Team and Family Profiles

Alex Karamol, 5th Grade ELA | Grade Team Leader at KIPP Camino Academy

Education:

Notre Dame, B.A. and Northwestern, M.S.Ed

Hometown:

Columbus, Ohio

Fun Fact:

I love doing craft projects in my free time. I’m currently working on brushing up my knitting skills!

Years Teaching:

5

Q&A with Alex Karamol

“If my students meet all of our goals, then I have done my part in keeping this promise. They will indeed be on the path to becoming flexible, independent, and lifelong readers and writers…and, of course, they will be equipped to change the world.”

What is possible for your students?
This summer, I attended the Scholastic Reading Summit. The keynote speaker, Donalyn Miller, said, “The best way to change the world is to send more readers out into it.” This quote stuck with me because ultimately, I want my students to be the change-makers in this world. I hope they use their gifts and vision to create a world that is more just and equitable for all. I think Ms. Miller hit the nail on the head. Reading makes us not only better learners, but better people. Reading fiction teaches us empathy, and how to look at a problem from different perspectives. I hope my students learn to process these different perspectives and seek out new ones as they decide what mark they would like to leave on the world.

What are the goals that you and your students are pushing toward this year to prove that possibility?
One of our goals is to increase the amount of time students spend reading for pleasure as we build a love of reading. My students read independently in class and at home every day. I am tracking their titles and page numbers every day during independent reading time. This has allowed me to get a snapshot of their reading life—are they reading at home? If so, how much? Can they self-select texts? Where do they need my support?

Other goals we are working toward are mastery of our reading and writing standards. Students are working toward mastering skills like inferencing and supporting answers with text evidence. We are also working to increase students’ vocabulary and grammar skills through daily practice. These skills are measured on weekly assessments in Illuminate.

Have you communicated those goals to your students? If so, how did you break them down for understanding?
For independent reading, students have a section of their notebook to track the books they have completed. This is a very student-friendly sheet where they fill out the title, author, genre, and date completed. This gives students an easy way to view their progress and set goals for their reading.

Another tool that my counterpart teacher, Alexandra Hunt and I have developed along with our coach Rudy Galvez, is a post-assessment reflection. After students take an assessment and receive their grade, they then go back and look at the questions they got wrong. After I think-aloud the question, students think critically about why their answer was incorrect (maybe they got tricked, or maybe they just didn’t go back to the text). They also write evidence to show why the correct answer is correct. We started this with the assessment we gave last week, but are hoping as we continue that students can become more independent with reflecting. Then students can set goals around increasing their mastery on weekly assessments.

What will if mean for your students if they all meet these goals? 
I look back to our KIPP San Antonio literacy promise for this one: “All KIPP San Antonio students will become flexible, independent, and lifelong readers and writers.” I have this on a poster in my classroom to remind myself and my students of the big picture. If my students meet all of our goals, then I have done my part in keeping this promise. They will indeed be on the path to becoming flexible, independent, and lifelong readers and writers…and, of course, they will be equipped change the world.

How is that influencing your planning/instruction?
This is keeping me grounded and focused on what really matters. If I can confidently say that something I am doing in class is helping my students become flexible, independent, and lifelong readers and writers, I know I am on track. If I can’t make the connection, then I probably need to re-evaluate what I’m doing and adjust accordingly.