Saturday, December 27, 2014

Write as a Reflection of Our Own Learning

Angela Peery, Ed. D. WRITING MATTERS:--In Every Classroom

Now more than ever our students need to write as a reflection of their own learning.  The Common Core State Standards clearly outline what our students should know and be able to do at each grade level. Writing is the tool to articulate their thinking and understanding to prepare them for college and/or career readiness. Peery clearly explains why Writing Matters. “Writing enhances learning” (pg. 17). It is linked to higher achievement, supports content learning, and is essential for future success in our competitive global market.

What should teachers do? Peery recommends teachers need to include more opportunities to write in and out of the classroom. Teachers need to provide students with ample opportunities to deepen their understanding of content with writing to learn activities. It is “important for students to record their ideas, reflect upon their own learning, and grapple with unfamiliar content” (pg. 20). Students also benefit with learning to write activities which “result in more polished products” to “show content-area learning plus competency in a particular written form” (pg.21).

Peery also highly advises teachers to model both types of writing activities with think a-louds. She advocates teachers clearly outlining expectations with rubrics and specific feedback. These will guide students understanding of the process to support their learning of both content and the process.  Writing enhances critical thinking and increase reading comprehension, and Peery provides ideas for classroom teachers to increase student success.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

How We All Can Learn and Remember What We Have Learned

Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, & Mark A. McDaniel make it stick:--The Science of Successful Learning

Thinking back to all the books I have read and test I have taken, after reading make it stick I am wondering how much I have truly retained. Well to answer my own question, not nearly enough. Which is painful to say from one who values continuous learning. Now, I can only move forward and possibly revisit old friends (text) and do things differently from this point forward.  So what exactly do we all need to do differently to make it stick?

The author’s use of real world examples helps the reader easily identify with what works and what feels like it is working. Whether you are a medical student, high school student, or a life long learning you can follow their research-based advice and adhere to the following.

Remember learning is more durable when you go deep. This will require significant effort on the learner but make the knowledge more meaningful now and in your future (i.e. you’ll remember it!). To learn better and remember longer you need to add various types of retrieval practices in your learning routines including; self testing, spaced out practice, solving problems before you study the solution, and revisit what you have learned.

Practice at retrieving new understanding from memory is a powerful tool for learning to “stick”. The learner can also mix up their practice by spacing their learning in short and longer periods of time. Add variation to your learning by interleaving similar content so you can apply what you know in a variety of different ways. Reflection of your learning and reflecting in writing what you have learned is also key to your long-term retention. (Hey haven’t I heard that somewhere before—write as a reflection of your learning?)

Learning is hard work, but embrace the difficulty. Challenge yourself and develop a growth mindset. You just don’t know it, YET! Work with peers and teams so you can provide and receive targeted feedback on what you know and don’t know. Your efforts are in your control and striving towards mastery will not only change your brain, but also build greater capacity for your intellectual ability to learn and make it stick.  

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Building Teachers as Leaders

PRINCIPAL—A Stronger Team November/December 2014
The Principal is a magazine for elementary principals to support best practices on how to BE-BECOME-SERVE as an effective principal.  I read it from cover to cover, mark it up with my favorite red pen, and often take it to the gym to review the highlights. I consider this my own portable professional development tool. Those of us that are in this role understand how incredibly busy we are and how each minute counts.  The Principal helps me focus on the right work. A Stronger Team

The articles is this issue that were most reflective for me were the following:

Better Together:  National Distinguished Principals share models for effectively working with teacher leaders. By Susan McLester.  As a principal of a turnaround school I was looking for advice from those in my same position. One of the recommendations I found most meaningful was to hire “purpose-driven, self-managed teachers”. They could then be developed as leaders “through training in collaboration, data analysis, and Response to Intervention (RTI).”  Simply stated, “When you let teachers inside your world, you get buy-in. That’s the beauty of it.”

Inspired Instructional Coaching: Stimulate teaching by structuring meaningful observations and feedback that will improve instruction schoolwide. By Sandra A. Trach.
Dynamic Conversations with Teacher
Professional Renewal
Build Teacher Capacity
Improving Individual Teachers
Improving Instruction Teams
Improving Entire School

Multiply Teacher Talent: What if your well-intended guidance stifles gifted teaching, rather than encourage it? By Elise Foster.  It is interesting when you read something that inspires news thinking it often repeats itself in other venues. For me it is the work in The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools (2014).  “Multipliers are leaders who look beyond their own genius and focus on extracting and extending the genius of others”. Foster reminded me how by, “Shifting from giving answers to asking questions is perhaps the most powerful change a leader can make.”

