Wednesday, June 11, 2014


After an extended year because of snow days and after two days of curriculum committee, my first year as a coach is dunzo! So hard to believe that a whole year has come and gone, but it has. I've been kinda reflecting on the year in my brain each day, but I thought getting some ideas done on paper would be helpful, too! Let's get down to business with what worked this year!

First, I built some great relationships with colleagues at my new school. This was my first year at Emerson (I came from a middle school in our district) but getting to know a new staff takes time. I didn't want to come off as pushy or overbearing, so I did my best to build trusting relationships with the teachers at my school. I am so happy to work with awesome teachers - below is a pic from last night of some of us painting at Bottle and Bottega! I'm really feeling part of the Emerson team now, and I'm excited to hit the ground running next fall!

I also got to know a really great group of Literacy Coaches. We're lucky because there are six of us in our district, so we see each other about every month. We're all returning next year, so we can continue from exactly where we left off yesterday at Curriculum. I think going to the Illinois Reading Council (IRC) Conference together and stalking famous literacy people to take pictures with was the turning point - it was so much fun! I'm really looking forward to working with them again next year!

Michelle, Courtney, Felicia, Lauren, Anne, and Leah :-)

And finally, my year would never have been what it turned out to be without these two:

Laura, Christine, and I
We worked so well together as Emerson's reading team. These two were always there to debrief a day and also work together to get things done at school. Not only can I trust them and speak without having to edit my thoughts and they are super fun to work with, too. And....they taught me tons about my job every day! I'm so thankful for these two!

I learned so much about primary literacy! I teamed up lots in with a Kinder teacher who showed me so much about our earliest readers. Her whole team implemented Words Their Way (which they loved) and we also used Personal Readers to give kinders some reading material that was Just Right for them. I really appreciate all that I learned about kinder with our team of teachers.... and I have such a great admiration for them... I can only hang for about an hour in there at a time!

I also taught a second grade guided reading group pretty consistently across the course of the school year:

Thanks to Ms. Bratta for collaborating with me all year!

Thanks to my amazing colleague, Christine, I learned lots about how to most effectively teach guided reading! She taught me a great lesson plan to follow that includes guiding kids to better oral reading fluency with familiar reads and repeated reads, all the time having kids whisper reading in front of me so I can hear the miscues they make and give them tips - on the spot - to improve their fluency. Christine also helped me balance fluency instruction with comprehension over the course of the week through discussion and writing. Finally, I figured out a great way to track data and the best data points to use. I updated my data tracking sheet like three times this year so it can really reflect the child's progress and inform my instruction.

Another accomplishment was that we got a data wall up and running. We built this data wall around our Fountas & Pinnell data which is a more authentic assessment that measures students oral reading fluency and their comprehension. Even though this kind of assessment takes a while to administer, I love that our data wall charts this information.

first attempt at a pano on an iPhone!

Additionally, we had each teacher write a SMART Goal off of the info on their data wall. At our last staff meeting, we recognized three staff members who accomplished their goals: Ms. Vega, Ms. Smetko, and Mrs. Stalter:

For my evaluation, I implemented Academic Parent Teacher Teams with Ms. Optie, one of our kinder teachers. Check out the posts on APTT for more information, but I'm excited to hopefully expand APTT to all of kinder, roll it to first grade as well, and ask any other teachers who are interested in participating to join us. Now that I've done it one year, I know what needs to be different, what can be planned more ahead of time, and how we can best serve our community. I'm hoping we have even more parent participation with this project next year! I'd also really love to present APTT at the IRC Conference in the fall of 2015, so any teachers who collaborate with me - I'd love to have you join me at IRC if/when I get accepted!

Finally, due to parent request, we created the Emerson Community Collaborative Blog for sharing with one another over the summer (and really, beyond the summer, too!) Parents had requested summer reading lists for the kiddos and some assignments for the kids to do over the summer. I was all for the book recommendations, but not for assignments that would undermine a love of literacy, so the blog was formed. So far, we have had a few teachers post and one post submitted by one of our families. I am crossing my fingers that more families will submit posts for us and keep us going all summer! I'm really excited to see where the blog goes this summer. Make sure to check it out!

So those are some really great things that went on this year, but there is also room for improvement! Here are just a few things I want to do better and differently next year:

For our last PD this school year, the reading team presented on mini-lesson. We then had teachers go off to try out the strategy from the presentation, and then Christine and I were able to visit all classrooms twice to provide teachers with feedback. Because our PD was so structured, it made our feedback so focused. I really hope to get into this kind of cycle - a PD presentation, time to implement, and then time to provide feedback to teachers. It was so purposeful and I loved doing it. I just want to make it happen more next year!

I was supposed to do an exit survey for parents for the APTT meetings, but I never did it. Next year for the APTT meetings, I want to map out the whole year right away in the very beginning of school - get all the dates on the calendar, get the NJHS kids from the middle school set up right away for the childcare room, and plan the exit surveys early on. APTT is so much work and really worth it - but I need to get more organized!

Finally, I need to do a better job "positioning myself as the expert" as my best friend, Liz, told me to do when she visited me from Seattle a few months ago. (She's currently a doctoral student in a literacy program at University of Washington and she's always teaching grad school classes to teachers in her university's master's program.) I do have a lot of knowledge about literacy, but I'm not the kind of person who ever wants to come off as arrogant, so I did a lot of listening and perhaps not doing what's best for student achievement soon enough at school this year. It's not always easy to be a Literacy's definitely a balance between helping teachers see things in new ways, but not being so overbearing that anyone shuts down and doesn't want to collaborate with you. The bottom line is though that I do know lots and need to use that to best serve the students at our school, so next year I hope to heed my bff's advice as I begin the year.

Your Turn...
How was your school year? I think it's such great practice to reflect on our work - hour-to-hour, day-to-day, and even year-to-year!

Have a great night!


  1. I think the Lit Coaches need to go paint together. :) Nice reflections.

    1. Yes Leah - we should do that together! Maybe we can plan something in July! :-)

  2. I loved reading this!!! Your reflections were awesome :) Is your data wall a school wide data wall?

    Literacy Without Worksheets

    1. Hi Bridget! Yes, it is school wide with students FnP levels - next year we will resort it after fall and winter testing....we didn't start until after winter this year! Do you have a data wall at your school?

  3. Sounds like a fantastic first year! Glad you have such supportive people to work with :-) Onward and upward for the fall, but enjoy your summer!!


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