Our school hosted instructional rounds this week and for the first time, in our district, a few teacher leaders were invited to participate in the process. As a teacher leader, I was excited about this learning opportunity and knew that I was going to have many important takeaways that would extend my thinking as a teacher, literacy coach, and leader.
As Melanie Meehan shared in our previous post The Power of Videos in Instructional Rounds, we have many new teachers so we focused our ‘Question of Practice’ on our new teachers by looking at specific standards: planning, learning environment, instruction, and collaboration. I was a participant in the ‘Instruction Group’ and we visited classrooms varying from 1st grade all the way to 6th grade. In each of the five classrooms that we visited, we observed reading workshop. As a teacher who writes and revises the reading curriculum in our district and coaches new teachers in literacy, I loved being able to see the current progression across grade levels in reading instruction. Visiting these classrooms during reading workshop, I was able to observe and think about the level of vocabulary used during mini-lessons, the level of student independence, the level of student talk with classmates, and the quantity/quality of writing about their reading on post-its or in reader’s notebooks.
Although students are practicing similar reading skills in all grade levels such as inferring, predicting, synthesizing, questioning, and interpreting, we want the skills to become more complex as the grades progress. For the most part, I did see a progression, but there is always room for improvement in this area of complexity and rigor. The Common Core State Standards emphasize text complexity, skill progression, and rigor so I am looking closely at our reading curriculum with this lens to make sure we are increasing the level of skills and level of rigor in our classrooms in each grade level for our students.
One way that we can help to identify, reflect, and implement more rigor in our teaching is to observe across grade levels to see firsthand what students are learning and doing independently in the previous grades. I also think coaches and school leaders will benefit from observing reading workshop (and other subjects) across grade levels, focusing on one skill at a time. For example, they should visit classrooms from 1st grade to 6th grade with the lens focused on inferring, developing theories about characters, etc. so they can see the skill progression that is currently in place and evaluate whether there are too many overlaps. Pathways to the Common Core , which I wrote about in a recent post, recommends shared walk-throughs with colleagues to focus on the ways second graders through sixth graders grow theories about characters (pg. 19). By doing this, we will see if strategies are being recycled each year or if the progression is developmentally appropriate and is rigorous enough for our students. By observing across all grade levels using the same lens, we will be able to identify and reflect on the skill progressions as well as make necessary revisions that foster a rigorous curriculum for our students each year.
Participating in Instructional Rounds extended my thinking as a teacher leader and literacy coach in many ways. I would love to hear about your own experiences with instructional rounds, the takeaways you have, and the impact it has on your teaching and coaching.