My RtI Cake

It was a stunning fall day in southeast Michigan on Sunday. Crisp air. Brilliant blue sky. Fiery colors. And what was I doing? Making a cake! Not just any cake. A wedding cake. The cake has three layers or tiers. I’m planning on using my wedding cake made from paper mache stacking boxes to explain the concept of RtI at several sessions of our countywide in-service next week. Actually, I am supposed to explain how our school uses Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) and Fountas & Pinnell Phonics Lessons for Tier 2 interventions. I needed to show how the F & P Lessons start in Tier 1 and can also be used as an intervention in both  Tier 1 and Tier 2 . I’m sick of looking at the RtI triangle and I figured, who doesn’t like cake? And I can show how things tend to tip when alignment is out of whack. Not sure if I will have the guts to wear the chef’s hat.

My husband walked in and looked at my project.

 "What the heck are you doing now?"

"What does it look like I'm doing? I think it needs some
little flowers or something for color, don't you?"

(Pause. Big sigh. Hand rubbing forehead.)               

"You have receipts for all this stuff, right?

I think I'm going to cut slots in the lids of each
box and as I talk about each card, I can slip it
into the cake tier.

This is one of the handouts I'm planning on
including in a packet for the teachers attending
the sessions.

The Temperature is Starting to Drop

For the last several weeks, my SOL’s have been about literacy coaching. Partly, because I felt I needed to stretch my comfort with informational writing. I figured I should be able to do what I ask kids to do. And I do believe that my thinking about the range of informational writing has broadened. My other purpose for  writing about coaching is to document who I am and what I do as a professional.  As I’ve said before, you can’t be a wimp and be a literacy coach and a particularly brutal winter is being predicted for Michigan this year. New visions of who I should be and how I will spend my time are coming down the road like a snow plow. A path is being cleared. Nothing I can do. I’m not even sure who is really driving the truck. It will be interesting to see if my thinking ends up crushed like an unfortunate mailbox positioned too close to the road. Will my ongoing work or the insight of my fellow cliff divers count for anything? The weatherman is predicting snowflakes as early as the end of the week.

Text for this word cloud came from The Coach and
the Evaluator by Bob and Megan Tschannen-Moran,
an article in the October 2011 issue of
 Education Leadership.

Coaching Conversations Don't Always Fit a Protocol

If blogging along with TWT has taught me anything, it is the power of audience, no matter how small, to motivate and give purpose to writing. During a recent discussion with a teacher I am working with, she mentioned wanting help with publishing with her students. At the beginning of the school year, when I met with this teacher to plan for the trimester, it was sort of a flop. I had to let go of my protocol and honor her current practice. This was one of those unplanned conversations. As a coach who is more comfortable with nudging than pushing, I knew this was an opportunity that had to be seized. She was ready and open. Here is an edited summary of the exchange that took place:

I need your help with publishing.
How many times would you like them to publish by the end of the month?
At least once.
Do you want the piece to be something of their choice or an assigned piece?
If you want to be able to attach some kind of grade to the piece, you’ll need an instructional rubric so the kids know the expectations.
Yes, I want to grade it. I need to be able to show parents and include the points in their report card.
Planning a celebration now will give your kids purpose and an audience for their writing. It could be very simple. Nothing fancy. Maybe set something up before parent-teacher conferences.
Good, because I don’t really have time for a big party or anything like that.
You could have the kids put their pieces on their desks along with a sticky note. You could invite another class to come in, walk around, read their work, and write a comment on a sticky. After that, the kids could share their comments. You could even have the parents write comments on a sticky note too.
I could ask one of the other 3rd grade classes in the hallway.
Let the other teacher know what you would like her class to notice about your kids’ writing. How could we make sure every kid gets a comment?
Maybe have them write one comment per sticky note or partner them with the writer they will comment on prior to the walk through.
That might speed up the process and help the commenters be more specific.

The conversation I summarized above would never have happened if I would have put filling out questions on a coaching protocol before the need to establish trust with this teacher. Before the end of the trimester, I will attempt to re-visit the coaching protocol but then again maybe I won’t. Sometimes using a coaching protocol feels a bit like forcing a writer to use a graphic organizer to write. Sometimes it makes sense. Sometimes it doesn’t. Protocols are tools, nothing more.
This is a writing folder from one of the teacher's students. One pocket is
labeled still working on and the other is labeled finished. The teacher is
just beginning to play with the idea of writer's notebooks.

Facilitating a PLC is Different than Giving a Presentation

         I don’t know why I still get so nervous about these things. I’ve been facilitating study groups and giving presentations for over a decade. What worries me the most is I don't want teachers to feel like their time spent in the PLC is a waste. I am very sensitive to the fact that these teachers have to write sub plans and will probably have to mop up a mess or two after having been out of their classroom.  I need to calm down and trust the process. This year I’m participating in a professional learning community with a focus on supporting young writers. The first meeting went well and our second meeting is tomorrow afternoon. I’ve read and reread the agenda, replaying possible scenarios in my mind. Mostly, I want to ask the right questions, at the right time, in just the right way. I need to assist teachers to consider links between what we learn and think about in our PLC to classrooms and students. At the same time, I need to stay out of their way. I’m hoping that one teacher from the group might be willing to let the rest of us visit her classroom to learn how she uses her smart board for interactive writing. It all depends on how safe everyone feels with each other. That reminds me. I need to bring snacks.

Our PLC is pulling together a collection of lessons that
will hopefully function as a resource for teachers new to
writer's workshop in kindergarten and first grade. In our
district, due to building closures and budget cuts, many
 teachers have changed buildings and grade levels.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...