Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Post Observation Resources

As I complete my observations and post-observations meetings, I'll be putting up resources to this particular post to help teachers follow through on next steps.  So keep coming back to this one!

Unison Reading

Read this excerpt from Cynthia McCallister's Unison Reading book.  Here are some quotes & tips to pique your interest:
  • "The primary purpose of Unison Reading is to promote student agency and autonomy"
  • "[Teachers] follow in to conversations to clarify confusions that cannot be resolved by the students themselves"
  • "Normally when we read in school, we're made to think we should hide our mistakes and act as if we don't understand, even if we're confused. But in Unison Reading, you have a responsibility to the group to bring your mistakes and confusions to the center for discussion. [Learning from our mistakes is] what helps you become smarter and also helps other kids in the group. That's also what makes Unison Reading fun."
  • Check out Page 7 to see a list of prompts you can use in your UR Groups
  • Check out Page 10 to understand what the different codes mean and how to use them to monitor the quality of your UR groups

Professional Development Committee

Here is the Professional Development Activity Calendar.  This calendar is frequently updated.  As a rule of thumb, you should find at least one PD experience for yourself each week.  In general, our lab site visits will be on Mondays and/or Tuesdays with the debriefs of those visits occurring during PD on Tuesdays.  Descriptions are in each of the calendar events.  Click on them to find out more.

If you haven't already done so, please add it to your own list of google calendars.  If you don't use google calendars yet, you should really, really start to do so.  Here's a link to get you started!

Genre Practice

Understanding the purpose and conventions of any text from a poem to a Algebra regents problem to a dichotomous key is necessary for students to be able to have any successful engagement with the text.  In the case of the poem, engagement may look like interpreting theme or analyzing the use of literary device.  For the math problem, students may be asked to write an expression or find a solution.  In using the dichotomous key, students will use the relationships expressed through this diagram to categorize a particular thing or group of things.

Every subject has specific texts that have their own purpose, conventions, and the tasks we pose for students ask them to engage with these varying purposes and conventions in many different ways.  Everytime we ask students to "Read the problem" or "Read the directions" we're actually trying to get them to understand what the purpose of the text is and what they are supposed to do with it (again whether it be a poem, problem, or diagram).

This month, Tara, Emily and Meredith are working together to develop genre practice work in the humanities classrooms.  Look at the calendar above to check out the opportunities to observe and discuss the work in those classes.

Also this month, Emily, Kelly, and myself are working together to help articulate what genre practice looks like in a subject classrooms.  We're working in Noam's room on Tuesday afternoons and are meeting with Noam after school to debrief the visits.  I'm working with Noam in this research residency on Wednesdays and Thursdays to implement strategies for developing genre practice prompts, tasks, and questions in a subject classroom like math.  Also check out the calendar to find out when those meetings will occur.  We'll be sharing out our work with the math team on Tuesdays, as well.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fall Full Observations

To date, I've been doing short visits to each of your classes.  Now, it's time to get a whole picture.

Starting next week, I'm going to do a round of full-class formal observations.  This post will outline the expectations of the observation:

What is Kiri looking for?
For Everyone:  I'll be evaluating your proficiency levels in the following areas:

For Learning Cultures Teachers:  I'll also be evaluating your proficiency levels in the following areas:

What is Kiri looking at?
Also For Everyone:  To prep for our PD needs, I'll be collecting benchmark data in the following areas:
Also For Learning Cultures Teachers:  I'll be collecting benchmark data in the following areas:

What do I need to do to prepare?
  • For almost everyone, I'll be mapping your pre-observation meetings onto your pre-existing scheduled conferences with me. There are a few exceptions and I'll email those people directly to schedule the pre-observation meeting.
  • PRIOR to NEXT THURSDAY (29NOV12)  If you have not already done so, please make sure you self-evaluate on the following rubrics by clicking on the link and completing the form.  Please make sure you're signed into your UAI gmail prior to doing so.

    Unison Reading - LC teachers only

    The Lesson - All teachers
    The Learning Conference - All teachers
    The Classroom Environment - All teachers
    Independent Work Time - All teachers
When will my observation be?
The observation
  • I will be highlighting times on my calendar.  In the description, I'll let you know who's on the docket.  Please check my calendar frequently to see who I'm seeing and when.
  • My goal is to complete ALL full class formal observations by DECEMBER 10th.  Call me crazy, but that's what I'm aiming for.

What's the process of the post-observation conference?
After the observation

  • Immediately following the observation, I'll send you a Google Calendar Invite for our follow up meeting.  Attached to that invite will be a copy of my low-inference observations and my initial evaluation on the rubrics.
  • During the meeting, we will discuss the rubrics and collaboratively develop your final evaluation and next steps.  This final letter will be your formal evaluation. This conversation will be evidenced-based, so please bring your binders, student work, and other rubric relevant artifacts from your classroom to this meeting.

