The Eagle’s Eye
King Elementary School Instructional Newsletter
Week of January 4th- January 8th
Happy New Year! It is my hope that you all had a wonderful and rest-filled Winter Break! We are at the midpoint of the school year and as such we will be establishing a laser-like focus on Data-Driven Instruction and PLCs to help move our students to higher levels of student achievement.
This is the time that being a reflective practitioner can be a powerful tool to employ for a smooth remainder of the school year. I would suggest thinking of ways that you can do a "reset" for expectations for our students and even for us as professionals. This semester ALL staff will need to have a reflective and growth mindset in order to reach our goals for student success.
As I reflected over the break, I thought of how much we, educators like to remain in a space that "feels" good and that is comfortable. There were two statements/quotes that we examined during the last MOSIG Visit that I pondered on: (1) In high-performing schools, "kids come first and adults come second; and (2) "if our meetings are too comfortable, we are probably not talking about the right stuff". As I enter this work for the 2nd semester...I have set as a goal to keep these two aspects as guiding principles for my work with staff. We must unapologetically do what is right for students at all times and keep their growth/success at the core of our work. I hope that you had some time to reflect on your practices from the first semester and have been thinking of ways to foster your own continuous improvement.
Teacher Collaboration will be an essential key to achieving success with the Data-Driven Instructional Model during this latter portion of the school year. Thank you to the grade level team leaders and members for adjusting schedules so that there can be time for collaborative planning and work. The following teams will meet for collaboration on the given days:
Tuesday: Kindergarten, 1st Grade, 4th Grade, and 6th Grade
Wednesday: 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, and 5th Grade
Our sessions this week will be dedicated to discussions around the Instructional Non-Negotiables and Team Norms. We are half way to the finish line! Let's complete the rest of this journey with renewed energy, dedication, and determination...our students depend on us! Once again, Happy New Year, welcome back, and let's make 2016 our best year yet!
Dr. Jermaine Wilson
Teacher Collaboration: Matching Complementary Strengths (Edutopia Article)
This article explores the power of collaboration used at Wildwood School. At their school, it helps to diffuse conflicting adult dynamics, fosters a collaborative culture that puts the students' learning first, and turns a teacher's best practice into a schoolwide best practice.
Create Collaboration Teams
Cunat pairs teachers by their grade, content, and strengths. When she paired Wiedegreen with Melidis, she looked not only at their teaching strengths, but also at how their personalities would complement each other.
"We are very different people," says Melidis about Wiedegreen. "Now when I look back, I see that that really works to our benefit because he is the more social one, and he has the energy of aliveness. I have more of the workability energy where we just work so perfectly as a team."Once teachers begin experiencing success as a team, they start feeling connected to each other, expanding collaboration outside of their meetings and transforming the school culture.
"New teachers are oriented to it," says Cunat. "And anyone who might prefer not to still has to show up and offer their best thinking -- it is expected and unheard of to do otherwise. Once the teachers convey that, the move from a culture of compliance to a culture of commitment has started."
Scheduling Time for Collaboration
"Teacher collaboration at Wildwood is really intentional," says fourth-grade teacher Karl Wiedegreen. "It's intentional with the common preps we have. We have grade-level meetings. We have opportunities when we want to come in the morning to work together, stay in the afternoon and work together."
Making time for that collaboration is often a burden that falls to the school's leadership. Mary Beth Cunat, Wildwood's principal, plays a large role in scheduling time for teachers. "A principal must do what it takes to remove the obstacle of 'too much to do' and 'not enough time,'" says Cunat. Leveraging the master schedule to ensure common preparation time between her teachers is one way that Cunat helps make collaboration work for them.
"When we have our preps," says Wiedegreen, "they're aligned to each other so that those grade-level teams can meet and work together on anything that we're doing in our units. We can look together and say, 'OK, what are we working on? What are we doing? Are we in the same area? Are we at the same pace?'"
"When teachers are able to collaborate and have planning time during the day, especially built into the schedule, you have somebody there, a partner that has your back and will be there --because teaching is quite difficult," says fourth-grade teacher Georgia Melidis. "It's very involved. We wear many hats, and you need somebody there that really understands you, and supports you, and is there sometimes to vent to, or to ask to help problem solve."
Cunat works in other ways to support her teachers in making time for collaboration:
- She provides a substitute teacher for half days once per quarter to ensure collaborative work.
- She provides extra time for peer-to-peer observation.
- She offers to create an agenda for teacher preparation once per week.
- She encourages her teachers to attend conferences, school site visits, and professional development together.
- She invites her teams to share out at school-wide staff meetings.
- She encourages all staff to leave their doors open, fostering a transparent, collaborative environment.
"One of the biggest challenges of any school is when people go into their rooms and close their doors," says Cunat. "That's the way teaching used to be, right? So you have to begin making it not OK to close your door."
Use Protocols and Agendas to Resolve Teacher Conflict
Wiedegreen and Melidis weren't looking forward to working with each other at first.
"The truth is that we didn't really like each other," says Wiedegreen. "We really did not get along," agrees Melidis. When Cunat's teachers run into issues with colliding personalities, she recommends using protocols and agendas in collaborative meetings to help overcome those challenges.
