ELA Newsletter - Elementary

September 2015

It's September!

Well, we have August in the books, and we are beginning our first full month of the school year. I can't believe how fast the year seems to be going already! I hope you are enjoying the time with your students.

This newsletter contains updated information to what was provided by me at the Grade Chair meetings you attended last month, as well as some additional information about learning goals and scales. Please take time to read through carefully. In addition, please share with your team the information they need.

***FYI: A few links are included in this newsletter. You will need to be logged in with your district Google account to access these.***

If you have questions, please drop me an email!



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Words Their Way PD & Spelling Inventory

As I mentioned at our Grade Chair meeting, the Words Their Way Teacher Leaders will be trained on September 15-17.

At this time, your grade level teams should be administering the Words Their Way Spelling Inventory. I realize that many are concerned about doing this the right way, so I have located some resources to assist you. These have been linked directly to the Word Study curriculum document, which can be found on the ELA curriculum Google Site (and within every single reading curriculum unit).

First, I've linked a document: Words Their Way Assessment: Placement and Grouping

This provides instructions for administering, scoring, and using data from the assessment.

In addition, I've provided a link to a YouTube video about the spelling inventory:

Words Their Way: Diagnostic Assessment

For additional resources, you can simply Google "scoring Words Their Way Spelling Inventory" and several resources will appear (including a 3-part video series about administering and scoring the assessment - I didn't include it because the camera movement made me a little sea-sick, but I thought I'd let you know it's out there!).

Having administered and scored these assessments will help you to immediately know where your students are and to begin to plan instruction. You do not have to be using the WTW resources in order to use this assessment to drive your instruction.

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Resource Materials

Here's an update on several ELA resources - please read carefully:

Fountas & Pinnell Phonics/Word Study & Poetry Items

Janet Murphy contacted me and told me that she had been reaching out to your building secretaries to determine where we were over and where we were short with these items.

If you previously sent me an email to indicate if your grade level was over or short with these items, would you please connect with your secretary? She and Janet Murphy will work it all out together!

Reading Units of Study

If you are over or short on the new Reading Units of Study, please let your building secretary know so she can work with Janet to make necessary corrections.

Writing Units

**Please note that I made an error in regard to this item!**

Last year I worked with building principals to determine where we still needed the new spiral Writing Units of Study so that every teacher would have one. We identified which grade levels and schools needed these, and I purchased them.

Unfortunately, in all of this, I did not properly communicate to the Purchasing Department that these resources should be one-per-teacher. What this means is that funds were not budgeted for growth for these units. Thus, if you have added teachers at your grade level, he or she will not have their own copy of these units to use this year. Going forward, these items will be considered part of the curriculum resources and we will be able to provide them for all teachers.

I am very sorry for this error.

ELA Learning Goals and Proficiency Scales

*Some of this information may be a repeat of what was included in the initial email. I just want to be sure to be thorough!*

Teams of teachers in grades K-5 came together, along with literacy coaches and the curriculum coordinator, to develop unit-aligned learning goals and proficiency scales. Our discussions about these goals/scales included the following:

  • Producing goals/scales for reading (writing is a bonus)
  • Creating goals and scales in student-friendly language
  • Developing goals/scales for the most important content within the units
  • Aligning the scales to the (coming soon) report card indicators
  • Leaving the 1.0 and 4.0 the same for each scale - and the 4.0 intentionally vague
  • Feedback from colleagues

Reading/Writing Scales

We are all still relatively new to developing learning goals and proficiency scales, and when we come together we have to figure out how to take our collective knowledge to work toward a common goal. Working through the several points mentioned above took time out of our two work days.

Thus, our goal for the end of our two days together was to have learning goals and proficiency scales, in student-friendly language, for every reading unit for every grade level. Once we found our flow, it was easy to achieve this work together, and some grade levels found that they were also able to begin some work on writing learning goals and scales (others did not).

Student-Friendly Language & Alignment

The goals and scales were created using the Enduring Understandings and the Acquisition levels of the WSD ELA curriculum. Using the Enduring Understandings, we determined the most significant learning to be done within the unit. Additionally, we consulted the new report card indicators to help make sure we were in alignment there as well. Finally, we also used a variety of other resources such as team-created goals/scales, Lucy Calkins units, progressions or checklists. We decided that our time would be best spent putting these items into student-friendly language for easy use by all.

The 1.0 and 4.0

Teachers worked to develop the language of the goal and the language of the 3.0 (which is proficient) and the 2.0 (which is progressing toward proficiency). The 3.0 is what is considered on grade-level performance for that goal within that particular unit. The 1.0 and 4.0 remain the same and are intentionally vague to allow for teacher judgement in determining student performance at this level. It is important to remember that a student must achieve everything within the 3.0 to be considered proficient with that learning goal.

Feedback from Colleagues

As I frequently repeated to the team of teachers developing these scales: This is our best first effort. The goals and scales produced are more than we had when we walked in the door, and they reflect the best thinking that could be done in the short amount of time we had.

The teachers who worked on these goals/scales value the feedback that you will have as you use these. Thus, on the ELA Curriculum Site, under the link to ELA Unit Learning Goals and Scales, you will find a link to a Google form to provide feedback on the scales. Anyone within the grade-level may complete this form, and it may be completed for every goal within every unit. Click here to be taken directly to the form:


These learning goals and scales were created by your colleagues for you and for your students, so please provide positive and constructive criticism and feedback and leave out any negative feelings or responses.

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Thank you!

Thank you for all that you do to help your students feel that they are valued every single day!

Please let me know what I can do to help support you!