Posts Tagged ‘instructional strategies’

Instruction from the Student Point of View

Friday, February 20th, 2015

Author: Cynthia Holcomb, Education Specialist: Elementary Science

In October of 2014 I read an article published online by the Washington Post. The title grabbed my attention: “Teacher spends two days as a student and is shocked at what she learns.”  The author, Valerie Strauss, reported how passive her role had been in the learning process and how lethargic she felt throughout the day. She concluded three key ideas to consider for effective instructional design. Upon reflection, I think there are some quick but powerful ways to make instruction more meaningful and engaging for students.

The Author’s Key Takeaway #1: Students sit all day, and sitting is exhausting.

The author reported students literally sit down the entire school day, except for the brief walk to change classes. Teachers, though, are standing in front of the room, passing out materials, and collecting papers. It gives the illusion of an active classroom.

The author discovered it took a conscious effort not to fidget or daydream. She longed for activity, realizing it sacrifices teaching time to do so; but if students are lethargic and not absorbing most of the content anyway, lectures are probably not very effective.

What does that tell us as educators? Should there be a hands-on or movement-driven activity in each class? In the classroom, we can keep our student active by using the Think-Meet-Share-Create technique. In this activity, the teacher poses a question to the class. Each student thinks of his response to the question and jots down his answer. Next, students get up to meet with a partner. They take turns sharing their responses.  Before returning to their seats, partners create a new answer that is superior to their individual answers. Students get a chance to get up and move, they get a chance to talk, and content is still the primary focus.

The Author’s Key Takeaway #2: High school students sit passively during approximately 90 percent of their classes.

The author discovered that students rarely speak in class. The teacher lectures, or there is a test or an individual assignment, or one student is presenting information or called to the board to solve a problem. The typical student’s day is spent passively absorbing information.

Sitting in itself was tiring, but it’s compounded by trying to absorb information without discussing or interacting with it.  We can use the Rule of Ten and Two to take students out of the passive role. For every ten minutes of lecture or exposure to new content, students need at least two minutes to talk to each other about the information. It’s like a stick of gum. You have to chew it to get something out of it. Provide two-minute breaks for students to clarify, restate, or quiz each other over content. When students have a chance to process information in different ways, they are more apt to make connections.

The Author’s Key Takeaway #3: Students feel a little bit like a nuisance all day long.

Teachers know that they have a set amount of time to teach and need to use it wisely, and as an offshoot, students are told frequently be quiet and pay attention. In addition, every educator has experienced several students in a row asking the same question about as assignment. It is annoying to explain the same thing repeatedly, but students often ask questions as a way to seek reassurance.  When teachers reply with sarcasm, impatience, or annoyance it sabotages the learning and reinforces disappointment; that’s not a good feeling to have as a learner. Ask yourself these questions to evaluate the climate of your classroom:

  • Do I speak hastily, calmly, clearly? Do I nag?
  • Do I spend more time disciplining or encouraging my students?
  • Do I respect students even if I’m annoyed? Am I consistent in my responses?
  • How would my students describe me most of the time?

My Key Takeaway

It is a given that teachers work hard, but it’s often hard to be a student as well. A few changes in lesson design can improve the student experience so that that there are more engaged, alert, and balanced learners sitting (or standing) in our classes.

View the original article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/10/24/teacher-spends-two-days-as-a-student-and-is-shocked-at-what-she-learned/

English Language Learners as Writers

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Author: Dana Ellis, Write for Texas Instructional Coach

According to school accountability data tables, students who are limited English proficient typically struggle in mastering writing skills behind their native English speaking peers. In some ways, this reality is not wholly unpredictable. After all, it takes both knowledge of a language and time experimenting with it to be able to skillfully arrange words into precise lines of reason capable of moving a reader. Though certainly not lacking in reason or passion, English Language Learners do not have the arsenal of English words at their disposal nor knowledge of American style to use on state writing assessments. To top it off, they are still students learning about life while being asked to massage meaning out of it.  Therefore, to ensure academic success in writing, special attention must be given to ELLs.

