Saturday, August 12, 2017

Hosting a Teacher Conference: Part Four of the "Next Steps in Instructional Coaching" Series

One of the goals of an instructional coach is to support teachers in growing in their roles as a leader.
This might not seem like an intuitive goal of an instructional coach, but if the purpose of a coach is to support long-term growth on your campus, then that definitely involves helping teachers reach their full potential.

This is a challenging goal, because teachers have to want to become leaders. You can’t simply “make” someone into a leader in their grade level or at their school. But you can certainly provide opportunities for teachers to step into those leadership roles and take an active role in leading the school. 

One fun and purposeful way to grow the leaders on your campus is to host a Teacher-Conference!

Teachers always state that they’d like more time to learn from each other. And they’re right! Teachers communicating and sharing ideas is the best way to grow your faculty and your school. The trouble is that there are few opportunities for teachers to share with each other when they’re in different grade levels. Our grade levels have a common schedule within the grade, but second grade and third grade are rarely available at the same time to share.

To support our teachers in sharing their knowledge, we took a half-day from our inservice week at the beginning of school and created a Teacher Conference.

1. Identify some likely suspects
First, my math and science counterpart and I got together and identified some likely candidates.
Which teachers are comfortable sharing in front of their colleagues, would prepare for a presentation, and have some valuable insights to share that their colleagues would be able to implement right away? We came up with a good, solid list of teachers and identified the best practices we thought other teachers would like to see.

The mode of delivery was their choice, but the topics were pre-selected by us. This was for a couple of reasons. One, we had visited classrooms across the campus and could identify what strengths teachers were demonstrating daily in their classrooms. Two, we had visited classrooms across the campus and could see what needs other teachers had. We tried to choose teachers and topics that would benefit many other teachers on our campus.

We chose from a variety of grade levels and focused our efforts on our main areas of need: reading, writing, and math. Our topics included a variety of instructional strategies and methods: math stations, mentor sentences, expository writing, interactive notebooks, problem solving, and language stations for ELLS, among others.

2. Pop the question
After we figured out our list of teachers and practices, I approached each teacher and asked if they would consider putting together a 40-minute presentation for their colleagues. The only requirement was that they provided a handout to participants. Beyond that, it could include modeling, reading, a video, or any other method they chose to employ.

Most teachers were honored and began thinking about their presentations. We told them towards the end of the school year, so if they had work samples they’d like to save to use in their presentation, they could do so before they threw out everything from the school year. This gave them some time to let their ideas percolate over the summer before they had to present in the fall.

3. Build a schedule
Our schedule included four forty-minute sessions. For each round of sessions, there were four
choices. I had several teachers present twice in one day, because I thought their session would be especially popular, and I wanted people to have more than one opportunity to see it. We capped the sessions at 7 participants in order to keep them small and personal.

4. Sign Up!
I emailed each teacher with descriptions of the sessions so they'd know which ones they'd like to participate in. Then I posted a blank schedule on the wall in the library (a common meeting place for us) and I left little slips of paper next to it so people would remember which sessions they'd signed up for. Teachers signed up for the sessions they wanted and recorded their "note to self" on the little slip. That way they'd remember their schedule for the day!




















Overall, we received great feedback for the teacher conferences. Our teachers were well-planned and presented professionally to their colleagues. The participants enjoyed the sessions and loved learning from their colleagues. And their colleagues were acknowledged as teacher experts. All around, it’s a great way to develop communication across your campus and grow teachers as leaders.
 
Check out the other posts in the Next Steps series!
Tuesday, August 1: Working with Data: What to collect and why to collect it
Saturday, August 5:  Facilitating a Data PLC: How to get people thinking
Tuesday, August 8: Growing Leadership in Teachers: teacher modeling
Saturday, August 12: Hosting a Teacher Conference

And on top of it, I'm going to host another BIG giveaway!

One lucky duck will win my Instructional Coaching Must-Haves Kit, an over $120 value!

Included in this kit: 
  • Desk inbox tray (gonna be full before you know it)
  • My favorite notebook (Bendable)
  • My favorite calendar (Week-at-a-glance)
  • The best erasable pens out there
  • Flair pens (for pretty colors)
  • A mug (Necessary for coaching)
  • Thank you cards (gotta appreciate your people)
  • A notepad cube (for notes)
  • A variety of post-it flags & labels (Fancy)
  • The Instructional Coaching MegaPack (sent via email)
  • The Start-Up Guide to Instructional Coaching (sent via email)
In addition to this, with every new post, you'll have the chance to enter a Rafflecopter Giveaway to be one of five people to win a digital giveaway: my new ebook, The Start-Up Guide to Instructional Coaching, and my Instructional Coaching MegaPack Binder! Over $40.00 worth of products!

To enter this contest, follow the rafflecopter directions below. You can add new entries with each blog post that comes out in the Next Steps in Instructional Coaching Series!

All entries will be tabulated by Tuesday, August 15, and the big winner and 5 digital giveaway winners will be announced!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Chrissy-Beltran/Category/Instructional-Coaching-255584
 
Sign up for an instructional coaching freebie in your inbox!  
 
