Banned Books Week Projects

muniz_img_2403_thumbnailAs AASL President Audrey Church notes: “Intellectual freedom and the right to privacy have been with us throughout the history of school librarianship. The issues are the same, but the formats, the situations, and the contexts have grown” (qtd. in Adams, 41).

During Banned Books Week, every school librarian has the opportunity to involve students, colleagues, administrators, and families in projects related to the Freedom to Read (http://ftrf.org).

Celia Muniz is the library media specialist at Harlingen High School in Harlingen, Texas. She created a flyer to spotlight her school’s week-long observance of Banned Books Week.

On Monday the Harlingen Information Literacy Center (ILC) kicked off the school’s observance with a display of books and projects created by English language arts (ELA) teacher Mrs. Huerta’s students. (Ms. Muniz sweetened the deal by giving those who stopped by the library circ desk and joined the fight against censorship a candy treat.)

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Mrs. Huerta’s students and the ILC offered Banned Books Week presentations to other classes on a sign-up basis. Today, on September 29th, Ms. Muniz is taking photos in the ILC of staff and students wearing super hero t-shirts and capes. Finally, on Friday Ms. Muniz is distributing “Defending the Right to Read Banned Books” stickers in the cafeteria during both lunch periods.

Similarly, Erikka Adams, head librarian at the Proctor Academy in Andover, New Hampshire, set out to involve the entire campus in Banned Books Week. She created a school-wide, campus-based banned books scavenger hunt, which she kicked off with a school-wide announcement. She followed up the announcement with details via email.

All of the banned books in the hunt had a sheet inside explaining why they are banned and a QR code to a video talking about banned books in general.  She posted the scavenger hunt clues on the library’s social media accounts; students and faculty had to follow/like/friend to get the clues.

Anyone who finds one of the challenged books, snaps a selfie holding the book, and posts the photo using these hashtags (#bannedbooksweek #proctoracademy #proctorreads) will be invited to the post-banned books book swap and pizza party.  Finally, during a school-wide assembly, some students will share the title of the books they found, why each has been banned or challenged, and how students found that particular copy.

Danielle Lewis, middle school librarian at the United National International School (UNIS) in New York, New York, sent this message to the school learning community: “The right to books, libraries, and information is a human right embedded in the UNIS Mission, the Charter of the United Nations and the 2030 SDGs.  I want to start a conversation that helps middle school students explore how our diverse stories enrich the human community — and why we need to celebrate and protect everyone’s right to read and write.”

In collaboration with advisors and subject area teachers, Ms. Lewis opened a discussion with the entire middle school community.

  • There has been a “pop-up” library with banned books and poster-making materials in the middle school lounge during lunch over the past few weeks.
  • The school’s book clubs have dedicated their opening meetings of the year to exploring banned books, censorship, and the freedom to read and think for themselves.
  • In addition, Ms. Lewis has been speaking about intellectual freedom with ELA and advisory classes.  Last Thursday, she spoke with one grade level as a whole group during Drop Everything and Read time.

After students were introduced to the issue of intellectual freedom, they were encouraged to participate in a variety of activities including making a poster, taking a “banned book shelfie,” participating in a virtual read-out, and reading diverse banned books. Ms. Lewis created this presentation to support this call to action.

Seanean Shanahan, who shared Banned Books Week activities in Monday’s “Freedom to Read” blog, snapped photographs of ELA teachers wearing their “I Read Banned Books And I Cannot Lie” t-shirts.

Involving classroom teachers, staff, and students in these week-long projects is one way for Ms. Muniz and the Harlingen High School ILC, Ms. Adams and the Proctor Academy Library, Ms. Lewis and the UNIS Library to diffuse conversations and learning about censorship and First Amendment rights throughout their school buildings.

Brava to these four leader school librarians. If you have questions about their work, you can contact Celia Muniz (@celiamuniz2), Erikka Adams (@LovetheLovejoy), and Seanean Shanahan (@Librarytalker) using their Twitter handles.

And hurray for all of the school librarians who remain defenders of students’ intellectual freedom.