Please if you have any questions, see me, email me, reach out.  This process is designed to be a means to get you feedback on your practice and to help you establish goals for growth!  So, please do not hesitate to work with me to make it as productive as possible!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Theoretical Exploration of Learning Cultures

Cynthia's Coming to Visit!
Cynthia McCallister, creator of Learning Cultures is coming to visit on Friday.  She'll be sitting in to model various formats, observing various classes, and hosting an informal discussion to field your questions and thinkings around Learning Cultures.

This blog post is dedicated to some of the underlying theories around Learning Cultures.  In addition, I hope it starts to address some of the wonderful questions that began to arise from our last Tuesday's PD.

What are Speech Acts?

Unison Reading

From Unison Reading
by CynthiaMcCallister

Also read this article to gain another perspective on Reading Aloud.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

After Hurricane Sandy...

Recovering from Sandy

Hopefully everyone is able to enjoy this bright, beautiful fall day.  It was good to reconnect with everyone, yesterday, and hopefully you and your families are returning to normal as power and transit continue to come back online for many areas of the city.

I want to officially recognize the dedication of our high school staff in having 100% of the teaching staff report to work.  In particular, Martine (from house sitting in Long Island) and Mike (from his powerless New Jersey home) get the biggest shout outs for traveling the furthest and most complicated transits into school yesterday.  Everyday, your actions speak volumes of your commitment, and Friday was just the latest testament to the caliber of your work!

Preparing for Monday

  • First and foremost, Nancy, Jen, Mara, and our Carrerra partners worked furiously on Friday to reach out to families.  Luckily, many of our families weathered the storm well and are in good shape.  Inevitably, however, some of our young women will have been negatively impacted in some way by Sandy's reach.  Jen will be emailing everyone soon regarding protocols for getting whatever support our girls may need.  Please look out for that email and connect our students to the grade level social workers should they be showing signs of trauma.
  • As transit service improves, hopefully your commutes will be much more manageable on Monday.  However, it will inevitably have some hiccups, so please stay in contact with me via my cell (917-776-0460) or email ( to let me know if you're having issues coming into school.
  • There is a chance that we will be hosting some of the girls and staff from the Urban Assembly School of Business for Young Women.  If their school has power by Sunday night, they'll return to their own site.  If the power is not yet up, they will join us on Monday.  Please check the blog to learn more as I will be posting info here as the situation develops.
  • On a minor note...don't forget to set your clocks back this weekend! It's daylight savings time.

Finally, the DOE has compiled a list of resources to reference in supporting our young women move through this process.  Additionally, Carol, Jen, our Carrerra and Girls Inc Partners have many other resources at their fingertips.  So please, if a student is expressing needs or concerns with respect to the Sandy aftermath, please connect them to your grade's social worker


Key Links From the DOE

Crisis Response Resources - Hurricane Sandy 

Below please find crisis response resources that schools can use to help students and their families recover from Hurricane Sandy 

  • Office of Emergency Management Disaster Mental Health Support Call Center 347 396 7952  
  • 1-800-LIFENET: Toll-free and confidential Mental Health Information and Referral Line with access to Mobile Crisis Team.  Staffed by trained Social Workers 24 hours, 7 days per week, 365 days per year
  • HITE is a free online resource directory for mental health services and other community resources. Click Social Services, then enter address for services in your neighborhood
  • Sesame Street Hurricane Toolkit Hurricanes, storms, and other natural disasters can be difficult for young children who may not fully understand what's going on around them. These tips, activities, and videos can help them feel safe, cope with emotions, and understand that there is hope for the future.
  • Hurricane Resources from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network  

Resources to Help Schools Support Students and their Families
  • provides the support resources below which are designed specifically for children, from those promoting mental health to ensuring children stay enrolled in school even if they have evacuated to a new school.
  • Tips for Talking to Children After a Disaster: A Guide for Parents and Teachers - provided by the Department of Health and Human Services, this brochure discusses talking to preschool, early childhood, and adolescent children about the aftermath of a natural or man-made disaster.
  • Helping Children Cope with Disaster - produced by FEMA and the Red Cross and provided by Federal Citizen Information Center, this fact sheet discusses a child's reaction to disaster by age.
  • After the Storm: Information for Parents on How Schools Can Help After Disasters -Children do not lose their right to attend school when a disaster strikes. The National Center for Homeless Education has prepared a brochure about how to enroll in school even if you don't have any paperwork and have been displaced due to a disaster.
  • Child Trauma Toolkit
  • Prepare Today, Cope Better Tomorrow
  • Tips for Teachers in Talking to Kids about Hurricane Sandy
  • Guidance for Administrators, Counselors and Teachers
  •  The American School Counselor Association has gathered a number of resources to help you work with students during this time.  Perhaps most important to keep in mind, are these tips for helping children in terms of crisis and stress:
    • Try and keep routines as normal as possible. Kids gain security from the predictability of routine, including attending school.
    • Limit exposure to television and the news. Be honest with kids and share with them as much information as they are developmentally able to handle.
    • Listen to kids' fears and concerns.
    • Reassure kids that the world is a good place to be, but sometimes bad things happen.
    • Parents and adults need to first deal with and assess their own responses to crisis and stress.
    • Rebuild and reaffirm attachments and relationships.

