Friday, February 17, 2017

Finding time...

Over and over again there is a matter of time. There is not enough of it. In our personal lives and in our professional lives. In our personal lives we have to make decisions, prioritize and address the most pressing/important matters with our relationships, responsibilities and activities. In our professional lives, we have to do much of the same.

As we move into the second half of the year... we have data that shows us where are students are, from where they began the year. We know where we need to get them by the end of the year...

So, how do we do that? We must look with a strong focus and a magnifying lens at how we use our time. What can we tighten up on, where can we get a dual benefit from one activity/task, and what do we need to consider changing.

The article "Time on Task: A Strategy That Accelerates Learning" offers some research proven techniques that many of you already employ. It is a great reminder of what we are already doing and possibly a good nudge to revisit actions we may have forgotten, walked away from or would be worth a try.

As we move forward this second half of the year strategically pushing for growth with our kids, let us make every effort to use our time efficiently, intentionally and with purpose. Every moment with our students is a moment to be magnified and utilized to ensure success and growth. How can we use use every margin of time for this purpose?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Happiness, Mindfulness and Classroom Impact...

When I wrote the post "The Happiness Hypocrite" I challenged the staff and myself. The challenge, to write down 3 things you were grateful for on that particular day and do it for 21 days. The purpose... to create mindfulness. For me I was looking for the good things, the things that reminded me of the little blessings, the humor, and the joy of living. I became mindful of the positive and was less likely to focus on the negative that came my way... and believe me, the negative came. What I noticed is that when the negative came, I was able to move beyond it, not focus on it, and was looking for the positive in each situation. I was experiencing a shift in perspective. My view was changing.

Often as teachers we are faced with challenges. At the beginning of the year we are positive, mindful and resilient in our hopes for our students. Somewhere along the way, about February, we begin to lose our resolve and the wind in our sails. We have a choice, though. We can let ourselves falter or we can stay mindful.

I know that how we think, what we do and how we approach each child, every lesson and every day makes the difference. It takes mindfulness... a shift in perspective. I read an article recently on this very thing. It is titled "A Journey Toward Mindfulness: How to Implement and Sustain This Practice Among Teachers, From Now Until the Last Day of School"
As I read it I saw many things that are already done by us as a campus and as individuals. It even mentioned "Gratitude Practices" which is like the 21 day Gratitude Challenge suggested in "The Happiness Hypocrite" post.

After reading the article, going through the 21 Day Challenge and knowing we could be headed for the mid-year slump, I want to know what can we do together to choose happiness, be mindful and continue to have a strong impact on our students? I plan to continue in my practice of writing down three things of gratitude each day. Please share your ideas on how we can sustain the practice of gratitude and mindfulness.

Friday, February 3, 2017

What do we mean when we say...

Often in education a word or phrase becomes more something we say than what we do with fidelity. When that happens, especially with practices that are research proven methods that yield success, it is worth a revisit. This could be true of our conversations of student discourse before our professional development afternoon in January and the support for deeper planning for discourse with our ICLE coach.

Another word or phrase that often is used loosely, but needs to be tight in implementation is "small groups."

Small groups, as defined in the research article "Small Group Reading Instruction: Lessons from the Field," states that small group literacy lessons are "learning experiences for small groups of children that are designed to focus on reading, writing, listening, or speaking skills."

While that definition is very broad in nature, how and what we do is a very specific and successful instructional approach when done with fidelity. Jennifer Serravallo, with Heinemann Publishing (also the publisher of our Lucy Calkin's books) has a great YouTube Series on this topic. Here is the introductory video that will take you through several video series anywhere from approximately 2 to 6 minutes that address everything from strategies to teach in small group to how to schedule and meet with all your small groups with frequency.

This is a great way to review and reflect on your own practice, determine what you are strong in your implementation/practice and what may be areas you would want more support. Another resource that offers great ideas on how to schedule your small groups is through the RTI Action Network website. On that website is an excellent article/guide on "Scheduling Challenges: Tiered Reading Intervention." While this article is addressing RTI with small groups as an intervention, the scheduling suggestions it offers are some great examples that may be beneficial to the struggle many of you find with getting to your small groups.

As we move forward in our practice, going from adding meaning and depth, to the practices we are doing both in word and deed, I challenge each of you. As our students needs and range of supports become more vast we will need to explore "out of the box" approaches. Considerations will be given to options such as flexible grouping in each grade. This will require us to be transparent with one another, know our own strengths, know our own areas of need, and, of course, trust one another with each other's students. As individuals and as teams, determine the following:
*What are each of our strengths?
*What are each or our areas of need?
*What do each of us need in the way of training/support as we look ahead, both immediate and this summer at Engage?
*Where could support from our instructional literacy or math coach help us to tighten our practice with small groups and/or targeting skills in literacy and math?

Make a list for yourself and with your team. Make a plan. Be bold in owning what you know and what you need to know. Make a commitment to know when you say "small groups" or "student discourse" or any other educational practice you do it with action and understanding.

Together we can do this!!!