Friday, January 29, 2016

Mindset on My Mind - Chapter 4 Disco

Barb contributed this post. Click here to read more of Barb's thinking about mindset.

Chapter 4 - "Sports: The Mindset of a Champion" - gives examples of athletes with and without growth mindset.

Confession: I skipped this chapter the first time I read Mindset. Sports, athletics, and fitness are not things I feel confident about; they're not areas where I have much background knowledge. Examples from these areas don't resonate with me. (See my previous post about teaching aerobics.)

I read the chapter this time, though, and here's why. During a recent presentation about mindset (see "The Power of Yet: Improving Literacy Learning through Growth Mindset" for the slides), participants started talking about whether an individual is all fixed or all growth mindset. Lots of examples were shared, including mine.

I have a very, very fixed mindset about sports. I don't do them. I don't watch them. I actively avoid them. And, I'm starting to see that it's because of my fixed mindset about sports. I've never experienced any sports-related success. In fact, I sometimes think my family goes out of their way to tease me about not being athletic. I've never been on or coached any type of sports team. I don't have any favorite sports teams and don't own even a single piece of clothing with a team logo.

Actually reading - instead of skipping - this chapter is about the only step I'm willing to take in moving towards a having a growth mindset related to sports, but I have to start somewhere, right?

Updated to add:
I signed up for a yoga class for beginners. Baby steps, friends.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Walking Meetings: Advantages of Taking that Meeting Outside for a Walk

Diane Jenquin contributed this post. Click here for more of Diane's thinking.

In this busy, hectic world we live in it is hard to fit in another meeting, let alone taking time to get that much needed brain break in. In the school district I am in right now we have turned to implementing walking meetings on our WOW days (Work-Out Wednesday) It is amazing how we not only get the exercise but mix a little socialization and brainstorming into the equation.  When the walk is done, so is our meeting.  It helps us stay on track and straight to the point of the meeting.

Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerman, Ariannah Huffington,and President Barack Obama are known for holding walking meetings.  Why you might ask? Research coming out of Stanford found that walking boosts creative inspiration (Wong, 2014). Other companies have reported that meetings with movement create a better working atmosphere along with getting away from the office.  

Some of the things to consider when holding a walking meeting are limiting the size of the group because your team might have trouble hearing others, having a basic route planned out, and limiting the use of smart phones. This allows you to keep focused, be efficient, and clear your head.

Carrying this over into my life outside of school has become a routine where instead of talking on the phone with some of my professional networks, we call and say, "Let’s go for a walk." This has pushed us to get out there and together solved all the problems of the world.

Here are some resources if you would like more information.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Time in the Classroom: Multiple Benefits

Heather Zimmerman contributed this post. Click here for more of Heather's thinking.

I am sure we all know the overwhelming feeling of trying to balance the many directions we are pulled in as reading specialists.  Last year was the first year I was teaching reading intervention courses and also coaching.  That dreaded feeling of not doing either role justice was common for me last year.  This year though I decided to tackle that feeling with a coaching game plan.

Last school year my district implemented the Lucy Calkins’ Units of Study for Writing into middle school classrooms.  The summer before the roll-out, I worked with a small group of 8th grade teachers on various assigned tasks to prepare for the roll-out.  This helped me get a better idea of the Calkins’ curriculum, but throughout the year I started to feel as if my depth of knowledge was lacking.  This was the first curriculum roll-out I was not a part of as a teacher.  Therefore, I did not feel like I knew the Calkins’ curriculum as well as I knew the rest of our curriculum

I made a decision that this year I was going to focus on the Units of Study with the teachers. Due to schedule conflicts, my focus this year is 7th and 8th grade, and next year I will focus on 6th grade.  I felt this made sense for a few reasons, but one primary reason was that the 6th grade teachers have three literacy teachers at their level.  Therefore, they  have a built-in team of support.  The 7th and 8th grade teachers on their own islands in my school. My plan for supporting teachers with the Calkins’ curriculum was to be in their classrooms as they were teaching the units.  I planned as best as I could to go into hours where I had intervention students, so I could also support them too.  I told the teachers I wanted to learn more about the Calkins’ units, so I could better support them too.  I let them know I would be game to co-teach or work with small groups of students.  This experience has helped me as an interventionist and as a coach.  

