The Pieces and Parts: Thoughtful, Effective, and Efficient Planning

This is a two-post topic that we are excited to be writing about and sharing with you. It has been a great experience for us to collaborate together as a husband and wife team on a topic we are both passionate about. Our hope is that you will come away from reading these two posts with affirmations of the great things you already do for students and with ideas that will allow you to revise how you plan for literacy instruction. 

Last week was Part 1: The Big Picture; Creating Conditions for Biggest Impact On Growing Readers

This week is Part 2: The Pieces and Parts; Thoughtful, Effective, and Efficient Planning

So how can teachers purposefully plan to help students make meaning, get the biggest “bang for their buck”, while working towards an approach that encompasses all mentioned above?  Here are some tips to consider.

Start with the students, not the standards.  

  • Analyze student work and anecdotal notes from observations and conversations and decide what students need next and what part of the framework would scaffold their thinking the best to maximize student learning with the least amount of support.  
  • When we focus on the students first, we make more meaningful connections to the standards for the students — We will in fact personalize learning.  

Plan with the end in mind.  

  • Share those learning outcomes with the students so they are aware of the expectations.  They need to be a part of the goal setting process.  
  • Make the work purposeful and authentic, and connect with learners outside of your classroom.  Make sure students are aware of your purpose, this will inspire and engage.
  • There are so many variables to consider, and we often rely on the chance that the learning experiences we have created for our students will work the way we intended.  However, consider what Pasteur said: “Chance favors only the prepared mind”.  When we have planned with depth and breadth around a theme or topic, we will be more able to nimbly shift our feedback in a way that offers continuous instructional support that is on the cutting edge of each student’s learning.  

Take learning and meaning deeper.

  • Consider using what Nell Duke calls “conceptually coherent text sets” for read aloud, shared reading, and guided reading to take students students deeper into a content area or topic and enrich the literacy experience.  
  • Some books within the set should be outside of what we would normally select as an instructional level for the students.  By engaging in the text set, students can navigate through more challenging texts because of an ongoing understanding of the content, exposing students to such aspects new writing structures and elaborations on a topic.  
  • Fountas and Pinnell offer a free comprehensive resource of themed texts sets across the school year for each grade level here.

Give specific feedback to students.

  • Be explicit so students know what steps they need to take in order to be successful.  Give them the chance to do so.
  • A number, score or grade doesn’t mean much on its own when trying to move students forward.  All students see is a grade and then build irrational walls that block their own progress.  Instead, put the focus of assessment feedback on the “next steps” for learning.

Pull a common thread through your instruction so students can make connections across content/disciplines.

  • Connect the focus of your reading or writing workshops to all areas of the Literacy Framework to help students make connections and transfer knowledge from one context to another. Pulling a common thread through instruction has the potential to lessen the amount of planning we need to do because we are going deeper with one theme or topic.
  • Connecting an instruction thread through all levels of support is essential to effective intervention. Without this connection, intervention support ends up being a fruitless exercise for both the student and the teachers. Communicate regularly with the other teachers who support the students in your classroom.  Share teaching points and your thoughts about instructional next steps.

Our hope is to reflect on our experiences and what research says about children as learners, readers, and writers and connect it to best practices in ways that will create more efficient planning for learning.  We hope you are able to take an idea or two away to ponder as you continue to plan this school year and refine your practice, as we know educators are the most ambitious learners out there!  Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Connect with us – Share your journey with us!  You can connect with Herb and Carrie on Twitter (@hhigginbotham & @C_higg). We’d love to learn from you!

 

Upcoming Dates

Weds., Feb. 1 — School Community Meeting, 10:45 a.m. (Press Pause)

Thurs., Feb. 2 — Kindergarten Registration Day

Tues, Feb 7 — Building Improvement Team meeting, 8am

Weds, Feb 8 — ADE Staff Meeting, 8am — Serves as Literacy Data Team meeting: Focus will be on results/analysis of recent On-Demand Writing Assessment

Weds Feb 8 — RTI Team Meeting, 3:30

Feb. 13-16 — Parent/Teacher Conference Week

Mon., Feb. 13 — PTO Meeting, 7:00 p.m.

