October 22

Small Group Instruction in the Secondary Classroom

Small group on the secondary level is unheard of! Today we discussed the “glue” we use to make learning stick in small group! In an effort incorporate what my teachers needed and to differentiate PD, I surveyed the teachers on what they wanted. Three themes emerged from teacher voice and input: Time Management Strategies, Strategies on how to manage the class that are not in small group, and strategies in general to use in small group.

 

Polling twitter and other peers, we were able to come up with a HUGE list of various strategies that are “go-to” strategies! One of my favorites, are “All Sorts of Sorts”. The mere act of sorting various words and phrases helps to get the metacognitive juices flowing in our students. Talking about why an item was sorted, multiple encounters with new vocabulary words or content vocabulary words, asking questions, and modeling think alouds are all part intertwined in “All Sorts of Sorts”. In today’s teacher academy, we had differentiated instruction at it’s finest through this activity. Each session was completely different and highlighted the needs/wants of the teachers present at that time. We had rigorous conversations on various topics. Teachers shared stories, learned some new strategies, and hopefully left with a clearer picture. 

 

Small group is all about ensuring what students know and how to either fill in the gap or accel them forward! Stay tuned in a for a strategies list of topics covered!

October 11

Think Outside Your Classroom

The following is a blog post written by lead teacher, Heather Studdard! Great job Heather!

 

Educators often get stuck in their own ways and lost in the world that is their classroom. Getting stuck in a rut can compromise your teaching which sets up a snowball effect of classroom trouble. The best way to get our of your comfort zone is to go and observe in other teachers classrooms. This is important for both new teachers as well as seasoned teachers. We are a community of learning and the only way to instill a love of learning in our students is to show them that we learn too.

I had the opportunity to spend the day exploring other classrooms within our school, examining classroom culture, expectations, teaching strategies, and classroom management. While roaming the school I focused on ways that I felt validated and take aways (good ideas that I could implement in my classroom). This is always an eye opening experience to look at yourself and see where your faults and flaws are as well as ways you can improve.

The list of take aways was much longer than the list of validations, however, it is important to note what you feel you do well in this can guide other teachers to your classroom to observe the areas in which you feel comfortable sharing. My validations were related to classroom management and my students awareness of rules, procedures, and expectations. While I did feel validated in these things I also saw several things in my takeaways that would help improve even the things that I felt validated in. My final validation was the use of interactive notebooks and the use of anchor charts. Anchor charts are a teaching strategy that I love to incorporate into my classroom, in fact if I could teach a professional development on them I probably would 🙂

Now the takeaways.

  • Hooking students into reading a book by showing them the first 10 minutes of the movie based on the book (These were AP students and they were dead silent during this clip and ready to get the book.)
  • Students can explain what they are working on and expectations of the assignment (This is something that I need to work on, giving more explicit instructions.)
  • The control of the teachers within some of the classrooms (These students didn’t move or do anything without being told to, these are the same students I teach and I was amazed at the behavior for the other teacher!)
  • Wait time and waiting on ALL students to put their hands up to answer before calling on someone, finally questioning in multiple ways (I like the idea of waiting on ALL students because you know they have looked for and considered the answers.)
  • Anchor Charts (Real world application of topics, ideas, subjects and expectations for when someone is speaking.)
  • Corroboration of multiple sources to help in essay writing and researching (This is something we are just starting to work on in history! I am excited about giving the students this tool to make them better historians.)
  • Don’t be afraid to make a mess (I am a little bit of an organization queen so this is sometimes difficult for me to do, but students learn more by digging in and getting messy with ideas and topics.)
  • Finally, MY FAVORITE TAKEAWAY: always answer yes or no questions with only a yes or no and force the students to figure out the why of their question. So many times a student’s second question is why but they learn more when they research the why on their own!

Hopefully, in the coming weeks I can start incorporating some of the strategies that I observed through our school. Every teacher should be given the opportunity observe within their own school and have an open mind when looking at others while be willing to examine themselves. If we don’t continue to learn we won’t grow as educators and stagnate educators create stagnate students.

October 8

Slice of the Day

What is the greatest barrier for collaborating and communicating with colleagues? Time of course! The slice of the day protocol can help bring each classroom to life in the building and spark some pretty interesting conversation and reflections.

