Friday, February 28, 2014

Close Reading- Resources

Today's post is brought to you by Heather Zimmerman.

This school year, most of the middle schools in my district are working on reading anchor standard one, which looks at reading closely.  I have spent a lot of time researching and learning this year.  I thought I would share some of the resources I found.  I hope you find these useful.

  • Sectionals- During a 90-minute professional development session we had three sectionals that groups of teachers rotated through.  The speakers at each sectional were teachers in the building, which other teachers truly appreciated.  Here were the sectionals:
    • Annotating strategy- At one school we talked about coding a text (?, !, etc.) and at another school we talked about BUCKS.  (Sorry I don’t know the original creator to give the appropriate credit to.)
B - Box out facts or key terms
U - Underline the essential question
C - Circle what I don't understand
K - Kick-out what isn't important
S - Start your response

    • Videos- Thanks to Fisher and Frey, facilitators pulled out a video they wanted to share with the group and discuss.

    • Lesson Planning Tool- There is an example of a lesson planning tool in Common Core: Unit by Unit By: Cheryl Becker Dobbertin.

  • Setting a Purpose- We looked back at Cris Tovani’s, Do I Really Have to Teach Reading?  Her style of writing is so inviting and her advice is so practical!

  • Introducing Vocabulary-  The teachers brainstormed ideas on how they do this.  We created a workable document to add to.

  • Close Reading with Literature- A group of literacy teachers and I are doing a book study using Notice and Note by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst.

I will stop here with the overflow of information.  There is so much out there to look at and I hope this list gives you some ideas.  Feel free to comment and share any of your own!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What to Write?

Today's post is brought to you by Julie Schwartzbauer

The topic for this post was “Coaches Choice.”  That is exactly why it took me so long to write it! There are far too many things that I care about in the area of literacy to just pick one.  I put it off and put it off and then I attended the WSRA (Wisconsin State Reading Association) conference.

Wow!  Talk about information overload.  There were so many fabulous presenters there.  I think of many of the leading researchers in literacy as “Rock Stars,”  as I stand in line to get their autograph.   

I think the biggest “Rock Star” for me this year at the convention had to have been Lucy Calkins. It was the first time I had ever heard her present in person.  I truly felt honored.   

One of the main themes of the convention this year was students as writers.  I went to session after session gathering information on how to support my teachers in the teaching of writing. As I woke up Saturday morning, preparing to hear Lucy speak, I was feeling like I was ready to conquer writing.  I had a stack of new professional resources, and my brain was ready to explode with all of the new learning I had spent doing the last two days.

It was during Lucy’s presentation that I began to do some some self-reflection.  Lucy had us looking at various writing samples.  We were analyzing many of them and even verbally creating some of our own.  It was at this point that I realized I AM NOT A WRITER!  I went on to ponder that if I am not a writer, how am I supposed to teach a teacher or even a child how to write?  I walked away that day understanding the struggle our teachers go through when they are expected to teach children how to write and they themselves are not writers.  My goal, is to become a writer!  What’s your goal?

Monday, February 24, 2014

How Do I Get in the Classroom to Model Lessons?

Today's post is brought to you by Jaimie Howe.

Every month I collaborate with each grade level (K-5) in my building.  These monthly grade level meetings have come to be a sacred time for me.  It is a time in which I can solely focus on one particular grade level and give them my undivided attention in the area(s) that they need support in the most.  Over the past three years, I have realized; however, that I am only able to scratch the surface with this one half hour time slot per month.  I am able to share new ideas and research and get the teachers excited about new materials and ideas; however,  that is, unfortunately, as far as it goes.  I can give my teachers as many resources as I want and they can ‘want’ to use them and integrate them as much as I want them to, but the reality of a classroom teacher’s life in today’s world, is chaos.  They ultimately DO NOT have any extra time to read and ‘figure out’ how to try these new things.

As literacy coaches, we talk all the time about how hard it is to get into classrooms and get teachers on board to try new things.  We struggle to reach all teachers and all grade levels.  I truly believe that one of my top priorities as a literacy coach is on-going professional development.  I have struggled to figure out my role as a literacy coach over the last three years and find ways to provide this on-going professional development. Over the last three months of this school year, I have acquired some pretty huge realizations and am finally feeling like I am a true literacy coach.  I believe my role has evolved and that in everything we do it takes time to feel comfortable and confident in the roles we are in.

These are the realizations I have had that cause me to believe that I am now a true literacy coach.

1. I have taken the time to establish relationships.  As I began my role as a literacy coach three years ago, I dreaded my 4th and fifth grade collaborations.  I wasn't confident with these grade levels since my experience had all been in PreK-first grade.  On top of that, I didn't know the teachers well and was new to the position.  The last two months, as I walked away from from my fourth and fifth grade level collaboration meetings, I had a smile on my face.  I felt excited, rejuvenated, and confident.  These are now two of my favorite grade levels to work with.

