There are many experts on literacy, but sometimes it’s nice to hear from people who live it and breathe it every day. Members of my PLN were asked to share their views on what should be seen and heard in a literacy focused classroom. Here is what they said:
“What do I want to see children doing during the literacy block? Reading and writing! As much as possible, children should be digging into books, discussing them with each other, and writing about those books. The teacher should be the “guide on the side, not the sage on the stage.” In other words, teachers should slip in to offer guidance and support, then slip away to let the kids work.” -Beth Burke, principal, Shipley’s Choice Elementary
“We are focusing on “talk moves” here in PGCPS. I love the concept of teachers explicitly teaching students through the use of anchor charts and modeling (out loud). They use turn and talk, think/pair/share, collaborative conversation protocols, pair and square talk, and an accountable talk protocol. Students should be re-voicing, repeating, and reasoning. All of these can take place throughout the day and across content areas!” -Walter Reap, principal, Edward M. Felegy Elementary
“I want to SEE students working on meaningful activities that correspond to the standards being taught during guided reading. I want to HEAR students working cooperatively in some of those literacy groups to help create an engaging learning environment. I want to HEAR students whisper reading and teachers listening to determine how to assist them become better readers. I want to SEE teachers facilitating discussion through higher-level questioning and engaging students through purposeful talk.” -Jeff Haynie, principal, Solley Elementary
“I love to quote my reading teacher: guided reading is learning to read, close reading is reading to learn. It is important that teachers know the difference and the components and strategies for both.” -Donna Usewick, principal, Oakwood Elementary
“I want to SEE & HEAR children reading independently chosen books (after being provided with a lesson on how to pick a book that best fits their needs as a reader and a learner). I want to see and hear children discussing books – sharing what they love about books and debating around books that they have shared, perhaps during guided reading lessons with the teacher. I want to see and hear students applying whatever strategy or goal they were given based on a previous conference with the teacher. Most importantly, children should be enjoying whatever interaction they are having with a text… whether it is reading, a response to what they’ve read, a project based on something they’ve read, or if they are applying a strategy they have learned – it should be engaging, to foster that love of reading and learning.” -Bonita Bradway, teacher, Tyler Heights Elementary
Great words of wisdom from an experienced group! I would add that everything in a literacy block should be connected in big and small ways. When students leave their guided reading group, they should be expected to complete independent work that will use the strategies and/or goals they are working on. The work they complete independently should be collected and examined by the teacher to make instructional decisions at the whole-group and individual level.
In the spirit of visible learning, we must also remember to include our students in goal-setting. Every student (some with a little teacher support) should be able to speak about what they are working on and trying to get better at. Great literacy teachers never rest, they wake up in the middle of the night thinking about what they can do to help students make breakthroughs in reading. Keep a notebook by your bed in case that describes you!