Tag Archives: Goals

Teachers College Reading August 2014 Day 1

My promise to myself… to blog my impressions and initial take aways during my week at Teachers College. This is my third institute. I am in the advanced reading section but by no means a seasoned participant. I sit across from an amazing woman, Julie, who has attended 25 institutes. She took classes from Ellin Keene as she was writing Mosaic of Thought; she went through grad school with my small group leader, the amazing and entertaining Natalie Louis. She is gracious and knowledgable. She makes me want to sit and listen as she teaches along with the group leader. I feel like a novice compared to Julie but still work toward the same goal of furthering my craft so that students may benefit. This is the beauty of Teachers College. Picture joining a week long pep rally where everyone is cheering in unison for the same team. Some are cheering louder than others, some are leading the cheers, but all share their voice and all cheer for the same team.
There has been an underlying theme present in my first two days, throughout all of my sessions with Christine Cook Robson, Natalie Louis and Lucy Calkins – the idea of goals and transparency.
When students work, do they know what they work towards? Do they know the next goal in their journey as a reader, as a writer? How do we support their understanding of not only how they approach text today but how that approach will shift tomorrow?
Students must know what quality work entails in order to make strides with deliberate practice when reading and writing. Without this the work is loose and lacks focus. There is no work toward mastery or growth, there is only work.
Lucy tells us that the idea of checklists and learning progressions brought forth in Units of Study have taken the educational community by storm. These have given students a clear sense of what is expected and the ability to check themselves against a standard. They have taken some of the onus out of the teacher’s hands and provided a structured means of students taking ownership in their learning and understanding what their next step should be. They have given students “the sense that I can get visibly, concretely, better.”
Clear feedback gives the learner a vivid image of the next step in their learning. Take inference, for example. How many of our students have a clear understanding of what inference is and can articulate that understanding in a meaningful way to others? How many of our teachers? Now lay the skill out and picture how it spirals and weaves in and out of reading levels. What are the demands of the text and what does inference entail as we climb the ladder of text complexity? Do our students understand that how we approach text shifts and changes as we grow as readers? Do we as teachers understand that the skills they build as they move through reading levels will shift and shuffle based on what they are building in their repertoire within that given level? How does the notion of clear feedback and clearly understanding where they are going next help students in deliberate practice?
Another big idea that I am excited to explore more throughout the week is one brought up by Christine Cook Robson, the idea of the role of inquiry in Readers’ Workshop. How would your reading instruction change if you deliberately shifted toward an inquiry approach when conferring with readers? This was tried in lieu of the much used demonstration and other more teacher-directed conferences in 1st and 2nd grade in NJ. TC found that students relied on the teacher to verify their thinking in the traditional workshop structure. When inquiry was introduced, students began to do the thinking and naming. They began to own their learning at a deeper level rather than waiting for a teacher to tell them they were on the right track.
We learn more about this idea, as well as the idea of students applying to move up a reading level based on evidence of their work. Hopefully I have more of both to share tomorrow!