Just another WordPress.com site

Archive for the ‘Teacher collaboration’ Category

Fill a Team Toolbox With Shared Writing Strategies

Toolbox full of tools

The right tools help get a job done well.

A toolbox is a well-used metaphor because it denotes a set of tools or skills that help get a task done well. Helping students become better writers is an everyday responsibility for each member of the team, and a shared set of effective strategies benefits both the teachers and their students.

Tool # 1: Knowledge of the grammatical errors most likely to doom speakers and writers to be viewed unfavorably.

There are specific grammatical mistakes that grate on people’s nerves and often lead to a diminished respect for the person committing the error. When a team collaborates to help their students eliminate these blunders from their conversations and writing, they move their students toward meeting standards and being able to present themselves in a favorable light in any situation.

The image below lists the most egregious grammar errors.

Most egregious grammar errors

Most egregious grammar errors

This image lists grammar mistakes that many people consider very serious.

Grammar mistakes to avoid.

Grammar mistakes to avoid.

 

Here are three ideas of how a team might make use of this knowledge:

  1. Identify which of these serious grammar mistakes are most prevalent in your students’ speaking and writing. Then, create a plan for helping students eliminate these errors.  Helping kids with their grammar can be very delicate work because they may interpret any corrections as an insult to themselves or their families.  It is important, I think, to set a context by talking about audience and purpose.  For example, the way any of us speaks in a job interview is different from the way we chat with our friends. Taking the time to have conversations about the different ways we communicate with family and friends, in the neighborhood, at a religious service, for an assignment in school, or applying for a job is important.  The topic of informal and formal speaking would make a great advisory unit.  Students could role play, make posters, create public service announcements for younger children, or draw cartoons that illustrate proper grammar usage.
  2. As a team focus on one particular error for a week or two — The week of eradicating the double negative or Stamp out sentence fragments month. 
  3. Use common rubrics that include specific grammar usage issues.  If the team agrees that they are going to look for three specific errors in all of its students’ writing, students will have proper usage reinforced in multiple contexts.  They will also see that all of their teachers value correct grammar.  And… for non-language arts teachers it may relieve some stress related to correcting for proper grammar in their assignments.  As students’ work improves, add additional grammar usage issues to the mix. It is critical to continue talking about student writing in team meetings and building everyone’s expertise and confidence in addressing writing in their curriculum area.

***Of course, correct grammar is just one aspect of teaching writing across the curriculum. We’ll look at some additional ideas in later posts.

 

 

3 Team Actions to Address Common Core Literacy Standards

Take advantage of common planning time  to support one another as you address Common Core or state literacy standards in all of your classrooms.

Teachers planning in Sierra Leone

Teachers planning in Sierra Leone

Three actions you can take as a team to better help your students become proficient readers and writers in the middle grades:

1. Compile a list of what your students actually read and write in your various classes. Categorize them:

  • Reading (materials your students actually read, not what you read to them)
  1. Literary
  2. Informational
  • Writing
  1. Argument
  2. Narrative (Convey an Experience)
  3. Informative/Explanatory
  4. Other (i.e. poetry)

Look at the entire mix and determine if your students’ reading and writing assignments fall within the Common Core guidelines.

Reading

Common Core Reading45 % Literary                    55% Informational

Remember, you should be considering all of the reading your students do, not just those texts in language arts class!

Writing

Common Core writing35% Argument

35% Narrative

30% Informative/Explanatory

Remember to think about all classes, not just language arts.  Writing is everyone’s responsibility.

With this information at your fingertips, the team will be better prepared to have conversations with administrators and parents about the ways you are addressing the Common Core. Also, knowing what each other is teaching lends itself to collaboration. Provide students with multiple practices in different contexts to build their proficiency levels in literacy.

2. Talk about inferences–don’t assume everyone on the team has the same knowledge. Make sure everyone on the team understands what they are and how they apply to each subject area’s reading assignments.

Good readers readily make inferences. Others need explicit instruction and practice to apply this skill in their reading.

Good readers readily make inferences. Others need explicit instruction and practice to apply this skill in their reading.

