Thursday, June 25, 2009

Professional Development in the Summer

I took advantage of some small group professional development offered this week by the Core Reading Series consultants in our county. You might wonder why I would do that since I have written often about not using the Core Reading Series. Regardless of how I use the series, my county spent millions of dollars adopting a Core. I certainly feel a responsibility to honor that decision in a way that makes sense in the bigger picture and also that makes sense with I know from my own experience and professional development. While I hate, what Lucy Calkins' refers to as, "popcorn" lessons which are the strength of the repeating spiraled Core curriculum, what I believe are, more meaningful lessons for an extended length of time around Ellin Keene's strategy work, I realize that much of the "stuff" that comes with the Core can be repurposed to fit into lessons that make sense to the students that I teach and my own teaching philosophy. Millions of dollars have been spent on resources for the Core so my objective this week is to make sure we are using every piece that fits with what we are actually doing.

So what did I actually learn in my small group lesson this week?
  • I learned that the county will not level the last group of books that we got for our libraries. Because at my school we need leveled books more than we need genre books, we will have to do that work ourselves. If anyone has already done that work for kindergarten and first grade, please share! If not, I will be tackling that also this summer.
  • I learned that the Soar to Success kit is a daily intervention program that targets children that are 18 months below grade level, so really is only appropriate for some of my lowest special education students. Teachers who had experience with the kits in Summer School suggested going through the books one day at a time instead of the suggested one week at a time, until you reach a level appropriate for your group, which may be one way to use this program more efficiently.
  • I learned that we are no longer expected to keep the individual Assessment Books for each child intact so we may rip out assessment pages that we need, such as the skills assessments. This is a change from what we were told earlier in the year. And... these books will be replenished each year, so I need to identify pages that will be useful for us.
  • I learned that we may take all of our small 6-pack sets (vocabulary and guided reading sets) and arrange them by Fountas-Pinnell levels, which is good since that is how most of our teachers are already using them! Most of our teachers have packaged them in zip lock bags with the the teacher guide folder inside the bag. One of the consultants suggested making a notebook for each FP level of the Teacher Guides, which are already hole punched, which I thought was an excellent idea! It would be wonderful to have all of the Teacher Guides for a single level of books together. By looking through them a teacher could easily see the skills and strategies to be taught for that level in their small guided reading lessons.
  • I learned that the Small Group Independent Activities box has a nice purple pocket chart with cards that can be used for a Center rotation schedule instead of making one yourself. Since most teachers have not even opened that box, it's worth digging into it to get to the pocket chart!
  • I learned that the Home-Community Connections Book has many interesting hints for families that can be used in our weekly Newsletters and blogs.
  • Finally, I learned that has many, many resources that are not password protected and can be used by teachers.
The one thing that I didn't get, which was my main reason for going, was a picture list of exactly what each grade level should have. While it was wonderful hear so much about how to use what we have, we were divided into primary and intermediate and often the consultant would say, "but kindergarten doesn't have this" or "your county didn't order this piece." Of course, we have received all sorts of "lists" but I yearn for a list of exactly which pieces were ordered by my county for my grade level with a picture of each item, much like we have on our own pacing guide. So alas, I am still trying to figure out what we have and what we should have, so I know what to do with each piece. There is no questions that we have a mountain of "stuff" - now if we can just figure out how to make the best use of all of that stuff to make a difference in student achievement!

All of the teachers attending these summer sessions are doing it on their own time. As you listen to their questions and discussions, it is obvious that they are trying to "do it right." They so want to learn and figure it out and I think the consultants honestly want to be supportive and answer questions. I wonder... With all of the technology available these days, would the time be better spent making videos, editing lessons that could be watched using the materials, or making podcasts, or writing blogs and wikis with the most asked questions and answers - technology that would reach the entire teacher populace on their own time... This is just such a large county and it seems that our professional development needs to move into a more proactive, rather than reactive stance. I'm sure this is not a novel thought and some of what I yearn for may be in the development stage or even pieces may be now available on-line somewhere. Obviously, it's easier said than done... or we'd be using it... wouldn't we?

1 comment:

Suzanne said...

I appreciate you publishing your reflection on the pd to give me a glimpse into the sessions that I was unable to attend. I count on you to figure it out, and then guide the rest of us who will follow if what you find is useful. Keep me posted. :)