What is a slice of the day? Slices can give teachers a quick bird’s eye view of what is going on in each classroom. It offers a quick way for teachers to self-assess themselves as to how their classroom fits into a school culture.

Two lenses were used in our Slice of the Day, Engagement and Rigor. While these two words pack a loaded punch, simply put while the short time we were in rooms, what did engagement and rigor look like.

At Winterboro, we used the end of the 9 weeks, to review our recent slice of the day as a way to open each teacher’s classroom door and learn from each other. During Teacher Academy, the teachers completed a Notice and Wonder Protocol then made a plan for the next 9 weeks!

Reflection was an underlying theme of Teacher Academy this Friday. I learned a great deal reflecting and talking with my colleagues and I hope they did as well. I cannot wait to meet with them about their next steps  and how I can support their growth!

 

 

September 25

Meet Newsela!

The following is a blog post written by our Tech Integration Specialist, Emily Nestor! Great post! Check out the Newsela Hyperdoc!

One of my favorite purchases that we have made this year is Newsela Pro! Although several teachers have been utilizing the free version since it first launched in 2013, the additional features in the Pro version make the upgrade well worth it! 

For those who are unfamiliar with Newsela, the website takes high interest, nonfiction stories (articles, biographies, famous speeches) published by respected news organizations, and rewrites them at five different reading levels. These stories can be accessed by students online. While reading, students are able to utilize a built-in annotation tool, which is very beneficial since Close Reading is a foundational reading skill when it comes to “digging deeper” with the text. Newsela also creates quizzes and writing prompts based on the 8 CCRS Reading Anchor Standards that align with the reading. These quizzes and writings provide teachers with a real-time look into what their students are understanding and what they are not (which is HUGE for differentiating instruction). 

Last week in Teacher Academy, I took my History, Science, and ELA teachers on a “Tech Walk” through Newsela Pro! We looked at the features that were available and the data that would be provided to us as we utilize this awesome resource within our classrooms! I also provided them with a Newsela 101 Hyperdoc that I created as a resource for any questions and troubleshooting that they might encounter. To say they left Teacher Academy excited was an understatement! 

 

I am looking forward to visiting classrooms this week and seeing Newsela in action! 

August 7

Sharing our Story

“We need to make the positive so loud that the negative is almost impossible to hear.” -George Couros, The Innovator’s Mindset

How do you use social media to share what’s going on in your classroom on a day to day basis? I spent some time this week sharing ideas with our faculty about how we can use Twitter to share all the fantastic things we do in our classroom on a daily basis. Over the course of last school year, I spent a lot of time crafting the overall social “brand” of my class, and it was, in my opinion a huge success.

Near the end of the school year two years ago, I had a student say something bad about my class. In hindsight, it was just harmless nonsense that kids say anyway, but the fact that it was in print hurt. But every negative presents an opportunity for a positive, and I made the decision before last year began that I was going to bury that negative. Like my wife always says, it’s hard to believe anything bad you hear about something you hear good things about. I was going to share every single positive I saw in my classroom on every single day. Every tweet was going to be a nail in the coffin of that negative.

I shared everything I could. Photos of my students working and their finished product. Periscope video of my class in action. Everything that I saw that was positive, I tweeted. Kids noticed, our faculty noticed, and our community noticed. Students began to work a little harder because they knew that I was quick to tweet to good stuff. It was amazing.

As a faculty, we spent some time discussing the use of Twitter as a way to share our story. We discussed the risks and the barriers. Surprisingly, the risks were essentially nonexistent at this point. Ten years ago, we were worried about how social media may impact our school by propagating rumors and posting photos of our students on the open internet. Obviously, it has not been nearly as terrifying as teachers once thought. It’s actually been an extremely positive branding tool for our schools. The barriers, on the other hand, were eye-opening for me.

The primary barrier teacher felt was standing between them and Twitter was simply a basic technical understanding of Twitter and how it works. Well, that’s an easy fix. My administrator and myself held small group sessions to “meet ’em where they were at” and teach our faculty how Twitter works based on their level of familiarity with it.

