Coach's Corner

January 2016 - Edition

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Updates & Reminders

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a great Winter Break and is well rested and ready to tackle all that is ahead in the second half of the year as we enter 2016!

I will be in for my 7th round of observations this year both this week and next. I look forward to getting back into the swing of things - seeing you all in your classrooms and having meaningful conversations about instruction during our feedback sessions together!
If for some reason you do not see a 1:1 meeting invite on your outlook calendar for either this week or next week please notify me right away so I can be sure you are all set up!

Please remember to prepare for our feedback meeting by:
  1. Watch the recording of the session that I attended.
  2. Complete the "Coaching Prep Form" which I am also including here in case you need it!

Also, as we look ahead to the month of January...

  • The week of January 18th ~ No Observations or Feedback Meetings. You will have this week to complete your mid-year self-score. See below for more information about this!
  • We will resume our regular observation/feedback schedule the following week: January 25th.

Happy New Year!

Action Item: Mid-Year Self-Score

· The Mid-Year Self Score link is ready! You may complete this Self Score at anytime in the next few weeks, but it will need to be completed before the end of the month.

Here is the link:


As you complete this self-score please be honest. You will need your "Coaching Rubric" (I attached it in the email with this newsletter link).

Here is a link to the Coaching Rubric Document if you should need it:

If you cannot say, with evidence, that you do all things listed for a particular indicator then score lower than that number. If you have any questions or concerns please let me know.

Out of Respect for your Time (I know you are all VERY Busy - especially this time of year)... Week A teachers will have a "week off" from coaching meetings the week of Jan. 18th and Week B teachers will have a "week off" from coaching meetings the week of Jan. 25th to allow for some extra time to dedicate to completing this task. (Your Outlook meeting invites already reflect this "skipped" week.)

Please have your Mid-Year Self Score completed by Friday, January 29th.
You may complete the self-score anytime before close of business on that date. It takes approximately 20-25 minutes to complete.

Thank you in advance for your time, and your thoughtful reflection!
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Strategies & Best Practice for Class Connect

Growth Mindset & Inquiry-Based Learning

Research shows that students who have a growth mindset believe they can achieve and are motivated to stretch their abilities. When students are motivated to stretch their abilities we are able to foster classrooms where inquiry and curiosity are explored and valued.
What are you doing to foster a growth mindset in your classroom? How are you creating learning experiences that promote exploration, inquiry, and curiosity?

In an article linked below in the resource section of our newsletter Katrina Schwartz states, "Every teacher has a "bucket" of stuff [s]he is responsible for teaching her students, known as standards. The best way to get students to understand and remember that content is to help them build their own path of questions towards the information they need to know."
Many times this year we have all had conversations about how much content we must fit in to a small amount of time. Our Class Connects are only so long and the students are only with us for so much time - how can we fit it all in? We have also had many conversations this year about teacher as facilitator instead of lecturer... but how can we do this effectively, especially when we need to fit so much in?

As teachers we are pros at asking our students questions - constantly focusing on the depth of knowledge and the types of questions we are asking our students; but, what about our students? Are they asking questions? Why types of questions are they asking? Are we giving them this opportunity to help them build their curiosity and inquiry in learning? If not, why not?

Diane Laufenberg is a teacher that has gone on to start non-profit Inquiry Schools where this practice is at the forefront. She is referenced in many of the resources below and I encourage you to check them all out, especially her Ted Talk!
Laufenberg acknowledged that it, "takes time to build up a strong inquiry-based teaching practice, to learn how to direct student questions with other questions, and to get comfortable in a guiding role," but it can be done! We just need to start small. Many of you are already starting this and encouraging your students to ask questions, but if you are not affording opportunities for students to generate questions I encourage you to start - even if just once in a class session to get started and work towards this practice. As teachers we need to move in the direction of facilitator and encourage our students to learn from their mistakes and ask questions.

