Posts Tagged ‘Professional Learning Communities’

Observing Best Practices in a Mathematics Classroom

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

AUTHOR: Virginia Keasler, Secondary Math Specialist

Walking into a math classroom, an observer of the lesson may view many modes of instruction. The list may include:

  • Teacher shows students step by step problem solving and expects students to do problems in the way they are instructed
  • Students sitting quietly in rows
  • Students rotating around stations exploring challenging problems
  • Students are working on a problem together in groups, some individually, not necessarily doing exactly the same thing
  • Students engaged in critical thinking
  • A few students working at the board while others watch
  • Students who have completed their work and are waiting for the next problem
  • Teacher asking probing questions about the way students are attempting to answer questions

Generally you may see one or both of the two prevalent approaches to mathematics instruction. In the more traditional approach of instruction, skills-based, teachers may focus on how to solve the problem, show that problem solving strategy, and then require the students to quickly repeat that strategy. This method focuses on developing computational skills.

In concepts-based instruction, teachers have students solve a problem in a way that makes sense to them and then explain how they solved their problem. This method helps students be aware that there is more than one way to solve a problem.

You may be trying to decide what is the best way, but most researchers (e.g., Grouws, 2004) agree that both approaches are important, that teachers should strive for procedural fluency that is grounded in conceptual understanding.

There are three critical components to effective mathematics instruction (Shellard & Moyer, 2002):

  • Teaching for conceptual understanding
  • Developing procedural literacy
  • Promoting strategic competence through meaningful problem-solving investigations.

In an effective classroom an observer may see the teacher

  • Accepting students solutions to challenging problem which includes their explanation how they found their solution and the reason they chose to try their method.
  • Posing interesting questions to students to spur their interest in the problem.
  • Encouraging students to see that problems are challenging and that you sometimes have to search more than one method to find the answer.  
  • Instilling the belief that the goal of answering the question is attainable and worthwhile and can even be “cool”.  

In an effective classroom an observer may see the student

  • Solving the problem themselves and not just “mimicking” the procedure shown to them by others.
  • Challenging themselves to investigate a meaningful question.
  • Sharing their ideas with each other and as a group
  • Using various ways to show their work
  • Conducting an experiment by analysing data and coming to a conclusion
  • Are using calculators where appropriate
  • Using manipulatives to engage in problem solving to help form a concrete understanding of the concept where needed.

The National Center for Educational Achievement (NCEA, 2009) examined higher performing schools in five states (California, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Texas) and determined that in terms of instructional strategies, higher performing middle and high schools use mathematical instructional strategies that include classroom activities which:

  • Have a high level of student engagement
  • Demand higher-order thinking
  • Follow an inquiry-based model of instruction – including a combination of cooperative learning, direct instruction, labs or hands-on investigations, and manipulatives
  • Connect to students’ prior knowledge to make meaningful real-world applications
  • Integrate literacy activities into the courses – including content-based reading strategies and academic vocabulary development

Additionally, NCEA researchers found that it was important for teachers to create classrooms that foster an environment where students “feel safe trying to answer questions, make presentations, and do experiments, even if they make a mistake” (p. 24).

In summary, while both methods are important, teachers must reach students where they are and in the method that works best for each of their students.  While procedural learning is important to learn math facts and algorithms, students still need to be challenged, allowed to learn by exploring, and encouraged to keep trying knowing that math is meaningful and a huge part of the environment around us everyday.

References

The Education Alliance. (2006). Closing the Achievement Gap: Best Practices in Teaching Mathematics. Charleston, WV: The Education Alliance.

Grouws, D. (2004). “Chapter 7: Mathematics.” In Cawelti, G, ed., Handbook of Research on Improving Student Achievement. Arlington, VA: Educational Research Service.

National Center for Educational Achievement. (2009). Core Practices in Math and Science: An Investigation of Consistently Higher Performing Schools in Five States.  Austin, TX: National Center for Educational Achievement.

Shellard, E. & Moyer, P.S. (2002). What Principals Need to Know about Teaching Math. Alexandria, VA: National Association of Elementary School Principals and Education Research Service.

