm thinking that the mistake I made was not to zoom in on certain things I wanted my kids to focus on and start the book in advance, adding as I saw the need. I should have taken your advice - just tried. Ah well.

    1. I was totally stuck on zooming in and choosing the topic so I could be prepared. NOT going to happen asking my learners what do you need? What do you want to learn about this week? This conversation made all the difference for me as well as better learning for them.