Best Practices for Professional Learning Communities (Part 3)

Part Three: Build relationships with your part-time students

This is part of an occasional series about Professional Learning Communities— I dubbed it Trade & Teach, a practice of assessing all students in a grade level and creating leveled groups taught by different teachers. It can work really well in elementary schools, but I have noticed the trend is to reinvent the wheel in the name of teacher buy-in. Rather than that, I offer Best Practices advice from tried and true implementation experience in real third grade classrooms. If you’re not familiar with Professional Learning Communities, read the Wiki here.

It’s always important to build relationships with your students, but in Trade & Teach, it’s absolutely essential.  The students are disoriented unless you make a special effort to build community.  (After all, we’re talking about Professional Learning Communities, aren’t we?)

**In order to build these relationships, you must have students for a significant length of time.  This is just one more reason to assess wisely—and not too frequently. 

There are definite benefits to building community:

Optimizing the learning climate: If the students feel like they have been thrust into an unfamiliar classroom with a different teacher and different classmates, what do you think will be foremost in their minds?  Not learning! Give the students a chance to get to know you and each other.  Play icebreaker games or just introduce yourselves.  Find out students’ favorites in regard to the subject matter at hand.  Let students form teams based on their homeroom.  This way, they can tackle learning challenges without stressing about working with unfamiliar classmates.

Assessing & Addressing Students’ Needs:  Sure, you have a general idea of what your students need because you know how they scored on the assessment: above level, on level, or below level.  You can prepare lesson plans based on that, but your teaching will be more effective if you get to know the students as individuals.  You might tap into shared interests that can provide structure to otherwise rote practice, such as practicing paragraph writing about animals, cars or whatever your students like.  You might discover that the students are already very good at some skills but just need advice on how to show this on tests.  Test-taking lessons are very different from skills-based lessons.

Forming a Partnership: When Trade & Teach is really humming along, students benefit because they have two teachers who truly care about them.  You are the specialist, and you can coordinate care with the primary provider—the child’s homeroom teacher—and the child’s parents.  For extra games or resources to use at home, communicate directly with parents.  Got a problem or concern?  Go to the child’s homeroom teacher first, then the two of you can decide how best to approach the parent.

Trade & Teach can really help if you think a child needs targeted intervention or testing for a learning disability.  With two or more academic teachers seeing the child, it’s easier to tell if problems are part of an environment or seen across the board.  It’s harder for gatekeepers to dismiss a problem as one teacher jumping the gun if several teachers worked with the child and noticed the same issues.

This series on Professional Learning Communities Best Practices is made possible by Valerie, Donina, Bethany and Heather … an amazing third grade team!

Posted in Professional Learning Communities by Corey Green @ Nov 14, 2011

 

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