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I'm Gail Gokey and I am the Instructional Coach at Wheeler Elementary School.  Before becoming the Instructional Coach in 2008, I was a first grade teacher at Wheeler and a Kindergarten teacher at Wheeler and Fisher.  I came to Speedway in 1996 after teaching in Indianapolis and Florida.

I have a B.A. from DePauw University and an M.A. from Indiana State University.  I completed the Teacher Leadership Academy in 2000 and the Indiana Coaching Academy in 2010.  I am a Thinking Maps trainer for Speedway Schools, a member of the International Literacy Association, and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

As an Instructional Coach I assist all of the teachers and paraprofessionals in the building to do their jobs in the best way possible through frequent training.  Below are our school's explanations of some of the best practices in teaching that we implement at Wheeler.
 
Readers’ Workshop at Wheeler
            We have followed a Readers’ Workshop approach to reading instruction at Wheeler for the past 8 years.  Readers’ Workshop is an instructional model to teach reading based on the strengths and needs of each student.  It is based on research into what makes someone a better reader.  We know that certain factors need to be in place for a student to achieve success in reading and learn to love reading.
  1. Students need time to read in an environment that supports reading.  Research shows that there is a direct correlation to the amount of time students read at school and gains in reading achievement.  Therefore, part of the Readers’ Workshop is devoted to students reading books that are appropriate for them, that are chosen by the teacher or the student, and discussing those books with the teacher and other students.
  2. Students need support from the teacher to become better readers.  Every Readers’ Workshop time contains a small lesson that the teacher gives to everyone on how to improve their reading.
  3. Students need time to practice implementing comprehension and decoding strategies taught by the teacher.  Small group reading and individual conferences allow the student to demonstrate the use of these strategies and let the teacher discover who needs more assistance.
Although Readers’ Workshop can look quite different in a 1st grade class than it does in a 6th grade class, the essential components are always there.
  • The teacher gives a lesson on a reading strategy.
  • Students choose books from the classroom or school library that are interesting to them and that are appropriate for their reading ability.  We call these “just right” books.
  • The teacher may choose books for a guided reading or literature discussion group.
  • Sometimes students meet individually with the teacher to talk about their reading.  Sometimes they meet in a small group to discuss their reading.  Either way, the teacher can provide assistance on a more personal level.
  • While other students are meeting with the teacher, the rest of the class will be reading on their own, reading with a partner, working with words, or using a computer-based reading program.
  • There is a time for sharing what they learned while reading that day, how they used a new strategy, or what they discovered about themselves as readers.
Brenda Wolfe, Principal, Wheeler Elementary
Gail Gokey, Instructional Coach, Wheeler Elementary
 
Research for further information about Readers’ Workshop:
Mosaic of Thought, Keene & Zimmerman, 1997
Reading With Meaning, Debbie Miller, 2002
Growing Readers, Kathy Collins, 2004
Strategies that Work, Stephanie Harvey, 2000
Best Practices in Literacy Instruction, Gambrell, Morrow, & Pressley, 2007
Guiding Readers and Writers: Teaching Comprehension, Genre, and Content Literacy, Irene Fountas & Gay Su Pinnell, 2001
 
