Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Power of You...

As we head into Thanksgiving break, the thing that is most powerful about Sendera Ranch Elementary and YOU the teacher is how you are constantly moving forward in your practice and how you are profoundly impacting student success. No matter the coordinator, coach or administrator that walks through the halls of Sendera, they are always amazed at YOUR transparency, honesty and willingness to learn. Never do they hear the words "I can't," "I won't" or "It is not possible." Often, the response is "Yes, lets do it!" "What more can we do to improve." or "Would you help us put _____ in place."

More than that, is how well each one of YOU know yourself, your team and your students. With every opportunity that arises to tweak, move forward or present next steps, YOU ALL are talking about it BEFORE it is even brought to you by the leadership. Your PLC notes, conversations you share with us or the initiative you take to reach out to coaches and others for supports and resources speaks to your constant desire to learn and grow.

We see so many amazing things happening because of this "learner mindset." Those things include:

  • Alignment between classrooms with instruction
  • Lesson plans that show evidence of intentional planning both as a team and individually and thought to how lessons connect to previous lessons or future lessons
  • Lots of intentional use of academic/content vocabulary in journals
  • Guided math groups and reading groups have become a routine practice
  • Use of student goal setting is in place
  • Teachers AND students utilize academic vocabulary in conversations and in instruction
  • High quality of writing/justification in journals in 5th grade
  • Good organization in journals
Wonderings or Next Steps that have been both for our campus and as a district include:
  • How can the cycle feedback (feedback, response, reflect) become part of journaling in our content areas? (both peer and teacher feedback)
  • What are ways that we can continue to grow in our content knowledge and vocabulary, and build awareness of vertical alignment to aide student understanding and prevent unintended misconceptions?
  • What are our teacher model journals needing to look like and to what extent should we take our models to support student journal entries?
  • How can we ensure that students are revisiting goals that are set and are able to determine where they are as learners?
  • Does the value we place in literacy rich tasks reflect in student work particularly in our student journals? Are we seeing growth and development in their journal responses? 
    • In reading/writing are we seeing growth since BOY and better organization, clear explanations and ideas? 
    • In math problem solving block journals are we seeing written explanations that mirror verbalized explanations (K-2) and depth in justifications (3-5)? 
    • In science are we seeing well organized journals/observations with diagrams with labels (K-5), clearly stated and supported conclusions with 1-2 CERs per unit(3-5)?
Many of you have already begun to think in the direction of the above wonderings/next steps. One thing many of us forget is where we have been and just see where we have to go. Then, for those of us who have the historical frame of reference, we remind those who don't how far we have come in just a few short months. Just think... a year ago, where were your reading response journals, your problem solving block journals, your lesson plans, the conversations in your PLCs? Congratulate yourself, your team, your students... YOU have come so far. YOU do have the power to change things and YOU have. When we all commit to have a growth mindset, we have the power that is going to transform learning.

The change happens because of the POWER in YOU and through YOU. Thank you for being YOU!

John and Kirsten

Friday, November 11, 2016

Moving Forward on a Line of Progression

There has been a lot of discussion and "look fors" that have been shared over the course of the last twelve weeks. At times it seems as though there is only more to do and no progress forward. Unfortunately, that is the myth learners believe if moments are not taken to reflect on the goals set or note the steps made toward progress.

When looking at the campus problem of practice, what gains have we made? Looking at the progress of our campus as a whole we are already making steps forward. We have many things we have put in place and our doing with fidelity (noted by the green arrow). There are things that we are moving towards and are making steps toward doing as part of our common practice (noted by the yellow arrow). Then there are things we have set as goals, plan to achieve, yet have not put into place (noted in red).
Some may look at this and see all the red. That would be an unfair assessment of our growth. What would be a fair assessment is to look at the green AND the yellow. When this Problem of Practice was set in motion, it was done with the knowledge that what we set before us, was a goal that would not be met overnight or even in a year's time. If it was, the expectation was set too low. The teacher leaders that help craft this knew what the teachers and students of our campus could do. Would it be easy? No. Would it take time? Yes. Would it make us uncomfotable? More than likely. Would it be worth it? Most definitely.

This progress has been one step at a time. For some, slower than they would like. For others not slow enough. One would argue, though, that regardless of how one feels about the pace of our progression, upon reflection, progress has been made. 

It is with this idea of reflection and really looking at where one is, that we ask you to evaluate your team and yourself in regards to your lesson planning. What is the progress of your team and yourself in this area? How have you grown? What have you already changed to deepen the process of planning and lesson preparation?

A line of progression helps us determine where we are individually and as a team. It isn't about making it to the finish line, but that you are moving forward... one step at a time. Looking at the "Lesson Plan Look Fors Guide" and reflecting both on your growth and your team's growth... where do you and your team fall on the "Lesson Planning Line of Progression?"

Here is an example of how a teacher might have reflected on where he/she was both individually and as a team in the area of lesson planning with a "Line of Progression" at the beginning of the year:
Here is what a line of progression might look like for this same teacher 12 weeks into the school year:

Using a red pen to determine- not yet doing, a yellow pen- in process or starting to do, and a green pen- doing with fidelity; the teacher was able to assess where he/she was, the progress being made and next steps both individually and for the team.

