Looking at Literacy

What BAISD teachers need to know today (Dec. 2018)

BAISD Coaching: How do we focus our work?

In adding a full time early literacy coach position at the Bay-Arenac ISD, the Instructional Services department leadership was seeking a way to increase intentional support to local teachers and to ensure professional learning was connected to true areas of need in each building/district. Throughout the last year, area curriculum directors have learned more about the Reading Now Network and their work with literacy-focused instructional rounds. This work, with collaboration between the Ottawa ISD and Bay-Arenac ISD, has been brought back to our region in order to provide intentional support options for literacy coaching from the Bay-Arenac ISD.

In the elementary schools where instructional rounds take place, a team of literacy leaders from the region observes literacy instruction across the building. Staff is encouraged to have a "business as usual" attitude about the process in order for observations to be the most authentic. Evidence is gathered in each room regarding literacy practices. An affinity mapping process is facilitated to narrow and align the data so that at the end the day, there are a multitude of celebrations and approximately three specific support options. This is where my job as coach begins.

Staff are presented the findings from the rounds process and coaching can begin surrounding the support options. Examples of support options might include development and use of effective classroom libraries, supporting small group reading instruction, creating literacy-rich or literacy-supportive learning environments, increasing student motivation and engagement by embedding choice in literacy activities, etc. The possibilities are almost endless, but our lens for the work is the Essential Instructional Practices in Early Literacy, Grades K to 3.

As ISD coach, I then spend a dedicated number of weeks with the teachers and other literacy leaders (building level coach, curriculum director, principals, etc.) to determine a plan and collaborate with teachers around the work. Depending on the building/district and the need, coaching activities so far have included grade level/department meeting PD, modeling, observing and providing feedback, data analysis and related instructional planning, assessment implementation, literacy instruction scheduling, and more. The support options will remain a priority for at least a two year period where I will continually circle back to the buildings for intentional and focused coaching support. This support is job-embedded, teacher-driven professional learning, because, as Jim Knight said, "When teachers stop learning, so do students."

From the Coach's Bookshelf: For Teachers

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Essential Instructional Practice #3: Small Group and Individual Instruction

As you can see, Essential #3 is loaded with information, even before digging into the individual bullets. This will be a quick overview of the key language in the essential as listed above.

Every K-3 teacher should be using small group and individual instruction in their rooms every day. This does not mean you will get to every student on a daily basis, but research supports teaching your students in a variety of groups to meet their needs.

When the essential refers to "flexible groups", it says these are most often the way we group students for instruction. During professional learning, Dr. Nell Duke explained this portion of the essential by asking educators to reflect. If a stranger were to watch small group instruction at the beginning of the year, and then come observe again near the end of the year, would the majority of your students be reading with mostly the same students? If your answer is yes, then groups are not truly flexible.

In our region, we are most commonly seeing students grouped into guided reading groups according to reading level using a diagnostic tool such as the F & P Benchmark Assessment System or the DRA2. A helpful blog post from Fountas and Pinnell about teacher use of text levels is linked here for your convenience. In addition, students should receive small group instruction based on their other observed and assessed needs. These groups might be called strategy groups or skills groups. Additional small group or individual instruction that might be used to meet student needs includes independent reading conferences, book clubs, spelling/word study groups, and more.

Instruction in these small groups should be informed by teacher observations and assessments in an ongoing fashion and related to a variety of aspects of literacy. For example, students might get guided reading instruction according to their diagnostic assessment, moved based on progress using reading records and conferring notes, and receive additional flexible group instruction in the skill of recognizing and using knowledge of Greek and Latin roots to understand new words in text. More about assessment is included in Essential #9.

Remember to find out more, or enroll in the free modules to dig deeper into the essentials alone, with colleagues, or ideally facilitated by a coach/trainer, by visiting the website linked below:


Essential 3 Video Samples