According to Jenni Donohoo, educational thought leader on collective teacher efficacy and best-selling author, teachers are powerful change agents in the on-going process of school improvement
When educators believe that their combined abilities can influence student outcomes, research has shown that there are significantly higher levels of academic achievement.
Recently, a group of first grade teachers from nine elementary schools in northern NJ gathered for a day of collaborative learning to put this theory into practice. The focus was on improving literacy through small group, explicit instruction using guided reading, an instructional approach where teachers tailor instruction and support a small group of students to help deepen their understanding of a wide variety of texts allowing students to encounter texts at increasing levels of difficulty.
These talented teachers spent the day working together to combine their individual talents and join forces to plan guided reading lessons to share amongst their district. Shared teacher efficacy requires a great deal of trust, which is built over time, and an intentional effort by educators. Following are some examples of ways that these first grade teachers collaborated:
Common practices - anatomy of a guided reading lesson
Lesson plan template for guided reading lesson, created by a teacher
Developing a library of guided reading lessons to be shared across district
Shared ideas and resources (Google drive folder)
Willingness to share ideas and expertise
After learning about the anatomy of a guided reading lesson, these dedicated teachers participated in a lesson modeled by Jackie Frangis, Orton-Gillingham education specialist and coach . She demonstrated how to introduce tricky words ahead of the lesson and then proceeded to explicitly teach a phonics lesson. Did you know there are 26 letters in the English language, 44 sounds, and 250 spellings for these 44 sounds? No wonder we have to teach children explicitly!
What do the other students do while these students are meeting with the teacher in a small group? They’re practicing various literacy skills at literacy centers. Joan Freedman, education specialist and coach, shared various hands-on literacy activities to be used at centers. For example, children can use ABC beads and pipe cleaners to string tricky words and build vocabulary. Another fun activity is popsicle dominoes, using CVC words on popsicle sticks to match to rhyming CVC words. Here are other suggested literacy centers:
Tech center such as iReady
Writing Center-prompts, response to reading
Word Work - Phonics games, vocabulary building
Independent Reading/Partner Reading
Listening Center - listen to story (Epic!), whisper phone reading to self
Comprehension Center-text to self, retelling activities and games, visualization
According to Jenni Donohoo, “through their collective action, teachers can positively influence student outcomes, including those who are disengaged, unmotivated, and/or disadvantaged.” These teachers have what it takes!