Poetry Please

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

AUTHOR: Laura Lee Stroud, Elementary ELAR Specialist

An Abandoned Tool

Past U.S. Poet Laureate, Billy Collins says “High school is where poetry goes to die” because it is there that many students inadvertently learn that poetry isn’t relevant to their lives. Oftentimes in working with these teachers we find that poetry remains buried and absent from their instruction, until, that is STAAR is over and we pick up poetry as a fun filler. But poetry is a powerful, emotionally clad, succinct genre teachers can use to helps students express themselves, make their words come alive and synthesize their thinking.

Building Community Through Poetry

Nowadays, in order for our students to care enough to invest in writing and reading, we must take the time to create spaces of trust. Writers thrive in spaces they can take risks, feel valued, receive feedback and learn how to write from models and mentors. Writers need to understand that an investment in learning to write well will yield lifelong returns. Creating a writing community inside of a classroom means that as teachers we must let go of some control in order to empower our student writers to make decisions about their writing.

Cultivating a writing community doesn’t happen with a week or two of “getting to know you” activities but thoughtful planning and commitment. Taking time to read and discuss thought provoking ideas, problem solving together and planned inquiry of ourselves and families, all work to build spaces our students can thrive in as writers. Students must know that their thinking, their words, their perspectives matter and without it, our goal of meaningful learning remains unaccomplished. Weaving poetry through instruction works to create this communal space. Finding poetry models your students will love and allowing them to experience reading and rereading it together, can serve as a tunnel to bonding. Repeated readings promote fluency, boost vocabulary and engage students.

Give this a try:

  1. Show a spoken word poem. Button Poetry is a great place to begin mining for poetry. Just like any other text you would select for your students, it is critical that you preview the videos for instructional objectives that align with your purpose and that you are sure the content is appropriate for your students.
  2. Pass out the words. Joshua Bennett’s Tamara’s Opus is a poem eighth grade students’ love.
  3. Play the poem again.
  4. Allow students to discuss what they liked about the poem in small groups. The purpose of letting students identify what they like about the poem is that they are able to highlight the language that appealed to them without having to identify the academic labels in the beginning stages. Remember, our goal is building community with poetry. As you give your students the opportunity to discuss poetry in this way, academic language will emerge.
  5. Have students highlight their favorite lines.[4]  Read the poem aloud to students and when their highlighted line appears, they read that line aloud along with you (and the others that have selected this line). A chorus of voices will rise to the occasion.
  6. Invite students to bring in poems they love for community viewing/reading.

Poetry in Tiny Packages

Lucy Calkins speaks of poetry as powerful thoughts in “tiny packages.”   Tiny packages allow even struggling writers the ability to write powerful poems. Jeff Anderson agrees and teaches us that even a sentence can serve as a mentor text. We can focus on what is beautiful or empowering in one sentence.  If students can feel successful writing one beautiful sentence or phrase, they can become poets. By starting out the

year with these tiny packages, all will feel successful.

Creating Community to Boost Reading and Writing Performance

As Kelly Gallagher says, “Writing instruction should be a non-negotiable core value” (2015).  If we are looking to raise our performance and learning outcomes, we must ask if sound writing instruction and time spent writing are “core values” in our schools?

Sound writing instruction is not the same as test preparation. In fact, when test preparation replaces writing instruction, test scores are not likely to improve as evidenced by researchers like Judith Langer (2000).

Research Base

Remember that the power of poetry to teach reading and writing skills is well documented in the literature. The authors of Inside Out, (Kirby and Liner, 2004) teach us how the writing of poetry contributes to good writing:

In poetry, as in all writing, the technical aspects of the poem are really of secondary importance; good writing is honest writing. The writer risks feelings with us, and we respond to the words because they touch our feelings through shared human experiences. (p.74)

Such honesty and confidence can come into play through many different writing tasks. For example, if students are able to tap into their everyday experiences, they will be able to write short stories, personal narratives and, of course, write the deep development demanded on the expository essay.

Through poetry we can teach students not only come to understand the written word more deeply, but also make more meaningful connections to text. Therefore, if we are going to teach writing, we must include poetry. Poetry has been called “the great equalizer for both the reading and writing workshop” (Dorfman and Cappelli).

