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


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!

October 18

Our Journey to Student Portfolios

Leaders-of-LearningThe following is a blog post written by Assistant Principal, Grayson Lawrence (@graysonlawrence).  #Exceptional blog and an #exceptional day of learning!


Teaching and Learning is alive and well at Winterboro High School. Recently, the teachers collaborated with each other to brainstorm about Student Academy and how we can best serve our students.  Some reading this blog may remember a previous post last year about Student Academy which with our students, strives to serve the following purposes:

  • Student Professional Development
  • Student-engaged assessment
  • Students learn the language of standards
  • Students set academic goals
  • Students monitor progress
  • Students identify patterns of strengths and weakness
  • Students become self-advocates
  • Students access their own work with honesty and accuracy

Students Leading their own learning is something we feel strongly about, and we want to do it in every way possible that is most beneficial to our students. “Student-engaged assessment involves students in understanding and investing in their own growth. It changes the primary role of assessment from evaluating and ranking students to motivating them to learn. It empowers students with the understanding of where they need to go as learners and how to get there. It builds the independence, critical thinking skills, perseverance, and self-reflective understanding students need for college and careers that is required by the Common Core State Standards. And, because student-engaged assessment practices demand reflection, collaboration, and responsibility, they shepherd students toward becoming positive citizens and human beings (Berger, 2014).

imgres-1What better way to help our students lead their own learning than through a school-wide decision to use student portfolios that will usher in this process from the time they enter the door at Winterboro as a 5th grader, and then leave College and Career Ready as a Senior.  We look forward to beginning this process as students take charge of self-monitoring their learning, collecting work samples, developing an online portfolio, tackling the enormous task of reflecting, and holding student conferences utilizing google sites. This is just the beginning, but we anticipate great things to develop throughout our year.

October 16

Tech Tools to Help Creativity Come Alive

Below is a blog post by our Technology Integration Specialist, Emily Nestor (@emilycnestor). #Exceptional job Mrs. Nestor.

Taking notes, listening to lectures, and completing graphic organizers are all expected components of whole group instruction. But it is what we ask students to do with the information gained from these activities that can be the most meaningful and relevant. Providing students with opportunities to transfer and apply their knowledge is a vital part of teaching and learning. In blended learning environment, the utilization of technology can make these opportunities more engaging for students and provide them with learning that is both rigorous and technology rich. One way in which we can achieve this tech rich blended learning is by providing students with tech tools that allow them to not only reflect on their learning, but to also add a level of voice and choice through creating a digital product! Here are some great examples of creation tech tools that could be utilized in all content areas!


September 11

High Expectations and Growth Mindset

Contrary to popular belief, high achievement isn’t only a byproduct of talent and ability. Other factors, such as our internal beliefs about our skills and abilities can also fuel our success. This is also true of our students. Therefore, it is important that we, as educators, encourage and foster this type of growth mindset in our schools and classrooms. One way in which educators can achieve this is through the setting and maintaining of high expectations for ALL students. These expectations are communicated to students not only through our content related interactions with them, but also through our body language. In her article, ” Do We Really Have High Expectations for All,” Barbara Blackburn suggests that students are very aware of how educators translate their expectations into actions. Therefore, in order for our students to truly have a growth mindset and believe that they are able, then we must treat all students the same when it comes to our expectations and translate these high expectations into action. You may be wondering what this may look like in the classroom. The chart below highlights both body language and content interactions that translate high expectations and serves as a great resource for self evaluation.


September 11

Teching Up Formative and Summative Assessment

This blog is written by Emily Nestor (@emlouau). She is the Title 1 Resource/Technology Integration Specialist at Winterboro High School. #Exceptional Blog post Mrs. Nestor!

Assessment is an important component of teaching and learning. The data gathered from both formative and summative assessments help educators to make both long term and short term instructional decisions that will have an impact on student learning. For most, when the word assessment is mentioned a picture of a student taking a long, formal test comes to mind.  And although some assessments do look like this, this doesn’t have to be norm for classroom assessments. By adding a little tech to it, educators can apply the same ideology behind an assessment, but  make it more appealing and engaging to students! Some of these tech tools, such as Triventy, Quizziz, and Quizalize turn assessments into digital games where students are racing against each other to be the first to answer correctly! Other tech tools like ProProgs Quiz Maker and Google Forms with Flubaroo allow students to take a “traditional” assessments digitally and eliminate the hassle of a having to grade each assessment.

Check our these tech tools a little more in depth below!

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September 5

What’s a PLD?

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 2.10.22 PMWelcome back! We took a hiatus on the Teacher Academy blog over the summer! We wanted to start Teacher Academy off with a bang this year, modeling teaching strategies through small group instruction. Over the course of the next week or so, we will be highlighting the theme of each group. The first theme was the Performance Level Descriptors or PLD for short. These are rubrics published recently by the ACT Aspire.




