Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Fluency Resources

PARCC has recently developed and released assessments for reading fluency in grades 2-8. "The purpose of the reading fluency assessments is to provide educators with instructionally useful information related to how students demonstrate strengths and needs with reading fluency. These assessments have been designed to maximize instructional time and minimize testing time." The resource includes both literary and informational texts (comparable in both length 250 words per passage and complexity).

The resources include teacher administration guides, student fluency recording sheets, class fluency spreadsheet, expression rubric,  and the informational and literary passages for grades 2-8. As I mentioned last week, these resources are currently available free of charge, however PEARSON will begin charging for these in the not so distant future.

To access these materials click here.  The first time login code is MA1788, after initially logging in you will be prompted to create your own password).

Monday, December 21, 2015

New Formative Assessment Tools

Have you or your colleagues ever wondered how they can support and prepare students in Kindergarten, first and second grade with opportunities to engage in tasks and learning opportunities similar to those they will experience on state assessments? Recently PARCC released 16 ELA and 16 Math performance tasks which are designed to engage students in learning while teachers observe how students demonstrate proficiencies with respect to the standards embedded in the tasks. These task include formative tools which can be used to inform instructional decisions. Click here to access the formative assessment tools (you will have to create a user name. The first time login code is MA1788, after initially logging in you will be prompted to create your own password).

Each grade features 2 literary tasks and informational reading tasks (grades K-2). Each ELA task is broken into three files. The first file provides access to the actual performance task (full day by day lesson plans- see example below), the second file contains the copyrighted text (full texts, in color!) and the third file provides resources needed to accompany the task. These materials are currently free, however, we anticipate PEARSON will be charging for these resources within the near future.

Additionally, PARCC has released

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

MA Assessment 2016

It  is hard to believe that December is here. These past few months have flown by and have been filled with excitement. On November 12th, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted on a Next Generation MCAS assessment which will combine elements of the current MCAS assessment with another that is closely aligned to with the ELA Massachusetts Frameworks. The state anticipates this assessment will be ready for administration in 2017. This week I would like to highlight some logistical details for assessment this school year.

2016 Transition Year 
  • MCAS districts in 2015 can choose to switch to PARCC in 2016 and select their mode of administration (computer based test (CBT) or paper based test (PBT))
    • Any district taking PARCC will be held harmless
    • Any district administering MCAS will be held accountable
      • 2016 MCAS test will include augmented PARCC items
      • ELA Composition eliminated in grades 4 and 7
      • Grade 10 Composition will remain 
  • PARCC districts in 2015 will again administer PARCC, but can choose to change their mode of  administration to CBT or PBT.
    • New Tools on PARCC this year:
      • TestNav app for desktops and laptops replaces all Google Chrome and older Java based browsers
      • Headphones required for all ELA/L units
      • Larger screen size  for ELA/L constructed responses
      • Spell check available for ELA/L responses
      • Flag items for review before exiting session
  • ALL Districts will continue to administer:
    • Grade 5 and Grade 8 Science and Technology/Engineering MCAS
    • Grade 10 MCAS ELA and Mathematics Test
    • High School MCAS Science and Technology/Engineering tests
    • High School MCAS retests
    • MCAS-Alt
    • ACCESS for ELLs 2.0
      • now computer based
  • 2016 Testing Window Dates
    • MCAS
      • Grades 3-8 ELA: March 28-April 12
      • NEW: ELA window will be one week later for grades 3-8
      • Grade 10 dates will remain the same
      • Grades 3-8 Math: May 9-24
    • PARCC
      • NEW: Consolidated schedule (End of Year (EOY) and Performance Based Assessment (PBA) in 2015) will be combined into ONE testing window in 2016)
        • CBT: April 25 - June 6
        • PBT: April  25-May 27

Monday, September 28, 2015

2015 Annual Fall Convening Registration is Open

Registration ins now open for the 2015 Annual ESE Fall Convening. The theme for this year will be Education Next....Supporting Student Learning. The conference will be held on October 27th and repeated on October 28th at the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel and Conference Center in Marlborough, MA.

