When I was 15 years old, Drivers’ Education, for me, took place in a classroom and the parking lot of John Marshall High School. As I recall, we spent many class periods reading and talking about the act of driving a car. We had a simulator that arrived by truck and was parked in the parking lot for us to practice in before we were ready to take to the road.
Mr. Knipshield, 'Nipper' as we called him, showed us movies, told us stories and had us read articles about driving. Along the way, he would give us quizzes to ensure that we were ready to pass our permit test so that we could graduate from the parking lot driving to the open road. My guess is that he would adjust his lessons based on what we still needed to know.For this portion of our learning, the permit test was the summative assessment. If we did not pass, we would be stuck in the parking lot.
As we were driving back and forth or in an oval in the parking lot, Nipper was talking to us over the radio in our cars. “Slow down, speed up, car #6-leave more space between you and the car in front of you.”
On the road, he was continually giving feedback and was even equipped with a brake in case of an emergency. We had to do our part, but we knew exactly what we needed to work on at all times.
So, what does this reminiscing have to do with classroom teaching? Everything. When we think of the power of formative assessment, it is incredible. Many educators argue that this is the most integral part of effective teaching. With regular formative assessments, both the student and the teacher know the next steps for teaching and learning. The student knows what they know and don’t know, and the teacher knows what to do next. By gathering this information, classrooms become less of a “string of activities” and more of a direction on a clear path.
As an assessment expert, Paul Black put it, “When the cook tastes the soup, that’s the formative assessment. When the customer tastes the soup, that’s a summative assessment.” One definition of formative assessment can be found here.
When I think of Nipper, he was continually individualizing our learning based on what we were doing at any given time. He would adjust our classroom lessons based on our quizzes, questions, and answer during class. He would adjust and give feedback on our behind-the-wheel lessons based on our driving performance. Depending on our need, he interacted with us differently. We all had the same goal in mind-passing the driving test! We just may have needed a different way of getting there.
In this article , there are 10 examples of formative assessments. By choosing the appropriate one for the situation, a teacher will be able to adjust instruction or practice to fit the needs of a learner or group of learners.
One conversation I have been a part of many times has to do with the time that it takes to give and analyze formative assessments. One thing I think about is the amount of time that may be spent preparing lessons that may or may not address the needs of the students. With formative assessments, our lesson planning time will be targeted and more efficient. When our goal is learning for all, knowing where my students are will help me know where to take them next.
As I think back to Mr. Knipshield and his many classes of 15-year-old adolescents, I am thankful that he gave us all the feedback that we needed along the way. We needed to learn and practice in many different ways in order to become roadworthy. I am also aware that my learning is ever present. I am now the one that is formally assessing my driving. After 37 years of driving, I still need to check myself to ensure that my practice is up to par. This is the highest level that we can hope for our students to attain; to internalize the process and using it through life.
[Also, check out this blog for a peek at how formative assessment and self-assessment go hand in hand. This topic just may appear in a future blog post!]
This post brought to you by Ann Miller, K-8 Math Specialist
What are Instructional Rounds? Elizabeth A. City says, in her 2011 article “Learning from Instructional Rounds,” that this model, which “was developed to improve instructional practice, is based on medical rounds, the primary way that doctors learn and improve their practice.” She goes on to note that, “Instructional Rounds are a disciplined way for educators to work together to improve instruction. The practice combines three common elements of improvement: classroom observation, an improvement strategy, and a network of educators.”
Instructional Rounds are all about the learning of the observer. They are meant to improve the school by focusing on a problem of practice or instructional core and coming to a shared understanding on identifying the next level of work to be done. By defining a problem of practice, we developed a common focus for our observations and discussion.