From the onset, before students memorialize their words on paper, a culture of safe writing must be established. Writing is a personal and intimate act, potentially full of the risk of social acceptance or rejection. Teachers should not skimp on time spent discussing behavioral expectations for writing workshop. Students should be thoroughly convinced that writing efforts will be met with respect and acceptance. Teachers should model their own writing for the class as well. Watching the teacher write messy drafts underscores the idea that all writers make mistakes. If all writers make mistakes, then ELLs are released from the self-imposed mandate to deliver print-ready manuscripts from the outset. All these actions work toward producing a safe, productive place in which to write.

Research from a wide variety of sources consistently supports the effectiveness of explicit writing instruction. However, classroom visits often reveal that teachers favor writing practice over writing instruction. For ELLs especially, writing must be broken down into individual goals, procedures, and features.

For example, ELLs may not realize that standard American academic writing is linear in nature. This type of writing identifies a topic directly and then consistently follows that topic through, without deviation, to a conclusion. However, the ELL may be more familiar with another culture’s academic approach. For instance, Semitic languages like Arabic favor colorful language and repetition or backtracking. Eastern languages such as Japanese explore a topic without stating a writer’s thesis. The reader is meant to mentally engage with the ideas written and draw his own conclusions. Students who transfer from a culture with a different academic writing style will be unfamiliar with the structure of an American essay. Therefore, teachers should point out text features such as a thesis, transitions, conclusions, persuasive arguments and so forth in model essays to help students conceptualize American writing styles.

A major goal for teachers of ELLs is to uncloak the thinking tools used by experienced writers as they compose texts. This means that writing processes are systematically taught through extensive modeling and metacognition while stimulating purposeful writing experiences. This cognitive approach to writing encourages students to construct meaning within a clear, easily duplicated framework. Specifically, students should build a writer’s tool kit so that they are able to approach a writing task declaratively, procedurally, and conditionally. They can determine what the writing task is, how to approach the writing, and when they have achieved the writing goal.

Following this thinking, a teacher might approach an expository essay assignment by leading the class through activities designed to build background knowledge on the topic about which students will write. Academic words used to describe the topic would be identified, explained, and verbally used by the students. The activities would be translated into concrete, language-rich classroom references (anchor charts, word banks, or desk tools). Next, the teacher would introduce a model essay on the topic, analyzing and color coding the model while using spoken thoughts to guide students through the discovery process. Emphasis would be placed on identifying audience and author’s purpose in the piece. Parts of the essay which demonstrate the focus skill would then be labeled clearly. Next, the teacher would provide some type of writing recipe, a graphic organizer, set of index cards, flipbook, or similar device that divides up the writing task into components that imitate the mentor text. Alternately, drawn boxes on notebook paper could indicate an introduction, body, and conclusion. Finally, students would be asked to focus their thoughts into a specific writing task while the teacher circulates and provides feedback. Immersion into the topic in this manner would pave the way for writing success.

To summarize, helping ELLs to be effective writers in the classroom involves being aware of cultural differences; building a safe writing climate for risk taking; giving students the tools, words, and models needed for achievement; and then allowing them time to practice writing. With these practices in place, students and teachers can change history!

 

Sources

Barkaoui, Khaled. “Teaching Writing to Second Language Learners: Insights from Theory and Research.” TESL Reporter 40.1 (2007): 35-48. Web.

Booth, Carol O., and Robert Landa. “A Cognitive Strategies Approach to Reading and Writing Instruction for English Language Learners in Secondary School.” Research in the Teaching of English 41 (2007): 269-303. Web. 29 Oct. 2014.

“NCTE Position Paper on the Role of English Teachers in Educating English Language Learners (ELLs).” NCTE Comprehensive News. ELL Taskforce, Apr. 2006. Web.

Radford, Colin. “The Power of Words.” Philosophy 68.265 (1993): 325-42. Scholastic. Web.

