Charming Readers
Getting a Latte Out of Your PLC
  • December 17, 2019

As I busted out the holiday decorations, I was looking for just the right thing to perk up my holiday chalkboard. As luck would have it, my grandparent’s percolating coffee pot filled with succulents was just the thing. I perked up just thinking of all the happy memories of coming down their steps to the smell of fresh coffee. 

 As I was thinking about percolating and pick-me-ups, I thought that mid-year is the right time to figure out what might need some perking up in our READ 180 classrooms. In August, I challenged our READ 180 teachers to have their classes read a million words by the holiday break and I have had a record number take me up on that challenge.

One of the secrets to our success is our READ 180 Professional Learning Community (PLC). We’ve had a PLC in our district as long as we’ve had READ 180 and it’s been a boom to the success of our teachers and students. Most of our teachers are singles or at best, dynamic duos, on their campuses so the time they spend at PLC meetings with other READ 180 peers across the district is valued by them. 

Using the best part of waking up and reflecting on running down the stairs to my grandmother’s coffee, here are a few PLC caffeinated conclusions that I thought to share if like me, you’d like to perk up your READ180implementation PLC or perhaps start one:

  • People First
  • Format Matters
  • Celebrate Success Early and Often
  •  Focus on Student Work
  •  Foster Relationships that Matter


People First

The first and foremost thing we always attempt to do is acknowledge that our people work hard, are tired at the end of the day, and might be hungry. We believe in feeding people, literally and figuratively, to start every meeting. We’ve invested our personal dollars in providing a good snack and some renewal time at the beginning of each meeting. Sometimes our snacks involve chicken nugget trays, sometimes a home baked goodie, and other times a variety assortment of chips and cookies, but no matter what the snack, there’s food. We also have a candy dish at every session for those who might need a little sweet treat, too. 

 Once we’ve put some food in our bellies, we spend a few minutes renewing our teachers’ spirits and relationships with each other. Teachers need to time to transition from a hectic day to the slower pace of PLC work. They might even need to drop some baggage from their day off so they can focus on the work. A few minutes of focused meet and greet activities pay dividends later if the mental work gets tough. We’ve done deep breathing exercises, used a variety of picture cards to promote creative thinking, and done some more run-of-the-mill ice breakers. Our READ 180 family values this time to catch up with each other and continue to learn more about one another.


Format Matters

While the meeting time and location remains the same, we tweak the format of our meetings from time-to-time. One of our favorite formats is something we call Ignite Learning. We have three to five of our teachers share something remarkable or innovative that they are doing in the classroom in a fast-paced setting. The teachers who are sharing get 5 minutes each to present to the group. After the teachers share the overview of their idea, they station themselves around the meeting space. The other participants then have thirty minutes to go visit each sharing teacher and ask questions, discuss how to implement the strategy, and collaborate with colleagues about how to use the information shared. If any PLC participant emails us a work sample or Tweets a picture of their students using a strategy or technique that they learned, we will award an extra hour of professional development credit. 


Celebrate Success Early and Often

Most of our PLC meetings contain celebrations. We always share all the classes who have read a million words (or more!) via newsletter and on a slide at the PLC. The teachers that we choose to present have had success implementing or tweaking a READ 180 routine. We’ve showcased escape rooms, strategies for getting students to read more, and tech apps like Classflow and PearDeck. We’ve invited teachers who are doing something innovative to come. Mary Poppins even appeared at our last PLC. We also have teachers share who have learned something new about a part of the program. One of our teachers figured out how her students could handwrite the spelling words on the student devices. Another cracked the code on using the Promethean panel effectively from a tablet. 

Find ways to celebrate the good work that your teachers are already doing. Then parlay these successes into pushing learning forward. Another thing our teachers greatly enjoy are all-star awards which are metallic foil star decorations purchased from a discount store. We put a label on the star with the name of the award. Teachers display them outside their classroom doors and on their walls of fame. Some of our PLC Recognition Rewards are: District All-STAAR Team, Meritorious Achievement for Passing % on Reading Counts! Quizzes, Outstanding Fluency Recording Rater, and Teacher of a Million Word Reader.


Focus on Student Work

We incorporate some time to address student work in our PLCs as well. Sometimes this looks like bringing a ReaL Book page that’s completed, comparing it to neighbors, and discussing what your students are doing well and what you, as teachers, need to focus on to help them do better. 

Other times we focus on the Student App and reports. Our teachers almost always share something about the software that other teachers didn’t know. Did you know that a star under the software zone means that the student scored a 70% or above in that zone? The check means that zone is done, but that the student didn’t score a 70%. This shared tidbit brought cries of “I didn’t know that? Did you know that?” and “How come I never noticed that before?”  We also might talk about Independent Reading portfolios and how to get students to do better or more rigorous work. By looking at student artifacts, our teachers are better equipped to tailor instruction to their students.


Foster Relationships that Matter

Most importantly, your PLC should be about relationships. Your teachers and students are what this work is all about. Ask yourself if your PLCs offer enough time to get to know participants’ triumphs and struggles? Do teachers do most of the talking? After all, the person doing the talking and writing is the person doing the learning. Do you structure opportunities for teachers from different cross-sections of your district to work together? We like to encourage feeder pattern work, sister-school work, and work across the varying socio-economic tiers of our district. Do you have a digital platform for people to extend the work beyond the confines of your meeting? We’re huge fans of Twitter and Google Classroom. 

Analyzing the patterns and work that your PLC does as well as what you hope that they will accomplish will help you decide what moves to make to reinvigorate or keep your PLC fresh and striving toward the goal of helping students learn more effectively and efficiently. Your teachers are sure to learn a latte when your PLC is at its best. If you have a goal for the New Year and new decade to get your PLC percolating, give a few of the tips above a whirl.

Give us a shout out at Twitter (@cmohning or @CyFairREAD180) or in the comments box below about what works for you. We’re always striving to expand our repertoire so that we can be the best we can be.