KCS Curriculum and Instruction

Teaching and Learning News for November 2016

A Note to You From Dr. Burgess

It is hard to believe that Halloween has already passed. This means that the holiday season will be upon us soon! This is a great time of year to focus on how we use our time to make sure that our priorities don’t get buried in the day-to-day schedule demands. We can do this by focusing on three areas: instruction, planning and personal.


Make sure that daily instruction is engaging, meeting the needs of students and using best practices. Robert Marzano has found that incorporating cooperative learning, setting objectives and providing feedback, allowing students to generate and test hypotheses, and providing time for practice are some effective instructional practices that increase student achievement.


Teacher planning time must be used effectively and efficiently to all teachers to schedule priorities. The KCS curricular priorities have been detailed in the KCS Curriculum Documents. These documents must be used during every planning session to make sure that instruction is aligned with our priorities. The year-long maps and unit guides are essential to any planning session in which curriculum and instruction are discussed.


Last, but certainly not least, we must all schedule our personal priorities. These include time with family, friends and doing the hobbies that we love. We must make and schedule this time to recharge our own batteries so that we can become better family-members, friends and teachers to those in our lives who need us.

Did You Know?

  • This Thursday, November 3 at 5:30 in the KPAC is our first KCS Open Mic night to celebrate student writing. All students who submitted a young author’s writing piece is invited to go and read their writing. Check with your students to see who is going and give them some encouragement, and come if you can!
  • On November 8 from 8:30am-10:30am, we are offering a bonus PD session to K-8 teachers: Enhance Your Classroom Management - Incorporating PBIS Strategies. Register in TimeKeeper.
  • It’s that time of year where you should take note of your renewal cycle year and how many CEU’s you have and need. If our school and district PD isn’t enough for your requirements or can’t satisfy your desire to learn more, check out the convenient online PD modules in NCEES.
  • We stored all PD materials from the early release PD Paths in this google folder for easy access to your session materials AND any session you wanted to attend but couldn’t.
  • You can go here to watch short videos of math strategies modeled for grades PreK through 5th, including ten frames, base ten, bar model, arrays, open number line, etc. You may want to find ones for your grade level, or check for strategies used below and above your grade level. Anyone who teaches math, or parents a child in school, may benefit from learning these “mysterious” strategies our students are using to learn concepts and build to more fluent approaches.
  • Student Survey results will be emailed to teachers on Friday, November 4. Teachers are encouraged to use the resources on this website as they review and reflect upon the survey results with their principals. Look for new features within the Panorama reporting tool that will give perspective to the survey data and the “Playbook” tool that provides ideas to improve teaching practice as related to the survey domains.

Troubleshooting: Lack of Student Motivation

A common frustration heard in planning teams across the district is the lack of motivation for some students. Perhaps some of you have thought or used the terms “student apathy” or “laziness”. If you believe this is solely a student issue and a student problem, then start here and read the full interview. If, however, you are ready to learn more about how you can motivate students, try a few new things, and take a few risks to see if you can do something to help, then read on. Below are some best practices for increasing student (well, anyone’s) motivation, along with some food for thought. (And speaking of: yes, food motivates… but only extrinsically and for easy, rote tasks -see this. Not for the kind of work we want students to do.


Motivation increases with:

  • Respect. Give students the respect they deserve (yes, deserve…not earn) so that they want to work for YOU. Students work for teachers they respect, and nothing in the following list will work as well without those strong relationships.
  • A Clear Learning Goal. Students’ brains want to know what to pay attention to, what they are supposed to learn, and/or how their work connects to the bigger picture. So: *Use essential questions to frame a unit or lesson.
    *Use unit or concept maps to show where learning fits in.
    *Talk to students about the learning goals and how your lesson will set them up for success.
  • Authentic Work. Students (again, all of us, really) prefer to have a good reason to do something, and because a teacher asks us to isn’t usually good enough. So:
    *Provide meaningful tasks that are relevant, challenging, or purposeful.
    *Create an authentic audience for the task, which can be peers, another group, or better yet, someone outside the walls of your classroom that they would care to impress.
    *Create more opportunities for choice.
  • High Expectations. Students can do more than we think they can. So:
    *Don’t sell them short, and keep your learning (and behavior) expectations high.
    *Provide support rather than lowering expectations.
    *Use language that conveys your belief in them, even and especially when they aren’t where you want them to be yet.
    *Use a positive tone and language. High expectations with a negative tone can backfire.
  • Specific Praise. Students need praise, and the more specific the better. So:
    *Praise them. Especially on effort, thinking, decision-making, and skills they are using or attempting to use.
    *Continue to loop back in past material that students can be successful with, so there is always a chance for praise and affirmation throughout new learning.
  • Feedback. And sorry, but grades don’t count for the most part. Grades don’t motivate effectively (trust me, research it yourself, or start with this article), and it takes the focus away from learning and puts it on scores. So:
    *Start with whole class feedback if needed. After looking at all the student work, what does everyone need to hear about?
    *Talk/write to small groups or individuals to give comments (specific ones) about what they have done well and what the next steps are.
    *When you return work, give them time immediately to review any feedback and record some reflections or talk through some new thinking.
  • Goal-Setting. Once you have the items above in place, consider taking it to the next level by having students track their own learning data and set goals. I’m not talking grades or numbers necessarily, but rather: what do they know they aren’t doing well? What do they want to get better at? What would that look like? And what is their plan to get there? Data notebooks, graphing learning results, and regular reflection exercises are successful strategies I’ve seen around the district.

UbD Tips for Y-O-U

A key feature of our curriculum framework (Understanding by Design) is that we aim for, assess for, and design a learning plan for... transfer. You thought I was going to say for “understanding” didn’t you? Well, of course that’s a destination along the way, and a crucial requirement for transfer. If students understand….truly, truly understand… they are flexible with that knowledge and able to apply it to in new and varied situations, independently. It’s certainly a lofty goal, but of course the one we must aim for.


An example given by Wiggins and McTighe, UbD creators, is with driver education. Sure, we can teach students the rules of the road, and we can have them practice skills such as turning, entering a highway, and parallel parking. But is that enough? Don’t we need them to truly understand the big ideas of safety, responsibility, defensive driving, and good decision-making, for example, when it would be okay to break a rule? Without the deep understanding, they will be much less prepared to independently operate their heavy machinery on the road. Our ultimate goal is for them to transfer all their understanding to the new and varying situations they will encounter each time they drive.


If you prefer a sports analogy, consider a baseball coach who calls out to the players where to throw it each play as opposed to the coach who gradually weans away and coaches players to make those decisions themselves.


As you continue planning your engaging lessons that focus on the standards, think about what you are doing to set students up for transfer of that learning. For some basic reflection, ask yourself these questions: Do my students seem to “get it” in class, but don’t show the same level of learning on an independent assessment? Do I truly know what my students can do independently on a new set of problems, text, writing prompt, or questions? To dig a little deeper, click on these Teaching for Transfer tips and work to incorporate more of them throughout the year.

KCS Spotlight on Teaching and Learning

In each issue of this newsletter, we like to shine a spotlight on KCS staff and their effective teaching and learning strategies. Look below for some highlights of effective teaching and learning strategies (for both students and teachers) in classrooms, teams, and schools!

Wonder Block

A.L. Brown is working hard to teach beyond the curriculum and impact the social and emotional development of their students. During the Wonder Block time, students work with their assigned teacher to learn important social and employability skills such as active listening, empathy and understanding of different points of view. Students get an opportunity during this time to talk about important character traits and learn how these skills can help them be more successful in life. It is also a time for students and teachers to build the necessary relationships for students to learn and grow as adolescents.


Two teachers doing this remarkably well at A.L. Brown are Shane Dagenhart, KCS Runner up teacher of the Year, and Chelsea Williamson, English teacher extraordinaire. Both Shane and Chelsea do an amazing job of connecting with their students and ensuring that they are sharing with their student best practices regarding a successful, character laden lifestyle.

Arts Already Alive at KIS (Soon to be Carver)

Katie Culp's dance class is already a great success at KIS, and will continue to be a favorite for students when the building transitions to Carver next year. In one lesson early in the year, students were to come up with a movement that represented themselves or their personalities. They were then placed in groups where there were to put their individual movements into a sequence or order. It was supposed to be creative, well-rehearsed, and only last for 16 counts. It is how she introduced small group procedures, as well as counting and phrasing in dance. Also, she got to learn a little bit about them as well! And get this: she planned a secret flash mob for the entire student body (who kept it secret from the teachers) and they pulled it off at a school assembly!!!


As you can see in the picture, Art class is just as engaging! In this project, Art teacher Lori Burroughs integrated art and science with a little social studies with Skeleton art work! Look closely, she even has them writing their names in cursive as the body!

Focus on Mindset

Forest Park's Assistant Principal, Lenore Thompson, did an awesome job with their schoolwide book study on Mindset: the New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck. According to principal Nick Carlascio, this focused learning for staff has definitely made a difference and created a shared vision with the staff. The planning teams at Forest Park have embraced this growth mindset as they work on creating, giving, and analyzing common assessments, particularly focusing on K-4 math. They have seen great results and feel like they are taking the UbD to the next level!

KEA Movie Stars!

Shady Brook is so proud of their Kindergarten teachers who were chosen from the state as exemplars of the Kindergarten Entry Assessment. DPI sent a film crew out to film their teaching and their collaborative planning to see how they embed the KEA throughout their day. The film will be used in a statewide video to promote the KEA and PD for teachers.

Embedding Character Into Curriculum

KMS's Team 7A's classes have been watching the forecast on WBTV almost daily for about 6 weeks. They began seeing Hurricane Matthew on the forecast when it was starting to form and watched it as it traveled through Haiti and so on. They spent class time looking at pictures and footage of the damage left in Matthew's wake and came up with an interdisciplinary project to incorporate hurricanes and ratios. In addition, they are organizing a simple fundraiser to send money through a credible organization to be applied directly to relief efforts in Haiti. They will be selling wristbands with the phrase "Rebuild Haiti" from November 14-18 for $1 each. If you would like to support them, contact Jerold Griggs or Courtney Jenkins.

Going Above and Beyond

Special shout out to all those KCS leaders who went above and beyond their time and job descriptions to plan and present meaningful professional development for our district. Over 50 teachers and building leaders invested much time and energy to serve others. We cannot thank them enough, but you can help by taking a moment to thank your presenters and those that presented other sessions.


Another KCS teacher who goes out of his way is Matt Plummer at A.L. Brown. He is one of those staff members that nobody truly knows everything he does behind the scenes to connect with students, meet their needs (academically, social, or emotional), and spread positivity around the building. He recently said, "These students open up so candidly in small groups and one on one. Some stories break my heart. Others lift my spirits. But what is great is to see them encourage one another. They show genuine concern for teachers and other students. Some of the toughest walls crack. I just wish all school employees knew what differences they make on these kids' lives and that these kids look up to all of us to bring empathy, kindness as well as education. Just passing along that what we all do matters. Even if the students never tell you..it is heartfelt." Thanks to Mr. Plummer for going above and beyond to make students feel heard and loved.

Positive (Behavior) Things are Happening in KCS!

Back in April 2016, every school in KCS sent a Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) team to participate in Module 1 training for 2016-17 implementation. So what is PBIS? At its core, PBIS is a “framework or approach comprised of intervention practices and organizational systems for establishing the social culture, learning and teaching environment, and individual behavior supports needed to achieve academic and social success for all students” (Sugai et al., 2013, p. 13). Our goal is to teach appropriate behavior and address related issues through a data-based, problem-solving model for planning and decision making. It is a critical component of the MTSS framework, as this comprehensive model must address both academic and behavior needs. PBIS makes our schools predictable, positive, safe and consistent. Research has consistently revealed positive outcomes for schools who have implemented PBIS, including improved student engagement, family engagement, academic achievement, attendance, staff satisfaction and teacher retention. The posters hanging around your school detail important rules and procedures based on established school-wide expectations that should be agreed upon and taught by all staff members. Much like academic concepts, these skills must be TAUGHT. They help us develop common language and promote consistency within the school. Acknowledgement systems are also critical components to help promote positive behavior and encourage students to become “self-managers.”


In just the first quarter of the school year, we already see positive outcomes across the district. We will continue to track discipline, attendance, and overall achievement as well as staff, student and parent feedback to track our progress. We have even added a PBIS Transportation Team focused on supporting this framework on our buses. Module 2 training is scheduled for April 2017. If you have any questions, concerns or suggestions related to PBIS in your school, please let your school-based team know. We need everyone on board to make this work for our students!


OUR GOAL: PBIS state recognition for EVERY school in KCS in 2017!

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