 
 
 
 
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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Growing Leadership through Teacher Modeling: Part Three of the "Next Steps in Instructional Coaching" series

What’s better than seeing a teacher in action? Nothing! But as teachers, we tend to be stuck in our classrooms with very few opportunities to see what happens across the school, in other classrooms. 

One way to grow teacher leadership is to have teachers host others in their classrooms.

Some people feel very self-conscious about having classroom guests, but if you set it up properly, you can get a lot of mileage out of teacher-to-teacher modeling.

This is how I approach it:

Teacher A needs support in the area of making inferences. Maybe I noticed it, or maybe she asked for the help.

I talk to Teacher B, who is strong in teaching this concept. I state that we have a teacher who would like to learn more about this concept, and that Teacher B is doing a great job of helping her students acquire this strategy. Could we set up a time for Teacher A to come visit and get some ideas?

I’ve never had a Teacher B say no when approached this way.

I talk to Teacher A and explain that Teacher B is doing some great work that Teacher A might like to see. I find coverage for Teacher A’s classroom, or we set a time during Teacher A’s PE or other specials block so she can go visit. (Most Teacher Bs are pretty flexible when it comes to rearranging their schedule to accommodate a colleague who needs some help.)

Teacher A visits Teacher B’s class and takes notes. I have a post-conference with Teacher A to ensure that the learning took place.

I also follow up with Teacher B to thank her and ask how it went. Teacher B has now been empowered as a knowledge base on campus. Teacher A will remember her and know she is a valuable resource.

Sometimes, Teacher B will even allow herself to be recorded. This is especially great, because I can send out the video to other interested teachers who can learn from their colleagues whenever they have the time!
 
Check out the other posts in the Next Steps series!
Tuesday, August 1: Working with Data: What to collect and why to collect it
Saturday, August 5:  Facilitating a Data PLC: How to get people thinking
Tuesday, August 8: Growing Leadership in Teachers: teacher modeling
Saturday, August 12: Hosting a Teacher Conference

And on top of it, I'm going to host another BIG giveaway!

One lucky duck will win my Instructional Coaching Must-Haves Kit, an over $120 value!

Included in this kit: 
  • Desk inbox tray (gonna be full before you know it)
  • My favorite notebook (Bendable)
  • My favorite calendar (Week-at-a-glance)
  • The best erasable pens out there
  • Flair pens (for pretty colors)
  • A mug (Necessary for coaching)
  • Thank you cards (gotta appreciate your people)
  • A notepad cube (for notes)
  • A variety of post-it flags & labels (Fancy)
  • The Instructional Coaching MegaPack (sent via email)
  • The Start-Up Guide to Instructional Coaching (sent via email)
In addition to this, with every new post, you'll have the chance to enter a Rafflecopter Giveaway to be one of five people to win a digital giveaway: my new ebook, The Start-Up Guide to Instructional Coaching, and my Instructional Coaching MegaPack Binder! Over $40.00 worth of products!

To enter this contest, follow the rafflecopter directions below. You can add new entries with each blog post that comes out in the Next Steps in Instructional Coaching Series!

All entries will be tabulated by Tuesday, August 15, and the big winner and 5 digital giveaway winners will be announced!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Chrissy-Beltran/Category/Instructional-Coaching-255584
 
Sign up for an instructional coaching freebie in your inbox!  
 
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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Facilitating a Data PLC: Part Two of the "Next Steps in Instructional Coaching" series

So now you've got data. What do you do with it?
You PLC! 

A PLC is a professional learning community. This is a group of faculty who meet for a specific purpose - not to complain (although a little of that does sometimes happen) or to eat snacks (although snack-eating can facilitate an effective PLC!) but to actually figure stuff out. 

To communicate ideas and thinking, and arrive at some sort of decision. This could be a plan of attack, lesson plans, a strategy to implement, or some learning to do.

A Data PLC happens when you have some data and you need to look at it as a group and make some observations and decisions about it!

In order to have an effective Data PLC, I recommend starting with my post about collecting data with purpose. Then, look at the next four tips to structure your PLC.

1. Data is only relevant for a short time.

I've known some teachers who give a test on February 12 and don't review it until March, because they were busy or they forgot. Honestly, by the time March rolls around, you may as well just give up on that test. It's forgotten. Kids don't remember what they were thinking, why they chose what they chose, or sometimes, even taking the test. Data must be current.

If you're looking at assessment data with a group of teachers, it really needs to be done within the week - ideally within about three days or so. This doesn't always happen in the real world, but it's a good goal: schedule your data plc within a few days of your assessment. 

This is much easier if you have common assessments with a date the grade level plans on giving the test. You can schedule your data meeting to follow the test date, so everyone knows what to expect. 
Make sure you have enough time to actually prepare the data, though. You don't want to arrive at a meeting empty-handed! If you've decided that teachers will bring their own data, make sure that they have enough time to prepare it and know what they're being asked to bring, and in what format.

2. Have your questions prepared ahead of time.

Have a plan to facilitate this meeting. If you get there and say, "So how'd we do?" you're opening the
door to complaints, excuses, and personal celebrations - all of which are sure to bother one person or another, and will not be very productive. Instead, have a set of questions to guide the conversation. 

