TCRWP 2013 Summer Writing Institute Notes – Learning with Annie

I got to spend 5 days learning from Annie Taranto, a TCRWP Staff Developer who had also taught me during the January, 2012 Reading Coach Institute. Back in January, we were together at a school in Brooklyn and Annie taught us how to coach while being in Labsite classrooms all week long.
Now I had the honor to  be in a group of very smart Advanced Institute participants from all over the globe ready to hear more tips from Annie on how to teach teachers to teach writing by using the structure of Labsites and Meetings. 
Here are my notes taken while with Annie:
Recommended Book:    Literacy Coaching by Katherine Casey, Heinemann.
Two Structures to Use to Teach Other Teachers to Teach Writing?
Labsites – time to try it, practice it
As the coach, plan the lesson and plan the voice overs – YOU must talk to the teachers so they will value labsite time and understand why you are doing what you are doing.
Plan the lenses:
—  Giving a lens for teachers to view the Labsite is very important. During the debrief, hold the teachers accountable and be sure to recall who had each lens and give each a chance to share.
—  Possible lenses: explicitness, independence, transference,  student engagement, transitions…(see emailed list); a building walk-thru can help you decide on the lenses to use.
Lab Guides can be created to give teachers a place to take notes and can also be a chance to share content and list the debriefing agenda.

Meetings – time to discuss labsite work, time to learn together

Four Mini-Lesson Methods can be “taught” using a labsite structure
  1. Demonstration – watch me do it / now you try it
  2. Explanation/Example – One thing writers do is ____. For example, _____.
  3. Guided Inquiry – teacher names a question and students name what they notice.
  4. Guided Practice – you call out the steps while students try it (teach and AE is together)
The Guided Practice mini-lesson structure was created to get kids to write independently with more rigor. A pattern was seen where there was a big gap between strong writing on a published piece (a piece worked on with lots of time and teacher support) and a student’s on-demand writing piece. It seemed the parts were being taught slowly, 1 thing at a time but kids were not pushed to do the whole. This structure gives them rigorous practice led by the teacher.

Tennis Hopper Analogy: If the tennis coach threw all the balls at you at once, all you could do is duck and cover. Instead, the coach hits you one at a time with repeated practice to your forearm and then moves to your backhand. Then you play a game. This analogy can be shared with the teacher who is teaching MANY strategies within one mini-lesson.