 

Work Cited

Adams, Helen. “65 Years and Counting: AASL and School Librarians—Still Champions of Intellectual Freedom.” Knowledge Quest, vol. 45, no. 1, 196, pp. 34-41.

Image courtesy of Celia Muniz, Library Media Specialist, Harlingen (TX) High School

Take Time for Collegiality

clock_learnArticles in the September issue of Educational Leadership offer strategies and a great deal of support for nurturing relationships with students.

But to be honest, I was disappointed when an issue titled “Relationships First” did not address the relationships between and among adults in school learning communities.

Student-educator relationships are formed and informed within a school culture. In a collaborative culture school in which building trust through relationships is a norm, all relationships benefit from working within a system of support.

Last month, former principal and author of The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity George Couros published a blog post titled “Ten Easy Ways to Create an Amazing #SchoolCulture as a Principal This Year.”

All ten of these tips could also be accomplished by a school principal and school librarian team. If school principals see their school librarian as a coleader in creating a culture of collaboration, they may increase their odds of achieving their desired goal—a positive school culture.

Under Tip #4 “Twitter videos of awesome things that are happening in classrooms,” Mr. Couros reminds principals to “make sure you share what you see with others constantly and consistently.” From the school librarian’s perspective, make sure you share what you do with other educators. When you make others the star of your story, you put a spotlight on their achievements—a great way to build collegial relationships.

Mr. Couros adds to the list of ten and notes: “Don’t be the principal that needs an ‘appointment’ to connect with others.  You have the mobility to move around the school in ways that many staff cannot, and it is important that you are visible.”

The same can be said of school librarians. Approaching others with an open heart and helping hand and being approachable by others is one hallmark of an effective school librarian. School librarians who don’t reach out and stay in the library are simply not as visible as they need to be.

Take time to get out of the library. Take time to meet formally and informally with all members of your learning community. Show that you care for your adult colleagues as well as for the students and families who are your shared responsibility.

Take time for collegiality and co-create an optimal work environment for yourself as well as for others.

Works Cited

Couros, George. “Ten Easy Ways to Create an Amazing #SchoolCulture as a Principal This Year.” GeorgeCouros.com. 27 Aug. 2016 Web. 14 Sept. 2016 <http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/6627>.

Geralt. “Time to Learn.” Pixabay.com. 13 Aug. 2014. Web. 14 Sept. 2016 <http://pixabay.com/en/learn-clock- clock-face-time-hours-415341/>.

Lasting Impressions

footprint-506986_1280Some people come into our lives,
leave footprints on our hearts
and we are never the same.
Franz Schubert

In early August, Elyse S. Scott posted “On the Very First Day (Be the Best You Can Be)” to the MiddleWeb blog. Whether or not you teach at the middle school level, her words of advice are important for all educators: “Those initial days in the classroom can be the catalyst for building community and ultimately a collaborative learning environment, and it all starts with that first impression!” (Scott). Building student-educator relationships is an essential foundation for learning. Regardless of our age, we all learn best from people we respect and teachers who “see” us—recognize who we are and what’s important to us.

We all can remember teachers who made an impression on us because they shared who they were as people. They sang a song or recited a poem they wrote (as Elyse Scott does). They told a funny story or shared something about their lives outside of the classroom that we remember to this very day. Memorable (and effective) educators share their hopes and dreams. They show their students their humanness.

Sharing who we are and showing our humanity is equally important for school librarians as we reach out to get to know our classroom teacher colleagues. Whether we or they are new to the building, returning after a leave, or simply returning from summer break, we should always extend the hand of friendship.

While it is de rigeur for school librarians to share the children’s and young adult books that we love, sharing an adult read, film, or theater performance that we enjoyed may give our colleagues more clues about who we are. Telling a funny story about our own children or the misadventures on a trip we took over the summer can show our foibles and make us more approachable to our colleagues. When we show a genuine interest in our colleagues’ children as well as in their students we can connect more deeply with the educators with whom we seek to establish instructional partnerships.