One approach I've used is to provide each teacher with a form to fill out about his/her own data. They take a few minutes to do this, and then I use some guiding questions for us to discuss. Sometimes, having written about their own thinking first empowers people to share their thinking aloud.

Some good questions to have people think about, in order, include:

  • Where were students successful?
  • In what ways did you teach this concept?
  • Where did students struggle?
  • In what ways did you teach this concept
  • Do we notice any patterns?
Then, you get down to business:

3. Drill down to the "why".
The conversation will invariably start with noticing where students did well and where students didn't. If that's where the conversation stops, you still haven't reached an understand of what happened on this assessment. 

Move into the "why" questions.
This is a BIG one:

Did they use what they've been taught or did they guess? Honestly, if we're analyzing data, let's make sure that it actually represents what students can do. If a student just circled answers, why are we going to invest in figuring out why? They don't know why, either! Data has to be meaningful to be useful.

I recommend having teachers bring a few samples of student work so you can actually look at it together and see what students actually did when the going got rough.

Here are other good questions to discuss. You can either choose a few to focus on, or you can see where the data takes you!
  • Did students know how to approach this question?  Did they have a strategy or a thought process to help them when they got stuck?
  • Why do you think students struggled more with "x" than with "y"?
  • Was there an issue with the way the questions were worded?
  • What thought processes were required of students to respond to that question?
  • Is there a vocabulary issue? Were there terms that made it difficult for students to access their learning?
  • Were the answer choices/response modes confusing? Why?
  • Which wrong answer did students choose the most? Why?
Discuss these as a team, and draw some conclusions about the teaching and learning that went on there.

4. Get to next steps.

So now what? We know kids didn't know what to do when the question said "infer' but they did know what to do when the question said "reader can tell." They didn't know what strategies to use to figure out context clues questions, and they have misconceptions about summarizing.

And then? Make a plan. Sometimes, you run out of time in a meeting. But really, this is essential. All
the data conversations in the world are useless if you don't figure out what to do next. 

What needs to be retaught, what needs to be practiced, and what needs to be introduced? Which strategies might you teach, if students didn't have one that was successful for them? When will this be done - whole group? Small group? Which students?

Tip: If over 70% of the class didn't get it, it's the whole-group lesson teaching. Teachers may need to do some new learning to figure out how to teach this skill/strategy in a different way.

If it's small groups of kids, try a reteach in small group with those students. You could reteach the same way, if they just need more practice, or in a different way if you found something more simple.
 
Over the next few weeks, I'm going to share with you some important information about these topics:

Tuesday, August 1: Working with Data: What to collect and why to collect it
Saturday, August 5:  Facilitating a Data PLC: How to get people thinking
Tuesday, August 8: Growing Leadership in Teachers: teacher modeling
Saturday, August 12: Hosting a Teacher Conference

And on top of it, I'm going to host another BIG giveaway!

One lucky duck will win my Instructional Coaching Must-Haves Kit, an over $120 value!

Included in this kit: 
  • Desk inbox tray (gonna be full before you know it)
  • My favorite notebook (Bendable)
  • My favorite calendar (Week-at-a-glance)
  • The best erasable pens out there
  • Flair pens (for pretty colors)
  • A mug (Necessary for coaching)
  • Thank you cards (gotta appreciate your people)
  • A notepad cube (for notes)
  • A variety of post-it flags & labels (Fancy)
  • The Instructional Coaching MegaPack (sent via email)
  • The Start-Up Guide to Instructional Coaching (sent via email)
In addition to this, with every new post, you'll have the chance to enter a Rafflecopter Giveaway to be one of five people to win a digital giveaway: my new ebook, The Start-Up Guide to Instructional Coaching, and my Instructional Coaching MegaPack Binder! Over $40.00 worth of products!

To enter this contest, follow the rafflecopter directions below. You can add new entries with each blog post that comes out in the Next Steps in Instructional Coaching Series!

All entries will be tabulated by Tuesday, August 15, and the big winner and 5 digital giveaway winners will be announced!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Chrissy-Beltran/Category/Instructional-Coaching-255584
 


Sign up for an instructional coaching freebie in your inbox!  
 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Getting started with data: Part One of the "Next Steps in Instructional Coaching" series

Yes, I know. Data, data, data. 

Yuck.

Some people love data; most people - not so much. But that's ok. With a purposeful approach to looking at data, even the most reluctant dataphobe will find some value and walk away with something useful to think about.

One important note: Students are not numbers. Looking at data, while a necessary part of the job, is not more important than getting to know your students as people and learners. That being said, looking at data might illuminate some patterns!
Here are four questions to help you get started in collecting data:

1. Why are you collecting data?

If you're collecting data to pat yourself on the back or to guilt teachers into something, don't collect data. There's no purpose.

Some good reasons to look at data:
  • To see what worked
  • To see what didn't work
  • To think about next steps
That's about it. When you look at data, you want to dig deep enough to figure out why the data says what it does. Thinking about your reason for collecting data n the first place can help you figure out the next big question.

