Volume 1 | Issue 2: Growing and Strengthening Our Practices

Educational Services Department

A Message from Kathie Nielsen

Hello TUSD Elementary Teachers,

I was excited to see so many of you took a moment to view our first edition of TUSD CONNECTION. Living in a time of information overload, we certainly want to be sensitive to overwhelming you with too much, and yet there is so much valuable information available that we know might be of interest to you. Hopefully, you will gauge the helpful amount of information that is just right for you.

Hopefully, the work that you engaged in as a staff on the October 16th professional development day enabled you to explore more deeply the claims of the SBAC assessments and the instructional targets that support them. As we continue to grow our mindsets around preparing students for college and career readiness in the 21st century I hope you found the claims to be reflective of your current work. I continue to see such amazing work being done in our elementary classrooms through Balanced Literacy and I applaud your efforts incorporating the instructional targets into your daily reading instruction. Keep up the great work!

Instructional Support Updates

CGI Institute

CGI Institute has launched with an incredible response! Close to 100 teachers and administrators are participating in this hybrid online Professional Development course. Our first meeting occurred on Haiku on Monday, October 26th. Participants watched videos, read research articles and participated in a live Haiku discussion. Our next task will include reading "Children's Mathematics".

Any teachers interested in accessing the resources or participating in future CGI Institute meetings can find everything on the "TUSD Elementary STEM" Haiku page. Feel free to contact Lauren Steinmann with any questions! lsteinmann@tustin.k12.ca.us

UDL Inquiry Group

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Inquiry Group kicked off the first meeting on October 27th. Participants watched a video and read research articles to learn the principles of UDL, how to get started using UDL, and similarities and differences between UDL and differentiated instruction.

Upcoming topics include:

Student Engagement Matters”: Learn how to engage and motivate learners.

Presenting for All”: Learn strategies and tools to present so all students can access information.

Show What You Know”: Learn how to provide structured choice for students to show what they know.

UDL is a mindset shift from ““How can I get this student to access the curriculum?” to “What can I do to the environment or curriculum to make learning more accessible to this student?” Click HERE to watch UDL at a Glance.

There is still space if you would like to join.If you would like to join or have questions, please contact Karen Knudson: kknudson@tustin.k12.ca.us

Cotsen Strategic Grant - Mentor Texts

The Cotsen Foundation for the Art of Teaching provides ongoing support to alumni teachers and mentors by offering competitive Strategic Opportunity Grants. TUSD is proud to announce that a $16,611.39 grant was awarded for the 2015-2016 school year.

The inquiry-based grant, Digging Into and Analyzing Mentor Texts/Exemplar Pieces for Reading and Writing, involves Connect Coaches, classroom teachers/fellows, elementary principals, and district leaders. For coaches, this grant serves to create a pathway to further their growth with instructional practices for literacy instruction and support the development of their coaching skills. For teacher/fellow participants, the grant provides an opportunity to work alongside a coach to analyze mentor texts that align with reading and writing instruction.

At the conclusion of this study, the team will compile recommended mentor texts/exemplar pieces for each grade level TK-5 that align with TUSD ELA Instructional Phases/Units of Study for reading and writing. This unique learning opportunity between instructional coaches, district leaders, and classroom teachers has the potential to impact all elementary schools across TUSD.

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Mentor Text Recommendation

What are your favorite mentor texts that you use over and over with your students? Please share your mentor texts with us by submitting a Mentor Text Recommendation. Click the link below to access the Google form.

Submit a Mentor Text Recommendation

Would you like to see the mentor texts that have been recommended? Click the link below to access the Google spreadsheet of responses.

Mentor Text Responses

Working Smarter, Not Harder: Multi-Tiered Systems of Support

Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) is a way of thinking and problem solving to identify what kind of instruction, prevention, or intervention each student responds to best through systematic school-wide support and ongoing collaboration involving teachers, administrators, families, specialists, and community partners. Simply put, MTSS leverages the principles of RTI and PBIS and integrates a continuum of system wide resources, strategies, structures, and practices around the academic, behavioral, and social/emotional needs of all students.

The purpose for MTSS emerges as we continue on our journey to create 21st Century classrooms in TUSD. Our work in Balanced Literacy, assessments, mathematics, technology, and CCSS has lifted the rigor of curriculum, instruction, and student learning expectations for all students. In an effort to support the students in reaching these new standards, TUSD has launched a MTSS implementation team to study and recognize current best practices. The goal is to align and refine systems across the district to maximize effectiveness in helping schools and teachers give every child in TUSD the support they need to succeed.

