Committed to Change in Order to Benefit Readers and Writers at RLMS
By Kasey Kiehl, Middle School Literacy Coach
The first is a rationale for change. In the past at RLMS, middle school students read novels as a whole class and wrote to specific writing prompts, like many students do in a traditional middle school setting. In a classroom with this format, teachers tried to differentiate to meet the needs of all students, but it seemed nearly impossible to achieve. Getting introduced to the Literacy Collaborative framework opened our eyes to the possibility of what our classrooms could look like by eliminating whole class novels in exchange for independent reading, reading conferences, guided reading, and literature study, as well as trading in writing prompts for a Writing Workshop model, which includes student choice during independent writing, writing conferences, and guided writing. Once this door was opened, there truly was no turning back.
Once a rationale for change is established and everyone commits to the change, the next step is hard work. The amount of hard work that Language Arts teachers at Rice Lake Middle School are putting in this year to support the implementation of the Literacy Collaborative framework is commendable. Between attending bi-weekly professional development classes, reading from a plethora of professional books about the different teaching elements and theories that support Literacy Collaborative work, coaching sessions with me, spending time carefully planning reading and writing minilessons, and most importantly, applying what they are learning as they work with RLMS students, the teachers taking on this framework have fully committed to the change.
The last, and easily the most difficult part of change, is the patience to stay committed to a change over time. We live in a society where we want immediate results and gratification for the hard work that we do. When a change is not instantly visible, gets too hard, or isn’t working exactly as we pictured it would, we are quick to say that it is ineffective and give up. That is when the cycle of change stops, and we simply revert back to the security of the way things were.
At Rice Lake Middle School, we have officially traveled outside of our comfort zone and committed to learning the Literacy Collaborative Framework and using that framework to meet the Common Core State Standards for reading, writing, and language. We are learners on a journey, taking on new understandings as we acquire more information from working closely with our students, observing their strengths and needs, and planning instruction that will meet those needs. Our “butterfly” will be in the form of middle school students who take ownership and pride in their work, and become independent readers and writers, ready to meet the challenges of their world.