2. What data do you plan to collect? 

The world's your oyster! Data can be anything: guided reading levels, overall reading assessment
scores, performance on individual standards, percentage of students successful on any given task or assessment, or records pulled from online programs such as iStation, Education Galaxy, or the other 8 million options out there.

In order to figure out what to collect, go back to your reason for collecting data. If your purpose is to figure out what adjustments to make to guided reading, try collecting guided reading data such as reading levels and running record scores.


If your purpose is to adjust reading lessons, you might collect performance percentages on individual standards from a recent assessment. That will help you reflect on how you taught those specific standards and you can decide if adjustments are needed.

This bar graph reflects how students performed on the main standards assessed in this unit, in English and in Spanish (that's why there are two colors)


3. Who is doing the collecting?
Who will be responsible for actually collecting and representing the data? Will your teachers have to do it (can be more effective and realistic in some situations) or will you create it for them? Do you have any software (such as Eduphoria: Aware) that can automatize this for you, or will you need to do it by hand? 

For guided reading levels, for example, teachers at my school collected those individually using the Instructional Coaching Binder MegaPack.

But after an assessment, I used our software to collect and organize the data by grade level, teacher, and individual student. Much of this was automated and so the process was reasonable for me to complete in a short time frame.

4. How will you present the data?

There are so many different ways to present the data you've collected. In order to actually be useful, consider a few things:




  • Keep it simple. If it's too busy, the eye and the brain fail to communicate effectively. If your teachers go cross-eyed when they look at your charts, they're probably not having the best conversations. You might have to make some decisions about what elements are essential to look at and what you can do without.
  • Color helps. To a degree. If you color-code a few basic elements, that can help the data stand out in your view. However, if you have a 17-point color system, that's probably a little too overwhelming. Stick to 3-4 colors.
  • Format matters. Table? Bar graph? Pie? Again, choose the most simple and visual way to convey the information. Do you want a pie graph for every single standard of a 22 standard test? Nope. Do you want a table with 36 columns and 18 rows? Nope. Convey the least information necessary with the most detail possible. And keep the font big enough to read without a microscope.
  • Labels are necessary. If I can see that on my standard 4.2B, 48% of my students did well, and the remainder struggled, it's probably important to know what 4.2B actually represents. So label anything that's not clear. It'll help when you facilitate your data PLCs.
  • This chart on the left, for example, included all the data required for data review. But it is incredibly overwhelming! It's so much information that it's hard to even notice anything. It has data for each teacher on a variety of skills and strategies, and in some cases (the pink numbers) in more than one language. That's a lot to take in!


    This chart represents less information, but it's a little more readable. However, it's a grade level overview, which may or may not be helpful, depending on your purpose.


     This chart shows data by teacher, but rather than noting each standard, it's an overview of the test and how many students passed. This is a different kind of data. To use something like this effectively, you probably need to ensure that each teacher has his/her own standards- or item-based data. If not, it's impossible to tell what you're looking at!


    This is only the first post in a series of posts about looking at data. But it includes some important questions to think about!

    For my next post, read about what to do with all that data you've collected!

    Over the next few weeks, I'm going to share with you some important information about these topics:

    Tuesday, August 1: Working with Data: What to collect and why to collect it
    Saturday, August 5:  Facilitating a Data PLC: How to get people thinking
    Tuesday, August 8: Growing Leadership in Teachers: teacher modeling
    Saturday, August 12: Hosting a Teacher Conference

    And on top of it, I'm going to host another BIG giveaway!

    One lucky duck will win my Instructional Coaching Must-Haves Kit, an over $120 value!

    Included in this kit: 
    • Desk inbox tray (gonna be full before you know it)
    • My favorite notebook (Bendable)
    • My favorite calendar (Week-at-a-glance)
    • The best erasable pens out there
    • Flair pens (for pretty colors)
    • A mug (Necessary for coaching)
    • Thank you cards (gotta appreciate your people)
    • A notepad cube (for notes)
    • A variety of post-it flags & labels (Fancy)
    • The Instructional Coaching MegaPack (sent via email)
    • The Start-Up Guide to Instructional Coaching (sent via email)
    In addition to this, with every new post, you'll have the chance to enter a Rafflecopter Giveaway to be one of five people to win a digital giveaway: my new ebook, The Start-Up Guide to Instructional Coaching, and my Instructional Coaching MegaPack Binder! Over $40.00 worth of products!

    To enter this contest, follow the rafflecopter directions below. You can add new entries with each blog post that comes out in the Next Steps in Instructional Coaching Series!

    All entries will be tabulated by Tuesday, August 15, and the big winner and 5 digital giveaway winners will be announced!

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Sign up for an instructional coaching freebie in your inbox!  
     
     
    Pin It

    Sunday, July 30, 2017

    Next Steps in Instructional Coaching Giveaway & Blog Series

    When I transitioned from the classroom to instructional coaching, it took me a while to figure out what to blog about, and what product to make to support people who needed it.

    I spent a while working on materials I would've needed if I'd still been in the classroom. After that, I worked on materials and blog posts that would support the teachers I was working with. Finally, I realized how little support is out there for instructional coaches, and I decided to write about that! 

    So for the last few years, I've been making materials and writing about instructional coaching (among other things).

