Friday, August 28, 2015

It's FRIIIIIII-DAAAAAAAY!

 It's FRIIIIIII-DAAAAAAY! 

http://doodlebugsteaching.blogspot.com/2015/08/five-for-friday-linky-party-august-28th.html

 Are you impressed that it's Friday and I'm actually posting this? I am! I am especially impressed because this was the first week of school.

I am about to tell you a weird (very short) story. Today, I had a bunch of errands to do around the school. Most of the normal people had left (thank goodness) because it was about two hours after school let out. I was walking back to my room after running all my errands, and I realized, "I forgot to copy something!" I was almost all the way back to my room. This is when the weird thing happened. As soon as I realized I forgot to copy my stuff, I jerked to a stop. At this point, normal people say, "Nuts" or "Oops" or "Shoot!" Not me.

And then I said, "Butt!"
Butt?
What is that? Who says that? Why did I say that?
I really don't know what's going on with me. My sister in law says all my neurons were firing and it was just the first thought that made it to the surface. But why was it in there in the first place? I think I have Turretts.
I giggled all the way to the copy machine. Because that's just weird. 

Anyway, this is five pictures (kind of six) that show you a little about my busy week and why I said, "Butt."

#1: Take a Book, Leave a Book!
I love this! I cleaned up a little old bookshelf and brought some books from home. I made the Take a Book, Leave a Book sign and explained to the faculty that if they want a book, they just take one and leave another for someone else to read. 
 

#2 My Room!
It took my a while, but I think it's mostly ready! It's a meeting place for teachers, a place for modeling, and working with small groups of students. When my boss told me last year that I had to move (I had to do it in the last week of school ack!), I almost cried. More than once. But now I'm excited to start this new year in a new room.
 

 #3 Feelings Bulletin Board
Our new Book of the Month is The Way I Feel. It's a great book, full of excellent illustrations and text describing feelings. It's written in rhyme, and it's really a fun read.

To make the bulletin board, I made little speech bubbles with feelings (synonyms for each one) and I asked some of our kids to make faces that showed those emotions. The outcome was hilarious. I said, "Can you make a face that shows you're determined?" and they stared at me. I said, "Maybe try to narrow your eyes, or make a fist?" and they squinted at me. I said, "Make a face that shows you're content, or happy." And they stared at me. It was a challenge.

#4 These darn floating discs
I have no idea what to call them. They're cute and they came from Joann's Fabrics. They were, like, two bucks. And I finally put them up (after I almost ruined them because I couldn't figure out the one-step assembly process).


#5 These Binders
I loooooooove them so much. I've been working on a new product for instructional coaches. It's a MegaPack of fillable and printable forms, and some printables like binder covers and labels. I can't wait to put it up on TPT! 
  


 
 
Pin It

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Tough Conversations: Supporting Teachers, No Matter What

The Situation
I remember one of the first trainings I gave. I was supporting teachers through training them in a new school initiative: shared reading. I had carefully planned my training, created a video and a powerpoint presentation. I had tools to hand out that I'd made and pictures of this instructional strategy in action.

I was ready.
As I delivered my training, a teacher who had a lot of experience in teaching reading raised his hand and said, "What's wrong with round-robin?"

The other teachers turned to look at me to see how I would respond. Oh, jeez, I thought. This is one of those tough conversations the other coaches told me about. Handle this right or you're dead in the water.


I launched into an explanation of what research said about round-robin reading. How studies show it's ineffective because students aren't processing text in their own minds, and how they are waiting for their turn rather than actively thinking and interacting with the text. It was pretty compelling stuff, I thought.

"But they like it," he said.

I did not know what to say. I knew what the research said, and I knew that this practice wouldn't be permitted by administration anymore. I knew she probably had a reason for saying her kids liked round robin. I knew I had to address it, but I didn't know the best way. And I knew that I had to stay focused on what I had come there to do: to train teachers in some best practices for shared reading. So I said, "It's not going to suit our purposes for shared reading."

And everyone let it go.

At the time, I felt like, "Well, at least I kept it from erupting."
But I had missed an opportunity. Almost everything a teacher says is an opportunity to support that teacher. Those tough conversations are opportunities to support your teachers.


