On Monday, you'll be attending the district inservice. It will be a full day, jam-packed with information. Some of it might affirm things you are already doing, some of it might push you to try something new, and some of it might even overwhelm you. In this post, I want to speak to the part of you that will be or is already overwhelmed with the grand job you take on each day. Being confronted by the plethora of information, choices, and next steps that fly at you each and every day can be absolutely paralyzing. You may find yourself at a crossroads, standing still, looking in all directions wondering what your best route will be. Today and going forward, take time to stop, reflect, and choose to take one step at a time and move forward. As you leave the inservice, what can you take with you to your classroom tomorrow? Next week? Next month? Next year?
On a related note...
Teachers Matter (Now More Than Ever) - If you do nothing else, please watch the video linked into this blog post.
School Wide Appreciation: 3 Ways to Say Thank You - You can never say Thank You enough. Spread the word.
The Power of the Positive Phone Call Home - Keep in mind that your students and their families also need to hear that they matter. This blog really sums up the power in this positive and often unexpected interaction.
As you get to work tackling the goals with your kids and continue to write up your plans for the week, it is important to think about not only what you as the teacher are doing during the lesson, but what are the kids doing?
One "Teach Like a Champion" technique for getting started with this type of planning, or thinking about your planning is called Double Plan. Follow the link for a full description of the technique. With this technique, you not only think about the actions you'll take as the teacher, but you script in what the students will do and say at each point in the lesson. Doing this can really help you more intentionally create plans that effectively integrate student interaction and get the students doing more work and talking.
You also want to keep in mind the SIOP strategy of Chunk and Chew. During instruction, the ratio of teacher to student talk should be 10:2. This means for every 10 minutes of teacher talk the students should have 2 minutes to process the information or do something with the information they are learning. This might be talking with a partner, writing thoughts, briefly practicing the skill, etc. It does not need to be super involved, but there should be a back-and-forth between students and teacher during your lessons.
Check out this blog post, "8 Ways Teachers Can Talk Less and Get Kids Talking More", for more ideas on how to incorporate student talk into your day.
On a related note...
53 Ways to Check for Understanding - Check out this awesome list of formative assessments. There is so much more than "thumbs up / thumbs down" that you can do to see if your kids are getting it.
Over the last week, I've been working with teams and individuals to set goals. We have our school visions and we have our SLOs. Now how do we make these meaningful to us and our students? It is the students, after all, who lay at the center of the work we do. Wouldn't it be helpful if we let them in on the goals we've set?
In John Hattie's Visible Learning he says, “… goals inform individuals as to what type or level of performance is to be attained so that they can direct and evaluate their actions and efforts accordingly (p. 164)."
When one sets out to hike a mountain, a plan must be carefully drawn up in order to ensure safe completion of the hike. Proper tools must be brought along in preparation for the challenges (steep terrain, snowy passes, downed trees, etc.). Markers must be checked along the way to ensure you are on thr right path. With a goal in sight and a plan in place, success is much more likely.
If you don't have the end in mind, and you can't anticipate the challenges that will present themselves as you hike, you'll likely be unprepared to meet the challenge set before you. You may stray from the path or take a wrong turn, or may even need to turn back to the starting point. The checkpoints along the route will be meaningless. The chances of success will have been narrowed significantly. The same thought process and preparation must be applied to the goals we set in our schools.
So how do we begin to make our goals transparent in our classrooms? Below are some ideas:
Step 1. Start with your SLOs. Display your goals in kid-friendly words somewhere that all will see it. Find a way to unveil the goal to your class that gets them excited. You might have an unveiling celebration. Maybe you've already had the kids set their individual goals, or hopes and dreams. Connect them to the whole class goal.
Step 2. When applicable, intentionally design your "I can" statements to reflect your goal(s). Then every time you teach an "I can" statement related to that goal, refer to it. Make it a big deal so they know you are at point in your path that is important to reaching the end goal.
Step 3. Individualize your goal for your kids. Make it clear to each student where they are and where they need to go. If you have AVMR growth as your goal, for example, your students need to know what the construct level they are at means. The same can be said of the DRA. Use the checklist on the back of the assessment to make it clear to students what they can do and what they are working towards. You can also use this DRA Reading Stages Checklist as a guide.
Step 4. Track your progress towards that goal. This could be done in all kinds of fun (and anonymous) ways. Maybe each student has a symbol that moves along a line as they get closer to the goal. Maybe you have a thermometer that fills up as the class gets closer to the goal.
Individually, you can have goal sheets in reading, writing, or math folders where students keep track of their progress by graphing assessment scores or checking off behaviors of strong readers that they have demonstrated, and so on. When conferring with students, direct them towards their goals. These can then become great conversation pieces for conferences with parents.
In the image to the left, you can see that cars and a road are used to track the number of letters of the alphabet each student knows.
