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Month: April 2018

Using the Literacy Exchange Model to Build the Chinese Literacy Symposium

Using the Literacy Exchange Model to Build the Chinese Literacy Symposium

A few months ago Amanda Jacob, the Elementary Literacy Coordinator at Taipei American School, posted a photo to the Reading and Writing Workshop in International Schools Facebook group of their Mandarin team planning for shared reading in their classes. “It’s fascinating to see how structures I use for teaching reading in English work in Chinese. These teachers found great ways to support character learning and vocabulary building.” The comments started flooding in. 

Teachers in the region had questions. Others shared how they were investigating how other balanced literacy structures traditionally used in English classes might benefit student engagement and learning in Mandarin lessons. With a nudge from Erin Kent, our friend and fellow literary coach, to bring people together to share their work, willingness to help from a few literacy coaches, and strong support from the leadership at Taipei American School, the first Chinese Literacy Symposium was born.

Amanda and I started planning together using the work from the  Middle School Literacy Exchange to help us frame out the weekend. We set up a Google Site and gathered information regarding what people wanted to learn and share in connection with balanced literacy elements in Mandarin language classes.

From there, we created overarching goals.

  • Build community
  • Learn from and with each other
  • Create a shared understanding of workshop and balanced literacy
  • Make time to plan and create together

We looked back at our notes from the MS Literacy Exchange and worked to build from our reflection.

  • Having most or all of a teaching team participate builds momentum and increased application into daily practice. What would this look like in Elementary/Primary school?

In order to encourage teaching teams or partners to attend together, we were able to make this a free event (again, thanks to strong support from the TAS leadership). This was successful with many schools sending two or more participants, so teams were able to think together about the weekend’s learning fit their context.

  • Having a common starting point in our learning across schools allows the learning to be relevant to all participants.

While all the participants were not coming from the same starting point with trying out balanced literacy in their context, we were within a similar band of a year or two in our work. This meant that whole group instruction was relevant and small groups could zoom in the pieces they were ready for at this time.

  • Having common pedagogy rather than common curriculum allows the learning to be practical and hands on. What would this look like for Math or Science?

This was true for us as the focus was the pedagogical practices of balanced literacy components and how these have been or could be used in Mandarin language classes. There were some organic side conversations around curriculum and assessment that were useful for those who wanted to think more about these pieces.

  • Having coaches who can facilitate the exchange creates a clear, focused learning experience.

We had three literacy coaches lead whole group sessions and facilitate the learning across the two days. Then we had two additional literacy coaches help with the responsive planning and delivery of the day-two small groups based on day-one exit tickets. We also had three rounds of mini table presentations put on by the participants, so they could share their experiences with the group.

Overall, it was an exciting weekend of learning and exploring with each other. Participants came ready to learn and their noticings and questions throughout the symposium demonstrated critical and creative thinking as they considered how this learning could support students’ language learning and engagement. Here are some of the things the group noticed and questions they had.

How are you addressing these ideas and wonderings in your context?

Writing in Middle School Art

Writing in Middle School Art

Rebecca and Sarah are two amazing art teachers in our school. They explicitly teach, model, and guide students to their next steps through creative art units. They study the works of other artist and support students to try on those styles while adding their own artistic touch to their work. They want their students to start incorporating the language of art when discussing their own and others’ pieces. They also want to build the foundational skills for their students to write about art which they will build on high school. But they were noticing a startling difference in how students talked about art and how they wrote about art. The students’ writing was below their expectations. And so, they reached to out me as the literacy coach to help them think through how they could support their students’ writing in art.

We started with an initial meeting for them to share their concerns and hopes with me. Through that conversation we were able to identify several key strategies we use in writing workshop that could be helpful for them in art: starting with a mentor text (from real writing about art that exists in the world), identifying and listing key writing skills on a student facing checklist, and using their own writing to model steps and strategies. Rebecca and Sarah then asked if they could come and observe an English writing workshop lesson to see how we teach with mentor texts.

Next, I brought them into one of our grade seven writing workshop classes for an observation. They set up their notebooks with two kinds of notes. They made a T-chart to capture what they noticed and what they were wondering. They set up a page to capture specific things the teacher was doing to unpack the mentor text. We were in the classroom for about twenty minutes to observe the lesson and the first one-on-one conference. At different times, I whispered key moves the teacher was making that I wanted them to notice and how those moves supported the students’ learning and ability to work independently.

After we left the classroom, we took a few more minutes together to discuss what they had observed and for me to answer their questions. We decided that the next step was for them to select a few texts of writing about art that would be accessible for their students to use as a mentor text. I had a few picture books from the library ready for them to start their investigation. We decided to meet again once they had time to collect these texts.

We touched base a few times on email and in passing at our Friday morning staff teas, but with reports due then high school art exhibition projects coming in, it took us a little longer than we had all hoped. But, we all persisted and last week were able to reconnect and continue the conversation. I’ll write about that in an upcoming post. Stay tuned!