Thursday, April 29, 2010

What Guides Instruction in My Classroom

I just got home from dinner with Samantha Bennett, and the group that sponsors her visit her, The Literacy Connection. Samantha was delightful, and I'm so glad Katie and I had the opportunity to meet her before working with her in front of a large group tomorrow!!

Anyway, for the 2nd installment of my thinking before Sam arrived, I wrote about the things that guide my instruction. Again, I'd love to hear what guides other people's instruction as well. Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

What Guides My Instruction

In addition to the wonderful framework I mentioned before, our district has also developed a set of target statements for every grade level and every subject. The target statements are written in friendly “I can …” format so that students are clear about exactly what their learning should be on any given day, in any given subject. These target statements are directly related to our state’s grade level standards and indicators. I have a target binder for each subject that I teach and this is what I know my district expects me to cover with my students. This then is one way I know what I will need to have my students learn.

But after you put aside the targets, the key item that guides my instruction is assessment – lots and lots of formative assessments and time for observations. In the beginning of the year, I have several quick individual conferences with all my students where I glean information through surveys done together, listening to them read books of their choice, and talking to them about our current read aloud to check on comprehension. The first formal assessment I do is about three to four weeks after school has begun. I administer DRAs (Developmental Reading Assessments) to each child and the amount of information I can gather from this assessment is staggering. What they’ve read recently, whether they can identify their own strengths and weaknesses as readers, goals they set to improve, fluency, accuracy, expression, use of phonemic strategies, their ability to read a text and answer a wide variety of comprehension questions, and their ability to verbalize what strategies they used to make sense of the text – wow! That is a lot of information! No wonder I can use the results of the DRA to guide instruction well into November.

In addition to the surveys, the conferences, and the DRAs, I also spend time just doing kid-watching with notebook in hand. Which students have difficulty finding a book to read? Which students have difficulty with stamina when it comes to reading? Which students are social readers and need to share information from their own reading with others? Which students are capable of actually sticking with a book until the end? The answers to these questions and many more also help me focus my instruction – are there issues we need to address as an entire group, or is there work to be done in an individual conference or a strategy group?

Ok, that's all the deep thinking for now. :) Time to go to bed and get ready for the big day tomorrow. I'll post this weekend about the experience of working and thinking with Samantha, as well as posting a photo op of her -- she is just so darn darling!

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