Listen for opportunities

Sometimes teachers say things like this: (And I will not exclude myself from this list. In my worst moods, I'm sure I have said at least a few things like this.)
  • That's not going to work.
  • I've been teaching for x years. Why do I need to learn that?
  • They're too little for that.
  • That's too hard for them.
  • How am I supposed to fit that in?
  • One more thing.
  • We don't have time for that.
Are you starting to feel crummy? Do you feel small and purposeless? Well, don't! All of those statements are opportunities! Don't make it about you! Listen. And realize that these statements tell you something important about the teacher you're talking to.

It might be telling you that they can't imagine what the strategy you're sharing looks like in the classroom.
It might mean they are very comfortable using a certain set of strategies, and trying something different is scary or out of their comfort zone.
It might mean they're overwhelmed with the 9,000 responsibilities and requirements teachers deal with every day.



React in a positive, calm, and supportive manner  

You have a choice about how to react. Instead of defending yourself and your ideas, or worrying that they don't like you, try saying one of these things:
  • I know it's going to be a challenge, but I think we can figure it out together.
  • You have a lot of experience in _content area_. Can you help me find a way to bridge this new strategy with what you already do?
  • I bet we can figure out how to accommodate this for the kids that you're working with.
  • You're right; we have a lot going on. Why don't we see where this would be suitable, so it doesn't add anything to your plate. We can find a logical place to include this strategy, and maybe we need to take something else out.
And then, ALWAYS, follow it up with a specific time to work with that teacher by saying,

"How about we get together to look at that later this week? How about x day and x time?"

It's hard to turn someone down who's offering to help. That's most likely what they wanted in the first place; someone to help them figure out how this new stuff is going to work, in the real world. 
 
 
If I had tried that approach with the teacher during the shared reading training, I can only imagine that it would have created a more supportive learning environment for that teacher. Instead of telling him (basically), "Just do it. It's better this way," I would have opened the door for communication and exploration, together. And isn't that our job as instructional coaches? To get in there and help out, any way we can.
 
Pin It

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

How to Teach Reading by Genre

A few years ago (maybe five or six) our state standards changed for reading, pretty dramatically. I know all of you who have been through the Common Core Craze can understand that. I, however, am from Texas, where we do what we want *snap snap*, and Texas moved to genre-based standards several years back.

At that time, my reading program was based on the Reader's Workshop model, with adjustments to suit me, and my shared reading three days a week was fiction. The other two days was informational text. This was great for me (I love fiction, and I tied my informational articles to science, so double whammy), but it didn't exactly address my new genre-based standards, which included literary genres: fiction, poetry, drama, literary nonfiction (biography), and informational genres: expository, persuasive, and procedural. I had some work to do to teach reading by genre.

One of the first things I did was take a look at my standards and figure out which standard was expected to be taught (and honestly, tested) in which genres. I used the document below to figure out where I had to teach different standards, like cause-and-effect, predicting, making inferences, and sequencing.

Then I chose some titles for each genre that I wanted to focus on as mentor texts for really understanding how that genre worked and how good readers approach that genre. My kids and I worked through a variety of texts, noticing the features of each genre and recording them, and other important characteristics (like author's purpose, which is actually the essential reason genres are different), and charting them on some giant charts.

To help kids make the distinction, I divided them up onto literary and informational matrices.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Teaching-Reading-by-Genre-A-Teachers-Guide-Materials-1927458

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Teaching-Reading-by-Genre-A-Teachers-Guide-Materials-1927458

 During the study of each genre, we examined several texts and isolated the essential elements and strategies to use to best comprehend that genre.

Poetry was a struggle for many students. They didn't really know how to start! To give them a handle on the main elements of poetry, we used an acronym that my colleague and I created: POETS. The chart below shows what students would look for in a poem. They marked evidence in different colors for each element, trying to put them together to make meaning out of the poem.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Teaching-Reading-by-Genre-A-Teachers-Guide-Materials-1927458

This chart shows how we read for the elements, whole-class, and mark our evidence.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Teaching-Reading-by-Genre-A-Teachers-Guide-Materials-1927458

I love reader's notebooks. For each genre, we responded using different strategies. The strategy shown from my model notebook below was great for poetry. I honestly can't remember the name, but this is how it works:

1. Read a poem aloud to students - each student has a copy to mark up as you read.
2. Read again, slowly, instructing students to find a spot to respond to. Students underline the line and put a star at the end of the line. They quickwrite in response to the poem.
3. Read the poem again, very slowly. As you get to the place where students responded, they jump in and read the response they wrote.