Revisiting Poetry for Different Purposes

The rich language and ability to engage readers make poems the perfect choice for teaching students to deepen comprehension through analyzing and comparing texts, citing evidence, offering opinions, drawing conclusions, and talking about main ideas and themes (Dorfman and Cappelli).  When we teach poetry, we offer multiple opportunities for practicing reading comprehension that will prove beneficial to reading in other genres.  Through the  analysis of different types of literature, we  promote cognitive development and give students an opportunity to apply such skills and strategies, as identifying themes discussed in one genre–fiction, for example–to other genres like poetry, reports, descriptive pieces, and plays (Smith, 1991). And last but not least, poetry is an often-tested genre on STAAR.  As responsible writing teachers, we cannot omit poetry!

Let’s encourage our professional learning communities to take up this often abandoned genre and find new ways to teach reading and writing this summer. One way to begin a new exploration of poetry, is to register and join us for Linda Christensen’s workshop on May 18.  She will discuss her journey into poetry as a powerful genre that changes not only students’ reading and writing skills, but their lives as well.  We would love to be a part of your continued journey with poetry!

Works Cited:

Smith, C. B. (1994). Helping Children Understand Literary Genres. Retrieved April 18, 2016, from http://www.ericdigests.org/1994/genres.htm

Langer, J. A. (2000, May). Guidelines for Teaching Middle and High School Students to Read and Write Well Six Features of Effective Instruction. Retrieved April 18, 2016, from http://www.albany.edu/cela/publication/brochure/guidelines.pdf

Worsham, S. (2001). Essential ingredients: Recipes for teaching writing. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Gallagher, K. (2015). In the best interest of students: Staying true to what works in the ELA classroom.

Kirby, D. L., Crovitz, D., & Kirby, D. (2013). Inside out: Strategies for teaching writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann

The Need for Bilingual Education in Texas Today

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

AUTHOR: Trish Flores, Coordinator, Curriculum and Instruction

Bilingual education is a high needs area felt by many school districts across the country.  In particular, it is a high needs area for Texas due to the increase of second language learners migrating to this area of the country. Many people may ask themselves, why do we need to provide bilingual education for these students?  What do students gain from participating in this “type” of instruction?  And how does it really support students in meeting today’s high stake assessments?  To answer these questions and many more, it is necessary to start by investigating what bilingual education is and why we need to make it accessible to students.

Background:  How language programs became a law

Before 1968, bilingual education was not required to be implemented in schools but instead was a voluntary program.  This all changed in 1981 when a lawsuit was brought against the state of Texas resulting  in the requirement of bilingual education programs in the elementary grades, English as a second language (ESL) or bilingual programs at post-elementary grades through eighth grade, and ESL programs in high school.  The new legislation also outlined specific procedures for the identification and exiting of students.

What is Bilingual education?

Bilingual education is teaching academic content through two languages, the native language and a secondary language, with varying degrees of support that are commensurate with the student’s proficiency levels in both languages.  Instructing students through the use of their native language enables them to access new content and build upon what they already know.  Students will be successful in “bridging” ideas and information from one language to the next when the content and processes are first mastered in the native language.  Throughout these interactions, students are learning English in a non-stressful environment leading to individuals who are able to meet the academic rigor of today’s standards and assessments.

Benefits of Bilingual Education

There are many benefits that student’s gain from participating in bilingual programs.  They include:

  • Cognitive Ability: Students are able to enhance brain flexibility in the areas of mathematics, logic, reasoning and problem solving.
  • Social/Emotional:  Students who participate in bilingual programs have a higher level of self-esteem than students who do not because Spanish if valued.
  • Educational Advancement:  Studies have shown that it takes 5-7 years to acquire academic English. If a student is not in a bilingual program they are more likely to miss critical instruction due to their inability to process content presented in English.
  • Family:  Students who retain their native language are able to communicate with family members thus resulting positive relationships.
  • Health:  Increased brain activity has been shown to decrease the onset of dementia and other debilitating brain diseases.  Students who are bilingual have increased brain activity as they navigate between two languages.

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Bilingual education is required by the state of Texas as means to educate students whose first language is not English.  Countless studies have shown the effectiveness of language programs for students.  It is imperative that the educators and communities in Texas see these benefits as gains not only for the students and their families, but for the future of Texas as a whole.