As you get into full swing this school year, take the extra few minutes to connect with individual colleagues as well as individual students. Share yourself and encourage others to share who they are with you. And please don’t forget to make those essential connections with your principal(s), too.

Works Cited

Párraga, Rafael. “Footprint Sand Beach Foot.” Pixabay.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Sept. 2016 <http://goo.gl/6gDjk2>.

Schubert, Franz. VeryBestQuotes.com. 15 Apr. 2013. Web. 8 Sept. 2016 <http://goo.gl/hbMyiE>.

Scott, Elyse S. “On the Very First Day (Be the Best You Can Be).” MiddleWeb Blog. 9 Aug. 2016. Web. 8 Sept. 2016 <http://www.middleweb.com/31784/on-the-very-first-day-be-the-best-you-can-be/>.

Classroom-Library Collaboration for STEM Learning

bulls_eyeOne way that school librarians are responding to STEM/STEAM/STREAM is to house makerspaces in the physical space of the library. Involving students in hands-on opportunities to practice the creativity and critical thinking that can lead to innovation is a timely goal. In fact, and however, school librarians who have been effectively integrating technology tools into teaching and learning have been providing students many of these opportunities for decades.

The difference with today’s makerspace movement seems to be the emphasis on the types of tools students use in their making plus a greater emphasis on experimentation/trial and error rather than on creating final products to demonstrate learning. Some makerspaces operate in isolation from the classroom curriculum and could be described as “free play” centers that are neither constrained nor bounded by curriculum. These spaces may be facilitated by the school librarian working in isolation. Other makerspaces are integrated into the published curriculum and may be facilitated by a team of educators that includes the school librarian.

In Texas, Robin Stout, district-level Media Services and Emerging Technologies Supervisor (@BeanStout), Jody Rentfro, Emerging Technologies Specialist (@J_O_D_Y_R)  and Leah Mann, Library Media Services Instructional Specialist (@LMannTxLib), are spear-heading an initiative in Lewisville Independent School District (#LISDlib). LISD school librarians are piloting a Mobile Transformation Lab that moves beyond traditional “making” to address STEM/STEAM through collaborative lessons based on content area standards and district curriculum.

The team partners with campus librarians, classroom teachers and members of the curriculum department in collaborative planning meetings. The group examines the essential questions for the curriculum topic and decides which technologies from the Mobile Transformation Lab will best support the learning. Jody and Leah bring the agreed-upon resources to campus and co-teach lessons with campus staff for an entire day. They also participate in planning extension or follow-up lessons with the campus group.

You can see this process in action here:
http://goo.gl/znnvyn
http://goo.gl/wtjf8L

The Library Media Services and Emerging Technologies department offers an ever-growing repository of lessons from this project and tools to support librarians as they implement STEAMlabs with their students: http://hs.moodle.lisd.net/course/view.php?id=1010

This initiative has the potential to position school librarians as co-leaders in STEM/STEAM/STREAM learning. With an emphasis on collaborative classroom-library lesson plans, school librarians can achieve the hands-on creativity and critical thinking goals of makerspaces while school library programs remain at the center of their schools’ academic programs.

This is a makerspace strategy that is a win for students, classroom teachers, and school librarians, too.

Copyright-free Image by pippalou accessed from the Morguefile <http://bit.ly/1ccKDO1>.

Celebrating Literacy-Globally and Locally

The walls of the OrchardDSCN0706 School Library Media Center faded away last week as young learners from South Burlington, Vermont met with friends in several elementary schools across the country via Skype and Google Hangout. As participants in the Global Read Aloud project, readers throughout the United States and beyond read and discuss books both synchronously and asynchronously for six weeks beginning in October. Educators who jump into the Global Read Aloud are encouraged to find creative ways to incorporate the joys of shared reading both locally and globally.

Through the GRA website and wiki, teachers and librarians can collaborate with each other and their classrooms through Twitter, Edmodo, Skype, Kidblog, and other social media sites. The project began in 2010 with a Wisconsin educator, Pernille Ripp, who envisioned a read aloud that would connect kids and books beyond the classroom. The program has grown exponentially, from 150 in 2010 to over 300,000 student participants from over 60 countries in 2014.  The GRA 2015 has kicked off with four middle grade titles for discussion this year, and an author study for the picture book crowd.

