As spring begins, we look even closer at our learners, deciding which kiddos may need extra support with a child study support team or which of our little friends may not make the end of the year benchmark. We step up our instruction with extra interventions, after school sessions, more 1:1 instruction and more attention to those children who we are concerned about. This can be stressful and cause us to panic about all the progress that still needs to be made and how will we ever fit in those “double dips” of instruction and daily time with our students who need us the most. As I start to feel that way, I have to remind myself to take a step back, breathe and make a specific plan to meet the needs of these students – while keeping our classroom a fun, engaging and happy place to be. If I am stressed and worried, that energy will determine the climate of our classroom and make it a negative, stressful place – something I don’t want to do – and something that will not serve the learners in our room.
Pat and I write about establishing clear expectations and goals for our students who struggle in Chapter 10 of Catching Readers Before They Fall. This is something that has proven to be very effective for me in focusing my instruction on my students who need so much. We recently worked with our math specialists to do this for our math students and then I did a similar form for literacy. The thinking process we went through looked like this:
1 – What is our learning goal? What do we want the student to be able to do?
2 – What can the student do now? How can we use this to build upon the known?
3 – What specific interventions do we have planned? Who is working with this child, what is the frequency of the intervention, what are the specific activities, instruction that we have planned for this child?
4 – What will be evidence of understanding? How will we assess or measure this learning and BY WHEN?
I take these planning forms and use them to plan my daily groups and 1:1 instruction. It helps me keep my focus clear and concise. It gives me a specific, measurable result to aim for and makes my teaching more purposeful. It also relieves some of the overwhelming feeling and stress of worrying about those students who are not making the progress we would like to see. While these are the questions we used, you need to ask yourself what will help you best meet the needs of your learners. This isn’t one more thing to do for someone else, but rather a specific plan to help YOU and YOUR LEARNERS. I hope this will help someone who is struggling right now and feeling the “spring stress”. Please feel free to share how you plan for progress. We would love to hear about it!