The first time we did this, my kids were a little uncomfortable and nervous. But you know, learning happens when we don't quite know what's going to happen! I did it again, with a poem called "Shelling Pecans," and they seemed to have a better experience, because they expected to share. It was a very interesting strategy that I would use again! 

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Teaching-Reading-by-Genre-A-Teachers-Guide-Materials-1927458

Other posts on teaching poetry

When I introduced fiction, I made sure to introduce a variety of genres - I really spent some time here, choosing texts from each genre to make sure that students had a good understanding of the varieties of fiction they might enjoy reading. We read historical fiction (Nettie's Trip South), and science fiction (Sector 7). We read myths and folktales! And at the end of the unit, one of the kids' most interesting responses (I always ask for their input) was "I never knew there were different kinds of fiction."

How rewarding is that?

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Teaching-Reading-by-Genre-A-Teachers-Guide-Materials-1927458

An important part of a strong reader's workshop program is independent reading. While it's important for students to enjoy reading (really the most important thing), you have to find different ways of ensuring that students are applying their strategic thinking in their independent reading. One fun way is the question ring below.

I hole-punch the cards in the corner and put them on a binder ring. I hang them in the classroom library, and students can choose a question to respond to in their independent reading. There's a ring for each genre. We practice using the rings to respond to our reading during our whole-group lessons, and then, as we practice with each genre, I add the rings to the library.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Teaching-Reading-by-Genre-A-Teachers-Guide-Materials-1927458

Other posts on teaching fiction

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Teaching-Reading-by-Genre-A-Teachers-Guide-Materials-1927458

Drama is a very unique genre as well. As we read dramas, we add to our chart of drama features. It's important to do more than simply name the features. We need to help students understand the purpose of that feature, so they know how to use it. For example, students very readily point to words in brackets and pronounce, "stage directions!" But do they use those stage directions to understand how a character is feeling or acting? If not, then we have to teach them how to do that!

Other posts on drama

Expository text is very focused on pulling out important information. We practice my favorite summary strategy: providing each team with a sentence strip. They write the main idea of their paragraph and then we put them all together to build a super summary! You can read more about that here.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Teaching-Reading-by-Genre-A-Teachers-Guide-Materials-1927458

I also added my Expository question ring to the classroom library!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Teaching-Reading-by-Genre-A-Teachers-Guide-Materials-1927458

Other posts about teaching Expository text

Persuasive text is a very specific type of informational text. It's informational, but it's tinged with someone's bias and persuasive techniques. I used this persuasive cube in partners to help students think through a persuasive text and identify the persuasive techniques and arguments used by the author.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Teaching-Reading-by-Genre-A-Teachers-Guide-Materials-1927458

As I introduce new genres, it's important for students to learn how to navigate between genres. I use these three questions to help students think about what genre they are reading. It's so important for students to naturally think about texts differently to determine what's important about each genre. Students who are fuzzy on this read each genre the same, usually like fiction, and studies show they are the least able to navigate those genres. So we spend a lot of time on it!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Teaching-Reading-by-Genre-A-Teachers-Guide-Materials-1927458

The chart below helps kids remember to think differently on three major genres:

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Teaching-Reading-by-Genre-A-Teachers-Guide-Materials-1927458

Genre bookmarks are a great way to help kids be independent in their identification and thought about genre during independent reading. If you provide them with each bookmark as you learn about each new genre, they can pull their set of bookmarks out during independent reading.

I copied them onto colored cardstock and provide them to students, one at a time. Students "grow" their set, and when they choose an independent reading book, they identify the genre, pull out the bookmark, and think about the questions or items under the "Look for" part of the bookmark.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Teaching-Reading-by-Genre-A-Teachers-Guide-Materials-1927458

And then there's testing.

Dun-dun-DUNNNN!