    Bereavement and Grief Counseling
  • Bereavement Support: Guidance from Calvary Hospital
  • Grief Counseling Resource Guide: A Field Manual. This manual has been developed as a guide for those who encounter individuals reaching to trauma related grief reactions in the course of their outreach work.
  • New York Life Foundation: (FREE) Resources for Grieving Children & Families; Bereavement Camps for Grieving Children (Camp Erin services ages 6-17, Comfort Zone Camp Services ages 7-17).

    Reimbursment Forms
  • Reimbursement for medical expenses from NYC
  • Tuesday, October 23, 2012

    Preparing the Data

    Hi All

    First thanks again for letting us visit your classrooms today.  Kelly & I worked with Emily, Tara, and Kerry to take a schoolwide snapshot of where we are in the school.  Many of you have made large strides in getting their Classroom Environment, Independent Work Time, Conferencing, and Unison Reading formats up and running.  All of us are still working on refining and improving our practice.  We have done so much is such a little amount of time.

    We have come far

    • All classrooms have roughed out the formats (all mandated formats of conferencing, independent work time and unison reading (in LC classes) are up and running)
    • All teachers have established resources and taught into their classroom environments so that students are beginning to understand how to find and use them
    • All teachers have established unit arcs that include student choice and are aligned to state standards
    • All teachers have moved to making the standards transparent on JumpRope
    • All teachers have completed standards aligned mastery grading for the first Marking Period
    Give yourselves a woot woot!

    Now back to it, because we still do have a long way to go...

    Initial analysis of grades and student opportunities (for conferencing and unison reading (in LC classes)) shows that many of you are struggling to meet mandates.

    • Some of you have met or are exceeding mandates (all students in the lowest third (L3) students have >2 conferences and they have participated in > 4 unison reading groups, and everyone else has had at least 1 conference and 4 UR groups)
    • Many of you are approaching mandates (e.g. the majority of students in the L3 had 2 conferences and 3 UR groups, and everyone had at least 1 conference with at least 3 UR groups).
    • Many of you are below mandates (e.g. the majority of students in the L3 and the rest of the class have 1 or fewer conferences and 2 or fewer UR groups)

    I'm still gathering and analyzing JumpRope grade data and your tally data.  I'm aiming to complete this analysis by Friday.  I'll share this complete data set with you guys starting in our conferences and in PD next week.  As you move forward this marking period, please reach out to your peers who have strong tallies in yours or in other grade teams.

    If you are struggling to figure out how to schedule your time to meet your aims and required mandates, please reach out to me, your team, another team, teachers in the middle school, and/or Tara/Emily/Nicia.  There are also many PD opportunities to help you better develop capacity in unison reading, conferencing, and independent work time.  I strongly, strongly encourage you to visit your peers and engage with them to find ideas of what to do to shift practice and meet your goals.

    Keep checking the PD calendar and reach out to Colleen, our high school PD rep to request specific PD opportunities so that we can work together to meet our goals!

    Wednesday, October 17, 2012

    Unison Reading - Following In

    In the upcoming weeks, I'll be visiting Learning Cultures classes to evaluate Unison Reading groups and all classes to evaluate conferences.  I've asked Emily to be a guest blogger today on the concept of Following In, a key instructional tool for both of these formats.  Thanks Emily!!

