January Coaching Newsletter

Happy New Year!

Updates and Reminder

Happy New Year! I hope everyone was able to enjoy time with loved ones and to relax & take care of themselves over break. It's a New Year, and a fresh start! Rejoice!

We are all getting back into the swing of things. I have begun my 7th (Really?! Wow!) round of classroom visits and 1:1 meetings this week and am very much enjoying being back in your classrooms. Everyone should have received an Outlook invite for their next 1:1 meeting with me. I am looking forward to continuing to engage in meaningful conversations and to witnessing some more great teaching in 2016!


Please be sure to check your latest Outlook meeting invite which outlines the dates of the weeks in which we will meet for the remainder of the school year. With scheduled breaks, testing, etc... there are some interruptions to our meeting schedule, but the break-down in that invite should help clarify future meeting dates. Mark your calendars, and please let me know if you have any questions! (**Some invites with these details are still forthcoming.)

Teacher Action Needed: Mid-Year Self Score

  • The Mid-Year Self Score link is ready! You may complete this Self Score at any time in the next few weeks, but it will need to be completed before the end of the month. Here is the link: http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/2506179/Teacher-Self-Score-Observation-Form
  • You will need to use the "Coaching Rubric" to see the descriptors for each indicator as you score yourself. Here is the link to that document: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzUuvvt7PRxlRHBYWWNRU0VUb28/view
  • Out of respect for your time (I know you are all VERY Busy - especially this time of year), 'Week A' teachers will 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. This is intended to allow for some extra time for each of you to dedicate to completing this task. (Outlook meeting invites reflect this "skip" 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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Teaching Highlights: December 2015

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Lisa Walkenbach- 8th Grade Math

Lisa engages students in meaningful learning with real-world, high-interest scenarios in this lesson on functions. Students show evidence of mastery in break out rooms as they collaborate to complete the graph and find the rate of speed.


Liz Sidebotham- HS World History

In Liz Sidebotham's World History CC sessions, students are immersed in content. From beginning to end, Liz makes World History interesting and engaging. She even manages to connect to content with the "Non-Participant Room" (I wouldn't want to go in there!) and with the team names for this Unit Review game.

Jay Schreur- HS World History

Students are presented with an intriguing (and scary!) hypothetical scenario that requires them to analyze the effects of the plague on society. Putting students in this first-person position helps to make the content more interesting & relatable, and it draws out some critical thinking and insight from the young historians.
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DeeDee Englehart- 5th grade Guided Reading

5th grade students engage in pre-reading activities during this guided reading lesson. DeeDee implements a KWL-S chart to guide students to ask and answer questions about the text. Not only is this graphic organizer a great tool to aid in reading comprehension, but it also helps foster student inquiry, and self-directed learning!
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Student-Led Inquiry

As teachers, we are always conscious of the questions that we pose to students. We know the importance of effective questioning, and strive to formulate our questions to effectively guide students to think deeply and critically. We're Question-Pros! But what about our students--Are they Question-Pros too?

Here are a few questions to consider this month: How important is fostering student-inquiry? How do student-generated questions impact a lesson? How do they impact student interest in content? Student ownership? Student learning and student success (in school and in life)? What do your students want to learn more about? Do we encourage our students to be curious? How can student questions lead to meaningful discovery of (standards-based) content? Why is it beneficial for a person to be able to successfully formulate a meaningful question? How often will they use this skill in the real world? How might student-generated questions impact a lesson or a class discussion? How might this shift the balance of the classroom? How might asking questions help to make students more aware of their own learning? How might it impact engagement?

As we move into the New Year and soon a new semester, consider the opportunities students have to ask questions in class sessions. When you do give your students opportunities to formulate questions in class, are they able to do so? If not, how do you help them practice this skill and get better?

Many of you already require your students to ask questions in CC's. If you want to grow in this area, start small by including one opportunity per session. Try giving your students a specific Question-Focus to pique their curiosity, and see where it goes from there!

10 Tips for Launching an Inquiry-Based Classroom

Check out this interesting article on how to launch an inquiry-based classroom by Katrina Schwartz. There are some practical tips on how to foster inquiry in your class. I especially like the point she makes about the teacher's role in helping students to "build their own path of questions towards the information they need to know".


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QFT: A Strategy to Help Foster Inquiry

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:http://rightquestion.org/

Here's the link to some of the introductory QFT resources I've downloaded and compiled: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0BzUuvvt7PRxldzVHUGNYekFsUUE&usp=sharing

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A KWL (stands for "Know, Want to Learn, and Learned" as seen above in the image from DeeDee's class) is a simple, but effective graphic organizer that can be used to aid in guiding students to formulate questions. It can be easily used in conjunction with a text. KWL's are powerful because they generate interest in a text or topic, help students make inferences and predictions, give students some background knowledge to work with, and help them to monitor their thinking and learning. Another great thing is that they're easy to use in the virtual environment!

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


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Kirstin Miller's Most Recent (January) Newsletter