Be the Reason

I’ve been thinking a lot about Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and the value it plays in school. A few months ago, we had a training on techniques and strategies from CASEL, and it has started to weigh on my mind in two ways- in my role as a teacher support in planning and classrooms as well as personally as I think about my own son going to school soon. I think a lot of elementary teachers are natural when it comes to SEL, but sometimes it gets lost in middle school and high school. Most secondary students are shuffled to 6-7 classes a day and from the second the bell rings they are often talked at, instructed to sit down, and stop talking. This is not every teacher or every classroom, please don’t take offense at anything I say in this post, but I think as educators we need to be reflective about not only what we are teaching kids, but also how we are teaching them. Additionally, I am a complete advocate for consistent and strategic systems such as posting on your board each day the materials students should have out and ensuring students learn routines, but again we need to be aware of how our students are doing, not just what they are doing. Moreover, in secondary land, if there are 7 classes a day you might dread a class…just saying. I’ve been there, but let’s be reflective. Why are you dreading this class? Have you tried changing your mindset? Have you tried creating a new environment? Are your structures simply about getting work done, factory-like, with little to do with the whole child? If so, something might be missing. The moment I started adding SEL (without knowing it was SEL) into my routines I saw an immediate change in my students and myself. It’s about the kids and YOU enjoying what you do every day, every class. I hope this post can shed a light on building our students up, fostering a positive classroom environment, and being the reason your kids come to school.

CASEL identifies three “signature practices” for SEL instruction in classrooms which include welcoming inclusion activities, engaging strategies, and optimistic closures. Many are simple and quick ways teachers can check that they are fostering a safe and valued classroom. Here are some ideas I have pulled from CASEL and ones I did in my classroom that really made an impact.

Welcoming Inclusion Activities: 

  • Greet students by name at the door (there are some specific teachers I think of right off the top of my head that I work with who do this EVERY single day and I can see the respectful rapport they have with their kids because of it). I know emails come, papers stack, and life happens, but if you make this a habit every day and every class period you are gearing up for a great start to class and bringing your attention to what matters that moment, your students.
  • Whole group greeting activities (this may sound cheesy to high school teachers, but kids love and need these. I used to ask my students questions like, if you were the weather today, what would you be and why? If your day was a movie, what would it be and why? I didn’t do it every day and I could have been better at it…in fact I know one teacher who intentionally planned these questions every day and wow, his room was an inspiration to me. You can pose these whole group to share out or just share with a partner/table group. You don’t have to spend more than a couple minutes, but the payoff of knowing how your students are feeling and will respond that day is huge. Imagine knowing a kid is having a bad day before you start the lesson or conversely, what an awesome way to start the class celebrating something from a student that can set the tone for the lesson.
  • CASEL has several quick strategies here (https://schoolguide.casel.org/uploads/2018/12/CASEL_SEL-3-Signature-Practices-Playbook-V3.pdf). I like the Greeting Frenzy and Four Corners. Read over them and try them out!

Engaging Strategies: 

This is all about letting kids talk, work together, and engage in meaningful conversation. A lot of teachers fear what will happen when they let their kids talk, so rows start being the norm and direct instruction takes over the majority of the class period. But our kids need to communicate to dig deeper and learn from each other, and it’s our job as educators to encourage that in a safe and purposeful way. Below are some ideas.

  • Think, ink, pair, share. This is a common practice I used and I see a lot of teachers use, but it should never be overlooked. I like that CASEL added the “ink” portion to this protocol to ensure students are able to write about what they are thinking. It’s so valuable to let students have independent process time, conversation, and voice in the classroom and a protocol like this perfectly captures it all.
  • Lead4ward has an amazing list of strategies called their Instructional Strategies Playlist geared for all grade levels. I really like the Careless Clueless and never underestimate the power of a snowball fight (see Think and Throw)!! These may be new and stretch the structure of your class, but try it, I think you’ll see and hear great things!
  • CASEL has more quick strategies here (https://schoolguide.casel.org/uploads/2018/12/CASEL_SEL-3-Signature-Practices-Playbook-V3.pdf). I like Pass it On. Read through and try some out!