Samway, Katharine Davies. When English Language Learners Write: Connecting Research to Practice, K-8. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2006. Print.

Formative Assessment in Science: Three Big Ideas

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Author: Cynthia Holcomb, Education Specialist, Elementary Science

It’s a hot topic: Formative Assessment. Every resource will define it for you in basically the same way: formative assessment is for learning while summative assessment is of learning. But in plain language, formative assessment is an activity in which students share their developing ideas while the learning is still taking place. It’s a very active approach to learning.

So, how do we use formative assessment in science instruction? By nature, science is an active process that provides opportunities for students to discuss what they are learning as they practice what they are learning. Science instruction should provide experiences and types of thinking used by all scientists.

Consider these three Big Ideas about formative assessment in the science classroom.

 1.  A critical part of science teaching is having a dialogue, not a monologue, with students to clarify their existing ideas and to help them construct the scientifically accepted ideas (Scott, 1999). An activity to promote rich discussion is called the S.O.S Statement. The teacher presents a statement (S), asks each student to state an opinion (O) about the topic, and then support (S) his or her opinion with evidence. This activity can be used before or during a lesson to assess student attitudes, beliefs, and knowledge about a topic. It can be used at points throughout a unit or lesson to assess what students are beginning to understand about the topic. And it can be used at the end of a unit to see if ideas have been influenced or changed as a result of new learning.

2.  No matter how well-planned a lesson, the need to determine student understandings through unplanned formative assessments may arise. Clock Partners is a method of creating sets of partners for spot checks of content knowledge. In this activity, each student is given a copy of a Clock Partners sheet (a picture of an analog clock face) at the beginning of a grading period, unit of study, or other desired length of time. Each student meets with classmates to write their names by a corresponding hour of the clock so that the resulting partners have each other’s names on matching hours. To pair students for discussions, announce a time slot on the clock; partners meet to discuss, clarify, or summarize content ideas. Have partners report out their key ideas as a means of assessing their understandings of the topic and to determine if re-teaching is necessary. For more information on Clock Partners, see http://www.readingquest.org/strat/clock_buddies.html.  (This site includes a downloadable clock template.)

3.  For a quick but effective formative assessment activity, ask students to create an analogy about content. When students create metaphors and analogies, it can express a level of understanding that traditional questions and quizzes don’t address (Wormeli, 2009). A student-created analogy provides a map of how the learner links ideas together; it shows insight regarding connections from prior learning as well as highlighting misconceptions.  Periodically, present students with an analogy prompt: A ________ is like _________ because ______________. (Example: A cell’s plasma membrane is like a factory’s shipping and receiving department because it regulates everything that enters and leaves the cell.) This high level of application requires students to think deeply about content as well as to help guide instruction.

As an added benefit, while the formative assessment process provides information needed to adjust teaching and learning while they are still happening, the process also provides practice for the student and a self-check for understanding during the learning process.

 

Sources

Scott, P. (1999). An analysis of science classroom talk in terms of the authoritative and dialogic nature of the discourse. Paper presented to the 1999 NARST Annual Meeting. Boston, MA.

Wormeli, R. (2009). Metaphors & Analogies: Power Tools for Teaching Any Subject. Stenhouse.

Sentence Stems

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Author: Joseph Kanke, Write for Texas Instructional Coach

Sentence stems are a writing scaffold which provide students the opportunity to effectively respond using complete sentences.  When provided this scaffold, the pressure of having to think about how to formulate a response is alleviated.

There are four key steps to making sentence stems work with your content.  First, you must create a list of sentence stems.  Be sure that the stems include academic vocabulary and/or mimic sentence structures that are difficult for students.  Next, model the process for students by showing them some of the sentence stems and where you might use them.  At this point students will need time to practice using the sentence stems by responding to questions or completing a writing assignment.  Finally, ask students to share their complete sentences and add clarification as needed.

