Literacy Coaches: Thinking Ahead to May & June — Already?!
Can you believe it? It’s time to start making literacy coaching plans for May and June right now – in February!
Coaches, if it seems waaaaay to early for you to even consider making May and June plans, stay with me.
Here are three things I’m working on, right now, in the first week of February.
#1: END-OF-YEAR CURRICULUM PLANNING (AKA “JUNE PLANNING”)
Every year, I meet with each grade level team to reflect on our literacy curriculum, study the progress our students have made, and take a good look at our plans for the following school year. We talk about which units of study for writing workshop we should keep, get rid of, adapt, and we also decide in what order to teach each unit. In short, we revise our curriculum calendar every year, with everybody having a chance to weigh in.
Ideally, this work happens in mid-May or early June, so that everybody’s teaching placements have been finalized, and next year’s teams can meet. May/June is the perfect time to look back on the current school year, with student work in hand, before everyone heads off to summer break and the school year becomes a distant memory.
“Sounds great,” you may be thinking, “but why are you working on this in February?”
The reason I begin to make plans now for May/June curriculum planning is that it is incredibly important to have every team member present when we do this work–and the only way I can ensure that happens is if I make sure those meeting dates are on the calendar now and that I send out periodic reminders so that those dates don’t get taken over by field trips, testing, school plays, or other end-of-year events.
When I schedule end-of-year planning sessions, I aim for at least a half day of release time for teachers, but a full day is always ideal. The sooner I begin to communicate to everyone involved, the better chance I have of having everyone in attendance.
Here’s a rundown of what a full day could look like (for both reading and writing):
- Reading & discussing a short article or excerpt to share latest research related to literacy instruction and our yearlong curriculum plans
- Sharing and celebrating recent student work, often using a protocol
- Reflecting on progress from beginning of the year, often looking at student work samples, reading levels, or other assessment data
- Setting goals for next year related to student progress
- Discussing each of the unit’s pros and cons, what worked, what didn’t work
- Planning next year’s curriculum calendar
For a more detailed run-down of what these May/June planning sessions look like, you could scan this blog post, from a few years ago.
#2: SUMMER SLIDE & SUMMER READING & WRITING PLANS
A second big piece of work I’m working on right now is preventing summer slide.
“In February?!” you might ask… but I think you actually do know why.
Last year, I waited until April to present summer slide data to our district’s administrators to make the case for a stronger summer reading and writing initiative. While the data clearly illustrated the importance of supporting our students’ summer literacy — by April it was really too late to organize a wide-scale initiative to order books, involve every teacher, and really pull out all the stops. This summer I want to help everyone really do everything we can – I’d like teachers to have a chance to send books home with kids–for keeps. If we have any chance of making it happen, I need to get started now working with the various people that have the power to order books, release teachers for planning time, and everything else that would go into making a successful summer reading initiative.
A few things I need to do now:
- Schedule time to work with administrators. Share student reading and writing data with them, and brainstorm a plan that makes sense for their particular students.
- Schedule time to meet with teachers to go over student data and share or create a plan that makes sense.
- If ordering books or materials is involved, now is the ideal time to get started on that so that materials arrive well in advance of when they would be going home with students. (There may also be grant writing or letter writing to donors involved, depending on the school).
- Get a plan in place for organizing and distributing materials so that this isn’t added to teachers’ plates in the spring.
If you’re curious about why I’m so passionate about summer literacy, or you are unfamiliar with the research on this topic, you could skim this blog post I created last year.
#3: NEXT YEAR’S & FUTURE YEAR’S PROFESSIONAL LEARNING GOALS
As a consultant myself, I can tell you that now is the time to book any workshops, presenters, or professional learning opportunities you hope to bring to your school or district next year. If you wait too much longer, the presenters, courses, or workshops you really wanted to bring to your teachers are sure to be booked, forcing you to rethink your plan and resort to Plan B… or Plan C.
In order for next year’s literacy coaching and professional learning opportunities to be as effective as possible, each experience should ideally connect to a larger master plan–rather than a series of random presenters and workshops (or choosing the work based on current fads or buzzwords). If your work this year has been largely focused on a few things — what is the vision for that work two years, three years, five years from now? How will you keep up that work while also introducing other, newer, thinking?
Ground your recommendations to administrators in student data, such as samples of writing, on-demand assessments, and classroom observations — what do students need support with most? What are the areas of teacher learning that would most likely have the biggest payoff for students? I would encourage you to aim for a three year or five year plan that can be revised accordingly down the road, rather than going one year at a time. Even if it feels like you are the only one with a long term plan in mind, at least you will be poised to advocate for opportunities for your teachers based on a longer-term strategy.
The point is, now is the time to start scheduling those meetings, adding those items to agendas, and getting the ball rolling. After February, comes March, then April… and we all know May and June are packed full. If you don’t carve out the time and space now, you may not have a chance if you wait much longer.