Great Resource! Planning and Differentiating Instruction

Great Resource! Planning and Differentiating Instruction

Great Resource

The University of Oregon’s Reading First website is an absolute MUST READ for literacy resources, support and dependable tools. Check out this link – I highly recommend the resource Instructional Implications: Interpreting Student Performance Data. It’s great!

Coaching Teaching: What your education professors didn’t tell you


Your college professors never taught you how to be taught or how coaching teaching is CRITICAL for all of us.  They only taught you how to teach. (And some of us have probably wondered whether we were actually taught THAT!) 

One thing that I never heard and wish I had is that I need on-going refinement of my teachingI’m never “there” and am constantly in the state of arriving…never arrived.

Now that doesn’t have to be a negative thing (being in the constant state of arriving or never being “there”)…it’s just something that we need to work with by building support into our daily teaching lives.  We find in education (and I’m sure countless other professions) that in order for us to be constantly refining our practice and refining the power of our teaching, we all need to be connected to a coach

Now that coach could be an instructional coach, could be a mentor, could be a peer…it doesn’t really matter what we call ‘em, as long as we call!

So, instead of the typical coaching article that focuses on how coaches can coach teachers, I thought we might look at it from a different perspective this week: As a teacher, how do I interact with and learn from my coach?

As someone who has been and is being coached, I’ve learned about how important it is to ask the right questions of my coach and be open to responses and refinement points, even when I might feel a little defensive or feeling like I need to explain myself. 

So here are a few questions to ask your coach when you’re working together – it will help you refine the roles in the coaching relationship so that you can improve your performance…after all, that’s the WHOLE point of being coached!

Question 1: What will it LOOK LIKE when I’ve implemented what you’re suggesting?  What should I be doing?  What should the kids be doing?

Question 2: Can we get together and plan for the lesson?  (All good lessons start with a strong planning session and leave nothing up to chance!)

Question 3: Can you show me what that looks like with my kids?

Question 4: Can you give me immediate feedback?  (Immediate = timely = immediate alteration of practice)

Question 5: Are there any of my colleagues that you think I should see doing this technique?

Coaches typically are highly trained, but oftentimes they take full responsibility and ownership of the coaching when, in fact, it’s a relationship-driven responsibility of both the coach and teacher.  I have seen that teachers who regularly take initiative to be coached have proven to have a better handle on how and what to teach the kids.  GO figure!

So my question for you is this: What do you need to be coached on and who will you reach out to as you improve your practice?  RIGHT NOW leave your responses in the comment section below…we all can support each other but we’ve got to get PUBLIC about what we’re working on!

URGENT: The Dr.’s Prescription for your “It would be nice if”- Syndrome

We’re suffering.  From something that’s totally treatable.  But we have to act fast.

What ails us?

It’s the “It would be nice if”- syndrome.

Here’s what it sounds like:

  • It would be nice if I had more prep time
  • It would be nice if the grade level before us would actually teach the kids what they need to know for my grade level
  • It would be nice if the kids would actually do their homework
  • It would be nice if I could have more aide time
  • It would be nice if we didn’t have to have all those walk-throughs during my teaching

Here’s the problem with the “It would be nice if”- syndrome:

  • It’s built around talking – not action!  And successful schools are all about the doing, not just the chatting.
  • It’s focusing on a dream world!  I hate to break it to you, but we work with kids.  Kids do not exist in a dream world…they pull us right into reality.  Everyday.
  • It takes the focus on what matters most: the quality of the interaction between the teacher and the students!
  • It kills our momentum!  We lose ground when we waste our time talking about things that might not happen – plus we give away our instructional power when we base our students’ success on external sources.

So….you might be wondering what the heck you DO about the “It would be nice if”- syndrome!  Well, Dr. Jackson, (I’m not really a doctor, but I play one in this blog) has just the prescription for YOU!

Prescription One: Realize right now that the return on your teaching begins with the PREP.  If you have a highly prepped lesson, you have less behavioral interruptions, more engagement and have more time during the lesson to listen to your students and see what their learning.

Prescription Two: When you are in teacher meetings/team meetings, focus the work on TASKS, not just discussions.  If you find that your team is all talk/no action, throw in one of these statements: “Ok guys…let’s talk about what we’re going to DO after this conversation” or “Alrighty – let’s focus on what we have control of so that we can get started right away!”.  Focusing on an action immediately pulls you out of the all talk/no action problem.  Sometimes we’re just in a bad habit of doing way more talking than we do acting and we just need someone to help us get pulled out of it!  Let that person be YOU!

Prescription Three: Analyze your time spent at work.  How much time is spent talking about the heart of instruction?  How much time is spent actually crafting lessons and not just prepping materials?  How much reflective conversation do you have with your coaches or your colleagues about your teaching?  These types of questions drive your time and conversations directly back to that interaction between teacher and student – – -and that’s what really matters!

If you suffer from the “It would be nice if”- syndrome, then it’s your responsibility to take steps to recover!  Here’s the cool thing: It’s actually pretty simple to recover.  You start by doing. 

Yep, that’s it!

Win Your Time Back! Five Simple Steps Make Every Classroom More Efficient

I love a good list – I put silly things on the list just so I can cross them off.  For example, instead of putting “laundry” on the list, I’ll put “Do 3 loads of laundry” and then a separate bullet will be “Fold laundry”.  I get to cross off TWO things that way!

