Saturday, August 11, 2018

Visiting Classrooms: The Why and the How

If you're a new instructional coach, or new to a campus, or you have new teachers, or for a whole slew of reasons, you probably have a lot of questions.
* What best practices are being utilized on my campus?
* What resources do teachers have, and how do teachers use the resources them?
* How are students' needs met, even when they're operating at different levels?

And the most important: How can I support teachers and ensure that our school is growing?

There's really just one way to figure out the answer to all of these questions. And that is: visit classrooms.

You can sit, locked in your office or meetings with admin, teachers, and students all day, and still not really know what's happening at your school. Because honestly, we all speak slightly different languages.

We view instruction through the lens of our own experience. So, when a teacher tells you, "I differentiate my math instruction," that can mean 8,000 different things - almost definitely not what you're envisioning.

In order to make sure that the coaching support you're providing is actually making an impact (and being relevant to teachers), you need to visit those rooms. You can read about four reasons coaches visit classrooms here.

So how do you set yourself up for successful visits, and what do you do once you're there? Read on, dear coach for some tips to get you rolling!

1. Talk to your principal.
If your principal isn't on board, you're sort of asking for trouble. There are several reasons that you'll want to talk to your principal before you begin visiting any classrooms. They may not consider this to be part of your roles and/or responsibilities. They may want you to debrief only verbally with teachers, and not provide written feedback. They may want you to look for something specific, such as something your campus is currently working on, in order to help you figure out what to do next. They also may want you to turn around and tell them every little thing you saw, which is not a good idea and not going to make you a trustworthy coach. So make sure you're on the same page first.

2. Give teachers a heads-up.

If teachers haven't had anyone visit their classroom for instructional purposes before, you popping in is definitely going to stress somebody out. Instead of just bursting in without any warning, send teachers an email (I'd recommend sending it out to grade levels or the whole school. If you send it individually, teachers may think they're being singled out.) Just tell them the truth: you're going to be visiting classrooms to see the great things that are going on on your campus and to figure out how you can best support teachers. 

Give a time frame for the visits to start, such as "next week", "the week of the 18th", or "after Labor Day", for example. If you're looking for something specific, you can say, "I'm going to pop in and see how Reader's Workshop is going", or "I can't wait to see how your kids are utilizing their Writer's Notebooks!"

3. Put it on your calendar.

If "visiting classrooms" isn't on your calendar, you're probably not ever going to actually do it. I recommend, when you're starting out, that you visit every single classroom on your campus. This is going to take some time, so make sure it's marked off with a nice block  of time.

Consider PE, lunch schedules, library, computer lab, art class, etc. All of those things interrupt the day and require some travel time for kids and teachers, too, so give yourself a wide berth in order to avoid visiting empty rooms.

I actually kept a little log of the dates I'd visited teachers' rooms, in order to avoid getting mixed up and visiting the same rooms over and over. If you always visit rooms when fourth grade is at PE, you might miss visiting fourth grade and have no clue what you need to do to support them!
4. Go with a purpose. 
Know what it is that you're looking for. The first time, you're probably just learning a little bit about teachers' instructional style, what their rituals and routines look like, and maybe noticing some teacher ideas and/or strengths that you can ask them to share.

After that first round, you may look to see how a specific workshop is panning out in the classroom, if the books of the month are being utilized and how they're being used, and what next steps you need to do.

5. Figure out how you're providing feedback to teachers.
Before you go, make sure you've communicated with your principal about the feedback you're providing to teachers. Are you leaving written feedback? Verbal? Will you debrief with every teacher? With teachers who request it? With those teachers you think could benefit from it?

If you can leave written feedback, I recommend two things:
* Start with a completely positive note the first time. You can also offer your services.
* Do not leave it with the teacher during or at the end of your classroom visit.

Instead, take some notes in your notebook, and then write a positive note for the teacher when you have a minute. Reread it. Reread it. Reread it! Make sure you are conveying honesty, while being positive. Do not say anything that isn't true for the sake of being positive. Find something truly positive to say.

