The Literacy Coach and I put our deviously creative hats on to come up with a new form of Professional Development. We developed a semi-monthly, 30-minute session that repeats three times during lunch from 11:00 – 12:30. So far there have been five dates, and the fifth one which occurred today, was the most successful by far.
We chose Google Hangouts for a couple of reasons. First, it’s on everyone’s classroom computer. It’s also an amazingly simple tool to use, and one that I think the staff could really use, considering we have seven buildings (8 if you count the District Office). However, it’s a hard concept to demonstrate and fully understand the potential without actually participating. And goodness knows I already make enough videos that they don’t watch.
Google Hangouts provides the framework, but the content had to come from elsewhere, and where better to look than other district-wide initiatives. The Literacy Coach in our district is amazing: 30+ years of elementary teaching experience in all grades, not to mention a growth mindset like nobody has every seen. She was always trying new styles, techniques, and ideas while in the classroom and hasn’t stopped. She and I brainstormed about what teachers still weren’t ‘getting’ when it came to Daily 5/CAFE implementation, and also what they might like to learn with PARCC (our annual Common Core Standardized Test) on the horizon.
- GHO #1 – Classroom Innovation
- GHO #2 – Vocabulary Instruction
- GHO #3 – Citing Evidence
- GHO #4 – Paired Texts
- GHO #5 – Constructed Responses on PARCC
Ms. Witkus and I created a Google Doc in advance, and developed an agenda, complete with questions and resources that we could share out through the Chat feature.
We wanted a safe topic for our first one, since we realized people were really going to be learning how to use GHO. We added Vocab Instruction because a mutual pet peeve is the use of DOL (Daily Oral Language) by the many of the reading teachers, and the fact that some of the vocabulary lists that students learn every week contain words for no apparent reason (but I digress…).
The next three topics cover Common Core skills that seem to be difficult to teach. Citing evidence correctly at the secondary level is easy, because your school follows a specific format, like MLA or APA. However, at the elementary level, where citation is introduced, can be more tricky: how do you know what proper citation for a 3rd grader is compared to a 5th, for example? Paired texts seems easy to accomplish with such websites as ReadWorks, but I think many teachers have a fear of, or don’t like to, create their own material. Therefore, we thought it beneficial to introduce some online resources for Paired Texts.
Finally, helping kids write Constructed Responses for the PARCC is huge. As I assist teachers in the computer labs as their practice PARCC with their kiddos, MANY students get to that question, and then write a two- or three-sentence response. Not cool. So, Ms. Witkus shared some lesson ideas to get kids writing daily, especially with responses to informational text (say in science or social studies) that kids finish in 30 – 40 minutes. I then jumped in with a plan to help students actually complete a constructed response, the crux or which was for them to use the scratch paper explicitly allowed in the directions to make an outline at the very least, and an outline with textual evidence source as better yet.
The first two GHOs were held for an hour after school. I suggested an hour, because Twitter chats generally last that long, and I have been in several that FLY by. However, attendance seemed low to us, and feedback indicated that many teachers would like to join, but had family obligations after school. Therefore, we decided to move it to the lunch. Better, but still not where we would like it.
It seems best if we divide and conquer, too. If we are in different buildings, and can drum up business in each of THOSE buildings, we have better attendance.
Topics with immediate relevance seem to elicit better attendance as well.
With every session, more people have experienced GHOs. At the end of the year, Ms. Witkus and I will look at attendance stats and determine if the Return on Investment was really worth the effort.
Have you ever used Google Hangouts for PD? I would enjoy reading about your experience.