Sunday, October 19, 2014

Tanny McGregor Visits!

Last Sunday, I was excited to host a dinner party for Tanny McGregor and several of our teachers that participated in a book study. Gotta be honest . . . I was kinda nervous. Coming to my house, the author that I have respected and admired from afar! Her strategies helped guide the instruction in my classroom . . . across content areas. Her ideas helped me talk to students about thinking about their thinking. Her ideas helped me talk to my students about "fake" reading and how we need to be cognizant of when we are fake reading and how to stop. Her ideas helped me post sentence stems in my classroom as a form of scaffolding for my students.

How do you prepare for an author coming to your house?
One must clean!
One must change out the seasonal decorative plate!

What does one serve?
When visiting San Antonio, one serves . . .
Enchiladas, fajitas, beans, rice, guacamole, and salad. 
Top it off with hibiscus tea in mason jars! (Anyone get the mason jar reference?)
(Thank you to our district chef! Very yummy!)

It was a wonderful evening of story telling, asking questions and girl chat!
Probably, the coolest moment (even though there were many) was when one of our teachers asked about folktales. She inquired about any ideas for a concrete connection? Within seconds, Tanny suggested bringing in a family heirloom of some sort, a baton for passing or even playing telephone! Bam! There it was!  Ideas flying . . . conversation flowing . . .

We ended the evening with a group photo and Tanny signing our books.While she signed ours, we signed hers. Yes, we signed her books.  Her personal books are filled with signatures of teachers and students that she has worked with over the years  . . . love this!

Labor Day PD with Tanny
Ok . . . I took 7 pages of (Word doc) notes from the day . . . books, links and tons of ideas. 
Don't worry . . . I'm not sharing my full 7 pages. Just the highlights . . .     :)

Our morning began with the lovely book, The Golden Rule, by Ilene Cooper.
In this story, a grandfather and his grandson see a billboard that reads, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The billboard sparks a conversation between the grandfather and the grandson about the meaning of the saying. Why is it golden and whom is it for?
What a great way to begin the school year or have a conversation about creating a class community. The grandfather explains that all cultures have a version of this rule.
The best part, the grandfather brings it all back to his grandson . . . "Imagine what it would feel like if you were a new student at school..."

Beginning with the power of a story that starts a conversation . . . perfect!

On to . . . Text + Thinking = Real Reading 

What we’re hearing (the hot topics in big conferences)
·      More informational text
·      Less narrative/literary texts
·      More complex tests
·      More close reading
·      More cold reading
·      Less background knowledge
·      More reliance on textual evidence

What we know is best practices
·      Slowing down paying closer attention
·      Demanding clarity
·      Reading it again
·      Noticing, posing and pursuing questions
·      Taking a critical stance
·      Making notes / annotating
·      Supporting view with evidence from text (huge one)

Some of my favorite quotes . . .
"I want kids to know I welcome their confusion. That’s why I’m here."
"We want students to experience the 18 inch migration. When learning travels from the brain to the heart." (That's about how far it is from your brain to your heart.)
"How much of your time is devoted to kids and their thinking?"
"Building schema – the mother of all strategies!"

4 Shades of Grey!
Loved this idea that checks for understanding. Even for any content area.

Ended with the power of a story that starts a conversation . . . perfect!

Themes galore!
Complex text – intense emotional drama of friendship, belonging, temptation, risk, peer pressure, betrayal and staying true to yourself. 

Last bit to this really long post . . .
If you don't have Tanny's books, get them! Relevant and applicable.
If you ever get a chance to attend one of Tanny's professional development session, do! Even if you are a math, science, or social studies teacher, attend! She does a great job of showing the connection across subject areas.

Thanks, Tanny!


  1. I am so jealous. Her book Comprehension Connections was one of my "bibles."

    Krazy Town

  2. Charlotte,
    I'm the one who should write a blog post about how wonderful the evening was! Your house was beautiful, the food was delicious, and time spent with new friends was priceless. Thank you for making me feel so special. Alamo Heights is an amazing place, filled with dedicated professionals. I hope our paths cross again.