Then leave the note for the teacher in their box or mailbox. Do not hand it to them in the moment because you don't have time to think, and because that turns your visit into a performance from the teacher, immediately after which they'll get their "grade". That is not the purpose of a classroom visit.



6. Watch the kids.
If you're a coach, you work directly with teachers, and not as much with kids. But why do you work with the teachers? To impact teaching- for the kids! In classrooms, watch what the kids do. See how they listen, speak, think, read, write, and respond to what they're being asked to do. You can even talk to them (if you can do so without disrupting the lesson) and ask them about what they're working on, reading, or thinking!

7. DO NOT disrupt or distract the teacher!
This is a huge pet peeve of mine. Please do not stomp into the classroom, talking loudly, and addressing the teacher in the middle of his/her lesson. Be discreet. If the teacher thinks they have to address you, respond in kind, but make it clear that you're not there to interrupt; just to visit. If you've sent them a heads-up email, they'll remember!

8. If you're debriefing verbally, in person, have a plan.
If you, your principal and/or your teachers decide for a verbal debrief, do it in person, and have a plan. Prepare some sentence starters and some reflective questions that will help you and the teacher communicate effectively and with a purpose. You are not an evaluator. You are a coach. Coaches help people reflect on their practice. Be prepared to do that! Schedule a time that's good for you AND for the teacher. And then be prepared!

Do you visit classrooms? How does that help you be a better coach?


*****GIVEAWAY ALERT************


I am so excited to offer this giveaway again this summer!
Coaches work hard. Which tools will help you do your job? Well, obviously tools with pineapples on them. Pineapples mean "welcome," so flaunt your pineapple gear and people will know you're approachable!

One lucky duck will win the Instructional Coaching Must-Haves Kit (over a $165 value)! This kit
includes...
* Inbox tray
* My favorite notebook: Eccolo
* My favorite daily planner with a monthly view
* Frixion Ball Erasable pens
* Handmade pineapple pencil pouch
* Rae Dun "piña" mug
* To-do notes and assorted sticky note set
* Thank you cards
* Pineapple notepad
* Fancy pineapple thumbtacks
* Erasers
* Lotion
* Hand sanitizer

Four more lucky winners will get the Instructional Coaching Resource Bundle, over $50 worth of coaching resources!

Enter using as many of the options below as you like! You can enter again with every blog post in the series. 



But wait! There's more!
Hee hee

You can now sign up for my all-new Start-Up Course for Instructional Coaches!

It's a free email course, right to your inbox, that will give you the essential steps for getting started as an instructional coach. You'll get videos, links to posts, and even a free resource or two, and follow-up emails to help you along your coaching journey!

Just enter your email address in the box below. You'll also be signing up to receive periodic emails about instructional coaching as part of my mailing list!
 
 
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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Coaching Cycle: say this, not that: Growing as an Instructional Coach

The coaching cycle. We hear about it all of the time.

It's a best-practice approach to working with individual teachers, honoring that they are learners in their own place in a learning process and valuing that we are all constantly growing.

But if you haven't really used the coaching cycle with a teacher before, it might be a little bit daunting.

You might be worried that you'll say "the wrong thing" and end up with a teacher who's not too happy with you (or excited about your support). 

Here are some things I've learned that have helped me use the coaching cycle effectively with teachers in different places in their learning process.



The Pre-conference 
During the pre-conference, you'll meet with the teacher to discuss what he or she is interested in working on or growing in. You'll identify a specific area to focus on and set a date or time for a classroom visit and the post-conference. You can also plan together for this lesson, if the teacher is interested in trying out something new.


The classroom visit 
During the visit, you'll take detailed notes. You can interact with students in a limited way to find out what they're working on and to have them verbalize their thinking to you. Be sure to arrive on time and watch closely for the focus the teacher asked you to look for.


