Literacy Leaders

Imagine elementary students begging for time to write…

For many educators that may seem like a dream.  But for three teachers at Holy Angels School in Dayton, Ohio, it is a happy reality. 

image of elementary teachersEmily Hoffman, Amy McDonald, and Kelli Spidare recently presented at the 2015 Annual Convention for the National Council of Teachers of English in Minneapolis.  They used their own authentic experiences to share tips and techniques for implementing Writing Workshop into an elementary school classroom.  “It’s a little difficult to know how to begin this process,” says second grade teacher Amy McDonald. And for this reason she was happy to collaborate with fellow teachers Hoffman and Spidare.  They assist in each other’s classrooms during writing instruction when possible and have many conversations about what is working and what is not.  They are a support to one another. 

Similarly, students in their classes support each other by “working together and sharing their writing,” explains second grade teacher Kelli Spidare.  This collaboration is key to the success of Writing Workshop and helps build ownership and enthusiasm for the writing process.  The students are not writing to fulfill an assignment; they are authors – brainstorming, crafting, editing, and publishing their own creations.

The excitement for implementing Writing Workshop in their classrooms was ignited by participation in a Professional Learning Community (PLC) entitled “Literacy Leaders.” This PLC is supported by the Center for Catholic Education and is facilitated by Drs. Jackie Arnold and Mary Kate Sableski, Assistant Professors in the University of Dayton’s Department of Teacher Education.  Literacy Leaders is an opportunity for local Catholic school teachers to collaborate across school buildings in the implementation of the revised Archdiocese Course of Study for the English Language Arts. Now in its third year, the program meets monthly and provides teachers with foundational knowledge of best practice literacy instruction.  The program follows a “train the trainer” model in which building representatives are given tools to become Literacy Leaders within their own school buildings, sharing what they learn at each of the monthly meetings.  As part of this initiative, Arnold and Sableski asked the teachers to select areas of focus for their buildings, and then to write conference proposals to share their work with a wider audience.  The teachers from Holy Angels submitted their proposal to NCTE and it was accepted for presentation to this prestigious national conference.

Hoffman, McDonald, and Spidare all agree that this entire experience has inspired their teaching – in English/Language Arts and also across the curriculum.  Kindergarten teacher Emily Hoffman concludes, “The students are excited about writing, they are progressing in their skills, and they are producing amazing work!”