An Art teacher wants his high school students to do peer critiques and engage in instructional dialogue using the art vocabulary they have learned. Unfortunately, students are reluctant to critique a peer’s work and offer suggestions. An English teacher has a first hour class that seems too groggy most days to engage in discussion, yet he knows that when students engage in instructional dialogue deeper learning takes place and the light bulbs go on. Some great ideas have been shared in recent blog posts about how to increase instructional dialogue; here are a couple more to add to your toolkit from Sharroky Hollie’s book Strategies for Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Teaching and Learning.
Stop and Scribble
Teachers who have tried these two strategies are excited to share them with colleagues and use them again. Just when you think there are no new ideas out there, something pops up, and Dr. Hollie’s book, Strategies for Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Teaching and Learning, has a lot more to choose from. Some are tried and true, but others have a unique twist. Check it out.
As always, if you want to try one of these, or any new activity, just ask an Instructional Coach or an Implementation Associate to come and help. Together you can make it work for your students’ benefit.
This post brought to you by Ellen Harford, an Instructional Coach at John Marshall High School
Connect with Ellen via email or by calling 507.328.5376
Hollie, Sharroky. Strategies for Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Teaching and Learning. Shell Education. 2015.
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.
Image from WIDA's website.
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.
With the end of the semester on the horizon, many teachers are searching for review strategies that use formative means to help students prepare for semester exams. The "Stay and Stray" strategy can be very useful when multiple skills or concepts are being reviewed.
I recently saw this strategy being used at CTECH with our students as they prepared for the CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) practical exam. By the time this formative assessment was used the students had already practiced performing many CNA skills throughout the semester and were now preparing for the state certification practical exam. The student's knew when they arrived for the day they would be assessed on one of several skills. The teacher used the "Stay or Stray" strategy summarized in the table below.
The following process was used:
The use of "Stay or Stray" review strategy got the students up and out of their seats, while ensuring they were accountable to themselves, their group members, and their teacher. The strength of this activity is that the teacher used an ungraded formative assessment to give quality feedback though peer, individual, and teacher interaction. The teacher reduced her workload by enlisting students to perform peer and self assessments. No grade was applied, but the students were given ample opportunity to think about and apply their learning.
If you are wondering why she did not apply an actual grade to the assessment, you may wish to read the previous blog post "Grading for Learning". By using peer assessment, the teacher reduced her own workload while still providing quality feedback for the students. There are many ways to give feedback to students while helping them review at the end of the semester; for more ideas see the blog post "Quality Feedback Structures that Save Teachers Time and Keep Students Learning".
This post brought to you by Dan Devine, Secondary Implementation Associate
I love the start of a new year for a variety of reasons. I love buying new calendars, organizers, and seeing that expanse of possibility as I look out at 365 new days to learn and grow. One of my favorite parts of being in the education profession is that our profession is filled with people who love to learn. In fact, many of us loved school so much that we never left.
As you look out on your 365 days of possibility how will you plan for your own continued learning? Here are some of the best ideas that I recently collected from RPS educators:
Plan a time each week to read professionally.
Many people are taking advantage of our “flipped book group” that will meet this winter called Bundle Up with Books. This is a great way to ensure that you set aside time to read, since the way the class works is that you bring your own professional reading (book, magazine, etc.) and spend time actually reading during the book group. Heather Lyke and Katie Miller facilitate this and the best part is that you get to actually read that stack that you’ve been meaning to get to.
Listen to a podcast.
If you are new to podcasts these are basically audio broadcasts that you can listen to at any time. They are great if you spend a lot of time in the car since you can listen as you drive. One of my favorites isPrincipal Center Radio.
Edutopia also suggests these:
Schedule time to network with those outside of education.
When I asked people what they do to continue to grow and learn a surprising pattern emerged. Many people find inspiration from thinkers outside of their chosen field. For instance, Julie Ruzek (the RPS coordinator of Coordinator of Family and Community Engagement and Title I Programs) commented that “the most productive meetings/ideas/outcomes have happened when I've collaborated with people both in and outside of education. Sometimes we forget that people outside our chosen profession have much to offer as well!”
Surround yourself by people who love to learn.
Cultivate relationships with those who are constantly reading, seeking feedback, and trying to improve themselves. If you don’t work directly with these kind of people, find a way to have lunch or coffee with them regularly to keep yourself energized and inspired.
Put yourself in situations where you are the student.
This might be taking a college class, learning a new type of yoga, or learning to rock climb. Putting yourself back in learning mode helps you remember what skills and dispositions are most important for learning something new. For example, Michelle Baines (RPS music educator) commented that she“recently took some classes at the college which helped [her] remember what it is like to be the learner!”
Here’s to 2018! Have a wonderful year learning and growing!
This post brought to you by Heather Willman, APOSA overseeing Secondary Curriculum and Instructional Coaching
If you would like to explore other ways to tackle that stack of professional reading or explore more educational podcast possibilities, check out this blog post from May of 2017.
In my fifteen years in the classroom, I did manage to stumble upon a few time-saving ideas that didn’t compromise student learning; however, in my current role as an Implementation Associate I’ve seen many more than I’d have ever come up with on my own. My five favorites are noted below.
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Mindfulness Series for Educators
PD915 — meets Tuesdays (4:15-5:30)
This class will help you establish or continue a formal mindfulness practice and incorporate mindfulness into your daily personal and professional life. It will consist of readings, writing, discussions, videos, and guided mindfulness practice. While every class will include a strategy for how to bring mindfulness to the classroom with your students, the primary focus will be on your own personal development of mindfulness which needs to be established before you can authentically bring it to your students.
