When Teacher Has an Aha Moment

I am an avid reader of the Choice Literacy website. I love reading what the leaders in literacy have to say and particularly value those who not only share their pedagogy and thinking, but also work in classrooms with real students.  Franki Sibberson is one of those contributors on Choice Literacy; her writings always make me consider changes that can be made to the way I think about and deliver lessons to my students.

This is Franki’s post from this morning.  When I read it, it became clear to me that while the pull-outs for Tier 3 interventions give my struggling readers support the way instruction at K-2 does, my on- and above-grade readers need greater independence. And – surprise, surprise – every student needs the opportunity to read independently.  That’s something I’ve said all along: Readers can’t grow to be better readers if they never get the opportunity to try out or practice reading on their own. Oddly, I feel validated now – and more determined to make this happen in my classroom.

As an experienced teacher, what Franki shares about learning – and letting go – with intermediate readers really resounded with me.  We struggle at our school with  providing just-right support to the readers who should be able to soar as readers with greater sophistication and skill alongside those who need greater support.  Reading Franki’s article in Choice Literacy this morning made me see things in a new light: in my new 3rd- and soon-to-be 4th-grade classroom, I have two very different groups of readers. The level instruction must be different and will look different.

This appears to fit with what our District reading guidelines.  As a district, we are moving toward book clubs and conferring in Grades 3 and 4. It is a model that I’ve dabbled in with my third graders – and now it will become more frequent. Our struggling readers receive Tier 3 supports through a pull-out program for 30 minutes a day – that will be their “guided reading”.  Thinking of these two models side-by-side helps me to understand how to differentiate the literacy block for all readers.

Teacher has had an aha moment.

And that’s a wrap….

Yesterday, we – my class and I – wrapped up our standardized state testing for 2013.  What a long, strange, trip it has been.

Starting last March with our Reading MCAS test, my students have been demonstrating their knowledge of third grade skills.  That’s right, last March, when we were 7 months into our academic year (minus the week of snow days), my students had to demonstrate their end of year proficiency in Reading.  I may not have been the best math student on the planet, but I know that 7 months does not equal an entire school year.

Yesterday, students completed their Mathematics tests. They worked so hard it is easy to forget that they are not taking the SAT or PSAT; they are 8- and 9-year olds performing on tests that take unbelievable amounts of stamina even if you are older.

Kids are kids. While one child finishes a 45-minute test in 20 minutes, another will take twice or three times that time. One student completed the test twice – she literally went back to each question, reworked the answer and then wrote a sentence or two explanation for why her math was correct.  Two and one-half hours later, she finished this 45-minute test. After months of telling kids to “check, check, and double-check” your answers, I certainly was not going to discourage her effort!

We had the usual events out of our control: no glasses…. sick…. Hopefully the impact of those variables won’t be too great; however, my experience with MCAS – and now that it plays a part in my own teacher evaluation this becomes more important – is that it can have an impact and I do need to document just in case. Sad but true, MCAS is not just about student achievement.

So yesterday we put a period at the end of “MCAS 2013”, and today we return to our regular classroom routines. I can’t put a quantifier on it, but the classroom mood sure seems a lot lighter.