Albert Einstein once said, “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and should cease only at death.” In no profession is this commitment to lifelong learning more important and more apparent than in teaching. Teachers know we are never finished learning. We spend our time not in the classroom studying, observing, discussing, and collaborating in order to become the best teachers we can be.
The start of a new calendar year brings a sense of renewal, possibility, and novelty. It is a time for reflection, and certainly, as the number of people who make New Year’s resolutions shows, for goal-setting.
Hopefully, your students (and you!) have returned from the break rested, recharged, and ready to reinvest. This is the perfect time to channel your students to reflect on their reading and writing lives and to make plans for the year ahead.
If you are a middle school teacher who has chosen to teach writing using a workshop model, you know that it is possible for students to choose writing topics that fuel their passions and to write to high standards simultaneously. You know that giving students freedom to cycle through a process of writing does not mean they will be unproductive, quite the contrary. You know that it is possible to prepare students for standardized assessments while also teaching them to live a writerly life.
Gaining knowledge from informational texts is an essential academic skill. Yet for too many English Learners, this skill is not developed sufficiently and as students move from elementary into middle school, the reading gap becomes a knowledge gap. This doesn’t have to happen, researcher Ana Taboada Barber explains, if we support EL’s reading of informational texts by pairing motivation practices with explicit reading comprehension instruction.
Gaining knowledge from informational texts is an essential academic skill. Yet for too many English Learners, this skill is not developed sufficiently and as they move from elementary into middle school, the reading gap becomes a knowledge gap. This doesn’t have to happen, researcher Ana Taboada Barber explains, if we support EL’s reading of informational texts by pairing motivation practices with explicit reading comprehension instruction.
Teachers, give a thumbs-up if you've ever delivered a minilesson that failed miserably. (This teacher is putting up both thumbs.) It's likely that we all have. Sometimes, we go on too long. Sometimes, we cut one part or another too short. Sometimes, no matter how how clear our demonstration, the students just don’t understand the teaching point. What’s more, not every minilesson will meet the exact needs of every student, every day. There will be days that nearly every student leaves the meeting area charged up and ready to read more purposefully at the end of the minilesson. And, there will be days that the minilesson goes right over most of their heads.
Luckily, even when minilessons don’t go so well, we have the opportunity to reach students via conferences and small groups as they read independently. But even so, though minilessons aren't the sole means of instruction in reading workshop, they are the centerpiece. They are how we prepare students for their best independent reading, how we bolster their energy, and rally them to a common cause. In minilessons, we set the vision for the kind of readers we want them to become.
Whether you are new to reading workshop instruction and you are learning how to deliver minilessons effectively, or you are a seasoned instructor looking to tweak your minilessons to give them even more power, now is a perfect time to study your teaching and set some goals for the latter half of the school year.