Archive for the ‘collaboration’ Category

My Story, Your Story, Our Story

Posted on: August 20th, 2015 by lschwartz 2 Comments

I always find it both strange and comforting how things happen together in a way that are not connected, but end up becoming connected.

My friend and colleague, Chris Loat recently returned from the ADE 2015 conference in Florida.  One hot summer night surrounded by mosquitos, he talked about the theme of story at the conference and the importance of telling our story and the role that technology can play in storytelling. Our conversation, my passion for all things literacy and my inquiry into children’s oral story telling really got me excited about the role that story could play in my own professional learning.

A couple week’s later, I came across Chris Kennedy’s blog post about our local Richmond paper closing its doors after 83 years and how we as educators need to find ways to fill that void and tell our stories. The stories that local papers have always shared.

These two events were sending a message loud and clear.  It is time for me to dust off this space and begin to tell my own story.

What has prevented me from using this space, has been my own struggle with perfectionism. The fear that the content is not quite right.  But I am both inspired and excited to use this space to tell my own story.  My story as a teacher consultant who is passionate about literacy.  My story as a teacher who believes we can teach all children to read.  But just as important as teaching every child to read is showing every child the joy of reading and give them ample reasons to be life long readers and learners.  My story of using the draft documents of our transformed B.C. curriculum with other educators in our district.  My story of technology integration in literacy. My story about my questions, my readings and my learning.

We all have stories to tell and in telling our stories we make sense of our world, connect with others and look at things with fresh eyes. I am both excited and nervous to share my story this year.

“The world is shaped by two things — stories told and the memories they leave behind.” – Vera Nazarian

Teacher Research: Thinking About Story Workshop Part 1

Posted on: December 12th, 2014 by lschwartz No Comments

We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.~ ~Lloyd Alexander

This year, I have continued my work with Louesa Byrne at Thompson Elementary and Story Workshop.  Our project evolved from a visit to Opal School in Portland, Oregon, June 2013. The Opal School is a K-5 school guided by the principles of the early childhood schools of Reggio Emilia. During our visit to Opal School we witnessed Story Workshop and wondered what story workshop would look like in our context.

Questions guiding our inquiry:

  • What is the role story workshop in supporting literacy development?
  • How can we integrate essential skills of reading and writing into story workshop?
  • What will be the affect on students’ knowledge of story and vocabulary development through regular participation in story workshop?

Story workshop operates under the belief that everyone has a story to tell and that stories can be communicated in many different ways.  Students build their language and literacy development by building and representing stories with a variety of objects.

In the workshop, children are given provocations in the form of materials such as blocks, paint, sand, play-dough and loose parts.  The children build, play and make the story come alive in their actions and words. As teachers, we document their stories to make their learning visible and give space for the students to be authors and communicate their many stories. We capture these stories through photographs, audio recordings and recording their stories.

During this first months of school, our focus has been on establishing some routines within story workshop, the creation stories using different materials and the ability to tell a story orally.  We record the children’s stories using photos and the program Pages.

Our big ideas for the students:

  • Everyone has a story to tell
  • Authors find ideas for stories in different places
  • Stories emerge from different materials

Some of the provocations that we have used to inspire stories:

play dough and loose parts

play dough and loose parts

Natural materials and loose parts with grass mats

Natural materials and loose parts with grass mats

gems, natural materials and ocean finger puppets

gems, natural materials and ocean finger puppets

We value the time story workshop gives students to work with materials, develop stories and share ideas.  We value the time story workshop gives us to get to know the students, make connections and watch them develop as story tellers.


We Are Better Together

Posted on: March 8th, 2014 by lschwartz

I am in and out of different schools weekly.  I see people working really hard.  Educators doing all they can to meet the needs of the their students.  But, more and more I see people working hard, alone.  I see classroom teachers working in isolation doing their jobs.  I see ESL/Resource teacher pulling students out and working in their own rooms.  And what I see is a lot of very tired people.

We all know teaching counts.  The heart of the matter is truly believing that we can teach all the kids we have – and we will – and others can work with us, because collectively we know enough to make a difference.

My best teaching years were the ones when I had someone to collaborate with, to plan with and to teach with, side by side.  This meant all students were in my classroom with two experts, not one. When things didn’t go quite as planned, we would share a look and as the kids cleaned up, talk about what we could change to make it better next time.  When things went well, we joyfully celebrated.  And for those moments, I want to say thank you to Heather, Julie, Dee-Ann, Colleen, Louesa, Faye, Michelle, Brooke and Jeri.  Thanks for being my plus one, my plus two, my better half in teaching and learning, at some point in my teaching and learning journey.

I urge teachers to find their plus one in their schools.  An educational assistant, teacher librarian, ELL/Resource teacher or anyone else to team with, plan with, teach with and learn with because I know in my heart, we are all better together.