A line of progression doesn't have to be on a fancy template or for anyone else to see. It is for you to assess where you are and see where you have grown. It is designed to celebrate the progress and determine your next steps. If you are one that would like to use a "Line of Progression" guide as provided in the examples here are a couple of docs you can utilize as resources:

To help you determine where you fall in the "Lesson Planning Line of Progression" a few questions are provided to guide you.

As a team: 
  • Are you unpacking the TEK(s) tied to each lesson and identifying the verb and the mastery that should be demonstrated when this standard is taught? 
  • Are you collaborating and aligning the student friendly learning target?
  • Are you together generating 2-3 Higher Level Questions and/or determining ways to get students to ask higher level questions?
  • Are you determining places throughout the lesson that lend themselves to opportunity for student to student communication?
  • Are you discussing where learning misconceptions may occur?
  • Are you determining way to create literacy rich opportunities via journals, digital projects, speaking opportunities, etc? (are tasks just part of literacy or are they stretching and growing your students and ARE literacy RICH)
  • Are you talking together what the key learning you want students to have at the closing?
  • Are you considering where in the lesson are opportunities for "Quad D" moments? 
  • Before planning with the team have you familiarized yourself with the scope and content that you will be discussing during planning?
  • Have you familiarized yourself with the TEK(s) to the point you have a general understanding of how it would be unpacked?
  • Do you come to planning with ideas and an open mind to other ideas for how lessons can be delivered?
  • After planning and before instruction do you read over the lesson and look for opportunities to craft "moments" of purposeful talk? 
  • After planning and before instruction do you read over the lesson and look for opportunities to do in the moment formative assessments throughout the lesson?
  • After the lesson, do you reflect on the lesson and what went well, what you would revise? Where did your student's misconceptions occur?

There are so many celebrations for where we are as a campus. Every PLC agenda notes, every individual conversation, every walkthrough shows this. One of the key elements of this growth is the authentic way in which you interact with one another, your students and your instructional leaders. You are transparent in your practice and eager to continually fine tune your instruction. We are as lead learners moving forward on a line of progression.

Please feel free to leave comments and/or share your thoughts on the Campus' line of progression, your teams or your own individual growth.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Creating Space for Making Thinking Visible

Whether your content is ELA or Math. Capturing thinking in student journals is not only effective but provides a way to archive individual student progress. 

Journaling is the space where we can fill in the gaps from a scope and sequence or a scripted lesson plan. It is where the thinking becomes real and personal for each learner. 
In Math we use the tool of journaling through our Problem Solving Block. Vertical conversations have brought consensus that we all want students to be able to show a complete solution and show that they understand the problem. From there we continue to strive for thorough explanations through words and models K-2 and explanations with justifications 3-5. We know that this is where the meat of what students learn is applied with rigor and depth.
Problem Solving Block questions are designed to spiral in previous learning, see where students are with upcoming new concepts, provide emphasis to current content and/or create opportunities to reteach where concepts may need more instruction or clarification with ways it can be presented. With the autonomy of this time and the journals, comes in the importance of planning and collaboration. Planning moves from the what to the why and how. Planning begins to evolve from not just what lesson we are teaching, but drives deeper into what do we want the learner to know (learning target), what questions are we asking and hoping to hear students asking, and what activities/tasks will best elicit the data that tells us that our students KNOW IT!

Another idea to consider is how can we move beyond just the look fors... as teachers model in their Problem Solving Journals, how can we enhance the literacy rich focus of our Problem of Practice. The following article from blog The Cornerstone for Teachers "Everything You Need to Know About Math Journals" by Angela Watson affirms so much of what we are already doing. The portion that talks about 'Why math journaling?' is powerful where it states: 
"-Kids have the opportunity to reflect on their strategies and assess their own learning

-Students practice putting their knowledge into words both verbally and in writing
-Instructional focus is shifted from computation to problem solving and real-life application
-The teacher gains insight into children’s abilities, opinions, understandings, and misconceptions
-It creates a documented portfolio-like record of student growth and progress"

Furthermore, the portion "What do students write about?" suggests a move beyond what are presently being done where the focus is mostly on strategies and processes. How powerful might it be to take a moment every few weeks and address not just the processes, but the attitudes and learning. Reflection, as we know, can be the most powerful of all teachers.

In the coming weeks there is a focus on the following look fors in math problem solving block time: 
¨ Daily Problem Solving in journal with explanations (K-2) and justifications (3-5)
¨ Student discourse and use of talk moves by teachers/students with high level questioning
¨ Alignment of quality instruction from class to class within the same grade level
¨All components of the Stepping Stones Journal complete (Step Up and Step Ahead for deeper thinking)

Beyond this, what can we do with our journals, in ALL content areas to make student journals a piece of the learning that students own and value. A space for making thinking visible? Please share your comments below.

-Kirsten and John