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Good teachers constantly work to improve their craft by considering how students learn and how we can best help them reach their goals. While this process can be frustrating at times, the time that we put into this process is usually met with awesome outcomes in our classroom. As a school, our work this year has centered on access, advocacy, and academics. Three powerful words that can work together to produce beautiful results in a school of our size.

If you've been reading my posts, you know I am constantly thinking about how departments can team up and use each other to help foster environments for learning and growth. By getting on the same page and sharing our tricks for access, advocacy, and academics, we can accomplish so much with our students during the school day. This week and next, groups of teachers have been given a day to work with their teams and create new lessons and activities for their classrooms. These Target Teams see similar students throughout the day, so the end result is that we are constantly challenging their thinking and providing outlets for access and advocacy, while also focusing on the academic skills we find so valuable. 

To start these meetings, assistant principal, Dr. Lance Fuhrer,  explained that we need to consider what makes an all-around good thinker and provide classroom learning opportunities for students to succeed and struggle. One area, he explained, that we can do this as a school is to include more reading in our classrooms. In asking our students to read, comprehend, analyze, evaluate, and even synthesize different texts, we are ultimately producing all around good thinkers who are "future-ready." Dr. Fuhrer added that reading is a "future-proof" fixture that must be included in the classroom if we want our students to actually be ready to tackle what they experience in the future.

Step one is having these awesome conversations. Step two is the hard part...making plans to put into action. During my Target Team work day, I had an insightful conversation with one of our reading specialists, Mr. Steve Fleming. Our conversation really got me thinking about how I incorporate reading in my English classroom. Yes, my students read, but do I really know how well they read and comprehend? Do I ask them to read enough in order to help them be "future-ready" and able to tackle difficult texts? Honestly, I need to do a better job with this in my classroom if I really want to provide "future-proof" students. According to Mr. Fleming, asking our students to read consistently is the key to improvement. In addition, as teachers, we need to actually listen to them read. This experience, he explained, can be eye-opening for teachers, as it really helps indicate what comprehension issues our students encounter when reading on their own. Before our students can analyze a text, we need to make sure they comprehend it. Mr. Fleming explained that we need to transform our classrooms into  "comprehension gyms" and by doing this across departments, our students will become these all-around good thinkers that they need to be in the future. 

How can we listen to our students read individually, you ask? This can be difficult during a class period; however, here are a few digital tools that can make this process a reality: 

Ask your students to record themselves on their Chromebooks using Screencastify. They can read a section aloud, and then Screencastify automatically saves this recording to their Google Drives. From there, they can submit via Google Classroom. Want to take this one step further? Ask the students to answer a question about what they read - summary, analysis, connection, whatever - after they finish the reading. I am a firm believer that if students can articulate their thinking verbally, that is the best way to assess whether or not they fully grasp what they are learning. 

2. Padlet
Did you know that Padlet released some awesome new options for posting? One of these options is to post a voice recording. Ask your students to record themselves reading and post it in a Padlet. Want to take this one step further? In addition to a recording, ask them to post an additional comment, image, or share a link that is connected to what they are reading. From there, you can also ask them to comment on each other's posts. These add-ons will amp up critical thinking and communication in the classroom. 

Flipgrid is one of the new digital tools taking educators by storm. Similar to Screencastify, students can use their Chromebooks or phones to record themselves reading and post it to the class grid. Flipgrid helps amplify student voice and takes social learning to the next level. Want to take this one step further? Assign each student a different section of the text and ask them to read that section while recording. Boom - a whole text read by the entire class. From there, students can watch, listen, and respond right in Flipgrid. 

If ALL departments transform their classrooms into "comprehension gyms," we can provide consistent opportunities for our students to struggle, succeed, and grow into all-around good thinkers. #futureproof #whatsup