Weds., Feb. 15 — Band & Orchestra Demonstrations to 5th Grade, during school day; ADE Parent Teacher Conference Night, 3:30-8pm

Fri., Feb. 17 — No School – P/T Conference Comp Day

Mon., Feb. 20 — No School – President’s Day

Thrs, Feb 23 — Mental Health and Wellness Team meeting, 8am

IMPACT — K-2 Math PD Dates:

1/26/2017

8:30 AM-3:30 PM

 

CO-COA ConfRmLg

2/9/2017

8:30 AM-3:30 PM

 

CO-COA ConfRmLg

3/14/2017

8:30 AM-3:30 PM

 

CO-COA ConfRmLg

4/5/2017

8:30 AM-3:30 PM

 

CO-COA ConfRmLg 

PLC/Data Team Half-Day PD Days:

Feb 14 — 2nd Grade (AM), 1st Grade (PM)

Feb 15 — KG (AM), 3rd Grade (PM)

Feb 21 — 4th Grade (AM), 5th Grade (PM)

 

Advertisements

Building Learners through Purposeful Instruction and Planning

This is a two post topic that we are excited to be writing about and sharing with you. It has been a great experience for us to collaborate together as a husband and wife team on a topic we are both passionate about. Our hope is that you will come away from reading these two posts with affirmations of the great things you already do for students and with ideas that will allow you to revise how you plan for literacy instruction. 

This week is Part 1: The Big Picture; Creating Conditions for Biggest Impact On Growing Readers

Next week is Part 2: The Pieces and Parts; Thoughtful, Effective, and Efficient Planning  

Part 1:  The Big Picture

screenshot-2017-01-22-at-8-02-31-pm

I (Carrie) love puzzles.  I’m not sure why, but I do.  

What are the steps to choosing and solving a puzzle?

Most people choose a puzzle by looking at the picture on the cover, something that appeals to them.  They then have that cover, or top of the box, readily accessible to refer to as they attempt to put all the pieces together.  Many people also have a method, or system, to solving a puzzle.  Edges first is a common plan.  Grouping alike pieces is yet another strategy.  Then as you carefully study each piece, its cut, uniqueness, and color, you find another piece that it slips into it perfectly.  What a sense of accomplishment each and every time the pieces come together.  Slowly but surely, the picture you have been referring to takes shape, each piece an important part of the whole.  As you finish those last couple of pieces, you relish in the feeling of completeness, often reflecting on your struggles and steps along the way.  I often find myself wanting to glue it all together just to save it (although I have yet to do that).

Solving a Puzzle is Like Teaching Reading

I believe that solving a puzzle has a lot in common with successful reading instruction.  As teachers, we need to start with the big picture, or the whole.  We need to make sure we not only read aloud books that are of high quality and interest, but also that students have access to books that are highly engaging.  Along with that, we need to embed choice so students are excited and motivated to read.  We use the big picture, or the authentic context, to teach those smaller isolated pieces and parts that go into teaching reading (ie strategic actions, reading strategies, phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency).  We can break it down, just like those individual puzzle pieces, to show students those pieces and parts.  We then bring it all back together to that meaningful whole for the students so they can apply their learning and truly see the purpose behind the what, how, and why of our teaching.  When it all comes together, it’s like a beautiful picture.  A beautiful picture that makes sense.

Whole-Part-Whole Teaching

In the book Read, Write, Lead by Regie Routman, there is a section titled Responsive Instruction Feedback, and Assessment.  In that section, Routman talks about the need for teachers to shift to Whole-Part-Whole Teaching, just as in the puzzle analogy mentioned above.  

“We often think that if we give our must struggling students isolated parts of whatever we are trying to teach them, that somehow all these parts will eventually come together as a whole.  It rarely happens that way.  We only confuse and frustrate learners and make it harder for them to progress.  In fact, a part-to-whole approach with its emphasis on isolated pieces is one of the three most significant, research-based factors that holds students back and keep schools low performing…we learn more-and more easily-when we start with a whole, meaningful text, process, or activity and embed within it the necessary skills and strategies the learner will need to achieve success…

Even kindergartners-who embrace writing free-verse poems-quickly grasp the idea of playing with line breaks, white space, rhythm, word choice, punctuation, capitalization, titles, and endings all at the same time.  If one of those areas needs special attention, we take it out of the context and explicitly demonstrate and practice what students need to know.  But that “isolated” teaching fits within the context of a meaningful whole, and so it makes sense to the learner.” (Routman, 2014, p. 61)

 

Routman’s thoughts are not new ones, but she explains it very well.  Dorothy S. Strickland also wrote about whole-part-whole framework in her Educational Leadership article titled What’s Basic in Beginning Reading? Finding Common Ground back in 1998.  