GRA in Action at Orchard

At Orchard School, the library media specialist, Donna Sullivan-Macdonald also wears the tech integrationist hat, and the school library program is an active hub of learning and literacy that connects the school to the world beyond. The Global Read Aloud Project is high on Donna’s list of real world connections.  She has participated in the GRA since 2011 with one class of fifth graders, and this year the project includes all twenty classes, kindergarten through fifth grade. Each class is paired with a class in another state, and the students have had fun getting to know one another through Mystery Skypes, Google Hangouts, sharing Padlets, writing and responding to blog posts, tweeting, taking surveys, and exchanging emails. To get a flavor of how the connections work, Donna tells about using the 2015 GRA with some of her students:

“For the Amy Krause Rosenthal picture book author study, kindergarten and first graders heard the first book in the project, Chopsticks, and then learned to use the tool. We’re now creating a shared book of pictures of students eating with chopsticks with some new friends in the state of Georgia.”

When I visited last week, Donna read another book by Rosenthal, It’s Not Fair, to a class of second graders, and explored concepts about fairness and taking turns by arranging for two activities for the class.  The object was to make sure that all had equal time for the activities. Fifteen minutes before the end of the class time, the students got together via Hangout with their buddy class in Indiana to discuss the book and ideas about fairness.  It was amazing to see the Orchard students actually having an interactive discussion with kids miles and miles away.

DSCN0732

Local Connections

Connecting reading to the world is not limited to just the Global Read Aloud at Orchard School.  Another ongoing project is a Food Drive that has been inspired by Katherine Applegate’s newest book, Crenshaw. The author of The One and Only Ivan has provided much food for thought for her reading fans. The topic of homelessness is sensitively addressed, and readers can make connections with real world problems and can learn to make a difference.  The publisher has launched a program #crenshawfooddrive that invites independent bookstores to raise awareness about childhood hunger based on ideas from Applegate’s book.  Crenshaw is imaginary. Childhood hunger isn’t. Help us feed families in need. http://www.mackidsbooks.com/crenshaw/fooddrive.html

In August, Donna contacted Phoenix Books in Burlington and suggested that they could work as partners to contribute to the food drive for the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf.

Donna explains how Crenshaw sparked a study of childhood hunger at Orchard School:

“The fifth grade teachers read Crenshaw as their first read aloud this school year. In the library, we researched childhood hunger and presented this information on posters, created in both in the makerspace and on the computer. Students also created a slide show on childhood hunger and ran a whole school morning meeting introducing the food drive to the school. There were speakers from both Phoenix Books and the Chittenden Food Shelf. No teachers spoke. It was student driven. Heading into the final week, we’re at 819 items donated!

Back to Crenshaw, many 2nd through 4th grade teachers have since read the book to their classes. I have used Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s message about random acts of kindness in my discussions with K-3 students who are reading her books.

On Friday, after reporting final totals to the school at morning meeting, one fifth grade class will load all of our donations on a bus and we’ll head to the food shelf for a tour and a weighing of all the donated food.

It’s heartwarming to witness the kindness and empathy shown by  young children through participation in this project.

Although not formally a part of GRA, the food drive has fit in nicely.”DSCN0699

For Donna, and the many other talented teacher librarians and educators in our schools, celebrating literacy is an everyday joy that is embedded within the fabric of a culture of collaboration that makes a school a vibrant and caring place for our students and our colleagues.

Thank you Donna for sharing your enthusiasm and energy, and thank you to your students who are making a difference locally and globally!

Resources:

Applegate, Katherine. Crenshaw. New York: Harpercollins, 2015.

Kaplan, Judith. “Donna Sullivan-Macdonald.“ Personal Interview and email correspondence. 20 Oct. 2015.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/dsmacdonald

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/donna-macdonald/35/723/416

Orchard School Library Media Center, 2 Baldwin Ave. So. Burlington, VT 05403 Web. Oct. 25, 2015.<http://library.sbsd.orchard.schoolfusion.us/modules/groups/integrated_home.phtml?gid=771938>.