As we move into the New Year, and the upcoming new semester, I encourage you to consider ways to afford opportunities for your students to ask questions in class sessions, and build their curiosity and inquiry skills.

How Can I Teach Students to Ask Questions?

Strategy #1.
KWL Charts ~ KWL charts are nice because they help assess what students already know, what they want to know (generating questions), and then what they learn in the end.
You can even add an "S" to this chart to have students generate even more questions and find out what they still want to know after the initial learning has taken place.
Have you used a KWL chart this year?

There are various versions & templates, but here is one downloadable PDF. :)

Strategy #2.
Encourage Students to Express their Voice!
Use sentence starters as a tool to help students begin to "think for themselves" and ask questions - make predictions, a hypothesis, or wonderings about a topic in any subject matter.

Here are some questions stems and sentence starters you may find useful:

Strategy #3.
QFT - Question Formulation Technique
Do you find that your students sometimes have trouble formulating questions? Would you like for your students to be more curious about the content? To want to learn more? To monitor their own thinking and to take ownership over their learning?

The Question-Formulation-Technique "QFT" (created and run by a nonprofit called The Right Question Institute) might be worth a try! The website boasts that it "makes it possible for all people to learn how to ask better questions and to participate more effectively in key decisions". I know that I have shared it already with a few teachers, so any feedback from anyone who has tried out any component of this strategy is welcome in the comments!

The website offers a plethora of free resources & handouts that guide teacher and students in implementing this technique. You have to create an account (I know, another user name and password...), but it's quick easy and worth your while!

Here's the link to the website:

Here's the link to some of the introductory QFT resources I've downloaded and compiled:

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*Teaching Highlights*

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Erin Frey

1st Grade Math:
Erin is building inquiry skills in her first graders during their math classes together. She is having her students find multiple ways to solve a problem during math instead of just presenting a problem with one right answer! Students were also on their mics explaining their answers and convincing each other they were correct and how they knew.
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Theresa Moore

4th Grade Guided Reading:
Students in Theresa's guided reading class not only know their learning target for the day but they know how to measure if they achieve that learning target. In addition, Theresa has her 4th grade students evaluating and analyzing student samples where the RACE strategy was used so they have a deeper understanding and will know if they are applying this strategy correctly.
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Rob Atwood

HS Physical Education:
Rob flipped the classroom a bit by asking students to read a section from their curriculum as they entered the classroom. He then used cold calling effectively to have students share out the major points that helped lead into the bulk of the lesson. This allowed for the students to really think analytically as they compared and contrasted using base knowledge from this earlier activity throughout the rest of the lesson.

Morgan Storey

HS Algebra I
Morgan is effectively using her "Warm-up" time to assess prior knowledge of students. She has set her expectations high that everyone participates. During this class students were asked to put their response on the board (even if someone else already did) and then had students explain their reasoning and support their answers using mic and chat after the timer and their "think time" was up. This was an effective way to get the students "doing" more right away at the start of class.
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10 Tips for Launching an Inquiry-Based Classroom

Check out this great article for ways to transform your classroom, get students using more inquiry skills and "doing" more than you in the classroom!

Diana Laufenberg: How to learn? From mistakes - TED Talk

In this TED Talk Diana Laufenburg talks about 3 things she learned about teaching and shares some great insight about learning from mistakes. Mistakes in learning can be quite powerful and lead to inquiry by students in learning - watch this 9 minute TED Talk to learn more!

Classroom Strategies to Foster a Growth Mindset

As we get ready to move into second semester check out these tools to lay the foundation and foster a growth mindset in your students. Research shows that students who have a growth mindset believe they can achieve and are motivated to stretch their abilities. This resource will give you tools and ideas to foster and develop growth mindset in your students and in your classroom.

5 Ways to Help Students Become Better Questioners

In this article Warren Berger discusses 5 ways to help your students become better questioners. He discusses the importance of a safe environment, that is fun and rewarding to help students ask questions and build an inquiry-based classroom.

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