The post-conference
During the post-conference, you'll debrief with the teacher and help him or her think through their lesson and their goal. You can discuss next steps and offer support as needed.


**GIVEAWAY ALERT!**
 
I am so excited to offer this giveaway again this summer!
Coaches work hard. Which tools will help you do your job? Well, obviously tools with pineapples on them. Pineapples mean "welcome," so flaunt your pineapple gear and people will know you're approachable!

One lucky duck will win the Instructional Coaching Must-Haves Kit (over a $165 value)! This kit
includes...
* Inbox tray
* My favorite notebook: Eccolo
* My favorite daily planner with a monthly view
* Frixion Ball Erasable pens
* Handmade pineapple pencil pouch
* Rae Dun "piña" mug
* To-do notes and assorted sticky note set
* Thank you cards
* Pineapple notepad
* Fancy pineapple thumbtacks
* Erasers
* Lotion
* Hand sanitizer

Four more lucky winners will get the Instructional Coaching Resource Bundle, over $50 worth of coaching resources!

Enter using as many of the options below as you like! You can enter again with every blog post in the series. 

But wait! There's more!
Hee hee
You can sign up for my all-new Start-Up Course for Instructional Coaches!
It's a free email course, right to your inbox, that will give you the essential steps for getting started as an instructional coach. You'll get videos, links to posts, and even a free resource or two, and follow-up emails to help you along your coaching journey!
Just enter your email address in the box below. You'll also be signing up to receive periodic emails about instructional coaching as part of my mailing list!
 
 
 
 
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Saturday, August 4, 2018

Reasons teachers might be resistant to change...and what to do about it: Growing as a Coach Series

Ah, change. Don't you love it? Starting anew every year, scrapping every single thing you worked so lovingly on, and crafting a whole new approach, all with the understanding that, come August, you'll be doing it all over again?

Wait- what? No? You don't love doing that? Well guess what: most people don't. Here's why teachers might be resistant to change, and what you can do about it.















The problem: Unrealistic expectations.
One year, our district asked us to embrace a specific model for our literacy block. It was full of great stuff: read alouds, shared reading, word study, writing conferences.

The only problem? If you added up all of the minutes, they actually totaled more time than students actually spent at school.
What to do about it: Get real. Consider the realities of teaching and scheduling when you initiate change.
Teachers will appreciate your consideration and real-ness.


The problem: Not enough resources.
I've been on campuses where they asked everyone to DRA their students (assess them in reading) by sharing two kits across six grade levels. 
Nope. Not happening.

What to do about it: If it's important, find the funding to get the resources.  
If it can be done in a different manner, for example, providing a staggered schedule to help teachers share the limited resources, do it.

The problem: Too many expectations. 
A teacher's list is oh-so-long, and anything that gets added to the list is seen as "one more thing" because it often is one more thing to accomplish in an already busy day.

What to do about it: If you add something to the plate, try to take something off (or at least consolidate it)
You can either figure out where there are redundancies, or ask teachers what they can do without.



The problem: Inconsistent and unclear expectations.
I knew a grade level who never wanted to do what the rest of the school was doing. If they didn't like something they'd go to the principal. The principal was uncomfortable with conflict, so they just said, "Do whatever you need to do." This meant the grade level didn't do it at all. 

When different grade levels are told different things, no one is happy. It creates frustration and hard feelings, too. The teachers who try to follow the initiative to the letter feel like their work is more difficult and unappreciated. And the ones who don't try at all... well, they aren't doing it anyway.

What to do about it: Be clear, consistent, and put it in writing. 
Have a deadline? Write it down. Is the initiative required or recommended? Write it down. Do the details matter? Write it down. If it's not important enough to require from everyone, why require it at all?