I know, I hate it, too. But if we teach our children to be real readers and real writers, we can more easily teach them to navigate the test structures and be successful. When we focus only on testing, we neglect the real thought and rigor of the world of reading and writing. Instead, focus on real reading and writing, and then bridge it to the test. This is how I bridge genre instruction:

We reviewed each genre with a mini-selection. Each student had a copy and they practiced using the three questions to decide on their strategy for approaching the text (ex: Do I look for characters? conflicts? main ideas? arguments? stage directions?). We marked the essential elements, and decided on the author's purpose. Then we brainstormed the kinds of questions we expected to see on the test and recorded them on our chart.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Teaching-Reading-by-Genre-A-Teachers-Guide-Materials-1927458

We repeated this for the most frequently tested genres.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Teaching-Reading-by-Genre-A-Teachers-Guide-Materials-1927458

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Teaching-Reading-by-Genre-A-Teachers-Guide-Materials-1927458

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Teaching-Reading-by-Genre-A-Teachers-Guide-Materials-1927458

And we built our test-genre wall!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Teaching-Reading-by-Genre-A-Teachers-Guide-Materials-1927458

 We developed a strategy chant to remember what's important about each genre! It goes to the tune of a cadence, like "Sound off- 1-2". The first four stanzas are the verses, and the last stanza is the sound-off.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Teaching-Reading-by-Genre-A-Teachers-Guide-Materials-1927458

I cut up a million questions from the released tests, and students sorted them into different genres, based on the evidence they could find in the question and answer choices. It's incredible how much they could infer, just from the questions and answers!


These activities are part of my 200-page Teaching Reading by Genre materials on TPT. It's full of teacher planning tools and printables, lesson ideas, anchor charts, and strategies for each genre!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Teaching-Reading-by-Genre-A-Teachers-Guide-Materials-1927458

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Teaching-Reading-by-Genre-A-Teachers-Guide-Materials-1927458

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Teaching-Reading-by-Genre-A-Teachers-Guide-Materials-1927458

And my Genre Study Book is a great way to provide students some reader's notebook pages or a folder book for reference, as you undertake your genre study!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Genre-Study-Organizers-and-Printables-168952

Pin It

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Structures for Instructional Coaching

 So, if you're an instructional coach, and this is your first year, congratulations. You've made it...at least a week. Around this time in my first year, I remember leaving leadership team meetings with my head swimming with all of my responsibilities, trying to budget my time, and figure out what was most important.

I'm here to tell you what's most important: supporting teacher growth. That's the #1. You can work with kids all day, but that's not going to build capacity in your faculty, which is your main responsibility! Supporting teacher growth can happen in so many ways. Some ways are better than others for certain kinds of support. For example, you don't want to share early reading training with K-5 at an inservice. You'll want just the primary grades, or better yet, each primary grade on its own. I thought I'd share a few of these structures for instructional coaching with you, starting from most broad and moving to most personalized.


Inservice

Pros: Everybody's there.
Cons: Everybody's there.
This is obviously the most commonly known form of sharing new ideas with teachers. It's a big group. You've identified an area of need on your campus (maybe from teacher input; maybe from top-down input), and you create a training to support teachers in learning that concept. This works for things that all grade levels need; not so great for tailored instruction unless you find an excellent way to differentiate it.

Tips for Making it Work: Provide each grade with materials that are relevant to them, and give them lots of time to talk about the content. They'll do it anyway. Just plan it in.

After-School Professional Development


Pros: Short, focused.
Cons: It's after school.
Best for: Little pieces of information; can also do in a series so teachers add to their toolbox week after week.
This is a short training, usually about an hour long. We have our Learning Thursdays once a week on...you guessed it...Thursdays! We generally rotate our content - reading, math, ELL, writing, science, state required stuff. Once we thought we could do a little minilesson and then give teachers time to plan in response to that minilesson. Uh...nope. Teachers were like, "Oh, that was a nice minilesson. Let's talk and eat chocolate." I'm not blaming anybody, because I know exactly how fried my teacher brain was by the end of the day. Let's just say it was a fail. We try to do things where teachers can talk and share during that time, hopefully to keep them engaged with the content.

Tips for Making it Work: Choose one focus and keep it upbeat. Teachers are tired.

Book Studies


Pros: Small group, focused on one thing.
Cons: People have to read and be ready to participate.