 

Some useful links:

 

3. Have students practice citing textual evidence in all classes. The lesson may or may not to end up as a piece of writing. Small group work, class discussions, 4 Corners, and other oral strategies provide opportunities for students to practice this skill.   Remember to ask, “Would you please show me the details in the text that support what you just said.”

Here’s a video of a direct teaching lesson focused on citing text. https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/teaching-about-textual-evidence

 

laptops4Students explain their project to a visitor.

Collaborating as a team to coordinate and reinforce learning benefits all students.

 

Research Skills Are Part of the Common Core!

Students must become efficient, effective, and ethical researchers

~school, college, career, life~

Common Core Literacy Anchor Standards

Research to Build and Present Knowledge

7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Address these standards (informational literacy) systematically–don’t allow your students to leave your team with a hodge-podge of strategies for locating accurate information quickly:

  • Identify the specific skills students need in order to meet standards.
  • Create a team folder on the school server or a team wiki where all of the materials can be located in a central location so everyone has access.
  • Adapt and add to lessons as needed.  The librarian/media specialist should be the team’s number one resource–bring him or her lots of freshly baked cookies and other goodies.
  • Design a team plan of action for teaching and reinforcing information literacy skills across the curriculum. Set up a calendar and hold one another accountable.

teachers working together1. Identify places in the curriculum that are a natural fit for these skills.

2. Divide these skills up and teach them in the context of units across the curriculum.
3. Remember! Every assignment does not have to include the entire research process.  Some assignments may only include locating resources and evaluating them for reliability, and others may focus on taking notes, paraphrasing, and summarizing.
4. Chunk up research assignments into segments with checkpoints in order to monitor student progress.

Check resources on the web for ideas, lessons, and resources:

Big 6The Big 6: Information and Technology Skills for Student Achievement (http://www.big6.com/ and http://www.big6.com/kids/). These sites are multi-faceted and include some free lessons, descriptions of units where teachers have integrated the Big 6 components, and free resources such as graphic organizers and note taking templates.  This is also a commercial site and offers products and staff development.  They take advantage of social networking tools such as Twitter and Facebook, and also have a RSS feed. This approach has six components in the process:

  • Task Definition
  • Information Seeking Strategies
  • Location and access
  • Use of information
  • Synthesis
  • Evaluation

Noodle Tools (http://www.noodletools.com/) is a subscription site that also offers free tools that are extremely useful. Their free tools include “Choose the Best Search,” a tool to help identify how to use search engines and their features for efficient searching and several resources for becoming an expert in the tricky world of citations.  There are also some interesting resources for teachers including one very valuable one on being an ethical researcher.

ISTE Standards (http://tiny.cc/ISTE144) are published by the International Society for Technology in Education.  These standards are related to the entire world of the integration of technology into education and are worth a close look. The third standard relates directly to research and information fluency:

Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information.

Students:

  • Plan strategies to guide inquiry.
  • Locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media.
  • Evaluate and select information sources and digital tools based on the appropriateness to specific tasks.
  • Process data and report results.

21st Century Information Fluency (http://21cif.com/) This is a commercial site that was originally connected to the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. There are free tutorials and wizards that help both the budding and accomplished searcher become even more proficient with information fluency skills.  Many students often feel because they use the internet so much that there is nothing new to learn.  The search challenges on this site will test the skills of each and every student.

University of Maryland University College (http://tiny.cc/Research574) Although this site is designed for older students, it has resources that are useful to teachers.  It is divided into seven modules: Doing Research, Copyright, Using the Library, Call Numbers, Finding Books, Finding Articles, Finding Websites.

One last note…if you really want to your students to internalize the research process so that they can apply it to situations beyond the classroom, allow them to research topics that interest them!

This posting is adapted from Chapter 8 of Teaming Rocks! Collaborate in Powerful Ways to Ensure Student Success — available from AMLE (AMLE.org).

teamingrocks

Celebrate World Book Day!

World Book Day is March 6.  Initiated by UNESCO, World Book Day celebrates the joys and the transformational experiences of reading.

