Monday, January 8, 2018

Re-charging Our SuperPowers and Being Difference Makers

Topics of Discussion

  • Techno Expo Expectations- Submisssions are requested. Does not have to be a final product for submission. If there is a product that is in the works, submit a written discription and a skeleton idea of what the final product will be. It can also be a demonstration/presentation not reliant on technology.
  • Clubs- question about size of clubs. At this time clubs will remain larger in amount of students. Ideas regarding allowing more student led and pairing up older students with younger students. Slide show will be sent out around 2:30-3:00 Monday. Students will need to have made their selection by Friday morning. Students who did not get their first three choices and students who came to Sendera after clubs had started will get first choice over other students. Please let Wilson know if you have a new student or a student mentions that they were one of the few that did not get one of their first three choices the first time. Clubs will begin on January 29th.
Balanced Math with Meredith Cunningham
Continue to the link regarding the slide show presented by Meredith Cunningham on January 8th, 2018.

Balanced math is a focus on Math Literacy (the action of students to read, write, speak and listen about Math). There is specific focus/intention in students explaining their thinking outloud in both Math Workshop and Problem Solving Block. Both Math Workshop and PSB must hinge or balance around TEKS (what and why), Lesson Planning, Purposeful Talk and Components of Workshop. All come back to purposeful planning. What does planning look like on your grade level? Is one person the keeper of the knowledge and plans are handed out, or is their discussion about the problem solving/workng the problems out? 

Math Workshop is intended to build student capacity to be successful problem solvers when they enter Problem Solving Block. In Math Workshop minilessons should be designed so that your top 25% can immediately go into the task of the Origo lesson and work with success immediately while Guided Math groups and fluency stations are provided for others. Students who need the most support are met with immediately after the minilesson, followed by the next group of need, and so on. Only the top 25% should immediately go into the the Origo workbook, while the other students will need to meet with the teacher in a guided math group to continue instruction before working independently on the Origo workbook task. Groups should be fluid. Use of pretests help to determine groups. There are many resources available to help structure Guided Math Rotations in Moodle including Fluency Folders. It was also recommended that teachers utilize the old Investigation games as a resource for Math/Fluency Games. Another resource that was shared was the hand out for Guided Math Rotations.

Problem Solving Block is the other piece of Balanced Math and the focus of our Southwest Learning Team's learning walks. The purpose of the learning walks was not meant to be a "gotcha" but to obsercve what we are doing well and ways we can enhance and move our students' thinking forward in regards to math. When Young and McCowan spent the day with the Southwest Learning Team it brought about questions about what we do at SRE. We are seeing that we don't look the same horizontally or vertically. We are clear that Problem Solving Block is supposed to be at least 20 minutes every day and preferably 30 minutes. It can be useed to spiral in skills on low performing standards and you can utilize those problems provided in Moodle or utilize your own. There was discussion about modeling. Teacher models seems to be a best practice in getting better student product. Structure was also discussed. While structure does not have to look the same across grade levels it does have merit. If modeling and/or organization/structure are something you have not yet brought into Problem Solving Block it is never too late to begin! 

Problem Solving Block is designed so that there can be differentiation within the process based on who needs what. It was also mentioned that sometimes a problem may be a bit easier to help build confidence and provide balance with productive struggle.

Problem Solving Block Non- Negotiables for NISD:
  • Happening daily (with exception for pre-test days)
  • PAL time
  • Solo time
  • Productive Struggle
  • Writing with explanation (K-2) and justification (3-5)
  • Purposeful Student Presenters
It was also mentioned that it is better to have quality problem solving over quantity. It was suggested that students might solve on day one and write the explanation/justification on day two. 

Over the course of the next few weeks Problem Solving Journals will be looked at to determine what direction we are going as a campus. Today we had a short bit of time to discuss what it would look like as we vertically align our expecations for Problem Solving Journals and the work students produce. The discussion was in depth and as a campus we plan to return to this discussioin in future vertical Math PLC conversations.