While I might be a little neurotic about my lists, I do know that when I’m out and about working with educators, the one thing that they always talk about and don’t have enough of is TIME.  So, I’m intrigued with this idea of working more efficiently – – and how we can actually create time by doing so.  I’ve had the pleasure of working with teachers who have their system DOWN PAT.  The kids have the system down pat.  And they don’t run around during their break like a chicken with their heads cut off and have a mental breakdown when the copy machine breaks down.  Why?  Because they are in control.

In control-ness means efficiency.  Or is efficiency in control-ness?

If you’re like so many time-strapped educators, I encourage you to stop the “I don’t have enough time” talk and figure out WHERE you can CREATE TIME!  Here are 5 spots to get started:

Step 1: Take 1 minute at the top of each day to get organized

Have a list on the board of everything that the kids need to have out on their desks in one minute.  One teacher I know draws a diagram of what she wants the desks to look like (composition book on the upper left corner, colored pencils on the bottom right, homework in the middle, science book under the homework) and then scans desks before she even starts teaching to make sure they have everything.  The one minute you spend getting organized means you save yourself the frustration and time in the long run!

Step 2: Use a timer
Figure out exactly where you’re losing time – is it transitions?  Is it morning/beginning of period routine?  Is it handing out papers?  Is it during partner work?  Then, challenge the students to beat their time.  Say to your students: “Folks, we’re losing 5 minutes an hour during transitions because we’re taking our precious time and talking with our friends too much.  Let’s see if we can make this transition under 30 seconds.  Go!”. Anything’s better if it’s a challenge!

Step 3: Pre-establish partners at the end of the day
There is always lost time and DRAMA around partners!  I don’t enter into that and I certainly don’t give the kids the opportunity to choose their partners because they’re going to switch them all of the time anyway.  So, at the end of the day I say, “Tomorrow guys and gals, we are going to switch partners.  I’m going to take 1 minute right now to tell you who your partner is so that you’re ready to roll tomorrow morning.  If you choose to be crabby about your partner, then you will stay with me during your recess/passing period because we don’t have time for that foolishness and we’re better than that!”  Then in the morning or next period, they are already SET!

Step 4: Have an exit strategy!
We do ourselves a disservice when we start the top of the day with the “this is everything I have to get through”  mentality.  No doubt there is a TON of “stuff” that we have to teach, but we have to prioritize the content so that we aren’t just getting through it while students watch.  Watching does not equal learning!                                                                                                                       

Here’s what I suggest: Go through your content for the next day and highlight in green what MUST be taught.  Highlight in yellow what SHOULD be taught and highlight in pink what can be dropped off if needed.  While we’ll be focused on teaching everything, we have to have an exit strategy if needed!

Step 5: Avoid giving directions until you have all eyes on you

The BEST classroom management skill that I can give anyone is “don’t give directions until you have all eyes on you!”.  Why?  Then you don’t have to go around and keep repeating yourself a zillion times to those students who didn’t listen in the beginning!  Try it!  It works like a CHARM!

Becoming more efficient is about taking CONTROL.  And I find that the most in-control educators are most satisfied…they don’t feel “done to” – they feel powerful!  And I hope the same for you!

If you’re interested in finding time-saving techniques and free tools – click on the “Free Resources” tab at www.jackson-consulting.com – – I’m waiting for you there!

Some Thoughts on Comprehension: Adjusting my Perspective a Bit

I’m prepping for an upcoming presentation on teaching comprehension and what’s new in the research and I am realizing that I have to change my perspective a bit to provide my clients and their students with the “best case scenario” comprehension instruction.

Yes me, changing my perspective – it’s a strange thing!

Here’s how:

I realize that we have to focus equally on strategy work and fix-up work. Struggling readers have little to no control over what they’re reading and rarely understand that they are struggling when they are! Good comprehension instruction will help students figure out “Wow! I am having trouble understanding this.” or “I really need to go back and do some work with the text because I’m not getting this.”

Identifying that I’m in trouble in the first step in fixing it. I am struck by the idea that much of comprehension instruction is “here’s what it looks like when it’s done right” and not nearly enough, “here’s how you know you’re in trouble and here are a few things to do about it:”. We have to teach student that metacognitive awareness as much as the metacognitive control.

Also, teaching students to use strategies is ONE APPROACH in teaching students to comprehend – we have to go much deeper than the rote memorization of strategies and spend more and more time in discussion and modeling of what good readers do when they are comprehending and when they aren’t.

I have to work with teachers to become loose and fluid during comprehension instruction: have a goal for the instruction in mind, but use the myriad opportunities that authentically arise during the course of reading expository or narrative text to teach how to identify comprehension problems and how to fix them up.

Now for those who know me and know my near-obsession with explicit instruction, I’m not backing off of the teach/model/practice/apply foundation of teaching, I’m just coming to realize that grappling authentically with text IS PART OF the guided practice and application portion of the explicit teaching plan – some of it cannot be planned, but excellent teachers are prepared to respond to what comes up over the course of instruction.

It’s messy, straggly and much life real-life reading – it doesn’t always happen seamlessly the first time through, even for the best readers.

What do YOU think? Leave a comment below about what your experience is as you teach comprehension, what works for you, what doesn’t and what it all looks like in the classroom.