Ok, so the space is important. And it is fun to put together. But a beautiful space does not a great lesson make. So we had to go further, obviously, than just putting together a great space; we had to come up with a great plan for the learning that would occur in this space. Here, then, is a brief(-ish) outline of some of the ideas that we came up with, borrowed, bought and modified to create engaging, appropriate activities for each station in the Lit Pit.
Before we begin, we'd just like to say a big, heartfelt "thank you" to all the wonderful teachers out there who see fit to post their work on their blogs, on Teachers Pay Teachers and on Pinterest. We truly could not have done it without you (since we took a lot of your stuff!). As we get more accomplished with this blogging thing, maybe, just maybe, we'll figure out how to include some of you on our blog. For now, though, thank you.
Or, more specifically, our theory. We looked at current best practices in learning assistance and literacy instruction, we looked at our caseload and we looked at our own beliefs about education and we combined them to come up with a plan that involved both direct instruction and individual practice in reading, writing and word work. The plan involves close collaboration with the classroom teacher to ensure that we are meeting the needs of all students in their class; it also means focused, in-class intervention for Tier 2 and 3 students that is in addition to their daily classroom literacy instruction. In this way, we hoped to move the Tier 2 students forward more quickly by ensuring that their support dovetails with what they are doing in the classroom and frees us up to meet with the Tier 3 students for even more targeted instruction in a pull-out setting.
We knew that we did not have the time or resources to offer small group pull-out support to all of the Tier 2 students (those who are minimally meeting expectations), nor do we believe this is the most effective model. By dividing students in to leveled groups we are able to target our instruction and practice activities at each station to suit the needs of a wide variety of learners, thereby reducing the need for pull-out instruction. By integrating both the classroom teacher, the learning assistance teacher and support staff we are not only able to meet with each group more often for guided practice but we are also able to ensure a common language and activity link between learning assistance and the classroom. We still provide pull-out support to some of most needy students (Tier 3) but now we know that what we are doing with them matches what is going on in the classroom and in the Lit Pit. In theory, we can reach more students, more effectively using the Lit Pit.
The set-up of The Lit Pit is based loosely on the set-up of The Daily 5 by "The Sisters", Gail Boushey & Joan Moser. The bonus? By having classroom teachers come to us we have two teachers and often 1 or 2 support staff working together to support all of our students. Because we have, at minimum, two teachers in the room at any given time, we were able to make some meaningful changes to the standard Daily 5 set-up. Instead of Read to Others, we subbed in 2 opportunities for guided reading, ensuring that each student receives 40 mins of extra guided reading practice per week. Instead of just one Working with Words station we were able to create two, one focused on kinesthetic practice with words and the other focused on extension activities, allowing students to use multiple methods to learn spelling rules and patterns (most of our teachers are using the Words Their Way). We have a bazillion fabulous writing prompts to inspire kids to write and have several otions that they can choose from each week. Our Listening to Reading station incorporates iPads and iPods so that students can have a chance to listen to some great stories read to them.
All in all, we have a space that allows students to experience literacy in many different forms, all deliberately selected to help them grow as readers and writers.
The best part? By allowing students to work at a level that is appropriate for them they are all experiencing success. They feel proud of their accomplishments and look forward to coming down to the Lit Pit. And that is exactly what we hoped for!
I'm Bryn, teacher, mom, book lover, athlete. I am passionate about literacy, collaborative teaching and finding new and innovative ways to engage & motivate all kids. I hope you find something that speaks to you here on my blog and would love to hear from you too!