The problem: Not enough time to learn and practice.
How often have you been handed a brand-new practice and expected to roll it out immediately without the opportunity to try it out and get better at it? Probably too many times to count. We'd never do this to kids, but it happens to teachers all the time.
What to do about it: Give great, ongoing professional development.
Make sure people have seen the strategy, worked through it, practiced it, and have opportunities to ask questions. Once they're trying it out in the classroom, honor the learning process.



The problem: Not enough support.
When teachers get a one-shot training and are expected to be experts in something totally new and foreign, we're setting them (and their kids) up for failure. Teachers need support, too. 

What to do about it: Provide different types of support for teachers in different places along the learning process.  
Offer to model, share articles and resources, create opportunities for teacher-to-teacher sharing and modeling, help troubleshoot, and follow up frequently in emails, PLCs, and hallway conversations. Make a deliberate choice to be the support that teachers need.


The problem: Teachers are tired of top-down decision making.
Do I really need to elaborate?

What to do about it: Involve teachers in decision-making to make sure you've got buy-in.  
This isn't always possible, so at least try to figure out how to make the initiative more palatable and doable.


The problem: (not really a problem) Different learning styles. 
Everybody learns differently. Some people learn something new and are ready to try it right away. Some people need some time to think and figure out how this approach or strategy is useful, valuable, or even how it relates to the work they're doing.

What to do about it: Give people time to talk, think, learn, and try things out.
This is normal. When you work with kids, you don't expect everyone to learn everything the same way at the same time. Give people multiple opportunities to see it in action, to talk it through, to learn about it, and you'll have more people feel comfortable trying it out.
 
**GIVEAWAY ALERT!**
 
I am so excited to offer this giveaway again this summer!
Coaches work hard. Which tools will help you do your job? Well, obviously tools with pineapples on them. Pineapples mean "welcome," so flaunt your pineapple gear and people will know you're approachable!

One lucky duck will win the Instructional Coaching Must-Haves Kit (over a $165 value)! This kit
includes...
* Inbox tray
* My favorite notebook: Eccolo
* My favorite daily planner with a monthly view
* Frixion Ball Erasable pens
* Handmade pineapple pencil pouch
* Rae Dun "piña" mug
* To-do notes and assorted sticky note set
* Thank you cards
* Pineapple notepad
* Fancy pineapple thumbtacks
* Erasers
* Lotion
* Hand sanitizer

Four more lucky winners will get the Instructional Coaching Resource Bundle, over $50 worth of coaching resources!

Enter using as many of the options below as you like! You can enter again with every blog post in the series. 


But wait! There's more!
Hee hee
You can sign up for my all-new Start-Up Course for Instructional Coaches!
It's a free email course, right to your inbox, that will give you the essential steps for getting started as an instructional coach. You'll get videos, links to posts, and even a free resource or two, and follow-up emails to help you along your coaching journey!
Just enter your email address in the box below. You'll also be signing up to receive periodic emails about instructional coaching as part of my mailing list!
 
 
 
 
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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Establishing credibility as a new coach: Growing As an Instructional Coach Series


I have a hard truth to tell you. I don't know if you'll like it, but it must be said.

Not everyone is going to be excited to work with you.

I know! How shocking! But it's true! Think about it: have you been over the moon excited to work with everyone you've come in contact with? I'm gonna guess that answer is no.

And that's normal! It's normal for the teachers you're working with, too. They might not be too excited to work with you.

When you're starting out as a new coach, on a new campus, or with new faculty, there are a few things that should happen simultaneously in order for you to show that you're credible and a valuable asset to teachers' work.

