One of the goals I hear most consistently from teachers is their desire to get their students to think more deeply and to be more cognitively engaged in the content they are studying. I have the distinct privilege of getting to be in many classrooms and here are some brilliant ways I’ve seen teachers shift the cognitive load from themselves to their students.
If you would like help with implementing any of these four metacognative approaches, or any metacognitive approach for that matter, consider reaching out to your Instructional Coache(s) or one of the Elementary Curriculum and Instruction team.
This post brought to you by Heather Willman, APOSA overseeing Secondary Curriculum and Instructional Coaching
With the tragedy of the latest school shooting weighing heavily on many of our minds and social media, congress and the courts taking up the arguments of what should be done, teachers may be asking themselves, “What can I do today, that would make a difference?”
As a nation, we will need to address the issue of keeping our students safe at school. There are no easy answers and it will take time. For today, I believe that the one thing that many of us can agree on is that all children, from early childhood through high school graduation, need to feel safe and have a deep sense of belonging in our schools.
We can build that sense of belonging and community into our classroom and school culture by carving out a very important 20 minutes at the beginning of each day for a morning meeting; the purpose of which is to focus on building relationships. Relationships between teachers and students and relationships among the students; relationships that will build solid friendships, develop empathy, create greater understanding, foster confidence and deepen that important sense of self-worth and belonging. "People who have a sense of belonging are less likely to want to hurt themselves or others" (Oliker 2012).
Teachers who incorporate morning meetings take dedicated time to focus on building a safe and comfortable community in the classroom where every student is heard and held responsible for his/her actions. It is a time to encourage kids to care for one another. According to Responsive Classroom, a morning meeting done well should:
Take a moment to watch and listen to what Huntsville Elementary staff and students have to say about morning meeting.
There are several models of morning meetings from which teachers can get ideas. The Responsive Classroom model is based on the idea that students' social-emotional growth is just as important as their academic growth. The Responsive Classroom approach is informed by the work of educational theorists and the experiences of exemplary classroom teachers. Six principles guide this approach:
Responsive Classroom offers a template for morning meetings that has four key components:
Research supports that establishing a morning meeting in your classroom can positively impact the social emotional learning of your students. (Kriete & Bechtel, 2002) & Gardner (2012). There are several sites in our district who are currently using morning meetings and are seeing positive results. If you would like to visit a site and talk to staff who are already implementing morning meetings, please contact me and I can help to make arrangements.
This post brought to you by Julie Ace, Elementary Implementation Associate
Oliker, Ditta M (2012). On Being the Outsider-the lasting effects of being excluded, Psychology Today Nov. 9 2012
Gardner, C. (2012). Morning meeting and science -- a winning combination. Science & Children, 50(1), 60-64.
Kriete, R., & Bechtel, L. (2002). The morning meeting book. Greenfield, MA: Northeast Foundation for Children.
Recently I was asked about an article that I had shared awhile back so I am sharing it again. The focus is around the things we can do in our classrooms to help our students be more successful in regards to mathematics.
The ultimate goal of mathematics is to produce students who can think mathematically and solve
If that is truly the ultimate goal, we have to teach as though we believe it. We have to maximize every
opportunity for students to think deeply, to create their own solutions, to build/write/draw/talk about their thinking! Students learn important mathematical concepts THROUGH problem solving. This is a mind shift away from the idea that we teach math concepts procedurally first and only then can they do problem solving.
Quotes from Principles to Action: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All, NCTM (2014)
Here are some different ways we can change our practices to be more effective.
We think we are being helpful, but are we handicapping them for later?
We used to help students identify words like “altogether” and “in all” in story problems and we said these meant to do a particular operation. I clearly remember posting lists of these words under various operations. My intentions were good and I had seen it done by others. Now, I know there is strong evidence that this practice may actually hinder students’ comprehension of the story! Why?
1. Now we know that when the emphasis is on the “key words” themselves, students tend to find the numbers and just do the operation without thinking about the overall story in the problem.
