I have to admit, this was a selfish pick on my part. I’m currently a mere practitioner, but I’m becoming interested in becoming an LDC trainer. So this session practically jumped out at me.
Our presenter was Danielle Brewer, a literacy consultant from Atlanta. She began her journey as a high school business teacher in Arkansas. In 2011, Arkansas adopted LDC and Danielle was sent to a training and came back to her classroom to implement the model. Her first attempts were apparently disastrous; she didn’t teach the writing skills her kids needed. Nevertheless, her kids were more engaged than usual, so she was encouraged.
Her second module went much better, due to the help of a one-on-one coach, and she finally understood the process. She came to see LDC as an umbrella initiative. She also learned that she could integrate technology into her modules and use authentic writing projects instead of “just essays.”
Her third and fourth modules were even more successful, and her students scored significantly higher on the end-of-course exam. Her work was published in a local newsletter and she began making presentations.
This led to her being asked to grow LDC within her district. She worked with a “buddy teacher” in another school, developing LDC modules for their respective business teachers. They shared LDC within their schools, but carefully avoided “cramming it down their throats.” In fact, it was the students themselves who pressured their colleagues to begin using LDC.
Then she moved to Georgia and took a job as an LDC trainer by SREB. Like most teacher leaders, she was reluctant at first, confident in her teaching skills, but unsure of her ability to train a process that she wasn’t extremely experienced with. But she plowed ahead, and was assigned to work with West Virginian teachers.
SREB provided a great job of training, though and thoroughly prepared her to train. The hardest part, according to Danielle, was learning how to write modules in areas outside her teaching area. Trainers need to learn how to write modules well. She also learned how to jury and vet other teachers’ modules.
Training teachers on LDC starts with communicating to teachers just how hard and time-intensive LDC can be. It also involves getting teachers to pay close attention to the teaching the mini-tasks and assuming that the students don’t yet have the skills they need to complete the tasks.
Teachers need to understand that technology is their friend, especially when it comes to reading. They also need to think outside the “essay box,” and consider more authentic applications.
Time is important. Teachers need ample time to plan. When the module is in full swing, the teacher is doing more facilitating and they don’t seem terribly busy (although they are!) but the majority of the work is front-loaded. It takes planning to shift from teacher to student-centered instruction.
Teachers – and administrators – also need to realize that an LDC classroom looks and sounds messy and somewhat chaotic. It helps considerable when principals are involved in the trainings themselves.
A guy in the front of the room asked a good question. He wondered whether a teacher or team of teachers could figure out LDC on their own. Danielle – who works for SREB/LDC – acknowledged that it’s possible, given the tools available on the LDC website, but it would be much smoother if they had a live trainer. One important tool is the jurying tool, which significantly helps teachers tune their modules.
Like most trainings, LDC training works best with the best teachers who are also willing to take on something new. It doesn’t usually work well with brand-new teachers, since they don’t normally have enough credibility in their buildings to make LDC grow virally. Nor is it the appropriate training for struggling teachers.
In addition to initial training, coaching visits are invaluable; Danielle credits her success more to her coach than her initial trainer.
LDC tends to grow within schools and districts if careful planning is put into place. Pick the right teachers in the first place, support them with quality training and coaching and showcase the great things that area happening in their classrooms.
Some common LDC pitfalls:
-overly broad topics
-argumentative assignments when there really isn’t an argument
-ignoring some of the mini-tasks
-lack of a well-scripted instructional ladder
Another issue is covering the standards. LDC is designed with “built-in” coverage of key CCSS. But you need to make sure you know exactly where in your module those standards are addresses.
Danielle closed by pointing out the tools available for LDC users. Core Tools includes over fifty exemplary modules plus a lot more “good-to-go” modules, in addition to a mini-task library. Module writing has gotten easier with the addition of Module Creator, an on-line template.
I loved this session. Not only did Danielle provide great background on LDC, she explained how to grow it within a school or district. She also described how to become a trainer.