In their 2nd edition of Guided Reading, Fountas and Pinnell also point out, when discussing the Systems of Strategic Actions, that “Readers use all of these actions simultaneously in a smoothly orchestrated way.  They cannot be used or learned separately, but sometimes readers revisit or look back at a text after reading once to apply them in a more intense or focused way” (p. 200).  For the visual and more about the strategic actions, see the article What are the Systems of Strategic Actions?.  This quote speaks to the importance of whole-part-whole teaching.

So how can teachers purposefully plan to help students make meaning, get the biggest “bang for their buck”, while working towards an approach that encompasses all mentioned above?  We will suggest some instructional shifts that teachers can make in our post that will appear here next week.

Until then, have a GREAT week!

Carrie and Herb

Upcoming Dates

Mon., Jan. 23 — PTO Spirit Night at Chipotle, 4:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Jan 25 – ADE Staff Meeting – One2One Teacher iPad Checkout, starts at 3:30pm

Jan 27 – BAC meeting, 8am; 5th Grade Data Team check-in meeting, 2:45pm

Fri., Jan. 27 — Fruit and Veggie Samplings during lunches (cantaloupe and bell peppers)

Weds., Feb. 1 — School Community Meeting, 10:45 a.m. (Press Pause)

Thurs., Feb. 2 — Kindergarten Registration Day

Tues, Feb 7 — Building Improvement Team meeting, 8am

Weds, Feb 8 — ADE Staff Meeting, 8am — Serves as Literacy Data Team meeting: Focus will be on results/analysis of recent On-Demand Writing Assessment

Weds Feb 8 — RTI Team Meeting, 3:30

Feb. 13-16 — Parent/Teacher Conference Week

Mon., Feb. 13 — PTO Meeting, 7:00 p.m.

Weds., Feb. 15 — Band & Orchestra Demonstrations to 5th Grade, during school day; ADE Parent Teacher Conference Night, 3:30-8pm

Fri., Feb. 17 — No School – P/T Conference Comp Day

Mon., Feb. 20 — No School – President’s Day

Thrs, Feb 23 — Mental Health and Wellness Team meeting, 8am

IMPACT — K-2 Math PD Dates:

1/26/2017

8:30 AM-3:30 PM

 

CO-COA ConfRmLg

2/9/2017

8:30 AM-3:30 PM

 

CO-COA ConfRmLg

3/14/2017

8:30 AM-3:30 PM

 

CO-COA ConfRmLg

4/5/2017

8:30 AM-3:30 PM

 

CO-COA ConfRmLg 

PLC/Data Team Half-Day PD Days:

Feb 14 — 2nd Grade (AM), 1st Grade (PM)

Feb 15 — KG (AM), 3rd Grade (PM)

Feb 21 — 4th Grade (AM), 5th Grade (PM)

The Emotional Side of Leading

new-whatsapp-emojis

I read an interesting article on this #MLK2017 day about the struggles King had when he worked to raise issues of poverty and inequality in the North, especially in Chicago.

Just before his death, the movement he became the leader of was at a crossroads. Many felt it was time to move away from nonviolent protest in favor of more heated and confrontational rhetoric while King wanted to continue with nonviolent demonstrations and expand the work across the country.

Months later at a conference in Virginia where many viewpoints expressed proved the movement was fracturing, King went into a rage, trashed one of the rooms, and openly cried out that he was done with being involved and just wanted to go back to when he was the pastor of his “little church”.

When we remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr on his birthday, we mostly remember the incredible accomplishments for equality through nonviolent demonstration that established King a Founding Father of our country, and for good reason of course.

But the challenges of his personal strength during the growing momentum of the Civil Rights Movement are just as interesting to me.

King’s struggle to maintain focus and energy for something he had worked passionately for since he was 26 years old was a struggle that reveals a more personal and fallible side to a great man.  Learning more about King’s struggle connected me to this part of our history in a new way — I have a different appreciation of just how precarious the movement was at the time and the effect it was having on King’s morale.