Writers’ Workshop at Wheeler Elementary
            We have been following a Writers’ Workshop approach to writing at Wheeler for the past 7 years.  During Writers’ Workshop the focus is on students’ strengths and needs.  The teacher instructs on the process, craft, genre, and mechanics of writing.  Much like reading in Readers’ Workshop, the students in Writers’ Workshop are given time to write and some choice of what to write.
            The research into what makes students become better writers and the development of Writers’ Workshop has been ongoing for many years.  Although Writers’ Workshop will look different in the various grades, the main components stay the same.
  1. The teacher delivers a short lesson of the day on either the craft of writing or the mechanics of writing.  Often the teacher uses a brief piece of excellent writing to demonstrate the point.
  2. The students are given time to write independently.  Sometimes they pick their type of writing and topic.  Other times they have the type of writing given to them by the teacher and they choose the topic.
  3. The teacher conferences with individual students about their writing or the teacher works with a small group of writers who have similar needs.
  4. The students share what they wrote in pairs, small groups, or to the whole class.
            Writers’ Workshop is effective because students have models of good writing, are allowed time to practice from those models, and are given instruction in short pieces in small groups or individually.  Students always select the topic and that gives them ownership over their writing.  The teacher may select the genre of writing after teaching the students how to write in that genre.  The conferences that the teacher does allow the teacher to be a cheerleader for all the things the writer is doing well and to give suggestions on what to do next to improve as a writer.  Finally, Writers’ Workshop compliments Readers’ Workshop.  If, for example, the class is reading informational books in Readers’ Workshop and identifying their characteristics, they could also be writing informational pieces in Writers’ Workshop and employing the same techniques they note in their reading.
Brenda Wolfe, Principal, Wheeler Elementary
Gail Gokey, Instructional Coach, Wheeler Elementary
 
 Research for further information about Writers’ Workshop:
Best Practices in Writing Instruction, Graham, MacArthur, Fitzgerald, 2007
Writing Workshop: The Essential Guide, Ralph Fletcher, 2001
About the Authors: Writers’ Workshop with our Youngest Writers, Katie Wood Ray, 2004
Guiding Readers and Writers (Grades 3-6)Teaching, Comprehension, Genre, and Literacy, Fountas and Pinnell, 2000
Conferring: The Keystone of Writers’ Workshop
, Patrick Allen, 2009
 
   Word Study at Wheeler Elementary
          One of the truths we know about education is that it is constantly evolving.  We learn more from research every year about how the brain works and the best practices to ensure student growth and interest.  One of the areas that has evolved in this way is Spelling.     
          In the past, Spelling used to be taught by assigning a list of words each week to be memorized.  Although this worked for some children, research showed us that many more children were unable to transfer this type of rote memorization to their own writing.  Often students memorized the list of words for the test and then promptly forgot the correct spelling.  Research shows that memorizing words and rules, without a sense of why they should be learned, is not effective.  The few children who were successful by memorizing words, were limited by learning a finite number of words every week.      
          On the other hand, when students learn a word pattern, they learn to build many words using that pattern.  This is a part of Word Study.   An example is the –ay pattern.  Once a student learns that pattern, the student can recognize and spell say, tray, Friday, mayday.  This way of learning words through pattern recognition supports students transferring what they know about words to new words they want to read or write.
          Word Study follows in a developmental progression from simple patterns to more complex patterns and parts of words.  It is taught by using an inquiry approach to discover patterns and make generalizations as to how words work.  Younger students make words using magnetic letters or pencil and paper.  Older children do word sorts which help them form hypotheses about words and make connections between words.  Word Study includes instruction in the relationship between letters and sounds, patterns found in words, and the origin and meaning of words.   
          In our school Word Study occurs during the Readers’ and Writers’ Workshop because the goal of Word Study is that the students will become a better readers and writers.  Word Study learning is assessed weekly by a check or quiz to see if students understand the patterns, rules, meanings, or word origins that were studied that week.  Part of the assessment is correctly spelled words.  It is also assessed by listening to student reading and looking at student writing.  These authentic evaluations show the teacher whether the students have learned to use words correctly from Word Study.
 
Brenda Wolfe, Principal, Wheeler Elementary
Gail Gokey, Instructional Coach, Wheeler Elementary

 
Research for further information about Word Study practices:
Phonics They Use: Words for Reading and Writing, Patricia M. Cunningham, 2000.
Word Savvy: Integrated Vocabulary, Spelling, & Word Study, Grades 3-6, Max Brand, 2004
Word Matters: Teaching Phonics and Spelling in the Reading/Writing Classroom, Gay Su Pinnell & Irene Fountas, 1998
Words Their Way: Word Study for Phonics, Vocabulary, and Spelling Instruction, Bear, Invernizzi, Templeton, & Johnston, 5th edition
Best Practices in Literacy Instruction, Gambrell, Morrow, & Pressley, 2007
Guiding Readers and Writers: Teaching Comprehension, Genre, and Content Literacy, Irene Fountas & Gay Su Pinnell, 2001
Word Study Overview and Assessment Handbook, Benchmark Literacy, 2010

