Plan Together. Teach Together.

I have always believed, that as an Literacy Interventionist/Specialist, a piece of my work is to plan for and create the best Tier 1 instruction that can possibly be.  This year, thanks to our Literacy Coach, Jess, a new structure was created that, with 15 minutes of planning each week, we could ground and document not only our planning, but the growth of children over time.  This dedicated planning time has led to coordinated, purposeful teaching.

A few weeks ago, Jen, a first grade teacher walked into my room at 2:18.  Her arms were loaded.  She was ready.  So was I.  I had her Guided Reading planning document up on my screen.  She opened one of her binders and began to talk about her readers.  I listened as she talked about their strengths, their goals, and her own struggles as a teacher trying to meet all their needs.

“George. George.  He’s tricky.  He can “read” anything but his comprehension isn’t there.  And Andrew, he’s the one I’m really concerned about.  He’s not reading.  He’s distracted during workshop and it shows in his monitoring on his running records.”  She pulled out a running record and showed me his miscues.

I nodded my head.  I knew exactly what she was talking about.  I had been pushing in twice a week for Reader’s Workshop since the beginning of the year.   I didn’t see these readers every day, but I knew them.

Jenn and I talked and I planned to meet with both George and Andrew in small groups to help Jen get a handle on not only what we could teach them, but how.   Our planning time came to an end with a completed weekly plan that we knew would guide us in our small group work.

The next day, Jen and I found ourselves in the space we had created together teaching our small groups.  I was seated at the small square table with George, Charlie, and Emily.  Our planned goal was capturing beginning, middle and end in a retell.  I introduced a book in the Jasper series.  It was a book that I knew, print wise, they could handle confidently.  This would leave space for them to focus on the targeted teaching Jen and I had planned together.  I shared with them that, when readers finish books. they should be able to think and talk about most important part in the beginning, the middle, and  then end.  “You all are reading longer books and it’s important to think about and hold onto the important parts.”  I gave them each a copy I listened in as each reader whisper read right there at the table.  Then, I handed a three post-it’s to each and had them sketch the most important part in the beginning, the middle and the end.  I watched and listened as the chatted about their parts.  When they were done, they each had a turn touching and telling.  This scaffold was just what George needed.  First, he listened to Emily and Charlie, who I knew would be models for this work.  Then, he was able touch each of his post it’s and express his own thinking, his comprehension.

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I wrapped up my group with George, Charlie and Emily by telling them I’d be back on Thursday and we’d get a chance to do this work again, together.  “As readers, make sure you are always thinking about the beginning, middle and end.”  I said as they scooted back to independent reading.

I stood up from the table, turning to gather my second group and saw Jen on the floor.  She was deep in a lesson on blends from the Phonics Small Group book.

As I gathered my bag and books I was wowed at the return on investment Jen and I had got from our planning. I was left thinking that, when we plan together, the conversations that evolve, and the ideas for instruction that emerge, guide us in, not only what to teach, but how to teach…together.

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The Lone Sock

I’m a sock on the stairs

I’m fuzzy white

Streams of children pass

Some step on

Some step over

I must belong to one of them!

I don’t belong here!

I long for my mate!

For a foot to hold

Someone must miss me

Will I ever get picked up?

This is not my home!

I’m a sock on the stairs

I’m a sock on the stairs

At school

I actually spied this very sock on the stairs at school.  It’s not every day that you see a lone sock on the stairs at school.  I passed by some second graders shortly after the sighting.  I told them about the lone sock on the stairs and my words were met with “OH YEAH! I saw that when we were coming back from Spanish!”  “Aren’t you all in a poetry unit right now?”  I knew the answer but wanted to hear it from them. “YES!”  “Well I think the sock on the stairs could be a great poem.” 

A seed was planted.  

To be continued….

 

Today I Learned…

Today I learned to read music.

Today our faculty meeting was SES Learns.  Teachers signed up to lead mini workshops with colleagues.

I planned to lead a few workshops, which I did.  But when I saw some of the choices my colleagues were offering, I wanted to cancel mine to go to theirs!  Foil Art – Repousse?  Making A Picture or Document into a Poster?  Mindfulness?  I wanted to learn!

I had the second “session” free to learn.  I chose Music Literacy with Cody.