Here is another tracker idea in the form of a thermometer..
Step 5. Celebrate! When you've reached a benchmark or made progress, make sure to acknowledge it with the class or with the individual.
I have seen many wonderful things happening in both schools related to goal setting. I know you know your students and are prepared to meet them where they are and push them to where they need to be.
Please contact me with questions you have about goal setting with students. And please let me know if you are doing something wonderful in your class related to goal setting that you'd like to share so we can celebrate that. I'd love to support and witness the implementation of any of the above practices in your classrooms.
On a related note...
Primary Goal Setting Template - This template provides a great resource for primary classrooms. There are several sample goals with pictures attached and a way to track achieving those goals.
My Goals Template - This template provides a good weekly check-in. It would be good with intermediate grades and could be used to tie into your big goals as a class or modified as needed for individual students as they track their progress towards their end-of-year goals.
How to Motivate Students to Work Harder - This article was shared with me by a teacher and it fits in with perfectly with the Mindset work that our district has been engaged in and can also help frame your goal conversations.
This past week I had the chance to go into a 2nd grade classroom and help facilitate a couple of lessons on feedback. The students practiced sharing "warm" and "cool" feedback in order to help make someone's work better. In this case, we used name cards as our product. They were a safe and accessible way to practice using the language of feedback that students will later employ as part of a peer revision process in writing. The guidelines are simple. Students must be kind, specific, and helpful when giving feedback to a peer. They first practiced sharing what they liked - giving "warm" feedback. Rather than simply saying, "It's pretty," we discuss focusing in on a detail that made it pretty and explaining why. The student feedback quickly elevated to, "The extra lines on the R are pretty," or "I love the color you chose for the A because it is bright and colored carefully." Next, we practiced giving "cool" feedback. The students were able to focus in on specific details in order to generate ideas that might help the designer. For example, one student pointed to the base of the R on one of the name cards and said, "What if you added a line at the bottom here like you have on the rest of your letters?" Wow! What attention to detail! And this was a 2nd grader!
After practicing as a whole group, the students then partner up. They were told that they must focus on giving kind, specific, and helpful feedback that will help the designer make their name card easier to read. That's the point of a name card, afterall.
Here are a couple of examples of the improvements students made using feedback from their classmates. What kind, specific, helpful feedback do you imagine these students received that led them to improve their name cards and make the names easier to read?
After our session, they had a poetry share. When it came time for comments the students began to share what they liked. Their teacher then directed them to remember the feedback guidelines they had just learned - be kind, specific, and helpful. They instantly made their feedback specific. Instead of saying, 'Your picture is pretty," they now had the tools to say, "The color you used on the girl's T-shirt really stands out." Now that student knows that is something they should try again. This simple feedback can go a long way. Not only can it be utilized in peer revision, but it may even help facilitate those interpersonal conversations children engage in everyday. When students learn to give and receive feedback, they begin to learn a valuable lesson about life and learning. Having the tools to communicate and help themselves and their classmates can be very empowering.
I also think this is an easy lesson that can make us more effective as educators. Think about the feedback you give your students? Is it kind, specific, and helpful? When we write "Awesome!" on a paper, what is that really communicating to a child? When we say, "your child is a 24," what does a parent gain from that? How can we make these simple interactions more informative? Keep this in mind as you move forward with the wonderful work you do this week. And if anyone is interested in facilitating a session on feedback, please let me know.
Austin's Butterfly - Check out this amazing lesson in effective feedback taught by Ron Berger of Expeditionary Learning Schools. You'll never believe what drafting, receiving feedback, and revising enable this first grader to do! P.S. I have the resources in this video if anyone is interested in getting their students started practicing how to give feedback.
Feedback in Schools - Feedback falls in the top 10 most influential factors on a child's achievement, according to the research of John Hattie. Check out this article for some more thoughts on the feedback we as educators give to our students.
It's September. Don't Worry, Teaching Gets Better. For those of you feeling the back to school crunch, here are some words of encouragement from Angela Watson of The Cornerstone teaching blog.
Normalize Error - Follow this link to a discussion of how we can normalize error in our classrooms. This resource comes from the book work of Doug Lemov, managing director of Uncommon Schools in New York. For more information on his work, check out his site: "Teach Like a Champion". I have his book and have found it to be a great resource with many great techniques that can be applied instantly to any classroom. If anyone is interested in investigating the technique of Normalizing Error, or want to explore Teach Like a Champion more, please let me know and we can arrange something.
#Youcanlearnanything - This video from Khan Academy artfully shows what learning really is. We all start with no knowledge and through experience, trial and error, direct instruction, and so many other avenues we learn. Some of you have seen this, but hopefully it provides some inspiration for us as we kick off this week!
I am an elementary instructional coach for the Sioux Falls School District.