Amanda Morris, Early Literacy Coach/Consultant, funded through the ISD Early Literacy Coaches Grant from the State Department of Education, provides professional development to Lenawee County teachers. Morris began coaching in July 2016 for the 2016-17 school year under this grant. The ISD Early Literacy Coaches Grant’s goal is to coach teachers to incorporate “Essential Instructional Practices in Early Literacy” developed by the Early Literacy Task Force, a subcommittee of the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators (MAISA) General Education Leadership Network (GLEN). These specific instructional practices are designed to be incorporated in children’s learning to increase literacy, starting with Kindergarten through Third Grade.
Morris’ coaching training she receives and the coaching she gives teachers revolves around these instructional practices. They are what drive Amanda’s work. When a teacher asks for instruction in these practices, Morris sets down with the teacher to gain an overview of their classroom. The teacher completes a survey, which gives insight into what he is comfortable teaching and where he might desire to improve. Before implementation of the instructional practices, goals are developed based on the survey and reflective conversations between the teacher and the coach. Morris shares, “I individualize my coaching to meet each teacher’s individual needs.”
After personal goals have been formed with a teacher, Morris visits the classroom to model how to use the specific instructional practices the teacher has identified as needed growth areas. As the teacher becomes more comfortable incorporating those skills, Morris then strives to hit on all of the instructional practices demonstrating how many can be utilized within one lesson and throughout the school day. She integrates science and social studies with literacy learning. She says, “Literacy cannot take the place of science or social studies. Instead, use literacy to enhance science and social studies instruction.” It is important that literacy not be isolated from other studies, but woven together with other learning.
Morris desires to boost instruction without overwhelming the teachers she works with. A few classrooms she visits weekly, others on an as-needed basis. The majority of her grant work time is spent alongside a teacher. Specifically, her work this past school year has been at Alexander and Michener Elementary Schools in Adrian, Morenci Elementary and Britton Deerfield Elementary.
Research results indicate that the benefits of these literacy instructional practices sometimes takes 3-5 years before impact is visible in students. However, in the short time that Morris has been giving guidance to teachers, she exclaims seeing the impact in multiple classrooms in simply one school year. The literacy growth in students has made a complete turnaround! Not only is this visible, but the results are backed by data. In several teachers, their passion for instructing students has been renewed; they have been rejuvenated with a new focus to guide their students.
Amanda is thrilled that this yearly grant has been renewed and extends through the next school year, 2017-18. She looks forward to digging deeper into the “Essential Instructional Practices” with more teachers in Lenawee County to increase literacy in young students.