The Power of Planning
“Your students’ growth will be your growth”: wise words from one of my three greatest role models as a teacher, an older Teach For America teacher who taught in my district.
Each year, as we begin to discuss signs of spring in the sprouting flowers and leaves outside, I can also notice my students’ academic growth, particularly in basic literacy skills. As I observe them throughout the day, I see how the individual action plans I created and implemented facilitated their achievement. The anecdotal notes and work samples in their portfolios provided insights into my students’ strengths and weaknesses. I then used that data to develop teaching plans for both me and the students’ families to follow. While I started using these plans last year, more practice with anecdotal note taking and familiarity with analyzing skill deficits using our performance based assessments strengthened my ability to target and address student needs this year. The success of this valuable teaching tool makes me feel like I have really improved as an instructional leader.
Here are just a few examples of their growth:
• David’s anecdotes and work samples from the fall revealed the need to work on listening skills (e.g., incorporating ideas from discussions into play). Consequently, I linked my questions before and during choice time to ideas we had discussed during circle time. I also brought in more topics that seemed to appeal to him, such as transportation and animals. David recently approached me with a toy airplane and his name card and said, “Look Ms. Pappas, the airplane ‘bout to take off on the runway. It can’t just go straight up, it has to go like this,” as he rolled to airplane on the flat surface and then had it take off.
• Tyrone’s target areas in the fall included relating stories to his own life. So, I worked on this skill with Tyrone in whole-group and small-group instruction, modeling how to connect stories to our own experiences. For example, during a read aloud of Cat in the Hat, I might relate to the experience of the children sitting at home on a rainy day by saying, “I remember when it was pouring rain and I couldn’t go outside to play tag with my friends. I felt sad.” I also designed activities around comparing and contrasting characters’ lives with our own. Tyrone’s recent literary insights include: “I took a long train like the one in the book to New York.” and “I went to the zoo too. We saw an elephant.”
• In the fall, Fuquan was strong in letter identification and was starting to identify beginning sounds in words. From that foundation, he needed to work on making letter-sound connections and using that skill to write words. My plan for him included playing letter-sound sorting games in small group, discussing sounds in words one on one during activities like journal time, and singing songs about letter sounds during transition times. Fuquan is now labeling his drawings with the letters that match the pictures and can write short sentences with some guidance from me.
I look forward to using my improved planning skills to make the most of the precious few months left with my students this school year.