Originally published on VOXXI as Bilingual education: Why gutting it hurts us all

©2008, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. –

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

Variations:

  • 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

Reference:

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

Be the Learner

Monday, December 7th, 2015

AUTHOR: Laura Lee D. Stroud, Elementary English Language Arts Specialist

Superintendents expect principals to learn. Principals expect teachers to learn. Teachers expect students to learn. The field of education sets high standards for our children but do we hold ourselves as educators to the same standard? How often do we engage as learners outside of the classroom ourselves? We want students to ask questions, seek the answers, problem solve and ask more questions, pursue learning; but are we doing the same? Are we pushing ourselves beyond what is comfortable, beyond what we know?

Whether you are a principal, an academic coach, specialist, parent, or all of the above—you are a teacher. And someone is learning from you. Watching you to see if you practice what you preach. Watching to see if you are engaging in the types of literate activities you have assigned to them. Stellar leaders, whether classroom teacher leaders or superintendent leaders, are learners. They are stellar because they spend time learning through reading, writing, and discussing their profession in order to be better at their craft. They are stellar because they are action researchers who reflect on their practice. Stellar because they adjust instruction to fit the needs of their learners.

In this day and age, there are shifts in pedagogy that require our attention. Our students have vast amounts of information at their fingertips but need us to structure the environment for collaboration, discussion, critical thinking and relating with their peers in academic discourse. Our learners are different than the learners we were. No longer is it valuable for them to answer our questions and forget theirs. Our world is different. Technology is redefining the way text is processed. So we must do what we can to stay on top of the changes, zone in on our students’ instructional needs, and adjust our instruction to maximize their learning.

With encouragement from Ghandi, I would like to empower educators with this phrase: be the learner you want your students to be. There should be an expectation that educators and students alike continue to push themselves to become the best they can be.

Time, or the lack thereof, is often used as an excuse for limited learning and growing as professionals. Professional development opportunities on a district level often tend to provide one-size fits all learning. On the other hand, each of us is aware of our individual needs as learners. We know where our understandings are solid and in which areas we require growth. We have the ability to tailor make a menu of professional learning for ourselves.  But where to go from there?  How do we get the necessary information to meet our individual needs?

Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) are groups of educators dedicated to supporting each other in achieving learning goals. So create yours. Ask yourself: where is an opportunity for growth in my practice? And then research, try new ideas, read, write and blog, ask others, take risks, reflect. Just as Ronnie Burt, a participant in the Twitterverse expressed, “…I realised that developing a Personal Learning Network is an empowering, transformational process, which fundamentally transforms your professional learning and teaching approach. And my experience is hardly unique…”

Just like our students, we may need a little inspiration to work harder. Here are a few things you can do to get started:

  1. Find fresh texts for your students to read and discuss based upon their interests. Share the outcomes along with the text with your colleagues. Follow this link to Tcher’s Voice, a blog from TeachingChannel.org that incluldes a wonderful annotated list of sites to find such texts.
  2. Contribute to our profession through writing a blog and reading others. To discover a great way to begin blogging follow this link to Slice of Life Writing Challenge.
  3. Participate in a twitter chat. Need help to understand how to participate? Look at this Edublog site for all you need to get started: Step 3: Participate in Twitter Chats and then click here find a twitter chat relevant to you.
  4. Or, last but not least, read a trade book on literacy practice. Need a suggestion? For elementary practitioners, Jennifer Serravallo’s Reading Strategies Book has teachers raving about the accessible, “implement tommorow” content and format. Although Serravallo’s latest work has strategies for beginning readers, it is appropriate for all levels because of the complexity of comprehension strategies it includes. All grade level teachers can find ways to help their readers slow down and notice author’s purpose through Reading Nonfiction: Notice & Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst.

Once you have engaged in one or more of these suggestions, share what you have learned and ask others about their new understandings. Decide what you want to put into action in your practice.  Be a risk-taker and be prepared to reflect on and learn from your mistakes. And repeat. In this way, educators continue to refine and improve our craft.  So, what kind of learner are you going to be?

