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#TCRWP Saturday Reunion - March 2013 - Laurie Pessah's Workshop

By Bruce Arcurio @principalarc
#TCRWP Saturday Reunion - March 2013 - Laurie Pessah's WorkshopIt has been several weeks since the Teacher College Reading and Writing Project Saturday Reunion at Columbia University; however, I am just getting a chance to sit down and write some of my reflections on the sessions I attended that day.  This first post is about a session by Laurie Pessah.  The full title of the session was Systems and Structures that Administrators and Literacy Leaders Can Put in Place to Create School-Wide Change: Learning Walks, Feedback, and Other Supports.  It is quite a mouthful and the session was full of practical ideas that can be implemented immediately.

#TCRWP Saturday Reunion - March 2013 - Laurie Pessah's Workshop

Laurie Pessah

Laurie began with a focus on walkthroughs indicating that traditional ones have been used by administrators for evaluation and supervision purposes.
  • Walkthroughs should be done by a teamTeams should consisted of teachers, administrators, and coaches
    • There should be a teacher from every grade level
    • More people=Better Conversation
    • They should not be about supervision, but about Vision
She talked about three types of walkthroughs: Common Core Curriculum Walkthroughs, Bottom Lines Walkthroughs, and Environmental Walkthroughs.  I have summarized my notes below.  In case you were wondering, I am fond of bullet points in my note-taking.
Common Core Curriculum Walkthroughs
#TCRWP Saturday Reunion - March 2013 - Laurie Pessah's Workshop
  • CCSS are meant to push students and teachers higher
  • Guiding Question: "Is our school teaching high enough to the CCSS?"
  • Walkthrough observers walk around with common core sheets/rubrics
  • Administrators need to learn the standards by grade level
  • The same lessons often occur in 1st grade and 4th grade
  • We need to look at how the 4th grade lesson deepens the learning.
Bottom Lines Walkthroughs
  • These walkthroughs are designed to see where professional development needs to be directed.
  • The walkthrough team is looking to see that foundational Writers Workshop skills are in place
    • Is it happening every day?
    • Is conferring occurring?
    • Are conferring records being kept?
    • Is there a place for meeting to confer? as a group?
  • Looking at the classroom through this lens will assist in seeing what essential Workshop skills need to be reinforced through PD.
Environmental Walkthroughs
  • These walkthroughs are about the patterns seen in the rooms throughout a school
  • The entire staff can/should participate in these walkthroughs
  • The group goes into different classrooms and walks the rooms
  • The group looks at the things that go into each room
    • Is there a writing center?
    • Are desks arranged to support conversation?
    • What do kids leave outside?
  • It is surprising what teachers learn from each other's rooms
The next portion of the session focused on Learning Walks.  These are a bit different than the various walkthroughs discussed above.
Learning Walks
  • These walks can be done twice per year for maximum goal setting
  • #TCRWP Saturday Reunion - March 2013 - Laurie Pessah's Workshop
    • Sept/Oct and May/June
  • Teams should be inclusive
    • 8-10 people
  • Member roles
    • Each person has a focused "look for"
    • The areas of focus depend upon what the school is working on
    • The members only look at that one thing with "tunnel vision"
      • sped modifications
      • teacher language
      • cooperative structures
      • etc.
  • The team decides upon topics for the walk and assigns each member's focus before the walk
  • These walks are non-critical
  • Having members from different grade levels gives more perspectives in the discussion
The final major structure that Laurie Pessah discussed during this session was Feedback.  Her contention was that feedback is the most important component to student success in the classroom; more important than class size, student-teacher relationship, explicit instruction, socio-economics, and inquiry instruction.  She showed a video of Lucy Calkins giving feedback to a child and then discussed the following principles of feedback.
Principles of Feedback
  • It doesn't allways need to be about something new
    #TCRWP Saturday Reunion - March 2013 - Laurie Pessah's Workshop
    • can continue something old
  • We should do research to know the bigger picture
    • what is teacher working on?
    • stay longer to figure out
  • We should give direct and honest feedback
    • it is not negative to redirect in the moment
    • it should be based in evidence
  • Always compliment
    • this makes conferree more open and receptive
    • make a practice-focused compliment
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