Ripp, Pernille. “Home.” GlobalReadAloud. Wikispaces, 2015. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://globalreadaloud.wikispaces.com/>.

 Images:  Judy Kaplan Collection

School-Public Library Partnership

Moreillon_Bookmarks_Fun_Fun_Fun_0915Cooperation and Company was a Dewitt Wallace-Reader’s Digest Library Power grant-funded project. Two public library children’s librarians, Mary Margaret Mercado and Char Maynard and two school librarians, Terri Moschetti and yours truly, collaborated to co-author, co-promote, co-produce, and co-celebrate three puppet plays.

We worked in public librarian-school librarian teams to develop the puppet plays based on three public domain stories from traditional literature: Borreguita and the Coyote, Whale in the Sky, and Whose’s In Rabbit’s House? We purchased the puppets, created the scenery, and used the then Tucson-Pima Public (now Pima County Public) Library’s professional puppet stage.

We had a blast! We performed the plays at two branches of the public library and at both elementary schools. We involved students in bookmark contests to promote the plays and the hours and contact information for the libraries. (See above selection of bookmarks, circa 1995.) Students also learned the puppet play refrains so they could assist in the performances. Mary Margaret and I continued to perform Borreguita and the Coyote for the public library’s summer reading program for many years after the grant project.

School library and public library collaboration can be a rewarding and high-impact activity for all involved. While the school librarian’s support for the public library programs during summer reading is essential (especially if our school libraries are shuttered during the summer months), we can make the extra effort to involve students and families in taking advantage of what the public library has to offer year round.

School librarians collaborating with our colleagues at the public library is a win-win for the readers in our shared communities.

Literacy Is a Team Sport

This month the BACC cobloggers will share ideas about collaborative reading promotions and literacy events.

While every school librarian strives to make the library the hub of learning, we also know that it takes a whole-school approach to supporting students as they engage in literacy for the 21st century. Enlisting all members of the school community in promoting reading is necessary.

And as this video demonstrates, it’s fun! Stony Evans is a library media specialist in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He collaborated with Lakeside High School (LHS) coaches Joe Hobbs and Karrie Irwin to co-develop the “Train Your Brain Ad” video starring the LHS Cross Country Team. Lakeside Superintendent Shawn Cook made a cameo appearance in the video. Kevin Parrott was the videographer.

Congratulations to the whole team at Lakeside High!

This is one example of how library leader Stony Evans is reaching for his goal “to create lifelong learners through literacy and technology.” Visit Stony’s Library Media Tech Talk blog.

How did I learn about this outstanding example of collaborative reading promotion? From Stony’s Twitter feed @stony12270, of course.

Which members of your faculty will work with you to promote literacy in your community? What about your library student aides? How can they reach out to their classmates and serve as cheerleaders for reading? Here’s an archived example from Emily Gray Junior High/Tanque Verde High School from Teen Read Week: Books with Bite (November 2008)!

We can accomplish so much more when we work in collaboration with others. On Thursday, I will share a school library – public library literacy collaboration.

Video linked with permission – Thank you, Stony and your team

Seeking Online Professional Development: #txlchat

This month the BACC co-bloggers will share snippets of our research in school librarianship and preservice school librarian education. One of our goals is to provide practicing school librarians (SLs) with research-based evidence for how they prioritize their teaching and other professional activities. Another is to spotlight how the co-bloggers prepare preservice SLs for their future leadership roles in their school libraries.

logoSLs must make a commitment to lifelong learning. The changing educational environments in which we work require it. Whether we lead by integrating new resources, tools, or instructional strategies into our teaching or respond proactively to new required curriculum initiatives, effective SLs are called to be leaders in change and to model continuous learning for students and faculty alike.

