Margin Notes

Dr. Mary Howard


Recently, Fredericton teachers were treated to a PL session facilitated by Dr. Mary Howard, author of RTI From All Sides: What Every Teacher Needs to Know, Moving Forward with RTI: Reading and Writing Activities for Every Instructional Setting and Tier, Good to Great Teaching: Focusing on the Literacy
Work that Matters,
co-author of Literacy Lenses, and co-host of the weekly #G2Great twitter chat. If you are not already following Mary on Twitter, you can find her at @DrMaryHoward.

Mary’s session focused on the crossroads we are at in regards to Response to Intervention. As she explains, “We can either use response to intervention as an opportunity to rebuild a positive climate or allow it to dissolve into something that takes us even farther from the reason most of us became teachers.”

Opening up the session, Mary warned her audience that after 40+ years of teaching, she no longer has a filter, and this was very much appreciated by the teachers in attendance because she was able to voice what so many teachers have been thinking.

Woven into the stories Mary shared were concerns over how RTI is being used in schools in ways it was never meant to be, including:

  • RTI was never meant to be an identification process but an instructional process
  • RTI was never meant to be a computer or reading program but instead temporary and flexible small groupings
  • RTI was never meant to include a “fix it” mentality.
  • RTI was never meant to pull students from independent reading time
  • RTI was never meant to label students with a reading level

She shared some ideas on what intervention can look like, including:

  • Voluminous reading is an intervention
  • Engaged read aloud is an intervention
  • Self-selected reading is an intervention
  • Peer collaboration is an intervention
  • Read-write merger is an intervention
  • Joy is an intervention

Staying true to her promise, Mary’s workshop was filled with straight talk.  Here are some of our favourite Mary Howard moments:

  • Mary asking teachers to consider the question, “Does what we are about to do have the potential to enrich the lives of kids?” when making classroom decisions.
  • When you teach whole class lessons, you lose 30% of students
  • The most effective teachers write more after a lesson than before.
  • Our brains are never as fully active as when we are teaching – so let students do the teaching!
  • The importance of talking to consolidate learning: talk is the glue that holds learning together and strengthens it.
  • The best assessment is a conversation after learning.
  • Struggling is not a condition, but a situation.
  • I’ve never seen a child become a better reader from doing a crossword puzzle or a search and find.
  • Kids become better readers, by reading, by being immersed in books.
  • Asking yourself what your “heart goal” is for a student.

Thank you, Mary Howard, for your passion, your wisdom, and your authenticity. And to the teachers reading this, research tells us that one and done professional learning does not have a great impact. As such, keep your ears open for further learning opportunities connected to this session.

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