Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mid-Year Review

I am nearing the point in our school year where we begin to reflect and evaluate where we are in our Educator Effectiveness process.  One of my Student Learning Objectives revolves around coaching.  Instructional Coaching is a new idea for our district.  Being a reading teacher, my content expertise is in literacy, however Instructional Coaching focuses on all areas of instruction.

I have attended some great workshops around coaching this year, which have really shifted my idea about what coaching is.  Coaching centers around a capable model, in which growth can occur.  The client, NOT the coach, has the answers.  It is up to the coach to ask the questions that help guide the client to the answers that they already have inside of them.

One session I attended recently was held by our Department of Instruction, hosted by Barb Novak, and involved 120 literacy coaches from around the state.  Laura Gleisner is an *ICF certified executive coach; she demonstrated a coaching session for us and then shared some coaching wheels with us to use with our clients

After she demonstrated for us, we were tasked with working in triads to practice coaching using one of the coaching wheels.  One person coached, one person was coached and one person was the observer.  We then took turns in each role.  It was powerful to partake in each role and was affirmation of the kinds of interactions I have been having in my school.

As I look at my SLO, I see that I have met with my targeted goal amount of teachers.  However, I want to improve the depth of conversations with these teachers, not just add teachers to my "total".  I know that I have to promote my role and continue to have meaningful conversations with teachers.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Achieving Goals

The year as ended and what a whirlwind it was.  I now have a bit of time to reflect on the year, both of myself and of my students.  Setting goals and making a plan to reach those goals is extremely important.  This is a skill that can help people in so many aspects of their life.  Setting a manageable pace at which to meet those goals can set one up for great success.

I challenged my students to read 40 books this year.  It was based on Donalyn Miller's idea that she originally proposed in her book The Book Whisperer.  My students thought this goal was utterly ridiculous as they are all struggling readers who have a disability in one or more areas.  I looped with them up to 8th grade, so I knew them fairly well and had confidence they could read way more this year than last.  I sent them a google doc with which to keep track of their reading, I conferenced with them once a week about their books, and we had discussions on how to squeeze in more time to read.  I modeled how I read, when I read and how I keep track of my books, so that they could see I was a reader too!  One big suggestion I had, was for them to always have a book with them.  Donalyn Miller states there are reading emergencies; times when you have to wait for 10-15 minutes, like for your older sister to get done with practice, or at the doctor's office, or when your parents run into the grocery store.  These are moments when you can really boost your reading. 

After a year of working towards their goal, here is the result:
The top picture is their last year's total (from memory), the bottom is this year's totals as kept track on their google doc.  We ate pizza and celebrated their success and discussed ways to keep reading over the summer.

I, personally, had a goal and it was to run a half-marathon.  I began the Runner's World Holiday Run Streak on Thanksgiving and found I really could run outside in the winter.  This winter being one of the worst on record!  After I completed the streak, I set out to keep running and run half-marathon.  I picked a half in my hometown to be ran on June 14.  I copied off a plan from Runner's World magazine and followed it to a "T".  I connected my running journey to my students' reading journey throughout the training process in class when we had time to share.

Here is my result:

I finished the half-marathon, feeling strong and confident in my training.

I am thinking about my next goal, and it will probably revolve around finishing my 317 Reading Specialist degree.  I will fill you in on that next time!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

An Emotional End

As the year winds down, I have to take the time to reflect on a small group of students that I have truly grown to love.  They will be moving on to the High School next year, and I am very excited, yet anxious for them to go.

I have taught these students every day and sometimes twice a day for the past two years.  I am their core reading teacher and intervention teacher.  I requested to loop with them up to 8th grade after we had such success as a 7th grade "team". They all are students with specific disabilities, varying from learning disabilities to behavior disabilities.  All came to me as struggling readers, with some engaged, but most of them, disengaged, from reading.

We have 5 1/2 days left together and I am appreciating every minute of it.  Here are just a few of the things we MUST get done before summer...

  • Engage in our last round of book clubs.  I recently ordered and received books by Saddleback. They are written at a lower lexile level, but with engaging content for MS readers.  We will be using our Notice and Note strategies to closely read and engage in discussions.
  • Work on vocabulary through some activities on TV411.
  • Celebrate our 40 book challenge (Thanks, Donalyn Miller!)
  • Eat Pizza

I don't want to shut my instruction down and start the summer slide a week early.  I owe it to my kids.  I have 5 1/2 days left and I want to make the most of it.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Lethal Combination: Research and Close Reading

I recently merged information I gathered from two wonderfully written resources together to lift the level of learning in my classroom.  I have to thank Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts for their work with research reading and writing, as well as, with close reading.


By combining the lessons from Energize Research Reading and Writing and Falling in Love With Close Reading, my students have been able to authentically write using their own voice from research they have done.  They have also been able to closely read both fictional and informational texts to gather evidence to guide their thinking.

My students read fictional stories related to themes of human rights.  They closely read these texts and developed inquiry questions.  From these questions they researched the issues and closely read to determine what information was valid.  They then began closely reading persuasive and argumentative texts using multiple lenses to ensure they were finding patterns to support their ideas.  Once they were fully immersed in persuasive texts, they wrote using the research they gathered and the techniques they saw authors using to complete a persuasive piece.

I cannot that the author's enough for the research they did to help me and my students grow as readers and writers.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Streaks, Goals, Resolutions

Well we have arrived at a new year and there is much talk about New Year's Resolutions.  Many people attempt them, but few succeed.  I, for one, have had many resolutions not make it through.

I just completed Runner's World's Holiday Run Streak.  I ran at least a mile from Thanksgiving Day through New Year's Day.  I ran in all kinds of weather: rain, sleet, freezing rain, snow, winter weather advisories, sun, dark, and too many sub-zero days.  I ran in the morning, after school and after I tucked my kids into bed.  I had to plan ahead for my runs and for my clothing!  I don't have a treadmill, so besides the 5 times I ran on the indoor track with my 7 year old, the other 30 days were outside in the elements.  I had never ran outside in the winter before, but was intrigued by @newbiechronicle's positive experience with it and had to attempt it.

I began on Thanksgiving and proceeded to grow my support system through Twitter.  I even encouraged another of my favorite PLN members @melwellnitz to give it a go.  It was very rewarding to enter in my runs following the #rwrunstreak hashtag and see what other streakers had encountered running that day.  I liked that I could run as far or as little (1 mile) as I liked everyday.  As long as I had 15 minutes, I could get my run in.  I had to borrow my husband's hunting balaclava and headlight and he had to install screws into my shoes to keep me from sliding on the snowy roads.

At the completion of the streak, I hopped into my rarely used jacuzzi for some well deserved relaxation and reward of completing a goal I had set out to do.

What does this have to do with my students?  As I was ending the end of my streak, I started pondering how this could relate to my struggling readers.  We are shooting for a goal of reading 40 books much like @donalynbooks does with her kids, but am I giving them the support they need to get there?  I think we all need support, guidance, and small steps built into our goal system to succeed.

This leads me to ponder how I could help my students reach their goal.

  • Could I encourage them to start a reading streak of their own? 
  •  Maybe they could read every day and the minimum could be 10 minutes or maybe a chapter?  
  • Could they log their reading in a blog, or google spreadsheet?  
  • Could they tweet about their experiences on our class twitter page @tasslersreaders?
  • What is their reward in the end?  Is it all intrinsic?
I will be discussing my streak with my students and sharing how I think I can help them reach their goals.  I look forward to hearing their response on how we all can help each other succeed.