As a teacher, Instructional Rounds opened my eyes to the other things teachers were doing in their classrooms. Instructional Rounds helped me to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of my peers as professionals, and improve my own practices to better meet my students’ needs. Having the opportunity within the instructional day to learn with my peers was some of the most powerful Professional development I had been involved in. People in my building who rarely pass each other in the hall were able to have rich discussions reflecting on their own practices and share ideas on how to most successfully implement practices within their classrooms. They had the time and space to share new learning or a deeper understanding based on observations from a round that they were excited to try in their own classrooms. Teachers were able to act on the excitement that came when they observed something new or gained a deeper understanding of based on the round.
So, why do Instructional Rounds?
The first time I went on an instructional round as a teacher it was mostly because my principal said it was something all staff needed to do. I was looking forward to seeing what other teachers were doing in their classrooms but also had some trepidation about losing instructional time with my students and disrupting our regular routine by being away from the classroom. Of course, I also had mixed emotions on the reciprocal side of Instructional Rounds, my fellow teachers coming to observe me.
When I got to the meeting space to learn about rounds before heading off to the first classroom, my instructional coaches shared this quote: “The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration, our growth is limited to our own perspectives” (Robert John Meehan). It resonated with me because—while I met as a PLC on a regular basis—it was very seldom that my colleagues and I had the opportunity to see each other in action practicing our crafts. My instructional coaches also explained that another big purpose of Instructional Rounds was to come to a shared understanding of what high-quality instruction looks like and what we need to do to support it.
The observers on my round included two other teachers, an instructional coach, and me. We went to three different classrooms and took notes around the practice using non-evaluative language.
We met back together to debrief and describe what we saw in each classroom. It was hard not to inject evaluative words such as “amazing” as I reflected on the instructional practices I had seen in other classrooms, but we had agreed that if we did that, it would change the focus of the round to being evaluative instead of keeping the focus on our own learning. My group members and I analyzed the patterns that we had seen and predicted what students were doing as a result of the teachers’ instructional practices. This conversation guided us to develop our own personal calls to action, which we wrote on a brightly-colored piece of paper that we hung up in our classrooms to spur us into taking action on our goals.
Lastly, we brainstormed the possible next level of work school-wide around the problem of practice that had framed our observation and our discussion.
Later that same year, an optional instructional round at my building was offered around a different problem of practice. That time I signed up even though it wasn’t something my principal said I needed to do. Since then, I have had the honor of collaborating with other teachers, instructional coaches, and administrators to develop and facilitate Instructional Rounds, and the feedback we collected from teachers about participating in Instructional Rounds has been overwhelmingly positive.
Although the idea of Instructional Rounds was originally a bit foreign and scary to me, they have become an incredibly powerful way for me to learn. Having the honor of seeing the incredible work that my colleagues do and learning from them has made lasting change in my decision-making as an educator.
This post brought to you by Katie Schieve, Instructional Coach & Spanish Immersion Support Teacher at Gage Elementary
Feel free to connect with Schieve via email or Twitter
To explore further, consider the book Instructional Rounds in education: A network approach to improving learning and teaching (2009), which is often mentioned in City’s article.
I have to admit, winter is not my favorite time of year. I love summer! I love being out on the water fishing, sitting on a deck, or basking in the glow of the warm sun. Those enjoyable moments are not as easy to do in the winter (by the way, even though I am from northern Minnesota, I am not a fan of ice fishing!).
On a brisk walk one abnormally cold, Sunday, November afternoon, I realized I don’t just like summer because of those lovely activities, but because I find myself able to stop, breathe, and take a few moments for myself away from school and teaching. Then I began to wonder, why don’t I stop, breathe, and take a few moments for myself during the school year? A recent conversation with a fellow teacher reminded me that as education speeds up, we keep trying to keep up. Why don’t we try to slow it down? How can we slow down during the school year? Here are some ideas that I am going to try in the next few months. I know that life is just going to get busier, so hopefully these will help me to stop, breathe, and slow things down.
Take a calming breath
According to the website The Best Brain Possible by Debbie Hampton, “your breath is your remote control to calm your brain and body”. Here is an effective breathing technique that slows oneself down.
Here is a 30-second video that is a great guide to a breathing technique.