As an interventionist, I have been better able to help my students when they have questions on assignments even when they are not in their literacy classroom.  There has been times when I have taken 5-10 minutes to talk students through a lesson from Calkins’ or helped the student through a conference during intervention.  I also have been able to support them inside the literacy classroom.

The other benefit, which is the original benefit I was expecting, I was knowing the curriculum better so I could better help support my literacy teachers.  I feel our collaboration time is much better used when I am not paging through the curriculum book or having them give me information on what the unit is about.  We have been able to talk through questions together and brainstorm ideas.

I am so happy I was able to connect with my teachers during this first unit of Calkins.  The time commitment was so well worth it. I look forward to working with them using the same plan for unit two.  

Friday, January 22, 2016

Coaching with Kindness when the Truth Might Sting

Last month, as I was writing my specific example about the literacy coach who asked me if I had any suggestions for how she might improve her instruction, a little voice in my head was saying: It’s easy to coach from a place of kindness when you are working with a reflective teacher who seeks honest feedback...

I get that, and although that wasn’t the point of the last blog, it brings up important thinking about honest feedback as an act of kindness, when courageous conversations become necessary. I’ve been lucky enough to have a smattering of colleagues in my life who I consider masters of brave conversations. Because of my professional relationships with these leaders, I’ve witnessed some of these crucial conversations. I share this fact because, even though I have read numerous texts on how to have critical conversations, I was not prepared to have them; it was through watching my colleagues, and being able to ask them questions (about things they did that terrified me) that set me up to use what I knew about facilitating uncomfortable conversations. Through watching these two women, I began to visualize myself emulating  those same sorts of conversations when the time came.

I have had the opportunity to provide feedback to coaches who were not meeting the standards for coaching, and/or for providing intervention to students. What I learned from each of those situations is that, even when I heard or saw things that befuddled me, I had the ability to provide honest feedback with kindness. There were two permeating questions when I saw or heard things I knew I’d need to address:
1) What is the standard or expectation?  
2) What exactly did I see and/or hear? Just the facts.

When there are clear standards set, as we have for our intervention courses, giving difficult feedback becomes much easier. I can talk from what I expected to see versus what I actually saw. I’m thinking about a teacher who I once observed teaching an intervention course. This teacher reported that she planned for the Comprehension Focus Group using a GANAG format for daily lesson planning. As I observed the lesson, I filled in a self-made GANAG, writing what I witnessed, so during the debrief I could talk through the lesson in the format this coach knew well.

Full disclosure: I had difficulty filling in the GANAG for a variety of reasons. The goal was unclear, because there were five shared at different times through the lesson. The directions for each task were unclear, and there wasn’t any scaffolding as students attempted to work. As I considered my words to this teacher in our debrief, I thought my most effective move was to ask her to take a moment and GANAG the lesson she just taught. My purpose in doing that was to have her think through what she just did (what I witnessed), and then compare our GANAGs.

It was fascinating, and yet, not difficult to hold this conversation. It was easy to have her tell me about her goal, and then show her that I had five goals recorded; additionally I could share that all five seemed to be of equal importance so I felt confused when it came time for students to independently apply their learning. We talked about each goal I heard her share. We talked about how that impacted students when they were given time to apply the lesson. We talked about what the goal for tomorrow would be based on what happened today. I was the one who had to name the problems when our GANAGs were a mismatch, but because we both knew the expectations of a GANAG’d CFG lesson, we were able to address the problem areas, so I could coach her through the planning for the following day.