We showed them how to use hashtags, how to tweet “at” individuals and accounts, how to make a list, how to read and participate in a chat, how to use a PLN, anything they wanted to know. The session was incredibly effective. I know this because we put together an activity later that night during our annual meet-the-teacher night. The faculty tweeted as many selfies as possible with students and their parents while using the hashtag #MeetTheTeach. Participation was at such a high level that the hashtag actually trended. Not bad for a school whose social media brand was previously being kept afloat by a handful of people.

At the end of the session, I provided our teachers with a spreadsheet of just a few people I follow on Twitter that was sorted by content, as well as a good list of chats and hashtags to check out at their leisure. Our faculty’s burgeoning PLNs are going to be a great resource this school year, but I’m most excited about the Twittersphere learning about Winterboro High School as we begin really sharing our story.

July 17

Collaboration: Taekwondo Go

Welcome to Mrs. Studdard’s and Ms. Scutchfield’s blended world of history and reading!  Students often times struggle to take reading and writing concepts and move them from subject to subject.  Reading and writing are embedded in everything we do but students only see it as one subject.  Our goal is to seamlessly integrate reading and writing into ALL subject areas and our classroom is designed to teach them just how to do this!

While this is our first year working together in a collaborative classroom, we have worked very closely for the past year to mold and shape the minds of the same students. Through our time together today, we have worked out a new classroom management system to help the year go smoothly while also allowing for us, as well as our students, to build great relationships. We have decided that spending time reflecting on our teaching and learning is going to be a valuable and guiding asset to our classroom environment. After all, you can’t know where you are going until you look at where you have come from.

Since we are working collaboratively we looked at what makes a good team. This will be our basis for modeling the types of collaboration we want to see in our students. A good collaboration consists of great communication, support, honesty, understanding, feedback, and reassurance. These are the ideals we hope to instill in each and every one of our students to help them grow as individuals and citizens.

We are excited to begin our journey together and build a professional working environment, and a  great friendship.

For each grade, we are using a “Big Idea” to guide us through the year. Fifth grade will be focusing on the idea of “Who am I” while exploring the themes of discovery, adaptation, independence, and freedom. Sixth grade will be focusing on “Finding my place” examining how they can find their voice, express themselves, be confident in decisions, and use knowledge to survive in the future. All of these themes tie closely with the novels that we will be using each nine weeks along with broad historical concepts that fit in with the themes.

 

To help ensure that we as teachers as well as our students can meet the expectations set forth we have developed three goals that we hope to reach by the end of the first nine weeks of school.

 

  1. Implement a behavior system that reduces the number of referrals
  2. Using a journal, we will reflect weekly on our lessons and strategies
  3. We will hold each other accountable for addressing learning targets each day

 

By setting goals not only do we keep ourselves accountable, but we also show students how to set attainable goals.

This year our hope is that our classroom will be successful by displaying the following qualities:

courtesy, perseverance, integrity, self-control, and indomitable spirit.

July 14

Curating Collaboration

The following is a reflection from our planning day with Kevin Studdard (@kevin_studdard) and Darren Denney (@DenneyPBL). The guys have it going on and are ready to move mountains with their collaborative ELA/History classes.

Students are expected to collaborate together in today’s classrooms on a near-daily basis.  This is reflective of the kinds of jobs our students will more than likely find themselves in when they eventually join the workforce when they leave high school.  How better to show

students what successful collaboration looks like then by modeling it through a cross-curricular, collaboratively taught classroom?

 

Two subjects that are ideal for this type of teaching and learning are English Language Arts and history.  History provides a context or lens through which students can evaluate primary texts or other ideas and reflect on them through discussion and writing.  Students may also read novels that share thematic elements with events from differing time periods to gain a broader understanding of the world around them.    

Though this is a new partnership for both of us involved, we agree that our collaborative ELA/History classrooms should help students to develop analytical mindsets to apply to everyday life through exploring content, evaluating ideas, and expressing beliefs.  By following through with these points, we hope that students will develop an analytical mindset that will follow them for years to come.

