ACE Weekly Newsletter

September 28, 2015

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In This Week's Issue:

Note from Executive Director


  • ACP Viewing
  • ISIP BOY must be completed by September 30th

Celebrating Excellence

Articles of the Week:

  • Writing Across the Curriculum, What, How and why
  • ASCD Argument Writing
  • Summary of Driven By Data
  • Summary of Teach Like A Champion

Video Spotlight

  • A Room of Writers
  • Writer's Workshop ACE resources (rubrics & exemplars)

Upcoming Events

  • ACE K-2 Balanced Literacy Cadre
  • Prep U


  • ACE Site
  • School Calendars
  • HUB



Dear ACE Team,

As we near the end of the first six weeks, I am filled with gratitude for your hard work and dedication. As an example, this Saturday the Haskell building was filled with ACE math teachers engaging in professional development through Carnegie Learning to preview and plan next six week's learning goals. Thank you for going above and beyond, even on a Saturday!

There are so many priorities right now. How can we stay focused on the most important things? Today, I reread Doug Reeves research summarizing the promising practices found at "90/90/90" Schools. These are schools with over 90% of students on free/reduced lunch, over 90% from ethnic minorities groups, and over 90% met or exceeded high academic standards. His research found that these high achieving schools beat the odds or "accelerated" with a laser focus on 5 things:

  1. A focus on academic achievement (every where you find posted student work exemplars and data)

  2. Clear curriculum choices (heavy doses of reading, writing, and math)
  3. Frequent assessment of student progress and multiple opportunities for improvement (re-teach until mastery)
  4. An emphasis on nonfiction writing (writing in every content with standardized rubrics)
  5. Collaborative scoring of student work (teacher calibration on rubrics through shared scoring)

As you reflect this week, take a minute to celebrate the things you have accelerated this year. Then, in looking forward, what are your next steps? How do you know they are leverage points? Is writing a major component of your instruction? Do students respond in writing and use rubrics to self-assess their work? What support do you need to implement meaningful writing practices?

Thank you for your dedication to our mission.

Best wishes for an awesome sixth week,

Jolee Healey



2015 ACP Fall Film Festival

Evaluation and Assessment & Teaching and Learning are hosting the 2015 ACP Fall Film Festival for the first semster tests.

Registration begins Monday, Septmber 21, 2015

To register visit: To register visit:

ISIP BOY Assessment Window

The ISIP BOY assessment window for all K-2 teachers closes soon on September 30th. Be sure to finish your Beginning of the Year assessments by then!



ACE Carnegie Math Academy - Session I

Literacy Celebrations

CICs and Teacher leaders attended several trainings this week. Hot topics included using text sets and writing text dependent questions.

ACE instructional teams will re-deliver professional development on their campuses in order to ensure these valuable resources are implemented during the second six weeks.

Additionally, during learning walks we found some great examples of teacher feedback in students' writing portfolios. Pictured to the left is an example from Zumwalt. A great way to accelerate and wrap up our first six weeks.



Writing Across the Curriculum: What, How and Why

Excerpts from Writing Across the Curriculum: What, How and Why By Deva Dalporto

What Is Writing Across the Curriculum?
Writing Across the Curriculum is a movement that began in the 1970s and is gaining a lot of attention these days. It is designed to boost children’s critical thinking skills by requiring them to write in all of their classes—from math to social studies to science—and not just in language arts.

The new standards will require that content area teachers reinforce the benchmarks that ELA teachers traditionally have covered in their classrooms. This means that the burden of literacy will shift to the entire teaching staff. Math, science and history teachers will be tasked with using writing assignments to help kids learn the subject matter at hand, whether it’s photosynthesis or algebra.

Why Write Across the Curriculum?
Learning to write, and write well, is a crucial life skill. Not only does it help one succeed in school, it’s vital to success in the “real” world too. Writing has become essential in today’s wired world. We communicate through the written word on a daily basis via email and text.

And when today’s elementary and middle school children enter the work force, they will be expected to know how to fire up their computers and write coherent, intelligent content pretty much no matter what field they choose.

In addition, studies have shown that writing helps boost student achievement across the board because it actively engages children. It requires them to take in information, organize their thoughts, sort through all of the information they’ve received and then process it. “Writing is the most extensive brain workout a kid can get,” said Mr. Peha. “It includes reading, logic, motor coordination and if writing for an audience, social emotional intelligence.” In other words, there are a lot of benefits to writing:

  • Writing aids retention. It helps children remember and understand material much more than passive forms of learning like reading and listening. “Writing helps with mental recall,” said Mr. Peha. “It cements a concept in a kid’s brain more than anything else.”
  • Writing increases the depth of knowledge on a subject and helps students master any specialized vocabulary or terminology related to the topic.
  • Writing develops critical thinking skills. When a child has to research something, organize her thoughts and then write about it in a clear, concise way she’s flexing her mind.
  • Writing promotes independent thinking. In order to write, you have to have a point of view.

Writing Across the Curriculum Benefits Teachers
As daunting as writing across the curriculum may sound to some teachers, there are a lot of positive things about incorporating writing into your lesson plans!