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Re-Read: Review of the Research--The Relationship between Principal Practice & Teacher Effectiveness 2012

Gina Ikemoto, Lori Taliaferro, & Erica Adams PLAYMAKERS:--How Great Principals Build and Lead Great Teams of Teachers

“Iconic coaches are remembered for their ability to take talented individuals and bring them together into a well-oiled team with a relentless drive to succeed” (pg. 5). The authors compare this thinking with a decade of supportive research on what is needed to be an effective school principal. Here some of the highlights of the research and their conversation.

·       School leadership accounts for approximately 25% of the impact of student achievement. (Marzano, 2005, Louis, Leithwood, Wahlstrom & Anderson, 2010)

·       Schools with strong leaders were seven times more likely to substantially improve achievement in math, and four times as more likely to substantially improve achievement in reading than schools with weak leadership. (Bryk, 2010)

·       School improvement of low performing schools does not occur without strong leadership. (Bryk et al., 2010, Louis et al., 2010)

·       Emerging research suggest that principals’ impact on student achievement is largely indirect, through their impact on teacher effectiveness. (Branch et al., 2012; Louis et al., 2010; Supovitz et al., 2010)

·       Schools leadership impacts student achievement by strengthening a school’s professional learning community, where teachers work together to collaborate teaching and learning. (Louis et al., 2010)

Their playbook includes three types of ‘plays’ that principal make to enhance teaching.
  1. Developing Teachers: “Highly-effective principals work explicitly to improve instruction in the classroom in the form of conducting observations and giving feedback, leading professional development sessions, leading data-driven instructional teams, and insisting on high expectations for all students” (pg. 11)
  2. Managing Talent: “Highly-effective principals worked hard to hire effective teachers and match staff with strengths and school needs, and hold teachers accountable” (pg. 18).
  3. Creating a Great Place to Work: “Successful principals made sure teachers knew they were valued and fostered a strong community among colleagues. They delegated leadership and responsibility, and in doing so, gave teachers ownership over school decisions and initiatives (pg. 26). 

The research was collected and the list was made to support policymakers in making informed decisions. Although I used it as a reminder of the specific, purposeful, and responsible actions needed to facilitate success and to close the achievement gap for all of our students. 

Talk Less, Listen & Facilitate Thinking More

Educational Leadership  TALKING & LISTENING—November 2014

If given the opportunity I would jump at the chance to work with Kim Marshall. Every week he reads and summarizes key publications submitted by those well respected in the educational community. He publishes a summary known as Marshall Memos. They are an invaluable resource to busy educators who want to learn and do more to facilitate teaching and learning effectively. They are quick and easy reads with meaningful takeaways.

I will try and mirror his style with my summary of the November 2014 issue of Educational Leadership, Talking & Listening. In this latest issue the Editor in Chief, Margaret M. Scherer opens the conversation to the reader by asking an important question, “How can we make sure that we realize all the benefits of effective talking and listening?” (pg. 7). Here are some of my favorite responses from featured articles.

In Talking to Learn, Elizabeth A. City states, “I want schools to be place of rich learning, and therefore I want them to be places of rich talk” (pg. 13). Practiced group protocols will enrich the discussion and bring everyone into the conversation.  Varied text can support new thinking, but can also include other median such as art, music, and cartoons, to enrich the conversation. “Some of my happiest, most rewarding moments as an educator have been hearing what comes out of learn mouths when I get out of the way” (pg. 14).

Fisher and Frey in Speaking Volumes help educators move from good to great. “When there’s a balance in the classroom between student and teacher discourse, good things happen. When students assume increased responsibility for discussion, when they interact with a wide range of peers on diverse topics, and supply evidence for their thinking great things happen” (pg. 19). My personal ah-ha came from their thoughts on, “Talking to facilitate reading and writing development” (pg. 21). They quoted James Britton who in 1970 stated “Reading and writing float on a sea of talk” (Britton, 1970, p. 164). His research aligns with current thinking today. If we focused on our student’s language development, it supports their ability to read and write—well.

Now Presenting by Erik Palmer helps us to remember to value communication and increase what we expect of our students. “We assign speaking, but we don’t teach speaking” (pg. 27). Model and teach what you expect and, “Let students know that you value oral communication every time they speak” (pg. 27).

From Mindless to Meaningful Laura Billings and Terry Roberts show us how whole group discussions can be meaningful activities for students to share their thinking. This requires the teacher to be cognitively prepared with planned questions at the beginning, middle, and end of the discussion. “Teachers set the stage for a meaningful discussion when they select and use a tangible human artifact—or text—that represents key values and ideas” (pg. 62). Not only do these planned session provide students opportunities to talk, but ultimately they are skills needed for the workplace and life.

Finally in All the Time They Need, by Ellin Oliver Keene I learned the most important concept. “If we want students to think at high levels, we’re going to have to give them a little time. And we’re going to have to get comfortable with silence (pg. 67).  Keene provides the reader with tips on how to hold your tongue and key points to remember when holding out for students to decide what their brain wants to say (pg. 69).