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Friday, June 19, 2020

Distance Learning Instructional Playbook

When coaches sit with teachers to determine what instructional strategies will used to reach a goal they have set, it is helpful to have an Instructional Playbook that contains some go-to strategies that a coach and/or school frequently uses. Jim Knight has created an Instructional Playbook that contains strategies that research has proven to have a high impact on student achievement. Take a look at the Instructional Playbook that compliments the work of Jim Knight and his team.

Based on the changes in education that the Covid-19 Pandemic has brought upon us, it is helpful for an instructional coach to have an Instructional Playbook handy that is geared towards the most effective online platforms that a teacher can use with their students. I am sharing with you the Distance Learning Instructional Playbook that was created by a collaborative group of educators along Jim Knight (and myself). 

When you have teachers come to you and need support with choosing an online platform/tool to use with distance learning, bring up this Instructional Playbook and seek to find out what their goal or purpose is. For example, start by asking "What is the goal or purpose that you are seeking to achieve?" (i.e., digital management, live video chats, sharing & brainstorming, video recording, interactive presentations, or virtual assessments)

Once you know their goal/purpose, discuss with the teacher what the platform/tool is, what's the point of it, how it can be used by the teacher, how it can be used by the students, and review the checklist(s). It is important to review the checklist(s) with the teacher so that (1) y'all have a clear understanding of what it is and how to use it and (2) determine what adjustments/modifications need to be made to the checklist(s) in order to make sure it meets the needs of the teacher and their students.

Each time you and the teacher meet to debrief how a lesson went, look back at the checklist to see if there is anything that needs to be clarified or adjusted. Sometimes a simple tweak to the strategy can make all the difference in the success of the lesson and/or goal.

Breathing New Life into Book Clubs: A Practical Guide for Teachers

As teachers, we often have a goal to build a community of readers in our classrooms. We want them to have a love of reading like we do. In class we teach them an array of reading skills and strategies
to help them be a good reader and to better help them understand a text. One way teachers can build a love of reading in their classes is through incorporating book clubs.

As coaches, many of us often gravitate to the research and work of Jennifer Serravallo and Lucy Calkins to inform us of structures, such as book clubs. When a fifth grade teacher reached out to me to learn more about incorporating book clubs in her class, it prompted me to want to learn more about them. In this blog, I will share with you the many things I learned about book clubs from the authors of the book, Breathing New Life into Book Clubs: A Practical Guide for Teachers, by Sonja Cherry-Paul & Dana Johansen. 

A highlight of the book is that at the end of EVERY chapter, the authors have placed a chart containing the resources and ideas from the chapter in a logical sequence to help you with your implementation AND include example mini lessons that you can use for clubs or in whole group. 

Chapter 1: Creating a Culture of Reading Through Book Clubs

In book clubs, we envision students...
1. Putting learning into action.
2. Setting reading goals.
3. Cheering each other on.
4. Using words of encouragement with each other.
5. Thinking critically about a text/idea.
6. Generating written responses.

Book clubs are guided by two defining principals:
1. Student choice
2. Student ownership
(always keep student interest in mind, not their reading level) 

But why book clubs in the classroom?
Book clubs...
  • nurture a student's love of reading to share with others.
  • allow student's to be part of a community of readers.
  • improve reading attitudes & engage students as readers.
  • provide time to practice reading skills (transfer of instruction).
  • provide time for in-depth conversations and discussions.
  • empower students to read & respond in authentic and meaningful ways to them.
  • allow time for students to work together to make sense of a text.
Types of Book Clubs:
1. Genre based clubs
2. Goals-based book clubs
3. Identity based book clubs
4. Theme/topic based book clubs
5. Series/author based book clubs
6. On-line book clubs

In the book it's pointed out that book clubs don't have to all be the same genre and should be based around student interest to foster choice and buy in.

Chapter 2: Organizing and Setting Up Book Clubs

When launching book clubs in the classroom, the book goes in depth of the following steps and things to think about when launching them.

