Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Demo-teaching 2011

One of the best things about Chets Creek is that we do lots of demo-teaching which means doing demonstration lessons for our peers and for visitors. Today I had the pleasure of watching a demonstration lesson by co-teachers Carrie McLeod and Laurie Thompson. Our Standard's Coach Suzanne Shall arranged the lesson for both the Reading Council and primary Science Council which means the teachers watching the lesson were the grade level leads for Reading and Writing at each grade level and the grade level Science leads for the primary school, plus, of course, the Standard's Coach and Principal. No pressure! I am sure Carrie and Laurie had a moment of stressful concern, wondering why they ever agreed to do this, but Chets Creek is a forum where risk-taking is admired and celebrated, and it is a safe environment where peers support and help each other... so they took a deep breath... and it was - on with the show!

The point of this lesson was to show both Reading, Writing and Science teachers what echoes across the day can look like. We know that we get a bigger bang for our buck when we are able to integrate the Science content into our reading and writing lessons and when we are able to practice those reading and writing skills in Science.

Readers' Workshop
Mini-lesson: Today's big topic in reading was Reading Like a Writer. Carrie and Laurie, whose rituals and routines are crisp and clean, began with a mini-lesson connecting today's lesson with the bigger topic. Next for the teach, they showed the students a report written by a 2nd grader (completed in 2nd grade but pulled from a 4th grader's cum writing portfolio!) The teachers identified some of the text features in the report, such as the Table of Contents, words highlighted that were found in the Glossary, headings, captions, etc. - all text features that had been covered in earlier lessons. Then the teachers labeled each noticing with a stickie note. For the active involvement they turned to a new page of the report and had the students "turn and talk" about their noticings so that the students could practice the strategy that had just been demonstrated. The teachers pulled the group back together and had them share out their labeled noticings. The link involved giving each group of two or three students a different 2nd grade report to repeat the same - notice and label text features.

Work Session: As the students divided into small groups (effortlessly!) they each received a 2nd grader's report that had been completed in years past (pulled from cum writing portfolios). Each of the small groups worked independently until they were joined by one of the two teachers to discuss their noticings and labeling. All of the observing teachers were either watching one of the presenting teachers meet with a small group or were soon sitting with a small group themselves helping the children through the task, asking them questions about what they were learning and generally thinking about how they could redesign some of their own work after seeing the lesson. The room was full of artifacts to support the learning that is being integrated. For instance, it is obvious how the day is integrated when you look at the essential questions posted each day. You can see some of the earlier mini-lessons as you read some of the charts that are hanging around the room. As students completed their noticings of the 2nd grade reports, they went to their independent reading, half of the students on the floor reading and half reading in their seats. As the students read quietly Laurie pulled a small group together to reinforce the strategies of text features in a non-fiction leveled book that was on this small group's reading level. At the same time, Carrie, pulled a different small group to go over testing strategies of a state assessment-style non-fiction test. I am assuming this group was pulled together after a task analysis of last week's assessment to work with the students that had specific difficulties with specific types of non-fiction questions. The point is that both of these small groups are off the topic that is echoing across the day!

Closing: The presenting teachers chose two groups as they were circulating to present in the closing. Each group had chosen one example to highlight for the larger group - a text feature that they had noticed and labeled with a stickie note.

Writers' Workshop
We had the good fortune to be able to stay for the Writers' mini-lesson so that we could see how these same lessons were being incorporated into the writing part of the day. The Writers' Workshop also included the 4-part mini-lesson.
Mini-lesson: The teachers began with connecting today's lesson with what the students were doing in reading and what they are doing in Science, which is a habitat and life cycles unit. For the teach the teachers are using butterflies as their example of a topic for writing a report. The students have plenty of background knowledge for this example because they are raising butterflies during Science. The teachers have a seed journal where they have been taking notes about caterpillars and butterflies. As the students begin their writing, they will each choose different animals to write a report on its habitat and life cycle. Some of the previous lessons are obvious, both from charts in the room and the teacher's seed journal example. Today's lesson was on how to organize the notes from the seed journal. The teacher thinks aloud her decision to start with a chapter on "Appearance" and then numbers her notes so that the sequence makes sense. For the active involvement she then turns to a new page in the seed journal where she has taken notes and has the children "turn and talk" about how they would organize this page of information. The link gives the children the facts they need to use the information they have just learned as they go into the work session.

At that point, we had to leave. We had been in the classroom for an hour watching this unforgettable lesson. We will debrief this lesson after school tomorrow. It will be interesting to see if my colleagues took away as much as I did. As for me, there will be things I will tweak and change in my classroom tomorrow because I have had this opportunity today!

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