  • Writing is a great way to engage all of your students! You won’t just hear from the kids who are always throwing their hands up.
  • Writing helps teachers monitor student progress and gauge their strengths and weaknesses. “Writing lets you know where your students are at more than any test,” said Mr. Peha. With regular writing assignments as part of your curriculum, you don’t have to wait for a big exam to see if the kids are getting it.
  • Writing helps you see gaps in instruction so you can adjust your teaching to insure that all of the students get what you’re talking about!
  • Writing saves you time! Writing can be a very efficient way to cover multiple standards at once because it is such a complex, multifaceted task. In science, for example, you can get a glimpse of students’ hypothetical and procedural thinking by analyzing a written lab report.
  • Students learn best by writing. “Kids learn the most through writing,” said Mr. Peha. “If you’re only going to do one thing, writing is the highest payoff activity you can pick.”

Getting Started With Writing Across the Curriculum
Some teachers have expressed concern over writing across the curriculum. Math and science teachers may worry they’ll have to spend an inordinate amount of time teaching writing skills and have to become experts in the six traits of writing or give up their evenings to grading stacks and stacks of papers. But that’s not the goal of writing across the curriculum. The point is deeper learning, not a perfectly developed writing product as one would aim for in English class. There are many ways to incorporate writing into lesson plans without requiring a teacher to become a six traits whiz.

Here are seven awesome ways to bring writing into your classroom no matter what subject you’re teaching:

1. Journal Writing: Journal writing is a great way to create confident writers. Journals are an informal place for students to summarize their thoughts and think about class content, no matter what the subject. You can give the children writing prompts or just let them write freely!

2. Think-Pair-Share: After a lecture or presentation, invite the children to record their thoughts. Then pair them up with another student and have them discuss the topic. Finally, open the discussion up to the whole class. You’ll find that by organizing and writing their thoughts before the discussion, the kids will have much more insightful things to add to the conversation!

3. Quick-Writes: Quick-writes are great ways to get students to practice writing and critical thinking skills. They’re designed to focus the student’s thinking. Set a timer for 10 minutes and give the children a writing prompt. You can show them an historical picture, read a quote from your favorite scientist or ask them to write about how they’d use a math theory in real life. Anything that gets them thinking…and writing! Not only are quick-writes quick to write, they’re incredibly quick to review as well. Short writing is going to be as important as long writing with the Common Core Standards. All children will have to express coherent thoughts in both short and long time periods.

4. Self-Assessments: Throughout the year invite the students to write about how they think they’re doing in class! Ask them what the most difficult part of the class has been or what they’ve loved learning. Not only will they get practice writing, you’ll get valuable insight into how your students are learning and what you can do to help them even more!

5. Real World Writing: Think about the type of writing most often done in your discipline and have the students do it! For example, mathematicians write theorems and textbook problems. Scientists write lab reports. Journalists in all fields write articles. Have the kids create a website or a pamphlet for some real world writing experience. This not only gives the students hands-on experience in the discipline, but fulfills the Common Core requirement that students produce not only short writing assignments, but longer, more involved assignments too.

6. Note Taking: There isn’t a ton of writing development in scribbling notes as a teacher is talking. But you can use note taking to flex your students’ writing skills if you tweak things a bit. Mr. Peha loves using “summary note taking” as a writing exercise. He suggests breaking your lectures down into 5 to 10-minute chunks and inviting the students to summarize what you spoke about at the end of each block. They’ll get to flex both their writing and retention skills and you’ll get a break to catch your breath!

7. Research Projects…require all students to be able to research a topic in any discipline and write about it. So ask your students to write research-based arguments, not just persuasive arguments. The goal is for all children to become self-directed learners that are adept at researching (and writing about!) a wide variety of subjects.

So how can content-area teachers honor the real-life application of their subject matter and, at the same time, hone students' skills in evaluating and writing arguments?

Be sure to read this week's article! Click Here


BONUS: An overview of DDI, click here to review a summary of Paul Bambrick’s book Driven by Data. For a summary of Doug Lemov's book Teach Like a Champion, click here.



A Room of Writers

Writing Exemplars

Please take time to go through the resources on the ACE link above. Exemplar STAAR writing samples are linked on the page for you to use as mentor text. For example, if you are teaching transitions, find a piece of student work demonstrating effective transitions and share it with students. Talk about what makes it an exemplar, model a similar strategy, then ask them to revise a piece of their own writing to improve transitions. Exemplar student work samples are helpful tools.

Videos from Last Week



K-2 Balanced Literacy Cadre

Monday, Oct. 5th, 4pm to Wednesday, Oct. 7th, 6pm

ACE Elementary Schools

Thanks to our Dallas ISD K-2 Curriculum & Instruction Department for this great partnership!

Click here for the complete schedule of upcoming trainings!

Prep U Super Saturday

Saturday, Oct. 3rd, 9am-12pm

L.G. Pinkston High School 2200 Dennison St. Dallas, TX 75212

Dallas ISD’s Office of Family and Community Engagement offers its popular PREP U Super Saturday events to provide information and resources to parents in various neighborhood feeder patterns.



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