Steps to start up book clubs...
1. Determine the 'type' of book club(s)
2. Get books
3. 'Roll out the books' to students and talk them up.

  • Example ideas: book trailers, book blogs, free book exploration, guest book talks, book talks
4. Help students choose their book choices, using strategies such as,
  • 5 Finger Rule
  • Pick 3
  • Rank book choices in order on an index card
5. Create book club groups

Chapter 3: Launching and Managing Book Clubs

When starting out book clubs, the logistics piece is where we as teachers can get hung up. The following are tips that the book offers to help bypass the roadblocks of logistics. 

Begin planning with a blank calendar. Anticipate each book club being around 3 weeks in length (15 school days). When doing this, look at your curriculum calendars, reading units, and standardized testing schedules. The average number of pages a book club member readers each day, is roughly 20 pages, which would come out to roughly a book between 150-300 pages to be read in a 3 week period. 

When thinking about when book clubs would typically meet, aim for about 2 times a week between Monday and Thursdays. Once your students are used to the structure, the book recommends increasing to possibly having groups meet 3 times a week, meeting on Fridays only if it is okay with students. 

A good thing to keep in mind is that when book clubs meet, the teacher is using that time to observe and take note of student reading behaviors. When scheduling your small groups (i.e., guided reading/strategy groups), don't plan to meet with them during the time book clubs are meeting. 

Where Will Clubs Meet?
Think about when you meet with your friends to talk about books. It is usually a relaxed setting. Try to embrace an inviting, clubhouse feelings when clubs meet. Some clubs may decide they want to meet in a school's common space, in one of the corners of the room, or even the center of the room. The important thing is to honor student choice in book clubs as much as possible.

Digital Meeting Space: 
With all of the amazing technology that schools and students have access to, students don't always have to physically meet in book clubs. Finding a platform that fits your goals for when your students meet digitally is important. Some platforms that teachers have found to be great as digital meeting places for book clubs are:
1. Google Classroom
2. Padlet
3. Kidblog
4. Flipgrid

Students need practice and guidance on holding good discussions. They will also need mini lessons on how to have a discussion in a digital space and with getting them comfortable with working with the selected platform. The book offers simple mini lessons to support you as needed in these areas.

First Days of Book Clubs:

When clubs meet for the first time, there are three essential goals for day 1:
1. Make reading plans:

  • make a reading schedule to complete the book on time.
  • determine how the club will budget their time and map out their nightly reading to make reading goals.

2. Create a plan for written responses:

  • determine how many written responses per week.
  • make a list of possible ways to respond in written form to the reading (as a class).
  • determine what is a fair length for a response.
  • keep in mind that reading is the priority with book clubs, therefore the written response does not have to be very lengthy. 

3. Band together to form a strong book club identity:

  • a book clubs discusses their reading beliefs. 
  • creates a club name [day 1].
  • creates a club banner and selects a mascot (i.e., stuffed animals doll)[day 2].
  • list out club goals [day 3].
  • takes a club picture.
  • positions the banner, mascot, and photo near where the club will meet.
Chapter 4: Lighting the Fire of Discussion

How can we 'power up' talk in book clubs through written response?

Written response helps students to reflect on and evaluate their ideas. They encourage students to brainstorm and jot down ideas to enable them to dig deeper into a text's ideas. Some examples of written responses are:

Sticky Notes:
Students can use sticky notes to...
  • Jot down what they are thinking about the text.
  • Jot down what strategy they are applying as they are reading.
  • Flag pages ('page flags') to remind them of cited evidence from the text.
Book Blogs: 
Students can utilize book blogs to ensure that all voices are heard. Some platforms include:
  • Google Docs
  • Padlet
  • Kidblog
  • Flipgrid
While using these platforms, members of the book clubs can comment on posts. They can even plan to post onto the blog before or after the club meets that day.