If given the choice, I’d avoid these types of conversations altogether, but our purpose is far too great. I owe it to the students, and to this teacher to provide the honest feedback--to provide it kindly, and to gently coach back into the tracks by focusing on the expectations of the lesson, what happened today, and what needs to happen tomorrow and beyond. I think kindness shines in this uncomfortable interaction through the coaching that happens on the spot to plan for the next day, and through the coaching that occurs to keep the teacher on track in the future weeks/months. A coach who only gives the honest feedback is different from the coach who invests the time to stick with the teacher to support her attempts to refocus her lessons.  If I am willing to give the honest feedback, the kindest move I can play afterward is partnering with the teacher, investing time to build efficacy, to put her back in a position to shine.

I will admit that this was a best case scenario; this is what happens when the teacher recognizes the mismatches in expectations, and chooses to look at herself honestly, and is willing to take the feedback. Next month I will write about what I’ve learned from the other side of courageous conversations--what has happened when the teacher gets defensive, is not willing to acknowledge mismatches in expectations, and has justification for all actions and thinking.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Aligning Our Goals

Andrea Reichenberger contributed today's thinking. Click here for more of Andrea's posts.

One of the things I love most about my new school district is the work that I do with my new colleagues.  Discussions are a lot easier when we are all on the same page, have a similar mindset, and are working toward the same goal.  We are also comfortable enough to challenge each other’s thinking in a professional manner that won’t impede our work. As is the goal of any district, ours is to improve our overall instructional practices. My two closest partners in crime are the Director of Curriculum and Instruction and the District Technology Coordinator.  

District Technology Coordinator? Why would I work so closely with the technology department? If departments such as ours don’t work toward the same goals, our work and initiatives become a barrier to improving instruction. It is imperative that technology coaches and coordinators work closely with our instructional coaches and continue an open dialogue about best practices. We are always talking about grade level standards, literacy, math, assessment and unit design. One of our technology integration coaches has been working to model lesson design with the ELA standards in mind and then incorporating technology to promote authentic assessment and reflection through an online portfolio!

We all need to understand sound instructional practices, so we can use technology to support learning and instruction. Technology isn’t meant as a substitute or a replacement for teaching and learning. The ISTE professional standards for teachers related to integrating technology into the curriculum remind us that it should facilitate and inspire student learning, allow us to design and develop digital-age learning experiments and assessments, promote digital citizenship and responsibility and allow us to engage in professional growth and leadership. Recently, our technology department released a district online newsletter/magazine and it contains questions that challenge teachers to think about why they are using technology. One of my favorites is:

If your students can accomplish mastery of the content using the 4 C’s (Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creativity) without  technology, then why are we using technology?

This is an important question to reflect on as we continue to encourage incorporating technology to create rich, collaborative learning environments that foster group inquiry, research investigations, critical thinking and problem solving. This is what we try to accomplish and encourage with our instruction in all areas--especially literacy.

Monday, January 18, 2016

I See You, I Hear You (Part 1): Building Relationships with Students

Meghan Retallick contributed this post. Click here for more of Meghan's thinking.

Between my reading for my graduate courses, the professional development sessions I’ve attended, and the online reading I’ve stumbled upon (See: See Each Other:  A New Year’s Resolution for 2015), one big idea has taken up space in my brain this month:  How do we show others that we see and hear them?  For this month, I’d like to reflect on how this happens when we first build relationships with students.  I’ll be continuing this idea in future blog posts :)

First, I’ve realized that all we really want, whether we are a teacher, student, coach, child, parent, spouse, administrator, etc., is to feel that we are seen and heard.  This does not mean that others always do as we ask or want, but that our actions and words are acknowledged and considered.

So, how do we show students that we see and hear them the very first time we meet them?  An interesting experience inspired by professional development with Laura Gleisner, an ICF certified life and leadership coach, helped give me some insight into this.  In her session, she used an activity to promote positive culture.  We all shared our 180 Song--a song that when you hear it, immediately elevates your mood, turning your outlook around 180 degrees.  Sharing the songs in small groups served two purposes:  1)  The mood of the room immediately lifted as people shared their songs.  2)  We were able to gain some insight into individual’s personalities, thus seeing and hearing a piece of them, when learning their 180 Song.

