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To Slide or Not to Slide, That Is the Question

by Valerie Ellery
 | Apr 30, 2015

There is a time to slide and there is a time not to slide. With the boys of summer, America’s national pastime heroes (i.e., baseball players), it is perfectly acceptable to run the bases and slide when needed. However, with America’s national educational heroes (i.e., teachers and students), it is not acceptable to run a successful course of the school year and then experience a summer slide academically.

How can we prepare our students to have stamina to finish the school year strong? How can we empower them to continue hitting home runs during the final “innings” and into summer? The answer might be found in the power of I³ (influential, intentional, instructional). Just like running around all the bases in a game of baseball will allow a “run” to be added to the score, focusing on the three-cord strength of I³ potentially allows for a home-run factor to occur into summer without any sliding!

Influential

Avoiding the summer slide begins with educators realizing the influence they hold in the lives of their students. It is vital in these final months for teachers to use the power of their influence, as they have built their students’ trust and are able to “coach” and guide them to a victory. Teachers everywhere have spent this entire year building a rapport; therefore, this is the time in the game (school year) in which they have the greatest influence with their students. The days leading up to summer are a perfect time for educators to “power up” and use this influence to strengthen students’ learning stamina.

As educators, let’s step up to the mound and pitch a winning game with our words (i.e., higher order teacher talk) and our ways (motivating and engaging instruction), increasing a chance of a win on the scoreboard. Let’s believe in ourselves as influential powers in the lives of our students. Let’s believe in our students as strong potential players, for they need to know we believe in them to the end!

Intentional

Another factor in I³ is being intentional. Many classrooms are entering into what could be called the seventh-inning stretch. In baseball, the seventh-inning stretch is an intentional period when everyone takes a moment away from the actual game for a well-deserved break.

In the classroom, this is a time when, after many months of rigorous instruction and assessment, there should be a momentary pause for reflection and celebration. In baseball, coaches and players take this time to maintain momentum, talk strategies going into the final innings, and change up the game plan if needed to pull off a win. Let’s take this season of the school year to be intentional as we pause, celebrate successes, and make alterations as needed during this seventh-inning stretch period going into the final days towards a successful summer.

Instructional

The final factor in I³ focuses on purposeful instruction. During the seventh-inning stretch, educators are encouraged to make changes to continue keeping their students engaged and motivated. When the students are engaged in the final innings of the school year, they have a far better chance for long-term retention of the necessary content needed to achieve and maintain academic success during the summer months.

The “Instructional Change-Ups” chart features examples to support motivation and engagement when scaffolding the summarizing strategy using this baseball metaphor.        
Using baseball bases (manufactured or hand-crafted), place the bases around the room to create a diamond. Above each “base” area, display chart paper and use the baseball environment for sequencing story elements and for asking and answering questions.

Valerie Ellery has served the field of education for more than 25 years in literacy roles as a National Board Certified Teacher, curriculum specialist, mentor, staff developer, reading coach, international educational consultant, and award-winning author. Her book Creating Strategic Readers is currently in its third edition and has been one of ILA’s best sellers for 10 years. Visit valerieellery.com to learn more about her work internationally.

Ellery will be a part of "Using Balanced Literacy to Create Strategic Readers and Classrooms" and “Literacy Strong All Year Long” with Lori Oczkus and Timothy Rasinski, Sunday, July 19 at the ILA 2015 Conference in St. Louis, MO, July 18–20. This session will be based on a forthcoming release from ILA by the three authors. Visit the ILA 2015 Conference website for more information or to register.

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