2. These words can be present in a story problem but not necessarily indicate a particular operation. For example,consider what operation you would use to solve the following problems that contain the word “altogether”:
3. Standardized tests often make a point to avoid these key phrases. When students become dependent on finding the key words and doing that operation, they no longer have a strategy for solving problems when the words aren’t there.
Even at the earliest grades, our focus needs to be on comprehension of the story and true problem solving. It is with good intention that we offer up tricks or shortcuts, but in the long run, these tend to expire and negatively impact student learning.
At every grade level we want to be sure that we are presenting students with practices that create a problem solving environment because that is where true learning and enduring understandings are taking place.
This post brought to you by Carol Lucido, the K-8 District Math Coordinator
As a teacher, we spend the vast majority of our time educating others but often do not get the time to further our own learning. There is an amazing opportunity coming up in August that is close to home and budget friendly.
The Learning First Institute is taking place on August 8 & 9 in Kasson. This is an unbelievable chance to spend two days learning and networking with local educators. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the event last year along with 70 other educators from RPS and found those two days to be some of the most informative learning in which I have been able to participate.
Over the course of the two days, you are treated to 4 different keynote speakers that are not only engaging and dynamic but also deliver important message around current educational trends and topics. The remainder of your time is spent in small group sessions that you select to best meet your learning needs.
Some of the topics from last year’s presenters included: Assessment strategies that motivate kids and help them learn, keys to a positive learning environment, building culture in your PLC’s, RTI – it’s not just about intervention but how kids respond to intervention, changing the experience of school and how to have difficult but necessary conversations.
This year’s lineup of speakers is just as impressive as last year. Keynote speakers this year include:
Myron Dueck - Vice principal and teacher with over 17 years of teaching, He has had experience in a variety of subjects in grades 3 to 12. Dueck has been a part of district work groups and school assessment committees that have further broadened his access to innovative steps taken by others.
LaVonna Roth - An internationally known brain-powered educational consultant, author and presenter. She is known for providing fun and engaging professional development specializing in neuro- and cognitive sciences to help educators better understand how the brain learns.
Kenneth C Williams - A former teacher, assistant principal, and principal. Kenneth is the chief visionary officer of Unfold the Soul, LLC, a company dedicated to inspiring individuals and teams to perform at the highest level. He is skilled in developing productive, student-focused learning environments.
George Curous - A previous speaker in RPS, he has over 17 years of experience as an educator, in a myriad of roles from K-12. George speaks about meaningful change happening when you first connect to people's hearts and the importance of creating an innovative student learning environment with high engagement.
In addition to these four amazing keynote speakers, there are an additional 14 speakers leading breakout sessions on a huge variety of topics. Last year I was able to attend 8 breakout sessions in addition to the learning from the keynotes.
Mark your calendar for August 8 & 9. You won’t be sorry that you spent two days in August at a conference once you’ve experienced this amazing event!
This post brought to you by Rebecca Mecikalski, Elementary Implementation Associate
The purpose of this blog is to share with you the work a group of educators are doing in the area in new teacher support and retention with a partnership between the New Teacher Center, REA president Dan Kuhlman, POSA Heather Willman, POSA Kate Palmquist and numerous educators within RPS.
RPS Teacher Induction Program Mission Statement:
To ensure that all educators entering Rochester Public Schools receive an inclusive high-quality induction that focuses on professionalism, growth, students learning and retention of quality educators.
Over the past year a group of teachers, administrators, and instructional coaches have been working with the New Teacher Center to a learn more about how we can improve our support for first year/beginning teachers. Throughout the process of investigating our current practices we found that while we have a solid plan for supporting classroom teachers, our special area and related services teachers have less access to strong mentoring. This past week our team met for the final time to lay out a vision and mission for how to support area and related services. Our goals and focus are as follows:
For the teachers who are not aware of our current Rochester Public Schools New Educator Induction Plan, we also reviewed those supports below:
After listening to the group concerns and ideas, the team chose to focus on how to better support special area and related services teachers due to the unique needs of this group of educators. One thing that we know we do well in Rochester Public Schools is supporting the classroom teacher with full release coaches. These coaches support our new and veteran teachers in many different ways. However, what we learned is that if you are a traveling art teach for example, you lose the connection between a specific site, so a site coach might not be the best mentor for you. We also discussed how our special area teachers have specific needs as far as understanding a unique grading process, learning how to establish relationships with a larger group of students, parent communication tips and other areas that are different to them.
