Tuesday, April 24, 2012
I was completely stuck with one of my kids. I felt like I was doing EVERYTHING I knew how to do to help this kiddo write. No matter what I did I just could't get him to say a word slowly and correctly record the sounds he heard. He'd say the word slowly, isolate the sound and then write "Q" and go on to the next word. He can spell high frequency words out loud but when it comes to writing them on paper he'll write "Q" and move on. I pulled out every trick I knew and I still couldn't get him to independently hear and record sounds in words. He can write a great story but I need to be with him at every step of the way prompting him to stay on task, say the word, listen to the sound, and write the letter he heard. Or so I thought. I finally requested to be coached. I LOVE that my school has literacy coaches we can go to when we are stuck. When I first started teaching I found it intimidating- I mistook coaching for judging. Now as an experienced teacher I feel like I begging to be coached. "Please, come watch me! I know something isn't working and I need help figuring out what it is." Last year I video taped myself once to try to figure out what I was doing wrong but it wasn't the same as getting feedback from someone observing you. They can pick up on elements of the lesson you may not have noticed, or can point out missed opportunities you may never have thought of. Once you get over the "they'll learn I'm a bad teacher and judge me" coaching is really an amazing opportunity. (But it took me years to get over that feeling...) The literacy coach came in to observe and wrote down everything I was saying. Turns out I was saying a lot. I knew that- I was frustrated with how much support I was giving him but I don't think I realized it was four legal size pages worth. She suggested that I stand back and change my prompts from entire sentences to phrases, and then eventually from phrases to a single word and from a single word to a look. Basically I need to stop micromanaging his writing and start letting him take ownership of the writing while still reminding him that I am there and keeping him on task. So today I took a deep breath and dived into a writing conference with him where I would not talk everytime I wanted to. I even kept a tally on my notes page of how many times I prompted him just to remind myself to STOP TALKING. And miracles of miracles- he could do it without me. Sometimes a look was all he needed from me and then he'd say the word slowly and write it down. He hadn't been working before because I had been doing the work for him. And my micro-managing him was just encouraging him to be passive and wait for me to tell him what to do next. He wasn't ready for me to walk away and leave him to be completely independent (that quickly can disolve into drawing on the table) but he is ready for me to change my prompts. It was so simple yet so powerful. I just needed to back off. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to be coached and that the coach was so insightful. And I'll go ahead and pat myself on the back- I'm glad I've gotten past the point of being worried about being judged and I feel comfortable asking for coaching. It's freeing and I love the results.