Shortly after this, a colleague expressed interest for my support within his ninth grade Global Studies class.  We came up with a plan to support readers in his neediest class period that would have me co-teaching 1-2 times a week.  The first step in this process would be establishing a relationship with these students, many of whom don’t see themselves as readers.  I knew that before I could have open conversations with them around their reading behaviors, I needed them to see me as a regular part of the classroom, even though I’m not there daily.  We were a few weeks into the school year and this class had already established a culture.  What I noticed in my first few minutes of this class was, first, even though many students seemed disengaged from the learning process, they loved and respected their teacher.  Second, when I was introduced as a reading specialist/literacy coach, many openly expressed their dislike for reading, i.e., there was a lot eye rolling going down.  

[Side Note:  Something important to know about me is that I love eye rolling!  Maybe this is why teaching eighth grade is my favorite?  I see an eye roll as a challenge--a challenge for me to figure out what will engage the person rolling their eyes at me, a challenge to build a trusting relationship with someone who has different viewpoints from my own, a challenge to push us to grow in our learning together.  My most common response when seeing someone roll their eyes at me is some version of the following statement (tailored to my audience):  “I’m sensing some discomfort.  Please be open with me about how you are feeling.  I want to know your true thoughts on this because then we can figure out a way to approach the situation together and in a way that makes us both feel comfortable.”]

So, back to the ninth grade class groaning and rolling their eyes at me…

After explaining my role, I made clear that the purpose for my visit today was to get to know them.   All they had to do was think of their 180 Song and I would be checking in with them during the class period about it.  I’m sure I made a fabulous impression on them when I shared my current 180 Song--”Bad Blood” by Taylor Swift.  I then spent the whole class period walking around the room, stopping by students to meet them, learn their name, and ask them the title and artist of their 180 Song.  I then wrote it down in my notebook.  That was it.  No hard questions about their reading habits, likes and dislikes, etc., just their name and 180 Song.  The conversations all were short, simple, and went well--except one.  When I met Cole (name changed), he was talking with his neighbor when he was supposed to be reading, he didn’t have his materials with him, and he answered my questions with questions while giggling, trying to impress the girl near him.  The conversation was pretty much a wash, but after repeating myself calmly a number of times, I got his 180 Song and name out of him.  I could have gone into a lecture on what he was supposed to be doing; I could have asked him to treat me with respect; I could have addressed the girl he was giggling with, but I didn’t.  I wrote down his name and the song and thanked him, knowing a little more about Cole than just those two things.  At the end of the class period, I announced to the whole group that my goal was to listen to each one of their songs by the next time I was in class.  This statement was also met with a lot of groaning and eye rolling.

So then, I listened to the songs, paying special attention to Cole’s song.  It was a challenging song to listen to, and very different from my musical tastes, but I worked really hard to figure out one positive thing to say about it in case the time came to share it with Cole.

A week flew by and I found myself back in Cole’s class.  The goal for my work today was to help the students pick independent reading books.  (You might be asking yourself, “Independent reading books in Global Studies class?”  More about the exciting things our Global Studies teachers are doing in future posts!)  We were meeting in the library, and I was going to support them in their book selections, reading along with them for the class period.  Before we dispersed to find books, I told everyone that I listened to their songs.  Cole immediately perked up in his seat, and stated, “Even mine?!  What did you think?”  Thankfully prepared, I answered, “Yes, I did!  At first it was really mellow and then it got really intense.  That is quite a song!”  A look of awe came over Cole’s face that I can’t explain.  I, meanwhile, was doing a mental fist pump.

