Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Ring in the New Year with Professional Learning

It is hard to believe that we will be saying goodbye to 2014 and welcoming 2015 in less than a day. The new year offers a perfect time to reflect on the years past, and make resolutions for 2015. This year, in addition to the resolutions that focus on weight loss, making more time for friends and family, etc., make a resolution for your professional learning!

Below find the most up to date, free of charge offerings happening throughout the Massachusetts area.

Massachusetts Focus Academy Spring Offerings:

Looking for a way to earn either a 3-credit online graduate course or 67.5 PDP's? The Massachusetts Focus Academy is a great place to start. Classes are rigorous and offer participants the ability to dive into professional learning with other educators. Courses run from January 19th through early May. A few courses being offered this spring include Assessment of Students with Disabilities Who are English Language Learners (ELLS), Collaborative Co-Teaching in Inclusion Classrooms, Differentiated Instruction, Partnering with Families of Preschool and Elementary School Students with Disabilities. Space is limited, and the deadline for applications is Tuesday, January 6th! For more information on how to apply, and a full list of course offerings and descriptions click here.

PARCC Practice Test Regional Sessions:

Interested in learning more about the PARCC assessment? These regional "pop-up" sessions are worth the day out of the classroom. Facilitated by PARCC fellows, participants will learn more about the PARCC assessment, navigate a sample PARCC test, learn about the tools associated with the online platform and have time to plan with other members of their school or district. I have personally attended one of these sessions, and prior to felt somewhat comfortable with the online platform, however through this I learned more about the embedded tools, and much, much more. PARCC Fellows have recently added two sessions in January. One will be held on January 13th at Framingham State University in Framingham and the other on January 27th at Wakefield Memorial High School in Wakefield, MA.  You must sign up for this FREE session, and from past experience, space is limited and goes quickly. To register, click here.

I hope that everyone has a very Happy New Year!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Establishing Norms... Worth Every Second!

Creating a collaborative and trusting classroom community takes planning, routines and management. Outside the classroom educators are part of a larger, collaborative community. Just as it is important to create and establish trust with our students, it takes the same type of careful planning to create an adult learning community. One way to cultivate these communities is to as a group generate norms. This week I would like to share some "norm" building resources to bring back to your PLC and school community.

The first resource takes us into a Middle School in Washington. The principal in the video discusses the importance of building a strong leadership team through establishing norms. Teachers and other faculty through the building speak to the importance of setting norms when coming together as a new group. They say that this is one of the first activities they engage in together. This sets the tone, and allows teachers parameters when discussing a variety of topics.

So how where do you begin? The National Staff Development Council provides an activity based resource/protocol on developing norms collaboratively. If you scroll to the 3rd and 4th page of this resource you will find the protocol as well as a chart which defines 6 areas to consider when creating norms (Time, Listening, Confidentiality, Decision Making, Participation, Expectations). It is a great resource and visual to work off of as a group.

Finally, The U.S. Department of the State cites Seven Norms of Collaboration on their webpage. In addition, they provide a rationales and round robin activity where groups think about how and if they are working collaboratively.

Collaboration is an important piece of school culture. We expect and want our students to work with others. It is just as important for us as adults to practice what we preach in our own day to day meetings with others. Generating norms does not have to take a lot of time, but when needed are worth every second.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Talk, Talk, Talk

This week I sat in a Learning Walkthrough and had an engaging conversation with a staff member. We were talking about best practice, when suddenly it hit her - we communicate how turn and talks can be effective tools to encourage discourse in the classroom, however without proper training on questioning strategies, routine management and thinking flexibly the turn and talk can loose its ability to be the strategic practice it is meant to be. This week I wanted to provide a few resources which reinforce the turn and talk strategy.

The first is an article by Lucy West titled, Turn and Talk: One Powerful Practice, So Many Uses. This article discusses the instructional strategies of turn and talk, think-pair-share and partner talk. With these instructional practices in mind, West explains the pedagogy and why these strategies are effective. In addition, she provides explanations around the "Benefits of Turn & Talk", "10 Clues that Indicate It's Time to Turn and Talk", "Pitfalls In Facilitating Turn & Talk" and "Tips for Facilitation". What I love about this article is that it is a quick, concise reference. Whether your staff has new teachers facilitating for the first time or is comprised of novice teachers looking for a quick "ah-ha"; this is a great resource to refer them to.  

