A Reflective Assignment: Looking Back, Looking Forward ( 2010 Vicky Zygouris-Coe, Ph.D)

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1 A Reflective Assignment: Looking Back, Looking Forward ( 2010 Vicky Zygouris-Coe, Ph.D) Rationale Teaching reading well and meeting the reading needs of all students are no small feats. Reading is a complex process, and unfortunately, most students do not come to school with the adequate skills, preparation, or motivation to read. In recent years, much research has shown that the teacher is the catalyst for student reading success and achievement. As a FOR-PD participant embarking on this learning journey, think of an challenge you are facing and use what you are learning from this course to address it, implement what you are learning, and reflect on the same challenge toward the end of the course. Effective teachers constantly examine what they do and how they impact student learning. If you are not directly teaching in a prek-12 grade classroom, select a challenge that reflects your educational responsibilities. *Note: This is a two-part, required FOR-PD course assignment. If you do not complete each component, you will not successfully complete the FOR-PD course. As educators, we like tangible and relevant experiences. What better way to make your professional experience practical than to apply what you are learning in your own classroom (or school setting)? Assignment Outline Overview Part I: Identification of a challenge and development of a plan of action. 1. Instructional challenge pertaining to reading. 2. Current state of reading instruction in my classroom and/or school. 3. Description of challenge and steps taken so far to produce desired results. Midpoint: Reflective Assignment Progress Report During the 7 th Learning Module of the course you will need to post on the discussion board a short paragraph about your progress on the Reflective Assignment (RA). The purpose of the progress report is to inform your facilitator of your progress and of any unaccepted challenges you may be facing. Share with your facilitator and class about how you are doing and also include any questions you may have about the RA. You will receive feedback from your facilitator and he/she will also answer any questions you may have at this time. You will not be graded on this part of the assignment but it will be noted if you completed or did not complete this part of the assignment. Part II: Implementation of a plan of action, reflection, and next steps.

2 1. Development of plan of action (including rationale). 2. Results of the plan of action (lesson plan, thoughts, observations, and questions). 3. Reflection of decisions made during implementation of the plan of action. 4. Impact of the plan of action on students, school, classroom, or teacher. 5. Next steps and unanswered questions. Assignment Description This reflective learning assignment includes two parts: I. Identification of a challenge and development of a plan of action. Please select a challenge you are experiencing with the reading development or reading instruction of either a specific student or a group of students. As you go through this course, select what is real and relevant to you, what needs fixing, or what keeps you up at night. Sample challenges include the following: Teachers at my school need help with building students vocabulary; how can I assist them? In what ways can I help my struggling readers with decoding, vocabulary, or comprehension? Several of my students cannot read at grade level; what can I do to help them? How can I facilitate school-wide literacy change at my school? I teach science: how can I help develop my students vocabulary? How can I get my students to read their mathematics textbook? How can I help my students to read with understanding? How can I engage my students with informational text? Help! How can I get my students to read? Steps: a. Identify a reading challenge you would like to resolve as you are learning more about effective reading research and instruction. Describe who you are, the grade level you teach (or other position you have at your school), and your reading and reading instruction (or the role of reading in the content areas if you are a content area teacher). b. Briefly describe what is going on in your classroom (or school, if you do not have your own classroom) in terms of reading or reading instruction. c. Briefly describe the challenge and what steps you have taken so far to address it, even if your current plans have not produced the desired results. d. Submit Part I of the Reflective Assignment via the Assignment Tool, Reflective Assignment Part I, by Learning Module 3 of the course. e. Please consult the rubric for more information on the assessment of this reflective assignment. Total Possible Points for Part I of Reflective Assignment: 30 points.