About twenty minutes later, as I chatted with a group of girls about their book selections, I felt a presence behind me.  I turned around and came face to face with Cole.  I looked over his shoulder and saw a group of his friends goofing off in the corner of the library, but then asked him if I could help him with something.  He mumbled that he needed a book.  I asked him about his reading interests and if he was looking for longer or shorter texts, and he mumbled back that shorter would be better, never making eye contact (can those of you familiar with adolescents picture this?!).  I escorted Cole over to the magazines as I thought that this would be a good type of text to start with.  This also helped him get out of the direct eyesight of his friends (still goofing off in the corner).  Once we got to the magazines, I asked him about his hobbies and the floodgates opened.  In the next five minutes I learned that Cole lives with his dad on acreage in the country, loves hunting and dirt biking, struggles with staying focused while reading, gets frustrated in school, misses his mom, and is fairly new to the area.  Cole walked away with a dirt bike racing magazine and settled in a corner away from his friends to read.  I, meanwhile, was mentally dropping the mike and walking off stage.  Just kidding, I was in shock at what had just happened!

Did I cast some magical spell over Cole that made him want to spent the class period engaged in reading?  I literally knew the kid for five minutes and he did today exactly what we expected and wanted after being the most challenging student last week.  How could this be?

My theory is this:  By listening to Cole’s 180 Song, I saw and heard him.  The relationship of trust began to build on something that simple.  I took three minutes out of my day and listened to a song that hurt my ears, trying to find something positive to let Cole know that I found value in his song choice.  For three minutes, I saw and heard him loud and clear.  And, to be honest, what I learned from those songs about all the students helped me understand them more deeply than I expected.  It has become a starting point of conversation many times as I continue to work in the classroom.

I wish I could tell you how Cole is doing now, but he moved away two weeks after this conversation.  Would he have continued this trend if he had stayed?  Would our relationship have grown to support deeper conversations around his challenges with school?  I don’t know, but I’d like to hope that it would have.  I hope wherever he is, the idea of a 180 Song has stuck with him.

And, I hope the idea of asking people about their 180 Song sticks with you!  Who knew such a simple question could be a foundation for great relationships?  Thanks again for this golden nugget, Laura!

So, I leave you with two final questions:

  • What is your 180 song?
  • How do you show students you see and hear them when first building a relationship?

P.S. - My current 180 Song is “Alive” by Sia.  When things are so challenging, it is so important to remember that “I’m still breathing...I’m alive.”  It is dance party time whenever I hear this song!

Friday, January 15, 2016

To Observe Or To Not Observe…That Is The Question

Carrie Sand contributed today's post. Click here for more of Carrie's thinking.

When I originally started my coaching role, I expected that a good chunk of my time would be spent “observing” teachers in the classroom. While I knew that it was not my job to evaluate, I thought that one of the few surefire techniques of effective coaching was observing and providing feedback to the teachers in a non-evaluative way. As with many of my “use to thinks,” I find myself evolving in my coaching mindset on the topic of observations as part of the literacy coach's role.  

Well respected literacy coaching experts have a variety of opinions about the classroom observation. Many think that classroom observations are an essential part of the coaching cycle. Others, like Cathy Toll, caution the use of observations and only go into a teacher’s classroom when specifically invited. My position on the observation question lies somewhere in the middle. First, I think I have a unique perspective on the observation issue because of my particular schedule. Like many coaches in small districts, I also teach classes. As part of my classroom teaching duties, I am routinely and frequently observed by my administrator. Because I am passionate about my job, I want the observations to go well. No matter how confident I feel about my content area, routines, procedures, and instructional practices, during an observation there is always a seed of self-doubt that wiggles its way into my brain… “What if the lesson doesn’t go as planned?” “What if ______decides to have a melt-down?” “What if my students look at me like I’m speaking a foreign language?” Each of those seeds of doubt link back to the idea that I want to show my best to the person watching my classroom. And while, EVERYONE in education knows that not all lessons go right all of the time, when you are the teacher being observed, the logic of that statement doesn’t provide very much comfort . So with being in touch with those very real feelings as the classroom teacher, I use that perspective to shape my position on observations as a coach.

