Teaching Practice: What's my approach?
The main idea behind all teaching that I do with my students is constantly trying to meet the needs of all of my students through differentiation instruction in a workshop format.
How did I come to develop this approach?
This approach to my teaching was developed through many hours of staff development at my site with other teachers. It is a philosophy that all teachers practice at our school. In addition, I have read many professional resource books that support this kind of teaching practice.
What were the outcomes I observe in my students?
One of the biggest outcomes I observed in my students work is a strong understanding and focus of the curriculum that is being taught. I feel that because the work they are focusing on connects back to the mini lesson, they are able to make these connections very easily. With the directed mini lesson, I have found my students to be more successful at various tasks they are asked to do in class.
What materials and strategies do you use to support your teaching (especially those parts of your teaching represented in the website)?
I elaborate on this in the resources section of the website.
The way I used to teach
Before I started teaching language arts through the workshop approach, I had partner reading set up , and I wasn’t liking the way it flowed. The kids seemed bored, and they weren’t really helping one another, and I always understood partner reading to be one of those where they can help each other, and they can reflect together. I felt that it needed to be reevaluated. I also had literacy centers, but the kids didn’t like it. They felt like it was kind of busywork. The way we had it set up, we had it in 15 minute increments, because my guided reading group was for 15 minutes each, so when that group finished, the kids who were working in a center, if they were the next group, they were never able to finish their work. It was very frustrating for them.
Transforming my practice
The literacy coach came in, and we were talking about it, and she said, “These kids want to read! They want to do more independent reading! And we know that in order for them to get better, we need to have them practice this more independent reading.” So with that, we decided to eliminate centers. And we extended our independent reading time. And I told her, “Sharon, I don’t think they’re going to be able to read that long,” and of course I was conferencing during that time, one on one, and I did that for the first 15 minutes, and then I would call back the first guided reading group. Guided reading is so critical in the readers workshop, especially in second grade – they need that differentiation, they need that one on one, too. So I went and we tried it out, and they loved it, and they didn’t miss it one bit. So halfway in the year, I changed the whole thing on them, and they thrived. They thrived. So I’m not going back to literacy centers again.
Learning to do Guided Reading
Guided reading was actually introduced to me in my credential program by Dr. Marilyn Chi. We had the book, we also had Word Matters. But I didn’t really learn it and apply it until I was in my first year of teaching, and we have a literacy coach on our site, and the literacy coach literally came in to all of our rooms and modeled for us lessons on “How to do a guided reading lesson.” And we did staff development. My principal would give us release time, and we’d go to different … for writers workshop we went to different schools, but for readers workshop we went to go an observe each other, we could go to any grade we wanted to, and I was able to observe my colleagues teaching guided reading to students within the normal school day as well as the literacy coach teaching in my classroom to my own students, which was very nice. I also had the literacy coach work with me for a three month period this year. IT was one of those things at the end of the school year last year she said, “I’m going to ‘go deep’ in four classrooms.” And you had to apply, and I was one of the classrooms that was selected. So she was in my classroom for readers workshop and writers workshop and word study. And she would take readers workshop that day, I would take writers workshop and we would observe each other teach. It was amazing. Really. The literacy coach really moved my teaching.
Transforming Faculty Practice
One thing we noticed as a staff, we noticed that first we started with writers workshop, and then when we tried readers workshop, the whole structure was the same. The kids loved it, they really thrived. So we thought, if they’re thriving in readers and writers workshop, with this same structure, I bet they would thrive in math too. And our kids are struggling in math. They need more help in math. So we’ve focused for the last couple of years on literacy, but now we need to come back. We have a lot of people on staff who are trained through Noyce, and we also have some math gurus on our staff. Our staff is really big into staff development.