I have really enjoyed this kind of instructional support. It serves a small group of teachers who are interested in a specific topic.  There are a few ways to run a book study. There's the optional kind and the non-optional kind. Two years ago, we read Igniting a Passion for Reading by Stephen Layne, and last year, we read Whole Brain Teaching by Chris Biffle. These were optional book studies. We met once every two weeks for about an hour. Before the session, I'd have sent out an email with the pages we'd read, and I'd try to set a purpose for reading. This was simple. Something like, "Mark one place you have a question about," or "Mark one place you can see trying out in your classroom." We'd meet and discuss. If I'd found a video related to the reading, like with WBT and the abundance of videos on YouTube, I might share it for a small part of our meeting.


I've also hosted non-optional book studies. Our kindergarten teachers had discussed some ideas for unifying our writing instruction, and so we read Already Ready by Katie Wood Ray together. We met once every two weeks during their PE time. They'd read the chapter previously, and we discussed and planned out which ideas would work best for us. I really loved meeting with kinder and discussing the book! What a beautiful professional learning community.

In addition to those book studies, I've hosted whole-school book studies during our Learning Thursdays (obviously, I give people time to read during the session) and even a summer book study on Teach Like a Champion for interested teachers.

Tips for Making it Work: Have the dates planned out in advance, and bring things you baked. Teachers feel appreciated when you think about them! And when they have the dates in advance, they're better able to be ready and available.

Take Your Small Group on Tour!


Pros:You work with the kids on a regular basis. You don't need coverage for the teacher.
Cons: The kids might feel a little self-conscious in the new environment.

Sometimes you start to realize that you're spending a lot of time working with small groups and it's making it difficult to support the teachers. When this has happened to me, I took my group on tour! I offered the opportunity to take my small group into their classrooms for a 30 - 45 minute block of time. I would use their guided reading table and provide them a copy of the lesson plan. I brought my group into their room and delivered my lesson! After that, I had a short debriefing conversation with the teacher. It killed two birds with one stone, which is the only way to survive in this role!

Tips for Making it Work:Take a group that is working on something the teacher would benefit from. If you're working on summarizing, and that's where the teacher is struggling with her kids, that's the best time to go! Also, prep the kids beforehand to ensure they're ready for the attention!

Grade Level Meetings


Pros: One grade level can focus on their needs
Cons: Teachers are busy

We primarily use grade level meetings to debrief about data. I have the data ready for the teachers and we look at areas of strength, weakness, and next steps. 

Tips for Making it Work: Be positive. No one likes to get punched in the face with data. Focus on "What we're going to do next," rather than, "Wow, this was bad."

Planning Support


Pros: Job-embedded support
Cons: Talking about lessons doesn't always result in those lessons

There are different ways to coach teachers through planning. My school has grade levels plan together. In the past, I have led these planning sessions. I provide materials and the district planning guides. I made sure that I had at least one or two new ideas to share, and I made sure I had the necessary tools to actually share those strategies with teachers.

You can also plan with individual teachers. Teachers can ask you for help in planning a specific lesson, or unit. In this case, the teacher probably has a little more freedom in her planning.
Tips for making it work: Be ready to support them with ideas, but make sure that they get the ball rolling. Questions like, "Where do you think your kids need to move?" and "What important skills and strategies do your students need to build on?" are helpful because they respect the teacher's knowledge of her kids.

Tips for Making it Work: Be specific! Provide the tools the teachers need to try new ideas.Have an agenda - know what you need to accomplish during your planning time.

Modeling in classrooms


Pros: Shows the strategy in action, with real kids
Cons: You don't always work with the kids. There's little continuity.

This one always makes my stomach twist a little. I do it frequently, but I don't know if I'll ever feel really, truly comfortable. Maybe no one does. Modeling in classrooms is so important, because it shows the strategies and methods in action. Teachers need to see how to roll out new instructional strategies, and modeling is one of the best ways. But the challenge for me has always been, I don't know the kids, and they don't know me (very well). I don't have a behavioral plan set up, and I am going in for a few lessons at a time. I taught in longer units, where many of my content areas were integrated, and my lessons built on each other. It's impossible to recreate that in a few lessons for an hour a day! So, I know modeling is so important, I haven't yet figured out how to do it in a way that works best for me.

Tips for Making it Work: Plan with the teacher beforehand, so you both know what will happen and you have the teacher's input about their kids. To really support more teachers, find coverage for other teachers' classrooms and invite them in to observe you model, too.
 

