By Joan Moser

March 9, 2012

We had the opportunity to go to the girls state basketball tournament here in Washington last weekend. Our entire family piled onto the coliseum and cheered until hoarse for our two nieces who play together.

We've often spoken at conferences about the similarity between great athletes and great readers. We've shared with many of you that they believe the reason the girls dominate on the court is because they simply play more than their opponents, and while they play, the coach is instructing and coaching 'in the moment'.

This year's experience proved to be just as exciting, and while they worked and brought home their fourth straight championship, we pondered if we might learn something more about success that could be replicated in our classrooms. We know we have to provide more practice time, when students are engaged in the act of reading, but as we watched our girls play through the lens of a classroom teacher, five additional themes emerged that set them apart from the teams around them:

Common Goal Every single athlete had a singular purpose: to win. We want our students to have a burning passion to not only be proficient readers, but lifelong lovers of reading.

Teamwork Once the common goal was established, the team worked together to achieve it. In our classrooms, it's up to us to foster the same kind of supportive, collaborative climate where every reader achieves both individually and as part of the whole.

Respect for the leader and each other There was an unwavering level of respect for the coach and fellow teammates. It was fostered in the way the coach consistently spoke and acted. Players with various strengths respected and trusted one another, producing a deep bond of unity. Our modeling and expectations can create the same result in our rooms.

Positive support and encouragement Once respect is modeled, expected, and in place, positive support and encouragement are a natural outcome. Instead of fostering a competitive atmosphere against each other, efforts and growth are joyfully celebrated.

Consummate Coaching Their coach has committed to strategies that ensure victory. He has spent hours researching, implementing, reviewing and assessing the effectiveness of his work. If our students are to succeed, it is in large part due to how knowledgeable and prepared we are to meet them at their current skill level and move them forward toward their ultimate success.

Unlike state tournaments, where there can only be one winner . . . in our classrooms, we can all be winning coaches who produce championship readers. We can all bring that reading trophy home.

Congratulations girls and coach, and thanks for the lesson!

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