Other Resources discussed that can be used were Education Galaxy (not endorsed by NISD) for K-2 and 3-5 after students complete expected components of the the grade level in Imagine Math. When in Math Instruction (Problem Solving Block and/or Math Workshop) student activities need to center around Math.

Mission and Vision
This continues to be an area of personal struggle for Mr. Booles. When looking at other Mission and Vision statements from other schools, academies and businesses it seems to fall short and he wants more for SRE.  He wants us to collectively put it together and it to mean something. It may very well take the whole year and that is ok. It has to be something that we all can buy into and that we can deliver. Reading from an email from Swearingen he shared her statement "I want them (students) to remember their years at SRE." Our mission and vision have to be something that is special... it is difficult for us to stay in the memory of our students when high school is right there, but we want that kind of campus. Additionally, Dr. Warren is redoing the mission/vision for the district so we want to wait to see what those expectations may result.

Problem of Practice
Some discussion went into our problem of practice. There was discussion about an emphasis on more time observing each others classrooms. Scheduling time for teachers to visit other teachers in a variety of ways (using extended PLC time, guidance time and/or planning time). Purposeful staff development was also discussed with learning happening amongst one another capitalizing on the expertise within our campus. We got rid of the Google Classroom discussion threads. Clarified that student data folders with student learning goals can be on paper or digital.

The biggest discussion came from our Instructional Focus statement where the question was raised regarding "all students will make at minimum one year's growth in reading and meet or exceed end-of-year grade level expecations in all content areas. Suggestions were made to bring in individual student goals (not necessarily academic in nature) and tie to the social/emotional needs of students. Some debate was made regarding the Instructional Focus statement being a high expectation and the reality of certain situations. The illustration of how all NFL football teams start the season with the intent and goal to win the Super Bowl, but only one team reaches that goal. While the debate was passionate, it was beneficial and gave everyone a lot to consider.

Final Notes
Mr. Booles shared the following video "This is how 936 Marbles Can Change Someone's Life."
Kinder through 5th grade we have 216 marbles. When they reach second grade we have 144 marbles. 5th grade 36 marbles... 18 marbles because we are halfway through the year. How are we going to make a difference with the time we have left? "The difference between a success story and a statistic is you..."

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Unveiling Your SuperHero Skills: Concious Competence

About a month ago in a protocol training an "aha" moment occurred for me. I had been thinking a lot about observations and conversations I had with several people. In every conversation and observation it is clear that the teacher knows where the students are, what they need to know to get there and what the plan is to get them there. Where the progress was happening most was when the student was made as equally aware of their own understanding, what strategies they need to use effectively to grow as learners, and had a goal or plan to move their own learning forward.

In the protocol training, the facilitator, Thomas VanSoelen, used a very simple protocol "Say, Say, Do" to help us build community. What was noted that after every round (each round becoming more difficult) we had to reflect and then identify the strategy(ies) we used to keep up with the facilitator's commands. The stop, reflect, identify, and share was similar to what I had observed where students were making the most progress. I couldn't really wrap my head around what it was, so I brought my wonderings to Thomas. It was there he explained the concept of Concious Competence.

Outside of the world of education it is desired that your learning or competence moves to the point of unconsious competence. What I was seeing and Thomas helped me to put into words was that in the world of education we are most powerful when we are purposefully taking what we do unconsciously with our competence and outwardly share... making where students are, what they need to know to get there and the plan/goal concisouly competent. Make what you know inwardly and make it known outwardly. It makes every move we make to push our student growth verbal/written at a point for student consumption and application.

In the next few weeks before the holiday and when we return and begin MOY assessments there are approximately eight weeks. That is about the same amount of time students have for summer break. One of the ways we can continue to be powerful in those weeks is when we are working with students both in small group and whole group instruction using techniques to share our knowledge in a way that students take that and apply to their own learning. These consciously competent conversations with a student or students can also be considered closely aligned wtih the cycle of intentional feedback (cycle indicating ongoing and provides for two-way communication).

