The other two lone nuts and I attended the NCTE 2013 Annual Conference in Boston, Massachusetts. Inspired by the sessions I attended, I wanted to improve my best practices and the way my school was remediating the students who needed additional literacy support. I wandered the conference in search of answers. I didn’t find them. What I did find was one particular session presented by Jennifer Buehler and Daria Plumb that sparked my thinking about using a computer based reading program vs Readers Workshop with young adult literature for intervention purposes.
I took their extensive book recommendation list and my box of ALAN books and decided my first step towards improvement was to become well read and an expert with young adult titles. My 2013-2014 YA reads included books like:
Winger – Andrew Smith
Between Shades of Gray – Ruta Sepetys
Aristole and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Saenz
Period 8 – Chris Crutcher
Eleanor and Park – Rainbow Rowell
A Really Awesome Mess – Trish Cook
The Language of Flowers – Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Fever 1793 – Laurie Halse Anderson
Code Orange – Caroline B. Cooney
All I Need – Susane Colasanti
The Loners – Lex Thomas
Orphan Train – Christina Baker Kline
We Were Liars – E. Lockhart
But I was still in search of the big idea. I still needed to find a remedial reading program that would engage young adult readers.
In addition to our personal growth endeavors, our district asked us to return from Boston with ideas for whole school professional development. We created a day long literacy program for our entire school. With the help of other motivated and talented teachers, we recreated the Boston experience by offering multiple sessions on literacy skills acquisition in content area instruction where teachers were able to share ideas and lessons.
After feeling the professional energy in Boston, we were determined to attend the NCTE 2014 annual conference in Washington, DC. Thankfully, Jim and Karlen’s proposal was accepted and we were able to go. As previously documented in blog posts, this was where the Reading (R)evolution was born. Inspired by educators from Mamaroneck High School in New York, we felt empowered to begin our journey to revolutionize our classrooms and instructional practices.
In addition to Mamaroneck’s session, we were also energized by the Three Teachers Talk session on the Readers / Writers Workshop Model. Their book reviews and lesson ideas continue to be part of my weekly professional reading.
After DC, we spent an intense amount of time creating our Reading (R)evolution program. Hours of Google Doc collaborating, numerous text messages and hundreds of miles running together is where the three of us worked through our program’s objectives. We began the process of meeting with building administration to ask for support and advice. Their response was overwhelmingly positive. The three of us learned an important lesson – thoroughly research initiatives and reach out to those who can offer guidance and feedback. Productive educational reform can happen.
Once the Reading (R)evolution was underway and students were devouring books, we began to focus in on how to assess independent reading. The collaboration process continued with creating projects and reading challenges. Grade percentages were debated. How could we create a reading culture that was safe for students to explore and grow in? How could we celebrate our students’ reading success?
This was the moment where we created our NCTE 2015 session. We had attended two years worth of conference sessions on how to create a community of readers, but once that goal was reached – then what? Answering these important essential questions became a focus area for our program.
In the spring, we asked the educators from Mamaroneck to come and work with our department. They presented their NCTE session to our entire department, sparking additional interest in adding rigorous independent reading to their daily lessons. The Reading (R)evolution was starting to grow. Mamaroneck graciously invited us to visit their high school to see their program in action and we eagerly took advantage of this opportunity.
The 2015-2016 school year began with the addition of classroom libraries. There are now 12 teachers who have begun to implement rigorous independent reading into their daily lessons. Our days are filled with professional discourse and book sharing. Our school’s reading culture is changing.
In October we presented our Reading (R)evolution assessment work at the Connecticut Reading Association. And just this past weekend we presented at the NCTE 2015 Annual Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota to a standing room only crowd. We continue to be excited.
As for my intervention program? School administration agreed to using Readers Workshop as an intervention model for my struggling readers. We are no longer using a computer based program and are seeing incredible results – anecdotally and through standardized testing. Students who haven’t read a book since 5th grade are begging for additional reading time. Is rigorous independent reading the answer to remediating literacy skills? I’m feeling confident I may have found the answer to my question from 2013.
What does your recent Professional Timehop look like?