Coteaching


Pros: Working with actual students and the actual teacher, in the actual classroom
Cons: You're not there all day

In this structure for instructional coaching, you plan the lesson with the teacher, deliver the lesson with the teacher, and debrief the lesson with the teacher. You're there to provide support and give input when necessary, and the teacher is taking ownership of the lesson as well.

Tips for Making it Work: Make sure you both know what your responsibilities are. This includes preparing materials, and which parts of the lesson will be delivered by which person.
Each of these structures is valuable for different reasons, and you'll probably find yourself using a blend of them to support your teachers!
What is your favorite way to work with teachers?
Pin It

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Summer is offically over

It is really hot where I live. Like triple digits hot. Like no need to go outside is good enough hot. Like lay on the couch all day under a fan and daydream about double-digit weather so I can drink wine without feeling like I'm undergoing early menopause.
Today, as I lay sweating on the couch, I saw this meme.
http://makeameme.org/meme/Brace-yourselves-Pumpkin
Seriously, where do these people live? I love pumpkin spice, but it is, after all, August, and the only pumpkin-flavored stuff I could eat right now is ice cream. Which I honestly don't even know if that exists, because pumpkin isn't exactly hot fudge and strawberry.  
 
I can't bear it that I had to wear pants last week. Because last week, I went to work. 
 
Waaaaaaaaah. 
 
I love my job, but not in the first week of August. As an instructional coach, they added two weeks of training time to our contracts. Four days of training in a row, and I have a few more this week. And then, thankfully, the time to plan for the training we're going to turn around for our teachers the following week. 
 
Can't lie. I'm totally excited about it. We're looking at responding to reading with reader's notebooks and writing across the curriculum. What could be better? 
 
No, I'm not being sarcastic. I really love that stuff.
 
Did you just call me a nerd? What? That is so wrong. 
 
Anyway, summer is totally, officially over, because I'm back at work. If you're still on summer, don't tell me. I can't handle it. Just lie. You know how when you're on a diet and someone's eating a cupcake (that you know is delicious) and they say, "Oh, it's not that good." That's what I need from you right now.
 
It's too hot for pants. Too hot for driving anywhere, even at 7:00 in the morning (boohoo) and too hot to finish putting together the new bookroom the district bought us. Too hot to move the millions of boxes of copies that are covering my tables in my otherwise-tidy room. And too hot for wine, which is really the worst part.
 
 
Pin It

Sunday, August 9, 2015

6 Must-Have Organizational Systems for Literacy Coaching

I'm not embarrassed to say that one of the main reasons teaching first perked my interest was the office supplies. I remember sitting in Ms. Tricoli's fourth grade classroom, reading the little note she wrote to me on a post-it: "Cute story! Keep writing!" The post-it was shaped like a smiley face. A smiley face, people! At that moment, I thought, "If teaching means I can have smiley-face post-its, then a teacher I shall be." 
 
 I know, I was so cool.
 
 Want to be as cool as me? Get organized!
 
 
In the last three years, I have really cultivated my must-have supplies for literacy coaching. I will start with the two most important pieces. If I were to lose either of these tools, I would basically have to quit.
  
#1 Must-Have: A Week-at-a-Glance Calendar

 
You MUST be able to see a week-at-a-glance. I don't know how people look at their little phone screens to see what they have to do that day. That doesn't work for me. A dot on a calendar day doesn't mean anything to me. I need to see, written out in my messy handwriting, exactly what it is that I need to do that day, and the days before and after. 
 
In my calendar, I schedule everything. Meetings, trainings, observations, visits, time to work on resources and assessments, time to create bulletin boards and discuss ideas with collaborators. 

 
Taped into the back of the calendar, so it opens outward, is my school's schedule. Our teachers in each grade align their schedules, so I make this handy schedule that shows what each grade is doing at each time. 
 
It's not a big deal if I walk in to a room, thinking it's time for writing and see that they're still finishing up math. I do not worry about that because I was in the classroom. I know how the world works! But if I really want to see how a certain reading lesson is going, I should at least have an idea of when to visit the classroom. That's where I use my schedule. I've highlighted all the parts that relate to literacy, and I reference my schedule when planning classroom visits. 

