Monday, November 23, 2015

Middle School Reading Professional Development

This past week, the Middle School ELA team and I were tasked with providing some professional development around the area of reading.  We attended a work shop on Adolescent Readers at CESA #9, led by Casey Gretzinger.  It was great for the four of us to attend some professional learning together and then have time to process how to share this information with staff.

Our middle school schedule allows for common planning time 1st hour.  This week we met as a school and began the professional development at this time, to be further carried out after school during the staff meeting.

We began by having the staff think about these three questions:
  1. What types of texts do you ask kids to read?
  2. What do you know about close reading?
  3. In what ways do you accommodate struggling readers in your class?
Staff wrote their answers on post-its and placed them on the chart paper. 

Then we passed out the following paragraph.  We gave no background information and asked staff to read it and tell us what it was about.

The procedure is actually quite simple.  First your arrange things into different group.  Of course one pile may be sufficient depending on how much there is to do.  If you have to go somewhere else due to the lack of facilities, that is the next step; otherwise you are pretty well set.  It is important not to overdo things.  That is, it is better to do too few things at once than too many.  In the short run this may not seem important but complications can easily arise.  A mistake can be expensive as well.  At first the whole procedure will seem complicated.  soon however, it will become just another facet of life.  It is difficult to foresee any end to the necessity of this task in the immediate future, but then one can never tell.  After procedure is completed one arranges the materials into different groups again.  Then they can be put into their appropriate places.  Eventually they will be used once more and the whole cycle will then have to be repeated.  However, that is a part of life.  (Brandsford and McCarrell 1974)

After, we had staff share how this experience made them feel.  Here are some of the responses:
  • "I gave up, because I didn't get it."
  • "I kept reading and rereading hoping to find the right answer, because I had to get it right."
  • "I was very nervous that you were going to call on me to tell what it was about, and I was afraid I would get it wrong."
These are responses we would expect to hear from our students!  Then we asked them what would have helped them understand it, and to imagine how this makes their students feel.

We shared this quote from Reading Nonfiction: Notice & Note by Kylene Beers & Robert E. Probst to close our sharing:

When we use lecture and explanation as our primary way of sharing information in the classroom, we imply that someone else knows, and all students have to do is listen.  This disenfranchises them and leaves them vulnerable...They will have little practice learning how to learn.

For our afternoon staff meeting we asked staff to think about a piece of text they were going to having their students read in class within the next two weeks.  They were to bring this to the after school  meeting to make a plan on how to help their students understand the text.

I will post more on this in my next post.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Post Conference

Modeling, observation and feedback are essential elements for learning and we see this with our students.  This is why this process also works for teachers. Many teachers who have been a part of Jim Knight's work in Topeka comment that coaches who modeled have helped them "teach with fidelity to research-based practices, increased their confidence about new practices, made it easier to implement new practices, and provided an opportunity for them to learn other teaching practices," (2007, Instructional Coaching).

Last week I modeled in the 4th grade classroom for four days, while the three 4th grade teachers observed.  They wanted to see what introducing literature discussion groups looked like. I tweaked a unit I had used as a classroom teacher, based on what I had learned about best practice in literature discussion groups.  I blogged a bit about it in this post.

Post-conferencing is a crucial part of the modeling/coaching process and it is necessary to schedule this.  If I do not set this time aside, I find I rarely get back to those teachers to reflect on the learning that took place.  It is also a time for me to learn from the teachers whom I am working with.  I expect to hear things they liked, didn't like or things that were unclear.  

During our monthly common planning time, I asked the fourth grade team to reflect on the modeling and learning that took place.  I use this form to guide me.  I got this form off of Jim Knight's website and I found it applied perfectly to this situation.

From our discussion the teachers noted that:

  •  It was great to see their students being taught by another teacher.
  • They liked that they could get in and listen to their students as they were pair-sharing during the guided practice portion of the lesson.
  • The realized they need more student led discussions; less teacher talk.
  • They liked that their students could see videos of other literature discussion groups in action as a model prior to being asked to do it themselves.
It was great to get our post conference in and then to further our learning, as question on types of text, choice, and time were brought up. This was my first experience modeling for an entire grade level and it was a great experience. I am fortunate to work with a great team of teachers who are excited about learning and willing to take risks and try new things.