Posts Tagged ‘TEKS’

Exploring Integration in Elementary Curriculum, Part 1

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Author:  Lori Reemts, Elementary Generalist


There is a place where the learning process, fueled by pure motivation, engages everyone in the room and authentically integrates critical thinking with content concepts. This place operates beyond barriers, perceived or otherwise, and capitalizes on the efficient and effective use of talent and time.

Although this may sound unattainable to some, the reality is that this place can often be found within our own instructional choices.   Of course we, as professionals, operate within larger systems and, of course, these systems each have their own issues, but when it comes right down to it the largest influencer and indicator of student success is the classroom teacher. (Stronge,  2010)  While respect should be given to the realities of life and teaching in today’s world, it is imperative to acknowledge and appreciate that educators do not have a simple or easy task;  it benefits no one to dwell on daily challenges when our energies could better be spent upon enacting change in our own classrooms.  Educators everywhere collectively cry out for the path and the simple answer to integration.  The goal of this series is to focus on this desire and suggestions for steps toward accomplishing this as we journey to this place we so covet.

In this first installment, it may be an excellent time to try to define “integration” so that our conversations center on similar ideas and starting points.  Believe it or not there are many variations in how we use this word which are quite dependent upon the person using the term and in what context.  Obvious historical examples exist referring to actual student integration during the Civil Rights movement, but in this context we are referring to skills and concepts addressed  in our classrooms.  The term itself has been thrown around for a number of years and has recently regained momentum; unfortunately for some, it has become a symbolic “buzz word” without substance.

Humphreys (1981) offers a basic definition: “An integrated study is one which children broadly explore knowledge in various subjects related to certain aspects of their environment.”  That is a wonderful academic definition of integration but let’s get to the practicality of the concept. Curriculum itself is the relationship between three main components: the written curriculum, the taught curriculum, and the tested curriculum.   Ideally this triad operates in balance and responds to each of the other sections.  The written curriculum would be that which we find on our documents. Components such as scope and sequence, vertical alignment, and unit guides exist to help teachers identify and define the “what,” the student expectations.  While important, this written curriculum exists and is effective only when brought to life through the taught curriculum, or instruction. This speaks to the art of teaching. These are the two areas with which to begin the conversation.  As written curriculum is built from the state standards, it is dependent upon those standards. Content area standards do change and not at the same time.  Aligning and integrating them within a written curriculum, therefore, takes time and may be at a slower pace than the call for it would like it to be.  One must know and understand the separate content areas’ requirements in order to accomplish the task of integrating them effectively.  This is not to say it cannot be done, but the reality is that written curriculum, as dynamic and living a document as it may be, is not equipped to change on a daily basis when classroom teachers must make instructional choices and connections, nor could it and remain credible and consistent.  What, then, is a teacher to do?

We turn to instructional integration.  This is where educators can capitalize on the information a written curriculum provides to them by seeking commonalities.  Learning does not occur on a bell schedule or subject shift during the day. Children and adults alike learn throughout the course of experiences rather than isolated skills or facts.  By embracing this continuous learning idea, even when operating on a much-needed school schedule, we can build transferrable skills in a more effective manner rather than feeling the need to “close out” Subject 1 in order to begin Subject 2.  These same real-life skills can be found within every content area as can almost endless content/concept connections. The key to locating these areas lies in working toward a core and solid understanding of what the most recent and required student expectations actually communicate.

Our next conversation will continue with this idea and explore how to use the required state standards and other information found within our written curriculum in order to effectively utilize and maximize the integration potential.

Humphreys, Alan, Thomas Post, and Arthur Ellis. Interdisciplinary Methods, A Thematic Approach. Santa Monica:

Goodyear, 1981.

Stronge, James. Effective Teachers = Student Achievement: What the Research Says. Larchmont: Eye on Education, 2010.

Math with Mary!

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Author: Mary Headley – Elementary Math Specialist

The introduction of new math concepts can be described using three stages:

I. Concrete (the “doing” stage) – This stage involves both teacher and student modeling.

II. Pictorial (the “seeing” stage) – This stage transitions the concrete model into a representational level such as  drawing pictures or using dots or tallies, etc.

