Finishing the School Year Strong

The weeks leading up to the year’s end provide a great time to model best practices and plant seeds for the future.

It is May, and June is right around the corner! State testing is over (or just about to be), which has brought with it the time for field trips, field days, and farewells. Teachers are wrapping up the school year and beginning to look forward to the end of the year.

So where does this leave an Instructional Coach? We still have a job to do.

Number one thought: We must be respectful of teachers’ obligations and time. We must proceed with caution not to compromise the relationships we have worked so hard to build throughout the year. At the same time, we want our coaching to have a direct impact on achievement and academic gains even up to the last day of school.

One idea that has been helpful for me: Take this time to model best practices and plant seeds for next year.

For instance, if your school uses an online adaptive program (like i-Ready, Achieve 3000, Imagine Math, Lexia, and others), a coach can model practices that promote engagement, like giving incentives when students meet their usage requirement.

I work with one school that uses i-Ready. Some of the students have lost interest at this point in the year (as we can see when some decide to do other things on their Chromebooks besides i-Ready). After reviewing the progress data, I targeted 5 classes where each week I would deliver certificates for students who met their 45-minute weekly usage requirement and passed 100% of the lessons they did that week.

The teachers have noticed how the students look forward to their certificates when I come in. This also gives me an opportunity to talk to students about working towards a goal because if they didn’t earn a certificate one week, they still have an opportunity to do so the following week. I also give 1 teacher a certificate who had the most students meet the goal because they need to be celebrated as well. This process takes about an hour each week and the number of certificates I am handing out is growing, which means students are learning more skills!

The part of my job that has been so rewarding to see is when the toughest students’ eyes light up or that smile they show when they get their certificate. Next school year, I will discuss with the teacher how they can continue this process with their new class. I will still support by planning and creating the template, but the responsibility will be released to the teacher.

Digital Breakouts has been another fun concept to introduce at this point in the year. My goal is to model the practice now in May, with the goal of co-teaching the lesson by the end of the year. Then, the teacher and I can plan these types of lessons together for the following year. During the question sessions, I can also model one of the Smart Notebook Shout-it-Out Activities, which would be a natural and easy transition because the students will already have the Chromebooks out. Here is a link to one Breakout I prepared for an early elementary classroom.

At this point in the year, it may be difficult for coaches to coach into Literacy and Math content. So take the responsibility off of the teacher and ask the teacher how can we support students with setting goals to end the year strong.

Using engagement in i-Ready for this same example, we could plan lessons together to teach the students how to monitor weekly progress toward meeting a goal of the number of lessons they would like to pass by the end of this year. Once this classroom practice is set, teachers may feel less overwhelmed by the management aspect of it all, because students are now empowered to take control of their own learning.

We all know that certain conditions need to be in place for learning to occur for the students, and the same applies with coaching. The teacher has to be open and willing for successful coaching to occur. Finding practices that the teacher is interested and willing to try at this point in the year can directly result in student gains, which keeps progress going at this late stage of the year while building toward successful partnership in the future!

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