Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Chapters 1 & 2: Release & Change

I am reading Reading with Meaning by Debbie Miller which is actually a mentor text for teachers in my school district. Our instructional specialists and administration reference her work quite often so I naturally wanted to acquaint myself with Miller's work. As I read through this book, there are some things I already know & practice, so I am challenging myself to find new thinking & ideas and to reflect on that new learning - to actively practice metacognition. :) Here are just a few snippets from my latest reading:

Chapter 1 - Release the Responsibility!
I've always wanted my students to be independent and I expect that of them on a daily basis; however, I found that Miller zeros in on a specific word in this chapter: gradual. I am guilty of getting too excited about our learning in the classroom and after what I think is modeling, I want my kids to fly solo only to feel disappointment when my kids crash & burn. Miller recommends spending spending more time and going deeper with certain concepts -- 6 to 8 weeks. This would allow for the gradual release of responsibility beginning with modeling, thinking aloud, and allowing students to independently practice & share how they're using reading strategies. The only thing I am having trouble reconciling is how do you spend 6-8 weeks on a strategy yet still fit in everything else you have to teach?! As I continue to read I'm sure Miller will shed more light because she is not disillusioned to the curricular demands placed on teachers.

Chapter 2 - Change Your Thinking
This chapter is dedicated to establishing your community of readers & writers. I am HUGE believer in classroom community, but I did have a pretty major "Ah-Ha!" moment. I need to make misbehavior a teaching moment in my classroom. I have pretty high expectations and our class spends countless hours at the beginning of the school year establishing routines & procedures. When those routines, procedures, & expectations are broken, the kids know there are consequences for those actions. At the same time, the atmosphere is light and there is plenty of levity & laughter in the classroom. However we still are struggling with students getting along and working as a cohesive team. Here is where my "Ah-Ha" moment comes into play.

Miller recommends using each "misbehavior" as a teaching moment, to give students the ammunition to take care of the situation themselves in a respectful way. For example, my students often have trouble lining up at the door because "they can't get in line" or "someone's in the way." Instead of griping at the class and telling them they should know how to get in line by now, I should say something to the effect... "Jasmine, I notice you're having trouble getting in line. Maybe we can ask Abagail to scoot back a little so you can get in line? Let's try that now!" <Jasmine asks Abagail to scoot back> "Now, Abagail, I noticed Jasmine asked you to scoot back a little so she can get in line. How can you help her out in this situation?" Consistency is key when it comes to giving the students the language to independent, respectful problem solvers!

I found a great video on the Teaching Channel that talks a little bit about this and it was a great review for me as I continue to foster a positive environment that is focused on learning.

What other techniques have you used to create a positive environment that's focused on learning? I'd love to hear your tips & tricks! Feel free to leave me a comment or two! ;)