By Brooke Agee, Ellis Elementary Reader’s Workshop project Team Lead.
At Ellis Elementary in Sunnyvale, no matter if you’re a Kindergartener or 5th grader, the 2017-18 school year has been filled with reading, reading, reading! This year, our Reader’s Workshop (RW) LIGHT Awards team has led a school-wide shift towards the Reading Workshop model developed by Columbia University’s Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP).
Our team meets monthly to share best practices, create materials for our classrooms and grade level teams, and plan professional development. Throughout this work, team members are growing professionally and as coaches. We visit one another’s classrooms to collaborate and coach one another around teaching minilessons, small group reading instruction, and one-on-one reading conferencing with students. Our work is extending well beyond our team, too. Team members are hosting “lab classrooms,” where a group of teachers observe a teacher coach teaching all the components of a Reading Workshop session in a classroom. Our team has also developed and led several trainings for the Ellis staff, including a recent after school “coaching clinic” where teachers learned about why and how teachers confer with students about reading, practiced with teacher peers, watched a coach lead a conference with a student, and then try out a reading conference with a student from our after school program.
Our new focus on reading is impacting our entire Ellis community in a positive way. Families are learning how to support their child’s reading growth, whether through attending one of our Camp-Read-A-Lot Family Reading Nights, or reading the teacher feedback on the “Reading Practices Report Card” that our team developed for Ellis teachers to use as a supplement to our district report card. In an Ellis teacher survey from September 2016 to June 2017, teachers who felt overwhelmed by RW went down from 34% to 3%, while the percentage of teachers who collaborate with their team to implement RW grew from 31% to 47%. In addition, a 2nd-5th grade Ellis student survey shows that in the same time period, the percentage of students who read for fun or to learn something new went up from 57% to 78%. We expect these numbers to grow in the 2017-18 school year!
The LIGHT Awards grant has been integral in supporting the growth of the Reading Workshop model across Ellis. By the end of summer 2017, all six of our LIGHT Awards team members will have attended at least one training at TCRWP in New York City. So far, team members have attended a variety of trainings, which has helped us grow and develop new ideas as we share our learnings with one another. The LIGHT Awards grant has also allowed us to have the release time to visit one another’s classrooms to learn from and coach one another, as well as visit other schools to see Reading Workshop best practices in action. With Reading Workshop also comes a need for books, books, and more books. The award has helped team members build inviting and well-stocked classroom libraries that encourage our students to fall in love with reading.
In the 2017-18 school year, our LIGHT Awards team plans to continue and deepen our work around Reader’s Workshop at Ellis. We look forward to bringing TCRWP staff developers to our site for more hands-on training. This will help us continue working towards our school vision to: Collaboratively plan and implement the components of Reading Workshop in order to build a positive reading community at Ellis.