Part 4: Ahas and the Road that lies ahead!

Our last day was by far the most powerful with staff! We gathered together by grade level to debrief the week focusing on the lesson that was observed.

In the Making Connections component of the Cycle of Inquiry we asked 4 questions:

What were your ahas, key learnings, take aways?
What did you learn about your students?
What is your next learning move?
What do you still need?

Staff were so open, honest and reflective about their practice. We heard things like:

“I used to teach literacy like this, I do not know why I stopped doing it.”
“I learned that my students have so much background knowledge I did not realize.”
“I realized this was a great way to level the playing field for my EAL learners.”
“I did not really think it would work with my students but it did and they really loved it!”
“I could not believe how engaged they were!”
“I can see how to integrate the literacy into UOI and the UOI into literacy in a meaningful way.”


The power in seeing it with their students was unbelievable. They were able to uncover powerful information and understandings about their students. They saw their eyes light up when they were engaged in the lessons. One teacher said she had tears of pride and happiness in her eyes when she saw and heard her students engaged so actively and passionately in the lesson.

It was obvious if we raised the bar for our students then they would meet it. It was also such a powerful way to engage and empower our EAL learners.

Teachers were EXCITED! They were able to see the power of the Read Aloud and the Shared Reading on the learning of their students. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

Later that day we hosted Speed Dating with books for our whole staff. We have a very large staff of about 60 teachers including 6 Mandarin, 3 music, 3 art, and 3 PE as well as 8 early years teachers. We did not have time to include them all in the week but we also wanted them to see how they could begin to connect literacy and especially books to their subject so we invited everyone to the Blind Date with Books.

Anne, Jane, Mary and Bonnie had pulled several books from the library that they felt would support the specialities as well as the other grades. We set the library up with tables, candles, rose petals, music to set the mood and the books. We had appetizers and wine. The room was a buzz!

Teachers had 4 dates of 5 minutes each. I was the master of ceremonies. Teachers engaged and enjoyed the activity while gaining deeper knowledge of the books in our library that would support both literacy and their units of inquiry.

After the book tasting we gathered in the middle of the library a staff of over 60 and made our commitments to each other moving forward about how we would continue to use the lessons we had learned in our PD sessions over the last few remaining months we had in school.

As the leader with the extended admin team we debriefed ourselves and sorted out how we would continue to support the momentum moving forward. It started with an email from me asking teachers to try one of the the shared reading lessons and read alouds we were able to create with the coaches the next week. I also committed to taking books from the library and being more in touch with them. Bonnie gave me 2 and I read it then created a plan for staff and shared it that had preceding, during reading and post reading activities. I emailed it to staff so they would have it to use if required.

As an extended admin team we met and looked at what teachers still needed. Most said planning, modelling, professional learning resources, assistance in choosing text so we decided to:

1. Plan and organize our early dismissal PD with teachers about planning and modelling both read alouds and shared reading plans.
2. Offer options for our speciality teachers on using the read aloud in their classes as well as more intentional literacy connections to the UOI.
3. Re organize our literacy coach’s schedule so that she would be able to better attend team meetings, model in classrooms and plan with teachers.
4. Make an intentional commitment to attend our extended collaboration meetings with teams and spend some time looking at the books and natural connections to literacy.
5. PYP coordinators are going to work with teams to support the natural connection between literacy and the UOI.
6. Co plan, co teacher, debrief lessons with individuals or teams as requested with read alouds and shared reading.
7. Actively engage our librarian as the literacy ambassador for our school. She is supporting the reorganization of lists in our library data base for teachers, pulling books that support the learning in the classrooms and promoting the love of reading school wide.

There is no doubt that teachers thinking has changed. They are open to looking at literacy in a new or renewed way but the challenge is always how do we sustain the change in teacher practice? That will be our challenge as leaders as we move forward for the remainder of this year and next.

SIDE NOTE: The danger in bringing others from a different context to an international school is that the messages that they give will be lost on the audience. I believe because we were able to design the PD with the presenters and they spent time getting to know our context, understanding our needs and designing PD that would apply to our context that this did not happen.

The ability for staff to connect via Twitter prior to and after the PD with Mary, Jane and Anne was powerful and the learning continues……

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