Optimistic Closure: 

CASEL explains “optimistic closure is not necessarily a ‘cheery ending’, but rather highlights an individual and shared understanding of the importance of the work, and can provide a sense of accomplishment and support forward-thinking.” I love this because I think SEL is not about the dichotomy of separately supporting a student’s emotional well being and their academic learning, but rather blending these two to solidify learning and progress a student’s knowledge.

So to summarize and emphasize, SEL should not be in addition to your workload but rather incorporate and enhance the good teaching you’re already doing. In a few weeks, I am attending another training by CASEL on working SEL into your PLCs. I am excited for this because I think if teachers feel SEL in their own practice, it will seamlessly transpire to students.

Here’s a quick checklist I made while you’re planning to ensure you are including SEL:

  • Am I greeting my kids at the door each day, each class?
  • Do you know the general (or individual) energy of your students before starting your content?
  • Are your students talking to each other?
  • Who is asking the majority of the questions?
  • Did the bell dismiss your students or did the learning?

What are other ways you incorporate SEL in your classroom? Which “signature practice” is your strength? Leave a comment to continue the conversation!

 

Sources:

What is SEL?

Resources

 

Advertisements

This Month in Classrooms (Volume 1)

As an instructional coach, I have the opportunity of being in several classes and seeing some really great teaching and learning. I often post pictures with on Twitter, but I am going to dedicate some posts to highlight and celebrate in more detail all I am seeing each month.

One teacher I work with uses Desmos and creates her own activities for students. When she does this, every student is engaged in the process. In fact, one day I was there she paused the activity to debrief and I heard students say “NOOO,” which was such a fun validation of their engagement. If you haven’t explored Desmos, I encourage you to…there are a lot of FREE resources and bundles by course/topic.

Another teacher consistently uses multiple representations when teaching concepts. Last week, her lesson explored roots of quadratics and she asked the students model their answers with the equation, the graph, and the algebraic solution each time. I loved this method to help students make connections between the visual representation and the algebraic process.

Screen Shot 2019-04-01 at 12.57.21 PM.png

Another teacher uses powerful questioning with her students each day. I have never seen anyone give so much autonomy to students through the use of questioning. Her class is so student centered as she regularly questions students to have them lead the conversation of learning. Additionally, she often has her students share their work under the document camera instead of explaining things herself.

Screen Shot 2019-04-01 at 12.56.52 PM.png

Last (but not least), one teacher used a GoogleForm as a pre-assessment to group students and calibrate their knowledge from the day before. I loved how this was a quick way for the teacher to see where students were and then allowed her to target and differentiate her instruction that day with groups.

Screen Shot 2019-04-01 at 4.24.16 PM

So, this month in classrooms…

I saw: engagement through technology and multiple reps, strategic grouping, and smooth transitions.

I heard: engagement through silence at times and voices at others, questioning, positive attitudes about math.

Stay tuned for Volume 2 of This Month in Classrooms later this month!

UbD Reflections

I recently attended a training on Understanding by Design (UbD) and had some big “ah-ha” moments that I have been thinking about. Several years ago I also went to a week long UbD seminar in which I wrote and published a UbD unit through Trinity University.  I learned an incredible amount there (if anyone gets the opportunity to attend with a Trinity colleague, DO IT!!), but I still feel like I have a lot to remember and expand upon as I deepen my knowledge of UbD. We are in the middle of refining our district curriculum and as it models a UbD template, we are carefully tuning our Transfer Goals, Understandings, and Essential Questions before moving on to Stage 2 (Performance Assessments). So, below is some synthesis of my learning in these three areas.

Transfer has been a bit hard for me to grasp, so I called the presenter over to our table to discuss a bit deeper. I finally understood when she said that transfer is what we want our students to be able to do when they graduate. Then she asked, after 13 years in our district, what is our goal for every math student to be able to do when they leave us? That’s big! This made me think, and she confirmed, that because Transfer Goals should be developed and deepened over time, they could be consistently written across grade levels. How cool would it be for a kindergartener to read and see the same goal for themself that year, in 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd, all the way to their senior year in high school!? How successful would you feel knowing every year you are working towards the same big goal and you will achieve it by the time you graduate? Students do see these with our state Process Standards (for example 1.(F) states the student will analyze mathematical relationships to connect and communicate mathematical ideas) and this is the same description across every single grade level TEKS. Right now we put all our process standards as our Transfer Goals in our units, but do we need to pick the ones that actually apply to that specific unit? I’m not sure. Do we create new ones that are in student friendly language? If these are our broad goals we want students to master within their educational career, how are we as teachers communicating them to students…they’re written in our curriculum, but are we being explicit to students and how can we have them have ownership/buy in over them?

