Posts Tagged ‘Instructional coaching’

How to Create an Anchor Activity Using a Tic/Tac/Toe Board

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

AUTHOR: Virginia Keasler and Mary Headley, Math Specialists

How do we teach math to the wide range of diverse learners in today’s classroom? It is often difficult to match the readiness levels of every student and knowing where to start can be a challenge. Consider starting simple and celebrating successes along the way. Anchor activities can help you reach the diverse population in your classroom.

What are anchor activities? These activities are used for students to extend learning at their level. Student choice within these activities allows for students to apply and experience the learning in a variety of ways.These ongoing assignments are considered independent work and can be something students are working on for the next two weeks or something due in a few days. While some students are working on anchor activities, the teacher can utilize small group instruction to work with students who need more help.

Tic/Tac/Toe Boards: The content for this anchor activity can be modified to meet the needs of students at varied levels. Teachers may use Tic/Tac/Toe boards for extension, assessment, or as homework choices for the week. On a Tic/Tac/Toe board, the teacher can strategically place activities to enable students to get a Tic/Tac/Toe that demonstrates their learning.

Helpful Hints for creating a Tic/Tac/Toe board:

  1. Determine the content/topic for the board.
  2. Brainstorm activities, assignments, and products for the content/unit you have chosen.
  3. Check TEKS alignment.
  4. Write ideas on post-it notes.
  5. Sort activities based on learning styles (verbal, auditory, kinesthetic, etc…)
  6. Place post-it notes on the Tic/Tac/Toe grid.
  7. Check the configuration for variety to achieve a Tic/Tac/Toe. Move as needed.
  8. Type idea onto the Tic/Tac/Toe grid.

The following table gives an example of a Tic/Tac/Toe board for reviewing a math unit:

Explain the math steps that you would use to solve a problem from this unit Solve two of the problems in the “extensions” station Using the “beat” of a popular song create your own math song. See the choice board station for rules
Create two word problems that go with the concepts in this unit Student Choice Activity (with teacher approval) Define the unit’s vocabulary words with your own form of graffiti
Complete one mini-project from the project board Develop a game using skills you have learned in this unit Research and write how these concepts might be used in the real world


  • Allow student to complete any three tasks–even if it does not make a Tic/Tac/Toe
  • Assigns students task based on readiness
  • Create different choice boards based on readiness (Struggling students work with options on one choice board while more advanced students have different options.)
  • Create choice board options based on learning styles or learning preferences. For example a choice board could include three kinesthetic tasks, three auditory tasks, three visual tasks.

Author Rick Wormeli offers the following Tic/Tac/Toe board based on Gardner’s (1991) multiple intelligences.

Interpersonal Task Kinesthetic Task Naturalist Task
Logical Task Student Choice Intrapersonal Task
Interpersonal Verbal Task Musical Task Verbal Task

To access a blank choice board to use in your classroom click on the following link: Blank Choice Board


Wormeli, Rick. Fair Isn’t Always Equal: Assessing & Grading in the Differentiated Classroom. Portland, ME: Stenhourse 2006, pages 65-66

Instructional Coaching to Improve Student Learning and Close Achievement Gaps

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Author: Mandy Sargent, Region 13 PLC Specialist, Instructional Programs and Initiatives


Harry Wong says, “Quality teaching is the most critical means by which to improve student learning and to close achievement gaps. You achieve student success through teacher success.”  (The First Days of School, 2009)  If the number one way to improve student success is by improving teacher quality, what are we doing to ensure that every teacher in our schools is well prepared to teach in today’s classrooms?  How do we guarantee that the best research-based instructional practices are being implemented in today’s classrooms?   Traditional professional development only results in a 10% implementation rate in the classroom. When you provide instructional coaching, the implementation rate soars to 85%, according to The University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning. ( , 2007)  Investing in embedded professional development focused on coaching will lead to increased student performance.


What Is Instructional Coaching?

Instructional coaching is classroom-based professional development that focuses on building the capacity of an individual teacher or team of teachers to implement best-practice instruction and meet the learning needs of all students, thereby breaking the isolation among classroom teachers.   Instructional coaching is a partnership between a coach and teachers to incorporate research-based practices in the areas of classroom management, content, instruction, and assessment for learning into their teaching.

