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The Big Fresh September 29, 2018 The "One Thing" Mindset

Brenda Power

This year has been a good one for me, and a bad one for a few of my closest friends and family members. They are dealing with serious illness themselves, or struggling to cope with ailing parents.  I recently read a quote from Marie Masse that captures what I’ve learned about being a good friend to those in need:

The next time a bad thing or a bad day happens, ask yourself how you can reframe your mindset from “Why is this happening to me?!” to “What’s the one thing I can do to make myself feel better + energized now?”

It’s great advice for anyone who is going through a rough day, but it’s even better advice for someone trying to help anyone who is struggling. I don’t ask, “What can I do to help?” If I do, I’ve learned the answer will always be, “Thanks, but I don’t need anything.” Because it’s just more work for someone who is already overwhelmed to figure out what assistance they need. Instead, I try to say something like “I’ve made extra pumpkin soup and I know it’s your favorite. What time would be good for me to drop it off today?” or “I’d like to take your daughter to the movies this weekend so you have a break. What time would be best?” People always appreciate food that can be frozen, or a specific immediate offer of childcare for a few hours so they can have some time to themselves or to tend to an ill parent.

When I talk to literacy coaches, I see that many of them apply the same principle every day to build relationships with stressed-out teachers. Instead of saying, “What can I do to help?” they say, “How about I take your duty today so you have extra time to plan that minilesson we talked about?” or “Could I do the read aloud this morning so you have time to sit back and observe those two boys who have IEPs coming up?” It’s the “one thing” specificity that can immediately make the person who needs help feel energized and better now.

There is always one thing that can heal or help in even the smallest of ways. And when you’re looking for a lifeline, that one tiny bit of support may turn out to be the best gift anyone could have given you that day.

This week we look at conferring for reflection and action. Plus more as always -- enjoy!

Brenda Power
Founder, Choice Literacy

Free for All

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Ruth Ayres gives her best advice for honing your conferring skills with this succinct list of tips for better conferences:


Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris are rethinking questions used in one-on-one reading conferences:


Beth Moore shares tips on how to listen more closely while conferring:


Check out our new online courses for teachers and literacy coaches! In the next month we're featuring 12-day self-paced classes from Katherine Sokolowski on student research projects in grades 3-7, Christy Rush-Levine on quick and meaningful reading conferences in middle school, and Jennifer Schwanke on better outreach to families. Courses include three-month trial memberships to Choice Literacy and Lead Literacy, screencasts, videos, articles, and personal responses from the instructor to your questions. Explore detailed descriptions at this link:



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Christy Rush-Levine emphasizes "reflaction" in her reading conference protocol -- reflection that leads to action for her students:


In this week's video, Christy shows the process in action as she confers with Olivia about the principle of cause and effect in the novel she is reading:


In a bonus video, Katrina Edwards begins her conference with first grader Ava by having her share what she learned from a picture walk through a simple text, and then she helps her use pictures to decode text while reading:


Parents of middle school students are often bewildered at how best to deal with their child's unresponsiveness. Jennifer Schwanke explains how teachers can construct conferences with middle school parents that foster reflection, action, and shared goals:


That's all for this week!

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Brenda Power

Brenda Power is the founder of Choice Literacy. She worked for many years as a professor at the University of Maine and an editor at Stenhouse Publishers. Her publications as an author include Living the Questions and The Art of Classroom Inquiry. She has worked as a book editor and video producer for many of the authors featured at this site.