Monday, April 29, 2013

*STAR* Teacher....Julie Garner

Norman Elementary's new *STAR* Teacher is...

Julie Garner
3rd Grade

How many years have you been teaching?
25 years—3rd, 4th & 5th grades

What is your best memory?
This is hard because there are so many!
I have seen so many kids come through; many now adult, that when I meet them later in life will refer back to something I did in class that really helped them. At the time I didn’t realize, but learning later that I made an impact on that child’s education provides me with a feeling of purpose.

What is the funniest memory?
When a fifth grade student thought it would be funny to stop in the bathroom before math class and color hi entire face blue with a marker. He walked into class, looked at me for a reaction—which I gave him none, and said “go wash your face off, and come back when it is clean.” I secretly wanted to burst out loud, (although this is a bit mean…) I really hoped he had used a Sharpie—He didn’t L

Can you share a reading strategy/best practice?
For best comprehension, students need to read in a least-distracting setting. I encourage them to find privacy, and not choose books that are too high a reading level for them. The difficult vocabulary will cause them to lose interest.

Can you share a math strategy/best practice?
When solving word problems, go slowly. Read the final sentence again; look for key words/phrases that give a clue as to which operation to perform. Draw pictures/show work to help sort out confusion.

What advice do you have for teachers just coming into the field?
Be prepared mentally for a much more difficult job than it appears. Expect a lot more competition, going above and beyond the call of duty; being a teacher as well as a counselor; parent and nurse…yet remain committed and it will be so rewarding to see the students you have, grow-up to become successful and responsible adults.

Is there anything else that you would like to share?
Thank you to all the co-workers I have had the privilege to work alongside of over the past 25 years. You are what helped me get through the hard moments, laugh at the craziness, shared experiences & ideas, and always felt like another family.

Pictures from Julie's Classroom

Thank you for sharing your memories, advice and strategies. Most of all, THANK YOU for your dedication for the past 25 years of teaching young children. It's not always an easy job, but as you is 
VERY rewarding.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Common Core State Standards--Information that teachers need to know...

Below are some videos that will help educators understand the changes that are coming...

Common Core State Standards & Smarter Balanced Assessment

*Common Core State Standards--A New Foundation for Student Success     (2:42)

*"How the Common Core is Changing Assessment"           (12:19)

*Introduction to Smarter Balanced Item and Performance Task Development       (22:20)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Writing Strategies that meet the CCSS

At Norman Elementary, we are getting ready for our Teacher Writing Workshop so  I went to the Teacher Channel and found the 3 videos below. They are Writing Strategies that meet the Common Core State Standards. These strategies can be adapted to K-12.

Video #1- Analyzing Text as a group. 7 minutes.Lesson Objective: Engaging in large group discussion before writing.

Video #2-Analyzing Text: Brainstorming before writing. 6 minutes. Lesson Objective: Engaging in small group discussion before writing.

Video #3-Analyzing Texts: Putting thoughts on paper. 5 minutes. Lesson Objective: Respond to a text by analyzing an author's viewpoint.

I hope the videos are helpful and gave you some ideas to use in your classroom.

*STAR* Teacher--Marcy Hammond

Norman Elementary's New *STAR* Teacher is...

Marcy Hammond
4th Grade

How long have you been teaching?
 12 years

What is your best memory?
 My best memory of teaching in the 4th grade is when we take our annual field trip to Ludington Big Sable Point Lighthouse  I love it when some of my student’s see Lake Michigan for the first time, climb the lighthouse to the top and play on the sand dunes. I love the excitement they show during this trip.

What is your funniest memory?
 I love it when my students share funny stories that happen to them or of things that they have done.

Can you share a best Reading Practice?
I really enjoy Reading Base Camps. We team up together and are able to target exactly what each student needs and help them in that area. Every group is working on different strategies that will increase their fluency and comprehension.

Can you share a best Math Practice?
 I differentiate my math lessons. I teach to the ability and readiness level of my students. They all work on the same concept, just at different levels.

What advice would you give to someone just going into the teaching profession?
 Learn the likes and the dislikes of all the students in the classroom. Try to understand the backgrounds of where the students are coming from. Make connections with the students on their learning levels, every child is a unique learner.

What a great experience you are giving your students by taking them on the field trip to see one of our great lakes, lighthouses and sand dunes. Fourth Grade always does a fabulous job with their Lighthouse Unit and we all enjoy their lighthouse displays.
Thank you for sharing your memories, best practices and your classroom!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

*STAR* Teacher...Dawn Hilliard

Norman Elementary's New *STAR* Teacher is...

Dawn Hilliard
Title 1

How many years have you been teaching?
18 years

What is your best memory?
One of my best memories was taking a group of 5th graders to Washington D.C. for four days. My first teaching job was in Nocatee, Florida. It was a very small, rural town in which many migrant workers came for work and sent their children to our school. When this group of 5th graders boarded the bus to head to Tampa to fly out, they had no idea what they were in for. These students had only been to two places in their life, Florida and Michigan for the growing seasons. We flew out of Tampa and they watched out of the airplane windows telling us what everything looked like. We arrived in Washington DC after a layover in Atlanta. We boarded a tour bus for our four day tour of the Capital. Our students experienced so many different places those four days, such as Mt. Vernon, Air and Space Museum, White House, the Capital Building, Lincoln Memorial, Pentagon, and Ford Theater. I know they will never forget their trip to our nation’s capital. For some of those students it was a once in a lifetime experience.

What is the funniest memory?
My first year teaching, I had a student that had a single older brother. My student and his mom decided to try to play matchmaker and have his brother come to meet me while I was getting my class off of the playground. Needless to say, having an audience of 24 nosey 4th graders watching this poor man try to ask me out was quite the sight.

Can you share a reading strategy/best practice?
I am going to try bubble wrap with some of the kindergarten students I work with. You write on the bubble wrap (each cell) and then when they identify the correct letter, they get to pop it.

Can you share a math strategy/best practice?
For a group of 3rd graders for place value, I had them count out Cocoa Puffs. They placed 10 pieces of cereal into the small Dixie cups. Then when they had 10 Dixie cups full of 10 pieces of cereal, they dumped them into a Solo cup. Then once they have 10 Solo cups filled with 100 pieces of cereal, they dump them into an ice cream container to hold their 1,000.

What advice do you have for teachers just coming into the field?
Don’t be afraid to try something new and tell your students you are trying something new. Students want to see that you like learning new ideas too.

Pictures of Dawn's students.

It sounds like you had a memorable first year!
I like your Bubble Wrap activity and I can see where it might work with other skills in addition to Letter/Sound I.D...maybe adding Sight Words, CVC or Word Family Words--Great idea!
Thanks for sharing your memories, strategies and students.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Chapter 9--Learning Targets-Helping Students Aim for Understanding in Today's Lesson

Learning Targets--Helping Students Aim for Understanding in Today's Lesson

By Connie M. Moss & Susan M. Brookhart

I highly recommend that you read this book. It will really help your understanding of what Learning Targets are and their importance.

 *I found used copies on inexpensive to purchase  ISBN  978-1-4166-1441-8

This is the last chapter!!

Chapter 9—A Learning Target Theory of Action and Educational Leadership:  Building A Culture of Evidence

*The role of the educational leaders is to make schools and classrooms work better for all students. One of the traditional ways educational leaders go about this work is to observe teaching and learning at the classroom level and use that information to improve their schools and districts. But what educational leaders observe depends on what they look for.
*A Shared Theory of Action and a Common Language
As a cohesive theory of action, learning targets bring increased clarity to the work that students, teachers, and administrators do each day to raise student achievement and increase teacher effectiveness. In a very real sense, they create a common language about what educators look for and count as evidence of effective teaching and meaningful student learning.
These shared beliefs compel action-oriented and goal-directed collaboration wherein each educator intentionally focuses his or her daily efforts on looking for and addressing inconsistencies and ineffective practices. In fact, looking for what works and what doesn’t— and doing something about it—becomes everyone’s most important work. Once educators’ eyes begin to open, what they see astound them.

*Are We Looking For What Actually Works?
Picture the typical list of educational “best practices.” The lists are normally saturated with descriptions of what teachers do—the instructional methods, strategies, and techniques someone deemed “best.” Traditionally, principals use these lists as “look-fors”: techniques administrators are supposed to see, describe, and evaluate as they walk through a classroom or conduct a formal observation. Ultimately, leaders are supposed to use the information they gather from their observations as feedback to help teachers to improve the quality of their instruction and raise student achievement.
The problem with this setup is obvious. A traditional list of best-practice look-fors asks the principal to gather frequent “snapshots” of teacher actions, including how well the teacher differentiates the lesson, integrates technology, manages the classroom, uses specific instructional strategies, and provides academic rigor. Even when these forms and structures invite principals to describe what students are doing, they are directed to look for something called “student engagement”—a concept that has become so diluted and ubiquitous that it is nearly meaningless. Ask a thousand principals to define student engagement, and you will hear a thousand individual theories, most having something to do with student being “on task.” Unfortunately, too few principals ask the jugular question: “Engaged in what?” Students may be working feverishly on a task that is meaningless.
Here’s the bottom line: what principals “look for” in the classroom is exactly what they see, and what they will continue to see. That’s because teachers will continue to demonstrate the behaviors and practices that they know their principals are looking for.

*What We Evaluate is What We Perpetuate
What we evaluate is quite literally where we place values—what we deem to have worth.
What members of a district look for during classroom observations signifies what they value and communicates the culture of their district. For that reason, what educational leaders actually do, more than what they say, influences what is accepted as strong evidence of student achievement. If the leadership team focuses exclusively on data from standardized test scores and audits of teachers’ actions and decisions, then instructional methods and standardized test scores will continue to be the coin of the realm—the way everyone in the building measures what is valued.
In too many cases, classroom observations are audits of teacher performance. Information on instructional decisions is valuable, and we are not discounting it. But details about what the teacher is doing tell only half the story of what is and isn’t working in the classroom. The rest of the story—the most significant part—is told through what students are doing and the evidence they produce while they are doing it.
If the leadership team places increased value on what students are doing during a lesson, then a transformational value system will begin to take root. Once the leadership team adopts and communicates a learning target theory of action, it can use every opportunity to learn more about what students are actually doing during today’s lesson to increase their understanding, produce evidence of their learning, and raise their achievement. Although educational leaders will still observe teaching behaviors, they will do so from a decidedly different point of view.
*Educational Leadership: The Catalyst for Student Achievement
When researchers examined the links between student achievement and educational leadership practices, they found that leadership is second only to classroom instruction among all school-related factors that contribute to student learning. What’s more, the contribution of effective leadership is larges when it is needed most. There are virtually no documented instances of turning a troubled school around without intervention from talented leaders. Although many factors must work in unison to transform an underperforming learning environment, leadership is clearly the catalyst.
A learning target theory of action can better equip educational leaders to exercise vigilance over instruction and support an effective learning environment. It makes them better able to conduct strategic observations, provide targeted feedback to teachers, and forge strong learning partnerships between teachers and students.

*The Role of Educational Leadership
Look beyond the walls and test scores of an excellent school district or building, and you will find excellent educational leadership. What we know about excellent leaders is that they have significant effects on student learning, second only to the effects of teacher expertise and quality of the curriculum. We know that school leadership is most successful when it is focused on teaching and learning. It makes sense, then, that effective leaders play a crucial role in high-quality schools, because they spend more quality time in the classroom.
Lately, the term data-driven decision maker has added another layer to what we expect from an instructional leader. In today’s standards-driven landscape of accountability, educational leaders are encouraged to collect, organize, and analyze data using ways that would have been impractical just a few years ago. Two important cautions regarding data-driven decision making are worth mentioning here.
1.       Data from standardized tests are not educational goals. The data we collect are not “ends,” or the reason for doing what we do as educators. They are means—and not the sole means—that we use to improve student achievement and increase teacher effectiveness. Standardized test scores are the signposts we consult periodically during our journey. They are useful markers that can tell us some things about our journey, but they are neither the journey nor the destination. In fact, if we think about standardized tests as large directional signposts, then learning targets and success criteria are the mile makers that help students, teachers, and principal’s figure out exactly where they are relative to where they need to be and assess their progress minute by minute during today’s lesson.
2.      All data are not created equal. Standardized tests happen too infrequently to be the sole data source of decisions about how to raise student achievement and improve teacher effectiveness. The decisions that matter most are the one made by the students themselves in partnership with their teacher during each lesson. Standardized test scores always give an incomplete picture of what is happening in the classroom. A learning target theory of action, on the other hand, reveals exactly what is working during a lesson and what isn’t. It provides living, breathing indicators that we can use to assess collaborative, targeted, and goal-driven action.
*The Principal as a Formative Leader
Much literature on successful leadership practices supports what we are learning about formative leaders. It underscores our belief that consistent, well-informed support from educational leaders in general, and the principal in particular, can have a significant influence on student achievement.
Research tells us that when principals engage in targeted professional development—specifically, in interactions with teachers about improving what happens in the classroom—their leadership is more likely to positively affect teaching and learning. In fact, developing principals’ ability to provide formative feedback to improve classroom practices can be more important than deepening their specific content knowledge. This is especially true in middle and secondary schools, where the realities of multiple disciplines make it highly unlikely that a principal can provide expert content support for each teacher and each subject. What’s more  important is to develop principals who ensure that strategic instructional practices that raise student achievement are embedded in each lesson.
Principals who are able to engage in formative and generative professional discourse with teachers about how to refine teachers’ instructional practices to raise student achievement are principals who see themselves as competent to do so. We refer to this sense of confidence as positive self-efficacy, and research tells us that leaders who measure high in positive self-efficacy perform much better in leadership situations than do their less-confident counterparts. What’s more, leaders with high levels of positive self-efficacy tend to be part of leadership teams that exhibit high levels of positive collective efficacy—confidence in one another’s competence and in team members’ combined ability to be successful. It’s no wonder that multiple researchers point to positive self-efficacy as a key variable in understanding how leaders evaluate themselves in dynamic educational environments. District practices, including the kind of support that districts provide to principals, can influence collective efficacy within a district.
*Achievement of What?
Aiming for achievement means that you are looking for evidence of something. A learning target theory of action makes that “something,” in today’s lesson and every lesson, public and visible. In our work with schools, we have found that educational leaders play a pivotal role in the conceptual shift promoted by this theory of action. Formative leadership can move a district from a focus on teacher-centered instructional objectives to a focus on learning targets an success criteria that both students and adults use to understand, assess, and advance their own learning. Indeed, our experience and the experiences of the educational leaders we are privileged to work with tell us that this conceptual shift is a game changer.
For this conceptual shift to take root, three layers of change must take place.
Layer 1: TO LEAD THEIR SCHOOLS USING A LEARNING TARGET THEORY OF ACTION, ADMINISTRATORS MUST ASSUME THE ROLE OF THE LEADING LEARNER. Our theory of action promotes a learning-focused rather than an instruction-focused school culture. In a learning-focused culture, the adults in the school see themselves as intentional learners who view their buildings and classrooms as living laboratories in which they increase their knowledge and skill to foster student learning. The educational administrator functions as the principal learner, leading the learning of students, teachers, administrators, staff, and members of the school community. We use the term culture to describe the shared beliefs, norms, and artifacts of a particular group of people. Learning targets promote a cultural change from teacher-centered, evaluative beliefs and normative practices to a collective theory of action that centers on what students believe and know and uses what students are actually doing to learn as the standards. That cultural change can’t happen in only one classroom in a building.
**The culture of a building or district doesn’t change without its leaders. Administrators need to lead by example, provide feedback that feeds forward, see themselves as the leading leaders in the district, and treat teachers as co-learners. That’s why our learning target theory of action promotes a culture of collaborative learning in which administrators, teachers, and students “co-labor”—work together—to raise student achievement.
Layer 2:  TO COMMIT TO A LEARNING TARGET THEORY OF ACTION, ADMINISTRATORS NEED TO LOOK FOR AND ANALYZE WHAT STUDENTS ARE ACTUALLY DOING AND LEARNING IN THEIR BUILDINGS’ CLASSROOMS. Evidence of student learning helps leaders analyze what is working in their districts, lesson by lesson and for specific teachers, groups of teachers, or buildings. As administrators sharpen their focus on learning targets, they ramp up their own professional learning and commitment by recognizing what students are being asked to do to learn and produce evidence of their achievement. This focus contrasts with the more conventional supervisor’s visit to a classroom to observe teaching behavior. During the traditional observation, administrators audit “student engagement”—usually defined as being busy and complying with a teacher’s requests.
*If school leaders want teachers to adopt a learning target theory of action, they must intentionally learn about it, commit to it, and model it themselves. They must critique their own ability to use specific, learning-focused language to describe what effectiveness, and provide feed-forward information to teachers while they still have time to act on it. In this way, they help teachers set more challenging short-term and long-range goals that benefit all students.
Layer 3: TO KNOW WHAT TO LOOK FOR AND ANALYZE IN CLASSROOMS, ADMINISTRATORS NEED TO UNDERSTAND A LEARNING TARGET THEORY OF ACTION AT A DEEP LEVEL THEMSELVES. To support a learning target theory of action, administrators need to be especially skillful at observing students working and interpreting what’s going on with their learning. Is what they are doing leading to increased understanding and producing compelling evidence of that understanding? As leading learners, school leaders should be partnering with teachers to look for and share examples of expert teaching that positively affects student learning. In other words, before educational leaders can promote a learning target theory of action, they must make the shift themselves, clarifying their own view of what they accept as evidence that all students are learning and achieving to their potential.

As I’ve said each week, this is a great book with a lot of examples, tables and charts that I’m not including in the post. At the end of the book there is a “Action Tool” section.  I highly recommend that you purchase a copy of the book for further information and study.
I hope you have learned as much as I have and will put Learning Targets into practice.