To begin the year, we have developed some attainable goals that we believe will set us on the path to developing the classroom that both of us know will be suitable to the needs of our students:

  • Students will have a clear understanding of classroom procedures and expectations.
  • Teachers will explicitly address learning targets daily.
  • Teachers will engage students via technology regularly during the learning process.

By faithfully striving to achieve these goals, we should be able to create a classroom that will be manageable and open to the task of combining two very rich content areas into a seamless learning experience for our students.

July 6

OPUS: Reflect to Redirect

The following is a reflection from our planning day with Stephanie Couey (@23steph23) and Ceci Johnson (@crjo89). Great job today ladies! Can’t wait for a new year in OPUS!

OPUS…what is it? By definition, opus is any artistic work, especially one on a large scale. At Winterboro, OPUS is just that- a large work of art, created by students through integrating art and music into mathematics. We believe that students can become “mathematical artists” by learning in a variety of ways: reading, hands-on activities, listening, etc. It is our responsibility to provide a class where all learning styles can be successful. Let’s start by introducing ourselves. We are Cecilia Johnson, secondary mathematics teacher, and Stephanie Couey, 5-12 band director and fine arts teacher. Together, we use math, music, and art to teach 7th-grade math standards to our students at Winterboro High School.
Today, we came together to reflect on our past year (our first year co-teaching together) and collaborate on ideas for improvement in the upcoming year. Through “Glow-and-Grow”, we learned a lot about our strengths and weaknesses as co-teachers in this course. We realized that our biggest areas for improvement were being more consistent in our daily routines with the students and utilizing small-group instruction in order to individualize learning and help our students reach their full potential. One of the areas of improvement was to create a strict daily schedule. It is our hope that by establishing this schedule from day one, students will know what is expected for each task (math journal, tech time, group work, etc…) which in turn will keep them focused and working during the individual/buddy/group project time we use to host our small group instruction. Another area we both want to improve on is creating a positive climate for learning. We are going to work hard getting to know our kids, being strict and consistent on rules and discipline, and modeling what a positive climate looks like — how to give compliments, how to constructively criticize, and how to work together to achieve goals. One of the ideas for this, details of which are still being worked out, is to give the ownership back to the kids through a student-created rubric on our classroom rules. This will be a way to hold the students responsible for his/her behavior. This self-assessment system will help keep the students in check with regards to classroom rules, peer interactions, individual work time, ultimately every part of the time they spend in our classroom. Finally, possibly the most important, area of growth we found is in the ability to “mesh” both fine arts and math into every lesson everyday. It is our goal that our students will see the relevancy of one subject and how it relates to the other, fostering a growth mindset. So many students have the mindset of “I can’t do math, or art, I’m not a math/art person”, by integrating both courses together, we hope to change this closed-minded thinking into an “I can..” type of thinking. We want all of our “mathematician artists” to find success in a way they have never experienced before. Wish us luck as we embark on a this new adventure together! Updates on our progress with many more “Glows-and-Grows” to come.

February 12

Blowin’ Off Some S.T.E.A.M.

The following is written by Teacher Leader and “Expert Down the Hall”, Heather Studdard (@HeatherStuddard). Thank you, Mrs. Studdard for your Leadership in leading our PD on Friday and also being a model classroom for PBL and STEAM in the Social Studies classroom! #exceptional

STEAM – the new big buzzword in education. Often times teachers hate to see these new trends move into their classrooms for fear that they will implement it and then it will be on its way out the door as soon as they understand it. For STEAM, however, this will not be the truth. There is a reason we still focus so heavily on ensuring students are proficient with 21st Century skills and that is because we do not know what the future will hold. I can guarantee that science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics fields will grow at a rate that we cannot even begin to imagine. If we do not incorporate these pivotal skills into teaching then we are setting up entire generations of students for failure.

 

One would think that all of the elements of STEAM would be covered in classes like science, math, and computer science. That assumption would be wrong. As with anything, students must be repeatedly exposed to these elements to understand that they are universal.  So, yes, this means that in the classes where STEAM seems to make the least sense, like social studies and English language arts (ELA), we must still ensure students are exposed to these all important skills.

 

 

 

There are several questions that arise when you talk about incorporating STEAM into social studies and ELA such as the following:

  1. Why do we need to do this?
  2. How do we incorporate this?
  3. How will this fit in with the other things that we must do in our classes?


