Saturday, June 13, 2015

Intervention and Classroom Instruction: Side by Side

June is a time to reflect.  The school year is complete, my classroom is packed, and I've had enough days to catch up on sleep so I'm beginning to think about what I learned last year that will carry me into a new school year.  This year was my first year to be out of the classroom.  I'm going to tell you it hasn't always been easy.  I miss the craziness of work in the classroom.  I miss the closeness of a community.  I miss read aloud, community writing, and hearing the stories of students.  I miss having the time to support literacy learners in multiple contexts across the day.  This year I moved to a reading intervention position supporting mostly first and second grade readers.  This isn't my first role in intervention, but it is my first time to completely be out of a classroom.

As a classroom teacher, I often felt that reading intervention seemed separate from classroom instruction.  As a reading intervention teacher, I wanted to do all I could to blend the support readers needed to the work they were doing in their classrooms.  For this reason, I felt going into classrooms would allow me to provide stronger support than pulling students out.  Thankfully, teachers were willing to let me come into their classrooms to work with their students.  (Yes, this did also allow me to get a classroom fix.  Bonus!  **wink wink**)

Looking back, here are reasons I look forward to trying to improve this model next year:

  • Students miss less classroom instruction:  Going into classrooms instead of having students come to me feels more welcoming.  It just says, "I'll meet you where you are."  Additionally, students don't feel like they are missing out on learning happening in the classroom.  Our time together is just part of their learning time in the classroom.
  • Ease of transitions:  Not only is going into the classroom easier for students who have difficulty transitioning, it is also saves time.  There's no waiting for kids to get materials or losing time in the hallway.  
  • Stronger connections for students:  Since I could see and hear much of what was going on in the classroom it was easier to make connections between our lessons and the work students were doing in the classroom.  It was also possible to reinforce whole class instruction and strategies being taught in the classroom as we worked together.  
  • Easier to match books and readers:  In most cases, I felt like I had a little better handle on what student were choosing to read independently.  This helped me to pick books I thought students might be interested in reading and support book choices for independent reading.
  • More effective monitoring of student progress:  It was easier to monitor students who were not receiving intervention, but were often sitting close to that line.  Sometimes I was able have these students join our groups for targeted instruction.  It was also easier to note student progress in relation to peers for students who were being served in intervention.  It also allowed me to reduce services in cases where students were making good progress (and watch progress) and monitor students who had been served but were discontinued.
  • Better communication:  There's always room to grow here, but coming into classrooms makes using assessment information, sharing observations, and creating common goals with classroom teachers possible.  There's just something about being in the same place that improves communication.  
Of course, there are things I would like to improve.  For example, often I come into classrooms with a planned lesson, but students are doing smart work when I arrive.  During these times I often consider if I can target instruction in this context chosen by the student.  I'd like to get better at making use of these situations.  

There's always room to improve communication with teachers.  Last year I tried keeping a weekly Google doc of lesson information (books read, focus, word work, things I had noticed), but it was difficult to manage this doc and few were using it.  I also tried sending my weekly plan to teachers in email.  This met a bit more success.  The best conversations seemed to happen in impromptu moments.  I'm going to have to think about how to more effectively communicate with teachers in a way that makes it easier for them to support the readers we share.  

Finally, I still felt like the class knew who I was coming to see.  It's hard in limited timeframes to work to improve this, but I'd like classrooms to see me as someone who might read with anyone.  I'm thinking in rooms with workshops just stopping by to chat with other readers, occasionally pulling different groups, or hosting reading events outside of the classroom may be possible ways to help with this.  Last year most classrooms had 30 minute support blocks, if I could wiggle in 40-45 minutes in each room I'd have more flexibility.  Not sure this would ever be possible. 

I think going into classrooms had many benefits for students.  I also know it isn't always easy for teachers to have someone else in their classrooms.  I appreciated their willingness to help make this work for our students.  There's still a lot to learn, but we're moving in the right direction as we work to find more effective ways to serve readers needing support.  

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