One Sunflower

processing professional development

on October 6, 2009

My brain is so full!!! I need to write about everything I’ve learned today so I can sort it out and make sense of it all.   David Matteson was in our district to continue our work on supporting literacy alignment, Pk-3rd grade.  There were two purposes for today’s sessions:  the morning was to be dedicated to our Kindergarten studio classroom teacher and her practice using a wordless book,  and the focus in the afternoon was on the preschool teachers practice with  the Early Writing Continuum and Early Reading Assessment that are featured in Davids’ books, Assessing and Teaching  Beginning Writers, Assessing and Teaching Beginning Readers.  Teachers from preschool to second grade, our principals and assistant superintendent were there to participate in this process.

Our veteran K teacher chose to work with the book, Goodnight Gorilla.  She wanted to introduce her students to creating and using “story” language with a book that has none or very few written words on the page.  In the “prebrief” session before her lesson, she and David talked about her ideas, intent, and reasons for the choices she was making in her lesson.  He encouraged her to present the book and language in a modeling fashion, not engaging the students in a dialogue about what they see and think about the book and pictures.    She did an awesome job of presenting the language of story – beginning sentences with prepositions, describing action that happened on the page with descriptive vocabulary, intentionally drawing the students attention from left to right across the pages.  The debrief process helped us all identify the teaching strategies,  spend some time discussing the process and intent, and created a format for the the teacher to analyze what she could improve upon and choose to do next in the classroom.   I was both intimidated and excited about taking my turn in this process – at the end of November! 

After lunch, the preschool teachers in our district gathered around a table with our “yellow journals,” (see previous blog entry,) and a small collection of our first reading assessment attempts.   We reviewed the morning’s work for a while and then dug into our experiences using the journals.  Two of us  had experimented with the journals briefly last spring.  This was our first opportunity to begin the year intentionally thinking about how to incorporate the journal writing into curriculum and how to build our students capacity to write and tell story.   Our challenges were around how to analyze our students work and oral language using the rubric.  The other teachers at the table work with our developmental preschool students.  One had attended the training sessions last year but this was her first time introducing the journals to students. She had a lot of questions about how to use them with kids who are still struggling to hold crayons, make marks on paper and talk.  While our challenges may be different, the focus with our students needs to be the same – how to get  them to create and tell stories.

What I learned through our discussion was that most of my students are producing pictures that are recognizable, a level 3 on the rubric.  They will probably remain at that level for some time as they begin to illustrate their ideas better, using shapes to draw elements of their stories.  Their scores on the oral language side are more problematic, as I have many that are at a level 2, stating only a few words or making a simple statement about their work, statements that probably would not be consistent with a second telling.  Along with my scoring, I have identified “next steps” in my instruction for each student, but how to put that into practice – modeling for students, working with small groups, integrating reading and writing into other parts of our daily curriculum – that is my learning edge this year!  

Tomorrow I meet with my principal to discuss my “individualized learning plan” for myself.   Hopefully working through the cycle of inquiry questions will help me choose realistic ways to start the work.

An image popped into my mind of knitting – I’m a knitter.  It has always amazed me that knitting was invented, that someone or a group of someones figured out how to take wispy washed wool from a sheep, twist it into a single strand and in a process of looping and wrapping, produce fabric.   I want my teaching to be like knitting – taking the disconnected efforts of my students and through some purposeful intervention and weaving of literacy elements, create writing that knits together colorful bits of their lives into cohesive stories.

One response to “processing professional development

  1. Trout says:


    This is another truly wonderful entry. I especially like your comparison of knitting and literacy learning. It causes me to remember working with students in the classroom. Often we would share new insights and reflections or name new learning, and then weave it together to form a new pattern in our tapestry of learning.

    I hope I am not the only one reading your blog. Let me know how many people are reading your entries.


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