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. 

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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

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.

7 Steps to a Language Rich Classroom

I recently gave a professional development focusing on the book, 7 Steps to a Language Rich Classroom. If you have EL students in your classroom and/or struggling learners, this book is a great, easy read. I was actually trained several years ago on these strategies so it was nice to have background knowledge as a participant and be able to take things I liked from the training and make it my own as a presenter. My goals in the training were 1. To increase student participation in a teacher’s classroom and 2. Develop strategies for EL learners to help them acquire and use academic language in the classroom.

I began the training with this video as a way to simulate what it feels like to be a struggling learner without scaffolds or procedures in place to help process the information. After debriefing, we then dove into the book as I presented chapter 2: Have Students Speak in Complete Sentences. I chunked the chapter and asked participants to read sections focusing on key question/sentence stems. The groups paired up and discussed using sentence stems before sharing out (sentence stems is one of the strategies the book highlights as helpful to ELs and struggling learners.) After the training, one participant commented that she got more out of this training than most others because I forced them to use these sentence stems in their conversations, therefore structuring and focusing their table talk…in other trainings she said she and her group would veer off and side talk. That was my intention and with that validation, I will definitely continue to use sentence stems in my future trainings! 

I then Jigsaw-ed the rest of the chapters

(1 Teach students what to say when they don’t know what to say

3 Randomize & Rotate when calling on students

4 Use total response signals

5 Use visuals and vocabulary strategies that support your objective

6 Have students participate in structured conversations

7 Have students participate in structured reading/writing activities)

by having participants create a summary poster with explanations of the chapter strategies and key quotes. After each group presented, I asked participants to record what strategy they planned to use in an upcoming lesson during the first few weeks of school. I told the participants that in a few weeks after school has been back in session and teachers *hopefully* feel a bit more settled, I will send out an email following up with each participant as to how the strategy they chose is going and if I can do anything else to help them with that particular one. I am excited for this because I feel like at the end of some trainings, I receive so much information and have grand plans, but I don’t actually follow up with my ideas. This way I can help teachers stay accountable to themselves and also provide support. Stay tuned for how it’s going and new tasks I get!

Developing a Professional Development

I am starting to plan a professional development for our district and I wanted to put together some ideas before my colleague and I meet together next week to continue planning. After being inspired by MTBoS on Twitter, I suggested an idea of presenting some things I have discovered from the group/hashtag that I love. Our theme then transformed into “Tech Tools for Teachers.” Below are some ideas I am thinking of incorporating. Feel free to comment about expanding upon these ideas or including others.

  • #MTBoS- This is such an incredibly rich resource, but I don’t think a lot of teachers in my district know about it. I want to show teachers the hashtag and allow them time to post to it or search for ideas they may be looking for…maybe they will become a found one of Dan Meyer’s “lonely math teachers” http://blog.mrmeyer.com/2018/lonely-math-teachers/.
  • Open Middle (https://mrstaplinsmath.wordpress.com/2015/05/26/open-middle/)- I showed this resource to a couple teachers I support as well as other specialists I work with and they loved the idea of this enrichment for students that is already created and easy to use. I want to show this to teachers and then allow them time to explore or create their own “open middle” type problem.
  • Desmos Card Sort- I found this resource while looking for a card sort activity for some teachers. I love how easy it is to use and how a teacher can quickly create graphs or use images (http://learn.desmos.com/cardsort/).
  • Lead4ward App- This is not something I found through #MTBoS, but falls under our tech tools. I know a lot of our district uses Lead4ward, but I’m not sure they know about the App. I was introduced to it at a Lead4ward training (btw I HIGHLY recommend the training) and loved the on the spot resources it provides, especially the “Quickchecks.” Again, I want to give teachers time to explore and plan.

I know this is a lot of kind of random resources, but I think we can find a way to connect them all and allow teachers the time to discover new things to use in their classrooms. Any other ideas for our training?! Comment below!