Although it is already October, and classrooms around the county are settling into their practices, teachers are still focusing on how they will foster and fuel their learning communities.
Teachers of the Adolescent Accelerated Reading Initiative, an initiative to quickly bring students to grade level in reading skills, need to be especially vigilant in their community building. It’s important to build community to gain credibility as an advocate, to promote buy-in to AARI, and to encourage thoughtful conversations.
Building a community with readers can be challenging – you’ve got so many different reading levels, different student interests, and different backgrounds to meld together.
And building a community with struggling AARI readers can be overwhelming. To do so, you have to convince students that AARI is going to help them become successful readers. You also have to convince them that the books you are using (although they look like “baby” books) are going to be challenging because of the work you will do with them, and that this class is going to help them think in new and life-changing ways.
So how do you create a strong learning community?
Oakland Writing Project’s Summer Institute in 2008 was the most powerful learning community I have been a part of. Never have I felt so connected to people I had never known, and in such a short period of time. As I recall our time together and consider what exactly led to our strong community, several key elements surface.
Successful Learning Communities
At Oakland Writing Project’s 2008 Summer Institute, we:
- Used routines and protocols to structure our discussions about writing and reading.
- Had individual and shared goals as a community of writers and teachers.
- There was a sense of accountability and a helpful attitude of wanting each other to meet our objectives.
- We were encouraged and challenged to take risks; and our teacher-leaders modeled this by being vulnerable from the get go.
- We shared experiences and we shared food.
- We did all of this because of teacher-leaders that purposefully planned for these things to happen.
Building a community of AARI readers isn’t easy. But by looking at learning communities that have been successful, we can refocus our teaching practices, and continue to offer the best support to our students.
Caroline Thompson (@TeacherThompson) taught middle school ELA for 12 years in Lake Orion before becoming a stay-at-home mom. She supports AARI teachers for Oakland Schools as an independent consultant in the areas of digital media, professional development, and non-fiction resources. Caroline is a Reading and Writing Workshop advocate, a 2008 Oakland Writing Project Teacher Consultant, and a 2009 Oakland County Outstanding Teacher of the Year Nominee. She lives in Berkley with her husband and their 2 year old daughter.