    Last year, I published my Start-Up Guide to Instructional Coaching ebook on TpT. It complimented the Instructional Coaching Binder MegaPack that I'd already put out there. I wrote a blog series: The Start-Up series.

    And the feedback was overwhelming. So many people are working hard to figure out this position, just like me. So I decided to have a go at it again.

    This year, I'm blogging about the Next Steps in Instructional Coaching. You've organized your systems, got your room set upplanned your PD, set up an action plan for support, and set some goals for your work. Now what?

    Over the next few weeks, I'm going to share with you some important information about these topics:

    Tuesday, August 1: Working with Data: What to collect and why to collect it
    Saturday, August 5:  Facilitating a Data PLC: How to get people thinking
    Tuesday, August 8: Growing Leadership in Teachers: teacher modeling
    Saturday, August 12: Hosting a Teacher Conference

    And on top of it, I'm going to host another BIG giveaway!

    One lucky duck will win my Instructional Coaching Must-Haves Kit, an over $120 value!

    Included in this kit: 
    • Desk inbox tray (gonna be full before you know it)
    • My favorite notebook (Bendable)
    • My favorite calendar (Week-at-a-glance)
    • The best erasable pens out there
    • Flair pens (for pretty colors)
    • A mug (Necessary for coaching)
    • Thank you cards (gotta appreciate your people)
    • A notepad cube (for notes)
    • A variety of post-it flags & labels (Fancy)
    • The Instructional Coaching MegaPack (sent via email)
    • The Start-Up Guide to Instructional Coaching (sent via email)
    In addition to this, with every new post, you'll have the chance to enter a Rafflecopter Giveaway to be one of five people to win a digital giveaway: my new ebook, The Start-Up Guide to Instructional Coaching, and my Instructional Coaching MegaPack Binder! Over $40.00 worth of products!

    To enter this contest, follow the rafflecopter directions below. You can add new entries with each blog post that comes out in the Next Steps in Instructional Coaching Series!

    All entries will be tabulated by Tuesday, August 15, and the big winner and 5 digital giveaway winners will be announced!

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Chrissy-Beltran/Category/Instructional-Coaching-255584
     
    Sign up for an instructional coaching freebie in your inbox!  
     
     
    Pin It

    Friday, July 21, 2017

    Big News from Buzzing with Ms. B

    I just got back from the TpT conference, and so I figured it's time to make some pretty huge announcements. Because big things are going on around here.

    Really big things.

    Like, some of the biggest things in my whole life. Aside from getting married. Or maybe not. This might be bigger.

    There are two big changes coming to a Buzzing with Ms. B near you. And these are what they are:

    I am having a baby!  We’re due in late November.
    AND

    I have left working at a school, and now I’m going to work with schools!

    Here are some details:

    #1 The baby thing:
    We’ve been trying to have a baby for a few years, but between my issues and my hunnybun’s issues, it was sort of a nonstarter for a while. Finally, after the miracle that is modern fertility science, we are five and a half months pregnant!

    And guess what?  It's a girl!

    We are over the moon. Aside from my constant pregnancy anxiety
    (during which I have spent entire days on the following), I'm feeling pretty good.
    • Eating something without thinking and being sure I’ve had listeria.
    • Coating myself in bug spray to avoid Zika (I live in a desert, guys).
    • Feeling the baby kick and worrying she’s kicking too much.
    • Not feeling the baby kick and worrying she’s kicking too little.
    • Visiting the ER on vacation because I thought I had a blood clot in my leg.
    • Holding my breath around smokers.
    • Googling whether attending a conference can damage the baby's hearing.
    • Stressing about which sleeping position is best.  
    • Sorting through tons of hand-me-downs and trying to figure out what the various straps & snaps are for. (No packaging!)
    Please tell me this is normal.
    So I think it’s safe to say, it’s been a little emotional.

    So far, I haven’t done a ton of stuff for baby (it’s hard for me to accept that she’ll actually be here in November), but because I have the most generous friends and and family, I have a ton of stuff. My sister-in-law gave me so many hand-me-downs, and so did several of my friends who’d recently had babies.

    I've really only done two things.
    1. I made an Amazon gift registry. So that's was overwhelming. I add stuff to it all the time when people tell me about baby must-haves.

    2. I have cleaned out the baby’s room (which was my husband’s office - sorry, honey), and rebuilt the office in the guest bedroom.

    That’s it.

    The only other thing I’ve done in preparation for this baby is…

    #2 I left my job.

    ACK!
    I know! I left my job! So here’s what I’m thinking:

    I work a lot. Like, a whole lot of hours of my life are spent at school, thinking about school, and getting to and from school. And I feel like that’s the level of dedication that my specific school requires and deserves. Then I come home and think about TpT for at least a few hours each day.

    I know myself. I know that if I feel like I’m not doing justice to my school or to my little bun, or the hunnybun, I’m going to be very frustrated with myself. I’m not good at juggling like so many people are. I’m sort of like a horse with blinders. I’m a one-track mind kind of person. The thing that I have the hardest time accepting is when I don't accomplish "enough". When I don't get done the things I planned to get done. So I didn’t feel like I could effectively balance home and work. Kudos to anyone who does.