Visualizing, sometimes known as guided imagery, is a great tool to add to the calming breath. Visualizing a place that brings you peace, even for a few moments, can help to re-center a person. According to MentalHealth.net, visualizing creates “an element of distraction which serves to redirect people’s attention away from what is stressing them and towards an alternative focus”. This can be especially helpful for assisting one’s sleep, so it is a well-spent five to 15 minutes prior to bedtime. My favorite imagery is sitting on my Dad’s boat, hearing a loon call, seeing the calm blue-green water and smelling the fresh scent of pine trees in the air. This image, along with the calming breaths, is a great way to slow down after a busy day.
If you need a place to start, you can try this video which is a guided imagery tour in a mountain forest.
Ask for Help
Anyone who knows me knows that asking for help is not one of my strong suits. I have found that it stems from expecting perfection of myself. However, this desire for perfection and lack of asking for help actually increases my stress. Asking for help and dividing large tasks between colleagues can make those stressful, large tasks seem much more manageable. Then it doesn’t just fall on one person to complete. Seek out colleagues with whom you feel comfortable asking for help and let them know you appreciate their assistance.
Know your limits
The old phrase of “just say no” applies here. As educators, we are dedicated to doing everything for our students and families. However, there comes a time when you need to know your limits and just say no to a new task or project. This simple word can be a huge stress-saver. Obviously, there are some tasks we must do, but there are other times I find myself adding things to my plate without realizing it. I have to remind myself that I can do a few things well, or many things poorly. Let something go, for now, and come back to it when you have more time to dedicate to it. Sometimes it isn’t “no”, but rather “just not now”.
Reflect on what makes you laugh or smile
According to the website The Science Alert, researchers at the University of Maryland “have linked laughter to the healthy function of blood vessels – something that can lower your chance of heart attack”. Furthermore, the same researchers found that laughter could boost ones’ heart rate and the production of certain antibodies, which can strengthen ones’ immune system. Considering how it is quite easy to get run-down and sick in education (especially since those of us in the education field are exposed daily to many illnesses), couldn’t we all use a few more antibodies? Each day, I try to find one thing that a student does that will make me laugh and remind me why I love teaching. I sometimes even jot down the funny statements students say on a post-it note and stick it on my computer. That way, when I am stressed and feeling overwhelmed, I read that little statement, smile and remember why I love what I do!
In the next few months, as the winds blow colder, the snow falls heavier, the workload gets crazier, and my stress is high, I hope that these five simple stress-relieving techniques will help me to slow down and enjoy life more.
This post brought to you by Katie Miller, K-12 EL Implementation Associate
As the snow begins to fall, many of us could use something to help warm us up: especially something that warms us up from the inside. For me, that often comes in the form of learning something new. Tucking myself under a blanket and reading a book, gathering with friends to have a deep discussion, or taking a few hours to get lost in the learning of new skill -- all of these help me forget about the cold outside (for a little while, at least).
If you'd like to warm up a bit with some learning, consider signing up for some of these recently added PD Express courses.
As you try to warm up this winter, consider warming up with some learning.
Sign up via PD Express today!
This post brought to you by Heather Lyke, Secondary Implementation Associate
As an educator I have always enjoyed the reset of the new quarter. I’d spend time highlighting things that worked in my blue plan book ( yep, I’m old school) and I’d make notes on what I’d like to change for the next quarter. One great resource to support you in this is your building instructional coach(es).
Below are five ways teachers in the Rochester Public Schools are using instructional coaches to support their own professional development and growth.
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You Pick 2
We all have those students that we haven’t connected with yet. These may be students who need an additional challenge that you want to provide or students who are not yet engaged in your class. They could also be students whose behavior may be getting in the way of their learning. Ask your coach to observe them in your class and in another setting and share the data they observed with you. They can also support you in creating a plan for how to get to know these two students better or do some research on the supports other teachers may already have in place.