References

  1. Burt. (2014, September 23). Step 1: What is a PLN? [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://teacherchallenge.edublogs.org/pln-challenge-1-what-the-heck-is-a-pln/

Place Markers: An Effective Reading Strategy Tool for Distracted Readers

Monday, December 7th, 2015

AUTHOR: Holly Salas, Instructional and Write for Texas Coach

Teaching children to read involves countless variables. However, strategies to teach comprehension, fluency, accuracy, etc., cannot be effective with students who are disengaged. Teachers regularly instruct students who are sleepy, ill, hungry, disinterested, or distracted. Often, a student’s distractibility is the result of a disability. Whatever the reason for distractibility, teachers must accommodate a student’s attention to instruction in order for quality reading development to occur. Teachers often have difficulty getting students to follow along while reading silently, as well as while listening to another reader. “The child’s difficulty in making left-to-right tracking movements while reading…disrupts sequencing of letters and syllables in words…and the inability to keep place also shows up when someone else is reading” resulting in reversal, rotations, inversions, omissions, substitutions, additions, etc. (“Visual-Spatial Dyslexia,” p.8 (n.d.)).

Teacher-monitoring for substantive comprehension breakdowns such as text inconsistencies, sentence scrambling, and misunderstanding with background information is difficult enough without the teacher’s ability to first monitor if the student is even attending to the text in the first place. For an already distracted student, the practice of interrupting reading for during reading strategies can further displace students from the meaning of text and impose a time-limit pressure that breaks down comprehension and enjoyment. “Heavy time pressure should not be imposed to individuals if they are to accurately complete important reading tasks” (Cauchard, Cane, & Weger, 2012). Metacognitive reading tasks are most effective when a student’s engagement with text is facilitated even while reading is stopped.

Before implementing other reading strategies, teachers need something that will help students focus. Only then will teachers be able to facilitate learning and assess ability. The place marker is a simple, minimal-preparation strategy with multiple implications that not only enables educators to modify and accommodate for students, and even assess the students’ task-compliance, but also provides opportunities for higher-level instructional strategies that scaffold students from decoding to comprehension to complex analyses. Although educators may purchase from a ubiquitous selection of marketed reading strategies and tools for engagement, the place marker requires no cost and almost no preparation. And because some students have difficulty transferring multiple reading strategies to settings outside of the classroom, establishing a procedure for the use of place markers allows for year-long instruction and may even facilitate independent reading for the student following graduation.

There is a seemingly limitless body of literature surrounding metacognitive monitoring, especially among distracted readers. From Mackey’s small-scale, easy-to-follow qualitative study (1991) that draws conclusions following Before, During, and After reading strategies, while accounting for context, content, and time; to Pan, Tsai, and Chu’s close look at fine motor skills within children with autism, children with ADHD (inattentive, predominantly hyperactive/ impulsive, and combined), and children without disabilities (2009), it is within a teacher’s own practice that she is best able to collect data for an isolated, a single reading strategy and its implications for large-scale conclusions.

Though conducted in the United Kingdom, the focus of Gillies and Robinson’s research on art-based strategies is particularly noteworthy (2012), because of its acknowledgment of the creativity within reading comprehension and beyond. Like the arts, reading and writing involve a human’s knowledge prior to the academic literary task, and that knowledge endures long after the academic setting, if not for the rest of the reader’s lifetime.

During a 2014 professional development research project at a Texas high school, teachers were asked to monitor the use of place markers as a during-reading strategy for a three-month period. Following data collection, teachers reported that 98% of students were less distracted than without the use of the place marker and that 98% of students transitioned more successfully back to reading after reading had been interrupted. The procedure:

  • enables distracted students to attend to the task.
  • creates student accountability.
  • facilitates before-, during-, and after-reading strategies.
  • enables students to self-monitor.
  • enables students to reflect on learning and evaluate progress.
  • enables the educator to monitor and track student compliance.

