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    Looking for a Fresh, New Design for PD? Try a Residency, Part 2

    By Patty McGee
     | Mar 23, 2017

    2017_03_23-TeachingTip_W220Although most people associate a residency with learning in the medical field, I shared the value of a literacy residency in last week’s post. Here is my day-by-day plan of a four-day residency.

    Day 1: The literacy leader teaches and the participants observe

    Pre-residency meet-up

    • The literacy leader should explain her role and the purpose of the residency, using some of the information from Part 1. She should also share the plan for the week and each participant’s role in this experience.
    • Participants choose an intention for the residency as a study focus, such as integration, feedback, transfer, or independence, and share with the group.

    During the residency

    • The literacy leader teaches the entire residency block, keeping in mind the participants’ learning goals and adding comments to explain what she is teaching, why, and how.

    Debriefing the residency

    • Participants should gather and discuss the residency based on the focuses that they chose.
    • The literacy leader should prepare for the second day of the residency during which participants will take over part of the teaching.

    Day 2: The literacy leader teaches whole-group structures and the participants teach in small-group structures

    Pre-residency meet-up

    • The literacy leader shares the planned whole-group instruction and asks participants to revisit their intention of study for the residency.
    • Participants, in pairs, decide who will take on which part of the small-group teaching. For instance, one participant may take on the “research” and “teach” part of the conference while another will take on the “coaching” and “link” of the conference.

    During the residency

    • The literacy leader demonstrates whole-group teaching, which might include the minilesson, read-aloud, shared reading, or writing experience.
    • Pairs of participants work with students, holding conferences and small-group sessions and offering feedback to one another.

    Debriefing the residency

    • Participants should gather and discuss the residency in terms of the focus that they chose.
    • The literacy leader should prepare for the third day of the residency where participants will take over other parts of the teaching, including whole-group instruction.

    Day 3: The paired participants teach “their class” and the literacy leader gives feedback

    Pre-residency meet-up

    • Participant pairs decide on the parts each is responsible for teaching and tie up any loose ends before moving into the residency.

    During the residency

    • Participants, in pairs, will teach a part of the class. To clarify, if there are four teachers that are part of the residency, split the class in half. Each pair of teachers will have their own “class” that they teach from beginning to end (minilesson, conference, shared reading, etc.).
    • The literacy leader jots down feedback to share with the pairs during the debriefing.

    2017_03_23-TT-scheduleDebriefing the residency

    • The literacy leader shares the feedback with participants by passing along what she noted.
    • Participants should prepare for the final day of the residency during which each will teach individually. The literacy leader makes a schedule like the example shown.

    Day 4: Each participant teaches a portion of the residency

    Pre-residency meet-up

    • The literacy leader should set the tone for celebration Here’s some wording I use: What a week it has been! So much learning time together feels decadent and sort of like “teaching camp.” As we plan our last day together, our bigger purpose is to share our teaching gifts with one another by each taking on a part of the instruction. Think of this as a time to try out some new learning and an opportunity for the rest of us to soak up your greatness. When we do, a little piece of your teaching talent will be carried within each of us every day.
    • 2017_03_23-TT-feedbackThe literacy leader should share the feedback method. Each participant will write a note to the others about what she or he admires about another participant’s teaching. Here’s an example of one participant’s feedback.

    During the residency

    • Participants teach while others observe and jot down feedback.

    Debriefing the residency

    • Participants share the notes with one another and take one final moment to share what they have learned throughout the week.
    • Participants write a note to the students to share their gratitude for the chance to learn in their classrooms.

    Teachers have described residencies as transformative. A residency holds incredible power for teacher-learners who are looking for the next step in professional learning, are eager to integrate all they know about literacy instruction, and are looking to grow a community of teachers who learn from one another.

    McGee_w80Patty McGee is a literacy consultant whose passion and vision is to create learning environments where teachers and students discover their true potential and power. She is the author of Feedback That Moves Writers Forward: How to Escape Correcting Mode to Transform Student Writing (Corwin 2017). Patty’s favorite moments are when groups of teachers are working collaboratively with students in the classroom.