As I have referenced in many other posts, teachingchannel.org offers videos which show best practices in action. I wanted to highlight two different videos. One comes out of a fifth grade classroom. This video highlights facilitating a larger conversation around text as a whole group. Stacy Brewer (the teacher) has instilled routines and set expectations in her classroom when facilitating a whole group discussion. The second video takes us into a high school history classroom. Here the teacher, Shilpa Duvoor talks about the physical routine of turn and talk in her classroom. She highlights how the physical position of the students helps to foster and encourage discourse around meaty academic topics.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Integration of Initiatives through Edwin Teaching and Learning

About a month ago I attended one of the Edwin Teaching and Learning roadshows in Tauton. This week I met with two integral parts of the Thinkgate team to learn more about the ins and outs of what Edwin Teaching and Learning has to offer. What I quickly realized is that Edwin Teaching and Learning has integrated many initiatives acting as a platform to house DDMs, access curriculum (including MCUs), create summative and formative assessments and generate data reports and graphs all in one place. This week my focus is to provide you with some insight and resources I have discovered through my meetings and professional development on Edwin Teaching and Learning.

The first resource is none other than ESE's Edwin Teaching and Learning website. This page will provide you with an extensive overview of the Edwin Teaching and Learning product, including SIF compliance, introductory videos, presentations and the commitment form for those districts interested in utilizing this FREE tool (Edwin Teaching and Learning will be free of cost for the 2014-2015 school year. At this time ESE is uncertain of or if there will be a cost associated with this resource in the future).

For those districts who have already committed to Edwin, there are a few additional resources out there to assist you in bringing this tool to life. 

Edwin Teaching and Learning offers free one hour webinars. You can register for these, free of charge on the ESE website. Upcoming webinars include:

Assessment Results for Teachers-Images and Addendums 12/11 at 12:00pm, 3:00pm, and 4:00pm

Edwin Teaching & Learning Executive Overview - Wednesday, January 23 Noon - 1PM 
Assessment and Reporting - Wednesday, January 30 Noon - 1PM

Curriculum, Instruction and Resources - Wednesday, February 6 Noon - 1PM 

The newest resource I would like to highlight is Thinkgate TV. Thinkgate (the company partnered with ESE providing the instructional improvement system) has developed Thinkgate TV as a way to reach a broader audience in training/assisting professionals of all levels using the Edwin Teaching and Learning platform. Here you will find dozens of tutorial videos that support utilizing Edwin Teaching and Learning through every step of the process. This is a new resource so stay tuned for additional videos to be posted as Thinkgate TV grows. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Practice makes PARCCfect!

This week I attended a PARCC Practice Test Session put on by Susan Whettle and two PARCC fellows. Like many educators, we know PARCC is coming and are immersed in teaching to the standards, but have we taken the time to really explore the PARCC assessment and everything it has to offer? This week I thought I would share some highlights from this training.

If you have not taken the PARCC tutorial, I highly recommend that you take the time to do so. This tutorial will walk you through the different tools held within the PARCC test. As someone who had perused through the different grade level assessments previously, I found this tutorial incredibly helpful. Some tools to note were:
The Answer Eliminator: This tool allows students to "cross out" answers they know do not belong in order to narrow down the potential correct answers.  
The Line Reader: This tool allows students to focus in on one sentence, paragraph or section of the text, isolating it from the remaining text on the page. Students are able to adjust the width, and height of the text window to use it flexibly. 

Answer Masking: This tool allows students to hide all of the answers and reveal them as they work through the question. It allows students to isolate and think through each answer at a time.
In addition to the tools shown above, I was able to navigate the text, use highlighting, and tinkered around with how to enlarge the movies on the screen (Ctrl+ to magnify and Ctrl- to shrink). As I finished the navigation tutorial, I realize how informative it was for me to tinker around with these tools in a nonthreatening way. If this free time to maneuver was valuable to me, imagine the impact it would provide students to understand how the tools work, and have the chance to practice using them in order to gain confidence now rather than cramming it in right before the test.

Finally, the Fellows highlighted Educite.com, a resource which provides practice to standards aligned questions in an online platform. There are hundreds of questions, organized by grade level, and standard within this website. It is a great place to go for additional practice for students to use the technology of PARCC with grade level appropriate questions.

I hope that within your incredibly busy schedules, you can find the time to explore these resources further. The more exposure and practice we can provide our students to these next generation assessments, can increase their comfort and confidence leading into the new year.