1. Value them first.
2. Add value to their work.
3. Build a personal(ish) relationship. 

1. Value them first.
No one wants to work with someone who doesn't appreciate them. The best first step in establishing your own credibility and value is to value teachers first. This can be done in a few different ways:
  • Visit classrooms a few times just to leave happy, positive notes about great things you see going on. (This can be a bit stressful at first if you're at a school that has never had classroom visits. Check out my post later in this series about visiting classrooms and talk to your principal first!)  
  • Ask for teacher input when you see they have a strength. For example, if you visit Ms. Tenaka's classroom, and she has an awesome word study routine, ask her about it! Ask what resources she uses, how she chooses words, why she does what she does, and what impact it has on the kids! You'll want to encourage her to share her expertise to benefit others.
  • Really listen to find out what challenges they have. You can use this to help them find solutions or to serve as a liaison to administration. Some challenges might be lack of resources, confusion about inconsistent expectations, struggles with managing behaviors in their classrooms, or fuzziness on instructional strategies. Understanding this can help you respond to it effectively.
Why is this important to establishing credibility? No one wants to listen to someone they dislike. People generally don't like people who don't like them!



2. Add value to their work.

To add value to their work, seek out an area where you can be of service. Some ways to start might be:
  • Provide a survey to find out what challenges teachers have so you can think about how you can support them.
  • Ask them what kinds of coaching support would be the most helpful to them and have them respond individually (not as a group). This could be a survey or a checklist.
  • Provide a coaching menu or bank of services you are prepared to offer.
  • Recommend books or resources that are immediately relevant to what they're teaching/doing.
  • Help them solve a problem they have by sharing a solution, helping out, or communicating effectively to administration (without selling anyone out!)
  • Offer to read aloud to their kids. Then do an incredible job! Model your expertise and teaching personality. Share your best strategies.
Adding value means being honest about what you can and can't do. Don't make it up! If you're unsure about something, say that you'll do a little reading to be able to support your teacher.

 3. Build a personal(ish) relationship
This one should be obvious, but sometimes it's hard to do. If you're working with a whole batch of new people, it can be a challenge to get to know each one. But keep it simple. You don't have to take everyone out for margaritas (although, I will say, a margarita never hurt)! Just share things about yourself as they become relevant, ans ask them questions about themselves. Find something to connect with each teacher on and refer back to it.

These three steps are easy to do and will help you get started building credibility and a positive relationship with teachers to build good coaching work on.

I am so excited to offer this giveaway again this summer!
Coaches work hard. Which tools will help you do your job? Well, obviously tools with pineapples on them. Pineapples mean "welcome," so flaunt your pineapple gear and people will know you're approachable!

One lucky duck will win the Instructional Coaching Must-Haves Kit (over a $165 value)! This kit
includes...
* Inbox tray
* My favorite notebook: Eccolo
* My favorite daily planner with a monthly view
* Frixion Ball Erasable pens
* Handmade pineapple pencil pouch
* Rae Dun "piña" mug
* To-do notes and assorted sticky note set
* Thank you cards
* Pineapple notepad
* Fancy pineapple thumbtacks
* Erasers
* Lotion
* Hand sanitizer

Four more lucky winners will get the Instructional Coaching Resource Bundle, over $50 worth of coaching resources!

Enter using as many of the options below as you like! You can enter again with every blog post in the series. 

But wait! There's more!
Hee hee
You can sign up for my all-new Start-Up Course for Instructional Coaches!
It's a free email course, right to your inbox, that will give you the essential steps for getting started as an instructional coach. You'll get videos, links to posts, and even a free resource or two, and follow-up emails to help you along your coaching journey!

Just enter your email address in the box below. You'll also be signing up to receive periodic emails about instructional coaching as part of my mailing list!
 
 
 
 
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Thursday, July 26, 2018

Upcoming Instructional Coaching Series & Giveaway!

If you've been following my blog for any length of time, you've probably come to expect the Instructional Coaching Series to come out at the beginning of the school year. Two years ago, I hosted the Start-Up Instructional Coaching Series, and last year I created the Next Steps in Instructional Coaching Series. This year, I'm sharing the "Growing as a Coach Instructional Coaching Series"! 

It's a 5-part blog series. Every post is designed to support you in your coaching experience. Whether you're new to coaching or you've been making a difference in your role for a while, you'll find ideas to refine and grow your coaching practice.