Sentence stems can be used at any point, in any lesson, to structure meaningful conversation.  Sentence stems may be provided to help respond to a text, as peer response to a presentation, or to activate prior knowledge, teaching students how to seek clarification or to re-enforce academic vocabulary.  Refer to the chart below for some examples.

 

 

Something to Ponder: Letter of the Week

Friday, September 26th, 2014

Author(s): School Ready Team

While there is universal agreement that the ability to identify letters and sounds is essential for reading success, educators differ in the way they teach these skills.  A common approach is “Letter of the Week.” This method generally involves introducing one letter per week through several whole group lessons. Children sing songs, read books, make crafts, and/or generate a list of things that start with the focus letter.

Though Letter of the Week (LOTW) has been used for many years and is even integrated into some state-adopted PreK curriculums, research suggests there are more effective ways to teach letters.

Reasons to Re-Think “Letter of the Week”

1.  LOTW is not rigorous enough for all students. Children in your class have different levels of letter knowledge. LOTW requires some students to spend instructional time focusing on letters they have already mastered and causes other students to forget letters they learned in past weeks (Fountas & Pinnel, 2011).

2.  LOTW does not capitalize on a child’s intrinsic motivation to first learn the letters that are most important to her- such as the letters in her name, letters in the names of family members and friends, and letters needed to describe a picture she has drawn (Justice, Pence, Bowles & Wiggins, 2006).

3.  LOTW does not teach letters in a way that makes sense to young children. Though many prekindergarteners enthusiastically participate in LOTW activities, letters presented in isolation are an abstract concept. Research demonstrates that children must develop letter knowledge “in coordination and interaction with meaningful experiences” (Neuman, Copple, & Bredekamp 2000).

Using a narrow “letter of the week” focus suggests that the most effective way for children to learn letters is in isolation (one at a time) and/or in sequence (ABC order).   Children learn most effectively by interacting with letters in context – recognizing and writing their names and names of classmates, reading environmental print, using labeled signs and systems in the classroom, composing writing as a class, pretending to read and write in center activities, singing alphabet songs, and playing letter games. Teaching letters in this way helps children become more competent, successful readers, especially later in elementary school when students must read to learn.

 

Sources

Justice L.M., Pence K., Bowles R., & Wiggins A. K., 2006. “An Investigation of Four Hypotheses Concerning the Order by Which 4-Year-Old Children Learn Alphabet Letters.” Early Childhood Research Quarterly 21(3): 374-89.

Neuman, S., Copple, C., and Bredekamp, S.  (2000) Learning to Read and Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children.  NAEYC press:  Washington, D.C.

Pinnel, Gay Su and Fountas, Irene C. (2011). Literacy Beginnings:  A prekindergarten handbook.  Heinemann: Porstmouth, NH.

Three Easy Steps to Teaching Your Students Through the CER Writing Process

Friday, September 26th, 2014

Author: Shawna Wiebusch, Education Specialist, Secondary Science

What can you learn from a ShamWow commercial? As it turns out, a lot!

Image from http://tophouseholditems.com/does-shamwow-work

The ShamWow Commercial is the perfect “hook” to introduce your students to evidence based argumentation using the C-E-R Method: Claims – Evidence – Reasoning.

Many of our students, especially in middle school, come to us with a mindset that “Science is hard.”  Using a fun, lighthearted, science-lite infomercial to introduce a systematic way of scientific writing eases students into the process.

How does it work? (Not the ShamWow – CER!)  Here’s how I introduced it to my students:

1.  Show this infomercial to your students and have them answer the question “What does Vince want to convince you is true?”

After the infomercial, solicit and record your students’ answers.  Then introduce the term “Claim.” Make the connection that what the announcer wants us to believe about the ShamWow is his claim.

2.  Ask students: “What data does the announcer give to convince you that the ShamWow is as cool as he claims?”

For Example:

  • “Sham wow holds 20 times its weight in liquid”
  • Lasts 10 years and will be cheaper than paper towels over time
  • Will soak up 50%  of wine, coffee, cola out of carpet without pressure

Introduce the term “Evidence” – the facts that are used to convince you that the claim is true.

