Friday, February 3, 2017

What do we mean when we say...

Often in education a word or phrase becomes more something we say than what we do with fidelity. When that happens, especially with practices that are research proven methods that yield success, it is worth a revisit. This could be true of our conversations of student discourse before our professional development afternoon in January and the support for deeper planning for discourse with our ICLE coach.

Another word or phrase that often is used loosely, but needs to be tight in implementation is "small groups."

Small groups, as defined in the research article "Small Group Reading Instruction: Lessons from the Field," states that small group literacy lessons are "learning experiences for small groups of children that are designed to focus on reading, writing, listening, or speaking skills."

While that definition is very broad in nature, how and what we do is a very specific and successful instructional approach when done with fidelity. Jennifer Serravallo, with Heinemann Publishing (also the publisher of our Lucy Calkin's books) has a great YouTube Series on this topic. Here is the introductory video that will take you through several video series anywhere from approximately 2 to 6 minutes that address everything from strategies to teach in small group to how to schedule and meet with all your small groups with frequency.

This is a great way to review and reflect on your own practice, determine what you are strong in your implementation/practice and what may be areas you would want more support. Another resource that offers great ideas on how to schedule your small groups is through the RTI Action Network website. On that website is an excellent article/guide on "Scheduling Challenges: Tiered Reading Intervention." While this article is addressing RTI with small groups as an intervention, the scheduling suggestions it offers are some great examples that may be beneficial to the struggle many of you find with getting to your small groups.

As we move forward in our practice, going from adding meaning and depth, to the practices we are doing both in word and deed, I challenge each of you. As our students needs and range of supports become more vast we will need to explore "out of the box" approaches. Considerations will be given to options such as flexible grouping in each grade. This will require us to be transparent with one another, know our own strengths, know our own areas of need, and, of course, trust one another with each other's students. As individuals and as teams, determine the following:
*What are each of our strengths?
*What are each or our areas of need?
*What do each of us need in the way of training/support as we look ahead, both immediate and this summer at Engage?
*Where could support from our instructional literacy or math coach help us to tighten our practice with small groups and/or targeting skills in literacy and math?

Make a list for yourself and with your team. Make a plan. Be bold in owning what you know and what you need to know. Make a commitment to know when you say "small groups" or "student discourse" or any other educational practice you do it with action and understanding.

Together we can do this!!!

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