    So I’m staying home. However, I still plan on eating and having a roof over my head. And, on top of that, I am currently experiencing school withdrawls. I see your Instagram posts - Target Dollar Spot and new bulletin boards. Planning your first few weeks, and integrating technology. And I know I can’t not be a school person. That’s what I do. So I plan to do a few things with myself to continue to support the education community. Here’s what I plan to do:

    Keep on TPTing.
    Keep on blogging. I love to share ideas.
    Consult with schools. I love working with teachers!
    Add video. I know it’s a great way to reach teachers directly all over the world, so this is going to be a big focus for me over the next couple months.

    So don’t worry. I have no idea what life will look like after November, but till then, you’ll actually see more of me; not less. I’m here to stay, teachers. Girl gotta TPT.
     
     
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    Tuesday, May 23, 2017

    5 End-of-Year Tasks for Instructional Coaches

    It's May. Are you counting the days?

    If you answer no, I don't believe you. I love my job and I'm counting the days. These two things are not mutually exclusive. There are 11 days left in school. Of those 11 days, one is an all-day end-of-year writing review, one is a field trip that I'm chaperoning, one is a full-day training, and one day is classmaking, all day.

    So I don't have too many days to close out the year.

    A lot of teachers ask, "What do you do at the end of the year?" I remember being in the classroom. Filling out endless paperwork about students, working on fun (and stressful) end of year projects, and packing everything up.

    As a coach, the end of the year is very different. It's just as chaotic, but for different reasons. Here are five things I do at the end of the year to help me be ready for the fall!



    1. Make a folder. Label it with next year's school year. 

    I know, this doesn't seem like it's that big of a deal. But I tend to do a lot of evaluating at the end of the year. I might come across a great article about how to teach grammar, or I might think of an idea to make PLC work a little better for teachers.

    I stick all of that stuff in the file. I stuff in ideas and thoughts for next year, and any order forms that we might want to consider for purchases. By the last day of school, I have a nice collection of things to get me started next year. It's a pretty easy system, but it really helps me remember things that I think are important for the next school year.

    I do this on my computer, too: I add a folder on my desktop labeled with the upcoming year. If I see any ideas over the summer, I save them to that folder. That way, I can hit the ground running!

    2. Debrief with teachers to set goals for next year.

    I wrote a whole post about how to set goals for the school year. This can be done at the end of the year or at the beginning. I find that meeting with teachers and grade levels at the end of the year helps me to get an idea of some of the things they'd like to work on while they're still fresh. I record their feedback and notice patterns, bundling them into goals for the following year. I figure out how I need to support those goals and I spend some time over the summer thinking about them.

    Then, at the beginning of the year, I look back over them and see if anything has come to me over the summer. Maybe I read some interesting blog posts or books that have given me some ideas about how to address those goals. I revamp my support goals to ensure that I'm prepared to offer the best possible coaching support to my teachers.

    3. Make purchases to support next year's initiatives.

    This depends on your budget and when your budget is actually available. However, I find that, if I leave purchases for our school secretary to make, by the time school starts again, they're in my room, ready to be organized and distributed. This was especially helpful when the purchases I'm making are items that teachers need to make space for when they're setting up their classrooms. For example, classroom libraries are best distributed before teachers have their libraries set up!

    4. Make a plan for your room.


    Now that you know where your energy will be focused, you can decide on whether this requires you to change your layout. When I created mentor text baskets for each teacher, I had to make space for one of each grade level in my own coaching room, so we could have them to plan with during PLC. This required some reorganization of my space.

    Look around your room and ask yourself:
    What didn't work well this year?
    What did work well?
    Is there anything new I need to allow space for?
    Is my room teacher-friendly?
    Can I improve the accessibility of items in my room?





    5. Reorganize your materials into next year's dates.


    I start by reorganizing RtI. I relabel binders with the next grade level, and on my documents, I change the grade level and the year to the upcoming one. I finalize the RtI list from this year and make a list of students to "watch" for RtI next year. (This list goes in my "Next Year Folder", by the way!)

    I tidy up my binders and empty out old, unnecessary documents so that I can easily add the new items next year. I pull out anything that's dated (covers, file folders, etc.) and replace them with next year's dates.

    All of these end of year tips help me to be prepared to start the next year without having to do too much backtracking. I can focus my energy on physically setting up my room and getting organized, revisiting my goals, and planning some great teacher training & teacher support systems.
     
     
    What are some of the things you do to get ready for next year?
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    Friday, April 21, 2017

    Teaching Theme with Cloudette (A Mentor Text Lesson)

    Theme. We know it when we see it, right? But it's one of the most challenging skills to teach kids, in my opinion. Kids tend to say, "Overcome challenges!" is the theme, no matter what the text says. Or maybe that was just my class... Either way, getting kids to dig a little deeper requires a lot of think alouds, modeling, and breaking down of the thought that goes into deducing a theme!

    That's why, when the Reading Crew opened up this awesome spring mentor text link-up, I decided to use Cloudette by Tom Lichtenheld. Cloudette is the story of a teeny tiny cloud who feels like she's too small to help anyone with rain or snow. It's a feeling that kids often recognize!