III. Abstract (the “symbolic” stage) – This stage uses numbers and mathematical symbols.

Using concrete models is the first step in building the meaning behind mathematical concepts.  These models include a variety of math manipulatives, measuring tools, and other objects that students can handle during a lesson. Research-based studies show that students who use concrete materials develop more precise and more comprehensive mental representations, often show more motivation and on-task behavior, understand mathematical ideas and better apply these ideas to life situations.  (Harrison & Harrison, 1986; Suydam & Higgins, 1977)

Pictorial representations help teachers provide the perfect bridge between concrete representations and abstract algorithms. Pictorial representations include drawings, diagrams, charts and graphs that are drawn by the student or provided for the students to read and interpret. Pictured relationships show visual representations of the concrete manipulatives and help students visualize the mathematical operations. It is imperative that teachers explain how the pictorial examples relate to the concrete examples.

“Up the Hill” Manipulatives

Connecting the dots between the concrete, pictorial, and abstract is the glue that cements the learning for students. This connection provides the understanding that students need to demonstrate a problem or operation using symbolic representations such as numbers. The meaning of symbols and numbers must be rooted in experiences with real objects (concrete) and pictorial representations. Otherwise the symbolic operations (abstract) become rote repetitions of memorized procedures with no understanding.

The gradual movement from concrete to pictorial to abstract benefits all students and helps to prevent the frustration that some students feel when instructed only with abstract processes and procedures.

Perhaps this article has caused you to think about exploring multiple ways to teach math.  Would you like to observe and experience the conceptual development of content? Do you want to give students multiple strategies for success? Would it help you to see how manipulatives can be used to build the meaning behind math concepts?

If the answer to these questions is yes, you may be interested in Math with Mary, an online resource tool that offers professional learning modules designed to build teacher content knowledge and teacher confidence with the use of manipulatives. These modules are hosted by Mary Headley, Education Specialist for K-5 Mathematics at Education Service Center Region XIII, and will walk participants through the use of a specific manipulative which will allow students to explore and develop a variety of math concepts. Using the strategies presented, students will be able to visualize the math while engaging in strategies that build conceptual understanding.

The first course module, Math with Mary: Multiplication with Base Ten Blocks (FA1224478), is appropriate for grades 3-6 and is currently available on E-Campus. This course lays the foundation for understanding multiplication of 2 digit numbers and beyond. Student expectations related to Number and Operations emphasize the use of concrete models and visual representation of numbers and operations. The Multiplication with Base Ten Blocks course supports student expectations outlined in the TEKS and will help teachers build the bridge between concrete models, pictorial representations and the abstract multiplication algorithm. (2 hours CE credit)



Harrison , M., & Harrison, B., “Developing Numeration Concepts and Skills,”  Arithmetic Teacher 33 (1986): 1–21.

Suydam, M. N.; & J. L. Higgins,  Activity-based Learning in Elementary School Mathematics: Recommendations from Research. Columbus, OH: ERIC Center for Science, Mathematics, and Environmental Education, 1977.

Managing e-Portfolios

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Author:  Juan Orozco, Instructional Technology Specialist

Personal e-portfolios have been widely used at the university level for assessment, for presentations and to showcase student accomplishments. Recently, there has also been a rise in the use of personal e-portfolios at the K-12 level. Consider the following sixth grade standard:

6) Technology operations and concepts. The student uses technology concepts, systems, and operations as appropriate for a project. The student is expected to:

6Hvi. collect and organize student-created products to build an individual portfolio.


According to Lorenzo & Ittelson (2005a) “a student e-portfolio, can be used to showcase accomplishments and give students an audience for reflection and feedback.” They describe the six major functions of e-portfolios as being:

  1. Documentation of student learning
  2. Course and educational planning
  3. Evaluation of the course itself
  4. Future job opportunities artifacts
  5. Performance evaluation of content
  6. Program development

Barrett (1997) believes that the following elements should be incorporated in any portfolio, either traditional or electronic:

  • Learning goals should be clear.
  • Criteria for the selected materials should be transparent.
  • Products should be selected by the student and teacher.
  • Feedback is essential.
  • Student reflection is needed.
  • Exemplar work should be included.