 
 Math at Wheeler Elementary
            At Wheeler we strive to provide solid math instruction, following the 2014 Math Standards adopted by the state of Indiana.  These standards include the categories of number sense, computation, algebraic thinking, and geometry, measurement, and data analysis.  There are also 8 process standards in math that help students develop their understanding of mathematical concepts and how to apply their mathematical skills.
            A typical math lesson will include a whole group lesson, followed by small group or individual practice.  Practice includes some material that has been previously taught (Daily Math Review or calendar time) and some material that was taught in the whole group lesson.  Typically, small group work involves some practice with the teacher, some done in a group with peers, or individualized work on the computer or on paper. 
          In many grade levels, work is done on memorizing math facts accurately and rapidly.  Some grades use Rocket Math which features daily practice with a partner and a short quiz.  Other grades use computer-based programs that allow students to proceed at their own pace and race against themselves.     
          We also target problem-solving as this is an area where many students need assistance.  Some teachers use small group math problem-solving stations while others review problems and the steps to the solution in a whole group lesson.
 
Brenda Wolfe, Principal, Wheeler Elementary
Gail Gokey, Instructional Coach, Wheeler Elementary

 
Research for further information about Math practices:
Minilessons for Math Practice, Bresser & Holtzman, 2006
Five Easy Steps to a Balanced Math Program, Larry Ainsworth, 2000
A Month-to-Month Guide K-4), Math Solutions, 2003
Math Work Stations, Debbie Diller, 2011
Math for AllDacey & Lynch, 2007

 
Thinking Maps at Wheeler Elementary
          Thinking Maps are tools that our entire school uses to show our understanding about a concept.  Designed by David Hyerle, Thinking Maps are the next step up from graphic organizers.  Instead of just organizing our thinking, as graphic organizers do, Thinking Maps are visual representations of our understanding and they re-train the brain to think in visuals when presented with a task.
          There are 8 Thinking Maps that can be used by all grade levels and in all subjects.  A student learns these structures and then can use them in any area of school.  The 8 Thinking Maps are shown below. 

                                                            Students can select the type of map they want to use based on what type of learning is occurring.  We use the maps in all of our subject areas and in all of our grades.  Younger children often contribute to a class map and older children make their own maps individually or in small groups.  Students draw the maps themselves and make them as big or small as they need to, with as many lines, branches, bubbles, or boxes as they need to show their thinking.
          Thinking Maps help our students think.  They train our students to be clearer in their thinking, to "see" thinking visually, and to organize their thinking.  Students use academic vocabulary in a real context while making a map and discussing it with someone else.
Students also like to create them and think they are "fun" to do.  When you visit our school you will see Thinking Maps in the hallways and classrooms.  

Brenda Wolfe, Principal, Wheeler Elementary
Gail Gokey, Instructional Coach, Wheeler Elementary


Research for further information about Thinking Maps:
Thinking Maps: A Language for Learning, David Hyerle, 2007.
Student Successes with Thinking Maps, David Hyerle, 2011.

www.thinkingmaps.com
Educational websites:
Math and Language Arts
www.xtramath.org - math facts practice
www.mobymax.com - free practice on math and language arts by grade level (K-6)
www.abcya.com - free practice on math and language arts by grade level (K-5)
www.readtheory.com - reading passages by grade level with corresponding      multiple choice questions
www.starfall.com - beginning reading and phonics (K-2)
http://www.sumdog.com - fun math games
http://www.storylineonline.net - listen to great children's books being read out loud
http://ngexplorer.cengage.com/ngyoungexplorer/index.html - National Geographic magazine for Kindergarten and 1st graders read out loud to them as they follow along
http://www.gamequarium.com/placevalue.html - games to practice place value
http://reading.ecb.org/index.html - games to increase reading comprehension for 4th-6th grades using reading comprehension strategies
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