Systemic, campus-wide change…if that’s what you are looking for, this may be the answer for you.
I’ve often heard that campus leaders are looking for “a common thread that binds the campus”… “a thread that weaves naturally through pre-K to 5th grade in all classrooms”.
Here’s how we successfully accomplished just that in our district in Katy, Texas.
Recently, I read a book that I found practical and relevant to all grade levels and content areas. The book is called 7 Steps to a Language-Rich Interactive Classroom by John Seidlitz and Bill Perryman. I loved that it was research based and reader friendly. I decided to make this book into a hybrid online and face-to-face book study that campuses in my district could use. But you can use any book that you feel is relevant to the needs of your campus.
We use Canvas to create online courses and classes not only for teachers but also for students. So I created a Canvas Course Book Study for 7 Steps to a Language-Rich Interactive Classroom.
Basically, teachers would read a chapter of the book, implement their learning in their classrooms, and then discuss the learning in the online Canvas course. 3 easy steps.
Since this was not a typical book study, I found that giving 3 easy steps helped teachers understand the structure.
Once the course was created, we targeted specific campuses in a number of ways. We either looked at need based on data or on administrative support. We knew that if we had a campus that would willingly participate in this unique professional development then the chances of success would be greater.
After meeting with administrators from the campus, we came up with a time line together for completion of the course. We also added in either teacher coaching or classroom demonstrations depending on campus need.
Teacher coaching meant that teachers were more experienced with the 7 Steps and wanted us to come in, observe and give feedback. Whereas the classroom demonstrations were for campuses that had less experience with the 7 Steps.
Another facet of our professional development was some face to face training. The sessions were tailored to campus need. On some campuses, it was decided that we brought in Seidlitz Education (see link here), the authors of the book we read, while on others, we came in and worked with teachers on created sentence stems to support students at varied language levels, we targeted structured conversations, or structured writing.
Many factors contributed to the success of this unique type of professional development:
The beauty of this type of professional development is that it continues to evolve. It has not ended. We are still visiting with the school we first started doing this with over a year ago. We continue the learning journey with these teachers. In fact, we recently held a Twitter Chat specifically about this book and invited the campuses that have participated in the Canvas Course/Book Study. The turnout was amazing! And the learning continues. In addition, we have even partook in a district wide Learning Walk at one of the campuses that participated in the Canvas Course Book Study. Leaders from around the district came to observe several classrooms to see the language rich environment that has been fostered at the campus. The pride and excitement that I saw in these teachers and the principal of the campus was beautiful. Something magical happened here. It was systematic change.
For the campus, the benefits are so great! Not only do their current students benefit from the learning their teachers have implemented, but because EVERY teacher on campus is speaking a common language, the following year students are hearing THE SAME language from their new teachers. This common language that the teachers have embraced because of the online book study, demonstrations, coaching, twitter chats, learning walks, etc. continues to increase the success of the students at the campus.
Have you found a unique way to provide professional development or create systematic change on a campus? Please share with us.
Below is an info-graphic about the book that we used for the Canvas Course Book Study discussed above. I highly recommend this book. It's relevant for grades k-12.
What happens when the phrase professional development is mentioned to teachers? It's rarely met with smiles and high fives. Unfortunately, the success of traditional professional development is not that great. When we attend a one day face-to-face pd and then return to campus never to hear about the session again, it is often forgotten and not implemented.
As I reflect on my own career in education, I can safely say that I learned the most as a teacher during the years that I traveled through the building daily as an ESL co-teacher. Why? Because I taught side-by-side with various teachers K-5 and learned strategies and techniques from my peers. I saw what worked and what didn't and I tried my new tricks right away. This was job embedded professional development at it's best. How can we recreate this for any teacher on campus even if they don't co-teach in multiple classrooms daily?
Enter Learning Walks----
Learning Walks can come in many forms and fashions and it's up to your campus how you structure them.
Prior to the observation, it is important for all teachers to understand the purpose of each observation.
For example: If teachers are going in to see readers' workshop, then both the demonstrating teacher and the observing teachers should have a clear list of what will be showcased. "Today you will see the class during readers' workshop. Notice that some students will be reading independently and writing on sticky notes while the teacher pulls a small group to work on stamina .Then the teacher will confer with a few students."
After teachers have mastered Learning Walks on campus, they may be open to allowing teachers from other campuses to come visit. It's nice to see how other campuses work and what they are doing. Visiting neighboring campuses to learn from one another can help both sets of teachers grow in their craft.
You might be thinking that you won't be able to get enough teachers on campus to buy into this idea. That may be true...at first. Baby steps. If you can get a few teachers to try it and be advocates then others will follow.
It's important as teachers that we open our doors and work in professional learning communities always learning to be better teachers than we were yesterday.
TEXAS teachers!! Have you heard about Texas Gateway???
This is an AMAZING, FREE resource library for all Texas educators and parents created by the Texas Education Agency. The courses offered are self-paced, online courses. Some even include videos and classroom support documents. As an advocate for English Learners, I truly love that the Texas Gateway offers several courses related to supporting teachers and administrators of ELs. Teachers can take the courses and receive professional development credit for them too! But BEST of all, teachers and administrators will gain valuable knowledge about how to effectively support English Learners in their classrooms and schools utilizing the English Language Proficiency Standards aligned with the TEKS.
The courses offered include:
The ELPS Linguistic Instructional Alignment Guide or LIAG is aresource also available to educators. It is not a course but a resource that is handy for planning instruction. As a classroom teacher, the LIAG can a used to tailor listening, speaking, reading, and writing goals and instruction for each English Learner in your classroom.
Sheltered Instruction videos are coming soon! So be on the look out! And share this awesome resource with your colleagues.
Just wondering...for those of you who don't live in the GREAT state of Texas, does your state/country have something like this for teachers? Please comment.