In addition to lots of coaching information and ideas, I'm also hosting my annual instructional
coaching giveaway! This year, you can win BIG in a few different giveaways:

1. The Instructional Coaching Must-Haves Kit!
This includes the Must-Haves box and the Coaching Bundle!
* Inbox tray
* My favorite notebook: Eccolo
* My favorite daily planner with a monthly view
* Frixion Ball Erasable pens
* Handmade pineapple pencil pouch
* Rae Dun "piña" mug
* Insulated water bottle
* To-do notes and assorted sticky note set
* Thank you cards
* Pineapple notepad
* Fancy pineapple thumbtacks
* Erasers
* Lotion
* Hand sanitizer
This bundle includes... 

2. Four winners will win the Instructional Coaching Digital Giveaway of the Coaching Resource Bundle!

The Instructional Coaching Resource Bundle includes... 
- Start-Up Guide to Instructional Coaching!

You'll want to check back for these posts every Wednesday & Saturday starting on August 1 for posts about these important topics! You can enter to win with each new blog post!





Winners chosen and announced: Friday, August 25!
 
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Monday, July 9, 2018

Preparing for an Instructional Coaching Interview

This summer, I've gotten SO MANY emails from people asking me the same question, over and over again. How should I prepare for an interview for an instructional coaching position?

This is a great question. If you've never interviewed for an instructional coaching position before, you at least expect that it will be different from a classroom teacher interview. 

And you're right! There are some significant differences in what you will be asked during a coaching interview vs. a teacher interview.

If you consider the interview questions in terms of the different roles and responsibilities that instructional coaches have, it starts to make a lot of sense!

Here are the different categories and questions you can think about to be ready for your big day!

Curriculum
* How do you approach planning a new unit?
* In what ways do you look at data, and for what purpose?
* How do you integrate different types of assessment into your lesson design?
* What best practices/approaches/methods/strategies do you find are supportive of student learning?
* How do you engage students in their learning?

Leadership Roles (cadres, committees, mentoring, etc.)
* How have you served as a leader on your campus?
* What is your leadership style?
* Describe a time you worked on a team with a positive outcome.

Building Relationships
* How would you engage with teachers who have not had instructional coaching support before?
* How would you
* How would you support a...
    - new teacher?
    - experienced teacher?
    - teacher who doesn't want your help?
    - teacher in a grade/content area/language you haven't taught before?
    - effective teacher?
* How would you handle working with teams who are not getting along with each other?

Adult Learning
* What kinds of professional development have you provided to your campus?
* What components make up a quality professional development?
* How would you support learners who have not implemented district or campus initiatives?
* How would you provide ongoing learning opportunities for teachers?

Campus-Wide Change
* How would you implement systemic change on your campus?
* What do you believe an ideal PLC looks like?
* How would you go about creating a 30/60/90 day plan for change?
* What would your priorities be for our school? (requires you to know a little about the school!)

Time & Responsibility Management
* How will you balance your time between teachers/students/administrative tasks?
* What would your priorities be for the first week? month? year?
* How do you feel about taking on extra work assignments?

These aren't all the questions you'll hear, and every school and district has their own agenda when it comes to how they use coaches. However, this is a good start and should get you thinking in the right direction!
 
 
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Sunday, April 22, 2018

6 Tasks Instructional Coaches Spend Time On... that aren't coaching

Think about your day. Where did you spend most of your time? Modeling lessons, working with kids, or planning with teachers? Maybe, but maybe not.
You know that little line in your contract? The one that says, "other duties as assigned?" Sometimes that little line can feel like it grows and grows until it takes up your whole job. And all the original duties you thought you were going to do as an instructional coach can get put on the back burner.

This is not meant to be complain-y. All of these jobs need to be done on a campus, and, when you're a coach, you're usually part of the campus leadership team. And that means that, if it needs to be done, who's gonna do it? Probably you.

