Sketchnote by Katy Henry (4th grade teacher at Elkhorn Elementary)
Recently, the high school had the opportunity to transform one of our classroom spaces to create a flexible space for our students. The goal of the transformation is to provide much more than just new seating - it is to provide the students with a space that promotes flexibility, mobility, and collaboration to enhance student learning. Here's the initial reaction for Ms. Engquist and her students!
I’ve only had my new flexible learning spaces for a day now, but that one day has been like Christmas morning. The kids love the movement in the room—they can bounce, sway, and swing whiling stay at their desks. By far, their favorite features have been the exercise ball chairs and the swinging bars on the desks. My learning spaces are flexible not only in the about of movement they allow each student at his/her desk, but also in the amount of movement they allow in our room’s set-up. Each hour of kids has a different personality, and they all spread out or clump together differently. These desks have allowed me to let each class reflect that personality in how they choose to arrange them. At the same time, by using larger groupings much more like tables (which I can now do), I have been able to socialize some of my hours that are normally broken off into smaller groupings. In that way, the desks are very unifying. The desks have helped us define spaces in our room without making those spaces too rigid.
Here’s a student reaction:
“Today everyone is super excited over the new desks and chairs. The overall vibe and atmosphere today was much better than usual. I feel like the bouncy chairs let students that need to constantly move do it in a non-distracting way. I know that I always have to be moving or tapping my feet and with these new desks I can do that without causing noise or distraction. I believe being able to move and be somewhat active while we are working creates more productivity.”
While we are only a few days in, each group of students is already adapting the classroom to their needs - it looks different every hour!
My flex day learning began by reading Becoming a Literacy Leader: Supporing Learning and Change by Jennifer Allen. In this book, she outlines effective ways that literacy leaders can utilize volunteer book study groups to foster real conversations and change in a school. It just so happened that after reading Jennifer Allen’s book, I was introduced to Debbie Miller’s No More Indpendent Reading Without Support. It is a short 70 page book that dives into what research shows as the best practices for encouraging independent reading, how teachers can monitor that “real” reading is happening, and the importance of balancing guided reading, when needed, and conferring. Balanced Literacy has been a focus for Westview this year so I created a voluntary book study group and we spent two sessions after school discussing and reflecting on Debbie Miller’s book. The 12 participants shared how they manage the literacy block in their classroom as well as conferring record sheets.
Amy Olinger, Westview Elementary, Literacy Coach
Making Learning Visible: No More Independent Reading, Without Support by Debbie Miller & Barbara Moss
A few teachers at Westview decided to participate in a book study that the Title I teachers recommended called, No More Independent Reading, Without Support by Debbie Miller and Barbara Moss. I have always been a big Debbie Miller fan and couldn’t wait to jump into this book. During our meetings, we had discussions and questions about whether or not we would want to incorporate some conferring into our IDR block. The importance of conferring with students during IDR is a major focus of the book. After feeling confident, I decided to give it a try with my class one day during their IDR time. We were focusing on Point of View, and after giving my mini-lesson on POV, I sent students off to read with the task of identifying the point of view their IDR book is told from. They needed to find some evidence to support their answer. (Ex: I, me, my…) After students were settled in, I began with one student and had a brief conversation (3-4 minutes) about their reading. I first had them read aloud for me so I could listen to their reading and discuss any fix-up strategies or fluency feedback I could give. I then talked with them about POV. If there were any misconceptions, I was able to address the right away. I was also able to tell if the book they chose to read during IDR was a just right book and we had the opportunity to discuss why or why not. What I loved most about this was that in a few minutes, I was able to discuss not only POV, but see any other issues students may be having during IDR time. Guiding students to choose appropriate books that they enjoy is a skill that will help them wherever they go. I am so happy I took the time to read and discuss this book with my colleagues.
Rachel Howe, Westview Elementary, 3rd Grade
I attended Project Construct: Module 1 this past summer for 2 days and one Saturday in October. Project Construct is a constructivist approach to early childhood education. This means that “learners construct knowledge through interactions with the physical and social environments. Constructivist theory assumes that learning is due more to the reorganization of ways of thinking, of building upon the ‘known,’ than to development alone or the accumulation of facts alone.” (Projectconstruct.org) There are 3 Modules for Project Construct-Module 1 focuses on the basic framework and philosophy.
Many of the things I learned at project Construct, are things that I have long known are “best practices” for children but often get lost in the jumble of daily educational life. With the emphasis on Critical Thinking in the past years, my interest was drawn towards the question stems that Project Construct uses with students to teach them “how to think” and not “what to think.” I admit, I have been guilty in the past few years of trying to teach children exactly “what to think” and not letting them think for themselves in order to get further down the road in learning facts and covering material.
Some of these question stems include:
“What else can we do with this?
“How could we fix this?
“How do you know?”
“Is this always true?”
“What did you notice about…?”
“I wonder why…”
“How are these alike?; How are they different?”
“How do you think this works?”
Megan Gelband, Westview Elementary, Pre-K
Cheyenne Heller, Westview Elementary, 4th Grade
Building PD Day: Lewis Elementary - Meeting Student Instructional Needs During Small Group Instruction
During our building PD day in February we focused on meeting student instructional needs during small group reading instruction and independent reading. We focused our day around a book study that the Title I team, Instructional Coach, and Administrators had participated in. This team has been reading No More Independent Reading, Without Support by Debbie Miller and Barbara Moss. While reading this book we began having conversations about what real readers do and how can we support growing readers in the classrooms at Lewis Elementary.
Our day focused on why independent reading matters and the best practices to support it. The staff were all given the book No More Independent Reading, Without Support. First, we read chapter 1 and reflected on our own scheduling of our school day. Was there anything in our way from accomplishing the goals of strong guided reading instruction and independent reading time? Could we find more time in the school day? The conversations about time and the lack of it did not bring the staff down, they rallied and really looked at their schedule to make sure we were using every possible minute for instruction.
Then, we focused our time on Chapter 2 looking at the research. We discussed the importance of independent reading with accountability. As a staff we broke up into vertical teams and discussed what authentic tasks are students doing as they read and how are we monitoring their work. To culminate this discussion the teachers were sent on a scavenger hunt looking for items currently in classrooms at our school that help support small group and independent reading (See tweets of the items they found in the storify below).
In the afternoon we modeled for the staff an example of a small group reading lesson at their grade level could look like using the resources we already have. This allowed the grade levels some time to watch, reflect, and then start collaborating about some ways to help strengthen their small group reading block. We gave the staff time to plan for the following week in their small groups and to look at what meaningful tasks students could do during independent reading time.
During this entire day we were tweeting about our learning using #LewisReads as well as our district hashtags #ESSD40PD and #ESSDExcels. This was exciting to see the conversations, questions and learning of each group and individually as the day went on. This PD was just in time learning for a need that we were all feeling in our building. The engagement, passion, and overall love for teaching reading was truly felt throughout the entire day because we all know that every child in our classroom deserves time to grow as a reader.
Christy Harris, Lewis Elementary, Instructional Coach
This is a resource build by the ESSD40 staff for to aid in transforming teaching and learning.
Inspire. Empower. Challenge.
Learning Out loud