3.  The final part is to connect the Evidence back to the Claim.

Ask your students “WHY does the Sham wow hold up to 20 times its weight in liquid?”  Tell them about microfibers and ask why something made with microfibers would absorb liquids better.

Ask your students WHY the ShamWow would be a better deal than paper towels over time.

Introduce the term “Reasoning” – the principle behind the evidence.  HOW does the evidence support the claim?   In our science classes, the students need to be able to explain the scientific principle behind the labs and activities they are doing.  This is the reasoning!

These are the basic steps to writing a C-E-R.  Go ahead and try it with your students!  Teach them to argue effectively and with science!  Want to know more and find other good ideas?  Check out our Science Blog and the Region 13 Science page for updates!

Addressing the Background Knowledge Deficit in the Language Arts Classroom

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

Authors: Lenicia Kinney Gordon and Janet Hester, Literacy Specialists

Let’s face it. The ones we worry about come to us with less than half of the experiences, words, and home-support for acquisition of these foundations of our other students. Furthermore, the “other” students are actually the minority for many of our districts, campuses, and classrooms.

So, what do we do? How can we make up for lost time to give our students the support they need to access a reservoir of schema in order to make connections to new information and think at deeper levels, read at higher levels, and write on grade level when they do not walk through our doors with a  reservoir of schema?

Through our reading of the literature, hearing the sentinel statements from experts in the field at conferences such as IRA, TCTELA, Region 13 Distinguished Speaker Series, and through our own direct work with teachers and districts, we think there are things we can do:

1)      Use rich mentor texts to engage students, motivate students, connect students, and to EXPLICITLY teach skills through them.

2)      Teach kids how to access their stories and EXPLICTLY show them that not only DO they have rich stories but that these stories are worth telling and should be told.

 

Mentor Texts

Mentor texts can be anything from excerpts to entire pieces of professionally published work (both from hardcopy sources and Internet-based sources) to student writing samples which can be found in your classroom, on the TEA website and at the Lead4ward website to name a few.

Mentor texts can be used to explicitly teach aspects of author’s craft, making inferences, literary elements, and features of the expository or narrative form, etc.  For these specific skills, it is best to choose short, high-interest, exemplar texts of the skill on which you are teaching. Students should be given multiple opportunities to read, re-read, discuss, and write about these mentor texts. Through multiple touches of these rich texts, the students begin to adopt them as part of their own reservoir of schema. We build background knowledge by building positive and consistent experiences around text. (Longer texts, where you want students to begin building stamina and practicing the skills taught through the short mentor texts, can be championed in the arena of independent reading.) For more information about how to use mentor texts, check out the books and works of Gretchen Bernabei, Harvey “Smokey” Daniels, Stephanie Harvey, and  Jeff Anderson.

For more information on a running a successful, standards-based, and a deliberate independent reading program consider the work of Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer, and of Lisa Donahue, Independent Reading Inside the Box.

Here is how two educators successfully grounded their reading and writing instruction in the use of mentor texts: “Using Mentor Texts to Coach Expository Writing in Small Groups”

BONUS HINT: Read Aloud to your students EVERY DAY….and yes, in high school, too!

 

Creating a student “bank” of true stories

One idea, which has been described by many leaders in the field – Joyce Armstrong Carroll, Peter Stillman, Tina Angelo of Houston-based Writers in the Schools (WITS), and many others – is called a Memory Blueprint.

 

Image courtesy of Katey Schultz

 

Ms. Angelo has said, “This writing activity based on our memories really embodies the basic philosophy of Writers in the Schools (WITS) . Valuing the child and his/her personal stories is central to the WITS approach to teaching creative writing. Each of the 80+ writers that go into classrooms to work with Houston-area students encourages them to write from their memories, thus giving them voice and ownership of their writing.  Also, we have a sister organization in Austin (Badgerdog) that works within the Austin Public Library system. The Program Director is Cecily Sailer who can be reached at cecily.sailer@badgerdog.org.”  This strategy not only contributes to brainstorming for creative writing but also provides a bank for specific details and examples in informational writing.