Once you understand the answers to these questions it is easy to see that it is a perfect fit. Let’s see if we can answer them.

  1. Why do we need to incorporate STEAM?
  • Not all students learn well in a traditional classroom setting much like what you see in most traditional social studies and ELA classes.
  • It breaks up the regular classroom routine and reinvigorates learning.
  • It’s fun for you and your students.
  • It reinforces that it is okay to fail and that we must continually edit and revise (sounds like an ELA class to me!).
  1. How do we incorporate this?
  • First of all you must know what is available for you to use and know how to use it.
  • Research, research, research! The internet is full of ways that teachers just like us are incorporating STEAM into every class, you just have to find it.
  • Get with your math, science, and technology teachers and brainstorm and get advice from them.
  • Get creative! This is the whole purpose in STEAM in the first place and that is to think outside the box or sometimes in this case outside the classroom.
  1. How will this fit in with the other things that we must do in our classes?
  • The beauty of STEAM is that it goes hand in hand with Project-Based Learning (PBL). In fact once you learn about STEAM it is difficult to imagine one without the other.
  • The STEAM component does not have to be your end product. Don’t let STEAM drive your driving question!
  • Finally, remember this sequence: fail, edit, revise, fail, edit, revise, fail, edit, revise, success! This process is key in students learning.

So here is a challenge: if you are a Social Studies or an ELA teacher incorporate a STEAM activity into your class before Spring Break. Use the resources available at your school including collaboration with your co-workers. If you need some help getting started see the protocol card below for some ideas. Let’s blow off some STEAM in Social Studies and ELA!

February 4

Slice of the Day

Reflection is one of the most underutilized tools for teacher and student learning and allows metacognitive thinking to take place. Incorporating thinking strategies is “the single most effective way to increase student achievement” (Silver, et al pg 57), thus making metacognition and the reflective process taste that much sweeter to any teacher aiming to promote critical thinking in the classroom. How can you learn from others while teaching? Conducting a “Slice of the Day” is a great way!

To conduct a slice of the day, choose a school period and map out your schedule. @GraysonLawrence and I conducted our “Slice of the Day” during sixth period (A 96 minute period). We stayed in each classroom around seven minutes. We used the slice protocol to create a snapshot to share with teachers in Teacher Academy. Our goal was to show teachers the “Slice of the Day” and give them time to reflect on practice, create goals, and discuss classroom pedagogy that is impactful to student achievement.

@GraysonLawrence and I chose to do a new take on the “Slice of the Day”. We each had a lens of what to be on the lookout for. The only reported information was observable information/data garnered by the lense. His lens was student engagement and my lens was rigorous instruction. Here is what we discovered for each applied perspective:

Rigorous Instruction Lens:

  • Citing textual evidence
  • Academic vocabulary from the ACT Aspire in elective courses
  • Quality question by teachers
  • Students using content vocabulary in conversation without the teacher present (high expectations present)
  • Performance tasks (open-ended questions) in ALL content areas
  • Graphic organizers, such as ACE, in history and elective courses
  • Number talks in math
  • Manipulatives used by students to model thinking
  • Application of Ethos, Pathos, Logos in elective course
  • Differentiated Small-Group based on student needs
  • Students using Rubrics to assess their learning

Engagement Lens:

  • Classroom Managers present and eager to discuss their learning and the learning in the classroom.
  • Students troubleshooting through assignments together
  • Students using rubrics in groups to assess learning
  • Learning Targets posted that show a pathway to learning
  • Students asking questions about their own learning
  • Bellringers to start the day
  • Math Stretches
  • Students participating in PBL (Project Based Learning)
  • Blended Learning opportunities for students
  • Collaboration in Google Docs/Slides

References:

Silver, H., Dewing, R. T., & Perini, M. (2012). The core six essential strategies for achieving excellence with the common core. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

 

**Small side note about The Core Six Essential Strategies for Achievement Excellence with the Common Core:  It is a short read, BUT very transformative!!! I highly encourage you to read and reread it! I have a copy you can borrow anytime! It is not content specific, rather just a focus on effective teaching strategies!