Readers Notebooks:
Teachers have found it helpful to provide their students with a few minutes to write in their readers notebooks before or after their book clubs meet. In their notebooks, students can..
  • Jot down noticing and glance over their sticky notes.
  • Explore an idea they heard in their book club.
  • Make predictions about their book. 
Discussion Tips:
It is important to keep in mind that when students are in book clubs and are communicating, it will be loud. There will be laughter, repetition, and students talking over each other. The room will be filled with energy, movement, and student talk/voice. Teachers have to allow themselves to feel 'comfortable' with letting go of control and trusting the authentic conversations that will come about when book clubs meet. Some teachers have found it useful to try the following:

1. Instant Messaging: 
Have clubs meet. Each person gets an index card and writes something on their mind about the book. Members shuffle the cards and pick out one at random. Whatever the prompt is that the group draws, all members will respond to it in their readers notebook and/or blog. Having this done via Kidblog, students can instant message and comment back and forth, allowing for a quiet discussion. 

2. Silent Chart Chat: 
Each group receives a large piece of paper then selects a question to write about in relation to their reading.  Students take turns responding to the question by writing on the paper's available space. 

Think about when you meet in an adult book club:
  • There are no roles and rules about taking turns. 
  • There are no on topic requirements.
  • There are no sentence starters.
  • There are no limits to responding or ways you have to respond. 
When there are imposed structures and roles, book clubs feel stagnate and unnatural. 

What will the role of the teacher be when clubs get going?
The key component for a teacher to remember is that when book clubs are taking place, their job is to be a researcher who observes and collects artifacts that help them make sense of what is happening in clubs. The teacher may be jotting down quick noticings, noting the number of pages that have been read by a club, noting what technology is being used, what types of written responses the clubs are utilizing, or noting who is prepared and who isn't. 

If a teacher is seeing trends or challenges across different artifacts and clubs, a teacher may use that information to pull students, clubs, or the whole class to teach a quick mini lesson that addressed it.

Chapter 5: Journeying Through Texts with Peers

In this chapter, the book discusses how students have a 'backpack of reading tools' that they can use across their book club journeys. As the teacher, we can provide our students with small, quick reminders of these tools to help with their comprehension skills. In this chapter, the authors provides example questions a teacher may use as tool reminders at the start, middle, and end of a book, which can be in poster from, a Google Doc, or in their readers notebooks.

To start a fiction book club, some reminders include:
1. What do we look for at the beginning of a story? What are you noticing?
2. Who is the narrator?
3. How will you keep track of the characters?
4. What is the central conflict?

To start a nonfiction book club, some reminders include:
1. How is the text organized?
2. What are the text features and how might they help you?
3. What is the main idea and what details are supporting it?
4. What is fact versus opinion?

Some middle/end of the text fiction reminders are:
1. What happens by the middle of a text?
2. What happens toward the end of a text?
3. What is the rising and falling action?
4. Is there character development?
5. What are the conflicts and resolutions?

Some middle/end of the text nonfiction reminders are:
1. What is the cause or problem?
2. Does the author use credible sources?
3. What is the effect and solution?
4. What seems to be the most compelling data?
5. What is the author's main message or call to action?

Reading Journey:
The book offered two questions to get students to think deeply about their reading journeys that I loved:
1. How have you changed by this reading and the discussions you've had with your peers?
2. How can the ideas within this book change the world?

Chapter 6: Living with Books All Year Long

"We don't teach reading; we inspire readers by making room for opportunities that BECKON kids to live readerly lives in AND out of school" (2017).

Ways to Celebrate Book Clubs:
Once book clubs have finished their books, students can share and celebrate their learning by engaging in:

Book Talks: 
Students 'sell' their books so peers can learn about what has been read. Students can even video their book talks and post them to a class blog, creating a collection of book talks!

Book Trailers:
Students can create book trailers, much like movie trailers, to get others excited about their books.

Interactive Book Posters:
These posters persuade their peers to read their book, using their visual and auditory senses.