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    Looking for a Fresh, New Design for PD? Try a Residency, Part 1

    By Patty McGee
     | Mar 16, 2017

    TeachingTip_x300We most often picture residency programs to happen within the medical field, but this learning design is gaining ground in the education world. I define a residency in the education world to be  professional learning that takes place across a number of consecutive days within one classroom with a small group of teachers. It goes beyond the one-shot demonstrations that are often part of embedded professional learning and also takes coaching to an elevated level of collaboration. Residencies answer the question that I most often hear: How do I fit this all in?  

    Why hold a residency?

    Literacy learning, as we know, is multifaceted and complex, and it requires a deep knowledge of many intricate instructional approaches. A residency allows for the practice of the many components of balanced literacy as responsive choices based on student readiness. Most professional learning experiences in literacy are very often about only one of the components, such as the reading workshop. We teach and experience the parts and pieces of reading workshops—mini-lessons, eyes-on-text time, conferences, small-group instruction, guided reading, and so on. We often explore, deeply over time, the what and the why of workshop instruction. In other words, we share strategies and units to focus on, and we learn the research that supports a workshop approach. But a reading workshop is a pliable, flexible, student-centered approach that has no specific road map. And so, the residency concept supports teachers in making instructional choices to consider the big, looming question of when—when do I pull a strategy group? When do I teach this particular strategy? When do I hold conferences?

    How do you plan for a residency?

    As you prepare for a residency, here is what you will need in place:

    1. A concentrated time of at least an hour, though preferably an entire literacy block if possible
    2. A group of teachers who understand the purpose of the residency and the intended outcomes and have had at least some background in balanced literacy
    3. Current unit plans with goals and other materials that are used for instruction
    4. Scheduled time to meet to plan and debrief before and after the classroom residency time
    5. One person who will act as the literacy leader of the residency—usually a literacy coach, consultant, or teacher leader

    How is a residency designed?

    Think of the residency in the same gradual release model that you use in classroom instruction. Design the days using this concept, handing over the responsibility for teaching more and more to the participants.

    Next week’s post will give you a day-by-day plan of how a residency can be designed based on the gradual release of responsibility model. Aside from it being high-impact professional learning, it is also so much fun!

    McGee_w80Patty McGee is a literacy consultant whose passion and vision is to create learning environments where teachers and students discover their true potential and power. She is the author of Feedback That Moves Writers Forward: How to Escape Correcting Mode to Transform Student Writing (Corwin 2017). Patty’s favorite moments are when groups of teachers are working collaboratively with students in the classroom.

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    Being Professional About PD

    by Julie Scullen
     | Mar 15, 2017


    This is too long to sit.

    When will I ever use this in real life?
    Can you just hurry up and give us the information so we can leave? All this "turn and talk" is annoying.
    I have to be here TWO HOURS?
    Just so you know, I have permission to leave a few minutes early.
    Can I just have a copy of the PowerPoint? I'll read it later.

    These sound like comments someone might expect to hear from students about to earn a detention. Unfortunately, these are all statements made by teachers during professional development sessions.

    Teachers are often frustrated by these trainings, and sometimes understandably so, but they are no more frustrated than those trying to provide practical and engaging professional development for all attendees.

    TeachersProviding professional development is darn tough. Challenging. If you think differentiating for a class of 35 students is tough, put 150 adults in a room and try to meet their needs. No matter the topic, no matter who determined it was necessary, no matter how it is presented, a large number of attendees will be unhappy.

    Planning of professional development is similar to planning for classroom lessons: It seems like the more information there is to provide, the shorter the span of time allotted, and the less effective the time spent enmeshed in the learning becomes.

    The reality is that, just like students, teachers need time to process and to discuss new learning and information. They need the opportunity to collaborate and to discuss ways to incorporate the new learning into the framework of the old. In these days of shrinking professional development budgets, time to process and to collaborate becomes a tough sell. Time is money, after all.