Much like the special area teachers, our related services educators also have unique needs that they felt may not best be served by their instructional coaches. Knowing that we need to do more to support these important educators and to increase the retention rate, the group strategies a few possible plans on how to support new teachers in these areas with mentors, as well as still receive support from their building instruction coaches. Moving forward, the team will be exploring ways to support new special area teachers and related services teachers and in turn hopefully increasing their retention rate. If you are interested in learning more about this great work, reach out to Kate Palmquist in the Elementary C&I Office!
This post brought to you by Kate Palmquist, POSA overseeing Elementary Curriculum and Instructional Coaching
Are you aware of all the amazing things that our school librarians can do if you just ask? Listed here are just 10 of the ways you can better utilize this amazing resource that is already right at your fingertips!
1. Plan & co-teach engaging lessons.
Librarians cover topics that are important to their media classes which, depending on your media specialist, can include digital citizenship, research, book selection, state and national award books, components of fiction and nonfiction books, book care, database usage, teaching App usage, literature appreciation, multimedia presentation tools, book genres, growth mindset, keyboarding skills, citation, plagiarism, oral presentation skills, keyboarding skills, mouse skills, website evaluation, note taking, and alphabetization skills. This is just the tip of the iceberg of topics covered in media classes.
They also value and connect with the content that is being delivered in each of their buildings, each of their grade levels, and each of their individual classrooms. Frequently, teachers will ask librarians to reinforce a skill they are teaching in class, and librarians feel this is a major part of their role. They plan lessons for multiple grade levels, often for 2 different buildings: some of those buildings have 1:1 iPads, some don’t; some have computer labs, some don’t. Like classroom teachers, they seek to make their lessons engaging and enjoyable for their students. Librarians also push into classrooms to co-teach lessons when teachers are looking for support. They are happy to lead the lesson or just be an extra set of hands.
2. Partner in integration of new technology in your classroom.
3. Locate, vet, curate and share high quality resources for you and your students.
As most teachers know, librarians will research and acquire materials such as books (from their libraries or from other school libraries), websites, and databases to support student learning. Some of the greatest resources are quality databases which can easily be accessed through MackinVia by both teachers and students. Please see your media specialist if you have any questions regarding access or ways to best use these resources.
4. Connect students with books to nurture life-long readers.
5. Support and advancement of curriculum development.
Librarians often work on curriculum writing teams in order to support their work with valuable resources and offer their unique perspective. There are librarians who work on articulation committees, attend PLCs, participate in summer curriculum writing, and work with grade levels on planning teams. Feel free to contact your librarian if you feel this is something that would be helpful for you or to your team.
6. Cohort in exploring and trying new things and ideas.
7. Help students develop research and presentation skills.
Everyday there are new and exciting ways that students can present their learning. The more tools the students feel comfortable with, the more choice they have in presenting the information. The more comfortable they are with different methods of presentation, the more efficient they will be in their choices. They can target their strengths and/or explore new options. Librarians teach them not only presentation skills but presentation options. They teach the most effective ways to research and how to translate what they have learned into information that is easily consumed. Whenever possible, librarians give students voice and choice in their topics and encourage real world application and sharing of the knowledge they have acquired.
8. Community Builder - Both within the school and globally.
9. Collaborate on innovative projects.
Even librarians on fixed schedules can find time to collaborate on new and exciting projects with teachers. There are often resources they are aware of that can be added to enhance a particular project. Librarians can also teach components of the lesson that will help students achieve their goal. They can also just be another set of hands when needed. They are always happy to help.
