Reading cascade is one piece of the puzzle
Leadership Insights

Professional Development Activities for Teachers: Reading Cascade (Part 2)

By Terry Wilhelm June 18, 2013

Reading cascade is one piece of the puzzleIn the principal’s role as staff developer, using a variety of strategies for facilitating professional reading during staff meetings or PD sessions will prevent staff from getting bored with endless jigsaws, the most common approach to group professional reading. The first post of this series described the components of a “full jigsaw,” which is important to know in order to maximize the classic jigsaw strategy when it is chosen. This post describes a great jigsaw alternative, the reading cascade.

Six steps to a reading cascade

The key approach in planning a reading cascade is to accept that certain sections of almost any material can be skipped. As you think about your own professional reading, you probably skim — or skip — entire sections. Likewise, in a group, not every section must be read, shared and discussed.

Step 1: Set priorities

Determine which sections are important for all members to read. For example, the introductory paragraphs of an article may be important to ensure everyone’s understanding of the material.

Step 2: Select the reading list

Select the portions of the article, chapter or book that you want at least some of the group to read. When approaching a book, a combination of jigsaws, reading cascades and other strategies can be used over multiple sessions.

Prepare a list of the page numbers that begin and end each one, with a short descriptive phrase about each of them. After everyone reads the introductory or common section, each person then chooses which section to read next. As each person completes their first section, they choose another. Adult learners appreciate choices, and a reading cascade allows your teachers to choose sections that interest them most.

Step 3: Set aside reading time

Let the group know in advance how much time will be allotted for individual reading; 15-20 minutes is a good rule of thumb for individual reading. If your staff is new to professional reading, you might consider a shorter time frame such as 10 minutes. Let the group know that whatever amount of reading each person completes during individual reading will be sufficient for the following discussion.

Step 4: Wait until everyone is done reading

As you attend to the individual reading progress, try to wait until everyone has finished the common section and at least part of one to two sections of their own choosing before bringing the group back together for discussion.

Step 5: Assign tasks

Have each table group select the following roles: facilitator, timekeeper and recorder/spokesperson, and then inform the staff how much time they have for discussion. Be sure to provide an open-ended prompt, such as, “How would you implement these ideas in your department/grade level?”

Step 6: Share ideas

After table discussions, ask each table spokesperson to share one or two ideas with the full group, and consider capturing these centrally on a chart or electronically for future discussion and reference.

The series:
Part 1: Full vs. abbreviated jigsaw
Part 2: Reading cascade
Part 3: Final word discussion protocol
Part 4: Chunked and timed protocol
Part 5: Partner reading
Part 6: Levels of sharing out and think-write-pair-share

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