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Choose a lesson you want to revamp or remodel because it hasn’t gone the way you’ve wanted it to in the past. This may be a reading that students always struggle with or a project where you’d like students to take more ownership. Meet with your coach to share what you’ve done in the past and what you are hoping to change. They can assist you in planning, resource gathering, and carrying the lesson out. For example, one middle school teacher wanted to give students more ownership in her implementation of literature circles. She worked with her coach to create a plan that included more student voice and dialogue. Her coach helped in her planning and also supported her implementation of this model in the classroom.
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Culturally & Linguistically Responsive Teaching (CLRT) Strategies
As we are studying CLRT strategies your coach is a great resource for support with trying some new teaching techniques. Teachers at one of our middle schools are trying to implement discussion protocols in their classrooms to improve student voice, engagement and achievement. They are working with their coach to choose a discussion protocol, plan for implementing it, and then reflect on what worked and what they might change the next time they use the protocol in the classroom. An additional conversation is reflection on which students are being validated and affirmed with the various protocols.
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If you are being formally observed by an administrator this year your coaches can support you with a practice observation. Although coaches are not trained to score you on the CLASS tool like your administrators are, they can help you see where your strength and growth areas are. Conversation with your coach around the CLASS tool can also help strengthen your reflective conversation with your principal.
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The beginning of the quarter is a great time to lay out a rough outline of what you’d like to accomplish in the new quarter. Your coach could help you do some long-range planning and could assist you with the development of formative assessments or resource gathering within the quarter. More lesson planning templates can be found on the Curriculum and Instruction website under teacher planning.
If you are interested in any of these options, reach out to your building's instructional coach(es) or special education coach. If you are not sure who this is, feel free to email me and I can connect you with the appropriate coach.
This post brought to you by Heather Willman, POSA overseeing Secondary Curriculum, Instructional Coaching, & Staff Development
If you’re anything like us, now that the school year is well underway a question or two has begun to surface. Questions focused on areas where you'd like to grow as an educator, such as:
Whatever your question, our team wants to help you access the PD you crave, which is why we are again offering an independent study professional development opportunity for staff.
Still on the fence? Here is some of the feedback from past participants:
If you’re interested in this opportunity, sign up by December 7, 2018 via the link above. Know that you can enroll as an individual, as a partnership, as a PLC, or as department.
If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to connect with your site staff development chair, an instructional coach, or an implementation associate. We'd love to help you get started.
This post brought to you by Heather Lyke, Secondary Implementation Associate;
and Rebecca Mecikalski, Elementary Implementation Associate
Greetings from the new kid up on the third floor of the Edison building. While I have been here before, it was not in this role.
This fall, I’m starting my twenty-sixth year with the Rochester Public Schools. I’m very committed to the students, teachers, and parents in this district--I can’t imagine being anywhere else. I have lived in Rochester for thirty years and my children, Ian and Makayla, are both graduates of RPS.
In my time with RPS, I have worn many different hats:
And now, here I am: proud to be the Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction! I have learned a lot in the short time I have been in this role, while many other things have been affirmed for me as well. I know we have the most dedicated and hard-working staff around. Just like our students, all of our staff members want to do their best each and every day and I’m going to work hard to get our staff the tools needed to do their jobs and remove barriers that get in their way. I loved being a teacher; yet, I will never forget how challenging a job that is. It’s deeply rewarding, while not being easy. The good news is: our teachers don’t have to do it alone! They are surrounded by team members in their buildings, across the district, and here at Edison.
Student success depends on us, so let’s work together to do this work that is important to our district, our community, and our world.
This post brought to you by Brenda Wichmann, Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction
Feel free to connect with Wichmann via email
The new school year is just getting started and we are beginning the year with a lot of new learning opportunities. Not only is this a great way for us to learn new curriculum, teaching strategies, and skills; but as teachers, this often serves as a great reminder of what it's like to be a student in a classroom before we reverse the roles back into what we are used to (being the teacher).
Below is a short overview of some of the Professional Development opportunities happening this week and next.