10. Facilitate lessons and discussions on digital citizenship topics.
Librarians are there for you in whatever way they can be helpful. If they can’t answer the question or find the resource - they can find someone who can. Please don’t hesitate to seek them out.
During this past year, many of you at your sites and within your PLC’s have worked very hard to identify the most important or prioritized learnings for your specific grade level. Prioritized Learning is the learning that has been identified as most essential to a particular grade level or course and for which significant time and resources are devoted to ensure mastery. To identify priority learnings we used the five key areas, asking ourselves; does this learning have:
After work was completed within site PLC’s, representatives from each RPS Elementary site in the content areas of English Language Arts and Math came together as a collaborative effort to construct the prioritized learning for each grade level and content area. (insert working Prioritized Learnings) Once the prioritized learnings were identified, teachers again went back to sites and PLC teams to begin the task of building proficiency scales for each priority learning. The proficiency scale will indicate specific information about what student achievement looks like, ranging from no knowledge to in-depth knowledge.
Within the Rochester Public School District it was determined that a three point proficiency scale indicating proficient, partially proficient and not proficient would best rate and communicate information regarding student performance.
In the next couple months, elementary site representatives will come together again to collaborate in the building of District Proficiency Scales for each prioritized learning in the content areas of English Language Arts and Math at each grade level.
Each grade and content area collaborative team will work to be sure each proficiency scale includes the fundamentals, specific word choice, and clarity allowing PLC teams to have the ability to asses, or build multiple common formative assessments based on the content of the proficiency scale.
A great deal of RPS effort, time and resources have been dedicated to this endeavor, WHY??
To answer this question, we need to look at both the reality and the research. The reality is stated best by Larry Ainsworth, “So many standards, so little time……” Statistics provided by Dr. Doug Reeves, founder of Creative Leadership Solutions, tell us that on average a student spends 13,000 hours in school from Kindergarten through grade 12, however if all standards were taught with the same length and depth it would take over 15,000 hours, time we just do not have. Because of the overwhelming number of standards, many of us may feel we have been taking the approach Ainsworth calls “Spray and pray” to try to cover all we feel is expected. When this happens,
Research tells us that the most effective schools focus on: simplicity, clarity and priority. (Schmoker, 2011). This research is also evident in the success of 90/90/90 schools (90% free and reduced price lunch, 90% minority, 90% achievement). These schools have focused on academic achievement by clearly identifying priorities.
For more answers to Prioritized Learning Frequently Asked Questions and the research that supports these efforts, please watch the RPS Prioritized Learning video below and read the Frequently Asked Questions responses.
This initiative is intended to be a collaborative effort to improve teaching and learning within our district, with our experts, classroom teachers, having the strongest and most important voice in the room. Another key thing to keep in mind is that prioritized learning, proficiency scales and common formative assessments are living documents with future opportunities for continuous improvement. As we continue to grow and improve, so will our work in this area.
This post brought to you by Julie Ace, Elementary Implementation Associate
Best Practices/ Tom W. Many Ed.D. and Ted Horrell Ed.D www.tespa.org
Time. The most precious commodity of which teachers never seem to have enough. It does not matter what school I visit or whom I talk with when I am there, the number one request that teachers have is for more time.
Right now, the number one thing teachers seem to be talking about that takes a chunk of our valuable time each day is conferring. On average, this seems to involve anywhere from 25-40 minutes in classroom schedules. If we are going to devote that much time to one event in our day then it had better be a worthy activity. Below are the top four questions I receive around conferring.
How do I confer with a reader when I haven’t read the book?
I remember thinking the exact same thing at one point in my conferring practice. This led me to question how effective I was being which in turn made me feel I was wasting time. However, you can confer with any reader on any book and still make the conference impactful. Here are some things to think about:
How can I possibly get through all those word lists (checklists)?