As in previous years, districts may send a District Team (no more than 8), approved by the district's Superintendent to attend. District Teams should choose the day most convenient for them to attend, as the program will be repeated on the second day. Examples of members of a District Team may include:
  • Superintendents
  • Assistant Superintendents
  • Curriculum Coordinators/Directors
  • Special Education Administrators
  • Arts Coordinators/Directors
  • ELL Coordinators/Directors 
  • Principals
  • Other District Leaders/Administrators
Click here for a detailed description of presenters and breakout sessions.
To register, please contact your district office for the registration link information.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

MCAS Data Released

Today the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released the 2015 MCAS results for schools and districts participating in last year. As announced earlier this week, the percentage of students scoring Proficient or higher on the MCAS rose when compared to 2014 data.
Both Governor Charlie Baker and ESE Commissioner Mitchell Chester commented, on the growth. "Massachusetts is a national leader in education, and these scores reflect that strength," said Governor Charlie Baker. "Our administration will continue working to ensure all students have access to strong schools that will prepare them for college and careers."

"The state test results provide valuable information for parents and districts about student learning," said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester.  "I commend the Commonwealth’s teachers and administrators for these improved achievement results. The gains reflect our schools’ efforts to improve teaching and learning for all students."

To view school or district results, visit http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/state_report/mcas.aspx. For more information on MCAS, see http://www.doe.mass.edu/mcas/results.html.


PARCC results are scheduled to be released later this fall. Once released both MCAS and PARCC will be used to determine this year's accountability results, to be released in the early winter. The BESE (Board of Elementary and Secondary Education) will vote on whether the state will move forward with PARCC or MCAS in November.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Literacy Instruction for ELLs- Free Workshop

Are you interested in learning how to administer the Qualitative Reading Inventory (QRI) and the Quick Phonics Survey (QPS) to gather information on the specific skills students need to make progress in reading? If so, the Massachusetts Reading Association (MRA) is sponsoring a FREE workshop where participants will receive professional development on how to administer the QRI and QPS to ELLs. In addition, attendees will then learn how to use the data collected to make instructional decisions and plan daily lessons in the classroom. This workshop is focused on ELL students in grades 3 and above.

Date: Saturday, September 26, 2015
Time: 10:00am to 12:00 Noon
Place: Wellesley Public Library, Wakelin Room

Please RSVP to Pam Shufro if you are interested in attending.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

EWIS Training Opportunities

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education  in conjunction with the ESE College and Career Readiness unit will be hosting a series of EWIS (Early Warning Indicator System) training webinars throughout the school year. Webinars will be held monthly (with the exception of December) from 3:00 - 4:00pm addressing the following topics:

September 15, 2015: Edwin: EWIS and Post Secondary Reports
October 13, 2015: 9th Grade Transition
November 17, 2015: Labor Market Information
January 12, 2016: Individual Learning Plans
February 9, 2016: Graduation Rates
March 8. 2016: Career Development Education
April 13, 2016: Dropout Prevention: Maximizing Graduation Coaches and other Adult Advocates
May 10, 2016: Early College Pathways

The first session, held next week, is a basic introduction to EWIS and Post-Secondary Reports in Edwin Analytics. EWIS details risk levels for students not making certain academic outcomes in grades 1-12. Post-Secondary Reports are intended to look at the post-secondary educational outcomes for students graduating from high school.

To register for one of the webinars, or to learn more information about a specific topic click on the topic above to bring you directly to the sign up page. If you have any questions, please contact Nyal Fuentes, College and Career Readiness Specialist at 781-338-3593

Monday, August 31, 2015

RETELL Training Opportunities

Are you looking to complete your SEI endorsement? If so, here are the two opportunities for RETELL SEI Endorsement Course registration.

