Thursday, January 7, 2010

Vertical PD - Skills Block

Today we provided vertical demonstration lessons for those teachers that were interested. Before the holidays, teachers were invited to sign up for a day of professional development if they were interested in looking at the Skills Block in several different grade levels. About fifteen teachers took advantage of the opportunity. We gathered together to first watch Maria Mallon and Cheryl Dillard's Kindergarten Skills Block.  Watch it here.Then it was off to Randi Timmons' Second Grade class
and finally we spent time with Jenny Nash's Fourth Graders.
Each Skills Block included grade appropriate activities for phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, capitalization and punctuation, syntax, and spelling. Each demo lesson was debriefed with facilitator and Standards Coach Suzanne Shall, listing "warm" comments - things we noticed and really liked and "cool" comments - questions we still had. Some of the conversation time was spent looking at the standards for each grade level and how the time changes for skills throughout the grades. While Kindergarten and First Grade have about 30 minutes daily to work in Skills Block in their two and a half hour Literacy Block, second through fifth grade are lucky to carve out ten minutes daily for a Skills Block and find that they must instead embed many of the skills in their Readers' and Writers' mini-lessons.

What the lessons had in common were that they were fast-paced, engaging, and fun. They were totally devoid of typical pencil and paper busy work. Instead the activities included songs and poems, games, and interactive activities. Each class had impeccable rituals and routines that made the transitions, the use of individual white boards, bags of words, or group work fast and easy - without the loss of instructional time. These are master teachers who provided so many ideas for those of us that watched. What an incredible gift!


Suzanne said...

These days are among my favorite. Not only because I get to observe outstanding instruction but also because of the conversation that occurs amongst colleagues during debriefing. I hope all the teachers get as much out of it as I do.

Mrs.Mallon & Mrs. Dillard said...

We learn so much from each other. We are so lucky to have the opportunity to take a peek into our colleague's classrooms and see them interacting with their students. Seeing some- thing done in one class can spark an idea and then you can tweak it to fit your classes needs. It was another great day with Suzanne leading the charge! MM