The Student Voice of Literacy

I take my role as an instructional leader very seriously. I hope the feedback I provide for our teachers can help them improve. I try to support our programs with the resources and time that will make them successful in our classrooms. I understand it’s best to take my cues for what is needed from the teachers because they are the real experts. At the same time, I’m always learning and sharing new ideas that can make our instruction better. I’ve spent many days during my 6 years as principal trying to be the cheerleader for literacy at Little Mountain. Booktalks for staff during meetings, reading a new book to our classrooms each month, reminding students to read over the weekend every Friday, supporting the different reading programs in each grade, etc. For more ideas on leading literacy, check out this great post from Dr. Brad Gustafson, LaQuita Outlaw, and Dr. Eric Skanson.

All of these strategies and responsibilities are important to the work we do and will certainly continue, but I have truly had an awakening within the last month about the best way to inspire reading in our school. Student booktalks, period. Students having the opportunity to share their voice and their love of reading with other students is changing the literacy climate of our building on daily basis. This summer, Brad Gustafson and I were on the same flight home from the NAESP conference. While we were waiting at the baggage claim, we started brainstorming about a collaborative booktalk YouTube project between the buildings. You can view our latest episode of Booktalk DJs here. We are only 7 episodes in, but the excitement from our students is something that could never be accomplished from something created by adults. All of our students want the chance to dress up, use the microphone and sunglasses props, choose a DJ name, perform in front of the green screen, and, of course, share their favorite books. It’s been beyond fun to watch our students create, and I can’t thank Dr. G enough for having his #GWgreats participate in this collaborative project with me and the students of LME. We look forward to watching and listening to what the students of Greenwood are reading each week.

A few weeks after we started the Booktalk DJ collaboration, I asked Adam Welcome to join our staff meeting through Google Hangout. Adam had been our keynote speaker for the district before school started, and he was gracious enough to check back in with our staff. He asked the teachers what was new and what was working for us. One of the teachers made a comment about the changes to the media center that included a makerspace center, lego wall, and iPad kiosks. If you know Adam, he is always pushing you to be better at whatever it is you’re doing. He challenged us to use our new iPads to help students create through iMovie and Flipgrid. We now have created a grid for all students at Little Mountain to share their booktalks and encourage other students to read their favorite book. The iPads were popular before we added Flipgrid, and now students can’t wait to record their booktalks; some of them even give themselves a DJ name because the Booktalk DJ collaboration is so popular.

The engagement and excitement for school-wide reading as well as students wanting to share their voice is growing each day. It reminds me of a common theme within Jimmy Casas’ book, Culturize. As leaders, if we want our staff members to talk and act a certain way, we need to model that behavior at all times. People are always watching. I believe this translates to our students as well. If we want students to show their learning and excitement for literacy, it is our job to give them the opportunity to lead and create. Our bookktalk projects have given our students that opportunity, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!