During concsciously competent conversations are opportunities for specific and intentional goals to be set with our students. We know that when moving students from one reading level to the next, how that is done is as unique as the learner themselves. Those goals are also not just Reading specific, but can be cross curricular. When a student is aware of how a reading goal can be focused on in Science or Math or Writing, they support their own goal. When a team can see how a reading goal can be impacted in another content area, we are helping that student fortify their skills through out a day's instruction and capitalize on opportunity for exponential growth.

Recently at another campus there were charts shared focused on goals specific to certain DRA levels. It was a great tool to create more specificity with our readers and their goals that moved beyond them progressing to the next level. (Pictured below)

 As we close in on these next few weeks, and look toward our MOY goals for these kiddos how could the above goal starters help us to better identify individual goals, shared with our students, that can move our kiddos forward? How can we lean in and be concisously competent with our students in a powerful way that moves us forward in the next 8 weeks instead of mirroring the summer slide with a winter windfall?

Thursday, November 9, 2017

RTI: The Superpower of Laser Focus

When meeting with district facilitator, Jennifer Bailey, there were points of confusion and "light bulb" moments through out the day.

We reivewed the starting point of how RtI begins on a kiddo. Through the use of our district Universal Screeners- DRA, District Math Assessment, STAAR data (end of 3rd, 4th and 5th). We reviewed the different TIERS and breifly became aquainted with the Pyramid of Interventions both with content and with behavior.

Clarification was provided in the Tiers where we were able to understand that Guided Reading/Small Group where the instruction is on that grade level TEK it is TIER 1. When instruction in Guided Reading/Small Group is hitting a skill deficit and instruction is scaffolded to a lower grade level TEK it is TIER 2. It was also clarified that students that receive TIER 3 intervention via our interventionist, a carry over into the classroom of supports is essentail and support is a shared responsibility.

Through the use of assessments, identifying the most essential skillls, identifying campus and district hotspots we can hone in on the most essential skill gaps with our kiddos who are falling behind. This is where we bring in the superpower of laser focus.

Through the resources provided in the "orange folder" (also in our RTI Resources folder on the PLC Team Drive) and tools such as the Lead4Ward Scaffolding Supports we can hyper focus on a specifc skill within a strand.

To help focus our RtI efforts it was shared with everyone the depth and complexity of the eSTAR program that is utilized by Mrs. Trice to enter our data. Tied to that is the format for efficiently and collaboratively identifying the area of concern, elaboration on the strategies, targeted intervention through strands, identification of the goal (skill/pre-requisite); frequency of intervention; data collection; and strategies for intervtion. This is captured through our Intervention Documentation (available in the RtI Resources folder... making a duplicate via "Doc Hub" to create a document form or add to an existing RtI Documentation form {video coming soon}). In initial RtI meetings teachers will fill out the top of the Intervention Documentation form (for behavior, math, and/or reading) and partner it with the Tier 1 spreadsheet (located in the RtI folder). As we meet for follow up meetings the bottom part of the Documentation form will be filled in and shared with the RtI Team. A few things to remember... no more than three areas in a content/behavior area should be focused on and data must be collected in the same way and be quantifiable.

A great example of that documenation is snip from a third grade Documentation Form Example:

Note that this form is a guide. It is not meant to constrain your documentation but simplify and support- provide that vehicle for laser focus. As a campus and as a teacher we can change and modify to honor your autonomy in this process.

Where the biggest lightbulb moments came were in the resources, particularly in regards to the Florida Center for Reading Research. Our hope is to get these resources organized and at your fingertips when coming to RtI/SST meetings by the middle of January. Additionally, we have heard the plea for support/training regarding Math Interventions and we are reaching out to our district Math Coaches on ways to support in that area.

