Posts Tagged ‘T-TESS’

Teaching Science in the Early Childhood Classroom

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

AUTHOR: Aliza Rivera, Early Childhood Specialist

I can remember when the idea of teaching science to a room full of 4 year-olds terrified me. My fear often led to science activities that were either “safe,” not messy, or often underdeveloped. Students tended to overlook my science center and it was not utilized enough by my young students. I can even recall a memory where I encouraged my students to look, but not touch. Sound familiar? You are not the only one.

Leo F. Buscaglia states, “It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection between them.” For the longest time I was in denial of the idea that young children already come to school with an innate sense of natural curiosity about the world and how it works. I had to work on my ability to understand the different ways that young children play. I often had to stop what I was doing, listen to what my students were saying and reflect on their subsequent actions through the different play opportunities planned throughout the day. By doing this, I came to understand and conquer my fear of teaching science. I found that my fear was based on a personal struggle of not understanding how play activities connected with content knowledge and how they could come to support young children’s learning of science naturally through play.

Realizing that science is everywhere and that it can be integrated into the curriculum in a variety of ways, I began to develop a deeper understanding of essential scientific ideas rather than a superficial acquaintance of isolated facts. I embraced the opportunity in allowing my young students with sufficient time to develop a deeper understanding for the world around them.  When I began to allow more time for my students to explore, it provided me with the opportunity to observe the capacity to which the play became more complex.  When I engaged in play with my students, I began to understand the opportunities in which to question the understanding of my student’s thinking patterns and to acknowledge the different content areas they were experiencing.  When my students demonstrated to me a variety of skills that could be seen universally across content areas, then I introduced additional materials that supported my student’s’ natural sense of inquiry.

These observable skills included:

  • exploring objects, materials, and events
  • asking questions
  • making observations
  • engaging in simple investigations
  • describing (including shape, size, number), comparing, sorting, classifying and ordering
  • recording observations by using words, pictures, charts and graphs
  • working collaboratively with others
  • sharing and discussing ideas
  • listening to new perspectives (Hamlin & Wisneski, 2012)

Teachers, just like myself, who utilized inquiry and science in the early childhood classroom came to the realization that it built a natural pathway that allowed them to understand and value the thinking processes of the young learner. In doing so, they used their students’ thinking processes as learning experiences in helping guide their students to uncover explanations that were closer to a scientific idea than simply learning through isolated facts (Hamlin & Wisneski, 2012)  Developing inquiry in an early childhood classroom can transform a class from a collection of individuals into a community of learners that openly share their interpretations of the natural world around them (Worth & Grollman, 2003). Research has shown that such learning experiences can help children reform and refine their theories and explanations—to learn how to think through their ideas, to take risks and ask additional questions, and to reconsider their ideas on the basis of others’ views (Vygotsky, 1962).

Science is part of our everyday lives. How can teachers use play as opportunities to engage young learners in scientific inquiry? The key is in the types of experiences teachers create for young learners and how well they support children during play. Fostering a young child’s natural sense of inquiry is essentially building a strong foundation for the ongoing development of many cognitive skills across content areas (Worth & Grollman, 2003).

Sources:

Hamlin, M., & Wisneski, D. B. (2012, May). Supporting the Scientific Thinking and Inquiry of Toddlers and Preschoolers through Play. Young Children, 67(3), 82-88.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1986). Thought and Language. Cambridge, M.A.: The MIT Press.

Worth, Karen & Grollman, Sharon. (2003). Worms, shadows, and whirlpools: Science in the early childhood classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Anchor Charts: Let the Walls Teach

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

AUTHOR: Esmeralda Alday, Bilingual

One of the first things I notice when I walk into a classroom is a teacher’s use of wall space. Having always taught multiple grade levels – in some of the smallest classrooms on campus – in one school year, I had to learn how to maximize the little wall space I had available. I learned a few weeks into my first year teaching that as glossy and sleek as the content-area and motivational posters (think that ubiquitous “Hang in There” kitten) I purchased for my classroom were, or how well-decorated my classroom was the week before school was even back in session, very little of what was on my walls was actually useful for my students in reinforcing the concepts, skills, and academic vocabulary I was working so hard to teach them. Sadly, it took a few more years for me to discover the magic of anchor charts.