"Protocols set the expectation that this is about the work, not about the personalities involved," she explains. "Building success through a protocol begins to help others see the value of a colleague's contribution. For instance, an inquiry protocol about a student work sample and the kind of thinking that had to have occurred to make it focused on students, not adult dynamics. This is always a win because teachers walk out of a meeting knowing they have done something right by kids."
Protocols and agendas not only keep the focus on the students' work rather than the teachers' personalities, but they also assure that everyone is on point during their collaboration time. They foster efficient and productive collaboration, and they help collaborators see their colleagues' value.
"We discussed that working together will create an easier experience for us in the long run," says Wiedegreen, "and it has because everything we do, we do together. Two minds are greater than one. I learn from her; she learns from me."Through building trust, appreciation, and partnership, teachers cease to view their collaboration as a hindrance. Instead, it becomes an essential source of support, and the reflection, planning, and shared practices benefit the students.
"When she put us together, it was hard at first," admits Melidis, "but when we were able to sit down and get to know each other and plan our lessons, we started appreciating each other and our differences. And we really worked on our strengths, put them together. And now, I can't teach without him, it seems like, because we sit down and plan together after school, before school, and any time we have a break during the day."
Co-Plan Your Lessons
A typical planning session between Melidis and Wiedegreen starts with preparing their lesson for the following day by supplementing the materials together, strategizing how they'll teach, and asking each other how they think their kids will respond to the lesson. As collaborative teammates, Melidis and Wiedegreen can bounce ideas off each other and problem solve together.
"When teachers plan, it really positively impacts the students," says Melidis, "and this is because the teachers are prepared, they have problem solved already, and they're reflecting on all their lessons together." "We've created this type of relationship," Wiedegreen reflects, "where it's OK to come in and say, 'What are you doing on journal prompts? I need to know right now and take it.' Or, 'What are you doing in the afternoon for math? I know that we're working in fractions, but do you have anything that you're going to do besides what's being asked inside the curriculum?' Or, 'Hey, I know we're reading this novel. Are you starting to introduce the characters? Are you having them look at it before we read, or are you looking at it when you're reading?' . . . So when we have a partner to work with and to collaborate with, it makes it so much easier. My job is really easy when I have someone to help me burden the load, help me when I'm in need of support, and be there so I can actually support her, too. It makes our job way easier, and we actually have a great relationship that way."
Virtual Collaboration: Share Work Products on a Common Drive
By sharing work products on Google Drive, Wildwood teachers know what their colleagues outside of their collaboration group are doing. They also know how they're doing it. This enables them to replicate and/or get ideas from each other.
Even without meeting in person, they have instant access to work products, like:
- Unit plans
- Lesson plans
- Curriculum maps
Below you can view a video of Teacher Collaboration from one of the teams at the Wildwood School:
Classroom Management, PBIS, and School Culture
Six Tips for Resetting Expectations by Petra Claflin
Almost all of us have experienced that sinking feeling when we realize that something about how our class is running is just not working and we need to do a ‘reset.’ It might be something procedural and a lot of time is being wasted at the beginning of class, for example, or it might be a management issue and students are talking when they should be working silently or consistently not following our directions in some other way. Some degree of ‘it’s not working’ is normal for every teacher at some point, but it can be unnerving if you don’t know what to do. Here are some tips for tackling the situation smoothly, whether you’re putting a new plan in place or resetting an existing expectation.
Be honest. If something’s not working, don’t be afraid to confidently say that to your students. Try introducing the ‘reset’ by saying something simple like ‘Students, our entrance procedure doesn’t seem to be working. We’re losing a lot of learning time and so we need to make a change.’ Students will appreciate your honesty. If you try to spin it, blame the students, or force a change without any explanation, it’s likely to backfire or cause new issues.
Offer rationale. The older your students, the more important it is to offer rationale for why certain procedures or expectations are in place. Your explanation for why they have to work silently shouldn’t be ‘because I said so,’ it should be more along the lines of ‘because it allows your brain to focus and gives you a chance to see how you do on the skill on your own.’ So after your honest introduction of what isn’t working and what needs to change, offer a rationale of why it’s important for them that this procedure or expectation be in place.
Be clear & specific. Once you've determined the new plan or expectation, be very specific about what they should be doing. Depending on the situation, you might also tell them specifically what you’ll be doing. For example, if your ‘reset’ has to do with eliminating an inappropriate student behavior and you haven’t been giving them consequences for it previously, along with being specific about what they need to do, you might add something like, ‘I know I haven’t consistently been giving you a consequence for this behavior and I need you to know that from now on if you’re doing X, I will be following through with a consequence.’ That way they’re very clear about what they need to do and what’s going to happen moving forward.
Give feedback. One of my favorite strategies for resetting an expectation comes from Jaclyn McCormick, one of the managers of instructional coaching here at YES Prep. Her advice to teachers emphasizes focusing on a very specific behavior and then following up with feedback and next steps at the end of class. Some example feedback might be: ‘Okay class, today we were focusing on making sure we were raising our hands to speak instead of just calling out. When I was talking to the class, you all did a great job with remembering to raise your hands. Thanks so much for that. When we were working in groups, though, a few of you called out to me when you needed something. Tomorrow we’ll focus on making sure we’re raising hands during that portion of the lesson, as well.’