Understandings came to light when the presenter had us think about something we know and understand as well as something we know, but don’t quite understand. For example, a lot of what I know but don’t understand is technology based…I know a text message I send on my iPhone will reach the person, but I don’t understand the Cloud and how it got there. My husband is a basketball coach and during this March Madness time, we have been watching A LOT of basketball. He truly knows and understands the game. Often times before an announcer describes a foul or talks through why a shot attempt was missed, he says exactly what happened. He knows the plays and he understands not only the rules of basketball, but also the intricacies of the skills and how they work together to see the big picture of the game.  To enable our students to reach understanding we have to help our students see the big picture and why/how things work together. To do this we take a set of skills (TEKS) and combine them into one understanding. They should be written as, “the student will understand that…” They are uncovered over time and connect ideas and concepts.

Finally, Essential Questions, are maybe my favorite to think about because these lead to really engaging and intriguing questions that the teacher and/or students can ask. An essential question should be open ended and does not have one single answer. As they are revisited throughout the unit they spark further questions and justification. I am excited we are bringing these into our units and want to help teachers find ways to not only spark discussion with their students, but also keep them alive and visible throughout the unit.

Because so much of this UbD template is not only for the teachers in their planning, but also for the students to take ownership, dive deeper, and make meaning of their learning, I am continuing to wonder how we make these visible throughout the unit. One colleague mentioned they used to post Understandings and EQs around the room to refer to. Does anyone else do UbD consistently and have ways to display/refer to them in a meaningful way? How do you help students wrestle with the ideas throughout the unit? Leave me your thoughts and ideas!

Source: Dr Sandra N Kleinman, MAC McTighe & Associates Consulting

Student Centered Coaching

I just got back from a 2 day conference by Corwin about Student Centered Coaching (SCC). When I got this position as a specialist, our district had just started learning about SCC and had a goal of having us enter a cycle with a teacher. However, because I came in the middle of the year, I wasn’t quite sure how to do this, and I am thankful I got to go to this conference to wrap my head around it all, solidify my knowledge, and further myself in the idea of SCC. I loved hearing from Diane Sweeney herself as she has a genuinely encouraging tone and is full of passion and knowledge. After big days of learning, I like to write to synthesize my learning for myself and if it can help anyone else reading this, that’s an added bonus too. So, here we go:

Student Centered Coaching Definition: An outcomes based approach to coaching that focuses on student learning. 

Key Quotes and Thoughts: 

  1. Coaching should not be about “fixing” teachers, It’s about student learning and should build on the strengths of a teacher.
  2. Coaching should not be one more thing we have to do, how do we frame it so it’s not? Always be thinking…what about the kids?
  3. Learning targets and success criteria are necessary for teacher clarity (“Students can hit any target they can see and that stands still for them.” – Steve Ventura

Providing Strengths-Based Feedback:

  1. The coach and teacher engage in a conversation that flows from starting with clarifying questions, to value statements, and finally uncovering possibilities through questions and discussion. In both of the following I started with the Notice and Naming coaching move.
    • I tried this with a teacher today during her conference 2nd period after I was able to be in her 1st period. It really helped focus our conversation, affirm good practices, and maximize results for the next class period.
    • At the conference, I was a little worried of how I could fit in feedback conversations like this if the teacher or I didn’t have time during lunch or conference. Today during lunch, a teacher asked me to observe their 6th period class and it actually gave me the perfect opportunity to try it out in a short time frame since I wanted to provide feedback for their next class. During passing period, we were able to talk using these three stages (clarifying questions, value statements, and uncovering possibilities) to lead to some changes for the next class. Of course I would love to talk during a conference or lunch to have more time and less sense of urgency, but I know it’s possible and resulted in positive reflections/additions.