Larry Ferlazzo, a prolific educational blogger, suggests some of the best sites related to World Book Day. Here are just a couple:

  • Larry’s list of best sites for intermediate readers– a lot of his suggestions include informational text resources.
  • The World Book Day official site from the UK

World BookDay

Infusing the joy of reading into our curriculum and instruction is a worthy goal for middle grades teams.  Here are some cool quotes to have on your wall…

  • “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.” George R. R. Martin A Dance With Dragons
  • “Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”
    Lemony Snicket, Horseradish
  • “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
    Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!
  • “Books are a uniquely portable magic.”
    Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

There has been a lot of debate recently about what students should be reading in school.  If you believe in the power of student choice, grab a copy of Smith and Wilhelm’s new book from Scholastic, Reading Unbound.

Reading Unbound

Celebrating World Book Day as a Team:

  • Take time during class (all teachers) to share an excerpt from your favorite book and a short explanation why it is cherished.
  • Invite students to dress as their favorite character (teachers too) and take time for students to share their thoughts.
  • Invite the librarian in to do book talks about the latest books in the library (print or digital).
  • Have a reading fest where students bring in their favorite children’s books and read aloud from them.  (Good activity to practice fluency)
  • Write a book together as a class or team.
  1. Use a web tool like SlideShare.net where students or sets of partners create a slide on a topic and then compile those slides into a slideshow and publish.  Topic should be something of high interest to students.
  2. Create an eBook using iBook Author or other web tool.  Here’s a link to a book on critters in Florida written by a middle school science class.  It includes images, videos, and text. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/creatures-plants-and-more!/id521854684?mt=11
  3. Invite a local author to visit or participate via Skype or Google Hangout.
  4. Have students research authors across time and then have them role play in a scenario:  Dinner at the White House, Panel discussion on a hot topic, Interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, David Letterman, Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah, or Arsenio Hall, etc.

If you have to link everything you do to a standard–think about the speaking and listening ones, close reading, writing informational text, etc.  Never let the standards keep you from doing something beneficial with your students!

In the spirit of the day, here are some of my favorites:

What are some of  your and your students’ favorites?  Happy World Book Day!

Team Action Plan for Students Who Struggle

Jack Berckemeyer, Ruler of Education, has a new book out! Taming of the Team: How Great Teams Work Together  

BerckemeyerJack

Jack offers a lot of practical ideas for teams, and one of my favorites is the 3-5-3 Action Plan.  Too often teams revisit the same student and his or her problems over and over again during Common Planning Time.  10% of the students consume 80% of the team’s time.  That’s pretty inefficient.  Unfortunately many teams never get beyond retelling all of the child’s misdemeanors during planning time and then having parent conferences where the same stories are retold. Nothing changes and frustration on everyone’s part grows.  Jack has a great strategy for breaking this unproductive cycle–his 3-5-3 Action Plan.  Here’s a quick summary:

1. As a team prepare a list of issues facing the student.

  •  Create the list before talking with parents or the student so everyone on the team is in agreement about the issues.
  • Divide the list into 2 parts: academic issues & behavior issues

2. Choose 3 academic or 3 behavior issues from the list.  Here’s your first 3!

  • It’s very important to keep the two categories separate.
  • Decide as a team which set you want to deal with first.

3. Once you have decided on which issue to focus on with the student, brainstorm as many actions as you can think of that will help the student move forward.

  • Categorize the ideas into teacher-initiated interventions, student services involvement, and parental involvement.
  • Make sure these strategies or actions are realistic.
  • Choose 5 of these strategies for the plan.  Here’s your 5 in the 3-5-3 Action Plan.

4. Designate 3 ways the team will follow up and coach the student.   This is your final 3!

I think the final step of follow-up and coaching is critical, and it’s a step teams often leave out.  The coaching, in my mind, must be intentional and someone’s responsibility.  We know just telling a young adolescent or anyone for that matter that they need to do 1, 2, 3, etc. rarely changes behavior.  Instead, think Jillian Michaels on The Biggest Loser–well maybe not that extreme.  Kids, however, need encouragement and cheerleaders as well as someone to help them reflect on their choices and decisions.  Jack’s 3-5-3 Action Plan provides teams with a concrete strategy to use with their students who struggle academically or behaviorally.

