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Stories from the Schools: March 2021

A Commitment to English Language Learners

Houston A+ Challenge Literacy Coach Susannah Young takes the role of lifelong learner seriously. She takes on the exploration of effective practices to stay up-to-date with the latest research on language acquisition and the Science of Reading - particularly with early learners.

Here's a recent success story, shared by Susannah.

I'm doing my read-aloud training with the kinder and grades 1 and 2 groups about text complexity. I'm feeling a bit worried about how things are going initially, but they take off once they're in break-out rooms. A group of three first-grade teachers starts looking at the text complexity for a book titled Chanclas, which is a bilingual book. They notice there are a lot of multi-syllable words that would be unfamiliar to students. They see a lot of Mexican Spanish slang, which would be confusing to their students because most of the kids are from El Salvador. And they don't use the same slang. Then they look at the Lexile reading levels and realize the book is at a first-grade level. At first, they doubted themselves, but I tell them they're learning precisely what the text complexity triangle is all about. The Lexile level isn't the only determining factor when looking at a book: you have to think about the right fit by looking at all aspects of a text. It was one of those golden moments in professional development facilitation.

Kudos to that team of teachers for digging into this work!!

Four Sessions, Big Learning

Mathematics Specialists from Aldine ISD's middle school campuses joined Houston A+ Challenge coaches Jen Mascheck and James Dirden for a series of four professional development sessions across this truly unprecedented year. The series wrapped on March 2, 2021 and today we're proud to highlight this work.

The final session last week was powerful and well received by the coaches because it focused on some of the additional skills needed to be a powerful coach! Being a great teacher does not make you a good coach. Even though you need the skills from teaching to be a coach, coaching requires so much more. The specialists had powerful conversations and got to practice strategies for listening, paraphrasing, asking questions, and building trust and rapport. Alongside the facilitators Jen and James, specialists in this Academy participate in role play conversations and break out rooms to further personalize their professional learning.

Thank you to Aldine ISD and the dedicated Math Skills Specialists on your team!

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