Sunday, February 3, 2013

Currently...You Have to See It to Believe It!

Wow!  I was given a true gift on Friday - a wonderful teacher from my district allowed me to visit her classroom and observe her during her guided reading.  I should tell you that I've read no less than 12 books, downloaded no less than 50 guided reading resources, taught second grade (and tried to do reading groups) for three years, watched every youtube, teachingchannel, and other video I could find online, and taken classes, to understand what to do during guided reading.  Before teaching second grade, I taught third-fifth during the "Four Block Years".  Now, I'm no dummy.  I was Teacher of the Year, Reading Teacher of the Year, Exemplary Writing Teacher of the Year, and won other awards, as well, but I had never once seen anyone teach a small reading group, or manage "the rest of the class"...until Friday.  I promise, y'all, in one hour, I learned more than in all the years, books, videos, and classes combined.  I have to thank Sheila and Tammy (her principal), my principal, and my students for allowing me to go watch her.  I think I've got it, by George!

I could write forever about what Sheila did (in fact my notes are 9 typed pages, plus an audio recording), but I'll highlight for y'all, because I'm sure you already know this stuff!  When I arrived, she was about to give a spelling test, so I just set up my computer, got out a notebook, and settled in. After the tests were turned in, she said, “Transition time, no talking,” to signal that students should get their station folders, as she called a group to work with her.  All of her station work is differentiated, but is on the same skill, which she calls a goal.  A volunteer prepares any written work/recording sheets for every station, including writing names on the correct leveled assignments, so that students know which activity to do.  Sheila begins new weekly stations on Tuesdays, after teaching a (longer, more in-depth, whole group) foundation lesson for the week in both reading and math on Mondays.  On some Mondays, work stations from the previous week are then completed.  On Fridays, the class meets on the rug to go over all their station work from folders, share writing, and discuss and review the goals of each work station. 

Tuesdays – Thursdays, Sheila teaches her small groups (2 20-minute lessons per day) while other students are in work stations.  Students are in teams of four, with 2 high and 2 low students per team (ideally).  The teams are for scheduling purposes, only, not to work together.  In fact, all station work is independent, and there is no talking allowed, except to ask the three permanent station monitors a question, if needed.  If the monitor cannot help, students leave the teacher a message on a post-it note on a message board.  As individual students complete the work at their first assigned station, they automatically and independently move to the next, without waiting for their whole group, or any other signal.  The order of stations is posted on the board, with the “starting point” indicated by the team color’s being under the station name.  The students move to the next station posted on the board.
Small groups are based on RIT bands, as well as teacher judgment, and identified needs.  They are called, by name, from the teams working at stations, and come to her with a pencil only.  Teams sit together in the room and are changed monthly.  The first table is the first team, no matter who sits there.  If there is a rug at a station, meaning the children work on the floor, they sit on the four corners of the rug, facing away from each other.  If the station is at a table, there are “privacy tents” at every other seat, forming a pattern of covered, uncovered, covered, uncovered, so that students cannot copy each other, or work together.  She explains that this is dishonest.Routines were clearly in place, and had been well-rehearsed.  Schedules for the day were posted on the board, as was her calendar math, content vocabulary, the date, lunch choices, and reward points.  Students were reminded, once, that there was to be no talking during station time.  They were told that they were talking far too much for someone to just be asking a monitor for help.  Sheila went on to say that they were either working together, which was cheating, or were socializing, which was wasting time.  They were told that they had interrupted her group lesson for the last time, and that if it happened again, they would all go to their seats to work.
Independent reading books were sorted into baskets, by levels, topics, series, and genres. Comprehension cubes were located nearby, possibly for review time, after station time.









 A big, huge shout out to Sheila for being so caring, sharing, and for her excellence in teaching!
Excited to Begin Anew,
Brooke

14 comments:

  1. Here via Farley's linky -- wow! Sounds like you had an amazing experience observing that guided reading class! I agree, sometimes you can read/study until you're blue in the face, and it just "clicks" only when you see it in action! Glad you got the opportunity :)

    Kara
    Spedventures

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    1. Thanks, Kara - You're exactly right...I just needed to see it in action, and it really was amazing!
      Brooke

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  2. Hi,
    Found your blog through Farley's link up. Hope you are having a great weekend! Your blog looks great!

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    1. Thanks, Heather! I'm still learning, and definitely still trying...
      Brooke

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  3. Found your blog through Farleys linky too. I'm trying to find 6-9 to visit like she suggested. :) Love the 5 love languages book! My husband and I are constantly checking in to make sure we are filling each others love tanks! I also really enjoyed reading about the stations you observed. I do literacy work stations in my room. I do mine a little differently. I pair my students up and allow them to work together while I work with my small groups. They also are at each station until I say to move to the next one. It's really awesome that you were able to go and observe.
    Jean
    Diving Into 2nd Grade

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    1. Thanks, Jean! I had tried the partner thing, but my kids just end up fussing. They also always ended up finishing before I was ready for them to move on, so I hope this way will work for me this year. You know, every class needs a different system!
      Brooke

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  4. Sounds like a great classroom visit! I love being able to watch other teachers - I always get some great ideas. It really is a shame we don't have more time to do that.

    I loved the Five Love Languages - it really helped my hubby and I understand each other!

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    1. Kelly,
      We were just talking about wanting more time in a meeting today - time to talk to each other about what works, plan together, learn from each other, and watch others teach. I just found the Love Languages, but I already know it will help our whole family, and help me with my students - bucket and tank filling are a lot alike!
      Brooke

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  5. You were lucky to have the time to visit a model teacher. Does this person present at conferences? We all love to gain new twists on things we've always done - like small group stations. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the visit.
    Jane
    Learning in the Little Apple

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    1. I was SO lucky, Jane. As far as I know, she doesn't present. We don't really get to many conferences...not a lot of money for them, but she sure could be a dynamic presenter. She is so full of life, excitement, and enthusiasm, all while maintaining excellent classroom management and knowing just what to do and say with every single student.
      Brooke

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XOXO,
Brooke