2. I have made collaboration a non-negotiable: This is the only permanent time I have with each grade level to share and plan.  If I have to cancel a collaboration meeting, it is rescheduled.  As I stated earlier, though, these collaboration meetings are not enough.  I use this time to share new ideas, get teachers excited, and now I make sure that I plan for a time for me to come into the classroom to show them how to use or implement the new material, skill, or strategy.  I have made it clear to teachers that I am their support and resource.  I may not be the best at using the new resource, but I take the time to learn about it and plan for the teaching, so the teachers don’t have to.  This has been probably the largest realization for me - if I can take the pressure off of the teacher and just come in and show them how something is used- this isn’t degrading, it’s helpful.  I do not force any material on teachers.  I merely say, “Hey can I come in and show you how this works?  If you think it would benefit your class, great!”

3. I am in the classrooms frequently: Just last week I was trying to schedule a classroom lesson with a fifth grade teacher.  I had to use the line, “I’m now booking into March for classroom visits, what day/time would work best for you?”  I had to laugh.  I felt like I was scheduling appointments at a doctor’s office.  What an amazing problem to have . . . a full schedule of classroom visits providing on-going professional development.

My advice to you is, take your time, build relationships, and collaborate.  All of a sudden, you will find yourself a permanent fixture in the classroom and believe me, it is such a GREAT feeling!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Creating a Systematic Approach for Secondary Interventions

Today's post is brought to you by Carrie.

Part of my role as a district Literacy Specialist includes working as an interventionist at the high school level. Through being a part of the RtI (Response to Intervention) teams at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels, I've come to recognize the ways that the process can change based on the needs and ages of the group of students. Unfortunately, RtI seems to come last and least frequently to students the older they get, mostly because of the lack of resources and materials available for these needy students. For this reason, I find myself working even more diligently to create a systematic intervention system specifically designed to meet the needs of high school learners. Over the past two years, I've found the most unique challenges to secondary interventions include: overcoming the “it’s too late” mindset, finding a system to use as an intervention, and determining what constitutes as success.

First and foremost in secondary intervention is defeating the attitude that has been a part of these students’ identities for many years. The students, parents, and even some teachers find themselves thinking that maybe this student will never be a successful reader. This stereotype is frustrating and counter-productive. Within the intervention system, I work to find a way to begin to change this identity. One of the largest factors of this mindshift has included a pre-teach of classroom standards. Weekly, I sit down with the classroom teachers to discuss the upcoming “power” standard for the week. We determine what will be the most important skill we want our students to know and be able to do proficiently be the end of our instruction. Using a pre-assessment, I then measure where my students are on that specific standard and work, using the data, to fill in gaps of learning for that standard. The pre-teach method gives students some confidence in the classroom by providing early exposure to language, skills, and strategies. In this way, intervention students become productive group members and active learners in the classroom. This strategy works to dispel the stereotype or label many of these students have carried for numerous years, and leads to more confidence and increased success in the classroom.

Second, I work to be sure that the high school intervention approach is systematic. Often, students in the secondary level find themselves exposed to “random acts of intervention” due to scheduling issues, lack of appropriate data, or lack of an intervention system. As mentioned above, I use a pre-assessment/pre-teaching method. This works because it also allows for a true “double-dose” of instruction. If a student does not demonstrate mastery of a standard throughout the intervention time, a teacher is able to use that standard for additional guided instruction during the classroom setting as well. A post-assessment of the standard indicates to the interventionist and the teacher if the student is able to apply the skill independently and ready to move on to a new standard. Using a standards-based intervention approach has also provided a framework for interventions because it is the language, skills, and strategies that are applicable to the material being taught in the classroom. It is not an additional book, different vocabulary term, or new strategy; instead, the intervention is focused around the objectives and the “I Can” statements of the standard.

Finally, the third obstacle in secondary interventions is the determination of what constitutes success. In high school, there are many definitions of the word “success.” For example, it may mean passing an English class to earn the credit in order to graduate; it can mean refining reading and writing skills to earn a proficient score in the Reading or English sections of the ACT or Accuplacer test; or, it can mean gaining reading and writing skills to allow for successful employment or post-secondary schooling. Unlike the elementary or even middle school, there is no magic level or lexile to determine if a student has now become an “on-grade level” reader. For this reason, I challenge high school RtI teams to have frank discussions about the purpose of their interventions, and then tailor instruction to meet the needs of those students who qualify for that purpose. If the intervention is preparing students for a class or test, then the intervention should include direct instruction to allow students to be successful at those things. If the purpose is for students to be able to be employable, then the intervention approach should look differently. Either way a high school RtI team needs to be sure to identify the purpose of the intervention and then create a class roster of students most needing that specific intervention. A melting pot of needy “skill” students and unmotivated “will” students sets the intervention, teacher, and students up for failure.

When working with high school intervention students, I become extremely passionate about how to best fit the needs of these learners. Keeping in mind that these students will be the students who will shortly be out in the “real world,” I maintain the perspective of giving the students the skills and strategies they most need to truly be successful.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Nature, Nurture, and Collaboration

The next few posts are "Coach's Choice." Each coach selected what she wanted to write about.