This anecdote about King also gives me strength as a leader because it’s a reminder that no matter how hard we try, it’s hard to remove emotion from every situation; to press pause and have the right response to every situation; and to move forward when it feels like everyone else wants to move in a different direction. There is a powerful emotional side to working in education that is natural but should remain in check in order to keep moving forward.  Learning from the leadership struggles of others is a way for us to grow as leaders and gives us strength to push through challenges.

 

Have a GREAT week!

– Herb

Upcoming Dates

Jan 17 –- 3rd Grade Data Team check-in, 8am; 4th Grade Data Team check-in, 11am

Weds., Jan. 18 — Yearbook Picture Day (will include group photos of our various clubs); Spec Ed Team meeting, Noon

Fri., Jan. 20 — Yearbook Sale Starts (runs until Feb. 3)

Fri., Jan. 20 — Meeting AT the Chamber of Commerce (Herb, Cindy, Jennifer Adams), 11am; ADE PTO Family Game Night, 6:30PM   

Mon., Jan. 23 — PTO Spirit Night at Chipotle, 4:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Jan 25 – ADE Staff Meeting – One2One Teacher iPad Checkout, starts at 3:30pm

Jan 27 – BAC meeting, 8am; 5th Grade Data Team check-in meeting, 2:45pm

Fri., Jan. 27 — Fruit and Veggie Samplings during lunches (cantaloupe and bell peppers)

Weds., Feb. 1 — School Community Meeting, 10:45 a.m. (Press Pause)

Thurs., Feb. 2 — Kindergarten Registration Day

Feb. 13-16 — Parent/Teacher Conference Week

Mon., Feb. 13 — PTO Meeting, 7:00 p.m.

Weds., Feb. 15 — Band & Orchestra Demonstrations to 5th Grade, during school day

Fri., Feb. 17 — No School – P/T Conference Comp Day

Mon., Feb. 20 — No School – President’s Day

IMPACT — K-2 Math PD Dates:

1/26/2017

8:30 AM-3:30 PM

 

CO-COA ConfRmLg

2/9/2017

8:30 AM-3:30 PM

 

CO-COA ConfRmLg

3/14/2017

8:30 AM-3:30 PM

 

CO-COA ConfRmLg

4/5/2017

8:30 AM-3:30 PM

 

CO-COA ConfRmLg 

PLC/Data Team Half-Day PD Days:

Feb 14 — 2nd Grade (AM), 1st Grade (PM)

Feb 15 — KG (AM), 3rd Grade (PM)

Feb 21 — 4th Grade (AM), 5th Grade (PM)

 

Climate Check

screen-shot-2017-01-08-at-7-35-42-pm
Photo Credit: Pixbay

I experienced a moment this week when everything seemed to align around one thing.

Normally, this kind of event is a celebration or a I-can’t-believe-it-finally-happened kind of moment.

But this week’s alignment was more of a smack-across-the-face kind of alignment.  

I had a meeting with one of my building teams that shares concerns or issues for discussion and possible solutions.  I always feel good about these meetings because they feel like they are productive.  This meeting with the committee this week was a lot different, but in the end it has been productive for me professionally.

During the meeting, I started to realize that I am not communicating as well as I need to be and that I have not be “reading” the building climate as accurately as I thought I was.  And it became clear to me much later that these two aspects – Communication and Climate – are more closely connected than I had believed.

Things continued to align on Sunday when I read this great post by Peter DeWitt called “Should There Be a 5th C In the Partnership for 21st Century Learning?”.  DeWitt included the feedback he received from teachers around the world that reflected how they felt about their principal in the context of Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, and Critical Thinking.  Ouch. It was eye-opening to read because I wondered if some of the comments that were shared by the teachers reflected what some of my staff might say about me.

Before the red flags go waving and the alarm sounds, I firmly believe that the climate in our school is overwhelmingly positive.  How do I know?  Kids are smiling.  All of the time.  In the hallway, at lunch, in the classroom.  It’s a great thing to see.  The other evidence I have is in the handful of parent emails sent to me and to the teachers involved I’ve received over that past two months praising the work and efforts we are making each day at Alton Darby.  Comments like “I am so thankful that this is my child’s school” are the comments that mean the most to me.

So where is the disconnect? Something happened during the meeting that gave me pause.  Without getting too far into the details, the meeting showed me that I have more work to do to improve how I communicate with my staff and students.  I need to continue to find the right balance between “You are sending out too many emails” with “I feel like I don’t know what’s going on”.  I need to make sure my teams and committees are communicating with their teams about the work they are doing for the building.  And I need to create more opportunities for face-to-face meetings. 