    Cloudette is perfect for teaching theme because the character's traits, motivations, problems, and solution is so perfectly lined up. It's a very explicit way to introduce a complicated skill!





     
    Before Reading: Set a purpose
    Before you read, set a purpose for reading with your students. Your purpose is to analyze the

    character throughout the story to figure out what lesson we can learn from their actions and changes.

    During Reading: Gather evidence
    Use the handy-dandy graphic organizer provided in the freebie below to record your evidence from the text and your thinking about it. Model noticing how the character changes and solves her problem, especially.

    After Reading: Model thinking about theme
    Introduce the idea of "theme": the message or lesson you can learn from a text. It's usually some positive advice that is good to know! Themes (in children's picture books, anyway) tend to be feel-good messages that you'd want children to have as a set of beliefs. Use the evidence you gathered to model how to figure out the lesson you can learn from Cloudette's actions.



     
    Handy Tip!
    Sometimes, when students struggle to figure out the theme of a text (especially when the world is full of themes), it can help to provide them with a short list of possible themes. This is a good scaffold for starting to figure out theme and it will help students feel more successful at first!

    The handout included in the freebie below helps students by providing a table of character changes and possible themes associated with those changes.





    Grab the entire lesson freebie on TPT!  

    https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Teaching-Theme-with-a-Mentor-Text-Cloudette-3115136

    Enter the big giveaway! My code word is: cloud! And be sure to check out some of the other great posts & freebies for teaching with mentor texts!
    a Rafflecopter giveaway  
     
     
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    Thursday, April 6, 2017

    A poetry strategy that works for upper elementary

    When our standards changed and poetry was suddenly really important, a lot of us had to re-evaluate our approach. Poetry was being tested on our STAAR test in more and more complex ways, and so students were being held accountable for more than simply loving poetry.

    I loved reading poetry with kids and having awesome discussions about the language, message, and the poet. But when it came down to it, without my guidance, kids just didn't know where to start when reading poetry.

    They'd read the title, fumble through the stanzas, find some figurative language, and have absolutely no idea what the poem was about.

    I knew this wouldn't work. How could I help kids use a consistent approach to poetry so they'd know where to start to comprehend a poem?

    I spoke to several experts, and something that kept coming up was the SOAPSTONE strategy used for high school and college students. You might remember using it in school yourself. It's a handy acronym that helps students identify the essential elements of the poem.


    My colleague and I decided to create something similar for our upper elementary students, and so POETS was born!

    The POETS acronym stands for the following. We color-coded each part so students would have a visual connection to these elements:

    Preview (black - pencil)
    Occasion (green)
    Emotions (red)
    Theme (blue)
    Speaker (yellow)

    When students are faced with a poem, they use the POETS acronym to understand the poem and summarize what it's about! Here's how it works:


    Preview
    This step takes the longest. Students do several things to get their brain ready to think deeply about the poem.
    1. Read title, notice illustrations
    2. Number lines & stanzas
    3. Read a stanza at a time, make a sketch of the details in that stanza
    4. Find the rhyme scheme by noticing pattern of rhyming words
    5. Identify the type of poem: narrative, lyrical, free verse, etc.

    Occasion
    In this step, students identify what the topic of the poem is, or what the poem is all about. What is happening that the poet is writing about? In a narrative poem, the occasion is the story the poet is telling. In a lyrical poem, the occasion is the topic the poet is describing.

    Emotions
    Poetry is chock-full of emotions; many of them inferential. Students hunt for evidence that can help them infer the emotions in the poem.

    Theme
    This is the most challenging part! In this step, students look for clues to help them conclude the theme. What is the message the poet is sharing with the reader? (In a humorous poem, there might not be a deep message! It's hard to take away a life lesson for "Be Glad Your Nose Is On Your Face".)

    Speaker
    This is so important that I actually have students do this step right after the Preview step. In this step, students identify the point of view the poem is told from (1st person, 3rd person limited/omniscient), and they figure out who the speaker is. Whose voice is speaking in the poem?


    Get em' engaged!


    To help kids get used to the POETS strategy, I tried out a little engagement strategy with our most reluctant readers. Each student received a copy of the poem. They were asked to complete the "P" on their own (Preview). Then, I gave each student a different-colored post-it. I used the four colors that we used to color-code our POETS strategy: blue, green, red, and yellow. Whatever color the student received was the element of POETS that they had to hunt for.

    Using their colors, they got into expert groups and marked evidence for their element. They wrote their answer statement on the post-it. Then they went back to their home groups and took turns teaching their element to their home teams.

    Afterwards, I randomly called on students to come to the charted poem in the front of the room and share their evidence. They used their post-it to mark the line they found their evidence in.

    To add to the challenge of the next round, I took the title off of the poem. Students used the POETS strategy to decide what the poem was all about, and then they came up with a title for the poem. They loved this lesson! They were each adamant that their own title was the best!

    Over time, and after aligning this strategy 3-5, our students have started to show an improved confidence in reading poetry. They know where to start, what to look for, and how to help themselves! It's actually become one of their strengths!

    In case you're looking to try out this new strategy, I have provided a day-by-day guide for introducing it to your class, complete with questioning, in my Teaching Reading by Genre product on TPT!