Since my first year as a literacy coach, I’ve changed my position on the observation. I use to walk into any classroom, unannounced, sit down, take some notes, and leave a little feedback “thank-you” note on my way out. After an honest evaluation of this process, I couldn’t really say that I saw a direct benefit to this approach. In fact, with 100% honesty, I was probably distancing myself from the teachers because how could that unannounced “check in” not feel like an evaluation in some way. Instead now I approach observations with the following criteria:

  1. Am I using the observation as part of a true coaching cycle? In other words, have coaching conversations given us (the teacher and I) a  specific focus or reason for the observation?
  2. Have I provided all the support I can prior to the observation? Remembering that I am not there to “catch” the teacher doing something wrong, I work to maintain the idea that I am in the classroom for the common purpose we’ve identified. It is for this reason, that often I do not do observations until later into the school year after other coaching practices have been firmly established.
  3. Is there a plan in place for after the observation? In reality, what do we want to achieve with this observation information? In my experience, it is step #3 that matters the most in terms of seeing real growth.

By thinking through the real purpose of observations, I find that even though I do them less frequently, I now use them with more effectiveness. Prior to establishing my personal beliefs and boundaries about classroom observations, I was doing observations because I thought it was part of what a literacy coach was suppose to do; now I use observations as a purposeful tool for change.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Word Study: Transfer of Skills

Jaimie Howe contributed today's post. Click here for more of Jaimie's thinking.

Where does word study fit in the realm of a typical elementary school day? The answer is everywhere.  

I recently attended the NCTE conference in Minneapolis, MN and attended a session on Word Study and the transfer of those skills to reading and writing.  Below is a table that was shared describing the subject.

What It Is
What It Is Not
  • Learners find logical spelling patterns that can be categorized and generalized
  • Spelling instruction is alongside authentic reading and writing
  • Children learn words by doing sorts and other hands on activities - tactile
  • Children become part of word study groups that learn, think, and talk together about their words
  • Only taught in isolation
  • Memorization
  • A time to learn spelling “rules”
  • Children doing workbook pages
  • Weekly lists
  • Words practiced by writing, copying, or reciting them

From my experience, I do feel that most teachers have shifted towards this idea of “word study” versus traditional spelling; however, are still struggling to see the transfer of these skills in the students’ reading and writing.  So if teachers are using “word study” versus traditional spelling, why aren’t students using the skills they’ve learned in their reading and writing?

The session I went to at NCTE addressed exactly this.  There is a continuum of instruction that needs to occur in order for these skills to transfer for most students:

  1. Explicit Instruction: Sort Introduction
  2. Practice Activity: ex: blind sort, open sort, partner sort, games, etc.
  3. Application Activity: ex: Word Hunt
  4. *Explicit Instruction for Transfer: shared reading, poetry, interactive writing
What the presenters found was that 87% of questions that teachers asked during the sort introduction could be answered with one word or yes/no and that most of the activities during the week were spent practicing. Very little time, if any, was spent on application or explicit instruction for transfer.  Below is an example of what the presenters heard when observing in classrooms:
What They Heard
What It Could Be
Teacher: “Okay, What’s the word?”
S1: “fudge”
T: “Good, and this word?”
S2: “stage”
T: “Right. What does stage mean?”
S3: “We had our play on a stage.”