Visible Learning 

  1. Teacher Clarity: .75 effect size. Learning Targets and Success Criteria are integral to increase teacher clarity and they need to be revisited during the lesson by both teachers and students.
  2. Collective Teacher Efficacy: 1.57 effect size. Definition: The belief of teacher groups about the collective ability to promote successful student outcomes.
    • In our PLCs we can work to ensure we have collective teacher efficacy by writing clear goals (.68 effect size and PLC question 1), providing feedback (.7 effect size and PLC question 2), RTI (1.07 effect size and PLC question 3). (additional source I researched after the conference: http://www.steveventura.com/about/efficacy.php)

Lastly, in Steve Ventura’s keynote speech he outlined several qualities of inspired and passionate teachers including developing relationships, providing feedback, engaging in dialogue, providing challenge, managing so learning is the focus not behavior, using a wide range of instructional strategies, and valuing expertise over experience. As a coach, I hope to focus my conversations in a way that cultivates the strengths teachers come with and motivate teachers to move students further using these qualities. 

“Flashy Poster Syndrome”

Do you ever find yourself using a lesson you found from the internet or one you created thinking it had high potential for learning, and then quickly realize after you used it that while the products may be beautiful and artistic, no real learning happened? I’ll admit it…I have! I remember a couple projects I gave where I wanted students to summarize their learning, connect to a real world topic, and display their learning visually, but somehow the end result was a bust as far as students transferring their knowledge. While I am glad I have had many successful projects and lessons, these, deemed “Flashy Poster Syndrome” lessons, are the ones that weigh on my mind because I wonder why it just didn’t work.

On Friday, we had a little book study at work with the book, Facilitating Teacher Teams and Authentic PLCs, and this rubric below jumped out at me as a way to intentionally vet lessons like the ones I described above to achieve “high quantity and quality of learning.” As the book stated, I think this can be very useful in PLCs if teams are finding themselves deciding on an activity that had been used in years past or one pulled from the Internet. By using this tool to analyze the activity, the focus of the conversation becomes more proactive rather than reactive. Therefore teachers can spend less time discussing “What do we do if our students don’t learn?” and more time discussing, “What’s the best way to teach this so that our students learn it in the first place?” (This aligns with DuFour, FuFour and Eaker’s 2nd PLC question: How will we know students are learning?)

Screen Shot 2019-02-01 at 9.40.33 AMScreen Shot 2019-02-01 at 9.33.37 AM

Screen Shot 2019-02-01 at 9.40.19 AM

This quick check list can help teachers have an “evidence-based” conversation and although you do not need to come to consensus on the exact “scoring”, it rather focuses on strengthening the lesson for student learning.

*Notes: 1. If using this as a team, it is safest to use this with a lesson that is not specifically tied to one individual on the team because “there is a vast psychological difference between scoring a stranger’s work found on the Internet and scoring a colleague’s work.” 2. Do not always throw out high maintenance tasks, but give that thought when planning. 3. I LOVE the questions the book asks to determine rigor: “Who is doing the thinking here-the teacher or the students? Who is asking the questions-the teacher or the students?”

 

Source: Facilitating Teacher Teams and Authentic PLCs, Daniel R. Venables

The Thinking Classroom

I have been seeing a lot about the “thinking classroom” recently on Twitter and then again from an article my mom sent me a few days ago. As things like this start to pop up more and more I consider it a sign that I need to read about it and if I agree, start to help implement it where I can. So, I did just that and it turns out, I definitely agree and want to summarize/plan how I can encourage these practices to happen.

The “thinking classroom” stemmed from an classroom observation Peter Liljedahl did in which the issue of students not thinking and not problem solving occurred…a problem I think a lot of teachers face. Ultimately, there was a teacher assumption that students could not or would not think. Too often I hear (and I have been guilty of saying it, too) that students just can’t and won’t problem solve together, that doing ____wont work with my kids, or they just don’t try. But we can’t just assume, or hope, that they are going to “spontaneously engage in problem solving” without creating a classroom culture of such. And therefore, the “thinking classroom” was born. Liljedahl explains that with the “thinking classroom” he wanted to create classrooms that were “not only conducive to thinking but also occasions thinking, a space inhabited by thinking individuals as well as individuals thinking collectively, learning together, and constructing knowledge and understanding through activity and discussion.” (LOVE THIS!!!) So, he and over 400 k-12 teachers developed 14 pedagogies that should be in place to make this happen.

