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Getting schooled

Teachers head back to class with skills from reading, writing workshop
by: Lori Hall Sue Barbour, left, and Maggie Tilley — both teachers from Bolton Primary School — recently attended a district workshop on student reading and writing.

A group of West Linn-Wilsonville teachers returned to class early last week to focus on their reading and writing skills.

Approximately 20 kindergarten through fifth-grade teachers from schools across the district participated in a writers' workshop Aug. 15 to 19 at Boones Ferry Primary School. The workshop's aim was to assist instructors in building students' writing and reading response skills.

Michelle Wilson, the district instructional coordinator, said the workshop gave teachers the chance to work together, share ideas, pool resources and learn from each other. During the school year, teachers don't have many opportunities to work with those from other schools.

The teachers were able to work on developing specific goals that they could then incorporate into their lesson plans and bring back into their classrooms.

'It's really deep-thinking work for the teachers,' said Emilie Lavin, a district teacher on special assignment.

The school district routinely offers various workshops throughout the summer, focusing on subject areas such as art, math or literacy, but this was the first one held that centered on writing.

'It's a genre we haven't spent as much time on,' Lavin said.

Teachers volunteer to participate in the workshops and are not compensated for their time. However, they do earn credits toward their licensing or toward Portland State University.

The workshop week started with reviewing the district's curriculum, then groups practiced teaching each other lessons and then teachers drafted their own lesson plans incorporating all they learned.

'It's exciting to see how people make it their own and take it back to the classroom,' Lavin said.

Sunset Primary first- and second-grade teachers Kathleen Miller and Cathy Halladin said they attended the workshop to help enhance their writing instruction skills.

Halladin said the younger students are full of ideas and are creative, they just need help getting it down on paper.

Miller said she learned a lot of new skills from her peers and enjoys how they can use each other as resources.

Because most younger students are not accomplished writers, the workshop helped teachers think about other ways students can digest what they have just read or what was read to them. They can draw. They can retell the story. They can have the teacher write it out or they can have a shared class writing experience.

Bolton Primary first- and second-grade teachers Maggie Tilley and Sue Barbour also attended the workshop.

'It's been really helpful in expanding my repertoire as a teacher of writing,' Barbour said.

'It's about helping kids talk more deeply about books,' Tilley said.

The workshop gave Jeremy Goldstone, an incoming fourth-fifth grade teacher at Sunset Primary, skills and confidence. He is moving this fall from teaching math and science at Rosemont Ridge Middle School to teaching a blended primary class.

'I felt really excited to take a workshop to be a better literacy instructor,' Goldstone said. 'The workshop has given me a solid foundation.'

Wilson said the workshop was a great way for teachers to collaborate and work together.

'We have such innovative and creative teachers in this district,' she said. 'Everything we do … is to improve the student experience.'