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These videos are the culmination of a 2 year process of working on response with a small group of teachers and members from the Ministry ELA Evaluation team. We had identified a few needs:
understanding exactly what response is
moving students away from “formula” writing of responses to more critical thinking and authentic discussions of the meaning they are making of the text and support for their ideas (including structures and features, and connections)
finding different ways of “practicing” response other than just the writing of full responses
understanding (and having students understand) the new response rubric
The first year, we met several times and looked at exemplars of responses. We talked about how we saw response, creating some visual graphics that represented “response” for us. We focused on having students discuss more thoroughly in small groups, as well as on the way teachers might facilitate classroom discussions. We looked at some articles on high leverage teaching practices and talked about how those related to response.
We did some co-planning of lessons and shared some resources and strategies that we had found helpful. Teachers took ideas back into their classrooms: trying various activities and practices in class, and sometimes filming the process. We de-briefed at the following meetings and continued to look at things that we as teachers could do to support student growth in response. The consultant modeled some strategies in the classrooms, most particularly the use of Academic Conversation cards to help students to discuss more deeply what they were reading.
We dug deeper with some professional reading and discussion (e.g. the work of Hlas and Hlas  and Frank Serafini). We created a wiki. But knowing that teachers often need resources that are visual and situated “in classroom,” we felt that some short videos would be the best resource we could offer.
In this vein, we applied for an LCEEQ grant to allow us to hire professionals to do the video and sound work. We knew this was necessary as the filming we had done in class was often difficult to interpret without the teacher telling us what was being said. Visuals were okay, but the sound was not. We discussed the practices that we most wanted to highlight and teachers wrote and got feedback on lesson plans. We discussed text choice. Teachers shared books and chose which ones they would use for the lesson that was being filmed. During this process, we were supported by the Ministry respresentative.
The filming was done in each classroom with two professional camera operators and a location sound recordist. This made a huge difference as there were two audio soundtracks recorded: one of the teacher and another from a boom mic that picked up students’ comments and discussion. The students were a little taken aback at first with a mic dropping down in front of them, but soon got used to it, and the resulting audio was clear.
We had decided that it would be good to do some interviews with the teachers so that the classroom footage was clearly grounded in the “why” of what was being done, not just the “what.” For the sake of time and also to allow teachers to watch the footage and decide on what was important to discuss, the interviews were conducted at a later date in the sound studio. This proved an excellent decision as there was opportunity for us to view each other’s footage, meet, discuss what was important and what each teacher wanted to highlight, and sketch out and casually “rehearse” what would be said. Donna Sinclair conducted the “interviews” at the studio and did an excellent job getting the teachers to share their important learnings.
We are really excited about the finished videos! We’re looking forward to sharing them with the province – we think that you will find them helpful. We all learned a great deal through this and were a little sad when it was finished. It is a wonderful example of teachers coaching each other and really improving our practices.
Understandably, there is a lot of footage from the classrooms that was not used in the final “cut.” We are thrilled that we’ve been given an extension grant to mine through the footage for a few more “nuggets” that we can put together and share. We’re grateful to the MEESR, Shiftfocus Media, our school board (ETSB) and especially the LCEEQ for the opportunity we’ve had and that we will continue to have.
RDG - 2015 - ETSB - Conversations About Literature - The Suitcase Moment
RDG - 2015 - ETSB - Reader Response - Asking Questions About Texts