Slice of Life: Where Admiring Starts and Ends

Students enter my classroom with a skill set and an attitude toward reading and writing. More often than not, the two are linked.

We begin the year by finding joy in story. No matter where a student is as a reader or a writer, if we find funny, sad, dramatic, suspenseful, shocking moments in books; the attitude barriers come down and make room for growth. Finding the whatever that fills students with the desire for more is my number one goal because high interest brings volume and agency. Students’ desire to learn, to know, to be entertained by reading provides the engine necessary to move them toward meeting measured skill goals.

The trouble is, as the year progresses and pressures mount to reach benchmark goals, that joyful attitude toward literacy can wane. Anxiety can break my build-from-where-you-are stance. And that matters. I’m not saying moving students up the ladder of skill and text complexity is not the goal. Quite the contrary.  The thing is, when I focus on what students aren’t doing, I derail growth.

That’s the reason I chose my One Little Word:


 “Admire” roots me in productive soil, and Gravity Goldberg’s Mindsets and Moves gives explicit advice that helps tend to the readers and writers in my classroom.

My students need affirming feedback grounded in what they are doing. Rather than let me correct you, it’s let me hold up a mirror and show you what you are doing.  The following sentence stems I pulled from a conference highlighted in Chapter Six: Be a Mirror. All the comments go to what the reading is doing and how she is doing it.

  • You just________
  • Then you_________
  • Which helped you_______
  • You noticed________
  • You know that by doing ______ you can figure out_______
  • By doing_______ you can ________and it helps you understand_____________
  • From now on when you are reading you can _______________

Here are a few points I’ll  hold on to when coaching and conferring with my students.

  1. Be specific
  2. Name what is
  3. Focus on the process
  4. Make sure it can transfer
  5. Take yourself out of it

I especially love #5.  I know the potential power of my words, but I want students to own the results. It’s not because I said it, it’s because they do it. It’s about them, not me. That’s what draws me to the word admire. It starts and ends with the student.

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers Slice of LIfe Tuesday. I’m looking forward to another year and another hashtag (#sol16) with this wonderful community. Find more slices here.

21 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Where Admiring Starts and Ends

  1. Build on the positive- ‘admire’ sure focuses you on that. I am a fan of using thinking and talking stems, at first they guide and support, and eventually they become natural part of thinking and speaking. For a moment, when I read your title, i thought you already dropped your OLW. Glad it meant putting the student in the center.

    • Ha! I can see why you would have thought that from the title! So funny. It hadn’t occured to me.I love stems too for their ability to build our craft!

  2. I, too, love number 5. Yesterday we talked about how much we read over break. I saw students visibly shrink into their seats. I said, “If you didn’t, I’m not going to embarrass you. It doesn’t mean you’re bad. It means we need to think about why. What did you do? How can you get better?” It was powerful and all students reflected successfully. It was a learning moment for me. I confess, there have been times when I’ve gotten frustrated and it’s lead us nowhere. Thank you for always pushing my thinking, Julieanne. I ADMIRE you and your teaching so much!!!

    • Thanks for sharing your back to school experience. We have one more week and I’m sure to have a similar situation. Glad to have your model of learning with your students in my back pocket!

  3. Julieanne,
    What a perfect way to recapture the joy by focusing on the students! It starts and ends with the students. As always, you know and live “admiring” the students! ❤

  4. I want to strive to be better about my comments to my students. This list of sentence stem helps. It also helps to have an attitude of admiration. There is so much good to be found. Here’s to building a foundation for further growth. I admire you, you know!

  5. Julieanne,
    You really captured the power and beauty of your OLW…Admire. “Admire” roots me in productive soil, and Gravity Goldberg’s Mindsets and Moves gives explicit advice that helps tend to the readers and writers in my classroom.” Yes, we are tending…. growing readers and writers and can’t let the outer pressure of benchmarks bring us or our students down…it’s about joy, growth..about Admiring..focusing on what the student CAN do. Thank You!

  6. I have always found that the best teachers for me always held up the mirror. There are times when I am learning that I don’t even understand the correction. But if the mirror is held up I have the ah, ha moment and self correct.

  7. Lucky you to have found your word. I am still searching for mine. As a former ESL teacher I find your ideas very apt and useful for today’s blended classes. I admire your approach to teaching.

  8. Although I really don’t ‘need’ another professional book, you are convincing me that I would love Mindsets and Moves. I’m just re-reading Peter Johnston’s Choice Words which speaks much of “It’s not because I said it, it’s because they do it.” It’s wonderful that you’re connecting your OLW to your teaching, Julieanne. I look forward to seeing what happens in your classroom!

  9. So true. I think we all often fall into that little trap. I loved the the connections you made to your class and how you want to approach our students when conferring.

  10. Admire is such a unique word and the way you have tied to your students is wonderful. I have heard much about Mindsets and Moves – might have to look into that one!

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