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The Case for Coaching

3 Lessons

According to Bean and Ippolito, “Coaching is a process of facilitated inquiry that enables teachers to achieve both their individual goals and the goals of the organization, specifically to improve classroom instructional practices and student literacy learning. Further, such collaborative inquiry contributes to cultural and organizational changes necessary for improving the learning of all students. Effective coaching includes a set of coaching behaviors that support adult learning, collaboration, and design work, all in service of continual improvement of literacy instruction in a school. As such, coaching can include any number of activities (e.g., holding conversations with teachers designed to increase awareness and reflectivity about instructional issues, modeling various interventions or strategies, observing, facilitating meetings about instruction or data, etc.) and can occur between individuals or in groups.” In this course we review the roles and strategies used by coaches, and begin to brainstorm how we might strategically implement these approaches.

Literacy Needs Assessment

3 Lessons

In this course, we identify six steps to assist those involved in conducting a needs assessment, as outlined by Bean and Ippolito (2017): 1) Identify the goals, 2) Design or select the needs assessment tool to meet your goals, considering the questions or goals to be addressed, 3) Determine sources of data, 4) Determine how data will be collected, 5) Decide on the audiences to be consulted, 5) Analyze the data. We also provide access to a free and easily alterable online survey tool that you can use with students or teachers as a part of your planning process.

The Coaching Mindset

2 Lessons

In this course, we introduce three levels of coaching, as outlined in Bean and Ippolito (2017). They state that “much of coaching work is about helping colleagues, other adult learners, to become more reflective practitioners and shift their instruction slowly to improve outcomes for students. However, if the work of coaching is viewed through a purely technical lens (Heifetz et al., 2009) or as single-loop learning (Argrys & Schon, 1974, 1996), in other words, learning that simply requires detection of a problem and implementation of a known solution, then this frame for coaching will likely not produce the deep, systemic changes that most literacy leadership work is meant to provoke.” In this course, level 1 is building relationships. This is informal and less intense but essential. Level 2 (Analyzing Practice) and 3 (Changing Practice and Making Teaching Public) are increasingly formal and intense.

Structures and Routines to Support Professional Learning

3 Lessons

In this course, participants will learn about a range of professional learning structures and routines that may support disciplinary learning, professional learning, and examine a short case study of a professional learning initiative. Participants will draft a sequence of structures to support a particular team or teams in learning more about disciplinary learning and get structured feedback on the plan.

The Challenge of Adolescent Reading

1 Lessons

In this course, we first provide an overview of the domains of disciplinary literacy that we focus on in our work—disciplinary literacy, vocabulary, discussion, digital literacy, multiple texts, and writing to learn. We explore both the unique and shared challenges that disciplinary texts present for readers. We explore how we use disciplinary thinking when we interpret maps, charts, magazines, poems, and primary source materials to help authenticate the content and bring it to life. Next, we examine the simple view of reading and examine what this view means for reading and learning in and across content areas. Last, we present our vision for using expert texts with novice readers, and by examining texts written by experts across the disciplines, we illustrate how disciplinary habits of mind are realized through language.

Exploration of Disciplinary Literacy

So, what can be done to support students to better comprehend disciplinary texts? In this course, we suggest the use of disciplinary literacy pedagogy, which makes use of texts written for both expert and novice audiences, as one method of bringing outsiders into the language of the disciplines. Our intention is not to suggest that teaching language is the end goal of disciplinary instruction. Rather, the goal is to begin to teach students to understand disciplinary approaches to knowledge by making transparent the practice and habits of mind in our discipline. We believe that as the language of each content area is demystified, students are provided with the resources to express their opinions, ideas, and understandings, as well as master disciplinary content when reading in the content-area classroom.

General Academic Vocabulary

In this chapter, we argue that teaching academic words is one of our essential responsibilities as content-area teachers, as doing the work of historians, mathematicians, literary critics, and scientists in the real world requires the ability to comprehend challenging texts. This does not mean teachers should halt the curriculum in their classes to teach word definitions, but; rather, they should utilize research-based supports and content-specific uses of words when they occur naturally in their texts. We critically analyze one freely available program, Word Generation, as a starting point for thinking about how to better support general academic language in our classes and across content areas.

Content-specific Vocabulary

This course proposes a tripartite approach to teaching vocabulary. Each of the three components of the framework support each other. This course provides readings and resources to support each of the three legs, which are: 1) create a language-rich, word-curious classroom; 2) teach word-learning strategies; and 3) strategically choose which words to teach. We use the Flanigan and Greenwood framework for determining which words to teach and how long to spend on each.

Engaging Academic and Civic Discussion

Students will disagree with each other. That’s fine. But they need to be taught how to disagree: The phrase, “I see it so differently,” invites difference and clarification; “That’s stupid,” shuts off conversation. According to Erdmann and Metzger, “Discussion is the queen of lesson plans: an essential, prominent, but often under-taught tool for the classroom teacher. Although discussion is the most difficult classroom format to plan and to manage, it is also the ultimate bridge between reading and writing. Nothing in the secondary classroom is harder to plan and lead effectively, except perhaps differentiated instruction. No one is born knowing how to lead discussion; it took us years in the classroom—but it can be learned.” In this course, we provide specific tools and resources to help your students shorten their learning curve toward rich discussion.

Supporting Disciplinary Argumentation

High-quality academic discussions that contribute to student learning are reciprocal, typically collaborative, sometimes exploratory, and usually open-ended. In the classroom, such discussions encourage students to share their perspectives, so that comprehension of a text or concept becomes a process of reconciling potentially competing perspectives to illuminate each other and helps generate deeper student understanding. In this course, we look closely at the ways that teachers use their instructional talk to strengthen student learning and provide assessment rubrics to help students understand the importance of oral presentation in your content area.

Text complexity

How do we determine what level of difficulty will be appropriate for our students, especially those who are struggling? This short course provides a quantitative framework for measuring text complexity (which considers aspects of text, such as sentence length and the number of infrequent words) and a qualitative rubric developed for informational and narrative texts. Additionally, we explore how readability formulas are arrived at, explain how they can be useful but also misleading, and provide online tools that teachers can use if they want to determine a text's readability level.

Multiple texts

While textbooks can be important sources of information in middle and high school classrooms, teachers wishing to encourage critical thinking and strategic reading often introduce multiple texts to students—at different reading levels—to promote understanding and engagement with content-area concepts. In this course, participants will explore the various text types available in their disciplines, as well as how different text types might be used to support student learning. Participants will be introduced to the notion of text sets—groups of texts related to the same content-area topic. We will examine example text sets and create an example that leads students to use key disciplinary habits of the mind.