3 II. Implementation of a plan of action, reflection, and next steps. In this section, please (a) describe the development of your plan of action; (b) describe and briefly discuss results, thoughts, observations, and questions related to the implementation of your action plan; (c) reflect on decisions and changes you made in your instruction or work with students in your classroom or school; and, (d) discuss the next steps that will follow the implementation of your plan of action and what you have been learning in this course. You may even raise additional questions as you plan for future steps. Sample challenges include the following: Were there any special steps you took to adjust your instruction or assist your readers with their literacy development? What specific changes did you make either in your instruction or in your own classroom? Which reading strategies worked best, and for which students or purposes? What was the impact of your plan of action, if any, on your students or your own teaching? What worked well? What was challenging? What did not work well? What are some areas you would still like to continue to learn more about? What are your next steps? Steps: a. As you learn more in this course about reading development, research and instruction, start developing a plan of action using ideas from the course (e.g., research principles, strategies, and resources). ii. Briefly describe what the elements of your plan of action are and also provide a short rationale for your decisions. For example: what strategies, content, or materials did you select? How, why, when, with whom, where, and under what conditions do you plan to use them? b. Describe your plan of action in detail and provide a rationale for the decisions you made to address the challenge at hand. For example: what changes you made, what strategies you might have selected to implement, what changes you made, what resources you included, etc. c. Describe how, and for how long, you implemented your plan of action and share observations from its implementation. d. Discuss the impact of your plan of action on the challenge you identified, and also on you as a teacher. Have any of your reading instruction, or the challenge you were facing, changed as a result of your learning in this course and the decisions you made? e. Discuss next steps and unanswered questions. f. Submit Part II of the Reflective Assignment via the Assignment Tool, Reflective Assignment Part II, by Learning Module 12 of the course. g. Please consult the rubric for more information on the assessment of this reflective assignment. Total Possible Points for Part II of Reflective Assignment: 70 points.

4 Sample Reflective Assignment Part I: Identification of a challenge and development of a plan of action. 1. Instructional challenge pertaining to reading My name is Ima Teacher; I teach intensive reading for ninth and tenth grade students at Sea World High School in Florida. I have been teaching intensive reading for two years now. My students come to my class with low motivation to read and carry years of reading difficulties with them. I enjoy teaching intensive reading! One of the challenges I have been facing is how to engage the majority of my students in reading. The materials I have tend to be boring and irrelevant. Also, many of the students do not understand the texts due to the high number of words that are unknown to them. 2. Current state of reading instruction in my classroom and/or school I believe that all students can be intrinsically motivated to read if they are given time to read relevant texts that they can comprehend. I spend a lot of time helping my students with vocabulary and comprehension activities, but my time is often limited. I wish I could do more small-group work or something to help those students who are very disconnected from reading. I believe that reading is the backbone of literacy development in the content areas and that we can help students develop the knowledge they need if we incorporate effective reading strategies especially in the areas of academic vocabulary and comprehension. My administrators require us to provide students with a lot of practice reading FCAT-like texts and answering multiple choice questions. The focus of reading at our school is to move students from level one and two to level three or higher. 3. Description of challenge and steps taken so far to produce desired results How can I engage my students in reading? The materials I have are not engaging or relevant to my students. Also, many of my students do not understand the texts due to the high number of words that are unknown to them. I would like to give them more choice and access to relevant texts, but I do not have very many books in my classroom... I have purchased some books myself, but don t have the means to purchase as many as I need. In addition, I don t know what to have students do with the books. I have discussed this challenge with my reading coach and library media specialist. I do not have time to go around looking for books that will match every student s interest. I place books around my classroom, but students do not become attracted to them. At times, I have even shown some films on some books and I have also talked about books I like to read. Do I have them just read the books, or do I give them an assignment to complete after each chapter?