What's NEW on HAIKU?

The TUSD Balanced Literacy Resources/Support Haiku site continues to be updated to support the understanding of the structures of Balanced Literacy and provide resources for elementary literacy instruction and assessment.

Key Highlights...

Discussion Boards...

Did you know...

that a fluent reader, reading on-level texts, should read 3/4 of a page per minute?

WOW - that means our younger readers go through a lot of books. Classroom libraries thus become critical to support the various levels of readers.

Check this out...

  • a "J" book has ~800 words, a fluent reader reads 6 books/day

  • an "M" book has ~6,000 words, a fluent reader reads 1 book/day

  • a "P" book takes a child ~1-2 hours to read, a fluent reader reads 3-4 books/week

Mark Your Calendar


NOVEMBER is National Novel Writing Month!!

How about a novel writing unit...

The Young Writers Program "empowers and encourages writing and vibrant creativity" for children grades K-12.

Classroom resource kit & curriculum materials available via website: www.ywp.nanowrimo.org

Twitter: #TUSDnovels

ELA Instructional Phase 2: 11/2 - 12/18

Phase 1: Strategies for Readers and Writers

The purpose of Phase 2: Growing Ideas Through the World of Nonfiction is to support children in becoming proficient nonfiction readers and writers. It is essential to explore the vast variety of nonfiction texts that exist and teach children how to read in authentic manners. The phase will explicitly model the reasons why individuals read nonfiction and the strategies used to navigate the world of nonfiction. The overarching goal for this work focuses on development of ideas, therefore students will be challenged to push themselves beyond simply reading, but making connections and theories. It is common for the reading and writing work within this phase to overlap, meaning that what students do as readers will carry into their work as writers and vice versa.

Text Type: Nonfiction

Click HERE to access TUSD ELA Instructional Phases

Teachers Engaged in Learning

On Wednesday, October 21st, the Cotsen Foundation for the ART of TEACHING hosted best-selling author and literacy expert, Lucy Calkins, for Lifting the Level of Reading Comprehension, Grades 2-5. TUSD teachers, coaches, principals, and district leaders joined the full-day event which focused on developing bottom-lines for reading, design of units of study, and tips for growing and strengthening readers and writers.

Lucy's Bottom-Lines for Reading...

  • Reading, like writing, is a skill developed in use - TIME is needed for reading to take place. Books teach kids to read, therefore 1-hour a day should be devoted to eyes on print reading in K-8 classrooms.

  • Without COMPREHENSION, a child is not reading.

  • Explicit INSTRUCTION in the form of a mini-lesson is critical.

  • We need to be able to determine the "missing leg" for our students, therefore ASSESSMENT-BASED INSTRUCTION is essential.

  • READ ALOUDS are a must in order for students to see what reading can be.

What are your bottom-lines for reading? Share via discussion board on Haiku.


Are you following @tusdbookclub on Instagram?

  • Optional book club for TUSD teachers
  • NEW book posted each month
  • Discussion at the end of each month

October Book Pick: How Children Success by Paul Tough

We hope you'll join the @tusdbookclub!

November Book Pick

Children's Mathematics by Thomas Carpenter, et al.

The bestselling first edition of Children’s Mathematics helped hundreds of thousands of teachers understand children’s intuitive mathematical thinking and use that knowledge to help children learn mathematics with understanding. The highly anticipated Second Edition provides new insights about Cognitively Guided Instruction based on the authors’ research and experience in CGI classrooms over the last 15 years. Highlights include:

  • how children solve problems using their intuitive understanding of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division

  • the development of children’s mathematical thinking throughout the primary grades

  • instructional practices that promote children’s active engagement in mathematics

  • connections between children’s strategies and powerful mathematical concepts

-Heinemann Publishing


The Things We Say

Author Peter Johnston shares in his book, Choice Words, that we "have to help children and ourselves understand how names (categories) come to be associated with particular definitions." For example, the word “good” - “This is something that good readers do." The author shares that “it validates the use of a good-bad binary as a sensible descriptor for readers.” This leaves children to start thinking about themselves as either the “good” readers – those who can do and the “bad” readers, those who are unable.

Think: What language do I use during mini-lessons?

Click HERE to view an article that summarizes the book.

Carol Dweck Revisits the "Growth Mindset"

Click HERE to view an article on growing our mindset.
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