I have a new role in my school this year. In addition to being the Vice-Principal, I will also be one of the Learning Support teachers (last year, I was the Early Literacy Teacher and the Intermediate Prep teacher for 4 classes in addition to my Vice-Principal role). I look forward to being part of the LST Team and working with the teachers and students in this role. While I know that I need to wait until I see the students in the classes and get to know the needs of the teachers and students, I have already started thinking of some initial plans for this new role. (I will write another blog post about my plans/goals for my leadership role in another post).
As an LST teacher, I will . . .
- Find ways to best support the needs of the individual teachers with whom I will be working so that they are able to meet the individual needs of all their students.
I would like to do this with all the students, in the classes I will be working. The students at inner city school where I work have many complex needs. As the LST teacher, I believe it is my role to help the teacher, and not just small groups of students because there is no way that I alone can help all the students who need additional support. To do this, I plan on helping the teachers with some initial assessments (as long as the teachers agree with this).
- Complete the following initial assessments with the students:
~ Fountas and Pinnell Where to Start Word List – This list is great because when you have completed it with a child, it will give you a level at which you can start guided reading. While this will not give an idea of the student’s comprehension, it will give an approximate starting place. It was recommended to me, when I was an LST teacher at another school, to do the Where to Start Word List and then have the students begin reading books 2 levels below the recommended level. Then, as you understand the children’s level of comprehension, you can adjust the levels, as necessary. You can read about the whole Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark System here, the Where to Start Word List is only one small part of the assessment, but that is where I am going to start.
~ Words Their Way Developmental Spelling Assessment – Completing an assessment like this is great because it can be given to the entire class as a whole and it doesn’t take that long to mark, but then it gives you a great deal of valuable information. This is a great pre-assessment tool to begin the year with. If we do this assessment a the end of the year, we will be provided with more detailed information of how each child has improved on their spelling and, more importantly, where they should focus their attention next. This assessment piece is all about Assessment FOR Learning – to help guide the teachers teaching.
The weekly spelling tests and spelling worksheets really do little to reach all learners. These lists may be good for some of the learners in the class, but do these lists really meet the needs of all learners. I don’t think so. Instead, one could take the information from the Words Their Way Spelling Assessment and incorporate the Words Their Way Spelling Program into their classroom.
While this program may take a little more time to implement and prepare, I believe it is more engaging for each student and would help each student develop their spelling knowledge and ability. The weekly worksheets, on the other hand, can be very frustrating for students if the lists are either too easy or too difficult.
I am not saying that the teachers I work with will implement the Words Their Way Program into their classroom, but I do hope that completing this assessment will give them a better understanding of their students and the importance of differentiating spelling programs, rather than having every child complete the same spelling list each week.
Here are some resources to get started with Words Their Way:
~ Some Sort of Writing Assessment (even just an informal free write to get an idea of their individual writing ability)
~ Some Sort of Math or Numeracy Assessment – I am not sure which assessment I will use, so if anyone reading this has any ideas, I’d love to hear them. I don’t want this to just be a computation assessment.
- Help with the implementation of Assistive Technology for students who need that type of assistance.
We have a number of students who have difficulty with written output. Working with our Aboriginal Department, our school will be receiving a number of laptops with some programs that will help students with their writing and reading, mainly Kurzweil and Co: Writer. This will include training students and teachers on these programs (and learning them better myself), helping teachers find ways to incorporate the laptops into their classroom, and providing a spot in my LST room to have students come use the laptops, as needed.
Part of this project will include pre-assessments and post-assessments and tracking specific aboriginal students in their literacy ability. These programs will also be used with non-aboriginal students as well.
- Assist teachers in finding ways to incorporate technology to meet individual student’s needs
This could be using various open-ended apps on iPads in the classroom, like Show Me, Explain Everything, DragonSpeaks, AudioBoo, ScribblePress, Book Creator, Popplet Lite, Skitch, Screen Chomp, and many others.
- Get to know the individual students with whom I will be working with the most.
I feel strongly that the best way to really impact the learning of our students (and teachers, for that matter) is to get to know them as people. Develop real relationships with them. It is only when you develop these relationships will they feel comfortable taking the risks needed in their learning. I would like to get to know their individual likes an dislikes, their strengths, and their perceived and actual difficulties. I would like to develop a list with each of them listing their Loves and Loathes which they can refer to regularly (thank you to Heidi – @HHG on Twitter for the idea). I would also like to do an introductory activity where the students will complete a wordle (or something similar) about themselves, their likes, strengths, abilities, and words describing themselves. These would look great posted around my LST room. I think this would help develop a sense of belonging and community (Thank you to Gallit – @gallit_z on Twitter for this idea).
- Start an LST Blog for students to contribute regularly
I think that this will be a great motivator for the students. They could also contribute to our school Success Blog as well.
Parents are so important in their child’s learning and development. It is imperative to find ways to involve (but not overwhelm) them in ways they can help their children develop their skills.
- Get rid of my teacher desk
I have a small room in which to work with my students (when I am not in their classroom, of course). I really don’t see the point of having this big teacher’s desk take up a ton of space that could be used for students. When I am working with students, I rarely sit at a desk anyways. I am usually helping individual students or working at the rainbow table (LOVE my rainbow table). I’m sure I will be able to find a new home for the stapler, hole punch, pens, pencils, etc…
Above all, I want to continue model innovative practise and risk taking, for the staff and students at my school.
I don’t have the answers, but I want to explore different ways of doing things. Different ways of meeting the needs of our learners – students AND adults.
What would you do, if you were a Learning Support Teacher, supporting students and their teachers?
I’d love to hear your ideas! I’m sure there are many things I have not yet thought of or considered.