    Honestly, those assigned to provide professional development in your school or district do not sit for weeks beforehand planning ways for their session to be unengaging and useless. Much of the time, the professional development they provide has been requested by particular teachers themselves and arduously planned. It's just really tough to do it well.

    We all must occasionally engage in professional development that is tedious but legally required. Sometimes the intended messages are designed to protect those in the room. Sometimes they represent new research or information that will be helpful to those teaching content. Sometimes they are required for relicensure.

    Providing the right professional development at the right time is difficult when teachers constantly have so much to learn. Things are changing quickly. As soon as you really understand how your computer system works, someone will come in with a new operating system. As soon as you've perfected the ability to ask high-level questions, someone will tell you to incorporate inquiry groups. Or book clubs. Or Socratic seminars.

    All these are great professional development opportunities, but they take time to learn to use effectively. Successful implementation of these wonderful ideas can't take place after a 30-minute seminar.

    My response is to put yourself out there. If you don't like the PD provided, start lobbying for choice. Start asking to help prioritize the list of needs teachers have. Ask about the long-term plan for professional development. Talk to teacher leaders in your building. It may mean having to admit there are things you don't know.

    Most important, if you have some good ideas, share them with colleagues. Teachers need teachers to support them, and there is no one better than you to do it.

    Julie ScullenJulie Scullen is a former member of the ILA Board of Directors and also served as president of the Minnesota Reading Association and Minnesota Secondary Reading Interest Council. She taught most of her career in secondary reading intervention classrooms and now serves as Teaching and Learning Specialist for Secondary Reading in Anoka-Hennepin schools in Minnesota, working with teachers of all content areas to foster literacy achievement. She teaches graduate courses at Hamline University in St. Paul in literacy leadership and coaching, disciplinary literacy, critical literacy, and reading assessment and evaluation.


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    Pinterest and Literacy Instruction

    by Bridget Stegman
     | Mar 09, 2017

    You've probably seen the meme "I wish I could earn professional development points for Pinterest." Pinterest, a photo-sharing website, has become a popular site for teachers to collect images, or "pins," that help them plan, organize, and explore a variety of topics of interest from classroom decor to reading strategies.

    YoungWomanTablet_300wAs a reading specialist and instructional coach at an elementary school, I use research-based strategies when planning lessons with teachers. However, many times, teachers will share pins they have found on Pinterest. As an instructional coach, one challenge I have encountered is how to balance research-based instruction with attractive and eye-catching pins. I understand the visual benefits of Pinterest, but I also feel the urgency, especially when working with struggling readers, that reading instruction must meet the student's needs.

    Over the past four years, I've spent hundreds of hours on Pinterest looking at pins and creating literacy boards, and I have learned that not all pins are equal when searching for effective literacy ideas to support instruction. When working with teachers, you can determine the effectiveness of a pin by asking the following questions:

    • What is my learning target?
    • How does this pin support the standard or learning target being taught?
    • How does this pin help to differentiate instruction?

    Not all pins are created equal. I look for pictures of real classrooms with ideas and research-based strategies being implemented. Because many pins are linked to classroom blogs, there are numerous pictures of resources in action. One of the teachers I work with explained to me that "Pinterest is a good way to share ideas that others may not have known about." Topic areas that yield numerous high-quality pins include the following:

    • Anchor charts
    • Reading comprehension strategies
    • Mentor texts

    Pinterest provides helpful visuals for teachers when they are creating anchor charts. Printing the pin and using it when creating anchor charts with students is very easy. Even if you are not artistic, you can find many examples of anchor charts that use graphics or brightly colored text to help students anchor their thinking.

    Searching for research-based reading comprehension strategies that I'm already using in the classroom has yielded high-quality pins. For example, I use Jan Richardson's The Next Step in Guided Reading to organize lessons, and Pinterest features numerous pins with lesson plan layouts and prompts from this book. In addition, I've been able to find and download visual prompts for her method of teaching sight words.

    Pinterest offers many resources when I'm trying to find children's literature that is connected to standards. From mentor texts in writing to mentor texts based on comprehension strategies, there is an abundance of ideas focused around children's literature. Standards that use mentor texts that have high-quality pins include the following:

    • Making predictions
    • Summarizing
    • Determining cause and effect
    • Theme

    In addition, Pinterest has helped me find children's books for teaching phonemic awareness and phonics skills.

