A Book Is Born (Well, Almost)

Stork Delivery 2

After umpteen drafts over nearly four years, I finally delivered the book I’ve been working on to Heinemann the other week. It won’t be out until early 2017, but it now officially has a title:

Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading:

Shifting to a Problem-Based Approach

Like Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris’s great new book Who’s Doing the Work?, Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading addresses the “What next” in reading instruction question that’s been posed by our rapidly changing times and the many pendulum swings that have hit the field of literacy over the years. And to give you a feel for how this book will answer that question, here’s some lines from the introduction:

I’ll show you how students can become the insightful and passionate readers and learners we all want them to be—and the critical and creative problem solvers and thinkers they’ll need to be in our increasingly complex world. The book builds on the process of meaning making that What Readers Really Do explored, though unlike that earlier book, this one looks at both fiction and nonfiction as well as explicitly connects the work to all the shifts, concepts and terms that have cropped up over the last four years, from close reading to mindsets and from grit to complex texts. It will also more explicitly help you build your own capacities as problem solvers and thinkers, as well as develop a repertoire of dynamic teaching moves. And it will deepen your understanding of what it means to read closely and deeply so that you can, in the words of Lucy Calkins, “outgrow yourself” as a reader in order to meet both the higher demands the Common Core has set—and enjoy what you read even more.

ChalkboardI’ll be sharing more from the book as we get closer to publication, but now that a new school year is about to start (or in some places is already underway), I want to spend the next few weeks posting a variation of my yearly tradition of kicking off the new year with teacher thinking. In the past (as you can see here, here and here), I’ve celebrated teacher thinking by sharing some of the amazingly thoughtful comments teachers have left on each year’s blog posts. But given that posts have been few and far between this year, I instead want to share some of the incredible thinking that teachers I’ve worked with have done in both classroom and institute settings.

Through the Teaching Learning Community Metamorphosis, for instance, I facilitated a content coaching institute this summer in Redding, California, for administrators and coaches who were embarking on a county-wide literacy initiative. For those of you unfamiliar with content coaching, it’s an incredibly effective approach to coaching that Metamorphosis founders Lucy West and Toni Cameron explore and define in their book Agents of Change as follows:

Redding Slide 2

Recognizing the importance of developing a common vision of what the initiative might accomplish, I asked the coaches to consider this question from Agents of Change and, in groups, create a chart to share their thinking.

Redding Slide 1

The groups immediately started talking as I passed out chart paper and markers. And here’s a taste of their thinking:

Redding Chart 1

Redding Chart 2

Redding Chart 3

Having articulated such well-defined visions (with so many great variations) of what they want to see happening in classrooms, these coaches were ready to think more deeply about what might be the most impactful practices they could focus on with the teachers they’d be working with this year. And in that way, they were engaged in a process of planning for change that I wrote about in “Beliefs, Books & Being True to Yourself”: They articulated what they believed teaching and learning should look, feel and sound like before searching for resources and considering practices.

Next time, I’ll share some of the work teachers did with a practice I shared at this summer’s Paramus Institute on the Teaching of Writing, which engaged them in much happy grappling, in depth conversations and collaborative messiness. And in the meantime, here’s hoping that your new school year starts off with a sense of wonder, lots of energy and just the right amount of controlled chaos!

26 thoughts on “A Book Is Born (Well, Almost)

  1. Looking forward to your posts and the book, Vicki! Those charts show the power of collaborative thinking, interesting to see how the shared vision is, essentially, the same:dynamic, messy, engaged and invested learning.

    • Thanks, Tara! I do think all the charts suggested the same vision, but I love the permutations in them – happy grappling in one, the word pensive in another. Also made me remember the power of markers & a blank piece of chart paper & how they can open so many more doors than a worksheet can!

    • And I’m excited to write them! While I haven’t had enough time to blog, I have had some wonderful work opportunities w/ teachers who really pushed my thinking. And FYI: You make a cameo appearance in the Acknowledgements for introducing me to using sports play-off team brackets to scaffold thinking!