Visual Vignettes:
Students can act out a short scene from their book to give an impression of the setting, mood, or characters of the text.

Book Bistro: 
Students engage with their peers in a bistro, coffee shop setting, where they make book recommendations and converse about the book titles recently read in clubs.

Book Clubs BEYOND the Classroom:
How can teachers keep this community of readers going and move them beyond the classroom?

Some ideas include:
1. All-school and grade-level book clubs
2. Identify and Interest book clubs
3. Jane Addams book clubs
4. Family/Friends book clubs
5. Summer book clubs
6. Teacher book clubs
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Amplify- Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-6 Classroom

I had sought out to find various ways to foster most student ownership in the classroom. What were some simple ways to turn a classroom into a collaborative space, where students have just as much input in the learning as the teacher?

I came across the book, Amplify- Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-6 Classroom By Katie Muhtaris and Kristin Ziemke one day while browsing aimlessly at Half Priced Books. What caught my attention was on the back cover blurb, Stephanie mentions that the book will discuss ways to connect technology in the classroom to "amplify" your curriculum, but she also mentions that the book will help you to, "emphasize student ownership and creativity." And here we are, $7.99 later, I want to showcase for you some of the highlights I took away from the chapters read!

Chapter 1: Getting Started
1. Classroom Recording Booth- a homemade recording booth with a laptop/iPad (with a webcam), a shower curtain for privacy, a desk, discarded pieces of packing foam. Here is where students can record what they know, their reflections on their learning, and their passions and interests.

2. 'Vlog'The teacher and students can use a Vlog (video blog) to record and create authentic, natural book reviews with some thoughts to recommend to others. These can be linked to SeeSaw, QR codes posted in the classroom library, or added to a class Padlet of book recommendations.

3. Online Informational Reading as Bell Ringers: When students come arrive in the morning, have them come in and settle into their day by increasing their daily reading minutes AND increase the amount of informational text they read. Websites to try are:

4. Digital Bulletin BoardCreate digital boards where students can view, respond, and interact together. I loved how in the book, when the teacher finished reading the book, The Little Read Hen, she gave students a Padlet link for them to respond to the question, "Did The Little Red Hen do the right thing?" This was a great way for them to interact and for the teacher to formatively assess to see if they could apply the days learning from the minilesson. 

5. BloggingHelp your students create a blog, where they can share books they have read, curricular inquiries, mathematical thinking, and writing. Imagine having a blog for each student where they post nearly all of their items used for assessments or student work. Having a resource as such to showcase as evidence of learning could be so powerful!

Chapter 2: Journey of Discovery
1. Video Conferencing: Want students to be able to connect with experts in the field to amplify their learning?! Tired of just 'telling' students what experts do and want to SHOW them. It is recommend in the book to use video conferencing as an avenue to do just that. Connect with authors or other experts on Twitter and ask them to virtually join your class! Students can generate questions for the experts before hand, then get to hold a live conference with them using FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Zoom, or Skpe.

2. VimeoVimeo can be used to house classroom videos.

Chapter 3: Connecting Technology to Existing Classroom Practices: 
1. Digital Visualizations: Want your students to create mental images? Do you have them do Stop-and-Jots on sticky notes of what they are visualizing? What if you had them use an iPad drawing app, while snuggled up on the carpet, to capture their thinking as you conduct a read aloud? You could stop periodically for the students to do a turn and talk and share their visualization with a partner?

2. SonicPics App: Could students us an app like SonicPics to create a slideshow of their visualization images THEN enhance the images by adding audio recordings and captions?

3. dotEPUB: This is a tool to pull text off a website and put it into a format (or ebook) where students can highlight and jot notes on their device.

4. Wonderopolis: Each day on Wonderopolis, there is a different wondering posted for students to ponder. This is a great way to foster curiosity in your classroom and have students conduct written responses. Maybe post these to the class Google Classroom and have students add comments of their thinking.