I walked in wanting to play an instrument.  I didn’t realize that I really wanted to play the glockenspiel but there before me I saw violins or were they violas.  I wasn’t sure but I did know they weren’t glockenspiels.  “No way.”  I thought to myself.  But I wanted to play an instrument, so I sat down.  I was nervous.  I laughed it off with my colleagues, Jody and Kerri and my teacher Cody.  There were notes on the Smartboard.  As Cody began teaching us about beats, and measures, I flashed back to fourth grade clarinet lessons.  I lasted four weeks before complete confusion led me to quit.  Sitting there on the stage with those notes before me, I almost feel the clarinet in my hand and feel the feel the long ago desire to get up and leave.  But I didn’t. I came to play an instrument.  I was staying and learning until I actually had one of those stringed instruments in my hands.  Damn the nerves, desire was going to win.

I stayed.  I listened.  I practiced.  I learned.  I read the notes with Cody’s clear teaching.  I slapped the beats on my things.  I held the violin (it wasn’t a viola).  I learned not only where the D and A strings are on the instrument, I learned how to read and write them on a staff!  I think, if I heard my teacher correctly, when Jody and I wrote the notes on the staff, we were composing!  And to think, all I wanted to do was play an instrument!

The energy that comes from learning something new is special.  For me, today, it fed my playful side.  It fed my curiosity.  It fed the both the teacher and the learner in me.

Thank you, Cody for leading.  Thank you Kerri for laughing and assisting.  Thank you Jody for learning right alongside me!

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Parents Need Feedback, Too

He sat before me and I watched as his face got tight.  His nose scrunched.  His lips pressed together as he tried to hold back the angry tears.  There would be no stickers, no hope of Lego time, no celebration.  I watched, I shared in his anger.  I thought I had clearly explained the book bag, the reading log.  As I watched the tears fall, I knew I had to call again.  He deserved more.

I found a few free minutes.  I dialed hoping for a voice to answer.  No such luck.  I went ahead and left the message clarifying that the book bag had to come back to school each day.  I added that he really wants to celebrate his reading and that their help at home would be fabulous.  I hung up and prayed that the message would be heard.

I walked into his room the next day.  He was sitting at his table sucking on his applesauce pouch.  His eyes met mine.  He pulled his snack out of his mouth, swallowed, smiled, raised his arms and proclaimed “I GOT IT IN MY BACKPACK!”  “No way?”  I questioned gleefully.  I wanted to feed his pride, his excitement.  “Really, it’s in my bag!”  His teacher and I exchanged a satisfactory grin.

He sat before and I watched as he pulled out his book, his snap word ring and his letter ring.  He reached in one more time and pulled out his reading log.  “WOOO!  Looks like you’ve been reading at home!  Let’s celebrate, buddy!  You get to put 5 smile stickers on!  I’m so glad you and mom worked together to bring your bag back.”  I looked right into his eyes, no longer angry and tearful but shining bright and satisfied.  Proud.

I found a few free minutes, again.  I was hoping again for a voice to answer.  “Hello.”  A kind voice answered.  I spent the next few minutes sharing the story and celebrating with his mom.  “Thank you.  Thank you.”  I said.  “Thank you for helping.  Your support with reading and the routine of the book bag is so important.  I can’t thank you enough.”  “Well, thank you.” she said in return.  I could hear the pride in her voice.  Pride that she was seeing her child as not just a kindergartener, but a growing reader.

Hearing her pride was a reminder that sometimes, parents, need our guidance, our feedback, too.

 

I

Adjust

“A difficulty is not the sign of a flaw or an incapacity in us – it is an indication that we need to make a change.  It’s not about who we are; it’s about what we need to adjust.”             Tom Newkirk

A piece of my work as a Literacy Specialist/Interventionist is to push-in to all the kindergarten classrooms twice a week for Reader’s Workshop.  Each week, I have a planning time with each of the teachers.  During this time, we share the big work, and the little work, that is going on for the class and each child in the class.  We work together to create guided reading groups and strategy groups.  We talk and plan for all the pieces involved in growing each reader and writer.  We work together to purposefully meet the needs of all the kindergarteners in our school.

Along the way, we are always assessing.  We are assessing through eyes wide open observation, we are assessing through conversation, we are assessing through running records, we are assessing through encoding, and of course we are assessing with actual assessments.

Across classrooms, last week, we were knee deep in assessments.  As we collected information on each child through these assessment, a few readers were still striving towards the expected independence.   Their F&P’s showed developing habits, and some strong skills but not quite strong enough, yet.  We agreed that this information, did not, in any way, show a sign of their “incapacity” to teach or the child’s “flaw” or “incapacity” to learn. What it did show us was that we need to collaborate, create and plan our adjustments to meet their needs.  This week, we will continue our assessments, we will continue our planning for teaching and learning.

Our work as teachers is a shared responsibility, and sometimes, those conversations are what we need to remind ourselves that neither we, nor them, or flawed or incapable, but that we can always adjust.