Nexting events give us an opportunity to pause and think about what’s next for us, our students, and the District. They’re about creating memories of the future. Click on the word GRIT to watch the short video clip about GRIT from author Sylvia Duckworth. Think about how focusing on your work in your PLC, Design Teams, and Work Groups can enhance our system to with GRIT. How do you provide space for students to show and experience opportunities to demonstrate GRIT? How will your next activity impact student learning using the GRIT mindset? Share your thoughts and follow the conversation using #Westside66Hope on Twitter.
Asking the right question is an integral part of engaging students in learning. The right questi0n is congruent to the objective. It is accurate, clear, planned, and encourages all students to respond with something other than a “yes” or “no”. Benjamin Bloom tells us that students who ‘process’ and ‘practice’ will learn. According to Bloom, “In general, about 20% of the variation in achievement of individuals is accounted for by their participation in the classroom learning process. The amount of active participation in the learning is an excellent index of the quality of instruction.” – Benjamin Bloom, Human Characteristics & School Learning. Active participation allows information to be processed so the learner can reveal what they know, what they don’t know, how they are linking background knowledge with newer concepts, and if their fundamental misconceptions are getting in the way of understanding.
Formative Assessment: Critical Attributes of HINGE Questions
Dylan Wiliam “Characteristics of Quality Hinge Questions” Educational Testing Service August 27, 2007) speaks about Hinge questi0ns as a way to ask the right question. A Hinge question…
– is based on the content piece of the daily objective that students must understand before you move on in the lesson.
– is congruent with the level of thinking stated in your objective.
– is asked at critical times in the lesson. You may have more than one hinge question or the same hinge question may be repeated.
– is a benchmark. Every student MUST be able to respond to the hinge question. The teacher must be able to quickly and effectively collect, interpret, and diagnose the responses from all students before moving on.
The Power And Opportunity Of Technology
Google Forms, Kahoot, Google Classroom, Comic Life, and Blackboard Discussi0n Board are few of many ways teachers can ask a question they might say aloud in a classroom setting. Asking the question the same way and responding the same way is c0nsidered substitution according to the SAMR model by Dr. Puentedura. The thinking would be to leverage technology to the modification level to transform the learning vs. just enhancing it. A few ways a teacher might be able to do this is to first think about the content, pedagogy, and then technology as a means for significant task redesign. A few questions a teacher might ask themselves to guide them in this process might be:
- How might this questi0n and task connect to previous learning and how can technology leverage this learning?
- How are students interacting with each other that would not have been possible with0ut technology?
- Can I use more than one application to streamline and enhance the learning that would not have been possible without the technology?
- How might the question I am asking allow for the student to redesign their thinking and learning?
- Referencing Bloom’s Taxonomy, how can I use question stems from Create, Evaluate, and Analyze to assist in my question creation?
- How do I involve the student to take ownership of their learning and create engaging dialogue?
Combining the pedagogy around developing and asking questions at the correct cognitive level combined with technology, enhances the learning opportunity for the student and provides a richer experience for all students.
Staff members at Westside Community Schools continue to demonstrate high efficacy and craftsmanship by putting students first. This was evident as WCS staff members attended multiple training sessions during the first week back for staff refining their teaching craft and expertise. This year, each elementary grade level will have one topic they will focus on during five different learning sessions throughout the year.
All kindergarten and first-grade teachers spent 8 hours on August 9th and will receive between 12 and 20 hours of explicit instruction on instructional routines that focus on phonemic awareness, phonics, and sound blends. WCS is partnering with Lynette Block from the State MTSS team to implement this training. Instructional routines are similar to classroom/behavior routines, a consistent format that is generalizable for teaching specific skills, an explicit, interactive, research-based format, designed to engage students and increase their chances for successful learning.
“Routines are the foundational architecture for creativity, and in the classroom they give birth to deeper reading, rich writing, and meaningful conversation.” —Tanny McGregor, author of Comprehension Connections
All second and third-grade teachers spent 6 hours on August 9th and will receive a total of 12 hours of reflection and student learning focused on math mindset. The 5 sessions are led by Karin Mussman, Michele Patterson, Sarah Meraz, and Diana Williams. Click to see a previous article about math mindset. Teachers will focus on:
- Everyone can learn math to the highest levels
- Mistakes are valuable; mistakes grow your brain
- Math is about connections and communicating; math can be represented in words, diagrams, graphs, pictures, equations that can be linked to each other
- Questions are really important; ask yourself: why does that make sense?
- Math is about creativity and making sense
- Math class is about learning, not performing; it takes time to learn and it is all about effort
- Depth is much more important than speed
Fourth-grade teachers will be spending the year refining their skills on how to personalize learning for all students. Teachers spent the entire day with National speaker and author, Jim Rickabaugh learning about WCS’s philosophy of personalized learning and focusing on providing voice and choice for students. Teachers will spend the rest of the year working with Personalized Learning Collaborators (Andrew Easton, Katie Sindt, Kristin Hogan) focusing on WCS’s five elements of personalized learning.
