Research Decide Teach

The last post focused on conferring with readers.  I love visuals so naturally, I need to make some for my PLC with teachers.

My favorite way to start a conference is to say, what are you working on as a reader?
But there are other ways to start...

 Parts of a Conference {No more than five minutes...Yikes!}
When you think of the TEACH part of a conference the following are the methods we are using. The teacher picks just one.  At the end of a conference we give the student a reminder of what we just worked on. We are trying to pick a goal that will last a week or two.

Next post, we will give examples of teaching methods.

Happy almost Friday!!!


Conferring with Readers and Writers

Tiny Tale:

How many times have you started a writing workshop, you have the best laid-plans, and they don’t always happen? Your goal is to work with five students, and you end up working with two. When you check-in with Bobbie; he is not holding on to anything you taught last week.  Gracie’s folder has fifteen books on the same topic that she wrote over the course of three days, and you can’t figure out how that happened.

You may be thinking; what the heck is going on?

This winter our building is heading into a new PLC focusing on conferring. We plan to use the Research Decide Teach {RDT} structure; written extensively in Carl Anderson book How Is It Going? 

What is RDT? 

This predictable conference structure often takes less than five minutes. The teacher begins the conference by researching the writer.  Carl Anderson likes to pose the question; “How is it going?”  During this beginning conversation you want to get a snapshot of where a child is at.  Next, think about how this fits into the bigger picture of the child you have come to know as a writer or reader.  Notice and name what the child is doing well, and build on the child’s strengths by starting with a compliment.

Following, it is time to decide and teach the child.  The teaching point should be something that the child can almost do on their own but not quite yet. We often have a  number of teaching directions we could go. It’s important that we only pick one.

Yes, one.

Lastly, make sure you record what you talked about during the conference.  Recently, we read an online article that reminded us that taking notes are the tracks of our teaching and are absolutely essential. This quick record keeping helps us be accountable for what we taught, and helps kids too. It’s powerful to end the conference by telling the child back what you just wrote down.

Here is a conferring sheet we find helpful.

Quick Reflection 

We always confer one-on-one with students during workshop time, but we haven’t necessarily used this structure consistently. We would work with a child ask them how they were doing, and sometimes the conference would turn into a “check-in” . We could try to help a child with something from the mini-lesson and the students would struggle. Instead of spending five minutes with that child, we would end up spending fifteen.

We hope you come along with us on this PLC journey.  We hope to dig deep into RDT with reading and writing workshop. Our 2018 goal is to find ways to grow stronger professionally and share that with you.

Happy almost Thursday! 


Make It Stick Monday

Shanna Schwartz’s book Making Our Teaching Stick is one of our favorite teeny tiny books. Year after year, we found ourselves reading this book again and again. Shanna is a consultant and staff developer for TC who travels all over the world presenting workshop ideas to teachers. She found that time after time teachers kept asking her what can I do, to make my teaching stick?

 Tiny Tale

We have all been there in our teaching. You teach a beautiful lesson on Monday and when you return to it on Tuesday everyone in the class is confused. It’s like they never heard anything before. Written for workshop teachers, Shanna clearly lays out important principles and practices that help make our teaching sticky.

Shanna’s stickiness principles:

 • Children learn when they are ready to learn.
 We learn best in our zone of proximal development. This means the child can almost do something independently but benefits from a little adult support. Shanna introduces the concept of skill ladders. How can we look at a skill we want to teach a child and think about the steps it takes to get them to the goal. We often have to provide heavy scaffolds at first and over time, release scaffolds as children move towards those skills.

skills ladder for making our teaching stick

 This is an example of a skills ladder. The child is learning what to do when they come to a tricky word.

Starting at the bottom, the first thing we would tell the child to do is to look at the first sound.

Students learn best when they are engaged and active in their learning.
Telling stories, adding role-playing and putting gestures in our lessons help students get their bodies and minds ready. We think this comes naturally, to most teachers. Kids love to hear stories about your family or dog or hobbies. When we think of the units of study the mini-lesson always begins with some kind of story.

We need to give student reminders of what was taught.
When teaching something new, the teacher can create anchor charts. Shanna gives excellent examples of different kinds of physical representation, you can create in your classroom and the why behind this work.
nonfiction anchor chart
Laura's classroom anchor chart for nonfiction reading

 • Children love and learn through repetition.
Shanna stresses the importance of providing opportunities for students to approximate and accumulate greater and greater understanding. Sometimes we can get stuck on wanting kids to get it right. Shanna reminds us of the importance of approximations and how we need to see that these are signs that kids are growing.

When we think about our personal journey when learning something new, it takes time and we often make mistakes. Next week,  we will be digging deep into Shanna’s first principle of making our teaching stick Children Learn When They are Ready to Learn. We hope to share stories of how we are finding ways to implement Shanna’s principles in our workshop.

Happy Monday!
melissa & laura & jess

P.S. Big thank you to Susan who bought me this book!!