Teachers Attend Summer Reading Institute

Three hundred members of the Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) instructional staff, including 250 teachers, attended the Teachers College Summer Reading Institute from July 22nd through July 26th, at Dominion High School.

They chatted in an animated fashion about instructional concepts and got down on the floor to get a student’s-eye view of teaching concepts.

Overseeing the fun were instructors from Columbia University’s Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. They showed the LCPS staff how to use Columbia’s units of study in a reading workshop format. 

Every day during the school year in kindergarten through eighth grade, LCPS teachers use the workshop structure, which starts with a 10-minute targeted lesson on the content for the grade level. The rest of the hour long teaching session is spent independently reading or writing as students practice their skills and strategies to meet reading and writing goals. This instruction is individualized and differentiated.

“The goal is independence,” said LCPS Pathways Literacy Coach Lauren Shernoff. “The goal is that they know where they are, how to set a new goal, where to go next.”   

During the independent reading and writing time, teachers meet with students one-on-one or in small groups. The teacher’s focus is based on student need.

“It doesn’t get any more personalized than sitting one-on-one with a student and asking them ‘What are you working on in your reading?’ and having them read to you and then taking them that next step,” said Shernoff. “It’s very different from the old stand and deliver, assess where they are, and stand and deliver. This is very much a progression of learning…It’s really looking at skills and the progression of those skills.”

She added the workshop model moves the teacher from giving direction to facilitating.

At the conclusion of the independent reading and writing, students come together and share what they’ve learned.  

A teacher who's found the workshop structure extremely effective is Tess Cogdell, a kindergarten teacher at Hamilton Elementary School.

“Overall – based on my experience – (students) advance much more quickly using the readers and writers workshop model. Last year, all my students were reading above grade level by the end of the year. They reached levels of reading (my students) had never reached in years prior.”

This year’s Summer Reading Institute – the fourth the LCPS Department of Instruction has hosted – featured an advanced session for grades three through five. This session was for teachers who have attended a weeklong institute at another time. These sessions looked more deeply at the content for each grade level.

There also were introductory courses for kindergarten through second grade teachers and teachers in grades three through five.

After four days of workshops about the workshop structure, participants met with their building administrators and members of their teaching team to design lessons for the upcoming school year.