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.

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