Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Snapshots and Snippets from an Afternoon With a Staff Developer

Tuesdays are Slice of Life day hosted by the writing community at Two Writing Teachers. Everyone is welcome to join in!

I had the privilege of watching our Staff Developer from Teachers College, Christine Holley, do a read aloud in a first-grade classroom. Because I had have read the book, Leonardo the Terrible Monster  by Mo Willems, several times, I focused not on the plot of the story, but on Christine's art of delivering a read aloud. Here are some of the major noticings I had in the less than ten minutes that she read:

  • She talked about the thinking and the talking that happens in books, introducing the book, predicting what terrible would mean, and cueing the students to try to figure out why Leonardo was so terrible. 
  • She modeled visualization, challenging students to think about how big another monster was in the book.
  • She gave the students an opportunity to act, asking them to show her what Leonardo was doing to be scary. "Show me just your face, not your noises," Christine directed when the students got carried away.
  • She varied her voice, both the volume and the speed, so that students quieted down and engaged in the story. 
  • She maintained a purposeful pace and balance of interacting with the text, tucking in her thinking and modeling her personal connections to the story.
  • She asked the students to turn and talk, scaffolding their conversations by writing "I think ________ because_________" on a piece of chart paper. When she asked students to share some of their thoughts, she asked them to say the whole sentence. This subtle move is so important in helping students practice the oral skills that help them develop their writing skills. 

After the read-aloud, Christine's work with the students continued, as she led them in a whole group conversation about the book. More on whole group conversations will be coming up in other posts...

When Staff Developers work with our teachers, I have gotten into the habit of creating a section in my notes for lines I want to remember. Somehow, these people just string together words and lines about teaching and learning that inspire me. Here are some of the lines from Christine's presentation today:
  • “If you hold them (the students) to saying what you want them to say, then they won’t say anything.”
  • "Always think about how we are going to engage the kids."
  • “Anything you say should be to get students to think bigger.”
  • “It’s really important to think about what the book introduction is going to be when you're doing a read-aloud."
  • “Learning through the illustrations is inferring.”
  • “Some books are worth revisiting and some are not.”
  • “Be clear about your purpose and vary the genres.”
  • “When you read, you talk and react and think.”
 I always feel so fortunate to work in our district and get to be part of this sort of professional development. I hope that the snapshots and snippets of the day can inspire others out there!

Happy reading-aloud!


  1. This is all great advice, Melanie. This line really resonated with me: “If you hold them (the students) to saying what you want them to say, then they won’t say anything." I've been working with 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders recently and when I asked them some out-of-the-box questions, they were very uncomfortable and really struggled. It was quite eye-opening. Your summary of Christine's read-aloud has given me some ideas for how I can help them learn to talk (and write!) about their ideas more easily. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Christine sounds like a treasure of a staff developer. How lucky you are to learn with her. I just sent this post to My Pocket so I can come back to it later since it's loaded with great advice.

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