As part of my role as the district literacy coach, I will be visiting classrooms and observing things as they relate to literacy. These visits will be called walk-throughs. They are not be evaluative in nature, but to gather observational information as to the things we are doing collectively and individually in terms of literacy instruction.
Some of you may be wondering, before they actually start happing, what are literacy walk-throughs are and what purpose they serve. I would like to clarify this so that there is no confusion or concern on your end. "Literacy walk-throughs are brief, repeated, focused classroom visits during which data are collected relative to the goals of the literacy action plan" (Irvin et al, p. 138, 2010). This may bring up another question - what is a literacy action plan? Well... we are in the process of addressing this at the district level as well. A literacy action plan is the focus/goals that the district has with regards to literacy. Now that we have established what our definition of what literacy is, in one of my previous posts, I will be working with Mr. Wells, the principals, and the teachers to come up with a clear and succinct focus for literacy in the district. The literature might refer to it as a "literacy action plan" but we can ultimately call it whatever we want. So... more about that at a later time.
In terms of my walk-throughs, I will be looking for specific literacy things when I come in. Remember, I am not a principal in the district, and am therefore not providing teacher supervision and/or evaluation! I will be looking for evidences of literacy and will work to coach people on how literacy is being addressed... with the ultimate goal of improving student literacy district wide. That said, these are the things I will be looking at - not all at once, but one per visit (McEwan-Adkins, 2011):
- Instructional moves
- Teacher-managed instructional activities
- Teacher with-it-ness components
- Student-managed learning activities
- Classroom artifacts
To help you understand what I will be looking for as I come in, I will provide you with a heads up, probably through a blog post, about what I will be looking for when I come in for a round of visits. However, to help you understand what those aforementioned things are that I will be looking at, here is a break down of what each of them are:
Instructional moves - are the positive and purpose-driven actions, attitudes, and works that highly effective teachers use to communicate with students during literacy instruction.
Teacher-managed instructional activities - are lessons in which teachers provide targeted, direct, explicit, systematic, supportive instruction to students in any of the curricular components in a balanced literacy program.
Teacher with-it-ness components - is the state of being on top of, tuned in to, aware of, and in complete control of the various organizational and management facets of classroom life.
Student-managed learning activities - are those for which students have acquired the necessary skills and strategies to independently manage and complete a wide range of literacy tasks to include reading, writing, presenting, consulting, and teaching.
Classroom artifacts - are (1) physical objects in the classroom (posters, signs, agendas, assignment notebooks, vocabulary and reading logs, and rubrics), (2) teacher development written documents that enable teachers to use their walls and boards as "teaching assignments" and motivators, and (3) student-produced written documents such as work displayed in the classroom, homework assignments, and work produced during teacher-managed instruction or student-managed learning activities that give evidence of rigour and relevance.
Our first focus - Classroom Artifacts
Classroom libraries - the classroom contains a variety of books at various levels so all students can find accessible text to read independently.
Student vocabulary notebook - the vocabulary notebook contains a collection of the new words students have acquired during literacy instruction, words they have encountered in their own independent reading, and words the teacher has taught indirectly in the classroom.
Student reading log - the reading log contains a brief entry for each book a student has read independently outside of school or in the classroom. The log contains the title, author, and a one or two sentence summary about the book (a statement of the moral of the story or the main idea).
Posters and charts - charts containing steps or prompts to scaffold students' decoding of cognitive strategies are displayed where students can easily see them.
Student literacy centres - student literacy centres are clearly labelled and furnished with organized materials that are accessible to students.
Content standards or lesson objectives - as appropriate to the grade level, the content standard or lesson objective is stated in a student friendly language.
Exemplary student work - exemplary student work is displayed on the walls and boards both inside and/or outside the classroom.
Word wall - as appropriate to the grade level, important academic and content words are displayed on the word wall.
Graphic organizers - graphic organizers to summaries stories, articles, important concepts, or academic vocabulary are displayed and frequently used as examples by the teacher.
Keep in mind that not all classrooms will have all of these things. I will take into consideration the grade(s) and class(es) being taught. That said, I think that it would be reasonable to come in and observe at least a few of these things regardless of which classroom I walk into.
Anyway, I really look forward to getting into the schools over the next couple of weeks and observing the many wonderful things that are happening here in the NEA!
Irvin, J. et. al. (2010). Taking the lead on adolescent literacy: action steps for schoolwide success. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
McEwan-Adkins, E. (2011). Literacy Look-Fors. Retrieved on Monday December 20, 2013 from go.solution-tree.com/literacy.