What I’ve learned over a decade in this profession is that when used correctly, anchor charts are one of the most effective, engaging, and student-friendly ways to support instruction through reinforcing key concepts, skills, and vocabulary. One good anchor chart can not only replace an entire word wall, it can make the connections between concepts and terms visibly come to life for students. A great anchor chart can truly be like having another teacher in the classroom. Students can review the steps of a skill, strategy, or process during guided or independent practice using cues from an anchor chart (Harmon & Marzano, 2015).

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So what exactly is an anchor chart and what constitutes a quality anchor chart design? If an anchor is “a source of stability and security, used to hold something in place”, then an anchor chart is a sort of classroom artifact or record that provides a visual reference or cues to support students as they progress in their learning throughout the course of a unit or topic (Seger, 2009). Simply stated, anchor charts make the teacher’s instruction “clearly visible to students” (Newman, 2010). They are visual reminders of current learning for all students and are indispensable for English Language Learners who benefit immensely from visual cues for academic concepts and vocabulary.

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Above: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/559 1  

The following are some helpful tips for creating and maximizing the quality and effectiveness of your anchor charts. A quality anchor chart is:

  • Relevant – Include only the most relevant/key information to keep from confusing students.
  • Clear – Make the chart as clear, neat, and organized as possible.
  • Focused – Stick to one focus per chart to avoid overwhelming students.
  • Evolving – Allow the chart to evolve throughout the course of a unit by adding information learned as the unit progresses.
  • Integral/Useful – Refer to the anchor chart frequently to model its use for students.
  • Prominent – Display the chart where in a prominent place in the classroom where all students can see it.
  • Current – Focus on  only displaying charts that deal with what is currently being learned in order to eliminate clutter.
  • Vibrant – Make the anchor chart colorful and easily visible using dark colors.

Sources:

Newman, L. (2010, October). Anchor Charts: Making Thinking Visible. Retrieved from Expeditionary Learning: https://www.engageny.org/sites/default/files/resource/attachments/anchor_charts.pdf

Seger, W. (2009). Anchor Charts: The Environment as the Third Teacher. Retrieved from Cornerstone Literacy: http://www.palmbeachschools.org/ec/ElementaryCurriculum/documents/Reading_Elementary_AnchorCharts_Sept42009.doc

Harmon, K., Marzano, R.J., (2015). Practicing skills, strategies, & processes: Classroom techniques to help students develop proficiency. West Palm Beach, FL: Learning Sciences International.

 

An Appeal to Instructional Leaders Everywhere

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

AUTHOR: Judy Butler, Educational Specialist: Dyslexia & Related Disorders

What Research has to Say About Reading Instruction, Fourth Edition, edited by S. Jay Samuels and Alan E. Farstrup, copyright 2011 provides insight into how we could more effectively build reading curricula. To be sure, developing and teaching curricula that integrate the most complex brain processes a child will ever have to engage in is not for sissy educators (if there are such beings)…and neither is reading through these research studies; however, embracing even one of these research methods is sure to raise the effectiveness of our reading instruction.

There is one chapter in particular that points out one of the most commonly neglected components of reading curriculums and yet if included, could reap the most dramatic impact upon overall reading proficiency. What chapter is it? Chapter 4: Reading Fluency What It Is and What It Is Not, written by Timothy N. Rasinski and S. Jay Samuels.

Unfortunately, reading fluency instruction has become the neglected component of reading curricula. The authors report, “The oral reading studies included as part of the U.S. National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) found that nearly half of all fourth grade students had not achieved levels of fluency for their grade levels and that these students also demonstrated lower levels of overall reading achievement (Daane et al., 2005 Pinnell et al., 1995).”

