Monday, December 19, 2016

Professional Learning with TCRWP Reading

This is my second post reflecting on the learning that took place during a one day conference with presenters Laurie Passah and Mary Ehrenworth. You can read my first post here.

Mary Ehrenworth kicked off the reading portion of the day by diving into read alouds. She said that read alouds need to be highly planned and strategic (not the lap reading we do with our youngest children at home). The Teacher's College had Doug Reeves come in and do professional work with them. He noted, "The highest level of cognitive demand that children experience is during the read aloud." However, there lacked transfer. Mary suggested that students bring their book to the read aloud to move transfer. Partnerships should be solid, not groups of 3, as partnerships lend themselves to nearly 100% engagement, 100% of the time.

During strategic read aloud, there should be:
  • interrupted reading
  • partner discussion
  • prompting, practice, feedback, practice
  • deepening of reading practices
  • strategic text selection

Mary also suggested limiting the number of years you use a read aloud, as this allows for Power over Balance. If you read the same text year after year, the teacher has too much power.

Classroom libraries are key to improving student reading achievement. Classroom libraries can be leveled in levels A-F, but after that categorize them. She reminded us that children who read book series as children, most likely turn into adults who read. 

My next post will focus on instructional leadership around the Units of Study and workshop model.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Professional Learning with TCRWP Writing

I was tickled to be able to attend a one day workshop put on by Teacher's College and The Reading and Writing Project this week. Mary Erhenworth and Laurie Pessah were our presenters and they did not disappoint.

We began the day learning about writing workshop. Mary's questioning got us immediately reflecting on the writing that was taking place in our buildings. She asked:

  • How is writing going?
  • How do you know?
  • Is there growth?
  • What are the systems in place for writing over time?
She highly encouraged us to begin each year with narrative. This is a time to gain insight into our children's lives. Writing in the narrative genre gives these children the gift of telling their own stories with knowledge, insight, power and grace. We teach the kids to write so their voices will be heard. We look for who the child is emerging through the writing. It is a true way to research our kids.

As teachers this is a time to begin talking about writing. Our ability to talk about writing directly relates to our ability to teach writing. Teachers at this point of the year, gather to look at student writing through multiple lenses. We must take great care to democratize the level of teaching knowledge to improve students' writing. This is done by looking at pieces of student writing and discussing the evidence we found by looking through the lenses of genre, focus, structure, craft, conventions and volume.

Laurie then walked us through evidence we should look for to determine the quality of writing workshops that are taking place in our building. It is not enough to just have it in your schedule.
  • Students are spending most of their time writing.
  • Folder and notebooks are chock full (& amounts of writing are changing over time).
  • Children can talk about their writing, what they are trying to convey and what their goals are.
  • Strategies on charts are reflected in student writing (ask students, "What charts are most helpful to you?)
  • Writing improves dramatically over time in many ways, including structure, elaboration and conventions.
  • Mini lessons are slimmed down to 10-15 minutes (not a time for Q & A).
  • Teachers are meeting with 7-12 kids a day.
  • Students are energized & uplifted when teachers confer with them.
  • Kids use partnerships to rehearse, give advice and to react to each other's writing (not just when the T says, "work with your partner"). 
  • Kids are advising each other with evidence there was crystal clear teaching.

 A tool to measure volumes of writing.

In another post, I will share more of what we learned about reading and instructional leadership.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Lucy Professional Development

I spent the last 3 days, facilitating professional development with our K-5 staff around Lucy Calkins Units of Study in Writing. It can be very difficult for teachers to be out of their classrooms, so I tried to make the learning environment as productive as possible.

3 Things that are important parts of the writing units of study are the following:
  • Professional learning for writing development
  • Assessment system
  • Units of study around writing and individual lessons

We focused on the first two pieces this week. Our teachers began the day by reading the unit overview for their next unit and getting to know what it is their students are expected to do by the end. It is good to orientate yourself to the unit prior to teaching...good to know where the flash drafts are, where the revisions take place, and where they finally pick their piece to take to completion. This prevents the teacher from feeling frantic all through the unit.

We have multi-age in our building. Our primary multi-age teachers teach grades 1, 2 and 3. They found the time very purposeful in seeing similarities between the 1st and 3rd grade informational UOS and then made a decision to move the 2nd grade informational UOS to align with their science topic.

After this, we normed the on-demand preassessment piece they gave their students prior to meeting. I blogged about norming here previously. This process is so valuable in that teachers are having rich conversations around student writing. One teacher explained, "I really don't like this process as it is very time consuming, but I really am getting to know my writers and seeing strengths I typically would have overlooked, based on other areas of weakness." Another teacher realized her Kindergarten students were more developed as writers than she thought. Many teachers commented on how they could clearly see where their students were moving into grade level expectations and where they needed more support.

The teachers are seeing echos of their previous lessons in their student writing and seeing strengths and areas of growth. Immediately teachers began to see purposeful groupings for small group work and got a feel of what skills their students are bringing to the unit.

We found this spreadsheet helpful to record scores. It was adjusted based on grade level scaled scores.

I work with such amazing staff and it was so uplifting to be part of their conversations that were centered around kids and moving their writers forward.

Have any other coaches been involved in leading Lucy PD?