Monday, May 18, 2009

A little girl had just finished her first week of school. 'I'm just wasting my time,' she said to her mother. 'I can't read, I can't write, and they won't let me talk!' (Maybe she should learn sign language, Robert.)
At West, our goal is to help students maximize their time in our classes by reading, writing and discussing their reading and writing. We don’t want just one or two star players. We want the whole class – the whole team – involved in the victory. I have been reading a lot of articles obtained from coaching trainings and from ASCD's online Smartbrief as well as from educator BLOGs to solidify my ideas. (See the Edublog feed on the side bar.) Of course, I have also been visiting West teachers' classrooms. I would like to share a few ideas gleaned.

A favorite article is Allison Zmuda’s “Springing into Active Learning” which gives insight into creating engaged learners who focus on the learning process more than the grade. See the link for a summary or email me for a full copy.

Fisher, Frey and Lapp tell how to meet "AYP in a High-Need School..." (Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, Feb 2009). Highlighted are once failing schools that have beat the odds and made impressive progress through integrating reading and writing into their daily operation, demonstrating the power of content literacy instruction. In one such school, a literacy team settled on the pedagogical goal of helping students develop literacy habits that they could take with them from class to class. (WOW, this sounds like Cynthia's goal with project planner and her study skills diversity project based on Pattie's Afghanistan curriculum. ) The staff in the article was relieved that they had gained freedom from focusing on state tests. First, they discussed the 100 ways to engage in literacy learning and the fact that students experienced different instructional routines in every class. They decided to choose four intervention components with the following criteria:

  • they had a solid evidence base,
  • they could be used across content areas and
  • they had high utility in college or adult life.

The four components they chose were 1) Cornell Note-Taking to be used in all note-taking activities,2) Think-Alouds, to be conducted with a piece of text every day in every class,3) Writing to Learn, as a way to check for understanding in every class, every day, 4) Dedicated Reading Time, or reading for 20 minutes a day.Work in PLCs to create common formative assessments and to collect/analyze data, as well as participate in job-embedded training/professional development via the peer coach and collegial conversations led to staggering improvements over a two-year period. Some of the most motivating professional development activities were sharing videos of their own teachers. Think Karen, Drew, Bobby, Julie Ann, Park, Carol, Greg, Terra and Janet, as compared to Seinfeld. Active learning was evident in the many classrooms I visited recently. Scott's class used jigsaw to discover the 7 Aspects of Totalitarianism and key policies and events that led up to WWII. Lane's class reflected on their attitudes towards AIDS through a journal write. Janet's students studied the foreign language of medical terminology repeating each term to aid pronunciation and memorization. Jon promoted Intentional Independent Reading to investigate characteristics of functions in Honors Geometry. Teresia modeled writing creating with the class a new segment for Homer Simpson featuring Bill Clinton and a pesky squirrel. (Happy Birthday, Teresia.) Ressi engaged students in individual conferences about something they had been reading - was it Much Ado About Nothing? Students were working on a literacy scrapbook featuring notes about the same play side by side with their reflections. From what I have seen, students at West have no fear that they are wasting their time. They are busy reading, writing and talking about reading and writing, - what we need to see in our classrooms every day. Finally, here is my previous BLOG made into a wordle. Go to Left click twice to get a bigger view.
Wordle: student strengths© 2009 Jonathan Feinberg Terms of Use subscribe

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