By Jeanna B. White
“Everything is about what students need to know, understand, and be able to do,” said Amy Spade, literacy coach, while leading a professional development workshop for Teacher-Directed Reading (TDR).
As Davie County’s elementary school students headed home to enjoy their early release day on February 14th, their teachers fanned out across the county to delve deeper into TDR.
TDR is the guiding component of a Balanced Literacy framework for reading instruction that involves teaching by reading to students, having students read independently, and reading with students. The Balanced Literacy approach fosters fluency and comprehension as well as perseverance, collaboration, focus, and stamina. Overall, the goal of Balanced Literacy is to create independent readers by inspiring an authentic love and appreciation for reading among students.
Balanced Literacy is a critical tool for achieving the goals of the DavieLEADS initiative, which was created through a $2.5 million grant from the Mebane Foundation to support a five-year early literacy initiative aimed at improving kindergarten readiness and increasing the percentage of students reading proficiently by the end of third grade.
The grant includes funding for professional development and specialized support staff, including two full-time literacy coaches, as well as two professional consultants to develop and build the professional capacity of the kindergarten through third-grade classroom teachers in Davie County Schools.
“Professional development is an essential component of the DavieLEADS initiative,” said Jennifer Lynde, director of curriculum and instruction for Davie County Schools. “We want to invest in our teachers and provide them with quality workshops and training. They are much more valuable in producing student growth than a packaged program.”
Barbie Brown, DavieLEADS consultant, led the workshop for kindergarten and 1st-grade teachers across the district at Mocksville Elementary; Amy Spade, literacy coach, led 2nd and 3rd-grade teachers at Shady Grove Elementary; and Renee Hennings-Gonzalez, literacy coach, led 4th and 5th-grade teachers at Cooleemee Elementary. Dividing the training by grade level allowed teachers to collaborate with their counterparts from across the county.
Elementary school teachers across Davie County spend 30-45 minutes of their daily teaching time on Teacher-Directed Reading. During TDR, the teacher guides students through standards-based, grade-level language arts instruction. As students read the text, teachers use and model appropriate comprehension strategies. This approach encourages students to be active and thoughtful readers, enhancing their understanding and comprehension of what they have read.
The workshop provided information on best practices for planning TDR lessons that focus on each of the state-mandated standards.Topics discussed included:
- What types of text do I use for TDR?
- When planning, do you select the text or standard first? And why?
- How much surface knowledge should be taught before addressing the rigor of the standard?
- If students don’t master the rigor of the standard, what are my next steps?
During the workshop, facilitators passed out a sample template and a clarifying document to help with preparing TDR lessons. Teachers then watched a video of a teacher teaching and evaluated how effectively she led the Teacher-Directed Reading. During breakout sessions, small groups shared their experiences as well as brainstormed new ideas and techniques.
Angela Spillman, a 2nd-grade teacher at William R. Davie Elementary, particularly appreciated watching the video of a TDR lesson being taught and discussing it with fellow teachers.
“It’s hard to step back and evaluate yourself when you are teaching,” she said. “Watching a video of a lesson and then discussing how well the concepts were taught was very valuable to me.”
Angelina Etter, a 2nd-grade teacher at Mocksville Elementary, valued the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues from across the county.
“Collaboration opens our minds so that all of the teachers and students are gaining. We are looking a lot closer at the standards so that our teaching can be more intentional.”
Spade said, “The DavieLEADS initiative has allowed us to tailor our professional development based on student needs and teacher needs while building a district-wide focus on Balanced Literacy.”
Hennings-Gonzalez agreed, “As teachers continue to grow in their craft, the DavieLEADS initiative is intended to provide continuous support. As a literacy coach, my personal goal is to ensure that teachers feel that they are encouraged and that they are equipped to use Teacher-Directed Reading in their daily instruction.”
“One great piece that the TDR training has created is the opportunity for teachers to reflect on their own instructional practices, realize the need for a change, and to reach out for support.”