How it works:

  • Provide each student one place marker, three sticky notes, and an intentionally chunked or excerpted copy of a text, for multiple readings.
  • Instruct students to put a place marker under the title and read along until the teacher says, “Stop.”
  • Remind students that it’s important that the place marker follow along with the reader’s voice.
  • When all students have place markers ready, begin reading aloud the first chunk or excerpt of text.
  • After students complete the first section of text, say, “Stop. Leave your place marker where you stopped reading.”
  • Instruct students to write a brief summary or draw a picture of what was just read and give the summary or picture a one-word title or caption. Provide two minutes. Model and monitor.
  • Return to the text and read the next text excerpt. Say “Stop. Leave your place marker where you stopped reading.”
  • Continue through the end of the text, spiraling into independent reading, with teacher-directed stops. The goal is for students to eventually monitor their own reading by stopping at text points he or she deems significant.
  • Follow activity with Think-Pair-Share activity.

IMPORTANT: While students are writing, use teacher moves to check for understanding and collect data.

Before testing out the place marker theory with your own distracted students, reflect on your current practices:

  • What strategies are currently in place for enabling distracted students to attend to the task?
  • What strategies are currently in place to create student accountability?
  • What strategies are currently in place to enable the teacher to monitor and track student compliance and understanding?
  • How effective is each strategy in aiding students to visually attend to the text?
  • What strategies are currently in place to facilitate before-, during-, and after-reading textual interactions?
  • What strategies are currently in place that enable students to self-monitor?
  • What strategies are currently in place that enable students to reflect on learning and evaluate progress?

Before setting up the procedure with students, glean some information on their attitudes about their own reading. Consider asking the following questions:

  • Do you consider yourself a good reader, a fair reader, or a poor reader (circle one)? Why?
  • When do you most enjoy reading? Why?
  • When do you least enjoy reading? Why?
  • Where do you most enjoy reading? Why?
  • Where do you least enjoy reading? Why?
  • Why do you read?
  • Does reading make you feel comfortable or uncomfortable (circle one)? Why?

Collecting Data:

While monitoring, consider using a qualitative data analysis protocol such as the following:

  • Student is more, less, or just as distracted from text, using the place marker, as he/ she normally is during reading. Explain (body language, posture, eye tracking, expression, other unexpected physical reactions…?):
  • During the Stop-and-Jot activity, student transitions to task and then returns to text more quickly than without the use of place markers, at the same rate of speed as when reading without the use of place markers, or more slowly or disjointed than when reading without the use of place markers. How do you know?

The following Observation checklist may also assist in your data collection.

Student: __________________________________ Date ______

Please place a check in the box (more, just as, or less) that corresponds to the blank within each box to the left. Use the space to jot down observations (body language, posture, eye tracking, expression, other unexpected physical reactions…):

  MORE JUST AS LESS
During reading, the student is __________ distracted than without the use of a place marker.
After Stop-and-Jots, the student transitions back to text  _________ quickly than without the use of a place marker.
The teacher-participant is _____________ successful in student reading compliance than without the use of a place marker.

 

Lesson Plan PROCEDURE ACTIVITY TIME
1 Sponge Activity Before Reading Essential Question Quick WriteExamples:

“What happens to a person who always feels alone, even with those closest to him/ her?”

“Why do fractions matter in daily life”

“Why should we understand how organisms, places, and ideas have changed over time?”

“How do climate and natural resources affect the way people live and work?”

5 Min.
2 Set Induction Anticipation Guide 3 Min.
3 Pre-assessment of student understanding of the lesson concept/process/skill K-W-L:“Based on my prior readings (equations, lab results, etc.) what do I know about the _______________?” 3 Min.
4 Large Group Instruction Teacher reads aloud the first paragraph/ excerpt. Teacher models use of the place marker and where to put it. When she/he says “Stop,” the teacher also models summary or picture with one-word caption. Teacher monitors. 10 Min.+ 1 min. feedback
5 Independent or Group Work Students read silently, using place marker. Teacher says Stop. Students complete a Stop-and-Jot with one-word caption. Teacher models and monitors. 10 Min.
7 Evaluation –Post assessment of concept/ process/ skill K-W-L“Based on my prior readings (equations, lab results, etc.) what do I know about the _______________?” 3 Min.

References

Cauchard, F., Cane, J., & Weger, U. Influence of background speech and music in      interrupted reading: an eye- tracking study. Applied Cognitive Psychology, Appl.       Cognit. Psychol. 26: 381–390 (2012).

