Small Revelations in a Chicago Classroom

A CLI Coach’s most powerful role is to raise teachers’ expectations for their students and themselves. Recently, a Chicago CLI Coach finished demonstrating a small group lesson with a second grade class and was astounded to see that the class’s teacher, Ms. Jones, was almost in tears — of joy.

“Now I have the vision and can see how this is going to work in my room.”

The CLI Coach was helping Ms. Jones set up a guided reading program. Ms. Jones wanted to divide her class into small groups of students reading on similar levels and work on guided reading with each group individually as the other groups worked on an activity, but she was concerned: Would her class stay on task, allowing her to work with each group of students?

Even though the class rarely did group work, the CLI coach thought Ms. Jones and her students were ready. So she and Ms. Jones decided on a small group activity, and then the CLI Coach gathered Ms. Jones’ students onto the classroom carpet. The CLI Coached gave the students information about the activity they were about to do, talking with the class about what positive group interactions look and sound like. At the CLI Coach’s encouragement, several students role-played how to work well as a group. Then she moved the class into the small group activity so the students could use what they just learned and Ms. Jones could watch her class in action.

Small Group WorkStudents gathered at multiple tables, and each table was given an envelope containing four to five letters from the word patterns the class was learning that week. A captain for each table was chosen, and their responsibilities were defined. The goal was for the children to work together and use decoding strategies to create real words. The students dove in, and got to work.

As the lesson wound down, Ms. Jones looked at her CLI Coach with a huge smile, a look of disbelief, and near-tears in her eyes. “I am just in amazement that my kids did so well with this lesson,” Ms. Jones said. “Now I have the vision and can see how this is going to work in my room.”

Later, Ms. Jones told her coach, “I have to be honest with you. I totally thought this lesson was going to fail, and I actually kept waiting for it to fail. I was in shock watching my students. They were engaged and they were truly working together to complete the task.”

Ms. Jones and her CLI Coach dissected the success of the lesson to give Ms. Jones insight about why her students did so well. Visiting the class a few days later, the CLI Coach found that Ms. Jones had already incorporated the language and activity she used to demonstrate the small group lesson, and even added a new small group activity to her classroom routine.

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