Professional Book Groups for Los Alamos Public School teachers and instructional assistants are a rewarding and low-cost way for the Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation to provide professional development.
Five groups formed in the early Fall and have been meeting regularly this school year to discuss their selections and application of the strategies they find
Reading Specialist Alisa Rolfe from Aspen School was funded to study, “Teaching Struggling Readers: How to Use Brain-based Research to Maximize Learning.”
Rolfe described Aspen’s selected text, “This book is about teaching the hardest-to- reach students—children with learning disabilities, language delays, or ADHD. Author Caroline Lyons offers explanations of the roles emotion and the brain play in learning how to read. The book provides specific advice on enabling students to read and write, whatever their needs or abilities.” Rolfe said, “Members of the Aspen staff meet twice a month to discuss the text. So far, our discussions have centered on brain-based research and specific strategies to help struggling readers. We also scheduled some observations of each other’s teaching during literacy blocks to facilitate more discussion and learning of literacy techniques.”
First grade teacher Erin Manzanares from Barranca School was funded to study “Ready Bodies, Learning Minds: A Key to Academic Success” and included activity guides.
Manzanares said of the text, “This book provides the therapist, teacher, and parent with information they will need to understand the interrelationships between reflexes, sensory systems, motor skills, learning, and performance. Technical and medical jargons are explained concisely for the nontechnical professional. Real examples and appropriate treatments are explained in detail. A special and in-depth focus on each of the sensory systems clearly illustrates how each system, and the interaction of systems, affect a child’s ability to learn and perform. The text is well organized
with an easy to understand structure, and we have found the book to be invaluable.”
In an update from Barranca, Manzanares added, “Teachers have implemented new activities and have adjusted approaches in their classrooms as a direct result of the information we are reading about and discussing in our book group. I am pleased to see positive adjustments and changes.”
Principal Jennifer Guy of Mountain School was funded to study “Whole-Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids.”
Guy summarized Mountain’s book choice, “Whole Brain Teaching, which is a grassroots education reform movement begun in 1999 by three Southern Californian teachers, has attracted an astonishing following among educators across the U.S. and in 30 foreign countries. Based on cutting-edge scientific research, Whole Brain Teaching recognizes that students learn the most when they are engaged in lessons that involve seeing, hearing, doing, speaking and feeling.” Guy added, “Mountain’s staff chose this selection because we purchased 10 of these books for professional development for a group of teachers last year and it was overwhelmingly the most popular book they have used in a long time. The teachers found the strategies in it to be extremely powerful tools that they are excited about implementing.”
Mountain first grade teacher, Scott Johnson, says, “This book reinvigorated me. I think all teachers should read ‘Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids’ because the techniques and strategies are research-based and I’ve seen them work.”
Chamisa’s Principal Suzanne Lynne was funded to study “Mindset: the New Psychology of Success.”
Lynne described the selected text, “Dweck [the author] explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success—but whether we approach them with a fixed or growth mindset. She makes clear that praising intelligence and ability doesn’t foster self-esteem or lead to accomplishment, but may actually jeopardize success. With the right mindset, we can motivate our kids and help them to raise their grades, as well as reach our own goals, personally and professionally. Dweck reveals what all great parents, teachers, CEOs, and athletes already know: a simple idea can create passion and resilience that forms the basis of great accomplishment in every area.” In a recent update, Lynne said, “The Chamisa staff chose this book because they felt that the premise of this book would translate easily into classroom practice. Teachers felt they could also share their learning with parents. The concept of a growth mindset can help children reach their highest potential. The Chamisa staff meets for their discussion either at a group member’s home or at a local restaurant. The book group is social as well as professional. Because the group serves two purposes, it helps to create relationships among people who work together, yet rarely see each other.”
Gifted and Talented Education teacher, Andrea Weems from Pinon School, was also funded to study “Mindset: the New Psychology of Success”. She said of the selection, “Dweck has challenged educators to rethink how we approach education, as well as challenging us to change our teaching vocabulary. Instead of sending the message, ‘you have permanent traits and I’m judging them,’ educators can send the message, ‘you are a developing person and I am interested in your development.’ Students can learn to think ‘this may take some time and effort,’ instead of ‘this is too hard.’ Carol Dweck’s book, grounded in decades of research, is written in a conversational and engaging style, making it easily understood.”
LAPS principals, teachers and instructional assistants may apply for a Professional Book Group grant using an application, available as MS Word or PDF, on the Foundation’s website: http://lapsfoundation.com.