Procedure:

1)      Draw an approximate floor plan of a place where you have lived.

2)      Label each room according to what it was, what it was used for, or who primarily used it.

3)      On another sheet of paper, draw columns for each room and write appropriate headings.

4)      Quickly list objects, events, and memories as individual words or phrases as they occur to you.

5)      When you have listed as much as you can, circle the words or phrases that grab your attention.

6)      Draw lines between any items that seem to connect with each other.

7)      Choose a single item or a connected pair.  Freewrite about images, memories, or emotions—whatever is triggered by the word or connected pair.

8)      This drawing can be revisited and “harvested” again and again for seed essays to be used for both narrative and expository writing.

 

“It is the act of writing, reading, and remembering our own homes—the smells from the kitchen, the whispers from the bedroom, the sliver of light at the bottom of a closed door—that brings us together.  It is what brings us home.”  Sharon Sloan Fiffer (1995)

 

Students actually do, in fact, have schema….even if it is the simplest story of grandma walking you to school and the things you see, hear, and smell along the way, or a description of how it feels to be in your uncle’s garage, or your dad’s barber shop, or watch your mother make dinner…Students may not realize how rich their life experiences really are; we have to explicitly show them.

For more ideas about activities to inspire kids to realize the rich bank of memories and experiences they have, look to the work of Gretchen Bernabei, Kelly Gallagher, Jeff Anderson, and Lucy Calkins.

Naturally, we cannot provide students with all the experiences that their more fortunate counterparts already have in the bank, but there is still so much we can add to their understanding of the world through connecting them to great writing and helping them recognize their own stories. This is a way we can support them in becoming the readers and writers they have every right to be.

 

For more information about sources of texts and resources, please feel free to contact us!

Secondary: janet.hester@esc13.txed.net

Elementary: lenicia.gordon@esc13.txed.net

 

Thank you to Katey Schultz for permission to use her Memory Blueprint image.  Katey’s blog can be found at http://www.kateyschultz.com/2011/07/making-memory-maps.html.

 

The Genius of Genius Hour

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Author:  Leslie Barrett, Specialist:  Technology & Library Media Services

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

 

Genius Hour is an education trend that is getting a considerable amount of buzz lately.  It is a concept inspired by Google’s 20 percent time, a policy that affords Google engineers 20 percent of their work time (one day per week) to pursue “passion projects” related to their official job duties.  This encouragement of choice and innovation has resulted in the development of many of Google’s products, including Gmail and Google News.

Translated to a classroom setting, Genius Hour is a small chunk of time – the hour part is arbitrary – where students are allowed to investigate any topic of their choice.  While the topic does not have to be related to any specific content area, there are guidelines and checkpoints that teachers and students should adhere to in order to maximize the educational benefit of the experience.

While student choice is key, topics must be presented to and approved by the teacher.  This helps provide structure for students in crafting a topic that will result in deep exploration, and not just questions that can be answered by a quick Google search.  It also sets the tone that although this project will be fun, there are still expectations around topic acceptability and student learning.

Students are expected to present their investigation findings at the conclusion of their research.  This accountability piece communicates that Genius Hour projects are not just goof-off free time, but a project to be taken seriously.  Additionally, presentations give students experience communicating to an audience and designing a presentation with an authentic audience in mind.  It also creates a platform to inspire new ideas and thinking about future projects among classmates.

Genius Hour project timeframes can vary based on individual teachers’ schedules.  Some teachers choose to do projects with prescribed timeframes (i.e., a 6 week cycle), while other teachers find it better to allow each individual project to conclude naturally.  Even the “hour” designation of Genius Hour is just a suggestion.  Some teachers, particularly secondary teachers who are subject to finite class periods, allow one class period a week to be devoted to Genius Hour projects.  Some teachers incorporate Genius Hour time as part of daily activity options when students are finished with their assigned class work.  Other teachers, particularly at the elementary level, may choose to implement Genius Hour in lieu of Fun Friday activities that have little academic value.  The key is to mold the idea to what works in individual classrooms.

