Are you ready for this? My school/district sent my ENTIRE elementary school up to NYC for the Reunion Conference at Columbia University's Teacher College. That's right - ALL OF US! We spent a long weekend learning and reflecting. It is so powerful to sit with your colleagues after a day of observing and learning. Want teacher "buy-in" for a new way of teaching? This is the way to go about it. Teach us. Let us see it in action with stellar examples and a realistic environment.
Now on to the learning... What a trip! It is amazing the power of seeing best practices in action when you are learning something new. Our visit to PS11 in NYC, a Teacher College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP) Workshop Showcase School, reaffirmed some of the things first grade is doing in the classroom, while shining a light on those areas needing improvement. The visit set us up with even more “look fors” for the Reunion Conference at Columbia the following day.
There were so many things I walked away with after the trip. Here are just a couple that I think will be the most impactful on my classroom from day one. First up, partnerships. This is an area that is a weakness for me. Do I do them? Yes. Are they a valuable part of my workshop routine? Not really. Definitely not the way they should be and not the way they are at PS11 and within the TCRWP framework. For them, partner time is a non-negotiable. Now, with that said, I DO partner time daily, but after this trip… well... let’s just say I have quite a bit of improving to do. The biggest tip that I received was regarding the partners themselves. When you think of reading or writing partners, how many do you think should be in a partnership? Two? Yep. Me too. One thing I struggled with was the amount of learning opportunities that were wasted between partners who had someone who was, for example, painfully shy. And what about those partnership that contain a child who struggles with behavior/self-control. Their partner ends up spending most of their time feeling frustrated or helping those children stay on task. Well, here’s a simple solution - triads. What? Why didn’t I think of that? Triads only came to mind when it was a larger project like STEM or Book Clubs, or even more, when I have an uneven number of students in my class. Triads are the perfect way to be sure that all of your partnerships are valuable. Let’s take the painfully shy student. If you pair him/her up with a couple of students close to his/her level, then after some time, he/she might start to slowly become comfortable to share and carry their weight. In the meantime, the other two are benefiting from their interactions and the shy student benefits from the modeling going on with the other two. That’s a win-win if you ask me. Same goes for a behavior kid. A triad would allow two students to keep the learning going even if the behavior student is off task. Triads would also benefit your ESE or ELL students. Again, their other two partners would be great models for those students. Like I said, so simple, yet SO powerful. So, this week I am changing up my partnerships. Some will remain as couples while many triads will emerge. Stay tuned...
|Conferencing Sign-up in a PS11 classroom.|
Another area I was hoping to learn about was conferencing, including effective feedback. Conferencing is definitely another part of both Readers and Writers Workshop that I am focusing on this year. While observing in PS11 classrooms, I saw a conference sign-up in most of the K-2 rooms (see photo). I plan to try it beginning next unit. This conference sign up was for Math, Reading, and Writing. Students could use a dry erase marker to write their names on the sheet. One of the teachers even used a coding system. If they wrote their name in red, that meant that the student wanted to celebrate a success with the teacher, and if they wrote their name in black, the student wanted to work on something with the teacher. What a simple way to celebrate success and to teach students to take charge of their learning.