To help teachers know the 4 kinds of mini-lessons:
  1. Show each of the 4 kinds in a lab through demonstration and voice over
  2. In the lab have the teachers practice
  3. Help T plan lessons during meeting time
Remember, the lesson plan template is just a scaffold. The goal is for it to become a part of us so we don’t need it anymore. Just like on buildings, a scaffold goes up, the problem gets fixed, and then it comes down.
To ensure that a gradual-release occurs, use JIGSAW and FREEZE-FRAME in labsite.
Jigsaw/Freeze-frame helps teachers to practice while working together.
EX: Conference (each teacher takes a part)
                research – Teacher A
                decide (freeze-frame and all pick compliment and teach)
                compliment – Teacher B
                teach     – Teacher C
                link – Teacher D
In the labsite, use WHISPERING IN.
This is a move toward independence. The teacher is teaching. The coach or another teacher sits next to her and whispers in, telling them what to say.
—  Teachers need to be seen as learners so in a labsite, the kids are seeing this method and see that their teacher is learning.
EXAMPLES of What to Whisper In:
Say What are you working on?                   Say Show me where you did that.
Say Write this down                                        Say the teaching point again
Say This matters because…
·         be sure to sit by teacher and not by student and only talk to teacher.
·         Let the teacher teach and add in-the-moment coaching
·         Only lean feedback
·         Take notes so at the debrief, you can tell them WHY you whispered that to them. “I told you to ask them more in the research so you could learn more and then teach.”
—  Make sure you are taking conference notes during a labsite so they see you modeling it
—  Show them lots of different methods so they see choices
—  Help teachers see the value in taking notes. When they see you in a labsite return to a student for a conference and using your notes to help you to say, “Last time you were working on ___. How’s it going? Show me where you tried ___.” the teachers can SEE the value of notetaking.
—  Have teachers study notes in a meeting. All bring notes of one student and together we ask, “Are we helping this student grow as a writer? Bring the student’s writing. Look at last 5 conference notes and the writing . What do we notice?
—  Have teachers look across ALL conference notes of her class and use it to form small groups to teach. 
Using On-demand Prompts
—  When teachers say students won’t know what this means (the specific language of the on-demands), DON’T dumb it down . Instead teach S the vocabulary and teach what it means. ALL in school need to administer the on-demands in a standard fashion.
—  Remember that the goal of the on-demand is not an evaluation. It is to find out what they know how to do and to decide what I need to teach.
—  When 4th grade teachers in Sept say “This looks like 3rd grade work”’ celebrate this. It should. You haven’t taught them 4th grade skills yet!
—  The on-demand at the end of the unit lets you see what stuck and what still needs to be taught.
—  Ask “Have they grown as writers?” If not, why? The purpose is to see what is working in my teaching and what isn’t working. Use this as feedback.
Scoring On-demand Prompts at a Norming Meeting (described in Pathways book)
  1. ALL in grade get the prompt and discuss the importance of giving it by using the scripted directions
  2. ALL administer prompt in one class period
  3. ALL bring writing to the norming meeting
·         As a group all look at one piece of writing while looking at the learning progression charts. Using this stem, I would put it on this level because ___, discuss what level writing this piece is.
·         ALL read another piece and score it individually and then as a group, see if you agree. DO a few more if needed.
·         Score the rest in the class (optional: can switch piles with a colleague)
·         Discuss the writing and answer the question: Where are we going? Based on the answer, plan the unit to meet the needs of these students.
  1. If the NF unit is in Nov. give the on-demand in Oct so they can be leveled and discussed and then the unit can be planned based on what the kids can and cannot do.
How to “test” independence and transfer:
Place a student’s publish piece side-by-side with their on-demand. If the published piece score is higher than the on-demand, it is showing that a child can do it with teacher coaching. The goal, though, is for the student to do it independently on an on-demand.
Tips for Great Meetings
  1. Make the agenda known and clear
  2. Include how much time will be spent on each topic
  3. Think about what might need to be done prior to the meeting and clearly state these assignments (ex: we will read the continuum progressions prior to meeting)
  4. Be a “proficient partner”; do not dominiate the conversation, Do ask questions to get all to think it out as a group.
  5. Name the possible pitfalls ahead of time to set the tone of the meeting as being collaborative
  6. Be realistic and don’t overplan
  7. The meeting time needs to support the labsite time
    1. Write minilessons in meetings
    2. Practice minilessons in labsites
Annie also asked us to share scenarios we encounter as Literacy Leaders and she offered suggestions:
Scenario: “Teachers say they buy in and think they are doing it but they aren’t.”
—  Staff Developer (SD) needs to talk to administration and make sure they are on the same page and are making the vision clear.
—  Honesty and feedback w/ teachers is important. Compliment, then teach (don’t just tell).Tell WHY you are suggesting to do it this way.
—  Suggest studying together around a lens, like independence. It will help them to see how the big idea is held through the whole workshop.
Scenario: “Test scores…they are fine so we don’t need to change”
—  Discuss what we value. I don’t value a test. It is the age we live in but the greater moral purpose is missing. For kids, testing won’t really exist much beyond the SAT. Kids won’t always be living in the testing world so let’s teach them to be readers/writers. These are skills kids can transfer to live their lives.
—  The new writing units have kids writing multiple pieces w/in a unit. Instead of one piece in a month, it is a piece a week. Fast-drafting in a day and then large-scale revisions are taught. This pacing will help kids when they have a test.
Scenario: “There is no sense of urgency by the staff to work with the staff developer.”
—  Think about WHY they aren’t valuing it; are the pre/post meetings productive? Are they leaving with useful things to help them act. This is feedback to me, the SD. I need to reflect and act upon it.
—  Do they not see the value in the lenses you are giving them? Does the group of teachers need to change? Does the “one bad apple” need to be removed?
—  Can they sign-up for working in the labsite so they have buy-in?
—  Talk to admin/literacy team and brainstorm how to help teachers get the most out of labsites.
Scenario: “A teacher starts out strong but fizzles. You aren’t seeing it transfer from unit to unit.”
—  Ask was I explicit enough to show them how this can be done in another unit. “Anytime in a unit…”
—  Do they possess the knowledge of the new content? A meeting can be a content dump to help them. Pick a mentor text for new unit and together read and mark it up)
—  Are they working with colleagues or alone? It can go faster and better with a group so burn-out is avoided.
Scenario: “I don’t know what to teach them in a conference?”
—  Show teachers how to use the  If…Then… Curriculum Book, Part 2 resource to make a cheat sheet to have on their clipboard.
—  Think of the problems you expect kids to have in the unit and make a chart:
If                                                             Then
No ideas                                              * pick something you do every day
                                                                * think of places you go to regularly
                                                                * close your eyes and see the day
Bed to Bed story                              * box out 20 min of story
                                                                *stretch it with I said, I thought, I did
                                                                * box out the heart of the story

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