Study Groups

Our PLC model has undergone some shifts in recent years.  About five years ago, we had no cohesive model.  Then, we adopted a Lab Teacher Program for a couple of years.  While that model did have its successes, there were some obstacles to its implementation.  Last year, that Lab Teacher Program sort of morphed into Study Groups, where small teams of teachers met periodically to learn more about a topic.  For example, one group studied a couple of the Common Core State Standards and another group studied conferring with young readers.  The best part of these groups was that after we did some learning around the topic, we went into the classrooms to see a lesson or a conference in action.  The best way to learn is to get your feet wet, right?

This year, we are keeping the Study Group format (small groups of teachers, classroom practice in action), but we are adding a professional text to guide the learning component.  The idea is that we will read the book, discuss the major concepts, and then get into some classrooms and try it out.  This might mean we plan a lesson together and watch a colleague teach it, or maybe do some one-on-one conferences using the fishbowl method, or maybe watch a demo lesson done by the literacy coach.

To generate some interest, I hung mysterious signs in the bathrooms last week:

Study Groups

At Monday’s staff meeting, I will book talk each of the chosen books.  Teachers will choose one of the study groups to participate in, or they may choose the sixth “opt out” option.  I find that having the teachers make their decision before leaving the staff meeting usually increases participation.  This way, nobody forgets to sign up or loses the sign-up sheet in a sea of ungraded papers.

I hand-picked our professional texts off of my bookshelf, picking five of my favorite books for teachers.  Our options for this year are:

Hows It Going

Talking to Writers (3-8)

This study group will work to improve our one-on-one writing conferences.  Conferring with young writers is an art that takes practice and time to develop.  Let’s get our feet wet together!  We will learn a format for conducting a writing conference, and we will learn how to teach students their role in a writing conference.  We will use the book How’s It Going?: A Practical Guide to Conferring with Student Writers by Carl Anderson as our guide.


About_the_AuthorsWriting Workshop for the Youngest Children (K-2)

This study group will examine the intricacies of writing workshop in the primary grades.  The focus will be on making books, and we will take a detailed look at routines, minilessons, and assessment in K-2 classrooms.  We will also look at some specific units of study and some excellent mentor texts we can use in our classrooms!  We will use About the Authors by Katie Wood Ray to guide our learning.



IgnitingA Love of Books (3-8)

This study group will learn how to create a culture of literacy and a love for reading in your classroom.  If you’ve always wanted the kind of classroom where kids are excited about reading and books, this study group is for you! We will learn how to give great book chats and how to really get to know the readers in our classrooms.   Our learning will center on Igniting a Passion for Reading by Steven L. Layne.



What Readers Really DoAuthentic Readers

This study group will learn how to meet some of the Common Core State Standards, while keeping authentic reading experiences at the heart of their classrooms.  We will learn how readers infer, develop notions about theme, and work their way out of confusion.  We will practice some of these reading experiences ourselves and then go into the classrooms to teach kids how to be real readers.  We will use What Readers Really Do: Teaching the Process of Meaning Making by Dorothy Barnhouse and Vicki Vinton as our guide.


Celebrating WritersLet’s Celebrate!

This study group will work to make our writing workshops places of joy and celebration.  We will discover ways to build a true community of writers.  We will learn about celebrating not only finished pieces of writing, but also learn how to find and celebrate all the successes along the way.  If you are looking to put fun and excitement in your workshop, this book is for you.  Let’s look at student work through a lense of celebration!  We will learn from Celebrating Writers by Ruth Ayres.


I am feeling really good about these selections and the current PLC model.  Stay tuned for updates throughout the year…



One thought on “Study Groups

  1. I’m reading your posts, Dana, although not always commenting! My school is private, so we don’t always fit the models you describe. I meet with the 3 groups of teachers at school at lunch every other week. They hold regular weekly meetings at that time & I join in 2x a month). In the past few years, we’ve chosen PD books to discuss, too, & shared much-how they might change our teaching, what lessons we might use, why some things don’t fit & how to tweak them so they do. We’ve read Peter Johnston, Fontas & Pinnell, Penny Kittle, & the newest Georgia Heard. I haven’t had the 1st meeting yet, but will let you know what we decide. I may share Ruth’s book for sure, but there are so many wonderful ones, like Donalyn’s latest-might be good for the intermediate teachers (8-11 year olds). Thanks for all these titles too!


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