5. App Reviews: Kids these days use so many apps. They find useful ones, but some that may not meet their needs. Would students be inspired to write their own app reviews of apps they are using in school? They could research the app, plan, write, revise, and publish their reviews to their own blog pages. Imagine if students could do this and share with the school for others to be informed by!

6. Student Blog URL Business Cards: The audience of our students starts in the classroom, extending into their families, the school community, then others around the world. What about sending home 'Student Business Cards' containing the student's blog URL and/or QR Code for families to share their child's learning beyond the classroom walls?

7. School Blogging Buddies: How might you connect classes within the school? What about having classes join together to foster school/classroom blogging buddies? Is there a shared topic being discussed in the school or grade level that you could all be working on? WHAT IF a 3rd grade class did an online demonstration or experiment for a kindergarten class to watch later on a blog or LIVE feed!?

Chapter 4: Foundational Lessons for Independence:
1. Troubleshooting Charts: When using technology in the classroom, there are so many things that can go wrong. Do you need ways to help students fix technology issues themselves? Elicit students as your experts on certain issues when things go wrong. Create flowcharts of the steps to take in troubleshooting frequent tech problems.

2. Specialist Bulletin Board:  Have a space with student photos where they can use index cards to name what they are experts on. Whether they're an expert in technology or in content, this will be a place other students can go to when they need help with something and know who they can go to to get the assistance they seek.

3. 'Weekly Tech Slams!": As students become familiar with technology in class, they tend to learn from their mistakes and playful exploration! Have students showcase the shortcuts, mistakes, and take aways they have as a way to teach other students how to better navigate certain digital tools (i.e., learning from each other).

4. Tech Classroom Signal: Create common signals to help in device management. When giving students their VBT (voice-body-time) expectations, why not have a signal that shows them what you want them to do with their devices? Some signals to think about are, a signal for screens-down, tech isn't working, or a ready signal.

5. Informational Sites: With the students, create an anchor chart of, "Where Can We Go to Find Information, " listing sites such as:

  • Brainpop/Brainpop Jr. 
  • KidRex
  • Wonderopolis
  • School Library
  • Animal Planet
  • National Geographic
6. Technology/App Symbols: When we look at a remote or app, we know what certain symbols mean. Why not make an anchor chart with symbols students will encounter while using apps, so that they don't have to ask you what every symbol means! 

Chapter 5: Reflection and Assessment:
1. Digital Exit Tickets: Moving beyond the sticky note or index card exit tickets, students can use apps and websites to respond to or post an exit ticket. Some examples are:

  • ChatterPix app
  • Google Forms
  • Snapping a class photo of students giving a thumbs up/down to reflect their understanding
  • Snap a photo of student faces or 1-4 fingers showing how well they got the lesson

2. Battle of the Apps: Students debate and battle why two apps that are designed with similar purposes are better than the other. Great way to tie in opinion/argumentative text writing.

3. Ways Students can Reflect: Establish a daily reflection prompt system. Empower students to track what they know, what they don't know YET, what they are good at, and which skills they can target next time. A simple goals folder can have three columns named: working on it, almost there, got it. A student notebook can serve where they respond to daily prompts such as:

  • Today I was proud of...
  • The most challenging thing for me today was____. The strategies I used to overcome it were ____.
  • I have a question about...
  • The steps I took to reach my goals today were...
  • I was successful in ____. I still need to work on____.
  • Next time I think I should try...
  • I need help with...
Imagine having a back and forth journal with your students where you could respond and affirm them!

4. Capture Student Thinking & Work: Capture student thinking processes by snapping photos and a short bits of their conversation audio.

5. Student Goal Setting with Digital Tools: Students can see their work over time on their student blogs and look for patterns to set instructional goals. Picture this. A student has previously recorded a video of themselves (made in the classroom recording studio), then uses a teacher-created checklist of look fors to self-check and reflect.