The job of an instructional coach (IC) includes recruiting teachers to be coached, identifying appropriate interventions for teachers to learn, modeling and observing to gather data in the classroom and engaging in dialogue about classroom and assessment data.  In order to do these things, ICs must build relationships with teachers and encourage teacher reflection about their classroom practices. Therefore it is necessary for instructional coaches to have good communication skills; be empathetic, supportive and good listeners; and be expert educators with a toolbox full of successful practices. Instructional coaches are not evaluators but should see themselves as equals or peers to the teachers with whom they work. The role of the instructional coach is to support the classroom teacher in identifying the specific needs of his or her students and implementing the most effective practices to ensure student learning.


What Makes an Instructional Coaching Program Successful?

For instructional coaching to be successful certain systems must exist.  First and foremost, the role of the instructional coach must be focused on instruction and student achievement, and then the context must be built to allow that focus to remain the priority.

Time – The simplest way to improve an instructional coaching program is to increase the amount of time coaches have to actually work with teachers.  Many times instructional coaches are given other tasks and duties due to their flexible schedules, but administrators must remember that with each new task or duty added,  the amount of time that ICs have available to directly affect instruction and student achievement decreases.

Proven Research-Based Interventions – It is important that instructional coaches have a deep knowledge of effective strategies in all aspects of teaching including classroom management, content knowledge, instructional practices and assessment for learning.  In addition, ICs need to be resourceful in finding additional tools and strategies when faced with new experiences, specifically when it comes to individual student needs.

Professional Development – Instructional coaches must be a model learner for the teachers he or she supports.  Professional development for ICs should focus on two areas:  improving his or her own coaching skills as well as continuous learning of effective classroom practices.  Part of the instructional coaches’ role is to translate research into practice.  In order to do this, ICs must deeply understand that which they are sharing to clarify it, synthesize it, break it down, see it through the teachers’ and students’ eyes and finally simplify it in a way that makes implementation more manageable and therefore more likely to occur.

Protecting the Coaching Relationship – Trust is a key factor in coach-teacher relationships.  Teachers must feel assured that their conversations with their coach will not reflect poorly on their evaluations by administrators.  The confidentiality between teacher and instructional coach must be honored and respected by coaches, by teachers and by administrators.

Ensuring that Principals and Coaches Work Together – The instructional coach is the right-hand man to the principal when it comes to instructional leadership, but the principal is still the primary instructional leader on the campus.  Principals and ICs should meet regularly to clarify the principal’s goals and vision for the campus as well as the instructional coaches’ strengths and abilities to support the teachers.  The caution is that the IC not be viewed as the eyes and ears of the principal, either by the principal or by the teachers on the campus.

Hiring the Right Instructional Coaches – Not every excellent teacher will make an excellent instructional coach.  While it is obvious that ICs need to have the skills and attributes that make an excellent teacher, they must also have communication and organization skills, be flexible and able to adapt and have an ambitious “whatever it takes” attitude.  Effective coaches are “affirmative, humble, and deeply respectful of teachers, but they are unwilling to rest unless they achieve significant improvements in teaching and learning in their schools.” (Knight, 2009)

Evaluating Coaches – Instructional coaches need to set goals and measure their effectiveness just as all other professionals within the school do       .  However this is often difficult as there are few tools and standards developed to monitor the effectiveness of instructional coaches.  If an appropriate evaluation system for coaches is not currently being used, ICs should be involved in creating the guidelines, standards and tools to be used in their evaluations.  As stated earlier, ICs should be the campus model for continuous improvement and professional learning: the basis of any evaluation system.


Knight, Jim. Coaching: Approaches and Perspectives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 2009.



At Region 13 we provide Instructional Coaching support as ongoing, campus-based professional development for teachers across the region.  We also provide professional growth opportunities for district-based instructional coaches through our Instructional Coach Network trainings offered at the service center as well as embedded professional development on campuses.

See our brochure for more information on instructional coaching for teachers or district-based coaches.  For information about the Instructional Coach Network, contact Jennifer Basey ( or Amanda Betz (