Five Tips for Better Professional Development
I’ve given a LOT of PD. And I’ve suffered. Oh, how I’ve suffered.
One time, I resorted to using tape to try to protect the back of my heel from my hateful, horrible shoe.
It did not work.
So here’s my first piece of advice: Wear. Comfy. Shoes.
These shoes need to be the most comfortable shoes you own, because you will be on your feet all day long.
When I was a teacher, I at least got to sit down for a read aloud or guided reading or small group or something. But when you’ve giving a PD?
You’re front and center, all day.
So wear comfy shoes.
I’ve got four more tips that will help make PD a success for you!
#1: Have personality.
I know, some people think, “I’m boring.” But that’s not true. (I mean, I guess it’s possible, but it’s highly unlikely.)
Your personality can shine through in the little things, like which materials you select to use during the workshop. Want to model a lesson about the solar system? Sure, you use Solar System by Seymour Simon.
But where’s the joy in that?
Instead, go with The Sun is Kind of a Big Deal by Nick Seluk. Same vital information, but so much more fun!
#2 Differentiate, differentiate, differentiate
This might seem like a tall order – and sometimes it is. When you’ve got preK-5th grade in one room and you’re working on the six traits of writing, somebody is going to feel left out.
Unless you differentiate like a boss.
And you really need to. It’s not right to waste teachers’ time, and frustrated teachers are not a fun audience.
I recently provided a training to preK – 5th, all in the same room. I was sharing expository rubrics and writing strategies, and boy, did I ever need to differentiate that content!
And I think I did. I’ll tell you how:
I introduced the traits and then I used a mentor text as a read aloud. Each teacher had a copy of the text typed up that they used to hunt for examples of the trait in action.
But for Pre-K and kinder, I had them look for the traits in the pictures. Then, when I shared examples from the book, I shared examples from the words and from the illustrations so everyone saw their kids in those examples.
When teachers analyzed student writing samples, I provided them with
different rubrics for their grade levels. I created a PreK-K rubric, a K-2 rubric (those kinders grow a lot), and a 3-5 rubric. And each grade had their own writing samples to analyze.
At the end of the training, teachers took a book and used it to write a response that demonstrated the six traits. I provided carefully chosen books to each grade: preK had books appropriate for preK, 3rd had books chosen just for 3rd. etc.
What are some other ways to differentiate?
- Have teachers work with the standards for their grade level
- Have them bring their own grade level resources for planning
- If you’re working with teachers who teach different content areas, focus on strategies that can be used in any content and show examples of what that might look like.
#3 Model something
Don’t get stressed out, but the thing that benefits teachers the MOST is seeing something in action.
If you’ve got a good amount of time for your PD, identify something you can model.
It can be short – modeling a think aloud (for example) in any subject only takes a few minutes, but that might be the key to your teachers visualizing what the strategy or content could look like in their classroom. They’ll appreciate it!
#4 Plan one activity you don’t think you’ll need
Once you’ve done a lot of trainings, you get a pretty good idea for how long things will take – but you never know.
I once worked with a middle school who worked through things so quickly that I had extra time at the end of the session. Except I didn’t, because I had my go-to closing activity.
In this case, it was Pass-the-Paper. I had six pieces of paper, and on the top of each one, I wrote a different topic from the training. Each teacher started with one paper and wrote everything they knew about that topic until my timer went off. Then we passed it to the next person and continued.
It was a good way to recap the information and see what everyone learned, so it wasn’t wasted time. I was actually excited that I got to use it, because usually it’s just on stand-by!
Here are a few other good closing activities in case you need one more thing:
- Graffiti Wall: I shared about that in my last post
- Personal Goal-Setting: asking teachers to write on sticky notes about what they plan to do to use the learning
- Find A Place: If teachers have access to their lesson plans or curriculum, have them find a place to apply the learning in an upcoming unit or lesson
- Visual Representation: Give teachers a piece of paper. Have them visually represent the information they learned from the day. They can include words, too.
#5 Make sure teachers can envision applying the learning
You can do this in a few ways. After each activity or bit of learning, have teachers share with a partner about how they can use that in their classrooms.
You can also show pictures of the activities or content in action. This works really well when you’re working with strategies that can be used across the curriculum.
Another good way is the Find a Place activity from tip #4. Have teachers identify a place in their upcoming lessons where they could use your strategy or approach to teach!
Or use sticky note and ask teachers to use this sentence starter: I can see myself using this when… It’s an easy game-changer!
I know if you apply these ideas, your teachers will LOVE your PD! How have you differentiated PD? Let me know by leaving a comment!
Need tools for PD? Check out the Coach’s PD Kit: everything you need to plan and deliver PD from start to finish.
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