For Example:

  • I can hear all my words. I spoke loudly and clearly. 
  • I can see my whole face framed in the video. 
  • I showed the book cover and gave important details. 
  • I told what happened in the book step-by-step.
  • I shared at least three pieces of my own thinking about the book. 

6. Archiving Student Work: Harness the power of technology to curate and reflect on student work. Take pictures and video of classroom discussions noting student learning preferences, student understanding, where students tend to sit and with who, etc. Brief recordings can capture student thinking.

Chapter 6: Power Up For Connected Learning: 
1. Photo Annotated Book Reviews: Capture a students thinking and understanding of a book s/he is reading with an annotated photo. Apps such as Skitch or Drawing Pad have the drawing and annotation ability.

2. Video Book Reviews: Have students summarize their thinking about a book using video, photos, and music. Allow the students to talk through their thinking of a book. Post these to the class digital book shelf or add QR codes to the inside covers of books in the classroom library to cultivate book buzz!

3. Digital Reading Walls: Instead of paper reading logs, move towards digital 'reading walls'. Using a platform like Padlet, students can have 'walls' titled, "Books I've Read," where they share videos, images, links, etc. with audiences of their choosing. Imagine the community of readers that will start to form in your classroom!

4. Wonder Wall: Create a space digitally or in the classroom where students can post their questions or wonderings. This will be a holding place until they have the opportunity to research their interests.

5. "The Kid Should See This": This site contains many student-friendly, interesting media clips.

6. Digital Book Clubs: Keep your normal face-to-face book clubs, BUT maybe some days they checkin and meet digitally. Students can respond to posts in their book club Google Classroom or collaboratively work on a Padlet or Google Doc with reflective questions.

7. Cross-Classroom Discussions: Host digital discussions with other classes in the school or around the world. Use Twitter, Edmodo, a blog, or some other platform where classes can collaborate. What if two teachers read the same book, then students from different classes respond and discuss?

Ideas from: Muhtaria, K., Zieme, K., & Harvey, S. (2015). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Backwards Design: Planning from the End in Mind

I can honestly say that I don't remember how I used to plan my lessons as a classroom teacher anymore! I remember I planned weekly, in silos, and at times thematic with an assigned 'planning buddy.' It wasn't until I became an Instructional Coach that I really learned about Backwards Design and how it could truly benefit my planning process and instruction.

In this blog, I will share with you the Backwards Design process (BWD) my teachers and I utilize. We have adapted our process and understanding from the work of Wiggins- Designing By Design to better fit our needs. 

In One Sentence:

Backwards Design is beginning your planning process, by starting with the first two PLC questions: (1) What do you want students to know and learn; and (2) How will we know if they learned it? You start by thinking of the end result and what students need to learn and know, then plan backwards.

What's the Point?

By starting with the 'end in mind' you:
  • Gain an understanding of what students need to know and learn within an entire unit.
  • Establish an understanding of how you will know if they learned what they needed to (i.e., what will proficiency look like?)
  • Take what it is that students need to know and learn and then determine what instructional strategies will best work to hit those goals. 
Adapted Process:
  1. Identify Desired Results: "What do students need to know and learn?"
    • Determine the content and unit standards.
    • Discuss what it is that students are learning within the unit (i.e., what skills).
    • Determine the "Focus TEKS" or heavy hitting standards within the unit.
      • Are there new standards being taught or introduced? 
    • Unpack the TEKS/Standards into Learning Targets
  2. Determine Acceptable Evidence: "How will we know if they learned it?"
    • Determine what proficiency will look like at the end of the unit? 
    • How will you assess student understanding at the end of the unit (Summative)?
    • How will you assess student learning throughout the unit (Common/Formative Assessments)?
    • How will you gauge where students are with their knowledge coming into the unit (Pre-Assessment)?
  3. Plan Experiences and Instruction: 
  • Take unpacked learning targets and 'pace' them out into an order that works for your students over the number of days in the unit.
  • Intentionally plan and place when/where you will assess students (i.e., summative, common, checkpoints, and pre assessment)
  • Intentionally plan and place when you will bring your assessment data to a PLC to calibrate and use to inform instruction as a team. 
  • Once targets and assessments are in place, NOW plan lessons and strategies that will accomplish the learning target of the day.

