Bears, Elephants and Teachers, Oh My!
by Susan Wilheit
Key message #1: We build capacity in all.
Visualize teachers acting like bears and elephants and teachers, oh, my! Listen carefully as teachers are trying to figure out the meaning of words like kloof and forages. This was the scene at Georgetown Elementary as Cornerstone Literacy Fellow Joe Mills and MCSD Coach Susan Wilheit engaged faculty and staff in a school-wide professional development (PD) on “inference.”
As one of the Cornerstone scale-up schools, Georgetown Elementary faculty and staff of Muscogee County have been actively participating in PD this year in an effort to improve teacher and student outcomes. Professional development (PD) in the education of teachers has been identified as an essential ingredient in spreading the work that will ultimately improve literacy standards.
Joe and Susan led the faculty through PD on “inferring” using anchor lessons from Debbie Miller’s Reading With Meaning. Teachers determined meanings of unknown words using the book Where Are You Going, Manyoni? by Catherine Stock. They made predictions about text by reading The Royal Bee by Frances and Ginger Parks. Creatures of the Earth, Sea, and Sky, a book of poems by Georgia Heard, provided opportunities for readers to use their prior knowledge to form unique interpretations of text. Using the book How Many Days to America? by Eve Bunting, readers were shown how to infer when answers to their questions were not explicitly stated in the text.
Participants were able to practice new skills, make connections to their own classrooms, and get a better understanding of implementing this new strategy. Comments, such as the following, resonated through the Media Center at the conclusion of the PD:
- I valued the lesson on using the chart for inferring at the word level. This seems to be a great way to get students involved in thinking of new words, their meaning, and more synonyms.
- I valued being able to act like an elephant when we read the poems from Georgia Heard’s book of poetry.
- I valued different ways and approaches to teaching the standards.
- I enjoyed the non-threatening activities using books to show examples of inference, especially acting out the animals in Creatures of the Earth, Sky, and Sea.
- I saw specific models of inference and valued the graphic organizers for inferring activities.
Take time to peruse the attachments (materials used in the PD) which you may want to share with your colleagues through a similar opportunity.