D310

Meet and Greet Jack at the MAMLE Annual Conference

October 17-18, 2013

Point Lookout Resort and Conference Center

Northport, Maine

Citing Evidence–A Strategy Everyone Can Use

Common Core literacy standards include:

  • Reading — Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
  • Writing — Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

By coordinating their efforts, a team can provide a variety of contexts for students to practice the skill of citing evidence in both discussions and writing.  Finding strategies that work across the disciplines is the first step.  Here’s one that Abby Svenson, fifth grade teacher at Harpswell Community School in Maine, uses with her students.

  • Students respond to a prompt.
  • The teacher chooses 3 responses —   good, better, and excellent.
  • Students identify the positive aspects of each response.
  • Then students make concrete suggestions to make the responses even stronger.
  • The teacher creates a visual summarizing the ideas for students to reference when revising their own work.

The image below shows the visual that Abby constructed.

Abby Svenson Post-It

Notice…

  1. 3 columns
  2. The responses are in the center.
  3. Response #1 is the weakest and #3 is the strongest.
  4. Identified positives are in the left column.
  5. Suggestions for making responses stronger by citing additional evidence are on the right.

This particular example is a literature lesson.  Imagine the social studies teacher following up with a similar exercise based on a video, and the science teacher adapting the process to fit his needs.  As students become familiar and confident with the process, they can focus more and more on the content. Multiple practices and varied contexts builds competence and confidence.

This strategy could become digital by using a wiki or Google Drive. The advantage of using a digital tool is, of course, that the examples are available 24/7 to students working on assignments.

Learning to cite evidence to support a stance or make an important point is not beyond any student. Modeling, multiple practices, and having students work together will provide the scaffolding necessary to build these skills. When teachers collaborate to plan a systematic approach across the curriculum, students benefit.

Spring Tune-Up! Part 1

It’s early March and in some parts of the country the daffodils are starting to bloom, creating waves of bobbing yellow heads that stand out sharply against the greening grass.  However, it’s all white in my neck of the woods with snow still piled up two feet high.

snow

No matter the scenery, early spring is a great time for your team to pause and reflect on your progress so far.

There are still at least two or three solid months left before the end of the year rituals and festivities commence.  Take time to review what the team has accomplished so far and to prioritize your collaborative efforts for the rest of the year so you can make the best use of this block of instructional time.  Focus on those activities that will help your students the most and make sure the team “cylinders” fire in a coordinated and efficient manner.

One aspect of a team spring tune-up ought to include an assessment of how well the teachers are connecting with each of the students.  Here are a couple of questions to ask yourselves:

  • Does each of our students have an adult advocate on the team—someone who knows the student well and with whom the student feels comfortable talking?
  • Do we incorporate student interests in our instruction?
  • Does each of our students feel valued?

Here’s an activity for Common Planning Time to help you assess how well you are connecting with your students:

  • Write every student’s name on an index card.
  • Spread the cards out on a table, name side up.
  • Individually, note on the card the interests of the student.  For example: Johnny—snowmobiling and water skiing, Maria—singing and composing
  • When each teacher has finished noting what s/he knows about individual student interests, step back and look at the array of cards.
    • Are there some students everyone seems to know?
    • Who are the students with blank cards?
    • Do the students with blank cards share any characteristics?  What do these shared characteristics tell us about our team?  Are there some things we need to address?
      • Low grades?
      • Behavior issues?
      • Special ed?
      • Very quiet?
      • Eat lunch alone?
  • Create a plan.  How will you connect with each of those students whose cards are blank?
    • Informal conversations?
    • Advisory, homeroom or class activity?
    • Eat lunch with them?
    • Conversations with parents?
    • How might we use student interests to connect with our curricula?
  • Set a date to review your progress in making personal connections with these students.

We know that relationships are a key element is a student’s motivation and achievement in school.  Sometimes connections naturally occur among students and staff, but there are always those students left out.  It is imperative that middle grades team teachers be intentional in building relationships:

  • Student to student
  • Staff to student
  • Staff to families

Taking time to check on the status of the connections between you and your students is a first step in a Team Spring Tune Up .  Do not let any of your students leave the team at the end of the year without feeling they were known, appreciated, and valued by their teachers.

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: