I have been thinking a lot about leaders; what it takes to be a leader, what makes a great leader, and how to stay a great leader. As I look to my future, I ask myself, do I have what it takes to be a great literacy leader? Do I have the knowledge and experience to lead others down the right path of literacy? Will I have answers to the tough questions? Do I have the confidence and the courage to make tough decisions? Over my years of teaching I have had some amazing leaders in my life and I have had some not so great ones. The amazing leaders in my life have raised me up, inspired me, stretched me, and made me better. In the presence of a poor leader, I have felt myself shrink, be scared to make a mistake, or just be so frustrated that you just want to do your job and be done as soon as possible. I have seen new leaders start out innovative, great, and willing to do the hard work and then ever so slowly a change happens and the “we can” turns to “I can, you do”. I know what kind of leader I am (on a small level) and want to stay as my someday responsibilities grow. I believe that a leader is someone who is in the trenches with others; encouraging, inspiring, raising up, pushing to be better, and cheering everyone on. I see a literacy leader as someone who works side by side with the teachers, helps research best practices, finds professional development that specifically helps teachers’ needs, and provides support and examples of great literacy lessons. I inspire to be like the amazing leaders in my life. What qualities do you see leaders needing?
” Students will read if we give them the books, the time, and the enthusiastic encouragement to do so.” Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer
I have this quote taped to my wall behind my small group table. Guided reading is an essential component in my day and is a main topic for my year long professional development plan. This topic clearly presented itself through the needs assessment I gave to the teachers in our school. From this I created three goals.
- How to setup, manage, and level guided reading groups.
- How to successfully run your groups and meet the needs of your students.
- How to successfully implement the Daily 5 for independent work during literacy centers.
I found some great videos to help support these three goals.
The first two videos are geared to helping you set up, organize, and create your guided reading groups.
This is an amazing video by Jan Richardson on how to run a guided reading group.
This last video is the Daily 5 in action.
Lastly, I have included some great resources to check out.
I love everything about reading. I love reading, I love teaching reading and I love reading about teaching reading. 🙂 Here are my top 10 books that I believe that every literacy leader should read. I have read most, and I have a couple that are on my summer reading list. 🙂
- Teaching with Intention: Defining Beliefs, Aligning Practice, Taking Action, K-5 By Debbie Miller
This book changed my outlook on teaching. It is amazing!! It helps you define your beliefs while aligning your teaching practices to what matters in your instruction.
- The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child By Donalyn Miller
This book is a must read for all teachers, especially upper elementary and beyond. It motivates you to motivate your students to read.
- All the Jan Richardson Guided Reading books!! I have read The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading: An Assess-Decide-Guide Framework for Supporting Every Reader and The Next Step in Guided Reading: Focused Assessments and Targeted Lessons for Helping Every Student Become a Better Reader
These books are great for supporting teachers in guided reading instruction, differentiation, and organization of groups.
- The Daily 5: Fostering Literacy in the Elementary Grades by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser
Hands down a must read for all teachers, literacy specialists, and literacy leaders. This book and all the “café” books are great resources to help setup, implement, and run the daily five in the classroom.
- The Growth Mindset Coach: A Teacher’s Month-by-Month Handbook for Empowering Students to Achieve by Annie Brock and Heather Hundley. This book was written with the intention to empower students by teaching them to have a growth mindset and move away from a fixed mindset. As I read it, I thought about how these strategies could be adapted for a literacy leader to help teachers develop a growth mindset. Great read!!
- Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis
This was a book that I read for my last semester class and I am still using it in my own teaching and have been sharing it with my colleagues. It is a great resource!
- Classrooms That Work: They Can All Read and Write by Patricia Cunningham and Richard Allington
This was another powerful book from my last semester class. I love the strategies and the real life examples.
- Uncovering the Logic of English: A Common-Sense Approach to Reading, Spelling, and Literacy Paperback, by Denise Eide
This book is eye-opening for teachers and literacy specialists!! It is a great resource for understanding the English language and how to teach it.
- The Reading Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers, by Jennifer Serravallo
I love Jennifer Serravallo as an author, her writing is easy to read and she has great ideas and knowledge on literacy strategies. This book is on my wish list for this summer.
- The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation, by Elena Aguilar
This is one of the books on my summer wish list. I am hoping to grow as a literacy coach.
Wow, I LOVE online literacy resources!! They are so handy to use and I love how easily you can search exactly what you are looking for. Here are some of my favorites, new and old!!
Website 1: https://www.getepic.com/educators (also available as an app)
If you haven’t signed up for epic yet, I highly recommend it! It is a wonderful literacy resource for teachers of all levels. It is like netflix for books. The best thing about epic is the quality non-fiction books available. This is amazing because, as a teacher, it is hard to find themed leveled non-fiction books, it costs money to build your collection up, and research shows that most classrooms don’t have enough non-fiction books. This website is great for whole group (projecting the book on a whiteboard), for “listen to reading” literacy center (they have read-to-me books), and read-to-self time on an ipad. Amazing!!
Website 2: http://www.readingrockets.org/
This website is the most comprehensive literacy resource for both educators and parents ever. It has free printable resources, articles on how to teach reading, articles on strategies for struggling readers, resources on literacy topics, creditable blogs, videos, and much more. This is an award winning and research-based website that is a very valuable resource to all levels of educators.
Website 3: http://www.ldonline.org/educators
Teaching struggling readers is my passion. This is an amazing resource with instructional strategies and information on how to teach children with learning disabilities and children with ADHD. This website has a wealth of resources for educators of all grades and parents. It gives overviews of various learning disabilities and resources on best instructional methods and accommodations. I highly recommend this site.
Website 4: https://www.logicofenglish.com/
This is my school’s current literacy program. It is amazing!! It is an Orton-Gillingham based program, which means it is rooted in phonemic awareness, phonics, spelling rules, and multi-sensory teaching. This website has amazing resources and teaching/training videos.
Website 5: http://www.dyslexia-reading-well.com
I cannot say enough great things about the Orton-Gillingham approach to teaching reading. This website is a great resource for teachers who work with struggling readers, especially dyslexia. It goes into detail ways to identify dyslexia, how to create a literacy plan that works, and extra resources.
Website: 6: http://www.literacyleader.com/
This website is a bookmark must for literacy specialists and leaders! This has endless resources, training videos, best instruction practices, reading assessments, reading and writing articles, and a vast list of other great literacy websites.
Website 7: https://www.thedailycafe.com/daily-5
The Daily Five is a great resource for teachers in the grade levels of K-8. The Daily five is a wonderful approach to teach a balanced literacy program. This website has everything from videos, to guidelines, to standards, to easy steps to set up the daily 5 in your classroom. It also has a wealth of information and resources based off the main pillars of reading.
Website 8: http://www.fcrr.org/
Florida Center for Reading Research is a wonderful website that is current with the best researched literacy practices and resources to support literacy instruction. This is a great place to find strategies for interventions and small group work. This website has a wealth of professional development videos. A great resource for a literacy leader.
Website 9: https://www.choiceliteracy.com/index.php
This is a website that requires an annual fee to receive all the benefits, but does provide some resources for free. This website publishes new literacy articles every week. It is a great resource for literacy lessons, tools, and provides professional development designed for literacy teachers in mind.
Website 10: https://www.literacyworldwide.org/
International Literacy Association has a mission to globally build a community of reading educators by providing resources, support, lesson plans, professional development, state of the art research on literacy, sets standards of how literacy should be taught. This website is amazing and you could spend hours exploring it.
KIDS LOVE NONFICTION!!
Have you ever noticed how much young kids love nonfiction? In the recent years, I have been more and more in tune with this fact! Over my years of teaching I have gone from reading about 80% fiction to 20% nonfiction to my students to now probably 40% fiction and 60% nonfiction. They love it! The more informational texts I read the more they ask for it. I am not kidding when I say I can read science readers to my kindergartners all day long and they just soak it up!! They are even checking nonfiction books out of the library all the time. It is amazing!! I love it!! The more you think about it, the more it makes sense!! Kids are curious, inquisitive, intuitive, and always exploring. They love to ask questions and discover the world around them. I think about how many times my own kids, from the moment they starting talking, asked a million questions a day! Since young children are curious about the world, nonfiction reading and writing should be woven throughout the curriculum from the minute they start school. By beginning early on, we are preparing young children for nonfiction material they will be presented with and be expected to generate as they progress through the grades into adulthood. By the time we are adults the majority of our reading and writing will be nonfiction we need to make sure that our students are prepared for the future.
How did this revaluation start for me? Well I love science and the more science topics I integrated into reading instruction the more kids loved it. I loved teaching them the vocabulary words, I loved their excitement, and I loved how much schema they retained!! My kindergarten team and I began to build more and more nonfiction themes. We began to ingrate our science and social studies standards with our reading standards so we could dig deep on our non-fiction units. We were continually amazed on their excitement, their knowledge, and their connections they were making. They were starting to understand and use table of contents, their questions, knowledge, and vocabulary were getting deeper, their writings were becoming informational, and their world was becoming bigger!!