Keep at it. Real change in your classroom management and culture doesn't happen overnight and it doesn't happen at all if you're not consistent with it. So take a deep breath and get back in there, staying committed to holding yourself and your students accountable to the expectations and environment that will make learning possible!
Still not working? If students are not on board even after consistent efforts that probably means the issue is actually that you don’t have a strong enough relationship with your students for them to be bought into your expectations. If this is the case, keep trying the above tips, but you also need to build up those relationships.
King Instructional Non-Negotiables
As we discussed in December, due to the high need of instructional foci to help student achievement to increase at King Elementary there are 6 non-negotiables that we will be implementing and monitoring:
1. Lesson Plans
2. “I CAN” Statements
3. Direct Instruction
4. Small Group Instruction
5. Vocabulary Acquisition
6. Student Engagement
- Teachers must use the approved King Elementary School Lesson Plan Template for ELA, Math, and Science (3-6) and submit electronically by Saturday on midnight in a King Elementary Lesson Plan folder on a Dropbox beginning January 9th.
- Post current lesson plans on or by the classroom door.
- Evidence of the lesson plan utilization to inform classroom instruction.
"I CAN" statements
- Based on Missouri Learning Standards/CCSS.
- Written on whiteboard so that students can see and refer to the “I CAN” statement.
- Should be explained to students and revisited at least three or four times during the lesson.
- The “I CAN” statement can be retold by the students.
- The “I CAN” statement should be aligned to Success Criteria (student work, assessments, and projects).
King Instructional Model
- Each lesson should have a do now planned. This is any activity that you have at the very beginning of class that helps you set the tone for that day. Quickly, quietly, students get started right away. It should assess or review something previously learned by students.
- Introduces a lesson through an activating strategy (e.g. KWL, Anticipation Guide, Think Pair Share, Video) and/or vocabulary instruction.
- The teacher restates the importance and relevance of I CAN statements.
- The teacher: (a) Demonstrates the skills correctly for students; (b)Presents a step-by-step sequence for problem-solving or using skills successfully; (c) Teacher talk should be limited to 8-10 minutes before a checking for understanding (CFU) or questioning strategy is utilized.
- The class: (a) Creates and refers to a visual reference (e.g. Anchor Charts, maps, graphic organizer) to support learning in the classroom and (b) students should have evidence to show that they are engaged with the lesson (e.g. math notebook, journals, interactive notebooks, graphic organizers, note structures).
- The teacher addresses student misconceptions and errors.
- Completes work through teacher and student collaboration.
- The teacher includes the use of various Checking for Understanding strategies (e.g. 3-2-1, Thumbs Up, Quickwrites), which are planned and included in the lesson plan.
Small Group Instruction/Independent Practice
- The teacher distributes independent practice through small group stations and homework.
- Students are grouped using a data metric (STAR or NWEA Assessment Data)
- Protocols, Structures, Routines are evident in rotation structures
- There should be at least 3 mandatory ELA or Math Activities: Re-Teaching/Enrichment @ The Teacher Table; Technology (Reading Eggs/Study Island/Imagine Learning); Practice Activities aligned to the “I CAN” statement.
- The teacher closes the lesson through a summary activity (e.g. 3-2-1, Exit Tickets, Circle-Triangle-Square).
- Teacher should be using Assessment Power Words to emphasize during the content of the instructional lesson.
- Students should practice/interact with academic vocabulary in a variety of ways. (e.g. Frayer Models, vocabulary folders, vocabulary journals, Word Walls (authentic), Practice Stations for Vocabulary; and Vocabulary Games)
- A word wall that is interactive and evolving should be maintained and referenced by the teacher in the classroom.
- Students are focused and committed to the lesson.
- Teachers and students are actively participating in the learning.
- Teachers maintain engagement by providing opportunities for students to read, write, and talk about the lesson.
Thoughtful and efficient lesson planning can help you to achieve all of these aspects. We will continue to get feedback on how you can support your team members in achieving success with these 6 areas. These will become additional areas of monitoring during our classroom observations this semester.
January Collaboration PD Needs
Early Retirement or Resignation Notice
Forms must be completed by the employee and submitted by the principal. If you would like a packet, please email me ASAP.
Upcoming Dates to Remember
January 4th- First Day of Second Semester (Staff and Students Return)
January 6th- Grades are DUE for 2nd Quarter
January 6th- Faculty Meeting (3:20-4:35)
January 13th- Collaboration PD Meeting (3:20-4:35)
January 14th- Safe, Stable, and Supportive Learning Environments PD
January 19th- Critical Friends PLC Work in Team Meetings (K, 1st, 4th, and 6th)
January 20th- Critical Friends PLC Work in Team Meetings (2nd, 3rd, and 5th)
January 20th- PLC/Data Teams PD (3:20-4:35)
January 27th- Literacy Team/Content PD (3:20-4:35)