* Study by  Ganske, 2013
Teacher: “Wow, you really explained ‘fudge’.  I love the specific language you used. I wish I had a piece right now. Can you identify and define the word?”
S1: “That’s stage.  It refers to a floor that’s raised, where you perform.”
T: “Can you expand on that?”
S2: “ I can explain another meaning.”
So when we think about the transfer of these skills, we need to reflect on what type of language and interaction we are having within our sort introductions and also to what extent the activities we are having the students do throughout the week are supporting the transfer of these skills. Also, at what point are we making the connections from word study instruction to the student’s reading and writing? If word study only occurs during one time of the day, in isolation,  and never carries over into reading and writing, how can we expect students to make these connections and apply the skills?  
Also, a deeper issue is the type of assessment we are using to determine students’ needs in word study.  The assessments tend to fall too much on the quantitative side; however, where we can gain the most information about our individual students is qualitative assessment.  To me, the best assessment of spelling is a sample of a student’s writing, not a weekly spelling test.
  • Spelling Inventory
  • Spell Checks
  • High Frequency Word Lists
  • Letter ID
  • Letter Sound
  • Concepts About Print (PALS COW)
  • Phonemic Awareness
  • Student Writing Sample
     -not one where conferring occurred
  • Running Records
     -miscue analysis

In conclusion, word study is more than just sorting words and finding patterns.  It’s more than just one spelling inventory, to determine a student’s needs.  Word study encompasses all areas of literacy, speaking, listening, language, reading, writing, and so much more.  It is not something that can be taught at one time of the day and then forgotten about. Thought, analysis, and reflection in many areas of literacy are an integral part in the understanding of a student’s word study knowledge and their ability to transfer the skills from isolation to reading and writing.  

Monday, January 11, 2016

What’s this I’m hearing about Language Workshop?

Julie Schwartzbauer contributed this post. Click here for more of Julie's thinking.

In the Appleton Area School District, we have begun to build knowledge and understanding surrounding the big picture of language workshop.

This is what we have come up with so far...

Language workshop is a protected time of the day to build listening and speaking comprehension through reading aloud and thoughtful, collaborative discussions of complex texts. Teachers provide explicit instruction in grammar, punctuation, and conventions of language through literature and informational texts using the workshop approach.  In the process, students acquire knowledge of content, vocabulary, text structures, and language functions, including grammar and mechanics. This in turn supports the work we do in other workshops.
So you might be wondering how the standards fit into language workshop....

We feel that the language standards can be taught within language workshop, and woven throughout reading workshop, writing workshop, and other content areas.  They are taught through the following components: 
  • Read Aloud / Shared Reading
  • Wordless Picture books
  • Poetry
  • Mentor Authors
  • Interactive Writing/ Shared Writing
  • Phonics Lessons
  • Words Their Way

With the anchor standard being the same for grades K-12, it is important for teachers to understand that the guiding principle is that core language skills should not change as students advance; rather, the level at which students learn and can perform these skills should increase in complexity as they move from one grade to the next.

We know that students in early grades can not jump over developmental milestones in order to master the anchor standard.  Therefore teachers must build their expertise in understanding the standards by completing a Standards Trace.  Please see a piece of a resource document my colleague and I created for K-6 teachers at one school, to assist them in completing a trace.

Teachers began with Language Standard 1.  They used various resources to help build their understanding of the standard, while meeting in their grade level PLCs.  Teachers filled in the column on the right with definitions and examples to to clarify their understandings.

A few weeks later all K-6 teachers came together at a late start and completed a trace by sharing out their understandings of standard one across grade levels.  Teachers also discussed how they would determine which of the above vocabulary terms would be critical for students to know and understand.

Here are some questions teachers had while completing the trace...
  1. What is a modal auxiliary?
  2. Can we have a list of common Latin and Greek words? (6th grade)
  3. What are frequently occurring adjectives?
  4. How do you teach plural nouns? (besides just add the s…especially for ELL students
  5. Should we use common language? i.e. conjunction
  6. What does demonstrate command of in writing or speaking mean?
  7. What is the correct terminology? Linking or helping verbs?
  8. What does spell grade level words mean? Is there a list? Is it the old No Excuse words?
  9. What is proven to be best approach to teaching Greek/Latin words, can these strategies be shared across the district?
  10. Irregular verb spelled with a t? verbs whose past tense and past participle are not formed by adding-ed, -d, or –t to present tense.

I am hoping that teachers will continue to build their understanding of the language standards and what they look like across grade levels.