In the Loop

clear hour glass
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

With only a few weeks remaining of COETAIL, I thought this may be a good opportunity to reflect on how my practice has changed over the past year.  It’s strange to think of my time with COETAIL coming to an end as it’s been a rewarding experience and yet the end is just a few weeks away.

Changing position

This year brought a change and a new role. My training and, to be honest, the whole reason I became an Educator was in this field. One of the biggest shifts for working in this position has been the importance of fostering relationships with students, families, and classroom teachers. I’m lucky to have been working with a number of colleagues for a few years now, however, previously I was a classroom teacher and now I am working with lower school students K – 5. When working as a homeroom teacher, I sometimes felt that there was a disconnect between what was happening to support student progress towards ILP goals and what I was working on in the classroom.

In order to try and build deeper relationships with colleagues, I have tried to inform them of the progress our students are making during pullout classes. Updates contain a short summary of learning, sometimes accompanied by photos of student work. My hope is to ensure that classroom teachers know exactly what we are working on and ensure that reported progress is being carried over into the general education setting.

I am currently using WeChat to share these reports and progress updates with other teachers. My aim is to make them as convenient as possible without taking away from the classroom teacher’s day. This has been new to me since February and I am still trying to roll it out to all students I work with. In all honesty, it is far easier for me to report on students in one-to-one classes, as I am finding it easier to make time for these to be individualized rather than referring to the group.

person holding black iphone 4
Photo by Maxim Ilyahov on Unsplash

We use Managebac at my school for storing reports, unit planners, and notices regarding students. A huge advantage to this is that I am able to look at students’ Units of Inquiry, Literacy, and Maths units so that I can effectively plan support. This has also empowered me to come to meetings with other teachers prepared with ideas of how to support students. Having been a classroom teacher, I know the feeling of wanting to help a student succeed, but running out of ideas of how to do that. I am guilty of being a solutions-oriented person, so I like to come to meetings prepared with ideas of what can be done. 

My overarching hope is that all of this will help build closer relationships between myself and homeroom teachers and help us move past the false paradigm of “my kids and your kids” that can follow when a student receives extra support.  One of my personal goals for this year was to try and keep teachers in the loop as much as I could and I hope that this will help us work as a team to support learning.

Using Tech for Inclusion

As part of the Fifth Grade students’ last year in PYP, they have been working on their Exhibition of Mastery projects for the past six weeks. I have been amazed at the effort and dedication they have shown in preparing their displays and presentations and I was excited to see the final projects last Friday. Teachers from throughout the school have been involved in mentoring students, providing everything from moral support and encouragement to resources and examples that the students could build off. This is the first year that my school put together a full Exhibition of Mastery and it has been an exciting time for the students.

Ready to go

Using prerecorded audio

Throughout the time I have been working on COETAIL, I have also been taking the LEAD Inclusion courses with Dr. Lee Ann Jung. I wholeheartedly recommend this course if you are working to building an inclusive learning environment for all students.  The reason why I mention this is that both COETAIL and LEAD Inclusion have really inspired me to take new approaches in order to ensure that all students have been able to participate and access the resources they have needed.

One of the students with whom I work has been diagnosed with an intellectual disability. Their disability can make it difficult for them to present all of their ideas sequentially and their thoughts can sometimes become jumbled and come out in the “wrong” order. In order to help this student demonstrate their learning, I worked with them to create a podcast. They wrote the script, decided which information they wanted to include, and then we set about recording the ideas.

After the audio was recorded, the student choose images they felt would enhance their video. We reviewed the importance of remembering the rights of the creator and I bored them all, once again, with my epic tale of betrayal at the hands of a friend who “stole” my photograph. See my post Copyrights and Wrongs posted a year ago pretty much to the day for a more detailed explanation. When we watched the student’s finished video, they were proud of themselves and their creation. It took a lot of time and audio edits, but I’m excited that they feel empowered by this.

Photo by Inbetween Architects on Unsplash

Using visuals

I was also able to teach some of what I learned from course 3 regarding PowerPoint. One of my students wanted to create a PowerPoint that showed all of her research and she had reams of text on each slide. She knew what she wanted to say, but as she presented, she read from the slides. To help her, I showed her excerpts from the first five minutes of How to Avoid Death by PowerPoint.

Following this, I showed her the example sides from What is good Presentation design? (Presentation Zen) and we discussed what made the slides more effective. The final result was a PowerPoint full of visuals that she was able to talk about while facing her audience.


A decision made

For my final COETAIL project I chose to focus on what I consider to be one of the greatest challenges my students face: reading as part of their home learning routine. For the majority of students I work with, reading is challenging and so often, by their own admission, students avoid reading at home. I hope to address this by providing students with a purpose for practicing reading. I have prompted students to record themselves reading aloud to create videos to share with younger students as part of my school’s “Bedtime Stories” program. Bedtime stories are read alouds by adults in our community for students to listen to at home and this will be the first time we have some created and shared by students.  In the interests of confidentiality, I won’t be including students’ names or photos of their faces in this project, however, I hope to include video/ audio samples as well as student feedback and reflections.

Photo by Janko Ferlič on

I began this project by simply asking my students how often they read in English in order to get an idea of the groups I should be targeting.

Graph to show minutes read per week

When first discussing their reading habits, most of my students began by assuring me that they read for X number of minutes per night as outlined by their homeroom teacher.  This is with the exception of one fourth-grader who, and I respect his honesty, told me that he added the total time required for the week and read for that long on Monday so that he didn’t have to read for the rest of the week. Once I reassured each student that I wouldn’t be discussing their answers with their teachers they started opening up more and being more honest about the time they spent reading. When I asked about the reasons they avoided reading, there were a few trends. Time was a contributing factor for many, as too was homework in Chinese, however, the most telling response was from a student who told me that reading isn’t fun for her. Elaborating, she admitted that reading for her is tiring and frustrating; she would rather be doing things she enjoyed doing instead. Fair enough.

I have ended up with a shortlist of 11 students. Four grade two students, four grade three students, and three grade four students. The majority of these students read between 20 – 30 minutes per week at the moment. I would love to see that time change to 20 – 30 minutes every day. I am excited to see if this project can help to develop this group of students’ reading habits and make reading more appealing.

Photo by Laura Kapfer on unsplash

My Concern

I worry that I am too fixated on just having the students build fluency. I hope to inspire them to include reading as part of their daily routines, however, what if all I am doing is having them read words without comprehension. I can read Korean *cue slightly sarcastic woo* but just because I can sound out the characters doesn’t mean I actually understand the words. Does this mean that my scope is too narrow or is it better to target one area of reading?

This article  does a great job of explaining the different facets of reading fluency and how they contribute to developing a reader’s ability. Through developing a struggling reader’s automatic processing, they can start to expand more energy on making sense of what they are reading. In our classes, I am working to develop and introduce strategies for students to use across all areas of literacy, so I feel as though targeting one area may be okay. I also keep coming back to the overall goal. Providing students with something that is fun and motivating in order to develop reading habits.

Final thoughts

I am going to start by selecting a range of texts for students to choose from for their first reads, but then I would quite like them to start choosing their own books. This may be a hard process though, so if you have any suggestions of books that you enjoy reading aloud or remember enjoying having them read aloud to you, please feel free to suggest them!