Fall 2015 registration is currently open (registration will close on September 25th) for Cohorts 2 & 3. Space is limited, however those who sign up and are put on the wait list for the fall RETELL course will be notified individually to register early for the spring course. To register click here.

Spring 2016 registration will open on September 14th at 9am and close on January 15th.

For more information on RETELL, questions about RETELL SEI Endorsement Course registration click here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

MA Educator Effectiveness Guidebook for Inclusive Practice

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recently released the MA Educator Effectiveness Guidebook for Inclusive Practice. This Guidebook created by Massachusetts educators, includes tools for districts, schools and educators that promote evidence based best practices for inclusion aligned to the principles of UDL, PBIS and Social and Emotional Learning. Tools found in the Guidebook support inclusive practice in the areas of: Goal Setting, Observations and Feedback, Artifact Collection, Student Feedback, Staff Feedback, Master Scheduling, Common Assessments and more. To access the Guidebook, click here.

This will be a review year for the document. Due to this, ESE is seeking to partner with educators at the classroom, school and district level to provide feedback on the usefulness and impact of the tools and information presented in the Guidebook. Any suggestions or comments may be sent to EducatorEvaluation@doe.mass.edu.


Monday, August 3, 2015

Creating our Classroom Environments

Now that August is here, I know many educators are thinking about the upcoming school year. One of the first  tasks teachers do in prep for their new school year is to arrange and rearrange their classrooms to create the best learning environment for their students. Sarika Bansal recently published an article on components that make up the perfect classroom environment, according to science. In this article Bansal discusses components such as natural light, flow and noise to name a few. If you are looking to revamp your classroom environment, read her complete article here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

PARCC Bias and Sensistivity Review and PARCC on NPR

PARCC is constantly in the news and on the radio. This week, PARCC released an article by educator Debbie Sternecky. Debbie participated as a member of the bias and sensitivity review panel for PARCC. As a panel member, Debbie along with other K12 administrators and teachers reviewed PARCC draft test questions for possible bias or insensitivity. To read about her experience, click here.

Additionally, last week NPR's Claudio Sanchez reported on the how PARCC is scored, taking a deeper look into the scoring facility. To hear about the process and from voices of those scoring, click here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Summer Opportunities Available through 5DP

There are still spots available summer opportunities through the 5 District Partnership. Summer courses include WriteBoston Humanities writing course, WriteBoston Science writing course, UMASS Life Science course, Understanding by Design for Newcomers and Revising an Understanding by Design Unit to name a few. Space is limited. For a full list of offerings click here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

New K2 Video Available Online

Early literacy and the importance of a strong early literacy program have been a hot topic of educators for years. Earlier this spring I blogged about the Boston Public Schools Focus on K2 curriculum and professional development, which I had the opportunity to sit in on throughout the spring. This curriculum focuses on providing kindergarten students with a hands-on learning experience in which they interact with the world and other students, ask and answer questions relating to unit topics.

WGBH in partnership with ESE and the Boston Public School's Focus on K2 have recently developed a video, which takes a closer look at curriculum and instructional practice in action. To view the video, click here.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Learning Targets and Success Criteria

We all know about learning objectives. These live in classrooms as "Students will be able to.." cleverly known as the acronym SWBAT. Today, while sitting in a brief meeting I was reminded how powerful it can be to make thinking and learning visible to students, allowing them to internalize and be in charge of their own learning. I wanted to provide information on a different way to look at the learning objective, where the learning and steps may be more clearly defined. This offset of the objective is called Learning Targets and Success Criteria. 

Research has proven that providing students with clear learning goals help students to learn better (Seidel, Rimmele, & Prenzel, 2005). In fact according to two studies, (Black, Harrison, Lee, Marshall & Wiliam, 2004 and Moss, Brookhart & Long, 2011), "When students understand exactly what they're supposed to learn and what their work will look like when they learn it, they're better able to monitor and adjust their work, select effective strategies, and connect current work to prior learning."