We are in the process of re-designing the BLUE Check-in Sheets. This is a process and we are not asking for perfection. We are learning with you and through you. The biggest message I heard in all of this is how can we work together, with the successful strategies you share in this RtI process that can help others. With a big helping of grace and a committment to figure this out TOGETHER, we are going to be doing amazing things to help ALL students succeeed.

Please share your ideas, wonderings, questions and concerns. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Superhero Power of PLCs/Shared Leadership...

The data is in full view now. The BOY DRAs are reported. There have been a round or two of CBAs, and the honeymoon is over. Reality is in full focus and the road of where we need to go has been mapped out. The end point is between at least a years growth, EOY DRA Levels and for 3-5 STAAR passing rates. However, the starting point is different for each student and nothing less than "Excellence for All" is the expectation.

It can seem impossible. This is where our collective efficacy comes into play. Our belief in the idea we CAN.

One of the single most powerful ways we build that efficacy, are able to purposefully address the reality and move forward to the end point is through PLCs.

PLCs in their pure form are designed around three big ideas:

  • Focus on Learning
  • Collaborative Culture
  • Results Oriented
When our PLCs are centered around these ideas, productive work is accomplished and we are solution oriented in our approach to every challenge.

As PLCs come together there are the four guiding questions that dirve the focus of the PLC. The four questions below should cycle through a PLC in a cyclical, purposeful and intentional method.
As we discuss currirulum, common assessments, data and rigor, relevance and engagement, we also must note the above questions. Every PLC will not address every question every time, just like every PLC will not address the four areas of an NISD PLC every time. However, utilizing our notes/agenda to review what discussions and questions have been addressed, helps to guide where we may need to take next steps with upcoming PLCs.
Sendera PLCs 17-18.jpg

When we foster a collaobrative culture within our PLCs, then together we share our challenges, our strategies for success and share in our accomplishments. When we all take a step toward sharing in the process, we take on a piece fo the larger work. We then no longer do it alone, but share the load, work alongside one another, and gain the capacity to do even more.

With intention we move forward. How can we be intentional? Be mindful of the three Big Ideas, keeping our PLCs focused aroung the NISD Four Areas; and within those four areas, be sure that we are asking each of the four guiding questions at some point in PLCs within each marking period. 

As a team take initiative to set your agendas ahead of time. Reflect over previous PLCs and utilize the opportunity in the last 5 minutes of each PLC to set next steps for upcoming PLCs. Take time to look at other teams PLC agenda/notes in our PLC team drive. What are teams doing well? What can we learn from one another? What needs more structures provided via administrative support and what continues to lend itself to the teacher leadership within the team and ongoing autonomy?

How can we be impactful with our PLCs and continue to foster collective efficacy?

Friday, October 6, 2017

Do we have SuperHero Vision?

A question was posed to me this week that is still wondering around in my head...

"Are the structures we have in place promoting the status quo or creating a new perspective?"

This question has been so powerful to me in my thinking about how WE do school. In general, yes, but more specifically the different things we put into practice, such as small group instruction; the collective efficacy we know profoundly impacts student growth; and the support systems to ensure student success.

As an instructional leader I analyze what is it that we are doing, if it is working well and how can I facilitate processes that ensure we are seeing things with a new perspective.

Nothing we do at SRE is without purpose or intention. We purpose to be better and design PD and PLCs to foster collaborative instruction and collective efficacy. We intend to provide supports that bring about student success, promote student ownership of their learning and utilize data to guide joint-work decisions.

That is the vision or rather SuperHero Vision I have for us as a team of educators. But the question still remains...

"Are the structures we have in place promoting the status quo or creating a new perspective?"

Realistically, we are still doing some of the things we have always done. What can I do to help us all by creating a "new perspective" so that we do have SuperHero Vision?

Do we have a "can do" vision or a "cannot because" vision? Collective efficacy is Hattie's strongest hinge point for gaining over a year's growth with student learning. It is not individual but collective efficacy, a belief WE ALL CAN, together.