Must-Have #2: All-in-one Notebook


Only have one notebook. Seriously, if you have a million little post-it notes stuck on your computer and your bag and your binder, and then you sit down to figure out what you have to accomplish that day, you will not be able to do it. If you stuff your meeting notes in one folder and your grade level meetings in another, and your training notes in another notebook, you're going to drive yourself batty. 

 
I invest in one notebook per year, and everything goes in there. Lists of things to do, notes from trainings and meetings, the planning I do for workshops on my campus, titles of books I need to read, and just thoughts about how things are going. I date everything. Every so often, I scan through the last chunk of notes to make sure I haven't forgotten anything. 
 
If you write something on a post-it, stick it in there! It's all-inclusive. 
 
I choose my notebook carefully. It must be bendable (don't like hard covers), have lines, and the pages must be thick enough so that I can write on both sides. It also needs to be hand- and purse-sized, because I carry it everywhere. In the hall, you will find me with my notebook, calendar, and a pen, at all times. The few times I've left it in my room, I've regretted it! Here are my new notebook and calendar for next year. Can you tell I'm excited?


Must-Have #3 Grade Level Binder System


I work with all grade levels, and each grade level has their own special stuff. I have a series of binders, one for each level, and in them I include the following documents:
  • State standards for that grade level
  • District planning documents, including our instructional calendar, etc.
  • The released state tests for that grade level, with answer keys
  • Questioning that is appropriate to that grade, based on the standards
  • Last year's lesson plans (a nice reference when we're trying to remember what we've done in the past)
  • This year's lesson plans, in order from most recent to the beginning of the year

I keep all of these binders together, on one shelf, along with curriculum and resources we use most frequently for planning and training. The resources we plan with most frequently go into a basket with the grade level labeled.

Must-Have #4 Teacher Data Binder
 
At any point in the year, any teacher can ask me for a copy of something they gave me six months ago. Or my principal might ask for meeting notes from a meeting that happened a while back. I might get a district request for some information on trainings I've provided. 
In order to stay on top of my documentation and lists, I have one binder where most of my teacher documentation goes. I organize the binder with large plastic grade level pockets, and behind each grade level pocket are dividers from each teacher in that grade level. I also have a special divider for Special Education teachers. In this binder, I keep copies of...
  • Notes from guided reading conferences and binder reviews (beginning, middle, and end of year)
  • Data from our district reading assessments, beginning, middle and end of year
  • Guided reading levels by month - as teachers turn in the new month (it's a cumulative table with all months on there), I throw away the old one.
  • Anything else my principal gives me and asks me to hold on to for any reason!I have a roster of teacher names (just like I did in the classroom) and I mark off who's handed me what. 
I have a roster of teacher names (just like I did in the classroom) and I mark off who's turned in what, so I know who to email and request from. When I'm being really organized, I write the date that the document was handed in rather than just a check mark...but I'm still working on that. 

Must-Have #5 Hanging File Folder Crate

I visit classrooms a lot. Of course, I wish I visited them more often (the day is too short) because I love to see what's going on there! But I try to visit them as often as possible, and when I go, I write teachers a little note. I have a pad that our print shop made with a carbon copy of each page. I write the notes on the top copy and tear it off to give to the teacher. The carbon copy I put into my hanging file folder crate. The hanging file folders are organized by grade level, and inside each grade level, I have plain file folders with the teachers' names on them. As I go visit the classrooms, I write up my notes, give the teachers a copy and then save a copy in the folder. 

This is important, because my district requires that my productivity be audited. They could, at any time, as to see evidence of how I support teachers in the classroom, and I like to have as many different types of evidence as possible!

Must-Have #6 Teacher Documentation Turn-In Basket

This one is a no-brainer. You know how you wanted your students to have a consistent turn-in process? Well, I need the same thing from my teachers. I have a basket labeled, "Teacher Documentation." Obviously, whenever teachers turn anything in to me (this includes DRA, WRAP, guided reading levels, end of year data, etc.), they put it in this basket. Then I go through it, maybe once a week, and file everything and mark it off on my roster.

These are six systems that have really helped me maintain organization while being inundated with tons of documents, all the time. I know where things are and I can find them easily. 

Do you use any systems like these?
Pin It