But it can be helpful to realize where the time goes, and to think twice about saying "yes" to responsibilities that may not serve your purpose as a coach. (If you have the option of saying "no" that is.)

So what are instructional coaches spending their time on? Here are five ways coaches spend their time (that aren't coaching), in order from most favorite to least favorite.

Monitoring school events

Sometimes it's fun to attend the school pep rally, or pop in to see the magician who's there for second grade. But when you're scheduled for event after event, your week can fill up pretty fast. 

Coaches are usually on the short list to supervise or monitor school events because they don't have a class. It makes sense. But it's hard to support teachers when you're shushing kids in the auditorium, trying to keep them from asking the border patrol officer how much money she makes and whether she's used her gun before.

Disaggregating Data

Oh my gosh. If I could tally up the number of hours I spent printing, multiplying, adding, scoring, finding percentages, marking standards, breaking it up, putting it together, finding patterns, color-coding... 
Well, I'd probably want to throw up if I saw how many hours it actually was, so maybe it's best that I don't.

Looking at data is, of course, important. I'm not going to say it should never be done. But the massive amounts of time coaches spend on data disaggregation is pretty crazy. Want to do something nice for a coach? Buy them some colored highlighters. They'll use them. I promise.

If you'll notice, though, data is still before "duty" on my list. Which tells you how I feel about duty.
 
Duty

Again, because coaches don't have their own class, they end up doing a lot of duty. This might be lunch duty, after-school duty, morning duty, hall duty, or any other place that kids can get into trouble. 
It might not seem like a big deal to spend 20 minutes monitoring lunch every day, but if that's right in the middle of the second grade reading block, guess who's probably not getting reading support. 

Meetings

I've sat in approximately 8,349 meetings. 

About half of those meetings were relevant to me. The other half? Well, I don't know if they were relevant to anyone. 
This was my favorite: We're going to train you in using this specific approach. What? We trained you in it already? Well, come anyway. It's good to have a refresher.

District/State/Federal accountability

There is so much stuff that has to be done for accountability purposes. This might be sending out parent letters, filling out evaluations and monitoring forms for goals, writing the goals in the first place, checking and double-checking codes on rosters, sorting documents for teachers, and other CYA-type work. 

There's EOY and MOY and BOY, but for some reason, there's never BYOB, which would undoubtedly improve the process.

Some of it might be useful and help you think about your focus and purpose at school, but most of it is really just dotting 'i's and crossing 't's for somebody else's benefit. (And that "somebody" isn't the kids.)

Testing, testing, testing

Ugh. The T-word. Nobody likes it. Sitting in a bare, hot room, testing kids who you didn't get to teach is no fun. Small group test administration is the bane of my existence. I can feel my eyes rolling back in my head as I type. Can anybody stand it? Nope.

You count your steps around the room. Then you count the tiles on the floor and ceiling. Then you wonder what number the kids are on. Then you look around the room and think about how you'll arrange it differently next year. Then you think, "One year from today, I'm going to be administering this awful test." Then you choke back tears.

Does this sound familiar? Where does your time go?


 
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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Texas Reading Test: Camp Reading Ready Test Prep Resource

Over the last few years, several hundred classrooms have used my Camp Write-a-Lot resource for Texas State Writing Test Prep.

I get so much great feedback about this resource, but I've also gotten one request, over and over: make one for reading!

So I did!

The last few days before THE TEST are a great time to review the major concepts you've been practicing, but in a new and fun way. Enter: Camp Reading Ready!

If you've used my Camp Write-a-Lot Texas Writing Test resource, you'll love Camp Reading Ready!

Camp Reading Ready consists of nine TEKS-aligned stations. I wrote them with the TEKS in mind, but guess what? They work for Common Core standards too, because they cover basic skills that most state tests expect kids to master!

