Thursday, November 20, 2014

Infomational Writing - the Second Bend

One the great things about life at Chets Creek is that we take professional development very seriously.  We often provide professional development on the clock but there is a non-negotiable expectation - you are expected to be engaged and to participate.  Last week first grade met for a day of professional development while our students were treated to a special all-Resource day.  The students really look forward to their special day, and for us, it means no lesson plans for subs!

The day always starts with a demonstration lesson.  Maria Mallon hosted all 14 of us in her classroom for a Lucy-inspired (Lucy Calkins) lesson.  We are just beginning the second bend of Informational Writing.  Maria is our grade level lead so her job is to stay just a few lessons ahead of the pack so she can prepare us for what is to come.  She and Reading Coach Melanie Holtsman worked together to provide the perfect day.

The thing that always impresses me about Maria is that her classroom is just so joyful.  I can just imagine being a little first grader sitting on the floor at her feet.  I would believe every single thing she said!  She is so genuine and it just pulls you right in. I just feel good in her room. It just makes me smile.  Of course, there is also a lot of learning going on.  Her rituals and routines are such perfection that you feel like you want to rewind and figure out,  "How did she do that?"  The children transition with such ease.  On this day she transitioned with a song for fluency.  The kids went soundlessly to their seats on the floor and she started...  First she told them how incredible they were and how proud she was.  Then she launched into the gist of the lesson - which was about using all the tools in the room - the charts and rubrics and mentor texts and words around the room...  Then it was off to writing.  The children look like busy little bees.  Every single child is engaged in the process of writing and the only sounds you hear are productive conversations between partners. Maria does drive by conferences, walking around purposefully stopping to chat with a few students, asking purposeful questions and just generally supervising the flow of the workshop.  Before you know it, it's time to Close and the children quietly put all their supplies away and in a blink are back on the carpet.  When they are settled Maria reads the informational rubric and challenges the children to work toward the second grade standards.  You can see the excitement in their little bodies as they already begin to rise to the occasion.  I think I want to be a first grader again in Maria's class!

Then it's to the conference room where we debrief the lesson with Melanie, commenting on the things that we really liked in the lesson, asking Maria questions about things we still wonder about.  I think each of us questions how we  would do the same lesson and we make a mental list of things we want to try or change tomorrow.  That's what "starting with a demo" is all about.

Then it's to the work of the day.  As we wait for the Calkins Reading Units to be released this summer, we know we need to ramp up our reading instruction. Melanie digs in and begins to challenge us to push the continuum of thinking in our classrooms.  She frames the work that will be expected in second and third and fourth grade that is changing with the Common Core so that we begin to define a path from where we are to where we need to go.  Melanie doesn't give us the answers.  She doesn't spoon feed us but challenges us to think.  We don't need dummy-proof curriculums. We don't need scripted Core Curriculums but we do need teachers that think.  We need teachers who can look at the data, but so much more than that - teachers who can read the room, who KNOW their students as learners and from that wealth of information can take the standards and define the teaching that needs to be done. That's what will transforms education.


Suzanne said...

We are so fortunate to have learning leaders who graciously open their classroom to their colleagues. What a perfect opportunity to learn, grow, and reflect!

Maria Mallon & Cheryl Dillard said...

I love how Melanie adds a few new tidbits of knowledge and then layers that on top of what we already know. Our Reader's Workshop has gotten deeper and more meaningful since that day especially with close reading, stop and jots and finding proof for answers. And dayle, you are welcome anytime to come back and be a first grader in our room...

Melanie Holtsman said...

I always love visiting Cheryl and Maria's classroom and learning along with you all pushes my thinking on the continuum!