Blogging Hiatus – Find Me Elsewhere!

You may have noticed I haven’t updated this blog in quite some time.  I’m still blogging over at Two Writing Teachers, of course.  I also write a Slice of Life Story on my other blog, Murphy’s Law.  For now, I am saving all my coaching and leadership articles for Lead Literacy, where I am a contributing author.  You can find out more about Lead Literacy by clicking here.



Starting ANew (And Some Secrets)

I just started my second round of coaching cycles.  This first week is about getting to know the kids and getting comfortable in each classroom.  To start on solid ground, I want to make sure I have the following established with each teacher:

  • our focus for the cycle
  • data to pre-assess
  • understanding of how we will interact together

Cycle #1: 2nd grade (veteran teacher)

Focus: A Writing Fiction Unit
Pre-Assessment: We will use their first attempt at a fictional book along with the rubric attached to the writing unit.
Working Together: We will decide each week during our weekly planning time.  Right now, I am teaching.

A secret: This teacher is hard for me to read.  She does not show disappointment or excitement about our work.  This is making me anxious in her room.

Cycle #2: 4th grade (veteran teacher)

Focus: To hone her conferring skills
Pre-Assessment: Her own observations and self-reflection.  She “already feels better” after 3 lessons.
Working Together: We are conferring side-by-side.  So far, she has been starting the conference, and I’ve been coaching her through.  We are sort of co-conferring.

A secret: This teacher is a DREAM to work with.  She is so dedicated to her job, so smart, and so self-reflective.  If I could coach in her room all day, every day, I would.

Cycle #3: Primary Special Ed Self-Contained (veteran teacher but new to our district)

Focus: To move her beginning writers forward
Pre-Assessment: We are using this handy chart to identify where each writer is and what the next steps might be for each child.
Working Together: Co-teaching

A secret: These kids worry me.  Their behaviors interfere with the teaching of writing, and I am not really sure how to handle them.  I worry that I do not have the knowledge necessary to coach this teacher.

Cycle #4: Kindergarten (veteran teacher)

Focus: A True Stories Writing Unit
Pre-Assessment: A prior writing sample and the rubric attached to the writing unit.
Working Together: I am teaching.

A secret: A secondary goal (unbeknownst to the teacher) is to convince her to release some control and give the kids some freedom during writing workshop.

We are just ending our first week together.  I will need to spend some time this weekend reflecting and planning for next week in each of these classrooms.  Although it sure is getting hard to concentrate with NCTE 2014 approaching!

Coaching the Core

I am in the beginning stages of a coaching cycle with a junior high literacy teacher.  She specifically asked for help with the Common Core State Standard #9 for reading literature.  For 7th grade, this standard states that students will be able to

compare and contrast a fictional portrayal of a time, place, or character and a historical account of the same period as a means of understanding how authors of fiction use or alter history.


She also wants to incorporate the work she has been doing with reader’s notebooks, encouraging kids to respond to their reading in a variety of ways.

Our first meeting was to determine what, exactly, our student goals were.  So, we dove into that standard and tried to write more specific learning objectives from it.  Kids will need to:

  • be able to compare and contrast a fictional portrayal to a historical account.  (They could probably do this with a Venn diagram or through an essay.)
  • be able to identify how authors use factual information in their fictional writing.  (Close reading will come in handy here.)
  • be able to explain why authors of fiction use or alter history.  (Possible responses to this might be to invoke empathy, to give us a new perspective, to provide more information.)

Our second step was to gather resources.  So far, we know we are going to use Poetry Pairings by The New York Times.  We are also building text sets.  For our demo lessons, we will use Smoky Night by Eve Bunting, along with an article, some photos, and a video about the L.A. Riots.    For the kids, we are building text sets around immigration (How Many Days to America by Eve Bunting, Peppe the Lamplighter by Elisa Bartone) and the Japanese Internment Camps (Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki).

My role as the literacy coach differs according to teacher knowledge and skill level.  This teacher is masterful; she is one of the most thoughtful and reflective teachers I’ve known.  So, I will teach alongside her.  I will help her look at student work so we can decide our next steps.  I will help her stay focused on our learning goals and possibly refine them along the way.  I will be a sounding board, a teaching partner.   I will offer my knowledge about the Common Core and about reader’s response.  I will help gather resources.

I see the important work we’ve already done together just by simply sitting down and talking through the standard.

Everyone should work with a coach – even the best of the best.

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