    Follow-in, Joint Attention, Cooperative Reasoning and the development of Joint Intentions
    by Emily Jarrell

    When my son was just around one, he was using a few key words but they were “baby” words – nana for bottle, dada for all people, mama for me.  I hung on every word he said.  I remember so clearly the spring in the apartment complex we lived in at the time because we had cherry trees in our front yard.  One early Spring day, enjoying a post-hybernation day outdoors, Aydan and I were standing in the front yard and he was pointing emphatically at the cherry blossom tree.  I walked him over to the tree and he wanted nothing more than to touch that tree and to grad the blossoms in his small fists.  It was a moment worth remembering because we were both completely engaged by this tree and both of us were giving this tree our undivided attention.  While Aydan was grabbing the blossoms, I said, “Tree! That’s a tree.”  Aydan continued to touch and grab the tree and I continued to say, “Yes, tree! That’s a tree.”  Needless to say, as I would not be going on about this if this didn’t happen, Aydan said, “Chee.” I responded with immediate excitement and said, “Yes, that’s right.  That’s a tree.  Do you like the tree? It’s so pretty!”  Aydan and I were speaking to one another.  We had a dialogue around the tree. 

    If you don’t have children, I’m sure you’re sitting there reading this and thinking, “Seriously?”.  But, what I’m trying to illustrate here is the hard-wired nature of human beings to learn new things when in a situation where there is joint attention – when the parties are all looking at the same thing and trying to make sense of that same thing.  I’m also trying to illustrate the hard-wired nature of humans to make qualitative and quantitative leaps in their understanding of the world around them when they are attending to something – selecting to attend to that something – and someone follows-in to their attention to name, direct, push, and challenge them.  It is in the moment of acting upon the world, that learning is so easy and possible. 

    So, what does this mean for us, Learning Cultures teachers? It means that WE DO TEACH!!!!! But, instead of traditional, transmission instructional models, we put our students into the action – through UR, Learning Groups, Table Shares, by illustrating their strengths and needs in their work in conferences – and then we FOLLOW-IN.  We base our strongest instruction in the moments when our students are looking at the same thing, trying to figure that thing out, intentionally formulating problems and trying to determine best means of action to solve those problems.  It’s in those moments that we turn to them and say, “Can I suggest something here?” or “Can I teach you something new?” or “Well, that work you’re trying to do is in the standards, let’s take a look together to see if we can figure this out.”

    But, here’s the challenging tension.  WE DO TEACH but WE FIRST NEED TO FOSTER INTENTIONALITY in our students.  In Unison Reading, we need to hold them to the rules and BREACH when we know they don’t fully understand.  We need to hold them to breaching so that they begin to see what they don’t know, they begin to STOP taking their own understandings for granted and INSTEAD BEGIN TO QUESTION.  Once they begin to be curious, to be inquisitive.  Then we teach them to cooperatively reason.  We teach them to tell each other their thinking – “I’m thinking that maybe….” or “What about…?” or “Maybe it’s….” AND THEN we teach them to respond authentically – “Do you get what _______ said? Well, tell him you need him to resay it” and “________said something, he put an idea on the table, you all need to respond.  You can’t just sit and stare!” and “He said __________, now tell him what you think.” 

    Once they have joint attention and they are cooperatively reasoning…the magic mix is there.  They will go back and forth naturally.  And you will have opportunity after opportunity to help them close their breaches by giving them the precise terminology to describe their processes, or to describe their new insights and you will be able to easily say, “Can I say something here? Can I teach you something new?”  This is where joint intentions begin.  They will be curious, they will be focused, they will be trying to reason, and you will help push them to new levels. 

    So, push.  Push them to speak up every time there is something in that text that you know they should not take for granted.  Stop them and say, “Wait, I know this word is hard.  This is a good place to stop to get smarter.” Or, “Wait, there’s a symbol here and I’m not sure that you all understand what the symbol really means.  Use this opportunity to discuss this together.  This is how you will learn.”  Then TEACH them to cooperatively reason. And FINALLY, follow-in with instruction that will stick.  And, I promise, it will stick so much more if it’s done in this way.  And, if your follow-in is succinct and clear, they will want to pursue more from where your instruction came from – the standards. 

    Thanks Again Emily!

    Monday, October 15, 2012

    A New Marking Period

    Today started the 2nd Marking Period.  Tomorrow, (16OCT12, Tuesday) during our extended PD (it's already the 3rd Tuesday of the month), we'll meet in the library to do the following

    • 1.  2:10PM-2:20PM - Full Staff Meeting
    • 2.  2:20PM-3:00PM - Independent Work Time to Complete Conference Tallies (and UR Tallies
                                         if you're a Learning Cultures classroom).  Here are some sample tally

    Sample Conference Log (From Colleen!)
    Sample Unison Reading Log (From Colleen!)  

    • 3.  3:00PM-4:00PM - Grade Team Meeting to review records, discuss trends, and make
                                         adjustments to conferencing schedules, strategies, and/or interventions.

    I'll be coming around on Wednesday (17OCT) during the morning (during PSAT) to take a look at the conferencing & Unison reading binders. Please have your tally sheets at the front of the binder, and please have your binders readily visible in the classroom so I can find them.

    In preparation for the 2nd marking period, please take  a moment to review these documents.

    • I've used new Progress Report data and discharge/transfer/group change information to provide you with an Updated Lowest Third list.  Please use this to make conference schedules for MP2.
    • Many of you have asked for guidance in calendarizing your marking period mandates.  Take a look at this document:  1st Marking Period Attendance & an Example How to Plan for MP2
    • With nearly all of you, I've had discussions about "Activities FOR Learning" vs. "Assessments OF Learning".  Take a look at this Example Unit Plan that I made during my residency with Tom to understand how to more clearly present the difference to students.
    • As we move into the 2nd Marking Period, we will begin focusing on the quality of Unison Reading and Conferences.  For LC teachers, please take a moment to complete this rubric as a self-assessment of your Unison Reading groups to date.  For ALL teachers, please self-assess your Learning Conferences using this rubric.  I will be coming into classes this week to observe conferences and Unison Reading groups.  In addition, I'll be providing continued feedback on the Environment
    • Today, we launched the UAI PD committee.  Colleen is your representative from the high school, and the committee consists of Colleen, Tara, Emily, Nicia, myself, Kelly, & a yet to be named middle school rep.  I'm in the process of developing a resource page for PD and High School News.  Please save this site as a bookmark and add the UAI PD calendar to your own calendars and/or see what's coming up for you this week:

    Tuesday, October 2, 2012

    Mandates and Marking Period Ending

    I just sent out the reminder of the Mandates that we issued at the beginning of the year.  Here's a snapshot of the Expectations Document I sent out at the beginning of the year.

    In this 21 day marking period, the goal was to have at minimum

    • 2 conferences for students in the Lowest Third
    • 1 conference for students not in the Lowest Third
    • 1 Unison Reading group each day (which would be ~20 groups total)
      - NOTE:  the mandate is that students participate in (not lead) at least 4 UR groups
      - NOTE:  this mandate applies only to Learning Cultures classes
    I'm relaxing the mandate on student-led Unison Reading groups for this marking period, but your goal needs to be to launch those groups for this upcoming second marking period.

    For the first marking period, many of you shared with me your confusion about how best to align your tasks to state standards and some of you still feel fuzzy about how to approach varying task lengths in your subject area.  As we work through this, I'll also relax this mandate for MP1 with the expectation that we follow through on this one for MP2.  

    Finally, it took us a few weeks to pull the ISS and Carrerra teams up to speed on how best to plug into the Learning Cultures classes.  If you have not already done so, your cooperating teacher and/or Carrerra Academic support team need to be conducting their own UR groups and conferences.  This mandate will also be in play for MP2.

    All other mandates are in place for MP1.  

    If you followed the schedule above and maintained accurate conference and unison reading records, you should be in good shape for meeting the mandates.  

    For example, in this 21-day marking period, if you had 2 conferences everyday, you would have had a total of 42 conferences.  In a 25-student class, 8 students would require 2 conferences (16 conferences) and 17 students would require only 1 conference.  So the absolute maximum number of conferences mandate in the high school is 31 (because 25 is our largest class size).  Given that you have space for 42 conferences, you should be able to achieve 31.  

    Similarly, in this 21-day marking period, if you had a unison reading group everyday, you have had a total of 21 groups.  The mandate is that students need to participate in 4 groups.  If you had 20 groups of 5 students, then each student in your class of 25 students will have participated in a UR group at least 4 times.

    Here's what you need to check
    • Do I have at least 2 conference records for each of the students in the Lowest 1/3 for each section?
    • Do I have at least 1 conference record for each non-L3 student for each section?
    • Does each student in each of my classes appear on at least 4 of my Unison Reading records for the 1st marking period?
    If so, you're golden!  If you're close, use the next 8 days wisely to get to the mandates.  If you're not close, please reach out to me ASAP, so that we can conference and figure out where the hiccups in your implementation seem to be.

    Next marking period has 28 days, but the mandates are still the same.  So, you have more flexibility in how you might program the marking period.  Here's an example of how you might make your schedules.

    *OPEN LC Format mean that you can do any learning cultures format that you want (Learning Groups, more conferences, more unison reading, etc.)

    The bottom line is that you have to meet the mandates for the second marking period.  If you need extra support, please reach out to me, Emily, Tara, Nicia, and/or your grade or subject team members who may be excelling in areas in which you struggle.  Conversely, if you see a member of your team struggling, the community expectation is to reach out to see how you might support their work and efforts if the ask!

    Additionally, please familiarize yourself with the LC rubrics.  They will help guide your implementation of the formats.  Just as I did with the Environment, I will be coming around this week to give feedback on Unison Reading.  