What is happening in our primary grades that produces such poor fluency levels in 4th grade? Often we have not devoted the needed time and intensity of instruction to allow students to master or become automatic at the sound/symbol level or the word level of reading. We haven’t laid the foundational ground to build automaticity or effortless word reading. We have been content to develop accurate, but slow readers.

We also approached the issue of poor fluency by believing that increasing reading rate with passages would cause good comprehension. This route has resulted in the development of fluency instruction programs that focus primarily on increasing reading speed, with little attention given to prosody (phrasing, intonation, and expression) or comprehension.

Accuracy plus rate does not equal fluency. Low levels of fluency typically mean lower levels of overall reading achievement. We are neglecting to prepare our students for the ever-increasing demands of text complexity and text volume as they advance from grade to grade to post-secondary education.

Rasinski and Samuels presented a more informed model of developing fluency that can lead to overall reading proficiency:

Phonics↔Automaticity—Prosody↔Comprehension

(Word Recognition)  (Fluency)

Automaticity is not just reading words accurately, but also reading them effortlessly so that cognitive resources are free to process meaning. Prosody, the melodic features of oral language (phrasing, intonation, expression) is that part of fluency which connects fluency to comprehension.

In my experience training reading teachers, most teachers have not received previous professional development in how to listen to a student’s oral reading and rate the quality of their prosody using such a tool as the NAEP Prosody Rating Scale. Many of them have never been taught that fluency work should begin at a student’s instructional or independent reading level, meaning that the student should be able to read at least 91% or more of the words accurately. Additionally, very few of them have been exposed to the Hasbrouck and Tindal Fluency Norms and have not been informed of how to interpret which students truly need a reading fluency intervention.

In Chapter 4, Rasinski and Samuels cite several research studies that suggest that reading fluency is important beyond the primary grades and needs to be taught in upper elementary, middle school, and high school. Rasinski and Samuels suggest “instructional methods that aim to improve students’ word recognition automaticity and, at the same time their prosody–in both oral and silent reading.” They suggest an acronym, MAPPS, as a guide for working on fluency with students. Below is a summary of the acronym guide.

Modeling Fluent Reading for Students: Direct students’ attention to the way you read. Provide negative examples as well (not often), but discuss what interfered with listening and comprehending.

Assisted Reading for Support: choral reading, echo reading, paired reading, audio-assisted reading, captioned reading

Practice Reading Wide and Deep: wide reading offers experience with large volumes and genres of text; deep takes place when a student rereads text several times over to master deeper levels of content. Additionally, instructional routines using repeated reading built around Reader’s Theater, poetry, song, or some combination of performances result in increased overall reading proficiency and remarkable gains in rate. Rate is an outcome of good fluency instruction; it is not the aim of such instruction.

Phrasing of Words in Meaningful Groups: groups of words are phrased or chunked and read with prosody to reflect the phrasing. Students are given visual cues to reflect how words are parsed (scooping beneath words to reflect phrasing is a strategy used within the Wilson Reading System). Students can practice reading the marked text repeatedly until they can honor the phrase boundaries. Additional repeated reading can be added where the student has an opportunity to practice fluency, perhaps scooping and penciling their own phrase boundaries, or practicing with phrase boundaries deleted. A second approach mentioned is having students practice meaningful short phrases or sentences containing prepositions and high frequency words.

Synergy to Make the Whole Greater than the Sum: As important as each of these elements are, a teacher’s ability to combine them will create synergistic results!

I have witnessed, as a teacher and as a trainer of teachers, that including this component of fluency instruction, using protocols such as MAPPS, can remarkably improve students’ overall reading proficiency. The research reviewed in Rasinski’s and Samuel’s Chapter 4 yields strong support for examining our convictions and perhaps modifying our ELAR Curriculums to make fluency instruction the “hot topic” it should be.

