Monday, March 9, 2015

Lead Learners and Literacy

By Linda Ashida

Today's post is a highlight of our fourth Elk Grove Lead Learners Team (EGLLT) meeting.  Before reading on, you might be wondering, "What is a Lead Learners Team?"

Well, at Elk Grove High School, our Lead Learners Team is an interdisciplinary team of staff that comes together monthly to collaborate and learn, with our ultimate goal to improve learning for our students.  We are a team of staff that in many schools, and formerly at Elk Grove High School, would be called the "staff development team." Our EGLLT is a group of 30 staff members and it includes our principals, division chairs, counselors, and teachers from all departments; it is truly a collaborative venture.

So, why call us a "Lead Learners" team?  You may still be asking, "What are Lead Learners anyway?"

I came across a blog post recently that very aptly answers those questions: Teachers as Lead Learners by Sarah Brown Wessling. Before reading on, I encourage your to read her blog post.  It describes all of our goals of EGLLT, including this piece that especially resonated with me:

When Teachers Do the Teaching
When teachers are put in positions to lead their peers, to share their own struggles and successes, colleagues listen. When teachers can close that gap between research and reality, between the vision and how to get there, we're offering our learners a peek into the metacognition of teaching. When teachers can "think aloud," when they can make what's intrinsic, suddenly extrinsic to each other, we can shift that culture.

The post also discusses the importance of "Systems Thinking," another major goal of EGLLT.

Today's EGLLT meeting truly exemplified a team of Lead Learners: Teachers did the teaching of research-based strategies to improve learning for students, and we continued our interdisciplinary collaboration to improving our systems thinking.  The specific focus of EGLLT this year is literacy, and we are examining the research-based strategies that we can systematically implement to improve student learning.  Today's meeting focused on pre-reading strategies. Here are some highlights:

1) Divisional Technology Coaches Rachel Barry, Mark Heintz and Kim Miklusak demonstrated how they use their Learning Managment System, Schoology, to activate and build on prior knowledge. The DTCs engaged all of the EGLLT participants in their Schoology "Sandbox" so we could experience learning just as the students do in their classes.

2) Rita Sayre facilitated a lesson on Direct Instruction of Vocabulary

Rita's lesson was grounded in meta-analysis of research that confirms the impact of direct instruction of vocabulary on student learning and reading comprehension. After summarizing the research, Rita shared examples from her own experience, and she modeled the research-based strategies by engaging all of the EGLLT members in interactive vocabulary learning stations.

3) Our Associate Principal for Instruction, Megan Knight, facilitated a session to demonstrate how our interdisciplinary collaboration and "Systems Thinking" in EGLLT has tremendous potential to improve student learning.  She shared this TED talk by John Hattie, "Why are So Many of our schools and teachers so successful?"  His research on Visible Thinking confirms that our EGLLT is headed in the right direction. 

4) Our Summer Reading Committee met to develop actions steps toward our goal of building a community of readers around a "One Theme, One School" summer reading program that will engage our entire community of learners during the summer and throughout the 2015-16 school year.

The work of our EGLLT is challenging, and at the same time it is exciting and energizing. Our collaborative work reminds me that - whether we are administrators, teachers, counselors, or students - we are all are teachers, and we are all learners.  

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