When I communicate, I need to remember that communication for me is more about me listening than talking.  I need to remember that one of the main goals I need to have when I am interacting with my staff, students, and families is that I am always working to earn and build trust with the other person.  Trust – The thing that takes years to build and only a moment to destroy.

I believe that improving my ability to communicate will improve the overall climate of the building.

And I’m going to need everyone’s help to get better.

How can you help?  Talk to me.  Tell me what’s on your mind.  Don’t let something that’s bothering you wait.  I may not have an answer you like or an answer at all right away, but I will at least know what’s on your mind.  One thing I’ve learned from being a principal is that many small events can have big positive implications if you are patient enough to wait for it.

In the meantime, I’m going to use my One Word for 2017, Check, to help me stay on target for improving.  “Check” reminds me to check my heart, check my tone, check my focus, and check what the other person is really saying.

“Check” reminds me to think of James Ryan’s 5 Essential Questions In Life (The link is to his commencement address to the Harvard Graduate School of Education and is worth the watch). Ryan’s questions have helped me grow as a leader and I believe they can guide me in making sure I am getting better at communication:

screen-shot-2017-01-08-at-7-39-42-pm

1.) Wait, what?

2.) I wonder why/if…?

3.) Couldn’t we at least…?

4.) How can I help?

5.) What really matters?

** Bonus question: Did you get what you wanted out of life, even so?

Earlier last week, I sent out an email called “Always Building Culture” and it’s true:  We are always building the culture of our school.  In order for me to contribute to that process, I need to continue to reflect on my leadership and exercise the gap between Good and Great, making sure that I am better today than I was yesterday and better  tomorrow than I am today.

Thanks for reading this!  Have a GREAT week!

-Herb

Articles Worth Reading

The “Change” That is Continuously Inevitable  http://connectedprincipals.com/archives/14028

How to Complain Like a Leader https://leadershipfreak.blog/2017/01/08/how-to-complain-like-a-leader-2/ via @leadershipfreak

Tim Kight on Twitter: “Are you On-Path? https://t.co/o2BdTvRMVp”

Update on School Start Times for 2017-2018:

Elementary I      9:05-3:30 (Building opens at 8:50)           

AVY, BEA, BRT, BRN, DCE, HCR, HRZ, HTE, JWR, RWD, WSH

AM K     9:05-11:30

PM K      12:50-3:30

Elementary II     9:20-3:45 (Building opens at 9:05)           

ADE, NOR, SDE

AM K     9:20-3:45

PM K      1:05-3:45

Preschool

AM         9:05-11:35

PM         1:00-3:30

Upcoming Dates

January

9 – KG Data Team Check-in, 11:45

11 – ADE Staff Meeting, 8am (Focus on Building Writers!); 2nd Safety Drill, 1:45pm

12 – 1st Grade Musical, 10:15am

13 – Interims go home, if needed; Elementary One2One meeting, 10-11:30am (Herb out);

5th Grade Data Team check-in, 2:45pm

16 – MLK Jr Holiday, No School

17 – 3rd Grade Data Team check-in, 8am; 4th Grade Data Team check-in, 11am

18 – Spec Ed Team meeting, Noon

19 – Admin Meeting (AM)

20 – Meeting with Chamber of Commerce (for Campus Project), 11am; ADE PTO Family

Game Night – Living out my dream as a game show host starting at 6:30 (until 8pm)

24 – 3rd Grade Data Team check-in meeting, 8am

25 – ADE Staff Meeting – One2One Teacher iPad Checkout, starts at 3:30pm

27 – BAC meeting, 8am; 5th Grade Data Team check-in meeting, 2:45pm

IMPACT — K-2 Math PD Dates:

1/26/2017

8:30 AM-3:30 PM

 

CO-COA ConfRmLg

2/9/2017

8:30 AM-3:30 PM

 

CO-COA ConfRmLg

3/14/2017

8:30 AM-3:30 PM

 

CO-COA ConfRmLg

4/5/2017

8:30 AM-3:30 PM

 

CO-COA ConfRmLg 

PLC/Data Team Half-Day PD Days:

Feb 14 — KG (AM), 1st Grade (PM)

Feb 15 — 2nd Grade (AM), 3rd Grade (PM)

Feb 21 — 4th Grade (AM), 5th Grade (PM)