AAEAAQAAAAAAAAN7AAAAJGU4YTVkZjM2LWQ4OTUtNDFiOC1iNmI2LWY1MTNmNWUzYWMzMASummative Assessments should not be a secret. The data from Summative Assessments, when coupled with appropriate Formative Assessments, should not be a mystery or a surprise. More times than many, when students take the ACT Aspire, the data can be a surprise. This causes much frustration for teachers under this new assessment model. Each year, the ACT Aspire gives morsels of information to aid teachers and students. Some of the information given is to focus on concepts rather than procedures by using the Webb’s Depth of Knowledge Wheel (in particular Levels 2 and 3) and that writing is valued, particularly in constructed responses. Recently the ACT Aspire released the Performance Level Descriptors. You can find them here for each grade tested on the ACT Aspire.


Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 2.00.42 PMWhat are the Performance Level Descriptors? This comes straight from the ACT Aspire: Performance Level Descriptors outline the knowledge, skills, and practices that students performing at any given level achieve in each content area at each grade level. They indicate if the students are academically prepared to engage successfully in further studies in each content area, the next grade’s material and, eventually at the high school level to verify that they are college and career ready.

How does the ACT Aspire suggest to use them? This comes straight from the ACT Aspire: “PLDs are essential in setting standards. Standard setting panelists use PLDs to determine the threshold expectations for students to demonstrate the knowledge and skills necessary to attain performance levels of “In Need of Support”, “Close”, “Ready”, and “Exceeding ”. PLDs are also used to inform item development, as each test needs questions that distinguish performance all along the continuum.

We encourage the use of the PLDs for a variety of purposes, such as:

  • Differentiating instruction to maximize individual student outcomes
  • Completing assessments to help identify target performance levels for individuals or groups of students
  • Tracking student growth along the proficiency continuum as described by the PLDs.”


If you haven’t checked out the PLD’s, do! I think it is a powerful plan for students and teachers to follow. Students can view the rubrics as a way to hold themselves accountable. Teachers can use the rubrics to develop stronger formative assessments in order to match the summative assessment that students will see at the end of the year.

March 6

Data Walk!

The following post is written by Assistant Principal, @GraysonLawrence! He is paving the way in student professional development, called Student Academy!  #Exceptional job Mr. Lawrence!

“Data is not about adding more to your plate. Data is about making sure you have the right thing on your plate.” –Unknown

Growth-1Data can sometimes be a dreaded word as we discuss its relationship to teaching and learning. I must say, this year has been a fantastic year of looking at Data at WHS. Teachers are continually moving kids by creating action plans for their students and developing villages within the school to move students, or as we tend to say “move mountains.” This past Friday the faculty at WHS collaborated to discuss Data Walk Through WHS. We were excited to take pictures of Data displayed in our classrooms. We noticed that data is presented in many unique ways, but more importantly the central purpose is for growth.

IMG_0148Great discussions were cultivated from the mentor text used at the beginning of the chat. One quote that kept stopping us in our tracks was: “As long as we use assessments/data only as a means to rank schools and students, we will miss their most powerful benefits. We all agree that if we only look at data in such a way it can become frustrating. Should we be the only ones controlling and looking at this analysis? Who else can we coach in the process? Although we continually work to improve student data, another quote from our mentor text sparked more conversations. “ The largest untapped source of potential in any school is, undoubtedly, the students.” What better way to motivate student growth by simply taking time, just a little time, each day to discuss data with students, and charge them with the idea of self-monitoring for growth. We are in the very beginning stages of developing Student Academy with our students, and if proper collaboration in this process, great things can happen and even change the culture of monitoring student data in our school.

IMG_0171The purpose of Student Academy is for our students to do the following:

Student Professional Development

Student-engaged assessment

Students learn the language of standards

Students set academic goals

Students monitor progress

Students identify patterns of strengths and weakness

Students become self-advocates

Students access their own work with honesty and accuracy

This discussion is the begging of what will become future planning of how students can use their digital portfolios being created in Student Academy to be used as a central location for self-assessment and data monitoring in each class every day. We are excited to see this develop within our school culture so we continue moving mountains fostering in our students being as #exceptional as they can be.


February 28

I’m Tech Savvy….What’s Your Superpower?

unnamedBelow is a blog post by Technology Integration Specialist, Emily Nestor! Thank you, Mrs. Nestor for a great event and an #exceptional day of learning!

Digital Learning Day 2016 was a huge success at Winterboro High School! This year’s theme was “I’m Tech Savvy…What’s Your Superpower?”  Prior to Digital Learning Day, Winterboro’s Student Leadership team were assigned a new productivity themed Tech Tool that was not yet being used at WHS. The students worked in teams to create 10 minute fun, engaging, and strategic lessons that were aimed at teaching their new Tech Tool to others. The students even created “I Can” statements that they used to guide their lesson.

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 6.48.34 PM During our Digital Learning Day celebration, students, teachers and even parents/visitors were invited to the school’s auditorium where they were able to rotate through the various superheroes themed booths to learn new tech tools. By visiting the Superhero Stations and actively participating, guests were able to earn stickers on their superhero card. At the end of their visit, and if they fill their superhero cards, they were able to trade in their superhero card for a superhero snack! The 12 productivity tech tools that were featured at this year’s Digital Learning Day celebration can be found on the handout below!


Click Here for the Complete List! DLD2016TechTools

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