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
– Dr Seuss
I can’t believe I have been teaching for ten years. Time flies when you are having fun, growing, and learning. I am and always have been a life-long learner. This is part of the reason I went into teaching. I love learning and I love passing on my love of learning to others. I am a reflective teacher and I look back and think about how much I have grown and changed. Every year I become a better teacher in part through experience, but mostly through my learning, readings, collaboration, and professional development. It is so important to constantly be learning, pushing yourself to be better, and surrounding yourself with amazing educators. As a literacy leader, one of the important responsibilities is to make sure that all teachers have the opportunity to grow, learn, and become better. This is no small task and should take a lot of thought, planning, and communication among the staff to identify the their needs. Just like students, adults also need different levels of training and on different areas. In order to do this, it is important to keep in mind the 7 Characteristics of Adult Learners that Lyons & Pinnell (2001) have pointed out.
- Adult learners bring vast amounts of prior knowledge, experiences, and skills.
- Adult learners bring personal ideas, beliefs, values, and passions about learning.
- Adult learners are goal oriented and want to find solutions to problems quickly. (Problems and solutions are typically personal issues the teacher is currently experiencing.)
- Adults are flexible learners.
- Adult learners have high expectations!
- Adult learners have time commitments and face many demands.
- Adult learners are motivated to learn new things that will help improve their teaching.
These are great to keep in mind when planning for professional development. As I read through each one of these points, I found myself nodding my head in agreement. As adults our time is valuable and we do have very high expectations. We want to learn things that benefit us and our professional career. As educators ourselves, we are goal oriented and we love to share our experiences and knowledge, that is part of being a teacher!! As a teacher, I believe in the Constructivist Theory of Education is the best approach to learn. “Our past experiences and beliefs influence how we interact with others, learn new ideas, and discard or refine old ones. Our personal perspectives are shaped and changed as we engage in cooperative social activity, conversation, and debate with others around common purposes, concerns , and interests” (Lyons & Pinnell, 2001, p. 4). This means as teachers we need to be able to understand the complex process of reading and writing as well as how people learn, and how to effective create lessons. Lyons & Pinnell (2001), provide a list of principals to keep in mind as you are orginizing and planning a professional development course.
- Encourage active participation.
- Organize small group discussions around common concerns.
- Introduce new concepts in context.
- Create a safe environment.
- Develop teachers’ conceptual knowledge through conversations around shared experiences.
- Provide opportunities for teachers to use what they know to construct new knowledge.
- Look for shifts in teachers’ understanding over time.
- Provide additional experiences for teachers who have not yet developed needed conceptual understanding.
Lastly, it is important to create a community of learners. As a literacy leader, you need to set the stage for the “we can attitude” and provide quality topics and trainings. Teachers need to know that their value, ideas, and interests matter in the planning of professional development.
I have been thinking a lot about technology lately. When I gave my literacy needs assessment the majority of the teachers checked that they were interested in training sessions on technology to support literacy needs. More teachers checked being interested in technology than shared reading, interactive read-alouds, and diagnosing reading difficulties all together. This surprised me. Now maybe that’s because the teachers already feel extremely confident in the other areas and technology is an ever-changing beast of it’s own. It very well could be; the teachers I work with are extremely amazing, but none the less, analyzing the data really got me thinking about technology. I am all for technology. I love technology. I tend to be the technology guru in my family, however I question how much technology should be used and for what reasons. Many schools in my surrounding area have tried to pass expensive levy referendums to support, add, or build technology into the schools yet other resources are lacking or programs are being cut. I know of schools that their way of supporting struggling students are putting them onto a computer or an ipad for extra support or practice. I wonder, is this what is best for our students who are struggling? Where does technology fit? How can technology best be used to help students? There are benefits of specific apps to work on specific lacking skills, but if a child tests low on a standardized test, is our answer to plop them down with technology to practice their lacking skills/test taking ability?
My principal showed us this image a couple years ago and it has stuck with me.
This image sums up my thoughts on technology completely! I understand that our technology is constantly changing and our kids are growing up in this ever-changing world. Children respond to technology and need to be exposed to it, but we need to know when and where technology fits. It is so important that we don’t plan a lesson around a certain piece of technology, but think about the objective of the lesson first and then how technology can enhance the lesson. We need to know what skills our students are lacking and know how to use technology to build up that skill. Our content is the heart, the technology is just the tools to help teach it. With that being said, I am looking forward to creating and finding training sessions on technology that supports literacy needs and encourages teachers to utilize technology as a tool that enhances lessons or specific skills. I am starting to research the best practices of using technology with struggling students and I will be careful to not promote technology as a “band-aid” to place over struggling students with the hopes of an easy fix.
I would love to hear your comments on technology. Are there any great programs that your school uses? How do you use technology in your schools/classrooms?