Grandview C-4 School District

THE C&I Focus

November/December, 2013

C-4 Instructional Priorities

Over the past two years, the C & I Team has been on a mission to identify the instructional priorities of the district. We asked ourselves, we asked teachers, we asked principals, we asked parents, we asked students - and all of us had a different answer. Alarming, right? So, what are they, really? While we’re still not sure, we’re merging the discussions and thoughts from across the district with CCSS, all that lies ahead in equipping students with “21st Century Skills”, and borrowing from the BIG IDEAS and essential skills thought processes, and this is where we’ve grown to thus far. (Click on the picture to reveal each instructional priority.)

What do YOU think? Share your thoughts at as we continue to work together to focus our vision, learning, and work into our GC-4 Instructional Priorities.

Oh yeah, and here’s another one for future pondering….What does “21st Century Skills” mean to you??? Simple question, complex answer. Stay tuned.

- Your C & I Team

Things I'm Learning

Lisa Walker- Assistant Superintendent, Curriculum and Instruction

While relationships and “who” we teach continue to be important, recently I’ve been thinking a lot about “how” we teach as I move in and out of classrooms across our district. I’m thinking back to Linda Jordan’s session at our September C & I Day and I’m wondering, who's doing the work and growing the dendrites in C-4? If we know we need to move to more student-centered classrooms, then students need to have a more central role in our daily lessons. In my continued “Twitter Stalking”, @justintarte posts a picture that clearly captures this concept:

Big image

Simply put, WE need to stop talking. Let's start providing MORE frequent and ongoing opportunities for ALL students to discuss THEIR thinking in between our direct instruction. We can’t wait any longer to push ourselves into NEW routines and practices.

From @edutopia, tips for US from THEM, as our kids speak out on what THEY need during daily instruction.

Less US, more THEM.

From @TeachThought, kids share in very real (and painful for us passionate teachers) terms how boring our direct instruction can seem. Their responses can hurt, but take a deep breath and reflect upon their views at:

Less US, more THEM.

Does it seem overwhelming? Start small. Change ONE thing. Stop the raised hands and ask students to turn and talk to their neighbor or group. Use whiteboards or sleeves for ALL students to respond to the question or information. Then have them turn and talk about their findings, argue their point of view, and finally, after ALL of that, ask students to share out (one at a time) what they discussed with their partner or groups. Practice this ONE change for a week (or even two) until it becomes a routine.

From @HoustonSuper, a thoughtful reminder….

Big image
Need some ideas beyond those already shared from my “Twitter Stalking”, then take a look at @k12educators via a tweet from our very own @CWES_Principal. In this post, lesson closure strategies that you can use immediately!

Less US, more THEM.

We've GOT to do it. The time is now.

@LisaGWalker (aka C-4 Twitter Stalker)

What Resonates in a Word?

Alicia Ketchum- Director of Curriculum and Instruction

Listen to the sound and rhythm of the words in "What Does the Fox Say?" As I watched and listened it brought to mind my love of spoken and written language. Teachers are priviledged with the opportunity to gift students with attention-getting and life changing language experiences.


Ylvis - The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?) [Official music video HD]

What is a Student Centered Classroom?

Scott Sisemore- Director of Instructional Technology

We are constantly hearing that classrooms need to become more "student centered", with teachers acting more like a "guide on the side" as opposed to a "sage on the stage". While this need is certainly true, what does that really mean? All of the catch phrases like "inquiry-based", "project-based", "problem-based", and "challenge-based" make student centered classrooms seem like something that is complicated and requires us to make a major overhaul of the way we teach and manage our classrooms.

In reality, creating a student centered learning environment is a process, and the best way to get there is to focus on the pieces of the puzzle, not the puzzle itself. There are a lot of instructional strategies that support a student centered classroom, and not all classrooms will look a like; however, there is one common feature that All student centered classrooms have;

Much LESS direct instruction. Remember Peppermint Patty's reaction to direct instruction?

Big image
Or Farris Bueller's classmates? No wonder he skipped!
Big image

So what are the pieces of the puzzle, or components of a student centered classroom that we should focus on?

  • Collaboration
  • Choice
  • Creation/creativity
  • Critical thinking
  • Communication
  • Questions

Notice that none of these pieces has anything to do with technology! Technology is not required to create a student centered learning environment. Having said that, technology does give us powerful tools that help us create a more authentic and engaging student centered learning environment.