In order to stay at the forefront, many SLs are making a regular practice of engaging in online professional development (PD). Webinars and social media groups for networking and learning are growing resources, particularly for librarians who serve in districts without district-level supervisors who organize PD for their cadre of professionals. Twitter chat groups are one such venue for self-regulated PD.

In the last academic year, I had the opportunity and pleasure of studying a Texas-focused school librarian Twitter group. The #txlchat meets on Tuesday evenings from 8:00 to 8:30 p.m. CT during the school year. The chat founders, @sharongullett, @_MichelleCooper, and @EdneyLib, and selected core group members actively supported my research by participating in virtual interviews regarding the importance of this PD and networking venue in their professional lives. Twenty-five #txlchat participants completed an online survey and shared their experiences of learning and connecting with this group of job-alike colleagues.

Thanks to the founders’ commitment to archiving the weekly #txlchats on a Weebly site, I had access to data from forty-five chats—from the very first chat in April 2013 through February 24th, 2015 (the last chat included in my study).

This is just a glimpse of what I learned. During the period of my study, 111 Texas librarians and 121 librarians, authors, and others from out of state participated in the chats. It was not surprising that the most frequent chat topic during the period of my study was technology. Thirteen of the 45 chats I reviewed (29%) focused on using technology tools in the library program. Connecting on Skype, being a “connected” librarian, and social media marketing were among the chat topics with the greatest number of participants, tweets, and retweets.

I learned that #txlchat members have a strong sense of belonging. The founders and core group members who rotate moderator responsibilities are committed to making sure all participants’ voices are heard and valued. Everyone involved expressed pride in their participation–both in learning from others and from sharing their knowledge and expertise with the group. My complete study report will appear in the next issue of School Libraries Worldwide. See citation below.

As you consider how you will access PD opportunities in the coming school year, I hope you will consider Twitter as a possible venue. Everyone is invited to participate on Tuesday, September 1st in the first #txlchat of the 2015-2016 school year. Check it out on Twitter at #txlchat.

Coming soon: Moreillon, Judi. “#schoollibrarians Tweet for Professional Development: A Netnographic Case Study of #txlchat.” School Libraries Worldwide 34.3 (2015).

#txlchat logo used with permission

Summer Reading… for Professional Development

professional_capital2Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan earned the 2015 Grawemeyer Award in Education for their book Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School. In an education environment that hones the national focus on educator quality as a predictor of student achievement on standardized tests, these authors provide concrete strategies for helping teachers improve their craft in order to build “professional capital” in every school.

It is no surprise to educators who have served in collaborative culture environments that collaboration is a cornerstone of their vision for transforming teaching.

“The most common state in teaching used to be one of professional isolation: of working alone, aside from one’s colleagues. This state of isolation still exists in more than a few schools today, where teaching is not the ‘Show Me’ state, but the ‘Only Me’ state. Isolation protects teachers (librarians) to exercise their discretionary judgment in classrooms (libraries), but it also cuts teachers (librarians) off from the valuable feedback that would help those judgments be wise and effective” (Hargreaves and Fullan 2012, 106). (Parentheses added.)

These authors challenge educators to develop “social capital” in schools built on trust and based on shared conversations and interactions related to instruction. By combining “human capital,” the credentials, experience, and teaching ability of faculty members, and “social capital” educators can create and sustain an effective learning environment.

As instructional partners, school librarians are perfectly positioned to be leaders in building human and social capital in our schools. Through coplanning, coteaching, and coassessing student learning outcomes, we break down the isolation that prevents innovations in teaching and learning from spreading throughout the school. When we coassess our instructional effectiveness with our coteaching partners, educators move toward Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan’s vision of schools with strong professional capital.

Read this book. Meet your principal for coffee this summer. Give it to her or him and make plans to be coleaders on a team that can transform your school.

Work Cited

Hargreaves, Andy, and Michael Fullan. Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School. New York: Teachers College Press, 2012. Print.