Readers Workshop: Share Time/Closing

The final part of Readers Workshop, is The Share Time or The Closing. Once the students have read independently or with peers (see previous Episode, "The Heart of Readers Workshop"), the teacher brings the students back together one last time to share and debrief how they applied the learned reading strategy/strategies into their reading that day.

The share time is usually the component that teachers 'forget' or 'let go of.' The conversation that takes place during this time is rich and is how students learn from each other. When children get to learn from each other and hear how their peers applied their learning, empowers them to try out what they have heard in the future. Connecting their learning back to the mini-lesson puts their learning into perspective.

Readers Workshop: "The Heart of Readers Workshop"

In the previous Episode, The Mini-Lesson, we discussed how we provided the students with an explicit teaching of reading skills and/or strategies. Once the students have had this experience and provided time during the active engagement to try it out (with teacher support), we "launch" students out into their independent reading time. The length of this time will vary between grade levels and based on the students reading stamina. In the beginning of the year, student's stamina is much lower than it will be towards the end of the year (See the Balanced Literacy Framework for example reading times for different grade levels).

Students typically start off independently reading, applying the reading strategies previously learned during the mini-lesson. To help students remember all of the previously learned strategies, they may have a Readers Toolkit to house graphic organizers, strategy bookmarks, post-it notes to show their thinking, reading goals, or any other tools to support them as a reader. Students have a book box that contains book varying from library books, previously read books from Guided Reading/Strategy Groups, or look books from the classroom library. Based on if the student is an emergent reader, transitional reader, or fluent reader, the amount of books in their book box will vary. 

After students read independently, this is where the look of workshop will differ. I have been some teachers bring students back together for a class share, to voice how they applied the newly learned strategy in their reading, then re-launch them to read in a different manner then come back together at the end. I have also seen teachers transition students straight into reading in another manner then not share until the end. 

Students can transition to any of the following (depending on their grade level):

Partner reading:
During partner reading students sit knee to knee/elbow to elbow reading together and applying the learned reading strategy. Students will coach each other through their reading. 

Reading partnerships are where pairs of readers support each other during reading, thinking and talking about a text. Similar to partner reading, but with more discussion of the text. 

Book Clubs:
Book clubs are where small groups of come together to discuss a common text. Prior to coming together for a discussion over part of their book, students would have read independently the sections they agreed upon to then come together to discuss ideas from the text. For book clubs each student has their own copy of the text. For an example of an amazing book club, visit here!

During the time students are reading independently, reading with a partner, working in small groups with the teacher, and/or working in partnerships or book clubs, one way that we work to differentiate instruction is through conferring with readers. It is often said that conferring is where the magic happens. Conferring with readers gives us an opportunity to pull up a chair next to a reader and hear about the work they are trying out, and the ways they are thinking about the text. It allows us to notice, name, and affirm them as readers while also pushing the student to grow with a “next step,” if you will. To see a conference in action, visit here!

Readers Workshop- The Mini-Lesson

Readers Workshop begins with the mini-lesson. This is the time when the teachers explicitly teaches the students a skill or reading strategy to help them be a successful reader. The name of it should say enough, but as a teacher, I NEVER kept those things mini. Maybe I just wasn't properly informed or trained as to what this should look like.  

The mini-lesson is 5-10 minutes (see the Balanced Literacy Framework), where the teacher uses a familiar text to model and explicitly teach the skill she is informing the students about. This is where I messed up. I used to read the entire text during this time, versus using a familiar text to refer to. The mentor text that a teacher uses during this time is generally used from a previous Interactive Read Aloud. During the Interactive Read Aloud (I.R.A), the teacher refers to strategic points that have been marked for teaching purposes, such as questioning, predicting, connections, etc. The I.R.A includes high degrees of student/teacher and student/student talk to engage in the text. The mentor text for the I.R.A can be used for multiple purposes or lessons. 

