Pow Wow Principal's Press

Vero Beach Elementary 9-16-2016

What will drive our students forward? It's the little things we focus on throughout the day.

One of my "aha" moments from last year was from a teacher at Fellsmere who told me they felt that their school made significant improvements because of their deliberate focus of time on task. She explained that walking to specials, waiting in the lunch line, transitions between RTI and whole group blocks.. were all deliberately planned with an activity for students to work on that was driven by the standards they were teaching.

Vocabulary flash cards, math facts, fluency practice, sight word lists, & even students walking with the informational text... all were done and planned to utilize every single second of the day.

I LOVED that sense of urgency and the high-expectations that were created in that environment.

Let's use their methodology to inspire a revolution of time on task at VBE.

Love to the Tribe- Emerson

Here is a great article on the topic:

Identifying (and Engaging Students in) Time-on-Task Activities

One of the last century’s more powerful research-based conclusions regarding instruction was that sufficient and engaged time-on-task is pivotal to instructional success. Students will learn better if they have plenty of opportunity to practice what they’re supposed to be learning. Oversimplifying a bit, but not by much, the notion that "practice makes perfect" is not only alluringly alliterative; it is also solidly supported by empirical research. See, for example, the review of practice-related research in Chapter 3 of Marzano's The Art and Science of Teaching (2007).

What the advocacy of students' engaged time-on-task means for instructional design is straightforward: if the curricular aim involved calls for students to acquire a high-level cognitive skill, such as being able to evaluate the cogency of newspaper editorials, then during the instruction intended to promote their mastery of that skill, students must get plenty of practice applying this particular high-level cognitive skill. However, a student’s mastery of a truly challenging curricular aim often depends on mastery of essential building blocks and bodies of enabling knowledge. My recommendation, then, is for teachers to install ample opportunities for students to practice using the skill or knowledge represented by a curricular aim and to practice each of the building blocks in a curricular aim’s learning progression. So, for example, if a teacher’s target curricular aim is to get students to be able to evaluate the cogency of newspaper articles, a learning progression for this skill might contain only two subskills: (1) being able to determine the accuracy of an editorial’s content and (2) judging the adequacy of the editorial’s logic. The teacher, in view of this learning progression, should give students guided and independent practice on both building blocks and on the target curricular aim's ultimate skill.

Earlier, I recommended that teachers create their end-of-instruction assessments prior to their instructional design decisions as a way to gain a better understanding the nature of the curricular aim being pursued. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that I think teachers should at least think through the nature of the assessments they can use to verify whether their students have mastered each of the major building blocks in a learning progression. Ideally, teachers should actually create those assessments because they’ll want to use them, later on, as a pivotal part of the formative-assessment process. And, of course, the act of using assessments to exemplify each subskill or body of enabling knowledge in a learning progression helps the teacher gain better insight into the nature of those building blocks.

Engaging Students in Time-on-Task Activities

How do teachers get their students to engage in time-on-task? Well, this certainly depends on the students the teacher has and the curricular aims the teacher is pursuing. A four-step procedure, that will usually work quite well, calls for teachers to provide their students with (1) explanation, (2) modeling, (3) guided practice, and (4) independent practice. Let's briefly consider each of these steps.

Step 1: Explanation. For most curricular aims, students will require explanation. For example, suppose (as a curricular aim), a teacher wanted students to be able to critique the quality of their own oral presentations by using a rubric containing four evaluative criteria. The teacher would begin by explaining to the students—perhaps in lecture format—the meaning of the rubric’s four evaluative factors and how to apply those factors to the judging of oral communication. Such explanations might also be found in students' textbooks or in other assigned readings.

Step 2: Modeling. It's often helpful for students to see "what it would look like" to actually have mastered the curricular aim. In many instances, the teacher will have provided this sort of modeling earlier in the instructional sequence, while communicating curricular expectations. However, at this stage, it is typically beneficial to students if they can see someone (not necessarily the teacher) model the successful usage of the skill, subskill, or knowledge being sought.

Step 3: Guided practice. The more demanding a curricular aim is, the greater the likelihood that students will need assistance as they begin to use the skill or body of knowledge it represents. Thus, as a teacher designs instructional activities revolving around students' practice, the teacher should be certain to build in ways she (or several of her more advanced students) might steer students toward appropriate practice. Ideally, as students become more adept in using a skill or a body of knowledge, they can monitor the quality of their own performance, referring teacher-supplied answer keys or rubrics. During the early stages of most time-on-task sequences, however, teachers must be ready to give students plenty of improvement-oriented guidance.

Step 4: Independent practice. Here’s the point at which students are supposed to "fly solo," that is, without guidance from the teacher or from peers, as they display genuine mastery of what’s present in a curricular aim. This is the phase of instruction when the research evidence supporting engaged time-on-task is especially germane. Independent practice is a truly critical component of almost any successful instructional design, as it helps ensure that students’ mastery of the sought-for skill or knowledge will be deeply engrained rather than superficially acquired.

Deciding on Practice Types and Amounts

Engaged time-on-task is a crucial component of almost any instructional sequence, but teachers also need to consider two related issues.

What type of practice?

If a teacher regards a curricular aim as sufficiently important to pursue instructionally, the teacher obviously wants students to master that aim and master it well. This almost always means that teachers want their students to demonstrate mastery of the curricular aim in a generalizable manner. A teacher should not want students to be able to display mastery of a skill only in the particular way the teacher has chosen to measure their skill-mastery.

To illustrate, let's say you’re a teacher and the accountability test you will administer to your students calls for them to display mastery of a "main idea" comprehension skill by first reading a paragraph containing either an explicitly stated or readily inferable main idea, then selecting a reasonable statement of that main idea from a set of multiple-choice options. Obviously, you ought to give your students plenty of practice discerning main ideas by employing the sorts of multiple-choice items the accountability test will use. However, to promote students' generalizable mastery of this important reading skill, you should also have your students take part in time-on-task activities in which they must generate their own statements of a paragraph's main idea, both orally and in writing.

We want students to master skills deeply so that they can apply those skills in a variety of settings, not only in response to a single species of test item. Consequently, teachers should be sure the guided or independent practice opportunities they give their students represent a range of ways to display students' generalizable mastery of a curricular aim. There's a simple way for teachers to verify that their students are learning things in generalizable ways. If you're a teacher, just dream up a variety of ways to assess students' learning, then ask yourself this question: Based on how I am currently teaching my students, will they be able to respond correctly to the full kit and caboodle of my imagined testing techniques? If you can supply an affirmative answer, you are doing fine.

How much practice?

This is a question for which, if there were enough classroom time available, an appropriate response might be: "The more practice time, the better!" But these days, with so much to be taught, and with so much of what's taught to be assessed via external accountability tests, most teachers simply don’t have enough classroom time to provide lengthy, languorous time-on-task sessions for their students.

What teachers need to aim for is a number of time-on-task activities sufficient to help students master a curricular aim deeply, but not so many that teachers are unable to pursue other worthwhile educational goals. Fortunately, as we'll see in the next and final instructional-design recommendation, this is an instance when teachers can use students' performances on their classroom tests to help them answer the "how much" question. Teachers can bolster their judgments about how much engaged time-on-task they need by relying on en route assessment evidence regarding their students’ current performance levels.


Marzano, R. (2007). The Art and Science of Teaching. Alexandria, VA.: ASCD.

BRAG FLAG!!!! Attendance

It's time for the passing of the BRAG FLAG!!!
Congrats to the new winners. September is National Attendance Awareness Month.
These ATTENDANCE HEROES have the MOST students with perfect attendance for their grade level.

Kindergarten- SMITH 9 students
First- SINGEWALD 9 students
Second- BLIDGEN 9 students
Third- WALTERS 13 students
Fourth- FIORI 11 students
Fifth- CASTILLO 10 students

Tools for Working with Parents and Families - REQUIRED PD!!!

Please review the Title I PowerPoint using THIS LINK. When finished, please be sure you sign the PD roster by the sign-in sheets in the front office to earn your in-service points!


Is anyone interested in doing after school ROBOTICS?
We need a sponsor ASAP

Is anyone interested in doing after school GARDEN CLUB with a possibility of it turning into hydroponic gardening?

Please email Ms. Emerson ASAP if you may be interested in either.

You have the ability to do it on Tuesday OR Thursday afternoons. Bus transportation will be available for the students, if you get their addresses in two weeks in advance.

Check out this awesome episode of the #kidsdeserveit podcast featuring Kim Bearden. So inspiring!

Episode 38 of #KidsDeserveIt with @KimBearden

Next Week at a Glance:

As you prepare for conferences, don't forget to pick up the conference summary forms, compact agreements, and reading deficiency letters from the table outside Ms. Moree's office! All are required documents for Title I.
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Meaningful conversations

Hello Very Brave Educators,

A message of love from Van Brimmer:

As we've progressed through this year I'm so inspired by the commitment that all of teachers have shown to being their best selves to their students every single day. We have worked tirelessly on unit planning, creating learning scales, making meaningful connections between all content areas. Now is the time that we can really elevate our craft by having meaningful conversations.

Not all of these conversations will be easy to have or result in easy solutions, but not having them is a disservice to ourselves and our students. Our vision is to develop the Very Best Educators in the district and to do that we need to be open and honest reflection and dialogue about not only WHAT we are teaching but also HOW we are teaching it.

There are proven processes that influence instruction, according to Mark Rolewski, a leading researcher that visited our district this summer.

Here are some that really stuck out to me:
1. Strong teams create a common understanding of quality student work, collaboration, and student achievement goals.
2. Strong teams foster a growth mindset focused on teaching as inquiry and have a common understanding of quality instruction.
3. Strong teams not only provide others with feedback, but encourage feedback themselves on their pedagogy.

Weak teams are motivated to defend themselves and defend their status by shifting blame.

Strong teams are motivated to achieve student growth.

We start each day asking our students to make a commitment to learning and growing. As a staff, let's continue building a positive environment but also holding each other accountable. Let's make that our year long commitment to ourselves and our students.

KHAN Academy can revolutionize your math instruction!!!

Over the summer there was a great two day PD that took place at VBE. One of the most impactful parts was given by Dunderdale and Eure, two Indian River County teachers that have had significant success in their math scores in our District.

Please visit our canvas site if you missed the PD or need a refresher on the things they shared with us that helped them reach so many students in their classrooms.

One thing that really jumped out, especially after seeing the high math scores at Treasure Coast Elementary, is that they are using KHAN ACADEMY as a huge resource during their math block for intervention.


Please check out this incredible FREE resource. I would LOVE to see this being incorporated at VBE.

What is 3 ACT Math?

What is a…..

Three Act Math Lesson?

Three Act Math Lessons were first introduced by Dan Meyer, Math Teacher. Three Act Math Lessons are designed to grab student’s attention and peak their curiosity so they will want to “do some math”. Here is how Dan structures his Three Acts. WCPS has created a template to guide students through a Three Act Investigation.

Act One

Introduce the central conflict of your story/task clearly, visually, viscerally, and using as few words as possible. In other words, a lot gets done without many words. This act is very visual, multi-sensory experience with something that hooks you. This is a great place to use the “What do you NOTICE and WONDER?” from the Noticing and Wondering Strategy.

In this act introduce the video by saying “Here is a brief video. I want you to watch it and see what you notice and wonder.” (Older children can write down things they see.)

After viewing the video ask students to turn to a neighbor and talk to them about what you noticed and wondered. When students have had time to share, ask students to share something their neighbor shared with the whole class (the teacher should start charting these “noticing and wonderings”). Determine a question that the class will investigate together. If there are multiple questions that students want to investigate the teacher might decide to have different groups investigate different questions or every group could investigate the “class question” and then an additional question of their choice.

Ask them what information they need from you (the teacher). Ask them what resources they might need (manipulatives, information, graph paper, etc…).

Ask students to ESTIMATE their answer. To do this they should first think about estimates that would be “too low” and “too high” and then reason what a “just right” estimate would be.

Act Two

The students overcomes obstacles, looks for resources, and develops new tools. Students need tools, information, and resources to solve questions from act one and act two. Act two only happens if Act one was success at hooking the student’s interest.

In this act ask students to watch and think about the question they are investigating. They should sketch information they need from act two photos/videos. Students should work together to solve their problem given the information they have. If they find that they need additional information they should gather that information to aid them in solving the problem. Students should record their work so that they can explain to others how they solved their problem.

Act Three

Resolves the conflict and sets up a sequel/extension. The third act pays off on the hard work of act two and the motivation of act one. The student is in suspense until the climax where the student actually experiences the fruits of their efforts.

Tell students that they are going to see more that will reveal if they are on the right track with their questions. Ask students to watch again and answer the final question. Teachers should introduce the extension to students who are ready to move on. Again, it is important that students are explaining their thinking and critiquing the reasoning of others.

Here is Dan Meyer’s Ted talk on Math Instruction which includes his Three Act Math Lessons.

Click here to follow Dan’s Blog on Three Act Math Tasks.

Dan Meyer introduced this idea for middle and high school but….this works well in Elementary school also. This blog has many Three Act lessons for elementary grades connected to Common Core Standards.