  1. Lessons should begin with problem solving, engaging tasks. 
  2. Tasks should be given verbally (long instructions/diagrams can be posted), but it needs to delivered verbally.
  3. Visible random groups need to be established every day not strategically set beforehand by the teacher.
  4. Students need to work on vertical non permanent work spaces (VNPS) (vertical white boards, windows, etc).
  5. De-front the classroom and address the class from multiple places in the room.
  6. Students ask only three types of questions: proximity questions, asked when the teacher is close; “stop thinking” questions—like “Is this right?” or “Will this be on the test?”; and “keep thinking” questions—ones that students ask in order to be able to get back to work. The teacher should answer only the third type of question.”
  7. Hints and extensions should be given as a way to engage and challenge students.
  8. For student autonomy, students need to talk more with each other when they struggle before the teacher.
  9. The teacher should pull the students together for debrief when all students are ready to participate.
  10. Students should write notes to their future self about their work/other’s work.
  11. 4-6 practice questions should be given for self-evaluation.
  12. Formative assessment should be frequent and inform students where they are and where they are going.
  13. Summative assessments should be on what you value and about the process of learning.
  14. Report out on data.

screen shot 2019-01-24 at 12.27.45 pm

With the image above, Liljedahl explains that these can be implemented in three different stages and interestingly, as I was reading them, I thought exactly the same thing (I love when I’m in line with researchers!!) I can more easily start with a few of the more concrete pedagogies before rolling out the others. He suggested, and I agree, starting with #1,#3, and #4. #1 (Engaging tasks) does require extra planning and thought, but it will definitely increase the engagement of the classroom. I am wondering when we can find the time to discuss and create these. Does this happen during PLC…ideally I think so to help teachers have the ownership and excitement for it? Is there time? Or do we do some for teachers at the district curriculum and instruction level? Or do create some when we are working on our redesigned curriculum with UbD? I’m still thinking about this…so let me know if anyone reading this has ideas! I’m excited to try #3 (visible random groups) and #4 (VNPS) as they are concrete and immediate actions we can take. I fully believe in the power of group work for communication and understanding. But, I know a lot of teachers are still nervous of grouping students for various reasons. I understand the challenges, but I think knowing how to structure and use groups is important to the effectiveness of them. According to the research, within 2-3 weeks the results of using visible random groups were incredible:

screen shot 2019-01-24 at 1.11.17 pm

How amazing would it be to break down social barriers, enable kids to work better with anyone, and build resiliency with this one change! Now onto #4 (VNPS). I learned about these a bit ago and tried them in action as a participant of a training. Honestly I didn’t give them much thought until reflecting on it now and realizing such a simple change had some really powerful effects on the teacher and students: they allowed the teacher to observe the learning and conversations better as opposed to students writing just at their desks, they gave students the opportunity to look at other student work (this isn’t cheating…why not give them a chance to learn from each other?), they held students accountable to learning and participating, and also held the teacher accountable to facilitating. I’m thinking we can start with big sticky chart paper (is that considered non permanent? Or does it need to be erasable?) and then maybe we can restructure a willing teacher’s room to use the whiteboards/windows. Overall, I think coupled together, #3 and #4 can be so helpful for teachers to monitor learning and ensure students remain engaged, active, collaborative and participatory.

I’m excited I found this and thankful to whatever education power of being that kept putting this concept of the “thinking classroom” out there for me to see multiple times and finally read up on. Let me know if you implement any of these ideas and what other suggestions you have for getting started in building such a classroom!

Sources: https://www.edutopia.org/article/building-thinking-classroom-math

http://peterliljedahl.com/wp-content/uploads/Building-Thinking-Classrooms-Feb-14-20151.pdf

Purposeful Student Talk

I recently went to a Solution Tree conference (which was awesome BTW. . . if you get a chance to go, GO!) and a powerful quote stuck out to me that connected the idea of student talk vs. teacher talk.

A great teacher is not “one who explains things so well that students understand” but “one who gets students to explain things so well that they can be understood.”

