Friday, August 23, 2013

Unravel the String to Find Possibilities


With summer break approaching its end and back to school specials part of the media blitz, my mind drifts back into teaching mode. This is the time of year that I always penned my literacy message to staff. As I prepare for a new role as ELA consultant, I am filled with the same sentiments that greet each new school year. To honor the tradition of writing an opening greeting, this afternoon I browsed through my personal library to find the just right book to share as a read aloud with teachers. Just how long can a long string be?! by Keith Baker, popped out as the book to open dialogue about issues that may arise in the classroom. 

At the start of the book, Little Ant poses a question to Bird. “Just how long can a long string be?  Through several short retorts, wise bird thoughtfully provides a series of answers that helps Little Ant problem solve. Although this book has a 340 lexile level, I feel that is appropriate for a beginning of the school year read aloud for adult learners. From the book jacket's lead question, Has something ever gotten in your way that seems way too big to handle?, to the final statement, “Thank you, Bird! Now I see…a string’s just as long as I need it to be.," the reader is aware that there a variety of approaches to solving a problem. Going beyond this I pose three questions to open conversations:

Do educators and students sometimes get tangled up in a ball of string? Do we routinely step back and reflect about our entanglements or those of our students? Do we lead our students to find creative solutions to messy, perplexing problems?

Might you consider at the start of this school year to allow the string that pulls you in different directions to be as long as you need it to be? Encourage perseverance through challenging text and tasks and provide your students with the tools and resources to develop their thinking skills. As a facilitator of learning gracefully unravel the ball of yarn to find possibilities amongst supposed disarray. 

Enjoy the new school year and find the just right length for your many long strings.