Humanities Memo

The School Leaders' Edition: February 1st-6th


Effective "We Do" in RA/RC

This week, we honed in on the need for teachers to embed "how" key points when planning for and expecting exemplar responses from students.

As you continue to support teachers with mastering the "We Do" in their RA/RC blocks, here are several effective coaching moves we've already seen:

When planning:

  • Co-planning 1-2 exemplar responses per RA/RC lesson, embedding the "how" key points, with a teacher
  • Giving targeted lesson plan feedback that pushes teachers to integrate the "how" key points in their "I Do" with exemplar student responses in the "We Do"

When executing:

  • Using cue cards with sentence stems/steps for the "how" key points that teachers can look at throughout the "We Do"
  • Giving "in the moment" coaching when an answer is less than excellent and using stems like: [Raise hand], "Ms./Mr./student... how did you know that was the answer?"

When debriefing:

  • Having teachers watch a video clip of themselves and record student responses during the We Do and the "how" key points (or lack thereof) in the accepted responses. Take a look at a quick video analysis sheet to help facilitate this below!
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Strong "Before Reading" in Guided Reading

This week in the Humanities Highlights, we prefaced that we will be sharing a new tool this week that will provide teachers with key points for Word Solving aligned bottom lines. We will continue to develop this tool in the upcoming weeks to support teachers in their planning. The hope is that teachers will be able to use this resource when they are planning key points for their initial teaching of these key points in RA/RC lessons and will also reinforce these key points in Guided Reading.

Additionally, here are the key components to look for when you are supporting teachers with driving towards a strong Before Reading:

  • Hook/preview of the text -- must have
  • State the objective and review key points (aligned to a STEP bottom line) -- must have
  • Focus on content with a "big Idea" question -- nice to have
  • Address challenges that might get in the way of reading -- nice to have

There are also a few pitfalls or common mistakes that we have seen teachers make when executing the Before Reading:

  • Teaching a bottom line for the first rather than reviewing the key points. Remember, this is no longer a Guided Reading lesson but an anchor lesson (teaching content like the RA/RC block but to smaller group).
  • Spending more than 4 minutes in the Before Reading section. If economy of language is already an area to work on your campus, make sure that teachers are only hitting the "must haves" of the Before Reading at minimum and refining their language there.
  • Not aligning strategies to STEP bottom lines and students' data. All Guided Reading lessons must be aligned to STEP bottom lines and students' data, rather than skills currently taught in RA/RC or based on the texts that are most available to them.

Additionally, here is a checklist that includes key teacher actions and sample stems that should occur during the Before Reading portion. Be sure to note the differentiation that should happen at the different levels.

Finally, here are a few videos that demonstrate what a strong Before Reading should look and sound like:





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Affixes and Root Words List

Just like our lower grade levels have sight word list expectations throughout the year, have every grade level in your school get pumped up about memorizing this list of common affixes and root words. Mastering these lists will make sure that your Rocketeers can rely on their knowledge of various affixes and root words meanings to attack vocabulary challenges head on!

Unit Assessment Updates

This week, we have shared a document capturing exemplar responses for all G2-G5 unit assessments. We recommend that you and your teachers attempt to generate exemplar responses together in VoE/UP meetings, and then check this document to crosscheck your bar for students response.

Also -- as mentioned during school leader development this past week, we will be revising our upcoming unit assessments in G3-G5 based on the network SSMs to more aggressively include evidence-based questions and question formats that mirror the SBAC assessment.

You will have the most upcoming unit assessments for G3-G5 by Monday EOD. Revised assessments will be in the same Google doc we post unit assessments. All other revised unit assessments will continue to be made on a rolling basis prior to your scheduled VoE/UP meetings.

Celebrating the 100th Day of School

Consider have your teachers celebrate the 100th day of school by either reading a book from this list during your RA/RC block or having students respond to 100-centric writing prompts. Check out what one of our kindergarten Rocketeers wrote many years ago about how she envisioned her 100 year old life! :)
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Casey highlights key teacher and student actions needed to build enduring skills in the We Do in his launcher!
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The RSK team makes sure that worn out book bags are updated by selling new book bags during family conferences!


Writing Assessment Reminders

As mentioned last week, writing assessments need to be given to all students by the end of March. All campuses have the discretion to choose their genre of choice for each grade level to ensure the data collected is most actionable. G-cal invites for your writing assessments should have already been sent to Sharon, Kate, and Jaclyn. Principals -- please send G-cal invites no later than Monday EOD if you have not done so.

Finally, below are a few important links:

STEP Primary Testing

Our next STEP primary testing window will begin for NSH this coming Monday, February 8, and will take place until March 4.

Bay Area and MKE school leaders -- your STEP primary testing window will begin the following Tuesday, February 15, until March 4.

Please remember to make sure that all materials are prepped, schoolwide pacing trackers (if desired) are created, and that clear expectations around the number of minutes teachers should be testing each day is messaged to teachers.

As a reminder, we are recommending that testing be kept to a maximum of 45 minutes per day during the Guided Reading block so that the lowest students can still be pulled for Guided Reading. We have also seen teachers typically complete testing within 2-2.5 weeks instead of using the full 3 weeks!

Non-fiction Guided Reading for STEP 10+

Monday, Feb. 8th, 5:30pm

This is an online event.

Join our opt-in PD via Zoom to norm on the vision for planning and executing an effective non-fiction Guided Reading lesson. This session is geared towards all G3-G5 coaches and will include resources to support your teachers in understanding key STEP intermediate demands. If you are unable to make this session and would like access to the resources, please contact Brooke to schedule a make-up session!

Zoom invite: ID: 365 206 1918

RSVPs are enabled for this event.

Pre-Populated VoE/UPs

The following VoE/UPs were uploaded this past week:

  • TK - Coming soon!
  • K - Unit 9
  • G1 - Coming soon!
  • G2 - Coming soon!
  • G5- Unit 9

Reading & Writing Project Professional Development

There are several professional development opportunities at with Columbia University's Reading and Writing Project (Lucy Calkin's organization). If you or your teachers are interested in these professional development opportunities, please check out their website.

You can download applications for their Summer Writing Institute (applications available February 24th) or sign up for one of their two day workshops that are available with limited spots during the spring.