Monday, November 2, 2015

Thankful November, day 2: Professional Development

On day 2 of Thankful November, I'm pausing to be thankful for professional development.

The professional development I'll be attending later today is sure to disappoint on so many levels.  Some professional development "trainings" are like that.

However, I've also had the opportunity to attend some really good professional development courses that have expanded my pedagogical understanding of concepts.

Explicit Phonics

In fifth grade, I didn't think I had to teach phonics.  I figured they can read, they're fine.  Then I took Explicit Phonics, which was offered in my district.  The beginning section of the course focused on long and short vowels, blends, digraphs, and short words.  Useful for some, but not applicable to my whole group instruction.  However, the second half of the course focused on affixes, roots, and blending through multi-syllabic words which is totally appropriate for upper elementary.  We worked on flexible decoding strategies and tried it in our classrooms.  

Like most things, it got better with practice.  

I then learned about the workbooks with Words Their Way. I was familiar with the WTW program, which is a collection of word lists with specific phonics skills attached.  I much prefer this approach to spelling than the traditional 20 words of the week that are associated with thematic units.  

What I didn't know is there are five different student work books.

I ordered "D" and "E" off of Amazon.  The word lists are appropriate for my ELL fifth graders and the format is student friendly.

I take ten minutes a day of reading instruction to do explicit phonics with my fifth graders.  By the beginning of November, we've covered the six syllable types, long vowel patterns, inflectional endings, and some affixes.  

The instruction is broken into four or five day mini-units and put into powerpoints, some of which are available {here}.  I'm in the process of adding more as I revise them based off of my students' understanding of the skill.

I'm glad I took professional development on explicit phonics for the upper grades.  It makes my reading instruction better and helps my ELL students.

Nonfiction in Focus

{Last month}, I took a course on nonfiction reading and integrating it with writing.  The course was crammed into three days, but I loved the information on blogging and merging nonfiction with writing.  In elementary school, there should be a 50-50 split between fiction and informational text, but our Reading Rangers program doesn't always reflect that.

It's sometimes a challenge to integrate informational text into a reading block that is heavily slanted in favor of fiction, so this course gave us some ideas about integration with writing.

This also made us examine our reading and writing pacing guide.  Quite frankly, they shouldn't be viewed as separate most of the time.  Reading and writing should be integrated together in a more natural way, which is something we're looking at in upcoming units.  (I say we here because Mrs. H took the course with me).

Text-Dependent Questions

I'm in this course {right now}, it's finishing up by the middle of November, and I'm loving it.  The text for the course is by Fisher and Frey, who are some of my favorites.

Yes, I have favorite educational researchers, don't you?

The course is giving me a lot more information about structuring close reads in my classroom.  Once I'm done, I'll synthesize my learning and blog about it, so stay tuned!

Technology Endorsement

A few years ago, there was an opportunity to obtain a technology endorsement for free by taking courses at Nevada State College.  I had to pay for the courses upfront, but if I earned a B or better, was reimbursed.

The four courses went over the basics of jing, edmodo, wordle, and other web 2.0 tools.

I can't recall the specifics, but it was a year-long professional development and I learned that it's not enough for me to use the technology, I need my students to understand how to use it appropriately because I've got to make them digital citizens.

Mount Vernon Teacher's Institute

As a history nerd, the idea of studying George Washington's life and staying at Mount Vernon was thrilling.  I applied and was accepted in the summer of 2012.  It was an amazing opportunity and you can learn more about it {here} or {here}.


Summer 2012 was a busy one because once I got back from Mount Vernon, I almost immediately headed back to the East Coast to attend the Mickelson Exxon Mobile Teacher's Academy.  MEMTA pairs with NSTA and focuses on science instruction in 3-5th grade classrooms.

Oh, and I met Phil Mickelson.

 Learn more {here} and {here}. 


The Discovery Educator Network Summer Institute is a week long adventure in learning and connecting with other educators.  My brain frequently feels like it's ready to explode from all the strategies and I still haven't implemented all the ideas that are swirling around in my brain.

I've had some amazing opportunities to learn more and become a better teacher.  I'm thankful for the opportunities to grow as a person, challenge my preconceived notions, and continue to learn new things.

What are you thankful for?

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