It is worth noting that the same e-portfolio can meet the needs of a diverse group of individuals viewing the same content. Also, now with the advancements of some of the e-portfolio applications, these tools can permit varying degrees of audience access, which gives the creator of these learning artifacts great flexibility for distribution.

There are many tools on the web that can be used to house and manage an e-portfolio. One such tool is “My ePortfolio” which is a component of Project Share. The essential elements to consider when evaluating an e-portfolio tool are: accessibility, portability and distribution capability. Other considerations should be in compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and other state and federal laws, as well as in compliance with district policies.  These considerations should be a part of the conversation when selecting any e-portfolio tool.

When considering the elements above, I can see why Project Share’s “My ePortfolio” is slowly becoming Texas teachers’ e-portfolio choice. One of the best things about this service is that it offers a lifetime personal account. Also, the service has the ability to send one link to your e-portfolio and it incorporates “Access Keys,” which limit access only to the content you wish to share. This goes a long way towards protecting students. Other tools available in “My ePortfolio” are the “Content Repository,” which has every New York Times article since 1851 housed within its database, and the “OnTRACK” online course content, which can be used to supplement and enrich a student’s educational experience. Having access to such rich educational content and the ability to incorporate these learning tools into the student’s e-portfolio support the diverse learning needs of our students. The Texas Educational Agency is to be commended for making this powerful tool available for free to all Texas students and teachers.   

If you would like to hear more about “My ePortfolio,” or some of the other features that are a part of Project Share, feel free to contact Instructional Technology here at ESC Region XIII, or email You can also register for free to the Project Share: ePortfolio video series (SU1224505) to learn more.



E.R. Cohn, and B.J. Hibbitts. “Beyond the electronic portfolio: a lifetime personal web space,” Educause Quarterly, 27, no. 4 (2004), accessed July 22, 2012,


G. Lorenzo, & J. Ittelson, J.” An overview of e-portfolios,” EduCause Learning Initiative Paper 1 (2005, July).


H. C. Barrett, “Collaborative planning for electronic portfolios: Asking strategic questions.” Last modified 1997,


“OnTRACK for College Readiness,” Institute for Public School Initiatives, last modified 2010,



M. Ramirez,  “Ferpa and student work: Considerations for electronic theses and dissertations,” The Magazine of Digital Library Research, January 2010, accessed July 20, 2012,






Social Studies – Writing is a Process

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Social Studies teachers avoid ELA writing workshops like the plague.  This is an exaggeration, of course, but the statement has some validity.  So let’s rephrase the statement: most Social Studies teachers don’t want to attend a workshop that doesn’t address their field perspective.  Could it be the lack of workshops focused specifically for writing in the general Social Studies classroom?  Or could it be the time-consuming task that accompanies student writing, i.e. endless hours of grading?

Teachers of Advanced Placement Social Studies courses know all too well that writing is going to be a key part of their instruction and a significant student expectation.  For training many teachers attend AP institutes or obtain coveted access to the world of AP grading to gain better insight.  No such writing assessments are attached to any of the STAAR Social Studies examinations.

The lack of writing prompts on state Social Studies assessments may lead to two misconceptions.  The first misconception is that students in Social Studies courses don’t have to write.  The second misconception is that Social Studies teachers don’t need professional development in the field of writing.   These misconceptions couldn’t be further from the truth.  If we examine the new TEKS, writing for Social Studies begins in Grade 2, carries through to middle school, and all successive Social Studies courses that follow.

This doesn’t mean that every teacher needs to assign the age-old five paragraph history essay starting tomorrow.  In fact it would benefit teachers to examine the student expectations.  For example, students in grade 2 are expected to “create written and visual material such as stories, poems, maps, and graphic organizers to express ideas.”  In grade 6, students are expected to “create written and visual material such as journal entries, reports, graphic organizers, outlines and bibliographies based on research.”  By the time students get to World History, they are expected to “interpret and create written, oral, and visual presentations of social studies information.”   This means that students in every Social Studies class should be writing in various ways to authentically demonstrate the historical information that they are learning.