New Staff Orientation, Secondary (6-12) Schedule | August 14 & August 15, 2018
In addition to the two days above, new staff will also have a meeting at their home site: at most schools, these meetings are scheduled for Monday, August 12th (today).
Back to School Professional Development Days | August 21 & August 24, 2018
During BTS week, there will be one teacher workday, two site planned Professional Development (PD) day, and two district PD days.
During the district PD days, REA staff, paraprofessionals, MHPs, early childhood, and ABE staff will have their choice of learning sessions that will be taught by district staff or external presenters.
Access the August 21st PD day options HERE, and see the schedule for August 24th.
Sign up for your courses on PD Express by clicking HERE.
Based on job assignments, some staff will be required to attend a certain PD session. For example, math training will be required for all teachers of mathematics. If you are required to attend a specific PD session, you will automatically be registered for the course in PDExpress. You will receive an email indicating that you have been registered for those classes so you can plan accordingly. Other sessions will be self-selected based on staff choice. This guide features elective courses for all REA members, MHPs, early childhood, and ABE staff.
Certified staff are required to attend both August 21st and 24th.
Paraprofessionals are only required to attend August 24th.
Yes! We did it! Another year completed! Students are gone, finals have been completed, grades have been submitted, and now what? Time to celebrate, reflect, rejuvenate, and reenergize.
As the busses rolled away and I waved goodbye to students who have been such a huge part of my life for months, I have always felt a strange mix of celebration and shock. I was so proud my students, but I also couldn’t believe it was all over.
The first week off was always strange for me. I almost didn’t know what to do with myself. This is when the first R of my summer began: time to Reflect.
I spent my first few days reflecting on my year. I celebrated my successes, but I spent more time reflecting on what I wanted to change. How could I adjust my classroom set up that would foster more interaction? What teaching strategies did I want to dig deeper into that I just didn’t have the time for last year? Which lessons did I want to modify to make them more successful for all my students? How could I build in more academic vocabulary in my lessons? I would jot down these ideas as I knew that I would forget them between June and August. I sometimes organized my ideas by the following categories:
After spending time reflecting and celebrating, it was time to Relax! Time to rejuvenate and enjoy being away from the hustle and bustle of school. This time allowed me to clear my head, rejuvenate my body and fill up my well again. Here are some ideas that could fill your well:
Then, in September, share what you did over the summer with your students in the fall. They love to hear what teachers do in the summer!
After some much needed (and much deserved) relaxation, I was ready to get Reenergized for the fall. I would pick up that list of ideas I jotted down in June. I would reread it and begin making my plans for the start of the year. I would start researching new strategies, read blogs that offered new ideas, or dig into a professional development book that someone told me about. I was ready to get back at it again.
Teachers never stop learning and I saw this first-hand last year at Pages on the Patio. It was reenergizing for me to see these amazing educators reading professional books, listening to podcasts, and sharing their learning with one-another. My co-facilitator and I would have local residents come up to us and ask us what was going on. I’m sure it seemed strange to see 20+ people quietly reading in public. Our response was “we are teachers and this is what teachers do in the summer; we continue to learn”. It was fun to see them looked surprised. They often expressed admiration for what these educators were doing. I took away so many new ideas to start off my year with from these sessions and couldn’t wait for August to start sharing my learning with others. (You can read more about last year's summer learning here.)
By the way, it isn’t too late to sign up for this summer's Pages on the Patio. You can still sign up on PD Express!
As the year comes to a close, my wish for you is to take some time to do the same 3 R’s as I’ll be doing: Reflecting, Relaxing, and Reenergizing.
This post brought to you by Katie Miller, K-12 EL Implementation Associate
How Was Your Year?
The end of the year often brings conflicting feelings to those of us who work in education. There is a sense of excitement for what’s to come next year and what we want to do better but there is also a sense of loss as we say goodbye to a group of students for the year. This is a natural time for reflection and planning for what we’ll tackle next year. How can we harness this natural inclination to think and plan and leverage it to help drive our own improvement as an educator? Here are some tips to help you launch into next year in a positive way:
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