Sunday, September 27, 2009

One School's Journey

A little over a year ago, the leadership team at Blair focused on five power strategies that they envisioned would be implemented in every classroom. In fact, the mantra was – 90% of teachers implementing the strategies 90% of the time. The five power strategies mandated that students have daily opportunities to do the following:
1. Read and write in all classes
2. Connect learning to their real lives
3. Demonstrate higher level thinking skills when problem solving
4. Justify their answers
5. Analyze and track own data to measure learning and growth

Teachers were surveyed to gauge their comfort levels with each strategy. Staff development was provided to assist teachers. Rubrics were shared to show what a classroom implementing each strategy should look like.

At first, most teachers were skeptical and uncomfortable; change is difficult. They reluctantly participated in training at the school level. Slowly, they transformed themselves into a committed learning community.The implementation of the power strategies became a natural part of collegial conversations, lesson plans, and classroom observations.

Our school has come a very long way in a year! That’s why when we were selected to send a team to participate in the Adolescent Literacy for Vertical Teams Initiative Conference, it seemed a natural progression for us. The Magnificent Seven Comprehension Strategies are not new ones to reading instructors, but the focus on explicitly teaching them and making the “invisible visible” is powerful.

After the SURN conference, our leadership team was given an overview of the conference components. Our administrators used one of the synthesis strategies, Even Dozen, to engage us in thinking about what our school did well during the last year.

During pre-service week, our faculty also participated in an overview. Our principal purchased a copy of Power Tools for Adolescent Literacy for every core content teacher in the building! The original SURN participants decided collectively to focus the first month on the strategy of making inferences and predictions, which solidified the whole school’s mission.

As a resource teacher with the opportunity to plan with many different content teams, I have watched colleagues pulling ideas from the book, enlarging the Magnificent Seven posters and hanging them in their rooms. Several have already used the Even Dozen activity with their students.

I am a witness to how our school adopted five power strategies last year that have transformed our school; teaching the seven comprehension strategies in every classroom will be equally fulfilling for our faculty and ultimately rewarding for our students!

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