Release Time!

Some of the most invigorating and inspiring experiences I have had as a teacher have been when we visit other schools. Last week, our third grade team had a half-day of release time to visit Adelaide Elementary. Former Wildwood teacher and friend Jake works there now, and I interviewed with Jason back in the day when I was first applying to be a teacher (I dare you to find a more passionate, driven leader — he’s great). They are an incredible bunch.

The school is calm, and you can tell the kids are excited to be learning there. Here’s their behavior rubric that’s posted in each class and in the halls.

Behavior Rubric
Behavior Rubric

Sondra Maier, one of the school’s literacy coaches, showed us around their Teacher Resource Center, a kind of uber-book/supply room that goes beyond just function to be a place that’s truly inspirational.

Holy cow, leveled books
Wall-o-leveled-books

All their books are leveled so they can be pulled for guided reading groups. Each book set is in a bag with an index card, so teachers can check out an entire bag of books at a time.

A book bag
A book bag

The leveling is done based on AR level, but I think we’re looking to level our book library by Guided Reading level.

DRA books
DRA books
Intervention materials
Intervention materials
Professional development books
Professional development books

I loved that the TRC seemed like a place where teachers were really being motivated to improve their practice, not just taking care of business.

Note the sharing board, where teachers can post ideas, new graphic organizers, blacklines, etc. (sorry the image is rotated funny)
Note the sharing board, where teachers can post ideas, new graphic organizers, blacklines, etc. (sorry the image is rotated funny)

When we were there, a team of 1st grade teachers were meeting to put together their reading preassessment for next fall. They were focused and working thoughtfully. I wanted to join them!

This is a board where staffers can see thumbnail sketches of how students are doing.
This is a board where staffers can see thumbnail sketches of how students are doing in reading (and math).

I’m a visual person, so I love that each pocket shows an approximate level of where each student is currently performing. That way, intervention specialists can make sure that no students are slipping through the cracks.

Sample focus board, so students know what they're expected to know and why.
Sample focus board, so students know what they're expected to know and why.

Sondra took us into two 3rd grade classrooms to observe their reading block. Adelaide uses this framework as a bit of a guide/backbone for their literacy program during the school year:

K-5 Reading Strategies
K-5 Reading Strategies

And Adelaide’s TRC doesn’t just help teachers with reading materials. Oh, no. Last year, they collected all math manipulatives from the teachers, organized them, cleaned them up, and stored them all in a central location. That way, no one winds up hoarding anything, and intervention specialists always know what materials are needed.

Holy cow, manipulatives.
Holy cow, manipulatives.
...and more maniuplatives (with a cart of shared reading texts)
...and more maniuplatives (with a cart of shared reading texts)

I’m dying to show you the organizational systems we saw in the classrooms we visited, but I’m waiting to get the teachers’ approval. Fingers crossed!

###