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Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy day to visit our blog. We would like to invite you to contribute your ideas related to professional development in this forum. We hope to offer all teachers at BHS the opportunity to have input in the PD you are experiencing this year, and to reflect on ideas and practices of our outstanding faculty.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Dana Moran, CAS History Teacher
Instructional Coaching Available for BHS Teachers

Teachers wanting to improve their practice can now request coaching from any of four teacher leaders at BHS.  Susannah Bell, Dave Stevens, Heidi Ramirez-Weber, or Tamara Friedman are available to observe your class and give you feedback on any of the above requested areas.  

Recently, Dana Moran requested that Susannah observe her 9th grade CAS History seminar to look for places where she could improve her instruction around literacy skills.  Dana kindly gave us permission to publish the following written observation to give teachers an idea of what kinds of feedback they might receive.  Dana might have been surprised to find that she was already using some effective evidence-based literacy strategies!  

Dana Moran – 9th Grade CAS Frosh History Seminar
Period 2 of a double period)
Literacy Observation – Susannah Bell, BHS Literacy Coach

Due today:  Immigration Stories
Do today:  Warm up / CAS gear info / Political Cartoons / Enrique’s Journey
Objective:  (1) Formulate opinions using analysis and evaluation, (2) Analyze immigration experience using description and elaboration

A.    Previewing text, Enrique’s Journey (nonfiction immigration account about a boy from Honduras who searches for his mother in the U.S.).  Summarize, overview, structure of text, supplementary material (maps, etc.)  Answered student’s questions.  5 minutes.

B.    Began with chapter one.  Ms. Moran read aloud to her students, incorporating emotion and emphasis.  Current research supports this strategy as essential to building literacy skills of even older students, especially English learners.  After reading the chapter, she summarizes and reflects.  Skips to chapter three.  Stops periodically to question students about unfamiliar terms, to clarify, and to “think aloud,” modeling her own insights and commentary as she reads.  15 minutes.

I am struck by the fact that this is a full class of BHS freshmen (29 students).  Not a single student is doing anything but what is expected.  They are all reading along or listening and watching Ms. Moran intently as she reads.  The only sounds they make are subvocal exclamations in response to the book’s content. 

C.    Previewing is a very important literacy strategy.  Using this strategy, Ms. Moran builds engagement with the text, promotes familiarity with terms and concepts which the students will encounter later, and sets them up for their assignment, which is a reading guide of questions such as “Why do you think the chapter is titled ‘Facing the Beast’?  Ms. Moran assigns students to read and reflect for the remainder of the period, using their guided reading sheet to formulate opinions about what they have read, evaluating the text in relation to their opinion;  in addition, they use the sheet to analyze the immigration experience described in the text using description and elaboration.  35 minutes.

D.   Prior to the period, students completed a warmup activity in which they reflected on their progress overall at this point of the semester.  Ms. Moran explained that while this is unrelated to the subject matter of the class, she feels it is important to take time to build their student skills.  This is an example of where teachers have had to fill some of the gap left in the absence of the schoolwide advisory program, which was suspended for this year.  Students have no other opportunity or time set aside for building skills such as self-reflection, time management, or goal setting, and teachers who feel these skills are necessary have generously devoted instructional time for this purpose. 

E.      Also in the earlier period, Ms. Moran addressed visual literacy skills by having students analyze political cartoons related to immigration.  Students were able to use their own background knowledge and opinions to reflect on the opinions presented by cartoonists, and join with other students in small groups to expand their own understanding and explore different perspectives. 

F.     Questions:  

1.     I wondered if Ms. Moran ever used journaling as part of her warm-up routine to further build student engagement.  For example, I wondered if she might ask the students to imagine a time they were separated from their parent and reflect on the feelings associated with the separation. 

2.    Ms. Moran explained that the class would only be reading excerpts of the book.  Her students’ disappointed reaction to the realization that they would not be reading the whole book speaks to Ms. Moran’s success at building engagement.  I wondered if she had considered collaborating with her English partner, having students read the whole text in his class as an interdisciplinary teaming project.  In my opinion, this practice would not only benefit students in terms of reinforcing skills and strengthening community, but would be a critical step in transitioning to Common Core State Standards, with their emphasis on reading nonfiction as a college readiness goal.  Finally, I was particularly impressed with Ms. Moran’s choice of text; although nonfiction, it provides a high quality literary treatment of the experience of an undocumented immigrant.  These accounts are rare but highly topical and relevant to our own students’ experiences.

After the observation, Dana asked about resources that might help her better engage struggling readers.  Susannah provided her with a copy of Cris Tovani's I Read it, But I Don't Get It, which includes explanations of strategies such as coding, comprehension checks and double-entry diaries, and Dana reported that she found the book's ideas quite helpful.

Here is some background information on each of the coaches that may help inform your request of a particular coach.  We can observe anything you want, from an individual student interaction to the roll-out of a project.  All coaching is confidential.

Susannah Bell - Taught English and reading, grades 6-12, since 1989.  Literacy, scaffolding, differentiation, assessment, classroom management.  Completed Constructing Meaning three-day institute, College Board AP English training, Education Specialist.

Dave Stevens - Taught high school math and science since 1991.  Differentiation, assessment, classroom management.  Completed Constructing Meaning three-day institute, Coaching for Equity.  National Board Certification.

Heidi Ramirez-Weber - Taught high school English to Newcomers and Long-Term English Learners since 1994.  Completed Constructing Meaning three-day institute, Coaching for Equity, Systematic ELD.  Classroom management, academic language, literacy.

Tamara Friedman - Taught high school English to Newcomers and Long-Term English Learners and high school Spanish since 1994.  Completed Constructing Meaning three-day institute, Coaching for Equity, Systematic ELD.  Classroom management, academic language, literacy.  National Board Certification.