Responsive is the first word that comes to mind when we think about what it means to be an effective coach. We want to listen and be responsive to what a teacher says. We want to be responsive as we sit alongside a teacher to look at student work. And most important, we want to be responsive as students share their thinking.
To be responsive, we need resources right at our fingertips. But how is it possible to have just the right resources when we move between many different classrooms at different grade levels throughout the day?
In this series, we will share some of our “go-to” tools that help us be responsive as we coach in K-6 classrooms. These tools make it easier for us to find just what we need when we need it.
When we coach, one of the most important tools in our tool kit is books—picture books, short stories, poetry, and informational articles are “must-haves.” We need books right at our side that are short, engaging, and filled with ideas and concepts that promote deep thinking and thoughtful conversations in classrooms. Having lots of texts helps us collaborate with teachers to select books for instruction, co-plan lessons, or even find examples of a particular writer’s craft the teacher wants to teach.
Instead of lugging around a bag of books, we now purchase one copy of the book on our iPad so that it is with us forever. Digital copies are typically cheaper than hard copies, so this also saves a little money.
Having books on the iPad has opened up many possibilities, and we love that so many titles are just a “tap of a finger” away. Now when we co-plan lessons, we can have many more text choices to share with teachers. The books on the iPad sit alongside the books the teacher has in her classroom, and our choices of texts have expanded significantly. If a teacher wants to use a text on the iPad, we can order a copy from the library or simply use the iPad to teach the lesson.
When we first tried reading a digital text aloud to a classroom of students, we were worried. Would students be able to see the text? Would the iPad be a distraction? But of course, all of our worries were for naught. If the teacher has a document camera, we simply place the text under the camera and students see an enlarged version. If there isn’t a document camera, we read the text just like we would read a picture book. And as for engagement—no worries on that front. As soon as that iPad appears, students quickly gather round.
Having books digitally has a few other benefits. We now “test-run” a book in a classroom to know what students and teachers think of it before purchasing it for the book room. If teachers and students enjoy the book, we can decide to purchase multiple copies or create a new author basket featuring this author’s work for a book room.
We purchase professional books digitally too. When we have the book digitally, we can quickly refer to a specific figure, chart, or quote during a coaching session. When professional books are on the iPad, it is almost as if Richard Allington or Kathy Collins is right by our side as we coach.
Having the professional books available has also sparked teachers’ interests in these texts. Now when we set up professional book clubs or study groups, we know which titles teachers are already interested in reading. This helps us plan upcoming professional development with teachers’ needs and interests in mind.
Of course, we still have a few hard copies of picture books in our bag just in case the iPad isn’t the right tool for a classroom. But digital books have helped us be more responsive, expanded the number of titles we can share with teachers, and reduced the amount of “lugging” we have to do.