The Structure of the Mini-Lesson of The Readers Workshop:

1. Connect
2. Teach
3. Active Engagement
4. Link 

Mini-Lessons begin with a connect, in which we rally students for the lesson, talk about how this lesson will fit into the work children have been doing and how it will fit into their lives as readers/writers.  We might share a tiny excerpt of student work or tell a small story that become a metaphor for the lesson we’ll teach. Next, we tell children what we’ll be teaching them. This is the teaching point.


Next, we teach children something we hope they’ll use often as they read/write. There are several methods we might use to do this. We usually do this by involving the children in thinking alone with us as we demonstrate a strategy we use to read or write . Usually, this component is structured sequentially, like a how-to text. Teachers often tuck little tips into their demonstration of the strategy.

Active Engagement:
Then, we give all children a quick opportunity to try what we’ve taught with our support, or to imagine themselves trying it before we send them off to continue reading/writing (before we launch them off to read independently/with partners). This active engagement phase often involves children practicing the strategy we’ve just demonstrated on a familiar text, and it often involves them talking with a partner.

To bring closure to the mini lesson, we usually link the mini-lesson to what the class has learned on previous days, to that day’s work-time and to children’s lives as readers/writers. The teacher may recall the major topic the class has been studying. “You already learned...and today you have one more strategy to add…”  In these ways, we make it likely that at least some children transfer the mini-lesson to that day’s independent work, and that it becomes part of all children’s ongoing repertories.

For more detailed information regarding the mini-lesson, refer to The Architecture of a Mini-Lesson, which has been adapted from Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project and A Guide to the Reading Workshop by Lucy Calkins.

To see a Mini-Lesson in action, view here at Vimeo.

Readers Workshop Mini-Series Kick-Off!

TEKS (standards), good reader strategies, and reading comprehension skills are some of the ideas that we teachers keep in mind as we plan for our students to become successful readers. But when? What time of the day do we explicitly teach these "Skills & Strategies?" What time of the day do we designate for the students to put these strategies into practice? After all, that's when people learn best right? When we get the time to take what they have just learned and actually have opportunity to apply it. This is where Readers Workshop comes into play!

Readers Workshop is the time of the day where a teacher gives a brief explicit mini-lesson on a strategy or skill, where students can then take the skills or strategies and try them out on their own or with peers. I can tell you first hand that I did not do a good job getting this going as a teacher. I don't think I knew how to engage students in a true readers workshop for a few years.

For me, mini-lessons were never mini! I didn't realize how an interactive read aloud connected to a mini-lesson. I utilized stations for years, where I would prep cute things for the kids to do, but weren't truly benefiting their growth as readers. This brings me to this Readers Workshop Mini-Series. In this series I will create episodes "posts" that are dedicated to the components of readers workshop. The episodes will include:

1. The Mini-Lesson (September 3, 2019)
2. The "Heart of Workshop" (September 5, 2019)
3. Share Time/Closing Time (September 7, 2019)

Digital Coaching Resources

Since the Coronavirus had put a pause on in-school teaching & coaching, I am compiling some online digital resources for coaches to use to be able to support the teachers they work with.

Here are some sample 'Virtual Google Classrooms & Coaching Spaces' that coaches have set up in order to support and share resources with their teachers.

1. Virtual Reading Classroom
2. 15 Awesome Virtual Classroom Ideas
3. Sample English Classroom
A literacy coach I follow has created a Virtual Coaching Toolkit Padlet Board where she has compiled her top ideas, strategies, and resources for coaches to use.
An article I ran across on ASCD is called, "Three Keys to Instructional Coaching in a Virtual Coaching Environment." It gives some good pointers on supporting teachers digitally.