In Checking for Understanding, authors Fisher and Frey break up writing into two different types: high stakes writing and writing for learning.  According to the authors, both have important value, but writing for learning appears to be less commonly used and valued.  They assert,

(…)despite all the known benefits of using writing to learn content,

we rarely think of writing as a way for us to learn about our students’

thinking.  Writing clarifies thinking.  For that matter, writing is thinking.

Analyzing student writing is a great way for teachers to determine

what their students know.


As a novice teacher, I assigned the classic history essay because that’s what was assigned to me in high school and in college.  I believed that my students should learn to write in the very same way.  There were significant problems with this thinking.  First, I assigned essay writing without any pre-assessment to gauge their writing skills.  Second, I didn’t have a strategic plan for a writing process with my students.  Third, it took me an exceptionally long time to grade 175 essays.  In fact, it took me weeks.  I found myself weary, to say the least, upon returning the essays to the students.  By that time, the students didn’t care about it anymore.  Last, nothing else was done on my part to address inaccuracies that should have impacted my instruction. In all honesty, I didn’t know how to.

The longer I taught, the more I learned and began to understand that writing needed to be approached differently.  I started assigning manageable short response writing.   “Snippet” writing became the operative word for short paragraph response writing that the students would complete.  I could get the writing responses back to the students in a relatively quick time frame, while assessing if they understood what they were learning.  What I was doing, without knowing it, was focusing my attention on formative assessment rather than summative assessment.  I was learning how to create a process for writing that worked for both my students and me. The essay wasn’t exactly phased out, but rather worked in over time.  Additionally, I staggered the complete essays at intervals for different classes so that I wouldn’t assign myself to weeks of grading purgatory (a useful tip suggested to me by my principal).  Overall, it was a lot of trial and error, but I didn’t give up; I just restructured.

In November, the co-creators of the DBQ Project (Document Based Questioning) will lead two workshops at Region XIII specifically geared for Social Studies, but open to teachers of English Language Arts.  The hope is that teams of teachers will work together to collaborate and learn strategies to help students become better analytical thinkers.  Teachers will be led through DBQ analysis of primary sources to the development process of the written DBQ.

What we recognize most of all is that writing is a process.  For the teacher, if it is paired adequately with the content, it will not take away from instruction, but serve to improve it.


Fisher D. & Frey N. (2007). Checking for understanding: Formative assessment techniques for you classroom. Alexandria: ASCD.

Social Studies student expectations referenced: Grade 2 (19)(B), Grade 6(22)(D), World History (30)(B).

RtI: An InFORMed Framework

Monday, October 10th, 2011

How Formative Assessments Fit into the Response to Intervention Framework

Response to Intervention (RtI) is a tiered model of intervention that can be defined as the practice of providing high quality instruction and interventions matched to student need, monitoring progress frequently to make changes in instruction or goals, and applying student response data to important educational decisions. (

Formative Assessement

This model is built on the idea that we, as educators, are making data-based decisions regarding both the instruction and the interventions that we provide our students. Within the RtI framework universal screening and progress monitoring are two types of formative assessments that serve as key sources of these data.


Formative Assessment at Tier I

At Tier I (the core instruction that all students receive), RtI makes use of universal screening measures to help guide our decision making in multiple ways.  For example:

  • Universal screening or benchmarking of all students throughout the year (beginning, middle and end of the school year at a minimum) allows for us to determine whether or not the general curriculum and instruction is meeting the needs of the majority of our students.
  • Universal screening scores can also be used as one data source to help flag students at Tier I who may be in need of supplemental supports.
  • Formative Assessment at Tiers II and III

    At Tiers II and III (the provision of targeted interventions for students determined to need supplemental supports), progress monitoring tools such as curriculum-based measures or curriculum-based assessments help provide invaluable data to inform decision making such as:

    • Whether or not a student is responding to the provided intervention
    • If the type, intensity, frequency or duration of an intervention needs to be adjusted

    Whether or not students are responding at a rate appropriate enough to close achievement or behavioral gaps in learning.

  • Universal Screening: Universal screening is conducted, usually as a first stage within a screening process, to identify or predict students who may be at risk for poor learning outcomes. Universal screening tests are typically brief, conducted with all students at a grade level, and followed by additional testing or short‐term progress monitoring to corroborate students’ risk status.
  • Progress Monitoring: Progress monitoring is used to assess students’ academic performance, to quantify a student rate of improvement or responsiveness to instruction, and to evaluate the effectiveness of instruction.

