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A Closer Look at the Ordinary

Sometimes we take things for granted.  Especially those ordinary things that we are so accustomed to that we almost don’t even notice their usefulness or necessity.  I’ve been reminded to pay attention to the ordinary in a couple of ways lately.

A blogger I follow (who takes some spectacular photos!) mentioned in a post recently that she was participating in a macro photo challenge…and was reminded that macro is not all about flowers and bugs. That prompted me to put the macro lens on my phone/camera this morning and to snap some macro shots of ordinary things around my house.

The zipper on my sweatshirt immediately attracted my attention, I like seeing how the teeth interconnect.


I noticed the banana…and focused my lens on the dark end.  It is definitely more interesting than I originally thought!

banana tip

And then since I wrote about being more playful about ordinary things like brushing my teeth in my Summer Manifesto yesterday, I couldn’t resist a quick shot of the bristles…and the toothpaste tube!

toothbrush bristles


Later today while I was outside on a long walk–of the exercise persuasion–I found myself thinking about the NWP radio show I taped today.  The show focused on formative assessment and a resource, an e-book, that NWP colleagues, Beth Rimer from Ohio and Terri McAvoy from Missouri, have put together to help their writing project colleagues and other educators understand and use formative assessment effectively…in classrooms and in professional development.  (The e-book will be available on the NWP website on June 26th…and you can hear the radio show that same evening!)

I realized in my work with Terri and Beth (I acted as their coach and editor…and cheerleader!) that formative assessment is one of the taken for granted, ordinary practices that becomes nearly invisible–even to those who use it well–and totally unacknowledged and often dismissed by those who aren’t familiar with its powerful outcomes.  What I love most about the new e-book, Formative Assessment as a Compass: Looking at Student Work as an Intentional Part of Ongoing Professional Development, is that it shines a light on all the reasons this is an essential practice for educators–in classrooms and in professional development.  Like my zipper and my toothbrush, it’s easy to overlook formative assessment.  It’s not flashy and doesn’t get much press, but effective educators understand that paying attention to learners–what they “get” and what they don’t–is essential to planning for effective teaching and requires a willingness to abandon the carefully created lesson plans and attend to the learners in the moment.

Since working with Beth and Terri, I have been more aware of the use of formative assessment in my classroom and I can’t wait to use this resource in my work with my SDAWP colleagues. Like a macro lens, this e-book will help people look more closely, examining the details that are often overlooked and considering intentional and systematic practices that support learners (and teachers too!).

What of the ordinary are you overlooking or taking for granted?  How will you take a closer look and consider the consequences of doing without this thing?  I’m glad for reminders to pay attention in different ways…to make the familiar new, allowing me to appreciate what I might otherwise dismiss as ordinary.