     
     
     

     
    https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Teaching-Reading-by-Genre-A-Teachers-Guide-Materials-1927458
     
     
     
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    Monday, March 13, 2017

    Camp Write-a-Lot STAAR Writing Test Prep & Review

    Test, test, test, blah, blah, blah. It seems like that's all we hear this time of year. Underline your evidence. Mark out unlikely choices. Check your bubbles. Blah, blah, blah. Tests are boring. There's no way around it. 
    We don't have much wiggle room when it comes to giving state-mandated tests, but we do have a choice in how we prepare for them! Last year, my teachers and I talked about this during PLC and decided we wanted an engaging, stress-free review for kids.
    That's why I put together this camping-themed STAAR Writing test prep and review to help students get ready for their big writing test in a fun and engaging way. It's also important to help reduce kids' (and your!) stress about the big day of the test.
    Kids love (and remember)  hands-on, interactive activities that require them to figure things out and actively apply their learning. I wanted to balance that with making sure that they had practice in the important areas they'd be tested on. 

    Setting the Scene
    Some teachers decorated the hallways or their classrooms with cute butcher paper cut-outs of trees, rivers, and bushes. Wearing a cap or visor and a whistle adds a little camping-themed fun to the day! I'd also recommend reading aloud a fun camping book, such as A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee to get your day started in a camping frame of mind!

    Moving Through the Stations
    We did our test prep review the day before our big test. We took the whole day and used it to go through some fun, hands-on writing stations! Every student got a fun paper bracelet with an image for each station on it. As they completed a station, we used a hole puncher to mark them!

    Another easy way to record the stations is with a punch card, or a signature card. Other teachers in the grade level used these cute badges to show which stations the kids had completed. As they finished the station, they colored in the icon on the badge and they glued it on their badge sheet. (My personal preference was the bracelet :)

    If you have a group of teachers who'd like to do this fun activity with you, you can each take a station and have kids move from class-to-class to accomplish them. If not, it's just as fun in your own classroom!

    Camping Stations!
    We had ten engaging stations to get through on our fun camp day. These are some of my favorites!

    Sentence Sort
    https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Camp-Write-a-Lot-STAAR-Writing-Test-Prep-2459907 
    One skill that's necessary for both revision and editing is being able to identify complete sentences, run-ons, and fragments. I recorded a ton of each of these phrases and sentences on sentence strips and had kids sort them into those three categories. 
    In the complete sentence category, I tried to include simple, compound, and complex sentences so students had practice in reviewing each of those sentence types. 
     
       
    Revision Station
    https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Camp-Write-a-Lot-STAAR-Writing-Test-Prep-2459907 
    For this station, I wrote several boring compositions on chart paper. I tried to do a lot of the things kids do that make their writing uninteresting: repeating lines and words, having little development, unoriginal details. 
    Students were tasked to revise the composition using more interesting details and sentences. They were challenged to use the skills they had learned all year to make this piece of writing engaging and convincing to the reader. 
    As you can see, this piece is still under construction, but students have begun to think about using different types of sentences and specific language. 
     
     
     
    Editing Station
    https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Camp-Write-a-Lot-STAAR-Writing-Test-Prep-2459907
    Do your kids love using dry-erase markers? Mine always do! For this editing station, I wrote sentences on sentence strips. In each sentence there was one specific error, whether it was spelling, capitalization, punctuation, or grammar. I laminated the sentence strips and had students use dry-erase markers to make the corrections to each sentence. Bonus points if you have kids sort the sentences by the error afterward: capitalization, spelling, grammar, or punctuation?
      
    Using Transitions 
    https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Camp-Write-a-Lot-STAAR-Writing-Test-Prep-2459907
    One area that students often need practice in is using transitions meaningfully. I decided this was important enough to merit its own station! 
    For this station, I wrote a couple compositions on chart paper, but I left out the transitional phrases, instead marking a blank line where they belonged. I wrote the missing phrases (and a few extra ones) on some sentence strips. 

    The kids worked in partners to figure out which sentence strips belonged in the composition to improve the flow! They used a little piece of tape to stick them on. You could also laminate the chart paper to re-use next year, or for the next group!
     
     


    Build-a-Composition
    In this station, kids have to engage a lot of different revision skills to create a composition out of sentences. This can easily be written on sentence strips, but I typed this one out and cut it up so we could do it in a small group setting with teacher support.  I wanted to use this as an opportunity to review and apply the revision language we'd been using during our writing lessons!

    Kids figured out the organization of the composition and then sequenced the details in an order that made sense. This station might be my favorite because it requires so many skills!
     
    These are just a few of the fun stations we used to review and get ready for our big STAAR Writing test. It was a fun day, even though the stressful test was on its way! We can't change the test, but we can change the way we prepare for it!

    What's the best part of all these stations? They can easily be made with markers, sentence strips, chart paper, and dry-erase markers! But if you're looking for a ready-made Camp Write-a-Lot, look no further! Get these stations and more at my TPT store!
    https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Camp-Write-a-Lot-STAAR-Writing-Test-Prep-2459907
     
     
     
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