Sunday, March 15, 2015

Keeping Schedules & Plans Flexible

"When I suggest that we must 'teach with a sense of urgency' I'm not talking about teaching prompted by anxiety but rather about making every moment in the classroom count, about ensuring that our instruction engages students and moves them ahead, about using daily evaluation and reflection to make wise teaching decisions."  Regie Routman, Reading Essentials (p. 41) 
Whether a classroom teacher or an intervention specialist, in our roles as educators, it becomes much too easy to get caught up in our routines and schedules.  Before we know it, we can be cycling through groups and schedules with superficial attention to the learning going on within them.  We work hard to keep an eye on learning as we observe our students.  What do they know now?  What's next?  How can we best support these next steps?

As a primary intervention teacher, I'm fortunate to work with teachers who are very willing to rethink schedules and learning plans for students.  In the last few weeks, a variety of circumstances have given me reason to look at my intervention schedule yet again and see if I can make changes.  New data, changes in teaching focus, and classroom teacher's schedules have created the need to rethink the way the day looks.  It's not always easy to revision something we have grown comfortable doing.  I'm fortunate to be able to go to other intervention teachers, our literacy coach, and other classroom teachers for fresh eyes and new possibilities in working with students.  When a new need arises in my schedule, but I can't see the solution, I know I can go to these people to puzzle it out and work to make changes.

Every time I plan a schedule change I worry just a bit as I know this will impact teachers in their classrooms.  Yet, these changes are often necessary to make optimal use of the time given for support.  I always keep an open mind to the concerns of everyone impacted by these changes.  There's always a way to accommodate the needs of everyone, it just takes flexible thinking.  These changes have to maintain a balance between support, important classroom instruction, and time for students to work independently to practice new concepts and strategies.  The teachers I work with are always so willing to rethink the time students are receiving support, keeping what's best for children in the forefront of their decision making.  There are always ways to rethink and rework schedules to better meet the needs of students and teachers.  It just sometimes takes some creative thinking.

Time.  There could always be more of it, but the truth is there are ways we can use the time we have more effectively.  What's needed next?  What's most important?  What can we set aside?  To make the best use of the time I do have with students I try to:

  • group students with common needs.
  • set clear learning goals.  (Even better, have students set their own learning goals.)
  • make sure independent learning times are used to work on next steps.
  • move children around often.  
  • stay on the edge of student learning.  
  • use frequent formative assessment to track progress and plan next steps.  

As an intervention teacher, I work to maintain an open dialogue with teachers.  Knowing the focus of learning in classrooms, being aware of classroom schedules, keeping classroom teachers informed of learning goals, and chatting often about students often helps us work together to find ways to support young literacy learners.  It isn't always easy, but together we accomplish much.  

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