Professional Development Workshops

CORI Teacher Professional Development

CORI is a framework for a set of focused, integrated practices, but it is not a script. Therefore, creating a CORI context in a classroom requires that teachers understand processes of student engagement, grasp the principles of engagement-supporting instruction, and adjust daily to fluctuating student needs in the classroom.

To enable teachers to gain a fundamental understanding of how to increase engagement through CORI, we first co-construct the idea of engaged reading with the teachers. In a guided brainstorming session we ask, "What are interested, active learners in your classroom like?" With encouragement, a group of 6-20 teachers will fill several chalkboards, overhead transparencies, and LCD screens full of information and ideas. We formalize this knowledge by pointing out that it refers to the students' conceptual knowledge, cognitive strategies, motivational dispositions, and social interaction patterns. Following this, we emphasize that there is a research base suggesting that extended engaged reading is a robust, generalizable correlate of reading comprehension that applies to all students, irrespective of their demographic characteristics. We suggest that this implies that reading engagement is a worthy aim for teaching.

Next, teachers perform a mini-CORI activity in approximately two and a half hours. We traverse all the phases that they will guide children through, without using formal language. We take teachers through the phases of: (a) observe and personalize, (b) search and retrieve, (c) comprehend and integrate, and (d) communicate to others.

For example, in a mini-unit on how birds survive in diverse habitats, we begin by asking teachers to describe what they know about bird feathers through writing and discussion. We hand out one bird feather to each teacher and encourage him/her to observe, manipulate, and discuss its properties with a partner. Teachers write questions about feathers and the role feathers may play in bird survival, and they share these questions with the group. We provide multiple selections from trade books that enable teachers to answer their questions and gain additional knowledge about bird feathers, their types, their properties, and functions in bird survival. Following the processes of search, retrieval, and integration, teachers write their newfound understanding. We then share the strategies used to read, search, and excavate text sufficiently to advance their knowledge and answer their questions.

Teachers next read a poem on birds that highlights the goldfinch in winter. They discuss how their recently gained understanding about the way in which feathers foster the goldfinch's warmth, reproduction, defense, and locomotion enhance the aesthetic value and enjoyment of this poem. Next, we debrief this experience into processes of engaged reading, including the gaining of conceptual knowledge, the arousal of curiosity and interest, the use of cognitive strategies for understanding, the clarification and reassurance of sharing with a partner, and additional qualities of engaged reading that have been brainstormed.

In the workshop, which lasts for 10 uninterrupted days in the summer, teachers-in-training hear from exemplary CORI teachers who portray three to four lessons, along with accompanying student work. Teachers view videos of other teachers working at the same grade level who are providing extended lessons that display the conceptual emphasis, strategy instruction, and motivational practices in the CORI framework. We provide teachers an opportunity to learn about reading strategies from experience. They perform each of the strategies that they will be teaching to children including activating background knowledge, questioning, searching for information, summarizing, organizing graphically, structuring stories, relating question-answers, and performing elaborative interrogation with text. Distributing these experiences across 10 days, rather than grouping them together too intensely, we provide children's texts and grade-relevant tasks that enable teachers to see what a strategy, such as organizing graphically, is like from a child's perspective, as well as seeing how a lesson might be taught at the grade level. For each strategy, we dissect the complex process into a series of steps. They learn that teaching a complex strategy involves teaching each of the processes through modeling, scaffolding, and guided practice. At length, we discuss what a high scaffold (detailed, teacher-provided guidance) is like for a given strategy with a given text in a given group of learners. We distinguish this from a moderate scaffold and a low scaffold. We discuss how teachers release responsibility to students in the process of enabling them to become self-directed strategy users.

For the 12-week unit that they will be teaching, from September through December, teachers learn the structure of knowledge in the conceptual theme that will be the substantive center of the curriculum. For example, if they are teaching ecology, they learn about survival as a superordinate concept that entails animal interactions. Teachers learn how these processes explain life for different animals and plants directly through explanation, and indirectly through reading students' texts.

We provide two forms of learning about motivation support in the classroom. CORI practices for motivation and engagement consist of: (a) using content goals in the conceptual theme for reading instruction, (b) providing hands-on experiences, such as science observations related to the goals, (c) affording students choice and decision making embedded in instruction, (d) using interesting texts, with an emphasis on trade books and literature, and (e) providing continued classroom discourse focused around gaining knowledge and experience from text through collaboration. We arrange for teachers to experience motivation associated with each of these. Teachers recreate the processes of curiosity and interest that are aroused by forming their own question (choice) and relive the process of reading to answer it, as distinguished from reading to answer the question over which they had no control.

We provide videotapes that portray teachers who are enacting motivation support in a realistic classroom setting. We spend time co-constructing high, medium, and low scaffolding for motivational development. Similar discussions for collaboration and the development of self-confidence are undertaken.

A substantial amount of time is spent addressing how to teach struggling readers in and out of the classroom. Adjusting the texts, conceptual demands, strategies, expectations, and motivational support systems for low-achieving students is a set of competencies that requires explicit attention.

As the 10-day workshop closes, teachers, in pairs or teams within a school, create two weeks of lessons that meet school and district requirements and fulfill children's needs within the CORI framework. We do not claim this is a unique approach. Rather, it is intended to be relevant to the International Reading Association professional standards, and findings regarding excellent teacher education programs.

Teachers need fundamental understanding of the means and ends of their teaching — where they are going and how to get there. Teachers need the motivational dispositions of desiring to build good teaching, having confidence that they can fulfill their planning goals, and interacting in a community of teachers or partners in instructional improvement. In other words, teachers need support for their engagement in their own teaching. Professional development continues with monthly seminars in which teachers exchange successes and failures, progress and challenges, ideas and techniques. On these occasions, teachers sometimes vent their frustration that their ideals are not always met in the classroom. But they also express their delight in children's reading engagement and share their craft for reaching all learners.


Text Adapted from:
Guthrie, J. T., Cox, K. E. (2001) Classroom Conditions for Motivation and Engagement in Reading. Educational Psychology Review, 13, 283-302.