Friday, October 28, 2016

Our Journey With Planning

The journey with lesson planning and transparency in our practice, for us, started in late July with our Leadership Academy Team's determination to make this a focus on our campus Problem of Practice. We have had our leadership team, vertical PLCs, and grade level PLCs review, discuss and provide feedback. Now we move forward in action.

We have in place a lesson planning guide to direct our discussions in planning and drive our plans for instruction deeper in collaboration and independently. To see what we are doing, and encourage as well as sharpen our practice, we have designed a focused walkthrough form for peer to peer walkthroughs.

There are a few questions that continue to circle and the hope is that this blog post answers those questions.

  • Is the Lesson Planning Guide going to be a "gotcha?"
    • Not at all, this is designed to be used as an accountability piece among your team as you plan and as a way for us as a campus to be able to move forward and grow together. It is a way to identify components of lesson planning that are effective and encourage those practices to be the expectation as we continually improve together.
  • What evidence are we looking for?
    • We are looking for lessons that are warm to you. When you deliver a lesson it is already been discussed deeply with your team, reflected on by you and shows evidence of that. Evidence of that could be shown in the format like what was presented to the leadership team with the Origo lesson (pictured here).

Or it can be notes added to a lesson via post its and/or the actual artifacts and teacher model journals (also pictured below). 

  • How will accountability remain if the expectation for turning lesson plans is no longer in place?
    • The question that we asked ourselves was what was the purpose of "turning in lesson plans" and who was it for? The overwhelming answer... it was for administration. We want your planning to be about the intentional planning and delivery of instruction for the LEARNERS in your classroom. How will we know planning is being done? It goes right back to good teaching... it must be planned. We will be looking for alignment with learning targets, CBAs will help us see alignment and hold accountable your instruction. Additionally, we want to see your plans in your hands in use as we walk in and observe you instructing your learners. They should not look pristine and untouched but have evidence of your thoughts, reflections and the components from the the lesson planning guide.
    • This is also where the walkthroughs indirectly hold each other accountable. The walkthroughs are designed for us to learn from each other and the root of our instruction comes from our planning.
  • What is the expectation/philosophy for Learning Targets?
    • Our lesson guide speaks to this. We also believe that as teams/content areas plan together their Learning Targets should be created together and be aligned to the standards. (Learning Targets should look the same in each grade level, each content area.)
    • We do want to revisit and tighten up our understanding of Learning Targets at a later date. For now, our approach is to have alignment both to the standard and with your team/content partner(s) and is it "kid-friendly" in that the students understand and own it.
  • What is the expectation for "turning in" lesson plans with T-TESS?
    • Of course with T-TESS the plans should be brought to the pre-conference with a copy for your evaluator. Providing a copy ahead of time is helpful but not required. Using the T-TESS Pre-Conference form is also a guide... teachers can use the form or just a lesson plan that you are able to show how the lesson plan addresses the components of the pre-conference form.
We look forward to the growth, discussions and continued progress we make as a campus and as individuals in this journey. What are your thoughts on this? Please comment below.

-John and Kirsten

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Lesson Planning: Process over Product

As a first grade team sat before the district's AP PLC, the team lead, in a matter-of-fact demeanor shared, "We thought we were rocking the planning. We were checking off boxes, getting our learning targets written, addressing the standard, handing out planned activities and sharing what would be the student products. Then we met with our ICLE coach and everything changed." 

The team lead then shared that the team realized they were simply sharing a guide, not going beyond the scope/curriculum to deeply understand the why of the instruction. As a team they were not utilizing the power of collaboration to strengthen their questioning, nor were they utilizing their CIR Rigor and Relevance rubrics to empower the planning to bump up their daily lessons.

This strategic shift in mindset has enhanced and enriched an already efficient, high-performing team. As a dynamic, growth focused team they were able to strategically move from the idea of a product approach for lesson planning to focusing on the process. 

