A four-day, professional development summer session has trained about 300 district elementary teachers in a proven method of student reading and writing instruction.
Teacher sessions held July 22-25 at Cornerstone Academy focused on writing instruction using approaches developed and taught through the highly rated Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP), housed at Columbia University in New York City.
The project grew out of pioneering literacy work conducted by Lucy Calkins and a group of other well respected education researchers.
The SBISD sessions, known as the Homegrown Writing Institute, included campus kindergarten through fifth-grade teachers. The district has held summer program sessions through the Teachers College at Columbia for three years now; last year, sessions focused on reading. Program enrollment doubled this summer.
SBISD Superintendent Jennifer Blaine, Ed.D., ranks literacy as a key priority for all district elementary students. The district has supported the summer session with budget funds, including eight Teachers College staff developers who led sessions.
“As a school district, we are committed to Teachers College Reading and Writing Project units of study because of the holistic approach to literacy instruction and the authentic approach to real reading and writing,” reports Cathy Roth with the SBISD Language Arts Dept.
The Reading and Writing Project’s method of instruction focuses on a key goal of creating lifelong student writers. In brief, project training leads students to write about their own lives, use a consistent writing process, work in an authentic way and develop independence as young writers and storytellers.
Teachers who attended the professional development week used social media to share their personal journeys.
“Learning and growing at #TCRWP Writing Homegrown Institute this week. I can’t wait to implement one of my favorite components of balanced literacy in my classroom – SHARED writing!” proclaimed Emily Zobal in one session posting.
“We all walk away from here with something we will use,” Melissa Ramirez, who is a district literacy specialist, said. “The Teachers College instructors are experts in the field, but they have also used these units of study in classroom situations. They know how to differentiate to meet every child’s needs, while meeting our own needs as teachers and learners.”
She has taught at several SBISD schools using this reading/writing curriculum, most recently at Nottingham Elementary School.
Ramirez, a mom with three elementary-age students, has heard the impact of Teachers College instruction at home. “It’s fun to hear a child come home and speak positively about reading. I know now that they do like to read, and even what they like to read,” she said of her children.
Lucy Calkins with her Teachers College Reading and Writing Project researcher team have a plan to prepare students for reading and writing tasks at all grade levels.
This school year, thousands of SBISD teachers and students will use this project learning and instructional method to develop confidence in reading and writing.
We’re creating lifelong readers and writers. It’s a priority in SBISD.