Co-Assessing Collaborative Work

DSCN0159

Successful instructional partnerships are bread and butter roles for the teacher librarian in educational communities. Classroom teachers and other specialists who partner with TL’s find that everyone works better, and works smarter. This month BACC bloggers have been providing ideas that support collaborative practices for co-teaching and learning.  True collaborative relationships are developed with time and experience, and involve teaching partners who co-plan instruction, co-teach, and co-assess students together in an active learning model. Judi, Lucy, and Karla have highlighted key pieces for each component in collaborative partnerships that contribute to a win/win for both educators and students.

In order to work closely with another educator, teacher librarians have to build confidence and trust with a partner. As Judi said, co-planning involves knowledge and skills in pedagogy and content standards by both partners. Combining expertise and taking responsibility for sharing tasks for delivering instruction and assessment means that you have to be able to talk the talk and walk the walk.  If the process is to be a partnership, not a dual track distribution of who does what,  partners need to build opportunities for self reflection and communication into the collaborative model of teaching.  Critical thinking and creativity abound when teaching partners share ideas and insights from different perspectives.

Reflection and Communication While the Co-teaching Plan is in Progress:

Time is at a premium for co-planning and co-assessing, and often these tasks are done on the fly outside the class time through shared documents and folders, IM, Skype, email, or a learning management system interface such as Edmodo or Moodle. Face to face synchronous sessions should be a priority, too, and built into the schedule for both partners.  During the implementation phase of the co-teaching plan, partners set up a framework to check in and assess the daily/weekly progress or challenges of the students, and the learning plan.  The framework can include a process for students to keep track of their work in blogs, in online discussions, Google documents, forms, and so on. Open accessibility to student work allows communication between teacher and students in a continuous feedback loop, or to ask/answer student questions.  Responsibility for responding and tracking students can be divided between the partners, but there also needs to be a process for continuous conversations about  adjustments to lesson plans and learning activities based on the variability of students on the road to achieving learning outcomes. Sometimes the road that has been laid out needs to take some unexpected turns. That is what makes the co-teaching so organic and interesting. No need to wait until the planned activities are completed before co-teachers review the plan.

If our expectation is for students to be metacognitive and reflective in their learning, educators should be mindful of that in their collaborative teaching, also.

During the year, I have been following Buffy Hamilton’s excellent blog posts (Unquiet Librarian, 2015) that demonstrate reflection about co-teaching that highlight the dynamics of her work with colleagues in a high school.  I have mentioned her blog before, but it continues to be a source of inspiration.  Take a minute to read this post that shows that partnerships can include teachers and students, too. It is clear that the communication between the partners is continuous and thoughtful, and leads to changing ideas. You will want to retrace many of her other posts, too.

Post Instruction Review and Reflection:

Once the co-teaching plan has been completed, it is equally important for partners to take time to reflect together on the process and the success/and or challenges that were encountered along the way.  Once again, time is always an issue, so partners need to make sure to have some face to face conversations and analysis about the evidence that has been collected to show that students were able (or not) to transfer their understanding and demonstrate knowledge and skills.  This is an important piece of evidence based practice for both teaching partners.  The collaborative work should be documented and shared with administrators and other stakeholders, and will lay the groundwork for repeating the curriculum unit another time, or to begin to build another collaborative experience.

Key ideas to assess with a critical stance:

  • Process/Learning Plan-what was successful? What didn’t work? What misconceptions became evident? What adjustments should be included?
  • Product-Was the performance task authentic and did it demonstrate student learning? Are there changes that need to be made?
  • Student reflection and feedback-How did the students respond to the process and the learning?  What are their suggestions for improving the learning plan?
  • Communication-How effective was the communication between partners?
  • Individual reflection-Impact on my own teaching and learning

Once you find your teaching partners, they will want to join the party, too.  Tell us about your adventures in co-teaching-it’s all the rage!

Works Cited:

Hamilton, Buffy. “Bridge to Presearch and Growing Student Understandings: Connect, Extend, Challenge.” Unquiet Librarian. Weblog. March 4, 2015. Accessed June 24, 2015. https://theunquietlibrarian.wordpress.com/2015/03/04/bridge-to-presearch-and-growing-student-understandings-connect-extend-challenge/

Photo:

Judy Kaplan Collection