There are some color levels in IRLA that seem like one giant set of word lists. These are especially common in the lower levels where kids are still learning the mechanics of how to read. The trap teachers tend to fall in to is to focus on those lists and check them each time we confer with a student. In doing this, all we ever have time to do in a conference is check a list of words. This, of course, does not feel like a good use of our time. Here are some ways we could use our conferring time and still get those word lists checked:
How do I choose what to confer about?
This is probably the most challenging thing both new and veteran teachers still ask about. I know that it was the area I struggled the most with in regards to conferences. Here are some tips I gathered from teachers across the district:
Is conferring really that important?
Of course I have my own opinion about the answer to this question. Instead of answering the question directly, I am going to leave you with these thoughts.
With time always being the most precious commodity a teacher has, I leave you with the quote above from Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer. Here’s to being the most effective teacher we can be for our students with the time that we are given.
This post brought to you by Rebecca Mecikalski, Elementary Implementation Associate
Allowing for student choice is about creating learners that are inspired, embrace creativity, and take ownership of their learning. Allowing for student choice is acknowledging and embracing the idea that in order to grow passionate and invested learners, we as teachers need to give our students the opportunity to have choice and voice throughout their day. Here are some meaningful and easy ways to incorporate student choice in your classroom that ensures you are meeting student needs, while allowing them the flexibility to do it in their own way.
Think about how you can incorporate time into your day when students are able to have unstructured innovation time. How often in your classroom do students get to work on projects that they are passionate about? Not only is this a great way to learn about your students but it allows them to create something that they are passionate about and grow their love of learning on a topic that interests them. After all, don’t we want to grow students that are curious and have a passion for lifelong learning? Don’t forget to let students study, research and build on topics of their choosing!
This is one of the more popular and perhaps easiest ways teachers can incorporate more choice. Choice boards allows the teacher to ensure that the tasks students are choosing meet the standard for the day but allows a student the flexibility to show their learning in different ways. Choice boards can be used in many different ways. If you typically provide students with how you expect them to complete a specific learning target, consider providing them with a choice board. You will immediately see their interest and engagement level rise because they now have the opportunity to complete a task in a way that is interesting to them. You both win!
There are many great tools online that allow for students flexibility and can fit in with everyday lessons.
When asking students in the classroom to collaborate on a project or reflection sheet, consider allowing them to collaborate over Google or on a Prezi. You will be surprised by how quickly your students will pick up on these technology tools even if you don’t feel like an “expert” using the tool yet. Don’t let your lack of comfort with technology hold your students back. If they can demonstrate the knowledge on how to use the tool, given them the flexibility to do so!
Do you have students in your classroom who could teach a topic to another student? Instead of always using a traditional peer tutor, ask your students if they would be willing to create a short video tutorial and pair your older and younger students together. If you aren’t partnered with another classroom, find a topic that your students are an “expert” at and allow them to create a video to help other students in the classroom when they have questions. This allows students to review a certain topic on an iPad or computer at their own pace.
Create Opportunities for Student to Give You Feedback:
Student choice leads to more student voice! Don’t be scared to ask your students for feedback after a lesson or unit. Taking the time to allow them to reflect on how the lesson went not only allows them time to reflect on their own learning, but allows you to find out how you could change in the future to be more effective. Creating a “Teacher Report Card” like the one below lets student know that you are open to feedback as well and wanting to ensure that you are meeting their needs.
Remember that when you provide your students with choices, they feel heard and their learning in turn feels more valuable. Students who have choice and voice in their classroom are engaged and take more ownership in their learning. If as you reflect on your own teaching style you find that you don’t allow for student autonomy in your classroom, try incorporating some of these ideas into your room and you will see a difference in the level of engagement and excitement in your students.
This post brought to you by Kate Palmquist, APOSA overseeing Elementary Curriculum and Instructional Coaching
Have you ever had a student struggle and you are confused as to why?
Have you had a student who isn’t making academic gains and/or struggles in the social realm?
