By Teachers, For Teachers
Only five weeks remain before my students pack up their things, clean out their lockers, and bid me farewell. I don’t know about you but, when the final bell rings for the year, I immediately begin to create a mental note of all the things I did this year (some great, others not so great), and of the things I want to incorporate into my classroom for next year.
Of the many things I want and need to do this summer, learning new teaching skills is definitely at the top of my list. There are many new things out there in the world of education, and so many resources that demonstrate techniques, concepts, strategies to create an engaging and exciting learning environment – they’re all just waiting to be discovered.
I plan to focus on three specific areas of improvement this summer: reading, engaging/creative teaching and, dare I say it, creating lesson plans that inspire student thinking. I have gathered a reading list of six books that will assist me in becoming a better teacher. My goals this summer: read, take notes, research, discuss with peers, and learn.
The Book Whisperer and The Daily 5/Cafe Book
I am fortunate to have a principal who is allowing me to move away from reading anthologies (not a huge fan) to books that vary in genre and ability level. With this in mind, I am looking to create new ways to incorporate these readers beyond reading groups. I did a little research online and at my local library (yes I still research hard copy style), and discovered two really great books I am adding to my “teacher's summer reading” list: Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer and The Daily 5: Fostering Literacy Independence in the Elementary Grades, along with the companion book The Cafe Book by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser.
I admit The Book Whisperer enticed me simply by the title. It just sounds so practical and so easy. As I skimmed through the list of chapters, the titles read like journal entries, detailing real situations in real classrooms, unlike other texts that illustrate how to execute a lesson but neglect to share the actual results in the classroom. I want to read what someone has done and how it worked - I am not interested in “do this and maybe this will happen.”
The “Walking the Walk” chapter grabbed my attention immediately. I peeked and discovered this chapter details the importance of being a reading role model for our students. I am always reading, so I was so excited that I can check off one of the items on the list! I’m always willing to share my enthusiasm for reading with anyone who will listen; it is a good thing to find that you are on the right path.
Through the books, I am hoping to engage my students in various literacy tasks (five in all), which will allow me to assist in small groups, or one on one, with a struggling reader. The two books were created to demonstrate tasks students will complete independently. These tasks will help students develop the daily habits of reading, writing, and working with peers. CAFE, I recently learned, is an acronym for Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, and Expanding vocabulary.
Teach Like a Champion
Another area I’d like to improve upon: engaging and creative teaching. For this, I search the internet daily (Pinterest is a favorite). But I will also use the book, Teach like a Champion by Doug Lemov, as a resource. Lemov offers methods for awakening the skills and talents of your students. His chapters include setting high expectations, structuring and delivering lessons, engaging students, building a classroom culture, building character and trust, and challenging students to think critically. This is just in the first part of the book -I am going to need lots of post-its! The second part deals mostly with reading and the fundamentals. Perhaps this will tie in nicely with the two books listed above.
Understanding by Design and The Lesson Planning Handbook
The third area I’d like to improve upon is the area I dread the most - lesson plans. We all have a weak spot; writing lesson plans are my kryptonite. I have never been great at writing lesson plans, especially since the formats are often changing. For this task, I have selected two books, The Lesson Planning Handbook by Peter Brunn and sections taken from Understanding by Design by Carol Ann Tomlinson and Jay McTighe.
My principal and I attended an Understanding by Design conference earlier this year. During this conference I was given the opportunity to learn another method for creating lesson plans: planning backward. Planning backwards involves three stages: identifying desired results, determining acceptable evidence, and planning learning experiences and instruction. Thankfully, the book offers examples and a template to assist teachers in this method, as this may take a bit of practice.
The Lesson Planning Handbook is written in three parts: teaching essentials, before we teach, and as we teach. The book details successful lessons, methods of organizing lessons that optimizes student thinking (always a plus), and suggests a process for planning, reviewing, and revising lesson.
Combining the techniques from these two sources may help reduce my dislike for lesson plans and finally give me a format I can follow.
Summer is just around the corner and a new school year will be here before you blink. Don't hesitate to start thinking how you will improve upon your teaching for next year: now is the perfect time to start creating a list. So, grab a chair, find a beach, and start reading.