Sunday, July 1, 2018

Being the Change #cyberPD Ch. 1-2

Happy #cyberPD! This summer's online educator book club is tackling the brand-new (and inspiring!) Being the Change: lessons and strategies to teach social comprehension by Sara Ahmed. Join us during the month of July as we read, discuss, and reflect on this powerful book and how to incorporate it into our classrooms. You can find all the details about #cyberPD here and/or click here to join the Google+ discussion group.

Quick Intro to Me

If you are new to The Logonauts, my name is Katie, and I've been a classroom teacher for 10 years. I taught 3rd grade for 8 years, 4th grade for 4 years (concurrently with 3rd grade), 7th grade for 2 years, and this fall I will be teaching 5th grade, all at the same K-8 school in Wisconsin. Pfew! I am so excited about the potential for this book as I am working to construct and refine what fifth grade curriculum looks like at my school.

Finally, I am also a new mom (!) working to sneak moments of professional development (and meals) in between an only-ever 35-minute-long nap schedule. Yikes.

Big Takeaways from the Introduction and Chapters 1-2

Full disclosure: I read this entire book the night it arrived. There is so much here to use immediately with students and so much potential for changing minds and hearts along the way. I was thrilled when Being the Change was announced as the #cyberPD choice.

One of my favorite things about this book is the way it is set up to get right to the heart of the lessons while also providing detailed descriptions that would allow almost any teacher to simply pick up the book and incorporate a given lesson into their day. Ideas like the two-column journaling format ("At first I thought ... Now I think ...") are easily adaptable across a wide-range of grade and skill levels, as well as applicable to a wide-range of lessons and topics.

At the same time, there is a discernible progression both within each chapter and within the book as a whole, so it is easy to see how incorporating each one would allow students to build and build on their self-understanding leading towards empathy and understanding of others.

Sample Poem: Where I'm From

I had a few days between units with my seventh graders before my maternity leave last spring and was looking for quick one-off lessons to fill in. We have a regular Poetry Friday time (which I have done across all grade levels), so it was a natural fit to find a poetry prompt to use. I stumbled across George Ella Lyon's incredible "Where I'm From" poem, which just happens to be featured in Chapter 1. (Be sure to click on the audio to hear her read the poem aloud. Amazing!) We had just finished a unit on identity and family history, so it was easy for my students to bridge the gap into sharing that knowledge in a different form. Below is one of those student examples:

Where I’m From

I’m from the water,
From mud and from rain.
I’m from watching the TV on Sundays,
From reading a nice crisp book.
I’m from the fire,
Crackling in the pit.
I’m from the food,
Sweet warm, soft.
From the green grass,
Thick trees with crunchy leaves.
I’m from the home,
the family
and most importantly,
the heart.

I promise you, you could hear the heart of the classroom community beating as several kids volunteered to read their poems aloud at the end of the period. You don't want to miss out on the kind of impact this lesson (and, I'm sure, all the others) can have on your students, your classroom, and yourself.

I look forward to hearing everyone else's thoughts about the book and seeing how our conversations evolve through the rest of the month! Join in via the Google+ discussion group. (Just FYI - I am traveling this week with limited internet access, so I will get back to all your comments and posts later in the week.)

(Click here for all #cyberPD posts, including previous years.)


  1. Thank you for your comments on your reading! I am going to be starting the book this week and am thrilled to hear that “Where I’m From” is a lesson at the gate! I am also participating in the Book Love Summer Book Club and this poem was paired w/Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming! I wrote one and had my 4th graders also create one as a one-off lesson, too. With S samples and a better understanding, this is a wonderful way to start the year!

    1. Awesome ideas! I LOVE Brown Girl Dreaming! (Have you seen Kate Messner's Breakout? One of the characters writes poems inspired by that book too.)

    2. Awesome ideas! I LOVE Brown Girl Dreaming! (Have you seen Kate Messner's Breakout? One of the characters writes poems inspired by that book too.)

  2. What a beautiful poem - Thank you for sharing your student's work. I love the way Sara shares how she speaks with students - simple, honest, and clear. This book is filled with powerful ways for students to learn about themselves and each other.

    1. Absolutely! That's part of what I think makes this book so approachable for teachers too.

  3. Katie, first of all, congratulations on being a new mom!!! Such exciting news — and you are still here is so impressive! Enjoy all the new baby moments.

    Also, I love that you said this work will change minds and hearts. This is refreshing to hear and my hope going forward! I’m happy to also know that the lessons build on each other as well.

    The poems are powerful. Wouldn’t it be awesome for students to have written these every (few) year to see their growth and changes and beliefs in who they are? I think all this HEART work will fit beautifully in your 5th grade curriculum. A great age/year to dig in deeper into this work.

    Best of luck with napping and reading and designing curriculum this summer! But especially love that sweet baby! ��


    1. Yes! I love the idea of having students write a "Where I'm From" poem every few years. That impact that could have on student reflection on who they are and what they stand for is powerful!

    2. That is SUCH a cool idea, Michelle! A snapshot of who that child is across the years. I will definitely take that up with my colleagues.

      And thanks for all the mom wishes! CyberPD is a great excuse to utilize other parts of my brain fora little while! ;)

  4. What a beautifully written "Where I'm From" poem. Thank you for sharing it. I am looking forward to the conversations we will have here in July.

  5. Katie,
    First of all, congratulations on your new little one. I appreciated the opportunity to hear about your teaching experiences as those surely shape the lens for your reflections of Sara’s work (and I enjoyed learning more about you.). I had to laugh at your true confessions that you’ve already read the whole book. One of the things I noticed in the first two chapters seems to be confirmed in your post: that this isn’t a do the activity and be done book. It is apparent that these first conversations are routinely revisited and lay the foundation for depeening the trust and understanding of the community.

    1. Absolutely, Cathy. It's such a great package, even if you could also just lift a single lesson and implement it right away.

  6. Katie - Congratulations! You've added a new dimension to your Identity Web! With the new responsibilities, I'm reminded of Jim Burke's advice of "honoring your roles" and recognizing that each week/season, we need to adjust our priorities and which roles take precedence.

    Thank you for sharing your "Where I'm From" poem. It was beautiful. I too have seen the power of this poem format with my students. I didn't read the whole book in one sitting, but read the first section through quickly - and then went back to reread and consider.

    1. Thanks, Suz. I had so many amazing Where I'm From poems from my students, it was hard to choose!

  7. I can imagine that your students must have had some fantastic poems. It's an activity that really helps a writer get to the essence of who they are. Although I was introduced to the poem and activity years ago, I've never done the lesson with my students. The experience sounds valuable.

  8. This material is soooo needed riht now!

  9. Thanks for sharing student work Katie. I can't wait to use this identity lesson with my grade 9s in August!

    Do you think there is value in curating student work as mentor texts for the #cyberpd community?

    1. Julie, absolutely! Mentor texts are such a great way for students to learn and getting to read work by other students could be a great motivator (esp for middle and high school). Great idea!


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