1. Knowing Your Learners. 2. Voice and Choice 3. Flexible Groups and Space 4. Data Informed 5. Technology Support.
Fifth and sixth-grade teachers are continuing to improve student writing and critical thinking by focusing the year on Text Dependent Analysis (TDA). WCS is partnering with Janet Foss from ESU 3 to provide the year-long focused training.
In July, over 350 educators from around the Midwest and me, descended upon Lincoln, Nebraska for the 2017 Google Summit. As I attended a session on Google Tips, something was confirmed for me. Inviting staff using Google Calendar has made my life easier and streamlined!
On July 13th-14th, a group of Westside Community School educators and leaders traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska to participate in the 2017 Great Plains Google Summit. This two-day, high-intensity event focused on using Google tools to promote student learning. Nearly 500 educators experienced over 50 sessions on topics ranging from Google Apps to Chrome extensions to programming. View sessions and access content and read about the event on Twitter.
Four WCS staff members represented the State of Nebraska at “Foundations of Math” at North Carolina State University. The intense five-day event was offered for the Northeast and Southeast Regions of North Carolina, as well as Nebraska and Iowa. This was a state level session presented by NCDPI consultants Melissa Towery and Carol Moffitt. Members were able to attend with support by grant funds.
A group of Westside Community School educators and leaders traveled to the Century Link Center in Omaha, NE to participate in the 2017 NETA (Nebraska Educational Technology Association) conference. This three-day, high-intensity event focused on leveraging technology to promote student learning. Westside is proud to recognize our staff member, Dr. Matt Lee, who was sworn in as the 2017 NETA president and our multiple staff members who were selected to present.
Allison Pontious – Google Classroom in the Primary Grades
Allison Pontious and Dustin Carlson – Engaging Students in a 1:1, Primary Classroom
Allison Pontious, Dustin Carlson, and Andrew Easton – Breakout of Your Box with Breakout EDU!
Andrew Easton – App-Smashingly Great Instructional Videos
Paul Lindgren – Jedi Data Tricks: Information Submits to YOUR will with Filemaker Pro
Blane McCann, Matt Lee, and David Williams – Implementing and Evaluating a K-12 1:1 Initiative: 3 Perspectives
By: Dr. Gregory Betts
Stability and certainty are not always available for students when they enter the 21st Century work force and this trend does not seem to be going away. Long gone are the days of retiring with a gold watch, 30 plus years of experience and a healthy pension. In the educational world, educators often talk about preparing kids for jobs that aren’t even created yet. What does that really mean? It means, I can work hard (Grit), see opportunities for growth (Mindset), foster courage and vulnerability (Daring Greatly) and have a high hope mindset (Making Hope Happen). This ultimately leads to individuals being able to successfully self advocate and create confidence with success. Allowing students to become independent and self-advocates is a critical step in preparing them for school, post secondary education, and their future careers. Molding a life long learning mindset in students and creating learning opportunities that reinforce this are one of the great joys of being an educator. It is a life long learning mindset that drives me to conclude this concept is more important than ever to establish with our students and equip our teachers with advocacy skills as we continue to watch an uncertain future reveal its many surprises before us.
As a former elementary teacher and high school football and track coach, I have worked with students with physical and academic disabilities, bright students who could not handle failure, talented athletes who did not work hard, and adults who always saw the future as bleak. Students and adults who were/are successful had many of the positive psychology characteristics from the books referenced above that led to self advocacy skills. The ability to self-advocate always intrigued me because it took hard work, a growth and hope mindset, and with the capacity to bounce back from failure.
Educators have many roles and responsibilities highlighted by instructing students on the indicators and outcomes set forth by their school. Teachers are also simultaneously supporting the whole child by incorporating and modeling lessons about character, responsibility, respect, and self-advocacy. Friend (2012) states that “self-advocacy is an important part of self-determination, or the ability to make decisions and direct behavior so that the desired goals are achieved (Holverstott, 2005).” If self advocating truly can make a positive impact, then we must be teaching all students that they can properly handle adverse situations, clearly communicate to others, and ask for help when needed. In order to encourage students to be self-advocates, they need to gain information, store and retrieve information, express information, self-advocate, and manage time (Including Students with Special Needs, 2012). We need self-advocating students who are able to achieve their own goals, are self-determined, and able to succeed when faced with adversity. As educators we can help foster and mold self advocating students by:
- Teaching students how to ask for help
- Creating opportunities to develop time management
- Teaching students how to self-monitor (emotion, time, environment)
- Creating responsibilities and allowing students to complete the task
- Creating role play situations that might be difficult (create a social story)
- Allowing failure and praising hard work (this means don’t always rescue)
- Allowing voice and choice in the classroom
- Knowing your students and supporting their interests
- Allowing natural consequences and having the students problem solve the solution
- Developing critical thinking and problem solving skills
1. Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. New York, NY: Gotham Books.
2. Duckworth, A. (2016). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance.
3. Dweck, Carol S.. (2008) Mindset :the new psychology of success New York : Ballantine Books
4. Friend, M. & Bursuck, W.D. (2012). Including students with special needs: A practical guide for classroom teachers, (6th edition). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education.