    Pinterest is a popular forum for teachers to learn about new ideas and strategies for their classrooms. Remember, however, that although Pinterest can help enhance and support both standards being taught and research-based strategies, it does not replace good teaching.

    Bridget Stegman_80wBridget Stegman is an instructional coach for the Topeka Public Schools in Kansas. Her teaching experience includes K–5 special education and literacy intervention.


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    A Less-Is-More Approach to Assessing Readers

    By Gravity Goldberg
     | Mar 02, 2017

    2017-03-02_TTx300We all know the scenarios of formal assessments stacked up on our desks, of faculty meetings that focus on spreadsheets and statistics, and of flipping through pages of reports to figure out what each one of our students need next. What if we could take a less-is-more approach to assessing and figuring out what to teach our students each day when it comes to deep thinking and reading?

    In Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (Little, Brown), Malcolm Gladwell describes the concept of thin-slicing: “Thin-slicing refers to the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on a very narrow slice of experience.” Thin-slicing entails getting a small amount of information and being able to use it to make a sound judgment and decision. It involves not overthinking and using our conscious effort to analyze information but also using our gut instincts and our intuition about something in those first few seconds of being presented with information.

    Some examples of thin-slicing according to Gladwell are art experts being able to know a forgery in the first few seconds of examination, tennis coaches being able to know whether the player will fault on a serve in the half a second before it is even struck, and a salesman reading someone’s emotions and future decisions on the basis of three seconds of observation. It is knowing something in just a few seconds—in a blink of an eye. We are all able to use thin-slicing as a decision-making tool once we have sufficient experience in that area. Gladwell explains that “when we leap to a decision or have a hunch, our unconscious is…sifting through the situation in front of us, throwing out all that is irrelevant while we zero in on what really matters.” Teachers do not have the time to focus on every data point and need to be able to quickly identify what matters most—to thin-slice.

    Think about the last time a student came back from the library and you had only five seconds to observe him, and somehow you “just knew” he had trouble and was disappointed he did not get the book he really wanted. We often “just know” something about our students on the basis of thin slices of information. In Visible Learning and the Science of How We Learn (Routledge), renowned authors and researchers John Hattie and Gregory Yates explain, “As a professional teacher, you have the ability to look at a classroom situation and read it quickly, within microseconds.” They go on to explain how this ability allows teachers to rely on feedback cues from students to inform what strategy they teach next.

    There are many examples we likely have all experienced with thin-slicing as reading teachers. You graze a review on goodreads.com of a new young adult novel, and 24 hours later you hand the book to the student you had in mind, and 48 hours later, he comes to you, literally with tears in his eyes, it was that good. Or you are in the midst of a whole-class read-aloud and students seem quiet and their comments are way off. You know to change gears, so you say to them, “You know what? Let’s try something different,” and you start reading aloud another book, and the energy in the room comes alive. In each of these everyday teaching decisions you are thin-slicing.

    Rather than collecting more and more data, let’s all trust our teacher instincts that have been developed from countless hours of talking to students about their thinking and looking at their written responses. This does not mean we ignore test and formal assessment data, but it does mean we also make the most of every moment with our students by thin-slicing what they are doing. Thin-slicing helps us plan tomorrow’s teaching on the basis of today’s learning. This is the kind of less-is-more assessment that can have a dramatic impact on student learning.

    Gravity Goldberg headshot-2Gravity Goldberg is coauthor of the new book What Do I Teach Readers Tomorrow? (Corwin, 2017) with Renee Houser as well as the author of Mindsets and Moves: Strategies that Help Readers Take Charge (Corwin, 2016) and coauthor of Conferring with Readers (Heinemann, 2007). She leads a team of literacy consultants in the NY/NJ area and presents to teachers across the United States. At the heart of Gravity's teaching is the belief that everyone deserves to be admired and supported. She can be reached via e-mail and onTwitter.

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