Today's post is brought to you by Barb.

In preparing for a meeting that had the potential to be, um, very challenging, a most-favorite (and very wise) colleague reminded me that collaboration is a learned behavior. She was suggesting - in a soft and helpful way that she is a master at - that the meeting might be more productive if the group learned how to collaborate.

This quick conversation has spiraled me into thinking a whole lot about exactly how people learn to collaborate

For a chosen few, it does seems natural; collaboration can be a function of nature. We all have those people in our personal and professional lives who just know how to function on a collaborative team. Maybe it's a function of being a middle child. Maybe it has something to do with their zodiac sign. Maybe it's genetic. Maybe it's the result of many years of therapy. I'm not sure. I am sure, though, that I appreciate having the "natural" collaborators as part of my team.

It seems, though, that for many people - me included! - effective collaboration is more a function of nurture than nature. Collaboration is something we learn to do. How, though, do we learn?

We can learn to collaborate by observing those around us. We watch others for cues about expected and accepted behavior and language, and we mimic their behavior. It's a way to be part of the group, and a way to help the group continue moving forward. 

What happens, though, if what we observe and mimic is not productive? Worse yet, what happens if it's toxic? 

I would argue that learning to collaborate needs to happen through explicit teaching and learning.

I have been part of more meetings than I can count that were dedicated to learning to collaborate. Primarily, these meetings were about establishing norms. I'm part of one group that even prints the norms on the back of each team member's nameplate, so the norms stare at the person through each and every meeting. The sad truth, though, is that the team with the nameplate norms rarely follows those norms!!

How, then, do we explicitly learn to collaborate successfully? I recommend a professional learning module - Facilitating Learning Teams - from Learning Forward. I used the module with a struggling learning team with great success. The team established norms, discussed potential challenges to those norms, and were explicit about communication expectations. 

The team also devised a meeting schedule that included specific times for checking-in on application of its norms and procedures. (That's right - there are regularly scheduled meetings about how the meetings run.) Those meetings - which include equal amounts of celebration and honest feedback -  keep the team honest and committed to its norms and procedures.

Explicit teaching and learning about collaboration helped that team be more productive and healthy (nurture over nature).

Monday, February 17, 2014

What Are You Reading? (February Edition)

Professional Reading:

from Jaimie. . .
Funner Grammar 
by Sandra Wilde
So many teachers still want to teach grammar as an isolated skill.  This has been a great resource for me to help teachers understand the benefit of teaching grammar in conjunction with writing.

from Jaimie. . .
40 Reading Intervention Strategies for K-6 Students: Research-Based Support for RtI 
I haven't dug into this book ye;t however, it is a new book that the literacy coaches in my district will be starting a book study on.

from Lisa. . .
When Kids Can't Read What Teachers Can Do: A Guide for Teachers 6 - 12
by Kylene Beers (Lisa)
As I am working to help teachers differentiate, it occurred to me that the focus of small group instruction for our students who struggle, is what teachers need help planning for, so I turned to my old friend, Kylene. One of the things I appreciate about this book are her if/then charts. I think those charts will help me to support teachers in planning for the supplemental small group instruction in the classroom.

from Andrea. . .
Change or Die 
by Alan Deutschman
This was recommended by a fellow educator after a conversation about how hard it is for some teachers to accept change.

from Andrea. . . "I am flipping through the stack on my nightstand that includes. . ."

  • Reading Unbound by Jeffrey D. Wilhelm and Michael W. Smith
  • Book Love by Penny Kittle
  • Rigorous Reading by Nancy Frey and Doug Fisher

from Carrie. . . "This month I’m revisiting ‘old favorites’ in professional resources to stay rejuvenated throughout the lingering winter months! Instant applicable intervention ideas and strategies."
  • When Kids Can't Read What Teachers Can Do by Kylene Beers
  • I Read It, But I Don't Get It by Kris Tovani
  • Catching Up On Conventions by Chantal Francois and Elisa Zonana
  • Notice and Note by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst
  • Advancing Formative Assessment in Every Classroom by Connie Moss and Susan Brookhart

from Julie. . .
Self-Directed Writers 
by Leah Mermelstien
In this book the reader will learn how to nurture kids to become self-directed during writer’s workshop. Leah will show you how to make the time during writer’s workshop productive for students and teachers.

from Heather. . .
An article that discusses their research and thoughts on text-dependent questions

from Heather. . .
Interventions that Work 
by Linda Dorn and Carola Soffos
Reviewing the authors’ work as my district looks into interventions.

from Barb. . .
I was super-excited to see two Wisconsin educator's published in this month's Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. Marci Glaus wrote about text complexity, and Ann Marie Hillman wrote a literature review related to disciplinary literacy in mathematics.

Personal Reading:

from Lisa. . . 
"I just finished The Girl Who Played with Fire, and have started to read Wonder."

from Barb. . .
I am finally reading Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. It's been recommended to me by no less than three people over the past year.