Yesterday, I presented ‘Language Experience’ to a group of teachers completing a Literacy Leader’s course for my region. What did I learn? Heaps! Even though these teachers may not have seen holes in my practice, after this day, I did. I left with many questions ‘reeling’ in my head. Things like: Should I have said this or that? Do I do ‘this or that’ properly and even should I have been standing up there at all? So… where do I take these questions I now have?
It became obvious to me, that even though I know a lot, there is still so much to know because ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’. As I’m nearing the end of my career (the last 10 years), do I decide to keep going on as I do, or do I decide to go back and review, relearn and share?
Obviously, the latter! You’re never too experienced or too knowledgeable that you can’t learn from others. So why am I sharing this? Yesterday, I was sharing my practice, but as part of this process I got to listen and learn from others… and when I was defining my practice for my presentation, I realised I was ‘unconsciously skilled’. I’ve thought about applying to be a ‘coach’ and now all I can see is why I still need to teach.
My practice needs more development and refining. I need to have a better understanding of the pedagogy behind the teaching of literacy, as my ‘thinking and understanding’ and ability to express the pedagogy behind or beneath ‘best practice’ just isn’t there yet.
It was a privilege to have the opportunity to work with and listen to Helen, an experienced and knowledgeable coach/educator speak. I know she shared more with me than I did with her, but that’s why she is a coach. I also realised after spending a day with her that although gaps were probably ‘jumping out’ at her, she didn’t voice this. And then… when I listened to Anita clarify practice throughout the day, I realised that I should be part of this group of learners, as a learner.
To blog or not to blog? Yes, I’ll continue to write because I have good practice to share. However, I am rewriting a couple of posts with deeper pedagogy in mind. I’m going to ‘up’ my professional reading and go back and review basic practice. When I introduce Guided Reading soon, I’m going to go back to what I learnt ten years ago, pull out the old ‘hard copy’ Early Years manuals that I can find in the school and reread. If you read this post I hope it encourages you to keep reflecting on and improving your own practice.
12 responses to “Should I blog? Is my practice good enough to share? My Reflection: A day out with the ‘big kids’!”
Absolutely! The challenge for us is in selecting texts that are aligned to these needs vs. level. There seems to be more support and numerous resources that help us identify which books are aligned to what level, but aligning books in the way that you describe is a far greater challenge for some. I can think of quite a few online and offline tools that help me find books by level….but by area of strength? That’s a harder call.
So much of this has to do with our willingness to think and study and assess and try things out on our own (which can be a bit messy and daunting I suppose). Great questions–thanks for inviting me to chat : )
I should say thank you to you! I’ve really enjoyed your comments and am not the only teacher reflecting upon these questions or reading your answers. I can see some interesting posts coming from our discussion. Teachers who contact me can be quite isolated even in a big school and rely on the internet to support them. These teachers can be from America, Australia or elsewhere. I guess that’s why I’m going to make sure my posts reflect best practice. This means I have to define my own teaching, as I have described myself as ‘unconsciously skilled’ a number of times. My blog has really made me reflect upon what I actually do and what helps me. I often describe my teaching and learning as the why?, what? and how? It is the how? that is the hardest to answer, but the question most teachers ask. I’m also enjoying your blog and look forward to reading about your coaching. Cheers Nina
I agree that a cold read does isolate a student’s strengths. The answer seems to be somewhere in the middle. I would have to say from reading your response that the purpose of the RR should drive text selection- familliar or not. So if assessing, then a cold read will identify strategies used etc… then with teaching needs
identified, books should be selected to meet the student’s learning needs, not necessarily level. What do you think?
Cheers Nina – I know some teachers are following these comments.
There is much debate around this, but in the work that I do, teachers are advised to use unfamiliar text to do a cold read with kids when they capture a running record in order to assess student’s strengths.
I know that the largest concern with using familiar text is that there is no way to know whether or not the students have seen that text multiple times and even memorized portions of the text that they recognize on sight. If this were the case, then most teachers feel we would be unable to see the true strengths and needs of the readers. What are your thoughts about this?
Hi Angela, Thanks for commenting back.
I do have a question to ask. Do you always do a running record on a familliar text? Early Years instructs teachers to only do RR on familliar text. We have assessment boxes made up of PM 1-30. When teachers use these for assessment they orientate the text, but it is NOT a familliar text. Do you always use a familliar text? … and if so, how do you establish their highest instructional level e.g. level before hard?
Sorry, this could be a complex question. Cheers Nina
I’m just beginning to coach around GR this fall in a new school. Most of my previous coaching experience has focused on providing teachers support around writing instruction and assessment, so this is a new and exciting beginning for me : )
We kicked off the year by sharing the work of Fountas and Pinnell. We did some pre-assessment work that helped us define four areas of need: establishing purposeful literacy centers, using effective guided reading practices with fidelity, capturing annotated records, and capturing and using running records. I’ll blog our work as we go too. I’m looking forward to learning from you, Nina : )
I agree! Most of this year will be about seeking consistency and helping teachers develop a comfort level. I began blogging last year, and many of my posts are written in response to requests for information or added support by those I coach. Not sure if this is the best way to blog, but it has helped me do the work that I do better. Writing a post gives me a resource to point greater numbers of people to when they email or catch me in the hall to ask quick questions and request resources. It’s been handy : )
I know you’ve been coaching for some time in NY because I read your blog. I have found that there isn’t a consistency of understanding among teachers about literacy best practice e.g. the why, what & how of Guided Reading. Teachers have ‘morphed’ this into something ‘like’ but not the real practice. I assumed that all teachers would have an understanding of our Early Years strategies – modelled, guided, interactive, questioning etc… but it simply hasn’t embedded totally into teaching and learning. To improve learning outcomes for students, this practice has to be embedded. That’s why I’m reviewing pedagogy. I believe that our ‘Early Years’ strategies in Australia is best practice. When writing my posts I’m making sure that I use the terminology of the Early Years. I’m also responding to questions I’m asked. I’ve kept my blogging fairly quiet and it’s been interesting to see who reads it. There are some staff at my school who are regular readers and some who just don’t understand why anyone blogs. This attitude is changing. I do refer teachers to my blog when I’m speaking outside my school and the feedback has been great. I’m always amazed at the expectations some new teachers have put on them, and its know wonder they’re seeking help! Cheers Nina Thanks for commenting!
Nina–I’m so enjoying your language experience and collaborative writing posts! This year, I begin coaching at the elementary level, around Guided Reading and the use of literacy centers specifically. Each time I work with teachers and ever time I blog, I find myself confronting the same questions you raise here. I never feel expert enough to do the work that I do…posts like this are so validating for me. Thanks for your honesty…quite inspiring! Keep blogging–especially about Guided Reading : ))))
Thanks for commenting. After spending a day with the big kids, I realised that I have to come from a pedogogical focus for some posts. I’m always asked about Guided Reading & selecting text. There are so many misconceptions about this practice. I’m working on a post about Guided Reading-selecting text- grouping students, but I want to make sure I explain what I do carefully.
Blogging is such a strong part of improving our practice. If we all waited until everything was perfect then there wouldn’t be any blogs at all. What you share is valuable and enriching for the reader so keep blogging it is part of a bigger learning network for you and others.
Questioning your practice is always a sign to me of a good practitioner. Good teachers question their practice, reflect and review. Definitely what you are doing Nina. Keep blogging; it’s all part of the learning process and you teach others along the way. Best of both worlds.