Here's a list of skills that Camp Reading Ready will help your kids review:

  • Identifying genre with related author's purposes, vocabulary & test questions
  • Identifying main idea
  • Identifying nonfiction text features and their definitions
  • Matching vocabulary words with definitions and pictures
  • Using context clues to infer word meanings
  • Analyzing & describing characters
  • Making inferences in poetry
  • Sequencing events in fiction
  • Synthesizing, using text features, and understanding text structure in expository text
To start with, the camp includes some motivational tools that will help kids stay focused while working through the stations. Choose from punch bracelets, punch cards, or collecting camp badges!




Identifying genre
In this activity, students read short texts and identify the genre of the text. Then they sort the author's purpose, vocabulary and sample questions into the different genres.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Camp-Reading-Ready-Texas-State-Reading-Test-Prep-Review-3732363

Identifying main idea
I think this might be my favorite station! (Probably because of the puzzle pieces) 
Kids read the paragraphs and match them with the main idea piece. Then they flip them over to check and see if they got a match! It's a fun way to self-check! 

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Camp-Reading-Ready-Texas-State-Reading-Test-Prep-Review-3732363

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Camp-Reading-Ready-Texas-State-Reading-Test-Prep-Review-3732363


Nonfiction Text Features
I found the best set of nonfiction text feature images and I'm so glad I did, because they made some awesome cards! To play, kids follow the rules of Go Fish to Go Fishing for Text Features! 
They make pairs of the feature and the name/definition of the feature! (Scroll down to the bottom to get this one for free!)

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Camp-Reading-Ready-Texas-State-Reading-Test-Prep-Review-3732363


Vocabulary Match
I get a kick out of this station because it's got a s'mores theme, and if you know me, you know I'm ALL about s'mores. I prefer the chocolately sugary melty kind, of course, but in a pinch, this will do. Kids match vocabulary that's relevant to the test with pictures and definitions. They can play free-for-all style, or Memory!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Camp-Reading-Ready-Texas-State-Reading-Test-Prep-Review-3732363


Context Clues
This one's a no brainer. Kids HAVE to be able to use context clues, right? In this activity, they draw a task card and figure out the meaning of the underlined word. Sound familiar? It's test prep in a fun camp theme, so we can sneak in the test-taking skills!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Camp-Reading-Ready-Texas-State-Reading-Test-Prep-Review-3732363


Analyzing Characters
I really want to play this game, actually. Like, with another person instead of just with myself. Each player gets a game piece and some character cards. They move their pieces across the board, trying to get back to camp! To move faster across the board, they have to match their character cards (synonyms and descriptions) with the traits on the board. It's Candyland...minus the candy.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Camp-Reading-Ready-Texas-State-Reading-Test-Prep-Review-3732363

Making Inferences in Poetry
I had a BLAST writing these poems! Each poem is written from the point of view of an animal. Kids have to read closely for clues to infer what animal is the speaker in the poem!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Camp-Reading-Ready-Texas-State-Reading-Test-Prep-Review-3732363


Sequencing Events in Fiction
This station is all about making sense. ids read the paragraphs on strips and then sequence them to tell a fictional story about... you guessed it: camping!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Camp-Reading-Ready-Texas-State-Reading-Test-Prep-Review-3732363


Building Expository Text
Okay, maybe THIS is my favorite station. I love having kids use text features, understand text structure, and synthesize all in one! First, kids sort out the text features and begin figuring out the topic and structure of the text. They match captions and photos, titles, maps, and more. Then they take out the paragraphs and really get busy! It's one of my favorite things to do with kids because it is so engaging and requires lots of thinking.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Camp-Reading-Ready-Texas-State-Reading-Test-Prep-Review-3732363

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Camp-Reading-Ready-Texas-State-Reading-Test-Prep-Review-3732363

These stations are an engaging and purposeful way to review for the Texas State Reading test, and they're in my TpT store, ready to go. Just click to head over and grab it. I really believe your kids will enjoy it and it will take away some of your test prep stress.

Are you a Texas teacher? Enter your email address below to get a freebie from this resource!




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