Sunday, November 29, 2015

Literacy Coaching: the Essentials

Catherine Casey's book, Literacy Coaching: The Essentials, is an excellent primer on coaching. It covers everything from what do coaches do to professional development workshops. As someone who has been contracted to teach teachers a specific skill, some of the information is more pertinent to me than others. I do not have to get teachers to agree to let me in, my contract is their agreement. It is specific to particular teachers. That said, I need to build relationships and prove I can do what I say I can or there will be no more requests.

Under the structures part of the book, Ms. Casey goes over different ways to study instruction. During demonstration lessons, a coach must have a clear purpose for what to highlight. Knowing what the teacher knows and what she needs help with are what define the purpose. For the teacher I worked with who was particularly concerned about a transition within a Wilson Reading lesson plan I very carefully planned that transition. I videotaped and shared several sample transitions as well. This allowed me to showcase the area of concern and during our debrief, became a beginning point of discussion. One point that the author made was that teachers need immediate access to materials. Toward this end I provided one teacher with two sets of letter/sound cards so that she could utilize the technique I demonstrated.

She discussed inter and intra visitations- between schools and within a school. She mentioned purposeful involvement- demonstrating with the assistance of the teacher, lesson study- Japanese inspired (study, plan, teach, reflect, replan, teach, apply), co-planning, conferences and professional inquiry groups and videotaping with analysis. I am experimenting with video, but have not yet found any level of comfort with it. More practice is needed.

From observations she moves to models of intensive support. Spending 3-5 days/classes with a teacher to work on a skill. Depending on the model- gradual release or unit of study- this could take place on successive days or on days throughout a unit. Her description of these models with their focused planning and debriefing makes me greedy for the contact time to allow such work.

I think I have done some modified plans- present the Wilson program, assign reading the manual, return to answer questions after they have tried the program a few times, observe a lesson, demonstrate a lesson. They have not been as formally outlined as above. Perhaps a more ideal program would be tighter with more schedule flexibility than I currently enjoy.

She goes on to describe how she prepares for workshops. From determining the purpose of the workshop to ideas about how to incorporate gradual release of control, she outlines her process of developing the workshop. She highlights how important immediate use is to adult training. A teacher brought this home when she said she left my introduction so eager to start work but was delayed with school mandated assessments. The author also discussed the importance of the zone of proximal development is for teachers. They are not all in the same place, but training needs to meet them where they are and take them places. The reading teacher I work with does not need support in learning the basic phonics, but the middle school teacher learning Wilson did. If I am not aware of these differences, I will not be effective in providing support.

This book told me some of the things I am doing right and some things I need to work on- an excellent resource for the place I am in- just right for my zone of proximal development.

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