So how do we get to student centered? One step at a time! If we focus on the above components, we will get there without even knowing it. Next time you are developing a lesson, ask yourself a few basic questions;

  • Is there a way I can get students talking more? Working together more?
  • How can I let students have some choice in how they demonstrate understanding, so they are more engaged?
  • Am I giving kids answers that they could find for themselves or with a group?

Staring with these simple questions can go a long way towards putting us on the right path.

Check out the video below to learn more about student centered classrooms!

Student-Centered Learning (21st Century Education)

Professional Learning Networks (PLN)

On a similar topic! One of the greatest challenges to creating a student centered learning environment, or in integrating technology into the classroom, is finding great ideas with limited time.

Building an effective Professional Learning Network (PLN) with a tool like Twitter can be a powerful way to communicate and collaborate with thousands of other educators around the world. I like to compare Twitter to a 24/7 conference that I can attend anytime I want. It's a great place to start!

Check out the blog below that discusses educators using Twitter to build a PLN. If you are interested and need help, let us know, or check out the Twitter tutorials on the Instructional Technology Website.

Don't forget to bookmark our new Instructional Technology Website. It's the home base of our efforts to provide you with a place for anytime, anyplace, any pace support and professional learning.

Student Collaboration

Prissy LeMay- Coordinator for Professional Development and Extended Learning Services

In September’s C&I Focus, I shared that the Common Core State Standards has an emphasis on students being able to collaborate and discuss with their peers. In an effort to continue to look for ways we can develop the collaboration skills necessary for our students to be College and Career Ready, I came across a couple of video clips of strategies that you may want to add to your “instructional toolbox.”

The first one is titled “Strategies for Student-Centered Discussion.” Click the on the video link to watch how a high school English teacher prepare her students for a student-led discussion and how the students participate in the discussion. After you watch the video, consider these questions.

  • How does beginning the lesson with student reflections and guiding questions equip students for the discussion?
  • How does the teacher use questioning to push her students' understanding?
  • What engagement strategies can you learn from teacher?

The focused strategies are a great way to have students engaged in collaborative group work and having them be accountable for making meaningful authentic work. Collaborative activities address multiple skill levels and can be designed to reach all learners.

Common Core Standards targeted in the lesson.

ELA.SL.11-12.1a, ELA.SL.11-12.1c, ELA.RL.11-12.1

We have all had those students who are reluctant to raise their hands to contribute to the class discussion, but we know that by giving an opportunity to put their thoughts on paper first creates a non-intimidating learning environment. The second video clip shares two strategies that can help students sharpen their thinking and writing skills called “Classroom Talk” and “Writing to Learn.”

Writing to Learn helps students improve fluency and mastery of written conventions and give teachers an excellent formative assessment tool. Low-stakes writing opportunities scaffold middle and high stakes writing. Classroom Talk allows students to engage in high levels of discourse and questioning, where they are able to see how to sustain their learning.

In the video the teacher uses the strategies to push the students’ understanding to a deeper level.

While watching, here are some questions you may want to consider reflecting.

  • How do students "write to Learn?"
  • How does the teacher use questioning to push her students' understanding?
  • What engagement strategies can you learn from teacher?

The focused strategies are a great way to have students engaged in collaborative group work and having them be accountable for making meaningful authentic work. Collaborative activities address multiple skills levels and can be designed to reach all learners.

The Focus on Special Education

Sheryl Malloy- Coordinator of Special Services

Were you aware that the Grandview C4 School District is home to over 300 students kindergarten – 12th grade identified as English Language Learners? Many of you serve these students in your class each day. I have shared information to help dispel some common myths associated with educating students who are English Language Learners.

Misconceptions about teaching English Language Learners

Most ELLs spend the entire instructional day in mainstream classrooms in which the majority of students speak English as their native language and where instruction occurs in English. Teachers in mainstream classrooms must be prepared to teach students who come from different linguistic, cultural, and educational backgrounds. Unfortunately, well-intentioned efforts to include diverse learners in general education reforms are often based on misconceptions about effective instruction for ELLs. The misconceptions stem from two basic assumptions that guide much current teacher preparation for diversity. The first assumption is that the needs of ELLs do not differ

Significantly from those of other diverse learners; the second is that the discipline of English as a second language (ESL) is primarily a menu of pedagogical adaptations appropriate for a variety of diverse learners (Candace Harper, October 2004).