For a full glossary of RtI terms see:

STAAR Resources

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

STAAR Resources

As you begin the 2011-2012 school year it is important to learn how the new assessment system – the State of Texas Assessments for Academic Readiness or STAAR – will impact the students in your classroom. While we are still waiting on some information we do know enough to get started in our instructional planning.

STAAR will assess students in the same grade levels and content areas as TAKS: Grades 3-8. At the high school level there will be 12 new End-Of-Couse (EOC) assessments. Beginning with entering 9th grade students in 2011, students must pass the STAAR EOCs in order to graduate.

STAAR will be a more rigorous assessment. A few things to note:

  • More items
  • Higher level of cognitive reasoning
  • Shift from graduation from high school to college and career success
  • Focus on fewer standards at a deeper level

One area of assistance that ESC Region XIII is providing is the STAAR Website ( On this website you will find overview information relating to STAAR, links to TEA documents, content area information, and parent information.

As we begin to plan for instruction for 2011-2012 it will be important to study the assessment blueprints developed by TEA to understand the changes in assessment development. To assist with the study of readiness and supporting standards please consider utilizing the following resources:

There are many more resources on this site with more to be developed as we have access to further information. As you begin discussing STAAR with parents and students feel free to use the parent brochure and frequently asked questions at

While major changes in the assessment system are taking place, knowing your TEKS ( and how they will be assessed will assist you in planning the quality instruction that will ensure student success in the current grade level and beyond.

New TEKS for Social Studies

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

New TEKS for Social Studies

The beginning of the 2011-2012 school year marks the official implementation year of the new Social Studies TEKS approved by the State Board of Education.  The Social Studies program consists of elementary, middle school and high school courses.  Elementary grades learn about various communities, Texas history and United States history.  Middle school grades address contemporary world cultures, Texas history, and United States history from early colonial period through Reconstruction.  The high school courses, which may be taught in any order, are United States History Studies Since 1877, World History Studies, World Geography Studies, United States Government, and Economics.  Social Studies additionally has four electives that can be offered in high school: Psychology, Sociology, Special Topics in Social Studies, and Social Studies Research Methods.

For some areas the change is minimal.  For example, the grade 8 US History TEKS do have greater specificity and rigor changes, but overall only experienced the addition of one new student expectation.  The high school Economics with emphasis on Free Enterprise System and its Benefits course, on the other “invisible” hand, has been altered from its previous form.  The course is now characterized by three Social Studies strands (Economics, Financial Literacy, Social Studies Skills) instead of the previous eight, and has twenty-one new student expectations.  Other courses such as Social Studies Grade 2, US History, and World History also experienced a significant increase in the number of student expectations.  As you plan for the upcoming school year, take the time to examine the changes associated with the courses you are preparing for.  Pay close attention to the changes in the introduction to each course.  Changes include statements about “including” (reference content that must be mastered) and “such as” (reference content that is intended as possible illustrative examples), the U.S. free enterprise system, constitutional republic, Celebrate Freedom Week, and evaluating the ideals of the founding documents.

When examining the new TEKS, pay close attention to the verb identification and content specificity in each individual Student Expectation.  Carefully study the Student Expectation to evaluate the cognitive level that is expected of the student.  The following examples may provide greater clarity:


Social Studies, Grade 2: 2(8) Geography (C) identify ways people can conserve and replenish natural resources.


According to Bloom’s Taxonomy, the verb identify would be considered lower level cognitive application for the second grade student.  Remarkably, the term natural resource doesn’t actually appear for the first time in Grade 2.  It first appears in Kindergarten, continues in Grade 1, and repeats in successive grade levels and courses.  By studying the content specificity over time, we can see how material builds in early grades to provide a foundation for students at advanced grade levels. An example of this vertical progression can be seen in high school World Geography as students are expected to:


World Geography Studies: Geography 8(C) evaluate the economic and political relationships between settlements and the environment, including sustainable development and renewable/non-renewable resources. 


The verb in this Student Expectation is requiring students to evaluate, thus requiring students to think critically about the information they are learning.  Because greater specificity is not provided to the teacher on exact settlements, you have the freedom to choose from various resources and examples to accomplish this over the school year.