5 Part II: Implementation of a plan of action, reflection and next steps 1. Development of plan of action (including rationale) First, I want to find out more about the interest of my students and their reading level. The reason why I ve chosen this as a first step is because student motivation plays an important role in reading. Students are more likely to read books/texts they are interested in, or texts that are relevant to their lives. This will help me decide what materials to select; I plan to have conversations with my reading coach and library media specialist about what books to have in my classroom. I will do book talks with my students; I will take them to the library and give them time to preview books we can use in our literature circles or for independent reading; use the book pass strategy to allow them to review books; write a short comment about what they liked or disliked; and also read other students comments about the same book. Second, I will make my classroom environment more inviting and comfortable for students to read. Students need access to high-interest reading materials and a place to read. I plan to display and showcase books, student work, and other related academic information. I will use student-generated word walls, colorful bulletin boards, posters about books, and decorations that make reading learning attractive and inviting to students. Third, I will model share my interests. I tell them what I am reading whether I like or dislike it, and make connections between what I am reading, myself, other reading material, and the world. Students need to see the importance of reading actively and making connections; think-alouds help make the comprehension process visible and tangible. Lastly, I will make my reading instruction more structured and comprehensive. I will plan to have daily independent reading time. I will also implement buddy-reading activities and literature circles for students who have interests in the same books. Here is what I plan to do with the literature circles: I will split the class into groups of four to six students, and group students together who have selected the same novel. I will describe each novel and build the background knowledge about the topics it covers, the time period in which it takes place, etc. I will explicitly model pre-, during, and post-reading, vocabulary and comprehension strategies. During literature circles, students will play different roles to help them become more engaged with the book. For example: discussion director, literary luminary, connector, character captain, artistic adventurer, and vocabulary enricher. These roles will also help with developing students vocabulary and comprehension of the text. Students will select roles within their group. I will explain what each role involves and how they will be evaluated. Students meet in their literature circles for discussion three times a week. Each student, depending on his or her role in the group, will have a different task to complete during the circle discussion. 2. Results of plan of action (thoughts, observations, questions)

6 Wow! A few weeks of implementation of my plan of action have made a difference in several areas. First of all, I am tired; this was a lot of work and it is not fully completed. In talking with other teachers I discovered that it is not easy to change students habits about reading. Although most of them fought me tooth and nail, I must say that they have learned to enjoy several of the changes I made. My classroom has become a positive learning community. Other teachers report to me that my students share with them what they are reading. They actually look forward (most of the time) to coming to class. Other students are so involved in their book that they want to read ahead. They have enjoyed the conversations, express themselves feely, and have even become more tolerant toward others opinions. The majority of my students read silently during the time I give them, and most of them are participating in discussion groups. Tapping into their interests was the best decision I made. It was an eye-opening experience for me. I discovered that many students did not want to read the books I used to give them, but they enjoyed reading books they selected. Although most of them responded positively to selecting their own books, I am still having difficulty engaging my most reluctant readers. I have been spending more time with them doing individual conferences and helping them with their difficulties. My classroom environment looks much more inviting now. There are various book displays (fiction and non-fiction), a variety of magazines, I continue to post student work samples, and my students have taken ownership of the student-generated word walls. We have been developing a word wall on our literature circle books, we collect words they find interesting or strange, and we also work with unknown words. The word walls have become a reference point that students use in our classroom to illustrate vocabulary. I also developed an area where I keep blank templates of reading, vocabulary, and comprehension strategies we have been using the past few weeks. As a result of talking with my library media specialist and reading coach, I also used music, electronic resources, and even film to support students understanding of the books/topics we were working on. I think that reading in front of my students and sharing books with them helped a lot. I think it was an effective ice-breaker in my classroom. Some students teased me, others criticized my choices, and yet others wanted to read what I read. It opened up the lines of communication between them and me; I loved it. The think-alouds also helped them see that even I had trouble with understanding what the author meant. I talked about what I did not understand, and when meaning was lost, I shared what I did to repair meaning (e.g., go back and re-read a problematic text portion, use content clues for words I did not understand, or even break down words to help me get the meaning). After a couple of weeks they started to use think alouds and by now they use it almost automatically. Planning for time to read has really worked well. I think it has helped improved not only their attitudes toward reading, but also their reading fluency. Most students do not read outside the classroom; this accommodation has been a great investment. They know that when they come in my classroom, they have minutes to read independently. It helps calm them down, focus their energy, and assist in their reading development.

