The joy of Advanced Sessions is that you choose the topics you are interested in and then hope and pray that you get your first choice. I’m in my first choice sessions and they are exactly what I need for myself and for the teachers/buildings I work with.
However, my learning curve has been straight up this week. And that intensity and upward knowledge increase has caused some mental confusion and had me thinking deeply about what I know, what I think I know and what I actually can DO myself! Perfect learning . . . sometimes painful learning.
What are the methods that we can use to teach our mini-lessons?
- Guided Practice
And what details are most important? It depends upon the purpose! Inquiry can be the most engaging for the Teacher and also provide high engagement for students. Guided practice works best when students need the practice and aren’t learning a “new – new” skill.
In two days, we have been reading, writing and teaching mini-lessons. Some lessons we have read four times under Amanda’s directions. We have, more than have half of us, taught our own mini-lesson to another table group in the room. Our prep time has been minimal. That’s been a good thing – we can’t obsess over perfection.
But we can quickly review our work through the lenses of Powerful Whole Group Instruction:
- Clarity and Concise Language
- Engaging and Engaged
- Assess and Give Feedback
- Links and Skills (Strategies) to Independent and Partner/Club Work
- Opportunities for Oral Language Development
In two days, our teaching points are more explicit. Our coaching is more specific. On the spot feedback keeps us on track. Our mini-lessons are improving because of our partner work and our large group work!
- A mini-lesson does not need to be fully scripted but it is helpful to have a plan that includes anticipating approximations.
- Why do my students need this lesson? When I can list multiple reasons both the connections and the links are stronger.
- ONE, ONE, ONE teaching point. Keep it simple silly! ONE!
- What coaching can you plan for?
- Practice, practice, practice. I loved that Molly’s lesson was like 5,000 times better than mine – such a great demonstration! I need to see, hear, and teach MORE lessons!
Kathleen began today with a story about playing cards in her family and then compared it to our small group work.
“Down and dirty”
Take a risk.
Get in the game.
Great words of advice for me!
We spent time on pacing. Small groups often become bogged down when it’s about the teacher (which it isn’t)! Teachers feel compelled to impart great wisdom and sometimes forget to listen and follow the lead of the students. Again in this session, I had the privilege of coaching a demonstration lesson in a small group after four minutes of planning with a wonderful partner. More than 4 minutes wouldn’t have made it better; I needed to teach it! I envy friends who do teach more than one class in a day because, with practice, the lesson/coaching improves each time. But sometimes you do just have to jump in and do it!
Kathleen challenged us to work smarter. If we meet in a grade level group or vertical groups with all the Units and a copier, we can create resources that will help us be prepared for small groups.
Perspective – Where and what does this look like in first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade? Copy the charts, any prompts onto resource pages. Add a text to practice – Voila!
Practice turning a chart into a cheat sheet for students. How would this look?
Study a mini-lesson on vocabulary. How does this go in all the other grades? Copy those charts – shrink them down so charts from three or four grades can be on the same page.
Practice, practice, practice. You will be better at “responding to students” by responding to students.
- Practice teaching in a small group is like going to weekly Toastmasters meetings. Frequent practice will increase your confidence.
- There is no ONE right method for small group instruction. Focus on what your students need. Follow up with partner work and a second or third group meeting on the same content to ensure more practice.
- Sometimes we notice something else and go off a tangent. Use the cheat sheet / resources to stay focused.
- Check your prompts. Are they transferable? Or are they too specific? (borrow them from the progressions)
- Practice time means the students are doing the work. Set the conditions. Let them work! They, too, must do the work in order to become better, stronger, and more confident readers.
Mary Ehrenworth – What Readers Need
May began by asking us several questions to have us think about what defines our strongest readers. Then she said to consider that, “Potential avid readers are EVERYWHERE. Think of those who could become AVID readers. Not just the readers who are already reading at the highest levels in our classrooms. It’s all about expectations. Some kids are just waiting to be recognized. What if we don’t see them?
Alligton’s “What Readers Need” supports this work by providing the conditions:
- Access to books they find fascinating
- Protected time to read
- Expert instruction.
And then thinking about the structures that will help more readers be extraordinary readers:
- Choose books more purposefully
- Series, series, series
- Strong reader partnerships and club
- Start informal social clubs around reading
- 400 million kids read 4,000 pages in the Harry Potter series. Those students may have worked on their synthesis skills – How did Harry Potter change? How did others’ perceptions of him change? Have you studied a series?
- We need to study our classroom libraries. If my 5th grade library looks almost identical to the fourth grade collections there may not be many choices for students.
needMUST teach students how to find books everywhere so that they can always be reading because extraordinary readers DON’T just read for 30 minutes each day in class.
- Our classrooms need to be where our students flourish! They can’t flourish in spite of us – after our assigned readings, after a book that takes 3-4 weeks to read as a whole class novel . . .
- Of the three conditions, which one do you need to work on? Access to books they find fascinating? Protected time to read? Expert instruction? When will you start?
Matt de La Pena – Keynote
To have an autographed and stickered book; yes, it is worth having more than one copy of this book. Especially now. Matt closed his speech Tuesday to the rapt attention of hundreds of teachers, administrators and even authors in Cowan Auditorium, by reading this book to us.
Matt inspired us with his story and his humility. He talked about his beginnings in National City (even asking who was from that area) and sharing that his Mexican-American heritage is not reflected in books. Matt connected his growing up with two completely different sets of families was like “code switching” and also the impetus for this book.
His ticket out of his neighborhood was basketball. His message of needing more books that reflect our students’ culture is critical. But his story of hope and aspiration is also important. I, too, know what it was like to be the first graduate from a four year university in my family. Education is powerful and sometimes we get there through totally unexpected paths.
What book did Matt read 12 times during his public school career? (If it’s good, why not reread rather than starting a new book?)
The House on Mango Street
What book did he read in two days while on a basketball out of town trip, upon invitation by a college instructor, before he graduated?
The Color Purple
More on his books and his background can be found on his website here. While autographing my copy of Market Street, Matt mentioned that he was headed to Iowa for appearances in Ames and Cedar Rapids so I was especially pleased to read about a previous trip (2014) to Cedar Falls, Iowa here. If you have not yet read his Newbery acceptance speech, it is here.
- “Teachers and authors don’t often immediately see the results of their work. Patience . . . you will!”
- “Books do not include the diversity that reflects our kids!” Help kids find themselves in books!
- “You need to consider the possibilities in your self-definition.” Don’t let your background limit you.
- “Some of the best books you will read will start out uncomfortable!” Readers need to know this!
- “Books make me feel emotional.” Books need to connect. Books can be a lifesaver. Find the books that connect.
What book(s) have been the inspiration or possibilities for you?
How do you help students find those books/stories?
How do you continue to “outgrow yourself” as a reader, thinker, or writer?