Social Studies teachers will need to apply significant time to become familiar with the changes in the specific subjects that you teach.  This includes examining the increased or decreased level of rigor pertaining to the Student Expectations, newly added historical individuals, and applied content changes.

Teachers should re-examine units and lessons taught from the previous years and consider the following:

  1. How will I restructure my pace and sequencing this year?
  2. How did the new changes impact the units and lessons I taught last year?
  3. Are some of my lessons obsolete because they don’t necessarily match with the new TEKS?
  4. How will I change my lessons to meet the new expectations?
  5. What new resources will I need to meet the requirements of the new TEKS?

Although it may be easier to revert to “the way we have always done it,” Social Studies teachers are responsible for incorporating the new changes this school year. The change in the state Social Studies TEKS should be seen as a positive opportunity for all educators to start fresh and reevaluate the lessons taught and learned in the classroom.



Technology – New TEKS for the 2012-2013 School Year

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

Technology Applications TEKS – New TEKS Ready for the 2012-2013 School Year

The Integration of Technology Applications TEKS (Chapter 126, Subchapters A – D) is required by Texas law. In grades K-12, it is common for this to be the shared responsibility of the core and enrichment area teachers.   The TA TEKS are a framework for curriculum that should be added to your written curriculum and included in best instructional practices.

In order for teachers to be successful, considerable professional development is needed to assist in authentic integration, documentation, and assessment of technology applications TEKS.

The TA TEKS have been significantly updated. It can be considered a re-write, not just an update. The updates are reflected in grades K-8.  Additionally, high school course choices are impacted.  School Year 2011-2012 is the year to familiarize staff with the new standards and prepare for the required implementation in school year 2012.  Additionally, Proclamation 2014 and the Instructional Materials Allotment approach to acquiring textbooks and instructional materials plays a significant role in how resources will be selected and purchased for the new TA TEKS.


For all grade levels:

  • Knowledge and Skills Statements and the Associated Student Expectations are:
    • More challenging
    • Appropriate to this generation of learners
    • Generic enough to scale and shift with technology changes over time
    • Specific enough to allow for accountability

This chart is an overview of the changes from the 1998 standards and the 2011 standards

  Technology Application TEKS 1998-2010

1998 Standards


Technology Application TEKS 2011-?

New Standards


Strands Original Four Strands

Foundations, Information Acquisition, Solving Problems, Communication


6 New Strands

Technology Operations and Concepts, Digital Citizenship, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, Research and Information Fluency, Communication and Collaboration, Creativity and Innovation

Middle School Changes in bundling at Middle School

Subchapter B 126.12


Grades 6-7-8 Bundled

Middle School is now Subchapter
 B 126.14, 126.15, 126.16 Middle School

Now separate by grade, creating more clarity in responsibilities for grade level teachers

High School Changes in Courses at High School

Subchapter C

High School originally included: 7 Courses + Independent Study

Computer Science 1, Computer Science 2, Desktop Publishing, Digital Graphics and Animation, Multimedia, Video Technology, Web Mastering, Independent Study In Tech Apps



Subchapter C, High School – Updated

Significant changes in Student Expectations

New Courses Authorized + Independent Study (BOLD)

Fundamentals of Computer Science, Computer Science 1, Computer Science 2, Computer Science 3, Digital Forensics, Discrete Mathematics, Game Programming and Design, Mobile Application Development, Robotics Programming and Design, Digital Design and Media Production, Digital Art and Animation, 3-D Modeling and Animation, Digital Communications in the 21st Century, Digital Video and Audio Design, Web Communications, Web Design, Web Game Development, Independent Study in Tech Apps, Independent Study in Evolving/Emerging Technologies

Subchapter D, High School

Other Technology Courses

Advanced Placement in Computer Science, International Baccalaureate (IB) Standard, International Baccalaureate (IB) High


This year, school systems can begin to form local PLCs and committees to discuss:

  1. Course Catalogs  for High School Courses (perhaps Middle School as well)
  2. Curriculum/Technology Integration
  3. Professional Development
  4. Who will participate in reviewing instructional materials