7 The literature circles have brought about many changes. For once, they have helped improve social relationships in my classroom. I wish I could tell you that everybody loved them. Even though the majority of them did, I still have trouble engaging two groups. We are almost finished with our first literature circle activities; they have completed their novels and are now working on the literature circle project. In their groups, they each chose their role, and that helped them take ownership and use their interests. After three weeks of implementing the roles, they pretty much knew what was expected of them; we are still using reminders and role guidelines, as some of them have been late bloomers with their roles. Their conversations have been targeted and they learned how to make multiple connections with text. They have been having fun, and I have been learning a lot about how important it is that the secondary reader is actively involved in reading. 3. Reflection of decisions made during implementation of plan of action Boy, student reading engagement is not an easy job! Some of the students appear to read in order to complete the assignment rather than to engage in the text and group discussion. While implementing discussion groups, I noticed that some of the students would skim the text to find answers to the questions I gave them. I changed the assignment by asking them to write their own questions. 4. Impact of plan of action on students, school, classroom, or teacher himself/herself I saw changes in my students attitudes toward books, and I also saw an appreciation about what it takes to read and comprehend. Looking back at the before and after picture in my classroom, I would say that I learned a lot about my students. I better understood their initial resistance to read and what kept them from reading. Although I do not have 100% success from the changes I implemented, I have seen tremendous changes in how much they read, what they read, and how they respond to reading. Because they have been reading more and learning about how to better read and comprehend, they developed an appreciation for learning. They enjoyed selecting their own books and reading stuff that is real to them. I saw a change in classroom management issues; I had a lot fewer behavior problems from students. I believe because they were meaningfully engaged, they spent more time in what they liked instead of causing trouble in the classroom. They developed a voice in the classroom. They share more about their interests and ask me more about what other books to read. They also share books and suggestions with one another. I can attest to a data-based improvement in their reading fluency (using Oral Reading Fluency assessments) and their vocabulary and comprehension (using teacher-designed assessments). My students now want to be in my classroom and I do not have to coerce them to read. And what about me? Well, I learned that some students are reluctant readers because they do not have, or are not given, interesting or relevant materials. Reader motivation is not just a reader issue; I believe that it is a teacher issue. We need to give students what they need, and we also need to provide them with quality materials and instruction. I developed a renewed appreciation about the role of reading in the content areas, and my students learned how to use several effective reading strategies that they now apply in other content areas. If we want

8 students to become better readers, we have to give them time to read and we also have to teach them how to read and understand. I still need to do more with some of my reluctant readers who are not improving a lot from the changes I made and are still not reading at the level they need to read. I think this will take more individualized work or guided reading. 5. Next steps and unanswered questions I plan to continue to learn about how to improve my reading instruction. I also plan to continue conversations with other content area teachers and my reading coach about improving my reading instruction and reaching all students. I am working with four other teachers, putting together a text set that we will all use in our classrooms. It is taking a lot of our time, but we are having fun. Our topic is: overcoming obstacles. I look forward to seeing how our students will respond to it. I am also planning more explicit instruction in vocabulary and fix-up comprehension strategies. I plan to incorporate them in my daily, regular instruction. Oh, there are still several unanswered questions I have. For example, how am I going to help those students who are still showing no interest in reading? What else can I do? How can I ensure that my students apply my effective classroom strategies in other content areas? What kinds of professional development opportunities exist to help me continue learning about reading in the secondary grades? Should I teach a lot of vocabulary and comprehension strategies, or some over time with diverse texts? Reflective Assignment Rubric Reflective Assignment Rubric: Part I Criteria Beginning Developing Exemplary Participant submitted the reflective assignment by the due date. Participant did not submit the reflective assignment by the due date. Participant submitted the reflective assignment by the due date. The identification of a challenge and development of a plan of action is focused and purposeful, and it reflects insight into the writing assignment. participant s 0 points 10 points The reflective The reflective assignment assignment is vaguely focused but addresses the contains ideas topic. It has a that are loosely loose focus by connected to the including topic. (2 extraneous or loosely related ideas. (0 No description of the participant s The description of the participant s reading instruction is loosely organized. (2 The reflective assignment is focused and purposeful, and it reflects insight into the writing assignment. (3 participant s reading instruction