-Reinhart

As I reflected on this, I realized this captured a main goal of mine as a specialist in working with PLCs and addressing the second question of PLCs: How will we know students are learning? To answer this question, I think teachers need to implement strategies that empower students to communicate mathematical ideas to prove their understanding and not simply rely on the teacher doing the talking. So, when I got back from the conference I talked with my PLCs and they agreed that this is an important issue and wanted to create time to discuss specific strategies teachers will implement to have students purposefully talk (this idea of purposeful talk also came from a principal I work with. Thank you to that principal!) Since talking to them and thinking of ways in which we could do this efficiently and effectively, I have seen more and more research and ideas supporting this idea of teacher talk vs. student talk. For example, a few days ago I was reading a book by Deb Teitelbaum and she wrote, “the rule of thumb for calculating the amount of direct instruction your students can handle is to take their age in years plus or minus three.” That means freshmen students need a break from direct instruction/teacher talk about every 11 minutes. Then today I was tagged in this video (thank you to that AP) which explains this idea of teacher talk and gives the shocking research that on average, “teachers ask an average of 200 questions per day and students ask an average of 2 questions per student per week.” After seeing all these supporting claims, it was reconfirming that what I’m doing is important and necessary work. So, I decided I needed to finally finish this post and here’s how we’re making this purposeful student talk happen.

At one school, the team of teachers is taking every Tuesday to look at the week ahead and plan out one strategy per day that they can commit to doing. We started this week and it was a really successful and engaging experience. We are drew from Lead4ward and 7 Steps to a Language-Rich Interactive Classroom strategies. Each teacher has the Lead4ward App (if you don’t have it, download it now!) and almost all have been to a training I did on the 7 Steps. So it was a great way to not reinvent the wheel and instead, turn to these resources that have been proven to be successful as a quick way to align strategies to instruction. I typed up their ideas in a Googledoc where their lesson plans are housed as they wrote them on the physical notes/practice papers that they had already planned for the students that week. I loved how it gave the teachers a broad overview of the week while also zooming in on specific strategies to increase student learning and communication each day. This week those teachers are using total response signals (7 Steps Strategy), sentence stems (7 steps strategy), and a summarize response (Lead4ward). I think this conversation of stopping the teacher’s instruction and allowing students to process, talk, and do was really powerful! It also helped teachers process how they wanted students to be grouped and when in the lesson they would be purposefully talking.

Next week, I plan to do a similar task with my other school, but instead we will use a Chalk Talk protocol to generate strategies together. I am looking forward to how this method of discussion flows and seeing the teachers engage in this meaningful planning.

 

Chicken Wings and Math

This hilarious Twitter post just went viral and shows kids (and adults) why we need math. After seeing the post, I started thinking how could we incorporate this into a math lesson, because clearly we need some simplifying or justification on what is going on here. If you read this article in Today, you can see several other mathematicians are thinking the same thing. What’s the deal with the 25th wing? According to the menu, each wing costs either $1.10 or $1.15 (why is it sometimes more?) until the 25th wing, and that one is only $0.55…but the 26th is back to $1.15…?! The internet reacted and “there’s gotta be a better way to convey this information!”

WingsSo, teachers, we could use this as a lesson to talk about so many standards!! I’m thinking in just Algebra I there are several. For example, TEKS A.3B, rate of change. Is it constant? Should it be if I’m buying multiple wings? When does it change? TEKS A.2A, domain and range. Is the information discrete or continuous? Why? What’s the least amount of wings and most? And that scale…it was going up by 1’s, then 5’s, then 10’s, then what? Can I even a certain amount like 55 wings? A.2C, writing linear equations from a verbal description. But it’s not linear, so maybe we need A.4A and A.4c to look at correlation coefficient and writing equations from data. Whew. I think this could definitely apply to all levels of math-elementary, middle, high, college! Let me know if try it out and what your kids think.

PLC Essentials

As a specialist I regularly support and work with PLCs and wanted to reflect on PLC practices and successes I am seeing at the campuses I work with.

