Reading Skills and Strategies Campus Wide

On Friday, I finished up the professional development week with a training or refresher on good reading skills and strategies.  All reading teachers and interventionists attended the class on campus.  It was teacher-led class.  Learning from your peers is the most effective way to learn.  Teachers demonstrated how to solve or tackle some of the hardest skills: main idea, summary, inferencing and vocabulary.

The purpose of this training:  I have several new teachers this year and they need exposure to our campus strategies.  Second, to get the campus on the same page or at least each grade level.  In second grade, we are giving exposure to our students and building a foundation with them.   It's not all about STAAR or state assessment.  It's also about building strategies that can last a life time or throughout their educational years.  

 Our campus has down-sized to 5 steps when reading a passage.  We had 7 but the state assessment at the end of the year is timed so we eliminated two steps to help save time for students.  All teachers left with a copy of the 5 steps to display in the classroom.

 Teachers were divided into groups.  Group 1 tackled main idea from a Grade 4 STAAR-related passage.  I found the Main Idea poster by Amy Groesbeck.  The posters are a great resource and teaching tool.  As group 1 worked main idea I observed some similar skills but also some differences.  Honestly, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the way a teacher solves a main idea problem.  However, if we all adopt or adapt to one style of teaching, we see more of a common vision on campus.  When students are pulled for reading intervention, it helps if each classroom teaches it in a similar fashion.  This professional development class was all about creating and promoting a coherent literacy instruction of reading skills and strategies.
 Group 2 tackled summary.  Summary takes the longest to solve.  The reason is because students are having to read the entire story and find the beginning, middle and end.  These can be very tricky and time consuming.  The Texas STAAR test only allows 4 hours.  If each story on the test included a summary question, these can eat up their time quickly.  If I had to give any advice, it would be to be unified on the campus when solving a summary-type question.
 Group 3 definitely had the hardest.  Inference is a complex skill and must be taught through explicit modeling and instruction.  It requires students to think at a higher level which makes it a difficult skill for many students.  The only way students will get better at making inferencing is through practice and experiences.  Helping your students understand that information will not always be directly stated; but clues will be provided along the way.  This will improve their skill of making inferences.
Group 4 solved a vocabulary question.  Of the four types we address on Friday, this was the easiest.  However, we found some differences in strategies.  

 The best part of this session was watching teachers teach teachers.  A teacher would get up and model how they solved the question and then we gave feedback.  We had to make compromises along the way.  That's ok.  What works for a fourth grade class is not always going to work for a second grader.  Strategies that align with research-based practices in early reading and literacy have been proven to effective.
 The most positive benefit of teachers teaching teachers is that it makes teaching a public rather than a private practice.  At times, we need to rely on our on experts on the campus instead of always providing outside consultants.  This style of professional development is not new to my campus.  However, if it is to your campus a few tips to get you started.  Your environment needs to be safe and professional.  Teachers need to know it's ok to not agree.  It's ok to share and give suggestions.  The campus needs to be built on trust and promote a level of professionalism.  As  a leader of a campus, be the advocate for supporting teachers in learning from each other.

 Throughout the year, we will continue with more reading skills and strategies.  We will begin to develop a playbook for each grade level.  I'm excited to start this guidebook for teachers.



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