In addition to this shift, the team also shared that in order for this mind shift to successfully occur they worked from a closely adhered to set of norms. These norms included:
  • Come Prepared- each team member looks at the scope for all content teaching to familiarize and anticipate what is being planned; each team member has content responsible for planning ready with skeleton plan that anticipates where the rigor and relevance of the lesson falls as well as ideas for student product, but not finalized and ready for input: questions, learning target, opening, work period, closing and student product
  • Stay Focused- silence digital tools not pertaining to planning/stay off cell phones; limit side conversations and personal conversations not pertaining to planning
  • Keep Each Other Accountable- team members ok with ideas not being utilized; listen to others; have plans ready by Wednesday and be ready/open to modify lessons as needed up until instruction is delivered
  • Stay Professional- keep focus on why we do what we do; keep it about the kids... kids come first; resolve problems within the team and keep the concerns/differences between the team with intent to resolve
With these norms in place and coming with the expectation of focusing on the process, they were able to bring in the CIR Rigor and Relevance rubrics with ease finding opportunities within each lesson and each content area to bump up instruction and student learning.

It can be overwhelming when a mind shift occurs with lesson planning. This is an area that reflects the most personal part of a teacher's craft. However, taking steps to challenge oneself and one's team can bring about the most rewarding results. In addition to being privy to an amazing conversation with a first grade team as they went through this mind shift, a recent article titled "Start With Higher Order Thinking" in the October 2016 Educational Leadership, provides an excellent model on how to utilize three strategies to incorporate into lessons to encourage students to think deeply. This article is an excellent read either for individual professional development or as your team expands their understanding of lesson planning. Article:

As we move forward here is the Lesson Planning Look For/Template we, as a campus have collaborated together on and created:
You do not have to use as a template for planning. However, this is intended, as designed by our campus, to be used as a guide as you and your team plan, along with the CIR Rigor and Relevance Rubrics. (Remember this is a living document and can change as we grow and determine need.)

The challenge? It will take time... at first it will more than likely take more time than what you presently use to plan. Our highly efficient first grade team even said it took a bit of time to change from a product approach to a process approach. However, now the team is finishing planning within approximately the same time frame as they did before they implemented these purposeful, strategic and transformative changes to their planning. Do they follow their norms with fidelity? "We cannot afford not to, we have kids we can't let down," responded the first grade team lead with conviction.

What are your next steps in moving from product to process in your planning?
Does your team rotate who plans what content throughout the year to ensure depth of understanding regarding the district resources and processes in place to ensure successful lesson planning?
How can this article move your team forward in this shift?
How will your team utilize the Lesson Planning Look For/Template and CIR Rigor/Relevance Rubrics as you plan together?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Let's begin a conversation together that brings greater depth to our planning.

Resource: Brookhart, Susan M. "Start with Higher-Order Thinking." Educational Leadership:Powerful Lesson Planning:. ASCD, Oct. 2016. Web. 14 Oct. 2016.

Thank you for reading this week's SRE Longhorn Learning Post.

John and Kirsten

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

We want to know what you know...

Dr. Thornell recently went to an education symposium in Washington, D.C. There a renowned scientist who was part of a team that recently acquired the most expensive research microscope in the world was asked what was most valuable to him in his research. Without hesitation he replied, "My journals. It has all my thinking, problem solving, my research." Not one mention of the telescope.
In our quest of growing and intentionally utilizing student journals, at the heart of it all, we want our students to value their journals in the same way that the scientist does.
To move to that authentic use of journals as a learning community it is essential to gather data not only on student performance, but also on our own learning and thinking. As we have had conversations about journals, had journal walks, shared resources with each other, and made progress, we also need to know where YOU are in this process. This week's post we want you to take time to fill out a survey on teacher model journals and student journals for all content areas.
This survey is completely anonymous. Please be transparent and honest. Your feedback will help guide our next steps for learning and practice as a campus. Here is the link:
Thank you in advance for your transparency and honesty. 
-John and Kirsten