Meaningful learning target's and success criteria are one piece of the planning process which can help teachers thoughtfully think through a daily lesson. A learning target "describes, in language students can understand, what students will learn in today's lesson." According to the article Learning Targets on Parade, a learning target should...

"1. Describe for students exactly what they're going to learn by the end of the day's lesson.
2. Be in language students can understand.
3. Be stated from the point of view of the student who has yet to master the knowledge of skill that's the focus of the day's lesson.
4. Be embodied in a performance of understanding-what the students will do, make, say or write during the lesson- that translates the description into action."

The success criteria include steps on the road to achieving the learning target and should be understandable in order to be used by teachers and students to formatively assess learning.

An example of a learning target and success criteria,created by my colleague Tracey Martineau, may look something like,

Learning Target:
I can identify and explain the moral of a fable.
Success Criteria:
1. I can explain what a moral is.
2. I can find key details that are related to the moral of the fable.
3. I can identify the moral of a fable.
4. I can explain the moral of the fable in my own words.
As you can see, from this example, the learning target and success criteria provide students with a way to self assess where they are in the continuum of achieving the learning target, and also identify where they are breaking down or encountering a problem as they move towards achieving a learning target.
Whether you post content and language objectives or use learning targets and success criteria, our goal is to make the learning and rationale visible and accessible for students in the classroom.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

PARCC Shortens Test Time for 2015 - 2016 School Year

Today I received a notification that PARCC states have voted to consolidate the two PARCC testing windows to one, ultimately reducing the test taking time by 90 minutes. The change they hope will simplify test administration for schools, teachers and students.

Here are the logistics:
  • Reduce the testing time for students by about 90 minutes overall (60 minutes in mathematics; 30 minutes in ELA) and create more uniformity of test unit times
  • Consolidate the two testing windows in mathematics and ELA (which includes reading and writing) into one.
    • One single testing window will simplify administration of the test for states and schools
    • The testing window will be up to 30 days and will extend from roughly the 75% mark to the 90% mark of the school year.
      • Most schools will complete the testing within one to two weeks during this window.
  • Reduce the number of test units for all students by two of three units
For more information on this announcement, click here.

          Thursday, April 30, 2015

          Professional Development Opportunities in Your Area

          Looking for a way to earn PDPs, engage in meaningful (and free) professional development with dinner provided? You may want to consider one of the Teach Plus, 5DP Core Collaborative courses being offered Tuesdays and Thursdays at Revere High School. These classes, which are open to all districts are teacher led, providing opportunities for professional collaboration.

          Here are the details of the courses being offered:

          Tuesdays 4:30-7:30 pm at Revere High School
          May 5th, May 12th, May 19th, May 26th and June 2nd
          • Common Core in the Universally Designed Math Classroom (Grades 6-8)
          Interested in ways to engage all learners in the Mathematics classroom? Join fellow teachers in collaborative study of Common Core Math Standards through a Universally Designed lens. In each session, you will work with fellow teachers on developing ways of incorporating manipulatives into your classroom while learning about the theory of Universal Design for Learning (UDL).
          • Understanding and Implementing Close Reads in Grades 3-5
          Are your students struggling with understanding text? Are they not making significant gains in their reading and ELA tests? Close reading is a common core strategy that helps the reader dig deeper. In this course, you will learn what close reading is, develop rigorous text-based questions, how to implement close reads in your classroom through lessons and constructed responses that relate to the common core standards. You will walk away with multiple lessons at varying grade levels and ability levels, so all learners can access the text.
          • Using Models to Develop Conceptual Understandings in Math Grades 3-5
          Are you interested in exploring multiple strategies for modeling Common Core mathematical concepts? In this course, you will collaboratively unpack major standards in grades 3-5 to deepen your understanding of the vertical progressions across grade levels, explore models and conceptual strategies for solving problems, and analyze and create student performance tasks to assess student learning.
          • Designing Rich and Complex Tasks in 6-12 ELA
          We all want to help our students learn to transfer skills and achieve real-world tasks in autonomous ways, so why not learn how to design assessments that do just that? Join fellow teachers in a collaborative, inquiry-based environment to design engaging, authentic assessments aligned to the ELA CCSS. In this course, you will learn how to comprehensively unpack the standards and create assessments that mimic real-world tasks as well as align to the standards.