Misconception 1: Exposure and interaction will result in English-language learning

Drawing on their understanding of how young children acquire their first language, many teachers assume that exposure to language and opportunities for interaction with English speakers are the essential (necessary and sufficient) conditions for learning ESL. If ELLs are exposed to comprehensible English and provided with meaningful opportunities to interact in English, they are expected to develop English-language skills naturally and fully, just as native speakers are expected to develop their mother tongue.

There are indeed important similarities between the processes of learning a first and a second language. Acquisition of L1 and L2 appears developmental in nature and involves constructive and social processes in which input and interaction are central components (Long, 1985) (Vygotsky, 1978 (original work published 1934)). Classroom practices that facilitate rich language input and encourage meaningful student interaction (e.g., discovery learning, process writing, and cooperative grouping) are recommended for both native speakers and L2 learners of English (Peregoy, 1997). There are also important differences between first and second language acquisition that limits and effects of input and interaction on L2 learning, particularly for older learners.

In short, exposure and interaction are simply not enough. ELLs need explicit opportunities to practice using the new language to negotiate meaning in interactive settings. Teachers need to draw student’s attention to the structure of the English language used in specific academic contexts and provide appropriate feedback that Ells can use to further their oral and written academic language development. Teachers should provide ELLs with opportunities to respond to challenging questions through response formats appropriate to these students’ oral proficiency levels such as yes/no, either/or, short answer, or extended response options (Cloud, 2000) (deJong E. J. & Derrick-Mescua, 2003 2(2)).

Misconception 2: All Ells learn English in the same way and at the same rate

A second misconception that emerges from equating first-and second-language learning is that L2 learning is perceived as a universal process. Because all children learn to speak their first language, teachers often conclude that all ELLs can be expected to follow the same route and rate for learning a second language. Teachers frequently report having observed L2 learners who seem to pick up the language needed for social purposes quickly and easily while they struggle with academic language and literacy. Workshops for teachers of ELLs typically address the distinction between social and academic language proficiency (i.e., the difference between using language for interpersonal purposes in contextualized settings and using language for school in decontextualized settings (Cummins, 1986).

ELLs have much in common with native English speakers from diverse socioeconomic, racial, or ethnic backgrounds, but their needs do not completely overlap. Teachers need an understanding of language differences and developmental stages of L2 learning, and they cannot expect ELLs to follow the same learning path or timeline for English-language development. This linguistic knowledge must be accompanied by an inquiring stance that seeks ways to understand how individual students’ social and cultural characteristics can affect their process and progress toward academic language proficiency (Candace Harper, October 2004).

Misconception 3: Good teaching for native speakers is good teaching for Ells

Teachers use district, state, and national standards to shape their instruction and assessment for all learners across the curriculum. In spite of inclusive claims regarding student diversity, most standards are based on approaches for diverse native-English speaking student population (Dalton, 1998). Oral and written language development may occur simultaneously in ELLs, and some ELLs may be able to read before they can speak in the L2. Many assume that reading intervention programs designed for low-literacy native English speakers would also be appropriate for ELLs who do not read well in English. However, while ELLs at the secondary level typically do have limited English vocabularies and reduced reading fluency and comprehension in English, they usually do not have the more basic decoding difficulties displayed by many “struggling” readers. Interventions aimed at improving decoding skills may therefore be inappropriate for many ELLs (Candace Harper, October 2004).

Misconception 4: Effective instruction means nonverbal support

By using visuals or other nonverbal means such as graphic organizers or hands-on activities, teachers can make their instruction more comprehensible. These nonverbal supports help mediate the language demands of content learning and, in fact help Ells “get around” the language used in texts and class discussions. Though such accommodations increase the comprehensibility of texts or tasks, they fail to meet the needs of Ells when teachers are unable to use them as tools for language development within content classes. Teachers should include ways to reduce the language demands for ELLs (i.e. provide comprehensible input) while simultaneously providing opportunities for ELLs to develop the necessary academic language skills (Candace Harper, October 2004).