Tag Archives: literature circles

Assignment Two – Collaborating and Mentoring a Teacher to Evolve Practice

Examples of potential resources in way of book covers, and citations.

 

**Disclaimer: Mr. Gains and Ms. Middleton are fictionalized characters pulled from a variety of experiences and encounters in my teaching career.  Names and details have been changed or modified to allow for anonymity.

 

Case Study #1Mr. Gains is a grade six teacher who is in the tail end of his career.  He has the school year down to a science: his lessons are organized by what worksheets will be completed on what specific week and day.  The worksheets are compiled from a variety of sources: teacher/student text book black-lined masters, and worksheet booklets based on subjects like math, English, science, etc.  Some may be worthwhile in conjunction with other tasks, but in the context that they are delivered it ends up being busy work for the students.  Mr. Gains often complains in the staff room that his students aren’t “what they used to be” and that they are “like trying to corral cats,” other teachers on his team would say it is because his students are not involved in their own learning and are therefore checked out.  At the end of the year students have become masters at rote memorization activities and have no conceptual understanding to accompany the “learning” that has taken place over the course of the school year.  These specific skills that have been acquired from spending a year in Mr. Gains’ classroom have no transference into any practical real world use.   For novel studies he has a set of questions that correspond with each chapter that students respond to individually with little, to no opportunity to discuss or extend their thinking/understanding.   Mr. Gains relies on his worksheets, and textbooks for all lessons, and while he does utilize and access some decent reference materials, he does not implement them into his lessons in a way that engages his students.

Goal: To help Mr. Gains reconnect with his students in methods of practice which allow students to be involved in their learning, and not merely a subtext of it.

Approach:

Mr. Gains loves any opportunity for extra help in his class, therefore i think it should be relatively easy to convince him that collaborating and team teaching could be a worthwhile experience for the students as well as himself.

Here is a great video by Elizabeth Buckhold, a grade eleven teacher, outlining her experience using literature circales with her students.  I would use this as a video to further illustrate the purpose of literature circles and to give a bit more exposure to the concept to Mr. Gains.

Potential Roadblocks:

Not being open to trying a completely new approach.

Ways to combat roadblock:

  • Provide examples of success stories from the past.  Speak passionately and confidently about the process and why it works.
  • Reassure that we will tackle this together and that I am there for support throughout the entire process.
  • Only as a last-ditch effort: Merge new ideas with existing so that elements feel familiar.

 

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Step One: The Hook

Offer Mr. Gains the opportunity to have an extra teacher in the room for the duration of a class novel study.

Introduce the idea of literature circles, where students will be given individual, rotating roles within a small group followed by weekly opportunities to discuss chapters in a formal small group setting.

Step Two: Planning

Provide choice of novel study, either the whole class reads the same book, or various books are chosen based on a similar theme at varied reading levels.

Pull literature circle teaching resources from the library and allow Mr. Gains to peruse the various graphic organizers and to further understand the process and purpose of literature circles.

Discuss what roles should be permanent, and which roles will be integrated in as occasional roles.

Create an end task where students will showcase what they have learned.  (Movie book trailer, book review, etc.)

Step Three: Implementing

Invite Mr. Gains’ class to use the Learning Commons space for the weekly or semi-weekly meetings.

Take turns sitting with each group and listening to their conversations.  Asking questions to continue conversations when appropriate or necessary.

Debrief after each meeting and share personal notes with Mr. Gains about students’ thinking and progress.

Provide feedback about where students are at and personal interpretation about how meetings are going.

Check in: How do you feel? Do we need to reevaluate our process? What will our next lesson look like?

Step Four: Integrating into the Future

Ask students to reflect on the process, what worked for them, what didn’t? Is this a format they would like to continue to work with in the future?

Reflect with Mr. Gains: What worked? What didn’t? What would you be willing to try next time? How can I best support you in the future? Where do we go from here?  How have your students’ reflections impacted your feelings about this process?

Case Study #1-2Ms. Middleton is a grade seven teacher who is also at the tail end of her career.  While she takes the time to build relationships with her students and genuinely cares about them, her laid back approach to life is evident in her teaching style.  Ms. Middleton frequently pulls lessons or free units from the internet to “keep kids busy” while “checking off the PLOs for the year”.  In teaching one unit she printed six pages of questions on the topic from the internet, made no modifications, handed them out to students and gave them hours of internet access to find the answers.  She provided no purpose, background, or lessons around performing research for the process, she also did not mark the work once it was submitted.  In spite of some of these actions, Ms. Middleton can be motivated by other teachers and can be open to new ideas, so long as she is not required to invest too much time or energy into revamping.  She does have the understanding and experience to identify fun and engaging learning experiences versus the mundane, she just doesn’t always take the time to look objectively at her units/lessons to ensure that they are contributing to student’s higher level understanding and learning experience.

Goal: To help Ms. Middleton create meaningful learning experiences for her students that fit her style, but are reflective of quality critical thinking challenges.

Approach:

Based on Ms. Middleton’s laid back style of teaching I think introducing the concept of Project-Based Learning is something that could be easily implemented into her practice through exposure, mentorship and guidance.  She currently embraces student driven learning, however she needs a bit more purpose and direction in order for her approach to be worthwhile.

Below is a video from Edutopia that serves as an introduction to Project-Based Learning.

Potential Roadblocks:

The biggest roadblock I can foresee is that Ms. Middleton would be afraid that integrating this new approach would be too much work.

Ways to combat that fear:

  • Provide examples of past success stories
  • Provide choice and appearance of being in the driver’s seat (topic choice, right to veto, direction of lessons)
  • Emphasize that this is a team effort and that I am there to support her throughout the process through: collaboration, team teaching, resource selection and individual lessons that I can offer to help set students up for success.
  • Once Ms. Middleton has agreed make it hard to back out.  Check in regularly, communicate excitement as well as the work I am doing on the side to bring things together.

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Step One:  The Hook

Invite Ms. Middleton to be one of a small select group of staff that I could collaborate, and team teach with this term in the role as Teacher-Librarian.

Discuss potential subject areas that might be of interest for Ms. Middleton this term and introduce the concept of project-based learning.

Provide examples of successful Project-Based Learning experiences to motivate Ms. Middleton to agree.

Step Two: Planning

Review new curriculum together and narrow down potential PBL topics and establish a critical thinking question to drive the project.

Pull and select potential resources that will support student learning and the research process.  Discuss together which ones would be considered credible, good quality etc. and create a plan for how students will understand and come to similar conclusions about resource selection.

Create timeline for lessons – what will we teach together, individually, mirrored in small group.

Consider possible guest speakers who are experts in the topic to come in and present to students as a “hook” at the beginning of the learning.

Discuss how students will show what they have learned.

Step Three: Implementing

Check in daily to see how things are going.  How can I continue to support you? What is working?  What needs reworking?  How are you feeling? What will tomorrow look like?

Step Four: Integrating into the Future

Reflection:

How can I support you in integrating a similar approach to teaching in the future?
What worked?
What would you do differently?
What can I do to help continue the momentum?

 

References

 

Loucks-Horsley, S. (2005). The Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM): A Model for Change in Individuals. Retrieved August 12, 2015.

Edutopia. Resources for Project-Based Learning. (2015). Retrieved August 12, 2015.

 

Riedling, A. (2005).  Reference Skills for the School Library Media Specialist: Tools and Tips (2nd ed.).  Worthington, Ohio: Linworth Books.