          Thursdays 4:30-7:30 pm at Revere High School
          May 7th, May 14th, May 21st, May 28th and June 11th
          • Anchor Theme Units and Common Core in Middle School ELA
          Are you looking to strengthen your CCSS knowledge and increase students engagement? This course will allow you to increase your comfort with the Common Core by unpacking standards, exploring and creating close readings, and learning how to purposefully incorporate the Principals of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) into your lesson plans. You will collaborate with colleagues to develop CCSS-aligned Anchor Theme Units that weave the five ELA strands together by exposing students to a variety of high interest texts and engaging lessons.
          • Integrating Writing Instruction into Your Subject
          Writing is meant to be read! Often times, final graded pieces go to their graves in dusty writing folders in the back of the classroom. This course will help teacher incorporate finished student writing into their curriculum to be used as fodder for other assignments. Goals include:  enlivening a classroom, emboldening students, and re-teaching and refreshing the Common Core standards.
          • Closing the Literacy Gap as We Raise the Bar to the Common Core Standards
          How do we motivate students to read challenging texts will supporting their literacy growth? Common Core Standards for English Language Arts require students to engage with complex narrative and informational texts on a daily basis. This course will investigate how to teach students (Grades 1-5) to become stronger, grade level readers while also teaching to meet these higher standards. We will investigate student motivation, student time spent reading, text complexity, they use of assessment data to plan literacy instruction, close reading, and strategies to mediate complex text. This course will be a chance for teachers to gain knowledge about the Common Core Standards and consider how to incorporate new teaching techniques into current practice.
          • Scaffolding Instruction for All Students with a Focus on ELLs
          With ELA shifts in the Common Core-text complexity, text evidence, and nonfiction text-students greatly benefit from consistent use of graphic organizers. Together, we will work with two visual comprehension strategy tools, top-down webs and two-column notes, to help our students comprehend higher-level concepts and to assist ELLs to work at a higher level while still building their academic vocabulary. Course topics to be covered include unpacking of the standards and the ELA shifts, review of sample lessons, and discussion of the top-down web and tow-column notes structures. Participants will collaborate to share ideas and create activities and scaffold lessons that they can  implement in the classroom the following day.
          • The Common Core and Elementary ELA
          This course will support your alignment of student learning experiences to the CCSS. You will collaborate to evaluate and increase the level of rigor in your classroom by unpacking standards, creating rich questions, and tasks for reading and writing.
          • New MA STE Standard Success in the Middle School Classroom
          Looking to collaborate with fellow science teachers on applications you can adopt for your own practice? We all want to help our students learn to question the world around them, but what skills do these new standards require our students to master? In this course, you will experience team and relationship building activities, unpack middle school science standards and create universally designed lessons that align with standards you can take back to your classroom.

          To take advantage of this opportunity, click here to register.


          Tuesday, April 21, 2015

          ESE Wants to Hear From You About PARCC

          With the PARCC Performance Based Test a recent memory and the End of Year Assessment coming down the line, what better time to provide feedback on your experience thus far to the PARCC Team.  The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) will be holding a series of forums across the state to provide  public opportunities for educators, parents and educational stakeholders to comment on the PARCC test. Unable to attend one of these meetings? Do not fret. Those unable to attend can send their thoughts and experience to boe@doe.mass.edu. More information on the forum structure and details can be found here.

