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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Literacy Teacher's Playbook - Chapter 4 Part 3

Welcome back to another post about The Literacy Teacher's Playbook. This book study is being hosted by A Teacher Mom.

As we finish up chapter 4, I'll be talking about involving others, planning for multiple students and how to know when a student has met the goal.

Involving Others
"When a student receives mixed messages about what to be focusing on, the end result is often that the child focuses on none of it." (p. 141)
This totally is one of my teacher pet peeves. I find it so annoying when I have students who are pulled out for special education services and there is no coordination of teaching strategies, methodology, or even curriculum. It makes me crazy because I know we could be doing better. We should be supporting each other. I know this is wrong, but sometimes I just throw up my hands in the air and figure that I can't control what others are teaching. This past year I had my best ever experience with coordinating services for a child and it's sad, but true, that it only happened because of the most pro-active, supportive parents you've ever met. They insisted that their daughter stay within the classroom for services and for the first time ever I was able to observe what was going on during special education services. Not that I always agreed with the methods and I still think there needs to be more coordination, but it was just wonderful.  Why can't we do this with every student? Why do they always pull students out when it's so much better to bring the services in? Back to the book...the author gives a few suggestions to help us communicate efficiently with those working with our students. The first is a notebook by the door where specialists could read what you are working on with a particular student, they can continue to support your goal and write down notes to let you know what they worked on with the student. I love this idea because it helps everyone be more accountable about working together.

How about parents? They really should be partners with us in helping their children be successful in school. Often parents don't know what to do. It is even harder for parents who are not involved with helping in the classroom. Parents who come in and can observe what we do in reading or writing workshops understand why there are no textbooks or worksheets. But many parents have no idea what these formats look like, what their children are doing, or how they can support the instruction their child is receiving. I have always thought that communication with parents is really what makes the difference in how a parent feels about you as a teacher and the education their child is receiving. I love the way the author makes it more personal with this type of an individual note going home:
As a parent, I would love to know the goals that my child is working on so that I could support it at home. But even better is how she gives examples of what to do. What a great way to help parents know what they can do to support your teaching. Often parents are unclear of what they should or could be doing. I'm wondering if I would do this with everyone or just the students who need more support? I already send home a weekly newsletter that tells what we've done during the week, as well as what's coming up. Sometimes I include ways to help your child, but I think after reading this chapter I need to be more specific and more regular about giving ideas.

Planning for Multiple Students
At first I thought from the title of the section that the author was going to talk about planning for your 4 or 5 students who needed more support. Nope. She talks about planning your whole-class, small-group and individual instruction based on your goals for each and every student. Here are a few questions that can guided the process:
  1. Which students have similar goals and reading/writing levels?
  2. Which students' goals lend themselves to work during partnership/conversation time?
  3. Which student goals are unique and will need attended to with individual instruction?
  4. Who will I need to check in with more than once?
As you answer these questions, you can plan for the appropriate instruction for each and every student. 

But here is the idea that probably struck me the most:
"When a student gets it the very first time I teach it, I usually feel that the teaching might not have reached far enough." (p. 144)
I have never thought of it that way. I definitely will keep that in mind as we head into a new school year. 

How will I know when the goal has been met?
Since ideally you will go through this cycle of assessment, goal setting and teaching many times throughout the year, it's going to be important to know when you have met a goal. The best way to know is to have an idea of what a strong example of this kind of work would look like.  Some resources that may help include:
  • The Continuum of Literacy Learning (Fountas and Pinnell)
  • Units of Study in Opinion, Information and Narrative Writing (Calkins)
  • Independent Reading Assessment: Fiction and Independent Reading Assessment: Nonfiction (Serravallo)
"A student's strengths and needs will evolve....One of the teacher's responsibilities is to constantly have his eyes open, looking for progress, and to know when it's time to reestablish a goal." (p. 148)

Thanks for stopping by today. I will be joining in this conversation one more time to give some final thoughts about this book. I hope you'll come back for it next week.

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