5. Hensley, P. (2016). Teaching Self-Advocacy in the Special Ed Classroom. Retrieved March 01, 2016, from http://teaching.monster.com/benefits/articles/4561-teaching-self-advocacy-in-the-special-ed-classroom
6. Self-Advocacy. (n.d.). Retrieved March 1, 2017, from https://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/tool-kits/transition-tool-kit/self-advocacy
Lee, A. (2014). The importance of self-advocacy for kids with learning and attention issues. Understood.
By: Dr. Gregory W. Betts
Educators are responsible for covering critical information and often at a fairly quick pace. With the demands of covering state and district standards along with other curriculum, it can be hard to find time for additional review and practice of prior learnings. Additionally, instructional time might be lost each school day due to activities, transitions, assemblies, weather distraction, etc. Sponge activities allow for this extra practice without carving out a large amount of time in the day. Madeline Hunter’s 1982 Mastery Teaching book describes sponge activities as ... “learning activities that “sop up” precious time that otherwise would be lost. Sponge activities give students practice in reviewing or applying past learning while they’re waiting for students to arrive, while materials are being passed or collected, while roll is being taken, or during any other “administrivial” matters. Sponges are quick, engaging activities that when used effectively become beneficial to the success of the student. They also can help ensure that every student is receiving the maximum amount of available time to learn. The best sponge activities are academically rich and engage all learners. Many sponge activities involve students working with partners, in groups, or as a whole class. There are many different sponge activities out there and many are very easy to implement. They can be a simple or complex task, but they will always be beneficial to students’ learning. Jessica Boschen has created a list of 80 sponge activities that might work for you (Jessica is not affiliated with WCS) or visit UCSD to view their top sponge activities.
Original Sponge content can be found in Chapter 14 (page 116) of the 2004 Mastery Teaching Edition or pages 92/93 of the 1982 Mastery Teaching edition.
(Linked by Permission from Jessica Boschen) https://www.whatihavelearnedteaching.com/80-sponge-activities/
Hunter, M. C. (1982). Mastery teaching. El Segundo, CA: TIP Publications.
Hunter, Robin (2004). Madeline Hunter’s mastery teaching: Increasing instructional effectiveness in elementary and secondary schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press
In 2016, Lauri Calvert partnering with Learning Forward and NCTAF, published a report focusing on what teachers need to make professional learning work for them. The report can be downloaded in its entirety for free at https://learningforward.org/publications/teacher-agency . The report contains many examples from schools and recommendations to make professional learning beneficial for teachers. Below is an excerpt from the article highlighting the work of Westside Community Schools.
Greg Betts, the director of professional learning at Westside Community Schools (about 6,000 students in Omaha, Nebraska), decided in the summer of 2014 that the district had to figure out a new way to help teachers improve their instructional practices. Betts, a former teacher and principal, could tell that their current system of professional learning needed to evolve to meet the needs of educators just as classroom instruction had been evolving to meet the individual needs of students. “The ‘sit and get’ just wasn’t working,” he said, “We knew this.” To mix things up, district leaders asked teachers to propose sessions on instructional best practices that they could present to colleagues during a PD day that was akin to speed dating.
“In the morning, teachers presented for a minute about their work, and peers chose what and who they wanted to learn from,” Betts said. Survey data about the new format showed it was beneficial to teacher learning, but district leaders knew from Standards for Professional Learning that for the professional learning to affect teaching and learn-ing on a large scale, it needed not only to offer teachers agency, but also to be ongoing and aligned to district goals. The Learning Communities standard, for example, deals with the need for professional learning to occur “within learning communities committed to continuous improvement, collective responsibility, and goal alignment.” The District Teaching and Learning Team developed an innovative strategy to balance teachers’ individual learning needs with those of the system and ensure that the learning is continuous and embedded throughout the year. So, for the 2015–16 school year in the
Westside District, teachers participate in four full-day professional learning sessions offered quarterly by the district, with four follow-up sessions on early-dismissal days. During the full-day sessions, teachers attend three different professional learning sessions: two of their choice and one common session on a focus topic for the district.
• One common session. After analyzing district and school data, the Teaching and Learning Team selected one instructional focus for the school year: eliciting student response. The quarterly professional learning days include one required session on eliciting student response, thus expanding and following up on the topic from session to session. • Two independent choices. Teachers select two sessions to attend, from approximately 51 learning topics, based on their interests and needs. The independent sessions are designed and led by teachers who have submitted proposals that fit under the district’s instructional objectives. This year, all topics fit into one or more of three categories: personalized learning, technology, and literacy.
Feedback was positive from teachers who participated in the first full-day session and follow up in October; they appreciated the “personalized approach to professional development,” the “practical” strategies presented, and that there was “enough time to learn new things, but also to really explore what I’d learned and have some good discussions about it.” Many comments dealt specifically with the importance of teachers being allowed agency for their learning. “I appreciate the efforts to make these professional development days beneficial for us, and not a waste of time,” one teacher wrote. Another wrote, “I appreciate being able to choose sessions that I am interested in or that apply to me!”
Citation for this work: Calvert, L. (2016). Moving from compliance to agency: What teachers need to make professional learning work. Oxford, OH: Learning Forward and NCTAF.