In the book, Collective Efficacy: How Educator's Beliefs Impact Student Learning, the author, Jenni Donohoo states: "By strengthening collective teacher efficacy, teachers will develop the resolve to persist against challenges and realize increased student results."

Realize... hmmmm... SuperHero Vision? I think so.

What is your perspective... is it new, is it SuperHero Vision? How did you get there?

Is it status quo? What can we do, together to gain new perspective... to have a SuperHero Vision?

How can we ALL have SuperHero Vision?

Sunday, September 3, 2017

What "Fuels" Our Superpower?

Now that we have our first week of the 2017-18 year under our belt we can begin to determine what is it that truly fuels us as a campus. What rises to the top in our beliefs and actions that says... "This is Who We Are... This is a Longhorn!"?

As you built efficacy with your students, established norms as a grade level and came together as a
team, what consistently stated who we are as a campus? What vision did you and your students cast for what you hoped your class would be as a community of learners? How did that carry over into your classroom's mission for learning?

Reflecting on this past week, what was done well and worth repeating and/or revisiting? What might you want to improve or change?

When you consider your reflections of this past week and compare them to the eight criteria we had determined during our discussion about mission and vision during our beggining of year professional development, what remains true?

Here are the eight criteria:

  1. Character and Individual Development
  2. Measurable and Accountable ----> Data Driven
  3. Accountability with all stakeholders
  4. Learner Centered
  5. Positive/ Affirming Relationships
  6. Simple/Kid Friendly
  7. Actionable (Intentional/Purposeful)
  8. Worth Fighting For
Do the criteria we had determined still apply as what determines a well written and implementable Mission/Vision statement?

Based on what we have done, what we have set in motion to move forward and what we hope to do, how will that author our mission and vision statement?

How can we create a mission and vision that will "fuel" our superpowers and keep us continually striving? How can we ensure that what we do every day we are, in some way, changing the world for the better?

As we move forward in creating our mission and vision this Thursday during profesional development, consider where do you want us to be as a campus and how are we going to get there?

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Our Greatest Superpower...

Tomorrow our doors will open and parents and students walking through those doors will be that concrete evidence that the 2017-18 School Year has begun.

We provided them the "trailer" or "preview" to what the year will be like for them last Thursday night at Meet the Teacher. And it was by far our best and most successful Meet the Teacher to date.

Monday is our opportunity to show them WE ARE that awesome, and every day after that.

On Friday I had the opportunity to talk with a potential parent who was considering sending their child to Sendera about our school. I told this parent how we do school. I knew he and his wife had a big decision to make for their child. The child could remain at another school choice or they could choose us. I told the father that at Sendera Ranch Elementary we start with the heart. I told him that we believe every child should be greeted in the morning at the door and have the opportunity to meet every morning with his class BEFORE the academics start for the day. I told him we believe, and research has shown, we cannot proceed or engage the mind of a child until we have won his/her heart. That, I believe is OUR SUPERPOWER.

I love when I am able to talk about what we do every day and share it and others think it is extraordinary. Don't underestimate what you do and think it is common in every educational setting. What we do at Sendera... it is common for us, but it is extraordinarily unique outside of our building. We are #SREEverydayHeroes.

In my thinking about my "challenge" to start off the 2017-18 year for our staff I came across the following blog post: Why I Hated Meredith’s First Grade Teacher: An Open Letter to America’s Teachers by Kylene Beers. Take a moment to read it. Then consider how are you going to capture your student's mind and heart for the next nine months so that you will have students giving you "hero status" much like Meredith's mother shares in this post.

Have a wonderful first day of 2017-18 and 179 wonderful days of school after that. I know the family I spoke to on Friday HAS made the decision to choose Sendera Ranch Elementary because of who we are as #SREEverydayHeroes. After all, we all have the greatest Superpower... to forever make a positive difference in the life of a child.