  2. I can’t wait to immerse myself and my students (and the teachers I work with) in this new book. What a joy it was to work and learn with you in Paramus. In the meantime, your blog continues to be a powerful inspiration. Thanks, Vicki!

  3. Welcome back! So interesting to think about how to “outgrow ourselves as readers” . . . I’ve been puzzling about that since I first heard Lucy Calkins challenge and I can’t wait to see and hear more of your thoughts.

    So many people are working on “student engagement” – I love the descriptions above that include “controlled chaos”, “mistakes are honored”, and “happy grappling”. All seem to be the exact opposite of compliance!

    Congratulations! Yay, 2017 book release!

    • For me, outgrowing ourselves as readers means reading more deeply by noticing more & making more of what we notice. And, yes, I loved those descriptors, too! Just don’t want to turn them into a rubric! But . . . Rome? Hope you had a magnificent time!

  4. Woohoo! I can only imagine how you felt sending this one off to be published! It sounds like you will address so many topics that have been brewing on the topic of reading instruction. In one of Catherine Brophy’s recent posts, she shared a quote from Lucy’s keynote at the reading institute, “Learning to read involves more risk than we often acknowledge.” #truth. As I perused the words in the charts above – welcoming, supportive, collaborative alongside rigorous, discourse, deep conversation – it is clear that coaches also need to honor risk taking within their respective learning communities. Thanks for an invigorating week in Paramus! Can’t wait to get my hands on this book!

    • It’s true, this book is packed to the gills with ideas because I wanted to really convey a big picture of how all the different pieces that are on people’s minds can come together in certain classroom practices. And as for risk-taking, that’s why I love summer work so much. Everyone in Redding & Paramus took such risks in their thinking. It was so gorgeous to see!

  5. Hooray! Can’t wait to read this book! Classrooms full of “critical and creative problem solvers and thinkers” is the holy grail, isn’t it? I know your new book will be full of powerful tools to help us work toward that goal. Thank your for all your insightful work that helps me “outgrow” myself as a reader and as a teacher.

  6. I’m with what everyone is commenting on YES!!!! can’t WAIT… LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR POSTS! They always help me RETOOL!

  7. Hurrah! You are here! Today is my first day of school and this post is exactly what I needed. Your words lift my heart and my thinking and with that the level of my work. The joy in teaching is in the outgrowing ourselves. Solving problems. Being a learner. That is what you inspire.

    • Thanks so much, Julieanne. It was a true labor of love (with a times more emphasis on labor than love), and I cannot tell you how much you & other blog readers have kept me going. And how lovely this post coincided with your first day of school! Your kids are so very lucky to have you!

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  9. Vicki,
    So glad to hear about the book progress. I am looking forward to it! Thank you, too, for sharing the thoughts of the workshop participants. Love the sound (and image) of the words “happy grappling.” Also, love the “what if…” that hangs on the bottom of the last photo. For me, these words seem to capture the ethos of inquiry and wonder. Speaking of those, and in the spirit the end of one long journey and the beginning of a new (uncharted) one, here is a poem by Jim Harrison:

    This year we have two gorgeous
    yellow warblers nesting in the honeysuckle bush.
    The other day I stuck my head in the bush.
    The nestlings weigh one-twentieth of an ounce,
    about the size of a honeybee. We stared at
    each other, startled by our existence.
    In a month or so, when they reach the size
    of bumblebees they’ll fly to Costa Rica without a map.

    • Love this poem, Steve! In a strange way it reminded me of the amazing essay Katherine Bomer shared in her new book, “Joyas Voladoras” by Brian Doyle. Do you know it and/or have you read Katherine’s book. Also coincidentally, in my new uncharted journey, I’ve been thinking about rereading some beloved books, one of which was Jim Harrison’s Legends of the Fall (or at least the title novella). Always worry, though, that almost 40 years after first reading it, I might not be so enamored with it because, of course, I’ve changed. But I am loving having more time in my life for reading and more space in my head to begin to consider what my next chapter might be.

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