Over the years, we have encountered many students who have struggled and have been a puzzle to each of us. Sometimes our students do not follow the norms of language and academic growth. They are not growing similar to other students who come from the same cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Many different strategies and tools were tried to increase language and academic growth, but nothing seemed to work. The classroom teachers would come to Katie in angst with concerns about EL students with this profile; they didn’t know what more to do. I and the classroom teacher were out of our tools in our toolbox. Where did we go next? Often times the student with EL was then brought to Child Study to request testing. Then came a wonderful model that pulls the best of the best professionals to bear on the problem rather than struggling to solve the puzzle individually. It is called RtI (Response to Intervention).
What is RtI?
The RtI (Response to Intervention) model is very helpful in defining student concerns and developing systematic, research-based interventions that inform instruction and assist in determining whether a student is struggling with executive function (information processing issues), mental-health issues, understanding the hidden academic cultural curriculum, and/or social curriculum used within schools. RtI is used throughout the district in the form of many different titles (i.e. Student Assistance Teams, Student Intervention Teams, Professional Learning Communities, etc.).
Can I bring an EL student forth to use the RtI model?
YES! All students can be brought forth to these teams to use the RtI model. The RtI model is a great way to assist teachers in exploring different strategies.
The power of the RtI model is its focus on accessing a problem-solving team that is focused on student growth. This team brings the expertise of professionals together to define the learning difficulty in measurable terms, pull from their collective tool box of differentiated teaching strategies that best meets the defined need of the student, assists in developing a data collection tool (see data tracker) to collect student response to the differentiated teaching strategy, and then to meet at predetermined intervals to review the student’s response to the intervention in order to determine next steps (RtI Process Chart). The beauty of this team is that it is composed of professionals who work with the student, and also professionals who join the team with expertise in the skill area targeted. Using a Data Tracker gives the team objective, focused data to truly inform the decisions they work together to make. The team membership has the ability to change to meet student needs. This team is also willing to research differentiation strategies or make a referral to the Child Study Team when their collective tool boxes have been exhausted or the data indicates the student potentially has a disability and is responsive to more intensive, daily, individualized interventions.
When supporting a student with English learning needs, parental input from the English Language Learner Parent Interview will provide valuable information when establishing strategic, research based differentiated instructional strategies (SIOP for example). When supporting a student with English learning needs, it is imperative to ensure the EL Teacher is involved from the start to ensure matching differentiated strategies are used support the student’s WIDA level of learning and learning profile. Many of these strategies also help our struggling learners and special education students. Our EL staff are very valuable collaborators.
What can I do before I bring an EL student forth to the team?
There are a few things that EL and content teachers can do before they begin the RtI process. It is important that the EL and content teachers work as a team since both will see the student through different lenses. WIDA provides some great resources to assist teachers in understanding what students are capable of doing at different language levels. They provide what is called the Can-Do Descriptors of language. Katie has taken the descriptors and created a document that lists what students are able to do in a more concise format. It also provides scaffolds that teachers can use to support students at different language levels.
I don’t know who my ELs are and/or I don't know their language levels?
The EL teachers are a great resource in your building and happy to help you identify your English Learners. They can also provide you their language levels. Additionally, they can give you helpful hints to help you tweak your lessons to provide more language scaffolds. Sometimes small changes in a lesson can make a huge impact. For example, instead of just giving your directions orally, write them on the board, provide visuals and gestures so students know what is expected of them.
Our team has decided to bring a student forth through the RtI Process. What happens first?
The EL teacher will complete the Parent Interview. This parent interview is to provide background information, past educational experiences, language exposure and other valuable information that can help the team better understand the student. Sometimes they will ask for support from our amazing bilingual team. Then the team will complete the first couple of pages of the Intervention Form in order to be prepared for your first RtI meeting. Both forms can be found on the 535 Net →Internal Documents → Student Support Services → Child Study-Child Study Information. Then follow the RtI Process Chart to understand next steps.
Who can I contact if I have more questions?
The Student Support Services team at your site is a great place to start. They can help guide you through the process. Also, Katie is also happy to assist in any way if you have questions regarding EL.
We hope that this information is helpful as you navigate your way through the RtI model.
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