    Sunday, September 23, 2012

    Your Awesomeness + Support = You Rocking it OUT!

    Yup. You. Awesome.

    First, let me say thank you.

    This week I've started my conferencing schedule with all of you.  Continually I am inspired and impressed with your commitment and level of work.  You are an incredibly dedicated and talented staff, and sometimes I get so super excited about pushing you to the next step, that I forget to celebrate how far you've come.  Let's pause for a minute to look back.  Over the last 8 school days, all of you have successfully 
    • Scheduled and launched conferences, giving our girls the important individual attention they need.
    • Provided girls with the full picture of responsibilities through the unit contracts.
    • Empowered our girls with the agency to set goals around those unit expectations
    • Transformed your classroom spaces into a tool for their learning
    • Begun the hard work of developing your classroom communities
    When you're feeling like the weeds are gonna consume you, it's hard to feel like you're doing good work until you make yourself stop and look back.  So, please take that moment right now and reflect on how far you've already come in your teaching, your work with the girls, and your approach as an educator.  All of this has happened in just 8 school days!

    If you happen to be reading this over your Sunday morning coffee (because that's the kind of workaholic you are), take a minute to read this Op Ed from the Times.  It talks about developing grit in our students.  The same grit that you guys show me every single day!

    Professional Development

    In the upcoming weeks, I will be working with Tom & Ian in their Group Q Geometry class.  This form of PD is what's known as a residency in the Learning Cultures world.  Through my work with Tom & Ian, I will not only provide them support and guidance as they continue their good work, but also I will have a better understanding of the challenges you guys face every day as you work in this.   

    Tom & Ian will be the first of my residencies and I hope to do one of these each month.  I encourage you guys to come in to see our work with Group Q as we conduct conferences, build out resources for Work Time, and run Unison Reading groups.

    Emily and Tara, our Learning Cultures coaches, will be pushing into classrooms as well as providing extended coaching sessions.  In the high school, Emily is working with Noam and Darby to help them develop anchor classrooms that we can use as models for our own professional development.  Tara is working with Hassan, Marianna, and Damon to launch LC in their classes.  I am working with everyone else.  Together, we encourage you all to reach out to us whenever you need support, and come visit the classrooms we're in with teachers to see various formats in action.  Soon, we'll be sharing a PD calendar to help you know where to and what you can see!  Keep an eye out.

    There are many more PD opportunities coming up.  My next round of visits will be focusing on your Unison Reading Groups.  To prepare for those visits (which will start next week), please take a moment to review the following

    Once we get the schedule and offerings settled with Tara, Emily, and Kelly, I'll post up the PD support opportunities for you here on the blog.

    Tuesday, September 18, 2012

    Benchmark Visits

    Benchmark Classroom Visits

    I just wanted to say thank you for my most recent round of visits!  Considering the condition which all of our classrooms were in a mere two weeks ago, I can honestly say that I am floored with the transformation our learning communities have taken due to your hard work and dedication.  You should be proud of yourselves!  I certainly am!

    Here are some highlighted rubric points from the visits

    • September Environment Benchmark (SEB), Teacher 1a: Teacher’s interaction with students are aimed to help them to establish independent activity goals.  
      In Jessica's Chemistry Class
      , Sky explained to me how much she loved her learning videos.  "It's like she's still teaching me, but I get to pause, rewind, or replay her whenever I want.  "Look at my notes!" she says as she proudly thrusts her notebook to me, "I always wrote down things before, but now I'm actually using them to do my work!"  
    • SEB Student 2b:  Students are free to express themselves and may move freely about the room during independent worktime, demonstrating responsibility for adhering to ground rules for collaboration (i.e., they are on task and non- disruptive). Assigned seating is highly discouraged (students need to learn to collaborate responsibly and cannot do so when choices are restricted).  
      In Elena's Spanish Class
      , Olufemi walked back to the resource wall to figure out which worksheet to begin working on.  I asked her how she was making her choice.  At first, she just said "I don't know."  Then, I just kept looking at her, so in true Femi fashion, she sighed, trudged to her desk, and returned with her learning contract which listed the learning targets.  I watched her reread the targets, look at the wall of worksheets, and pick one of them.  I asked her why she picked that particular one.  She said "I got to choose which targets I wanted to do.  So, I chose these two (pointing to the worksheet).  This worksheet here (one about geography) matches my this target (about learning about the Spanish speaking world.)"

    • SEB Environment 4A:  Expectations for students’ independent work responsibilities are posted throughout the room with 
    • evidence they have been taught and revisited (e.g., charts indicate how to use space, time, and 
    • materials).  

