Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

4 Steps to Create an Effective Literacy Instruction Team

By Paula Dugger, M. Ed., Guest Blogger

The quote, “It takes a village to raise a child,” has been around for a number of years. Although the origin of the quote is still unclear, the meaning is not. Children need continuous interaction with a community of people in order to grow and flourish in their environment.

In the context of a school or learning community, a school literacy team is a significant part of that village. The school village or literacy team should be comprised of a group of dedicated and knowledgeable educators, all focused on issues of literacy instruction and curriculum.

Today's blog post focuses on some suggestions for creating an effective literacy team at the school level. Literacy teams will differ from school to school based on a school’s vision and needs. It is important to note that district-wide literacy teams are important as well and can provide tremendous support and resources that will help enable school-wide literacy teams to be even more effective.

From the RRCNA Comprehensive Reading Plan

A school’s literacy leadership team is responsible for creating and monitoring the comprehensive literacy plan and setting goals for literacy in the school. The team meets regularly to examine student data, discuss issues related to teaching and implementation, assess the need for staffing and materials, organize professional learning opportunities, promote communication, and monitor and adapt the comprehensive plan as needed. Team members include the principal and representation from all stakeholders involved with literacy learning.

Here are some steps that I’ve found useful when helping to establish an effective literacy team at the school level.

  1. Select educators who represent various roles in the school.
  2. Determine the goals and purposes of the team.
  3. Create a data-driven literacy initiative that has both short- and long-term goals that can be monitored and assessed.
  4. Develop a support structure of people and resources that will help initiate and sustain success for the school’s and district’s literacy initiative.

1. Select educators who represent various roles in the school

Identifying and recruiting people who are strong, as well as highly trained, literacy teachers is a key element to your literacy team. The team’s purpose is to support each other and colleagues throughout the school while resolving everyday and major literacy issues. Once the team is assembled, a chairperson (usually the literacy coach or certified reading specialist) should be selected to coordinate schedules, meetings, and responsibilities for group members.

Teams may include if the position exists in the school:

  • principal
  • classroom teacher from each grade level
  • Reading Recovery teacher
  • certified reading specialist
  • literacy coach
  • special population representatives, such as an ESL teacher, special education teacher, gifted and talented teacher
  • district-level reading coordinator or specialist

2. Determine the goals and purpose of the team

To be effective, your literacy team must work to build ownership among all the stakeholders to ensure strong implementation. It is important for the team to have a shared vision, values, and the capability for decision making that will address and meet the literacy needs of all students.

Identifying areas of strengths and weaknesses within the school’s current literacy plan will require gathering and analyzing data. Collaborating with a team to review literacy data for the purpose of identifying areas of concern can be crucial in determining the focus for improvement.

3. Create a data-driven literacy initiative that has both short- and long-term goals that can be monitored and assessed

Any literacy initiative should be data-driven. Based on the data, both short- and long-term goals can be identified to help close achievement gaps and improve literacy for all students. By establishing short term goals, schools can move quickly within a short amount of time. Observation data collected during walkthroughs can easily pinpoint strengths and weaknesses in the classroom setting.

Classrooms that do not reflect a print-rich environment can use short-term goals as a starting point to correct this issue. Perhaps word walls are nonexistent, or classroom libraries are sparse and disorganized lacking a variety of genres. Introducing professional development emphasizing a print-rich environment would address these issues.

Long-term goals are usually based on data that is related to improving student learning and instructional practices in the areas of vocabulary, comprehension, and appropriate leveled text selection. Ongoing professional development and classroom practices will require more time across the school year for implementing such long-term goals.

It is imperative to create ways to monitor and assess progress along the way to ensure that student needs are being met by asking the right questions: Are goals being met? Is instruction being implemented as designed? Are teachers being flexible with grouping and instructional techniques?

4. Develop a support structure of people and resources that will help initiate and sustain success for the school’s and district’s literacy initiative

An outline of procedures and staff responsibilities needed to meet goals should be included in any school-wide literacy plan or initiative. Everyone in the village should have a role, whether it is to provide instruction or resources, monitor and assess, or to learn. Knowing one’s role and responsibilities is essential to the success of the literacy team and literacy plan.

Changing Minds, Changing Schools, Changing Systems: A Comprehensive Literacy Design for School Improvement is a valuable resource allows access to multiple levels of the comprehensive literacy model that enable systemic and sustainable school improvement. This professional resource is based on the theory that the change needed for school improvement results from changing the minds of educators regarding perceptions and understanding of how people learn.

Family Literacy Workshops: For Preschool through Grade 6 is a great resource that helps to amplify a school’s impact on family and community engagement. Formats for ten workshops are provided, along with educational and engaging activities for both parents and their children. You can preview this book by reading related blog posts that show how to use it with free downloadables of some of the reproducibles.

Creating a school literacy team can be complex, but the rewards are worth the time and effort to establish ownership and accountability among teachers and staff, or the village, of each school. Over time, student achievement will increase, and gaps will be closed. I hope you will continue to visit our blog for more ideas to help meet the literacy needs of all students.

Paula is an educational consultant who has previously served as a Reading Recovery Teacher/Teacher Leader, first-grade teacher, Title I and high school reading teacher, and a Reading Coordinator. If you like what you read here, you can enjoy  more from Paula on our blog .