I felt really good about several things. For one thing the state has changed the "Fab 5" to the "Sensational 6" by adding oral language to phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, comprehension and vocabulary. At Chets we realized early on that we had to continue with our work in oral language and even pioneered work in kindergarten that we took from Lucy Calkins' work with Elizabeth Sulby, which we call "Star Books. " The program has our youngest learners doing oral retellings as a way to help decide when they are ready for conventional reading. We had felt this was really a missing part in the "Fab 5", so I guess this confirms that initial belief. It certainly is a strong step toward infusing oral language into the day.
I also felt very good that we seem to be ahead of the curve in vocabulary. As the state is just now looking at vocabulary resources, we spent a year with our Books-of-the-month program looking at vocabulary strategies four years ago after our Principal and a group of teachers traveled to a Kylene Beers' summer workshop. We had our faculty reading Beck and McKeown's Bringing Words to Life and even ordered a vocabulary program, Text Talk, based on the their research to use in first grade that same year. That was so successful that we now also have Text Talk in second grade and when we couldn't afford to buy it for Kindergarten, a group of Kindergarten teachers spent a summer writing their own program using that same research which we call "Star Vocabulary". We've had that program in effect for three years and it has made a huge difference. All of that has given our teachers such a strong background in vocabulary. I did especially like one vocabulary activity that I heard today of a Principal or coach choosing words from the Book-of-the-month and doing activities with the words twice a week on the daily internal news program - that's an idea that would be really exciting for the new year!
Another area that I feel good about is the idea of using a Spelling Test to analyze phonics skills. We have been doing this in first grade for quite some time as part of our three times a year assessment and it is also being done now in second grade. Obviously, this is not a new idea, but it's the first time I've seen state training advocating that sort of assessment.
All in all, I have a good feeling. leaving this training. One of the things I really like about the F.A.I.R. is that the state is really trying to link resources to instructional need, which is the same thing we are trying to do with our wikis. My only complaint is that the trainers had to go through over 300 slides (and Melanie, the state has never heard of Presentation Zen! - just old style PowerPoint!) and even with many video clips, there was entirely too much "sit 'n' git." If we want our teachers to use engaging activities with their students then we need to engage them in professional development that models what we want them to do!