Saturday, September 27, 2014

Where Are They, Really?

The hustle and bustle of the first days is softening to a quiet hum.  It seems in the blink of an eye, we've managed to settle into our routines of learning.  Community bonds are strengthening as students begin to come together to learn side by side.  In the first weeks, we've established structures to help us learn, observed students in a variety of situations, and spent some time assessing formally and informally.   Now that we've gotten to know students a bit, we begin to feel the necessity to push forward.  At this early point in the year it would be easy to follow old patterns and think about where students usually are or where they should be as they enter our classrooms, but I'm reminding myself to reflect with a more critical eye --- a fresh eye.  Where are my students at this time?

Where are they --- really?  Not where should they be?  Not where do I wish they were.  Not where are they usually at the beginning of the year.  Where are they right now?  As I transition from the days of building relationships toward important next steps in learning, I'm trying to challenge my own assumptions.  Am I working where students are right now?

As I reflect upon the literacy information I've gathered through observations and assessments, I consider:

  • What routines did they follow in their classrooms last year?  
  • What do readers have under control right now?    
  • What strategies do they use consistently?  
  • What do they need to take NEXT steps?
  • Are my focus lessons setting students up to do the work I'm asking them to do?  
  • Do I have appropriate books available?  

Recently a colleague said to me, "We have to divorce ourselves from last year."  It's so true.  I need to look with fresh eyes, and look hard, at where students really are.  To be effective and help students take next steps, my instructional decisions should be based upon the information I have gathered.  In these first weeks, I've collected information from reading and writing assessments.  I've watched students read new text and familiar text.  I've observed as they've selected books for independent reading time.  As they've responded orally and in writing, I've noted strengths and confusions.  Now it's time to use this information while it is fresh to plan next steps.  These next steps need to be based upon where students are and not where they should be.


  1. Love your colleague's words "we have to divorce ourselves from last year". It's true at my school too, even though most teachers have students for the 2nd year. Clean slate for everyone, including teachers. Love that you put it all together so well, Cathy!

  2. Cathy,
    My struggle is with others in my district who feel that intervention should solely involve lots of those wonderful acronyms: BURST, BOOST, etc. Instead, on the shoulders of Richard Allington, I try to focus on kids reading lots of just right books. Appropriate word work tied to the books is always part of lessons, as well. Because of what I know about literacy instruction, and as we face the PAARC (Is that the right acronym?) test, I involve writing about reading in my time with children, as well.
    I love reading your posts!

  3. Thank you for sharing this reflection. So hopeful.