9 reading instruction are included. current status of reading instruction in the participant s classroom (or school) is included. chosen challenge is included. reading instruction were No description of the current status of reading instruction in the participant s classroom (or school) is No description of the chosen challenge is The description of the current status of reading instruction in the participant s classroom (or school) is loosely organized. (2 The description of the chosen challenge is loosely organized. (5 are included. (3 current status of reading instruction in the participant s classroom (or school) is included. (4 chosen challenge is included. (10 0 points 11 points 20 points Total Possible Points For Part I of Reflective Assignment 30 points IMPORTANT: You need to earn at least an 80% (80 out of the possible 100 points) on the entire reflection assignment in order to pass the course. If you do not earn enough points, contact your facilitator to inquire how to raise your score before the end of the course. *Note: This is a two-part, required FOR-PD course assignment. If you do not complete each component, you will not successfully complete the FOR-PD course. Reflective Assignment Rubric: Part II Criteria Beginning Developing Exemplary A detailed plan of action for decisions is No detailed plan of action for decisions is The overall plan of action for decisions is A detailed plan of action for decisions is included (e.g., what changes There is no rationale provided loosely organized. (5 included (e.g., what changes you made, what strategies you for plan of action. (0 The rationale for the plan is you made, what strategies you might have The incomplete and might have selected to implementation not wellsupported. selected to implement, what of the plan of (5 implement, what changes you action, reflection, and next steps The implementation changes you made, what vaguely of the plan of made, what resources you addresses the action, reflection, resources you included, etc.).a topic. It has a and next steps are included, etc.).

10 rationale for plan of action was included; it is comprehensive (i.e., complete, inclusive, thorough) and well-supported. The implementation of the plan of action, reflection, and next steps is focused and purposeful, and it reflects insight into the writing assignment. Details on how the plan of action was implemented, and for how long (along with observations from its implementation) are included. discussion on the impact of the plan of action on the participant, and on his/her reading instruction as a result of this course, is included. A discussion on next steps and unanswered questions is included. loose focus by including extraneous or loosely related ideas. (0 No details on how the plan of action was implemented, and for how long (along with observations from its implementation) are included. (0 No concise discussion on the impact of the plan of action on the participant, and on his/her reading instruction as a result of this course, is No discussion on next steps and unanswered questions is loosely connected to the topic. (5 Details on how the plan of action was implemented, and for how long (along with observations from its implementation) are loosely organized. (5 The discussion of the impact of the plan of action on the participant, and on his/her reading instruction as a result of this course, is included. (5 No discussion on next steps and unanswered questions is loosely organized. (5 (15 A rationale for plan of action is included; it is comprehensive (i.e., complete, inclusive, thorough) and well-supported. (7 The implementation of plan of action, reflection, and next steps is focused and purposeful, and it reflects insight into the writing assignment. (10 Details on how the plan of action was implemented, and for how long (along with observations from its implementation) are included. (10 discussion of the impact of the plan of action on the participant, and on his/her reading instruction as a result of this course, is included. (10 A discussion on

11 next steps and unanswered questions is included. (8 Few, if any convention errors, occur in mechanics, usage, punctuation, and spelling. 0 points 30 points 60 points The response generally follows the conventions of mechanics, usage, punctuation, and spelling. (5 Frequent errors in the basic conventions of sentence structure, mechanics, usage, and punctuation; and commonly used words are misspelled. (0 Few, if any convention errors, occur in mechanics, usage, punctuation, and spelling. (10 0 points 5 points 10 points Total Possible Points For Part II of Reflective Assignment Total Possible Points For BOTH Parts I and II of Reflective Assignment 70 points 100 points IMPORTANT: You need to earn at least an 80% (80 out of the possible 100 points) on the entire reflection assignment in order to pass the course. If you do not earn enough points, contact your facilitator to inquire how to raise your score before the end of the course. *Note: This is a two-part, required FOR-PD course assignment. If you do not complete each component, you will not successfully complete the FOR-PD course.

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