          Each forum will begin with information on a variety of topics provided by educators from throughout the state. A list of topics and forum location and dates are listed below.
          Tuesday, April 28, 2015, Fitchburg State University, Hammond Hall, 3pm

          Topic: Test administration (non-technology) issues, including:
          -Ease of administration of PARCC paper test compared to MCAS
          -Use of timed tests
          -Splitting test into two parts (PBA and EOY)
          -Responsiveness of DESE and Pearson call centers
          -Special accommodations

          Monday, May 18, 2015, Bunker Hill Community College, A300 Auditorium, 4pm

          Topic: Test administration – technology issues, including:
          -Issues and problems with delivering the online test
          ·        -Studentsadjustment to online test
          -Advantages/disadvantages of moving to an online platform
          ·        - District readiness for online tests

          Wednesday, June 10, 2015, Bridgewater State University, Rondileau Campus Center Ballroom, 4pm

          Topic: Test content – English language arts, including:
          -Alignment of test content to curriculum frameworks
          -Clarity of test items
          -Grade appropriateness of test items
          -Comparison of MCAS and PARCC test content

          Monday, June 22, 2015, North Shore Community College – Lynn Campus, Gymnasium, 4pm
          Topic: Test content – mathematics, including:
          -Alignment of test content to curriculum frameworks
          ·         -Clarity of test items
          ·         -Grade appropriateness of test items
          ·         -Comparison of MCAS and PARCC test content

          Tuesday, July 7, 2015, Springfield Technical Community College, Top of Our City Conference Center, 4pm

          Topic: College/career readiness – high school tests, including:
                    -Alignment with expected proficiency levels for credit-bearing college coursework
          -Usefulness as a tool for college placement
          -Relationship to competency determination

          Tuesday, April 14, 2015

          Early Literacy Learning Opportunity

           Have you heard about the Focus on K2 curriculum currently showing positive results in the Boston Public School kindergarten classrooms? Its innovative philosophy of aligning the expectations within the Curriculum Frameworks through daily practices of curriculum integration, purposeful engagement, and authentic student empowerment throughout all learning opportunities is causing excitement among many educators.    If you are curious about what is happening in the field of early literacy, you should consider attending a free conference for kindergarten and first grade educators on May 15th. This conference is an opportunity to learn about Boston Public Schools approach to fostering early literacy in the kindergarten classroom. The Focus on K2 curriculum features learning environments designed for students to explore, research and communicate ideas and questions within carefully crafted units of study. Participants of the conference will learn more about the curriculum, framework, see examples and videos from the classroom. To learn more about the conference or to register visit the registration site.  

          Wednesday, April 8, 2015

          Spring Convening Registration is Open

          Spring Convening: Building Momentum, Sharing Success is a one day conference (same agenda and content will be presented May 27th and repeated on May 28th) held at the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel and Conference Center, in Marlborough, Massachusetts. Districts are invited to send a team of 4 to attend this one day event with workshops focused on teacher leadership, district-determined measures, curriculum and instruction, to name a few.

          Registration is now open—learn more about ESE’s Spring Convening: Building Momentum, Sharing Success. Learn more about how to register and read the session descriptions. Districts are encouraged to register early, as session preferences will be assigned in the order they are received. Please email EdEvalEvents@doe.mass.edu with any questions.

          Tuesday, March 31, 2015

          A New Way to Share

          Research has shown the importance of bringing closure to a lesson. In Reading and Writing Workshop the common practice is the "sharing" portion at the end of the lesson. During this time, students speak about what they did during their independent work time, either in small group, with a peer or the whole group. The share provides students the opportunity to learn from one another, problem solve and articulate their thinking.

          Recently, I was able to attend Boston Public School's K2 Focus Curriculum training. They take the idea of the sharing time, and shift it in a creative and effective way, which makes learning, problem  and revision a whole group process, packaged into what they refer to as Thinking and Feedback.   BPS describes Thinking and Feedback as a "time for children to learn from and with one another, discussing and reflecting on the activities just explored in Centers. The conversations during this time help build a supportive, intellectually engaged and dynamic classroom community." Even though this curriculum is geared toward a kindergarten classroom, the protocol could be used in classrooms of students of all ages.

