Coaching Message Time Plus

Use the following resources as you work with teachers to enhance and grow Message Time Plus in their classrooms.

Coaching Conversation Starters

Reflective practitioners think deeply about their instruction — both the content and children’s engagement. Use these questions to guide your conversations with a teacher before and after a Message Time Plus lesson to enhance the lesson and help grow a teacher’s practice.

Lesson Planning

  1. What is your primary objective? Why did you choose this objective? How will it help your children as readers and writers? How will you explain it to the children?

  2. What language supports will you use to promote understanding? How will you support your ELLs and all children with the development of productive language? How will you explain/model the language you expect the children to use?

  3. What will you do explicitly to help children take care of themselves and each other during the entire lesson? While you write? While you scaffold? What work have you already done to help children around understanding procedures and expectations?

  4. What genre of writing best matches your primary objective? Is this the first time you are writing in this genre for your children? Have you exposed children to this genre in other areas of your literacy block (e.g., read aloud, Reading Workshop)? What can you tell children about this genre in one or two sentences that will help them as readers and writers when they work independently?

  5. What topic will you choose to write about? How does the topic relate to what children have been learning? How do the topic and genre work together?

  6. What are your high frequency words for this week? How many can you incorporate in the message? What chants or other methods will you use to review these words that engage children before the writing of the message?

  7. What vocabulary words have you chosen to include? What child-friendly language will you use to define these words? How will you provide context for understanding these words?

  8. What will you say in your think aloud to tie together the genre, content, and vocabulary of the message to support children’s decoding and comprehension of the message?

  9. What will you do or say to encourage engagement and predictions as you write the message? How will you respond to their reading of the message?

  10. Which children will you scaffold? What data do you already have about them that will help you know what they need to learn next? How can you support their language development through your planned scaffolding?

  11. Tell me about your mini-lesson. How will it engage the whole group and deepen their understanding of the primary literacy objective? What language supports will you need to use to help your ELL children? What are your anticipated language outcomes? What materials will you need? Will you be creating or referring to an anchor chart?

Reflection & Action Planning

  1. What do you think the children learned during the lesson? How do you know?

  2. Was the content engaging for children? Were they engaged by the topic?

  3. What predictions did you notice during the writing of the message? Which cuing systems (meaning, visual, or semantic) did the children rely on to make these predictions?

  4. Did whole group fluency improve with each reading of the message? How do you know?

  5. What skills did children demonstrate during scaffolding? Did anything surprise you?

  6. Were the children engaged during the mini-lesson? How could you tell?

  7. How was your pacing? How long was the entire lesson?

  8. Reflect on the classroom culture during the lesson. Were the children taking care of themselves and others on the carpet? What problems arose? Did children solve problems with little or no support?

  9. How else could you use the message with children today (for a center, during writing or reading workshop, for home-school connection)?

  10. What did you learn about your children during this lesson? How will this inform future messages?

Viewing Lenses

When you are observing a teacher there are several different viewing lenses you might choose to focus your observation and post-lesson conversations. If you are watching a teacher who already does MTP, and you want to get a sense of their instruction, then use the MTP General Viewing Lens to record your notes and questions. On the other hand, in most other cases, it helps to have a specific viewing lens to focus your observations. Here are some ideas for focused viewing lenses for Message Time Plus:

Focus Question What to Note

How did the teacher engage children in building automaticity with high frequency words?

  • What chants or gestures were used?
  • Did all children participate in chants and actions?
  • Were children involved in leading or choosing chants and activities through a class system?
  • Did the teacher encourage participation?
  • Did the teacher contextualize the high frequency words to enhance comprehension?
  • How did the teacher highlight the words while writing the message? Did she expect automaticity?
  • Did the teacher do any scaffolding around the high frequency words?

How did the teacher introduce Tier II or Tier III vocabulary words?

  • Were child-friendly definitions prepared ahead of time?
  • Were the definitions written on the back of vocabulary index cards for easy recall by teacher?
  • Were examples or movements incorporated to make words more comprehensible?
  • Did the teacher provide context and/or connections to enhance understanding?
  • Were the words posted on the side of the board after introducing them?
  • Did the teacher support children to read those new words as they were written in the message and with each reading did children become more confident reading them?
  • Did any children pick the vocabulary words during scaffolding? Was their knowledge of that word supported and increased?

How did the think aloud support readers to be successful in reading the message?

  • Was the genre named and defined?
  • Was the primary literacy objective named?
  • Did the teacher incorporate language scaffolds to support comprehension?
  • Did the teacher explain how this skill would help children as readers or writers?
  • Were children given enough clues about the content of the message to support good predictions when reading?
  • Did the think aloud stimulate excitement and engagement?
  • While reading the message, did the children show evidence that the think aloud supported their decoding, fluency, and/or comprehension of the content?

How did the teacher engage the children during the writing of the message?

  • Did the teacher stand in a position to maximize children’s view of the message as it appeared on the board?
  • Did the teacher encourage children’s predictions?
  • Were the type of predictions (visual, meaning, or semantic) identified and reinforced sometimes?
  • Did all children make some effort to read the message on each read?
  • Did the teacher watch children during the rereads as the pointer moved along the lines?

How did the teacher support individual children during scaffolding and engage the group while scaffolding?

  • Was the child encouraged to find anything that he or she knew in the message?
  • Did the teacher assess what the child already knew by asking the child to name what he/she found and why it was chosen?
  • Did the teacher make specific connections to children’s background knowledge and cultural references when appropriate?
  • Did the teacher extend the child’s knowledge to a new level (into the zone of proximal development)?
  • Did each child feel successful, proud, and motivated at the end of scaffolding?
  • Did the teacher support children with an outlet for their own thoughts in response to scaffolding questions (white boards, whisper in your hand, write it in the air, etc.)?
  • Do classmates respect their peer during scaffolding (by not shouting out answers) and celebrate his/her successes?

Did the mini-lesson engage all children and advance the primary literacy objective?

  • Did the teacher provide specific language based supports tied to the literacy objective?
  • Were all children able to participate in the mini-lesson (gestures, turn and talk, etc.)?
  • What was the evidence of progress in understanding the primary literacy objective?
  • Did the teacher connect learning that occurred through scaffolding to the primary literacy objective (if possible)?
  • How did the teacher clarify misunderstandings during the mini-lesson?
  • Did the teacher restate the primary literacy objective at the end?
  • Did the children have an opportunity to reflect on their learning at the end?

How did the teacher work to help children take care of themselves and each other during the lesson?

  • Did the teacher give explicit instruction, with language the children are familiar with, around this?
  • Did the teacher use language around the Power of Three?
  • Are there relevant procedural anchor charts or visual tools nearby for the teacher and children to reference?
  • Did the teacher use specific encouragement and language around risk-taking?
  • Did children resolve any issues on the carpet with minimal teacher intervention?
  • What language did you notice children used to resolve issues?
  • How did the teacher intervene when issues arose?


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