Gillies, V, & Robinson, G. (2012). Developing creative research methods with challenging  pupils. International Journal of Social Research Methodology. 15 (2).

Mackey, M. (1991). The association between reading strategies and reading histories of          adolescents: a qualitative study. University of Alberta (Canada): ProQuest. UMI          Dissertations Publishing.

Pan, C., Tsai, C., and Chu, C. (2009). Fundamental movement skills in children     diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity          disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 39 (12), 1694-1705.          Visual-Spatial Dyslexia (n.d.). In A 2 Z of Brain, Mind and Learning. Retrieved     February 9, 2014, from http://www.learninginfo.org/visual-spatial-dyslexia.htm

Professional Learning Communities – They’re More Than Just Another Meeting

Friday, March 29th, 2013

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

 

Many districts and campuses are beginning to label specific planning or collaboration time as “PLC meetings” but by the true meaning of the term a Professional Learning Community is not a meeting at all.  Rather it is a culture that develops within a school to ensure that EVERY student is learning at high levels.

Richard and Rebecca DuFour are two of the leading names in education and as principals they worked to develop very successful schools based on a philosophy and process which has been coined Professional Learning Communities.  Along with their colleague Robert Eaker, they have defined a Professional Learning Community (PLC) as “educators committed to working collaboratively in ongoing processes of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve. PLCs operate under the assumption that the key to improved learning for students is continuous, job-embedded learning for educators.” (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker & Many, 2010)

Professional Learning Communities are based on three big ideas:  A focus on learning, building a collaborative culture and a focus on results.  The key to first establishing a PLC is to develop a campus culture and systems that support these three ideas and establishing a shared mission and vision that focus on a collaborative commitment to ensuring ALL students learn.

 

Focus on Learning

It is often difficult for teachers to shift their focus from an emphasis on “What am I going to teach?” to a fixation on “What are my students learning?”  A collaborative meeting within a PLC focuses less on which activities and worksheets will be used for instruction, and more on what specifically students need to learn, how to know if they have learned it, what to do when they don’t learn it and what to do for those students who already know it.

In a Professional Learning Community you do not hear comments like, “It’s my job to teach and his job to learn” or “I gave her the opportunity but she didn’t take it.”  Instead, teachers work collaboratively to ensure that students cannot fail.  As a school, systems are put into place that ensure additional time and support within the school day as mandatory interventions for students, not merely optional opportunities before and after school that many students cannot or will not attend.

 

Building a Collaborative Culture

In today’s schools, it is virtually impossible for any single educator to ensure high levels of learning for all students.  Instead, in a PLC campus all staff members agree that each individual is mutually accountable for the mission, vision, values and goals of the campus.  Systems are put in place as a school to allow teams the time and structure to work interdependently and learn from each other.

The backbone to a successful collaborative team is trust.  Without trust, interdependent collaboration will not exist.  To build trust teams need shared experiences, an understanding of the strengths of everyone within their team and shared commitments to one another.  Establishing team norms and holding each other accountable for adhering to the agreed upon norms supports team productivity and strengthens trust.

 

Focus on Results

Decisions within a Professional Learning Community are made based on the impact on student learning.  Rather than setting goals and measuring success by the intentions of the adults in the building, effectiveness is measured by the level of student learning that occurred as a result of the policies, programs and practices put into place.

Teams within a PLC need easy access to data in order to measure effectiveness.  Sometimes this means creating new data tools to intentionally gather information about specific student learning goals and instructional practices.  Teams use data to inform what is working and what is needed in core instruction, intervention support for students who are struggling and enrichment opportunities for students who have already mastered the intended learning.

In high functioning PLCs collaborative teams clarify what is essential for students to learn, create common assessments for learning, analyze data, and base instructional decisions on that data.  When a campus has become a Professional Learning Community collaborative time is no longer considered “another meeting” but is valued as a sacred time to all those involved.

For more information on Professional Learning Communities, you can visit www.allthingsplc.info.

Region 13 provides trainings and support on PLCs.

 

Source:

DuFour, DuFour, Eaker & Many (2010). Learning by doing: A handbook for professional learning communities at work.  Solution Tree Press: Bloomington, IN.