For teacher professional development or resources, contact Judy Butler, ESC Education Specialist, Dyslexia, judy.butler@esc13.txed.net

References:

Daane, M. C. et al. (October 2005). The Nation’s Report Card: Fourth-Grade Students Reading Aloud: NAEP 2002 Special Study of Oral Reading. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Washington, DC. Retrieved 2/17/2016. http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/studies/2006469.pdf

Hasbrouck, J. & Tindal, G. A. (2006). 2006 Hasbrouck & Tindal Oral Reading Fluency Data. Oral reading fluency norms: A valuable assessment tool for reading teachers. The Reading Teacher. 59(7), 636-644. https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzzNHPHS_N38eDdxd3I4bHFZUG8

Pinnell, G. S., Pikulski, J. J., Wixson, K.K., Campbell, J. R., Gough, P. B., and Beatty, A. S. (1995). Listening to children read aloud. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Washington, DC.

Samuels, S. J. and Farstrup, A. E. (2011). Reading Fluency What It Is and What It Is Not. What Research has to Say about Reading Instruction, 4th Edition. Newark, Delaware: International Reading Association.

U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2002 Oral Reading Study. Updated 26 October, 2005. Retrieved 2/17/16. https://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/studies/ors/scale.aspx

Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS)

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

AUTHOR: Lauralee Pankonien, Sr Coordinator: Certification Administration

Although change seems to be a constant in public education, it is rare that a new initiative reaches most Texas classrooms in the same school year. We are on the cusp of that unusual occurrence as the new Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS) will be rolled out for initial implementation during the 2016-2017 school year. Thousands of administrators and teachers across the state will receive training in this new system over the next months. The great majority of Texas teachers appraised during the 2016-2017 school year, regardless of content area, grade level, specialization, experience level, rural/suburban/urban assignment, or student population served will be evaluated based on the T-TESS standards-driven rubric.

The introduction of this system will create unprecedented opportunities for statewide school improvement. T-TESS is designed to acknowledge the responsibility of every educator to consistently hold themselves to a high standard for individual development and performance and to support each teacher in those efforts. On campuses where the evaluation process truly leads to improved instruction and student performance, continuous improvement is an accepted norm and teams establish structures to support a community of learners. The comprehensive T-TESS rubric includes specific dimensions, descriptors and performance levels. An in-depth understanding of how their performance will be measured using this rubric is essential for teachers to thoroughly engage in T-TESS. The T-TESS Rubric includes four domains.

Four Domains of the T-TESS Rubric

Planning
  • Standards and Alignment
  • Data and Assessments
  • Knowledge of Students
  • Activities
Instruction
  • Achieving Expectations
  • Content Knowledge and Expertise
  • Communication
  • Differentiation
  • Monitor and Adjust
Learning Environment
  • Classroom Environment, Routines and Procedures
  • Managing Student Behavior
  • Classroom Culture
Professional Practices and Responsibilities
  • Professional Demeanor and Ethics
  • Goal Setting
  • Professional Development
  • School Community Involvement

T-TESS implementation involves multiple points of communication between the appraiser and the teacher: Collaborative Goal Setting for the teacher to establish measurable individual professional growth targets; Pre-Conference meeting prior to a formal classroom lesson observation; Post-Observation feedback conference, and End-of-Year summary of annual progress. There are standard protocols for T-TESS Post-Observation Conferences. Every teacher receives feedback on an area of demonstrated strength, or Reinforcement, and an area to target for improvement, or Refinement. The system is designed to formalize what highly effective teachers do, and support all teachers in developing habits of self-assessment, reflection, and adjustment through the creation of collaborative, relational, supportive cultures in which educators receive timely, formative, and ongoing feedback through a series of communication points and conferences throughout the school year.

With T-TESS, clearly school leaders will be investing more time engaged in meaningful conversations with teachers focused on improving instruction. These important interactions provide each campus an opportunity to leverage the appraisal process in order to create a growth mindset that is deeply embedded in the school.