    • In Colleen's Global Humanities Classroom,
       expectations for work time activities are clearly posted, and through the mini-lesson students are reminded how to access resources for support prior to entering their writing work time period.  Additionally, classroom resources are clearly labeled (e.g. Mentor Texts, Graphic Organizers, etc) and referenced during the lesson as possible tools to assist in their writing process.

    Things to think about
    • Work Time Rubric #2D:  Students are aware of and can articulate expectations for productivity and behavior. Students can articulate short- and long-term goals for independent work and are able to specify how current work relates to long-term goals. (students should use Activity Arc (or Calendar) as a tool to self-monitor independent progress).
      There was some inconsistency among classrooms about how well students could explain their work time plan.  Some had calendars and checklists that helped them plan the whole marking period.  Some had only the worksheet that was expected to be completed for the day.  Students need to learn how to manage their time around both long and short term goals.  In the immediate sense, without a clear agenda and CLEAR timers (e.g. iPad timers projected on a screen letting them know how much time they have remaining in a particular section of the period), students are dependent on the teacher to tell them how much time is remaining.  This dependence takes away from their own sense of urgency in the period, which in turn leads to off-task behavior or feelings of confusion and frustration.  Going into Independent Work time, students should have

      (1) A plan for what they are going to do (task) and how they are going to do it (resources)
      (2) Understand how that immediate work connects to the broader assignments and/or learning targets
      (3) Know how much time they have to work on their projects

      If you are finding that students lack this direction, you need to plan for mini-lessons (if you see a large majority of the class struggling in this way) and/or conferences (for individual cases) that will instill with them the expectation and capacity to achieve these three core pieces prior to entering into Work Time.  Additionally, focusing your development of quality UR groups will build student capacity to independently problem solve and plan for their tasks (more on this in my next post).
    • Work Time Rubric #2C:   Students have on their possession materials needed to succeed in meeting goals for independent work. AND Environment Rubric #4a:  General resources available on every table include Standards Indicators, dictionary, and sharpened pencils, pens, paper, etc. Resources & materials for independent activities are clearly identified,accessible and ready for student use.

      Additionally, the resources available to students varied widely from class to class.  Some students had a very clear understanding of where to look to get help to complete assigned tasks.  Others expressed frustration as they worked on worksheets, uncertain where to turn to get help on problems they didn't understand, maps that were confusing, or concepts that didn't make sense to them.  For every task that you ask students to complete, please make sure that the necessary resources are available.  For example

      (1) Videos and links to explain new or review concepts
      (2) Mentor Texts to model types of writing or problem solutions
      (3) General Materials (e.g. dictionaries, rulers, calculators, whiteboards, pens, paper, etc.)

    I'll be conferencing with each one of you to discuss your individual strengths, needs and goals regarding the Benchmark Visits (see calendar below).  If you want see how the whole school did, here are the complete results

    Wednesday, September 12, 2012

    Classroom Environment

    Benchmarking and Goal Setting

    Last week and this week, you guys have been working hard to analyze initial assessment data to help students set goals in each of your classes.  This week, I'll be doing the same in your classrooms with your classroom environment.  I'll be using a hybrid rubric from the LC Classroom Environment and Independent Work Time rubrics to get this snapshot.  Originally, I was going to come in on Friday, but given the rhythm of my days this week, I'm afraid that I won't get to everyone on Friday.  So, I'm going to split you guys over two days (Thursday & Friday).

    Remember - this is a benchmarking visit! It's ok if you don't feel proficient at all of the areas.  That's totally normal!!  I've given you all of the expectations so that you can know where you need to go (kinda like when you guys give access to the state standards to the girls).  These visits will be followed by my conference schedule for the marking period.  So, we will definitely get a chance to talk about your strengths, needs, and goals!

    There are 5 main areas that I'm going to look at.  For specifics, be sure to click that link above.  I am expecting you to have a working knowledge of this rubric, so please shoot me questions or concerns that you have.

    • Teacher - How are you promoting independence and engagement?
    • Student - How are students establishing their goals and accessing resources to achieve those goals?
    • Physical Environment -  How well and freely are students using the physical space and classroom resources to set and achieve independent work time goals?  
    • Materials and Records -  Have you organized (and are you using) binders to keep track of at minimum the conference records (and Unison Reading records for LC classes)?
    A Word on Social Norms - This is definitely an area in development.  To give you an idea of where we're going - Here's what I'm looking at in my visits:
      • To what extent do all members of the learning community (teachers, students, admin) have input into the rules and expectations of the classroom?  To what extent do the members of the classroom community correct and redirect behaviors that are outside of the agreed upon norms?  (Right now, I expect to see a lot of teacher redirection, but ultimately, students should also feel the responsibility of holding the community responsible to the norms)

    Monday, September 10, 2012

    Happy First Full Week

    Reflections & Shout Outs

    What a wonderful start to our first full week of school! 

