Purposeful Introductions: Using “As You Enter” to Share One’s Story

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Last week I presented at the Conference on English Leadership Convention in Houston, Texas. It was a great convention providing me with several opportunities to talk with other leaders about ELA instruction, practices, and teaching philosophy.

The session I presented was titled, “7 Steps to Establishing a Discourse-Rich Lead Team.” The infographic below shows the progression the 7 steps. Details of each step were elaborated on during the presentation clarifying the list of descriptors.

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Applying any of these steps will help the overall performance of a lead teacher team, but applying multiple steps, or better yet, all of the steps will promote better efficiency, trust, discussion, and opportunities to try new ideas.

There may be multiple interpretations of what a lead teacher team is and the overall purpose. If I were to boil the definition down, a lead teacher team is any group of teachers coming together to make decisions about student learning. In my previous post, I explained the Working Definition Walkabout activity.  I used this activity to define what it means to have discourse-rich lead teams.  The two working definitions the group explored were:

Lead Team Discourse refers to the communication of ideas via verbal and written interactions that occur amongst lead team members in small group and large group settings. These interactions include processing, critical thinking, interpreting, expressing, reflecting, debating, agreeing, and disagreeing (adapted from Cathy Seely).

Lead Teams can be defined as any group of educational leaders coming together to collaborate on the needs of student learners.

Neither definition is in its final form allowing participants to freely edit and share their understandings and expertise.

While I used a variety of movement activities during the presentation, the one I started with helped set the tone of the presentation.

As You Enter

For this activity, participants are given two options.  The two options offered at this convention were:

Option #1:  Using your device, select an image that represents your experience so far in Houston. On sticky notes, write three words (one per sticky note) describing your rationale for choosing this image.

Option #2: On a sheet of paper or sticky note, sketch a picture that represents a course of action you want to take when you return to your place of employment. On sticky notes, write three words (one per sticky note) describing your rationale for sketching this picture.

After a couple of minutes, participants shared their words with a partner (or in a group of three). Partner A introduced him or herself (name, position, location), showed the image/sketch, and then shared the three words. Partner B followed the same format. With the time remaining, the pair expanded understanding with questions, comments, and/or clarifications. The protocol ensures that both individuals get to share. Adding time for questions, comments, and clarification adds to one’s story.

Each person chose one, two, or all three words to post on the Thinking Wall at the front of the room.

The activity prompts were chosen to add reflection and to honor the experience of the participants. I read a few of the words out loud and asked participants to keep these words in mind as we continued to learn together. I returned to these words throughout the presentation making connections to the activities we participated in. At the end of the presentation, reflection was built in to consider these words and the experience of the participants,

While any activity asking participants to interact with one another and share their stories would help build relationships, this activity connected to the actual experience of participants and the learning taking place. Doing so adds purpose to the introduction and ultimately builds more buy-in to stories shared during future introduction activities.  Offering choice recognizes individual thinking and provides more opportunities for one to communicate his or her own story. These stories are crucial to establishing the groundwork for a discourse-rich experience.

Working Definitions for Processing and Guiding

Screen Shot 2018-11-20 at 5.01.38 PM.pngI recently attended the Kappa Delta Pi International Convocation in Indianapolis, Indiana.  This is my sixth time attending convocation, and each time I have attended assuming various roles such as a state delegate, regional representative, presenter, and Executive Council member. This year my role shifted to co-chair of the International Committee. With each role comes a new perspective, or lense to view the sessions, meetings, and interactions. As co-chair of the International Committee, I had the pleasure of networking with a variety of educators passionate about student learning across the globe. This year, I attended several sessions focused on sustainability supporting my own teaching philosophy as well as elements of my district’s strategic plan.  I’m particularly attuned to equity and social justice strands. Kappa Delta Pi is currently offering a free online class to members and nonmembers on the topic of sustainability. Details on the class can be found at Introduction to Sustainability.  This class is facilitated by Susan Santone, author of the book, Reframing the Curriculum: Design for Social Justice and Sustainability.

When I think about my own work related to this blog, the importance of the powerful questions and thinking needed to adequately discuss these topics as well as brainstorm a course of action becomes the impetus of incorporating movement in critical discussions. The concept of using movement with students in the classroom when stimulating discussion is applicable to adults as well.  A simple strategy to begin the conversation builds on other ideas I have posted previously.

Activity Title:  Working Definition Walkabout

To prepare for this activity, the facilitator prints out a sheet of definitions referencing the big topics to be discussed.  At the top of the sheet, the facilitator included the “Working Definition” title.  Depending on the size of the group, the number of copies posted around the room may range from 5 or more.

Step 1: Hang Working Definitions around the room.  For example, the definitions of social justice and equity might be displayed as working definitions.

Step 2:  Participants divide themselves into groups of 3-4 and position themselves in front of one of the working definition sheets.  When groups have been formed, they agree on three powerful words to highlight. After they highlight these words, they then decide on what should be crossed out, added to, or rephrased.

Step 3:  Participants move as a group counterclockwise to the next working definition sheet. Participants view highlights and review revisions to the working definition.  They then continue editing or adding comments.

Step 4:  Participants move to the next working definition sheet and repeat the process.  This process can continue as long as the facilitator decides.

Step 5:  Participants share about the process and its application to their work.

This activity is good for the following reasons:

  • It honors the voice of every person.
  • It honors the collective voice of individuals in the room:
    • what they agree with
    • what they disagree with
    • their expertise on the topic
  • It adds to the processing time
    • participants consider own knowledge
    • participants focus on the topic at hand
    • reduces stress and anxiety

The next steps of the process may include developing the group’s working definition, deep diving into the topic, and/or beginning the process of deciding the direction for the classroom, grade level, district, and so on through the generation of questions.