A key component of Genius Hour projects is regular teacher-student check in conferences.  This is how teachers help students stay on track, and how they can address misconceptions or guide learning.  Teachers can offer mini workshops during Genius Hour time to help groups of students who are struggling with similar issues.

Through the course of Genius Hour topic exploration, students are developing a myriad of skills in an authentic, student-directed learning environment.  The most obvious is information fluency.  Students are driven by a need to locate accurate and reliable information about a topic that is meaningful to them.  Students will need to organize and summarize the information they are locating, and it’s a perfect platform to reinforce the digital citizenship skills of avoiding plagiarism, fair use, giving attribution and citing sources.  While investigating information students are naturally applying the reading and writing skills being taught in the content areas.  As they learn more about specific topics of interest they are expanding and internalizing content knowledge in various areas.  In preparation for their final product students are synthesizing the information they have uncovered and reassembling it in a new and creative way to showcase new understanding.

With so many educational advantages, it’s easy to see why many teachers are making room for students to explore their passions through Genius Hour activities.  To learn more please access the following links:

http://www.geniushour.com/

Eight Pillars of Innovation by Susan Wojcicki, Google Think Insights

The Google Way:  Give Engineers Room by Bharat Mediratta, NY Times Job Market

Making the Most of Pre-K Team Meetings

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Authors: Cathy Doggett and Leslie Gaar de Ostrovich, School Ready Specialists

Pre-K teachers often use team meetings to share activity ideas for upcoming themes and to plan field trips and special events.  As the demands for school readiness increase, it’s necessary to shift the focus on team meetings to improving lesson quality and linking data to instruction.

Teachers who use team meeting time effectively work at least 45 minutes per week together on clear, measurable goals to increase student learning.  Team members come prepared to reflect on and plan lessons, discuss assessment data, and discover new strategies to support student learning.  Each team member reviews the Teacher’s Edition (TE) and/or scope and sequence of the curriculum ahead of time and is prepared to assume a role in planning process.

 

 

Team members begin the meeting by discussing what went well during the week.  One teacher serves as a facilitator, leading the team through a pre-determined agenda.  Teachers share lesson details that will help each other.  For example, Teacher A explains changes/improvements that she will make to the math lessons from the TE and additional math lessons she will teach.  She also shares materials she created for these lessons, ideas for extending math lessons into centers, and strategies for gathering data to assess math competencies on the Pre-K report card.

Teachers B and C discuss details for read-aloud lessons and centers related to the new theme.  As the recorder, Teacher C uses an action plan list for each task, listing who is responsible and by when they will complete it.  For example, Teacher A may need to e-mail shape cards to her team members by Thursday.

 

 

Teachers take time to identify opportunities to collect data to assess student understanding by using checklists, work samples, etc. They plan time to teach key Pre-K guidelines/competencies.  Occasionally they use team meetings to analyze assessment data and consider how they’ll need to alter RtI Tier I and Tier II instruction for struggling students.

Please use these School Ready website resources to help your Pre-K team maximize meeting time to improve school readiness:

  • Pre-K Team Meeting Frequently Asked Questions
  • Pre-K Team Meeting Outline
  • Pre-K Team Meeting Norms
  • Key Components of Collaborative Team Meetings

Professional collaboration requires a sophisticated skill set for open communication and conflict resolution. Without administrative support for teachers to develop and use these skills, collaboration is unlikely to be effective or sustained.

Questions to Consider:

  • What is really happening during your Pre-K Team Meetings?  How much meeting time is spent on deep reflective discussion about improving lessons and tying lessons to student data?
  •  What is one small step you can take to support your teachers to use meeting time to make more data-driven planning choices?