Firstly, PLCs should be centered around four essential questions:

  1. What do we want students to learn? (standards and learning targets)
  2. How will we know if they have learned? (common assessments)
  3. What will we do if they don’t learn? (interventions)
  4. What will we do if they already know it? (differentiation)

With our new curriculum documents, I am really seeing teachers have authentic conversations around #1 and #2. The teachers I work with are writing learning targets together in their PLC rather than first turning to what activity they’re going to do each day. This shift enables teachers to know what exactly will need to be in the activity with fully fleshed out learning targets. Both the schools I work with are writing learning targets based on standards and this rich conversation is helping teachers understand and know the standards even better. I hope we can start to write “success criteria” soon in which we identify the thought process that our students should go through to have success on their learning target. I recently went to a training on this and I think writing success criteria is a crucial step for allowing students and teachers to measure learning. By making these visible, students can also start to take more ownership in their learning.

Another key component of the PLC is creating common assessments before the activities. It is so important for teachers to know what students will be assessed on before actually teaching it. The commonality of the assessments enables teachers to look at their assessment data and analyze misconceptions and errors. One goal I have is that I want to be more of a part of this data debrief this year and help teachers identify interventions they can do daily/in the moment as well as after an assessment.

Lastly, PLCs are not meant to be just an hour meeting separate from the daily work in our classrooms. I love to see and hear the teachers I work with collaborating in the hall in between classes together. The way in which they authentically and naturally talk about how well it went in their class or seek out advice about the lesson is inspiring. I’m not even sure they realize they are addressing the 3rd and 4th PLC questions when they do this, but as a specialist, I get to see how these discussions lead to positive changes and additions in their classrooms from period to period. With this collaborative environment I see more student success and teacher efficacy.

Pre-AP PD

This week, I gave a Pre-AP/GT training for my district and I have to say, I learned a lot in preparing and delivering it. As a pre-AP/GT teacher, I thought I was doing best practices by giving my students real world scenarios and extending their thinking with scaffolding probing questions, and while this was great, I had NO idea I was lacking a huge component of pre-AP by actually connecting to AP topics and/or the AP exam. In my training I hoped to have teachers learn about our district’s philosophy and framework of Pre-AP, analyze data from the AP, and then take this knowledge to find ways to “Pre-APify” their performance assessments and projects.

After the introduction of Pre-AP, we dove into some AP data and provided teachers an opportunity to see AP topics and how students performed on the topics in the test results. Then, I showed teachers this performance assessment which I actually had to tweak for this training…as I mentioned, I was missing that piece linking to an AP topic. This new version still asked students to find midpoints and distances on a map then I added the part that had students extend their thinking with an AP connection of optimization.

After presenting this task, I created a process for teachers to do the same with their own tasks and projects. I had teachers sit by content and map out their year of performance assessments/projects. By sitting together in content teams, teachers were able to discuss ideas they had done and collaborate on how one teacher’s idea might look in their own classroom. We rarely get a chance to talk to other teachers from other schools, so I think (and *hope*) this was a really valuable collaborative time. Some groups even made a Google Folder and compiled project ideas together. As they mapped out their calendars, I asked teachers to list the AP topic they thought they could incorporate into their project, then they noted the Pre-AP routines, practices, and formative assessment structures they do as outlined in our district framework. They did this with a document I created that organized their thoughts according to our Year at a Glance documents. Next time we meet, I am planning to have teachers create the lesson plan and student materials needed to make these projects/tasks happen.

This training really opened me up to exploring higher level content and how we can help our students be exposed to them early on in Pre-AP. It put me a bit out of my comfort zone, too, because I haven’t studied these topics in so long so I had to admit I wasn’t always sure how we could connect the topic, but that I would research along side them. I wanted to have all the answers and an easy way to incorporate the AP topics, but it’s harder than I thought to really understand how to provide authentic opportunities!! For example, one group is thinking about doing a project on roller coasters and polynomials and in the moment while they were brainstorming I wasn’t sure what AP topic connected. But since the training, I have been researching some ideas about rates of change (average and instantaneous) with polynomial graphs and I think this could fit perfectly. I hope we can scaffold some questions as to how to find the rate of change on a polynomial graph and why this is important/what it affects in roller coasters. Finally, one teacher mentioned that they would like to have AP teachers involved in collaborating ideas to connect Pre-AP content to AP topics, and I totally agree…they would be so helpful in this, so I hope to have some AP teachers present next time as well!

I look forward to the next time we meet and hope these projects give students more challenge as they explore AP topics.