    I was thrilled to get into almost everyone's classrooms today.  Today I saw so many of our teachers pushing themselves way beyond their comfort zones and into the full throws of Learning Cultures.  For most of you, it was new and it was scary.  However, I saw some impressive first days and moves, and you should all feel proud of the efforts you put forth and the risks you pushed yourselves to take!   Here is smal sampling of what I got to see and hear today
    • In Natasha's class, I watched Natasha and Ian in conferences while the rest of the group worked independently.  During this independent work time, I watched Diamond Blackman use the textbook to find the evidence she needed to prove to her doubtful table mates that the Arctic Ocean was, in fact, the elusive 4th ocean for which they were looking.
    • In Darby's class, I watched students flip through binders of mentor texts to get ideas for their own writing tasks while Darby conferenced with Kerrie Bell about her individual strengths, needs, and goals in writing.
    • In Tom's class, I saw him push students to breach as they read in Unison and to ask questions when they got stuck.
    There were so many more wonderful instances, which I'll definitely share with you each individually.  As the blog goes on, I will make sure to continue this shout out section in celebration of all of your pedagogical prowess!

    In addition this awesomeness, I also wanted to draw attention to some common hiccups that can hinder the capability of students' independence.  These are two easy-fix items that I noticed in many of the classrooms.  
    • Be sure that all students can clearly understand and see how much time remains in each portion of the lesson (Agenda with times, for example).  It's hard for students to learn how to manage their time when they are uncertain of how much time they have.
    • Remember to make sure students have time to struggle.  Be mindful of the message you send and the tone you set when you rove to tend to student questions.  I spoke with several of you today regarding this idea.  The common thread among all the conversations was about how hard it was to resist the reflex to immediately respond to the raised hand.  However, it is also the very thing that makes our students over-dependent on us.  Their first instinct is to seek out the teacher rather than exhaust their own resources.  We need to flip that order, and part of the work in doing so, is being mindful of our own actions in the classroom.
    Remember, you may feel overwhelmed and uncertain, but you are making the moves that our girls need and deserve.  Perhaps the best thing you can do is see and believe in the best of them so that you can readily remind them of that when (or if) they choose to forget.  

    September Expectations and Outcomes

    If you haven't already done so, you should become very familiar with the Work Time, Environment, & Conferencing Rubrics.  These three rubrics will be used in your teacher evaluation.  In September, I'll be focusing largely on the establishment of routines and formats (in LC classrooms).  At the end of this week, I'm going to give you your initial evaluations based on this Sept Environment rubric (which is a combo of the work time and environment).  The expectation is that the majority of these items on the rubric are at least satisfactory by the end of the week.  

    There is a lot of support for you to achieve this goal!  Tomorrow during PD, you will have the time to focus on your classroom environment with the support of myself, Kelly, Emily, or Tara.  Emily and Tara have put together some logistical documents for you to review when organizing your environment.  
    Except for all Elena, Raquel, Denise and Hassan, (who, for scheduling necessity, are teaching from 2:00-2:53) all teachers should report to the library at 2:10 to join the middle school for the afternoon session of PD.  Here's the agenda
    • Brief Overview & Staff Meeting (10 min) - Intro with Allan, and Review of Expectations
    • Independent Work Time
      • Workshop Options ->
        • Resource Development & Classroom Organization in Math
        • Resource Development & Classroom Organization in Science
        • Resource Development & Classroom Organization in Humanities\
    • Language Team - we'll meet at 3:00PM to check-in in the Library
    • Hassan - I'll make sure to find time for you & Tara to meet earlier in the day tomorrow.

    Logistical Announcements

    This is the High School Bell Schedule

    • Group and Bell schedules were posted this AM!  This is the accurate bell schedule.  Please make any necessary adjustments to any errors you may see on the posted flyers.  To see the full master schedule, click here - just remember to download the document and open in Excel if you want all the pretty formatting and tabs to show up.
    • Group lists are resolving and should be closer to final by the middle of the week.  Thanks for your patience!
    • All teachers should be welcoming seniors joining sections today as they enter classes they need for graduation.
    • Assemblies for the rest of the week will follow the normal schedules as follows
      • 9th Grade - Fridays in B53 (I don't think they'll fit in the library)
      • 10th Grade - Thursday in Library)
      • 11th Grade - Wednesday (It originally said Friday on your teacher programs, so please note this change) in Library
      • 12th Grade - Mondays in Library
    • With Rosh Hashanah on Monday & Tuesday, we have a four day break from school this weekend.  Please be sure to remind the girls of the schedule.