Since 1993, 725 literacy educators have trained through Literacy Collaborative professional learning. Thirty-three district trainers have participated annually hailing from 510 affiliated schools, 26 affiliated states and 144 affiliated districts. The work of these leaders is impacting the student experience and teacher expertise that is leading to equitable student outcomes.
Following is the latest in our series that highlights the dynamic work and skillful collaboration being implemented by teachers, teacher leaders and coaches in schools far and wide to ensure every child has a bright and successful literacy journey.
Primary coach brings literacy to life in Upstate New York
Her Motto: Do Big Things for the Littles
What is a favorite part of your work?
What led you to becoming a Literacy Collaborative Coach?
Who were the people that have inspired you along the way?
What have you learned along the way?
I have learned a tremendous amount about the teaching and learning possibilities in the language and literacy framework. I remember being very overwhelmed and not feeling confident with what and how to teach writer’s workshop my first few years of teaching. I asked myself questions like ‘where do I begin…what do I teach next…how do I meet the needs of all my students…what resources do I use?’ And then, I participated in Literacy Collaborative training and learned so much. The experience truly built my confidence in teaching my writers. The quality of my instruction improved, and in turn, my student’s writing improved. As Katie Wood Ray says, ‘you have to have vision, before revision.’ I did not have a clear vision for teaching writing until I attended Literacy Collaborative training.
I have learned that it's vital to develop a student’s self-efficacy—that they believe they have the power over their own learning. This starts by creating a safe learning environment where student’s voices are honored, and critical thinking is encouraged. Students feel empowered when they share their work, have choice in the books they read and the topics they write about. Students have a right to tell their stories from riding the carousel to their new four-wheeler to making cookies with grandma. We hold space for their voices to rise and their stories to be told through the Literacy Collaborative framework.
The responsive teaching and learning cycle begins with noticing what the child CAN do and what he/she knows. The teacher facilitates just-right learning opportunities by analyzing student’s reading and writing behaviors. It’s the skilled teacher that sets goals for what the child needs to know next and develops a plan for how and when it’s going to be taught. The teacher is always reassessing to adjust goals if needed and set up scaffolds, so the student is successful. That’s learning. And it cannot happen without a responsive teacher making decisions on behalf of the children sitting in front of them!
How does Literacy Collaborative help you grow as a leader?
Explain how Literacy Collaborative training helps you to support a wide variety of teachers.
How do you continually refine your practice to help teachers and students realize their fullest potential?
This year, all the teachers at Evans Mills Primary School have embarked on a quest to answer this question:
How can we integrate the FPC Interactive Read Aloud texts sets into our grade level content area units of study?
This year, the kindergarten teachers formed teams of two and worked with me on a collaborative project to explore that question. We planned, executed and reflected together. Double residencies=Double the fun!
What are some of the gains you have seen since you started this process?
What were some of the goals for this past school year?
The ongoing trainings centered on utilizing that resource and also incorporated other teaching tools/resources to improve the quality of writing. Much work has been done on helping teachers to understand the writing process, analyze student’s writing to set goals as well as explore ways to help students focus and elaborate when writing narrative, informational and opinion.
The literacy coaches have also collected writing samples. Next year, we will use the samples as a guide to build conversation around the qualities of good writing ranging from a kindergarten to a fifth-grade writer. This process takes a great deal of time and patience. It’s not an easy task to do with such a large district. I believe one of the hardest issues facing education today is that everyone wants a quick fix to a complex process. It’s not that simple. Quality refinement takes a great deal of time and it’s important that the driving forces have a common vision and belief system, or the change will not be sustainable, and in the end, student outcomes will be impacted.
Another project I worked on was creating a literacy newsletter, LitBits, that I share each quarter. Highlighted topics include the work teachers are doing in their classrooms along with a few lifts. The literacy leadership team has also been invited to share about their work. It’s vital to make our work visible to ensure we are telling our own story.
How are you creating a common vision and values?
Our first task was to examine our literacy beliefs and unpack Literacy Collaborative's first pillar.
Pillar 1: Collective Ownership of Student Outcomes
Educators create a common vision for literacy learning in the school, collaborating in teamwork, and shared leadership.
Educators in the school work as one team responsible for the literacy outcomes of all children. Within the school community, educators form specific action groups for different purposes. Time is dedicated for literacy problem-solving, data analysis, and the implementation of Literacy Collaborative.
The team is responsible for:
- Creating a home-community-school partnership.
- Creating and working together toward a common vision.
- Communicating progress toward the common vision with interested groups including teachers, school administrators, families, community members, the Board of Education, etc.
- Considering and problem solving the factors of implementation.
- Monitoring student progress, program evaluation and interventions.
- Ensuring the individual needs of all literacy learners.
- Managing literacy materials including the leveled book collection.
We read the article Every Child, Every Classroom, Every Day: From Vision to Action in Literacy Learning by Fountas and Pinnell. We then charted our understandings and highlighted our literacy beliefs.
Here are just a few:
- No cookie-cutter teaching.
- Our students, Our goals.
- Culture of shared responsibility often reflects the same tone in classrooms.
- Obligation to learn about different cultures.
- Create inclusive environments that honor and leverage the strengths of diversity.
- Execute data-informed teaching (how they read and write).
- Develop expertise around the reading and writing processes.
The team decided to take our common literacy beliefs list and create a visual representation to share with others. We thought about making a poster, but ultimately decided on creating a video that showcased our beliefs in action at our school. Over the next school year, the team took photos and videos of teaching and learning in the language and literacy framework. It was a labor of love but truly ended up being the best way to showcase our beliefs and what we do every day.
What are some things that you have implemented that you see are cultivating collaboration and teamwork?
More recently, I have created a bulletin board for teachers to reflect on how their students have bloomed as writers this year. Again, making the work we do visible is important! Providing creative space for teachers to celebrate, reflect and smile about the great work they do cultivates collaboration and teamwork.
I also started up a One School, One Book team. Evans Mills Primary School just started this home-school project last year and it’s been so much fun! It’s open to any and everyone who wants to be involved with putting a book in a reader's hands and bringing it to life. Our last book was Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. We held a kick-off assembly during the day which featured a reader’s theatre by Wilbur and Charlotte (aka our Principal Mr. Lee and Assistant Principal Mrs. McCullouch). We also had a word of the day that got caught on Charlotte’s web and students had access to chapter recordings made by Evans Mills Primary School faculty along with daily trivia questions. We had a Picnic at EMP Farm where families could enjoy a picnic meal, kids could play on the playground, visit the FFA animals, take a literacy walk and listen to Mr. Lee read aloud chapter one. The culminating event was inviting all Evans Mills Primary School families to the drive-in to watch Charlotte’s Web on the big screen!