Sunday, September 28, 2014

Support That Makes Sense

Walking into the first classroom as the day begins, I smile to myself as I look around the room.  This classroom has already established important morning routines which allow learning to happen even as students settle into the day.  Students greet one another quietly as they move about.  They smile, chat, and then continue to begin the day.  Some students are unpacking book bags.  Others are signing in for lunch.  Others have already settled into reading their poems or collections of books placed on tables for independent reading.  As soon as Amber sees me, she gets her reading bag and returns to her table.  Her class is adding a poem to their poetry notebooks today so instead of beginning with her familiar reading, we start with her poem.  This all happens seamlessly as everyone is busy learning.  She reads her poem.  We discuss it.  Friends at the table join our conversation.

In my new position as a reading intervention teacher, I'm grateful to have the opportunity to go into several classrooms to support readers.  Setting up a schedule wasn't easy.  Trying to balance classroom schedules, student needs, and teacher preferences when developing a plan for support took a bit of time and flexibility on everyone's part.  In a few cases I bring students to our reading classroom, in other cases I go to students in their classrooms.  Working with readers who need to catch up to peers, I continually have an eye on instructional moves that are intentional and intensive enough to keep readers moving forward.  I've known it would be a challenge to make these embedded learning opportunities intentional, systematic, intensive, and inclusive.

Reading Donalyn Miller's book, Reading in the Wild, over the summer has helped to remind me that intensive instruction is only one piece of the puzzle for readers needing support.  Readers, especially those working to catch up, need to be able to connect learning to their classrooms.  Readers, especially those finding their way, need to belong to a reading community.  Readers, especially those working to make progress, need time to read independently.

Here are the benefits I have noted in classrooms in which I go to students for reading support:

  • Reduced Transitions:  This is not only helpful for students who do not transition easily, it also is helpful for entire classrooms.  The transition as I walk into classrooms to provide support seems to get less attention than students exiting the room.  Additionally, we seem to gain minutes by not traveling.  
  • Connected Conversations:  Sitting in classrooms it is easy for me to pick up on the routines, the focus of learning conversations, and the shifts classroom teachers are trying to make.  It is easy to begin to connect these conversations in our work together.  For example, I came into one of my classrooms at the end of the focus lesson for reader's workshop.  They were talking about asking questions as they read.  It was easy to incorporate this discussion into our conversation during our small group lesson to connect this learning for these young readers.  
  • Belongingness:  Readers needing support need to belong to their reading communities.  Meeting students in their learning communities helps them to stay connected to the other readers in their classroom.  
  • Big Picture:  I can't find the perfect word here, but going into classrooms allows a better system vision.  It is easy for us to include students not in intervention who still may need specific support in new learning.  It allows me to keep an eye on students I am watching to be sure they make continued progress.  Newer students, students previously needing supporting, and students who seem to just inch along are easily monitored in inclusive situations.  It also keeps my vision on where readers are in the classroom and the gains students receiving support need to make.  This change allows a more system driven network of support.  
There are still pieces we continually want to improve.  Is the support intensive enough?  Do students have enough time to read independently?  How do we carve time for these readers to meet with their classroom teachers and with me for additional support?  These, I believe, are the same challenges readers face when leaving the classroom for pull out intervention.  I'm excited about the barriers we are removing for young readers and the connections we are helping them to discover.  


  1. Thank you, Cathy! I want to share this with my staff!

  2. My students are some of the lucky readers who benefit from you and your focus on making all situations best for readers. The lack of transitions has been seamless and we are all learning along the way. Finding the best times for students and for us to support readers is coming along too. I know our kids are benefiting and growing onto wild readers!