This portfolio reflects my work in the Digital Education Leadership program through Seattle Pacific University and while technology implementation is an important element of our coursework, leadership skills are a main focus of the program. I have spent a great deal of time learning how to be an effective peer coach, helping fellow educators how to successfully implement “technology-enhanced learning experiences” into their classrooms in a meaningful way (International Society for Technology in Education, 2011).
I was asked to mentor Ms. J, a very experienced teacher who serves as a leader in the school, a teacher who is often looked to for guidance and support by colleagues. In our initial meetings, Ms. J mentioned her desire to create opportunities for differentiation in her literature groups while maintaining homogeneous groupings. As the school librarian and technology integration specialist, I did not have experience as a classroom teacher to share with Ms. J, but I did look forward to using my experience with the implementation of technology to help her fulfill her SMART goal:
SMART Goal: By the end of the 2015-2016 school year, 75% of students in grades 3-4 that are reading below grade level will increase their Fountas & Pinnell reading level (as measured by the STAR 360 quarterly assessment) by four or more levels.
After learning about Ms. J’s literature groups and reviewing her responses from the Technology Task Force survey, it was clear that Ms. J was comfortable using technology during instruction, but was still unsure as to how to embed it in a meaningful way that could enhance students’ understanding. With this in mind, I reviewed the SMART goal we created together and found the following aspects would be most beneficial to help Ms. J fulfill her goals:
- Conduct regular formative assessments of students’ reading levels
- Provide students with additional practice in comprehension and fluency
Ideally, by addressing these two specific areas, Ms. J will not only hopefully fulfill her SMART goal, but also have the data to guide her literature groups and create additional opportunities for differentiation through those groups.
4 C’s: Critical Thinking
Students work in groups to talk about a book they have all read, using teacher-supplied prompts to initiate discussions. Literature groups “provide a way for students to engage in critical thinking and reflection as they read, discuss, and respond to books” (Campbell Hill et al., 2001).
4 C’s: Collaboration
Collaboration makes literature groups possible; students “reshape and add onto their understanding as they construct meaning with other readers” (Campbell Hill et al., 2001). Ms. J currently structures her groups heterogeneously; “collaboration with more advanced peers provides modeling of comprehension strategies and critical thinking, as well as providing motivation for students to stretch their abilities in order to meet the group’s expectations” (“Literature Groups”).
4 C’s: Communication
Students learn to build on their communication skills while participating in literature groups. They practice active listening, learning when to talk and when to listen, they learn how to ask questions and respond appropriately, and they learn how to encourage other members of their group to participate. Students practice communicating with the teacher through weekly journal entries that reflect on their experience.
4 C’s: Creativity
Ms. J allows students to demonstrate their understanding of the books discussed in literature groups through a variety of extension activities; they can re-write an alternative ending to the story, they are allowed to create 3-D representations of the main character(s), they can write and illustrate an ABC book with items from the story, or they can create a map that illustrates events, settings or themes.
21st Century Skills: Standards-Based Task
English Language Arts Standards: Grade 3
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.3.1 Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.3.2 Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.3.7 Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur).
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.3.4 Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.3.4.A Read grade-level text with purpose and understanding.
English Language Arts Standards: Reading: Grade 4
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.2 Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.5 Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.4.4 Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.4.4.A Read grade-level text with purpose and understanding.
ISTE Standards: Students
6. Technology operations and concepts: Students demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations.
a. Understand and use technology systems
b. Select and use applications effectively and productively
c. Troubleshoot systems and applications
d. Transfer current knowledge to learning of new technologies
21st Century Skills: Engaging Task
Students are allowed to work together to choose the book they will read for their literature group from a pre-selected library of titles. Each student is encouraged to pick their own extension activity at the end of their time together and that extension activity can be in any format that allows them to demonstrate their knowledge (writing, art, 3-D, etc). In the future, I hope to coach Ms. J in the use of digital tools for demonstration of knowledge so the students that learn best through technology are able to pursue that avenue. In addition, I would like for students to share their work outside of the classroom and school, seeking feedback from the larger community.
21st Century Skills: Problem-Based Task
There is very little focus in this area, in the way the literature groups are currently formatted. I hope to help Ms. J find ways to increase this in the future. With the incorporation of technology and global learning, it would be great to see students connecting their reading to real world problems, working together to solve an issue that relates to their characters’ challenges in the book.
21st Century Skills: Technology Enhances Academic Achievement
While technology is not incorporated into the literature groups (see the previous two sections), the students are using Raz-Kids for formative assessment, providing Ms. J with comprehensive data on the strengths and areas of improvement for each student. Based on the findings from Raz-Kids, she is able to differentiate homework assignments and provide each student with reinforcement in the areas they struggle. Students are also able to record themselves reading, allowing Ms. J to hear their fluency on a regular basis.
I was thrilled with how this whole experience transpired. I quickly realized that our work together was not about specific tools, but about formative assessment and differentiation. We did not set out to find a technology tool that would fill a need, we simply worked together to talk about an area of her curriculum and technology happened to meet that need. Foltos (2013) states that an ideal project has the characteristics of effective learning when technology enhances student learning but “clearly wasn’t at the center of [the] project, 21st-century pedagogy was” (Foltos, 2013, pg. 145). Ms. J and I were focused on finding ways to get real-time data on students’ reading levels and the areas they needed additional support. The technology provided her the information, but it was never the primary focus. I am excited to see where this relationship goes in the future, I anticipate collaborative success and improved confidence.
Campbell Hill, B., Schlick Noe, K. L., & Johnson, N. J. (2001). Overview of literature circles. Retrieved December 7, 2015, from Literature Circles Resource Center website: http://www.litcircles.org/Overview/overview.html
Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: unlocking the power of collaboration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
International Society for Technology in Education. (2011). ISTE standards: coaches. Retrieved June 29, 2011, from http://www.iste.org/standards/ISTE-standards/standards-for-coaches
Literature groups. (n.d.). Retrieved December 9, 2015, from https://www.teachervision.com/group-work/teaching-methods/48704.html?page=1