Literacy coaches know that the most successful staff development provides lots of time for colleagues to share their teaching stories, questions, and ideas. Hearing what is happening in the classrooms down the hall or across town is generative, prompting creative leaps to enliven our own inquiries and curricula. The January doldrums can be swept aside with fresh ideas.
After several months of exploring writing development with teachers, teaching assistants, and ethnic aides, I planned a day of staff development that would be focused on conversation and sharing. Everyone brought work samples from their classrooms, and each team of three (teacher, teacher assistant, and ethnic aide) came prepared to share one or two strategies, processes, environmental set-ups, or ideas they have implemented this year to enrich their writing curriculum.
The ideas were inspiring! Chad brought samples and photos of the work and dramatic play his students had done at his “Office Center” complete with receipt books, envelopes, a play phone, pads of paper, and lots of office supplies. The children in his early childhood classroom combined dramatic play with literacy possibilities. Marge showed examples of her students’ writing pieces on overhead transparencies. Once a week, these children do their writing and drawing directly onto the overheads with permanent markers. When they share with the class, they project their work on the wall, then take comments and questions on their enlarged pages. These pages can be “published” by hanging them in the windows. Pat brought examples from the mini-lessons she had taught in her class around writing conventions such as word bubbles and labels. Ginger showed her classroom “writing workshop backpack” filled with pads of paper and writing utensils that children can sign out to bring to recess and outdoor play.
In order to keep track of these good ideas and follow up with the colleagues who shared them, I created a sheet to group the teaching ideas by category and distributed copies to each participant at the beginning of the day. I used the following categories: structure & environment, assessment, individualization/differentiation, kid-watching/observation, and curriculum ideas. You can download the form template by clicking here.
These sheets proved to be a helpful way for us to take the brief notes that we needed to find our way back to those good ideas and follow up with colleagues when we were ready to implement suggestions. With the help of these notes, our day of team sharing allowed us to continue to build from each other’s knowledge and rely on the experts in our own district.