PD937 — meets Wednesdays (4:15-5:00)
This class is for beginners and those experienced with mindfulness practice. Each class will begin with a 10-20 minute guided mindfulness exercise followed by a 20 minute discussion
Grading for Learning (Part II)
Why do I assign grades to student work?
What purpose should student grades serve?
What elements should I use in determining student grades?
How can I best represent student learning in my grading?
As you may remember from the first post of this blog series, I used to assign homework to my German students based upon what workbook pages were linked to the textbook pages we had covered that day in class. Seemed simple and purposeful enough at the time, which it very well could have been for some of my students. Had I stopped for even a minute to think about the differing levels of understanding amongst my students I would have realized that some of my students were not ready to complete those assignments on their own, at home, and/or with a parent/guardian who likely didn’t speak or read German. I also had students who were advanced enough in their learning that the work I was assigning was a simple compliance task and took time away from learning that was likely more important for them at the time. Additionally, the feedback I provided was simply nonexistent. I was more concerned about if students completed their homework and paid little attention to their demonstrated learning or to identifying gaps in my own instruction.
So what would I suggest to teachers questioning the validity of their homework assignments? I think there are a handful of things you can do and you might even select more than one of these ideas to implement:
- Customize homework assignments to student proficiency levels. In addition to your traditional “on-pace” homework assignments, identify practice work that would be ideal for a student who is already proficient in the task at hand, working in application and extension. At the same time identify practice work that supports students who have not yet demonstrated proficiency. This will instantly make homework more meaningful for your students and will provide you with more accurate feedback on all students.
- Limit homework assignments to only those that have direct purpose and impact on student learning. If the assignment is not likely to provide you or the student with meaningful feedback, let it go.
- Reduce the quantity/length of assignments students are asked to complete. A student doesn’t need 40 long division problems to demonstrate that they either have or have not reached a level of proficiency…5 should be sufficient.
- Don’t grade it! This is becoming increasingly more common in classrooms around our district and other districts. Homework is practice and should not come with a consequence, either positive or negative, that affects an academic grade. If you are concerned about students not completing their homework if it isn’t graded, simply make practice work required in order for students to take a summative assessment.
- Don’t assign it! Specifically prior to grade 9 there is no definitive research that shows that homework increases student achievement. Additionally there is no research that shows it teaches responsibility and/or accountability. If used as pure practice and if it results in meaningful feedback for the student it certainly has its place in the classroom. If not, it is imperative that we revisit the why.
- Random – This type of extra credit includes additional projects or tasks that students can complete outside of the regular classroom instruction or assessment. This would include awarding academic credit for bringing a box of tissues to class, attending a cultural event or performance and writing a report on the experience, etc.
- Add-ons – This type of extra credit includes enrichment or expansion added to already existing formative or summative assessments. An optional challenge question on a test would be a good example of add-on extra credit.
My suggestion for extra credit if far more straightforward than for homework. I believe that if the content and/or learning is important and purposeful it should be a part of your required formative or summative assessment. If not, then we shouldn’t be awarding academic credit for it.
As always, I am more than happy to discuss these and other topics related to grading and reporting with anyone interested in the topic. Please look for Part III of the 'Grading for Learning' blog series, which will be posted in late February: I'll be discussing academic dishonesty and late work!
Originally posted on the RPS Elementary C&I website on 11.21.2017.
Examining a traditional lesson plan template forces us to consider who our students are as learners, the learning objective of each lesson, what mastery of that objective will look like, and the materials needed to engage our learners by differentiating for their needs. Your overall instructional plan will also include interventions and extensions for those who fall below or far exceed the learning target.
That’s a lot to plan for, and for some, our pedagogical tool boxes are just full enough to carry us through the instructional phase; however, mindfulness about the desired learning results and evidence of learning should not be overlooked as we plan. Through John Hattie’s extensive research on student achievement published in Visible Learning (2009), we know that there are some educational practices that are more impactful than others. He found, “effective teachers set appropriately challenging goals and then structure situations so that students can reach these goals.” Being mindful about what we want our students to know and be able to do as a result of the learning experience and determining what that learning looks like is what Hattie termed “teacher clarity.” Teacher clarity ranked in the top 10 or over 100 positive influences on student learning that Hattie studied. He further defined teacher clarity as “organization, explanation, examples and guided practice, and assessment of student learning,” which brings us back to the lesson plan.
What if my lesson plan included:
- Pacing targets
- Differentiated experiences based on students’ prior knowledge, skill level or interest
- More than one strategy for engagement
- Planned time for all students to speak or lead
- Plan B for students who need more time
- Plan C for students who need more challenge
You might be thinking: “Won’t this take a lot of time to plan? I teach many grade levels or different content within the same grade—I am not sure I have time.” Determining the learning objective and success criteria are often already embedded in curriculum; making a purposeful plan to share them with students in a meaningful way may take time. Most classrooms post daily learning objectives already; taking those visuals a step further to include what success looks like may be the first step you could take to make the learning more visible.
Planning instruction that engages students, increases student voice, includes instructional dialogue, and is differentiated takes time; however, you do not need to reinvent the wheel. Many instructional strategies work well within many different content areas and for various ages and can be used in rotation. See what works for you and your students. Knowing what it looks like when they have met your objective, though, is an important piece of the plan.
Making changes to how we’ve always done something is uncomfortable and can be difficult and overwhelming. Try not to take on too much or overthink—start small. Don’t keep the learning objectives and what success looks like a secret to your students—clarity precedes competence! Successful experiences builds confident learners and teachers.
Feel free to connect with Kari on Twitter @KollingAnderson, via phone at 507-328-4122, or via email.
Hattie, John. Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement; Routledge, 2009.
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Members of the Secondary C&I team weekly post useful tools, tips, and tricks to help you help students.
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