          Here is a quick description of the process:

          During independent working time as the teacher is conferring and working around the room they should be on the lookout for students who have discovered something that might be inspiring to others, a struggle a student is working on who would benefit from feedback of the group, a piece of exemplar work to highlight curriculum, a discovery or invented process that could benefit other students in completing their work. When the group is assembled back as a group, one student or group of students will present their work using the following protocol:

          o   Looking : The whole group looks at the work together.

          o   Noticing: Students identify what they notice about the work.
                                   "I notice...."  "I see..."

          o   Listening: Student(s) describe their problem, their work and or their thinking.

          o    Wondering: Students ask questions of the presenting student.
                                   "How did you…."  "I wonder why…."

          o   Suggesting and Inspiration: Students give presenting students ideas or think about how they can be inspired by presenting students work.

          o   Summary: The teacher sums up the ideas and provides closure for the day's lesson

          This Feedback and Thinking protocol could be implemented across content curriculum at certain times throughout the year.  To explore the BPS F2 curriculum further, click here.

          Monday, March 23, 2015

          Teaching the Core

          Just when you thought you were getting a handle on the different online resources out there to support implementation of the common core standards, another new website pops up! Teachingthecore.org launched just this past week, and is reminiscent of the AchievetheCore.org website.

          This resource contains a collection of classroom videos, associated lesson materials AND samples of student work geared to help K-12 educators "implement the instructional shifts required by the Common Core State Standards." As teachers peruse this resource they will find video taped lessons (the full lesson, not just a snippit), with annotations that showcase lesson elements, teacher instructional techniques and thinking to help support the Common Core Standards based classroom.  In addition to the videos and instructional resources, each video/lesson includes samples of student work for teachers to reference.

          Similar to Achievethecore.org, this resource requires educators to create a free account. Once in, educators can filter through the sorting tool by grade, content and focus. This would be a great resource to bring to a PLC or to support teachers in implementing the 2011 ELA Frameworks. To browse this website, click here.


          Monday, March 16, 2015

          Bringing Technology Into the Classroom

          Last week I attended the MRA Board Meeting. I always look forward to sitting in a room filled with passion and expertise of literacy development and education from across the state. That evening, I learned about two new aps to be used by students, which I wanted to share.

           The first app, Socrative Student, allows teachers to interact, engage and asses their students with different activities using tablets, laptops and smartphones. Teachers can log into their account and create questions based on classroom content - anything from multiple choice, true/false or short answer questions. Once they have developed their educational activity, students can log in and interact with the activity created. As they are working, instant aggregation of data is compiled and accessible for teachers to access in a variety of ways. To create your free account, learn more information and watch a video tutorial of this app, click here.

          Lori DiGisi introduced the MRA Board to the second  app, Aurasma. This app is currently featured on the ILA (formally IRA) webpage. Aurasma is a reality platform that allows its users to snap a picture of a book, or object and can then add a video of themselves speaking about the object. Lori shared that this app offers an interactive way for students to record "book talks". To find learn how to navigate this app, click here.

          Thursday, March 12, 2015

          Writing Across the Curriculum

          "Writing is a complex process. To learn how to do it well takes skill, practice and courage. Determining which skills to teach young writers and when to teach them is a challenge”

          I think Ruth Culham's quote speaks to the current challenges facing many educators today. With the implementation of the 2011 ELA Frameworks and with PARCC just around the corner educators have been speaking about ways to address the increased demands of routine writing and writing across curriculum. This week I wanted to highlight some resources recently discussed at the Urban Literacy Leaders meeting which could be brought back to your districts and schools.

          At the Urban Literacy Meeting, urban leaders spent time reviewing a student prompt and different research based rubrics. Rubrics are a wonderful teaching and assessment tool to help teachers evaluate their student work. In addition, they offer a professional conversation piece for educators to review student work discuss implications for instruction. PARCC has released draft rubrics for analytic and narrative writing. To view the 3rd Grade, 4th-5th Grade and 6th-11th grade rubrics, click on the grade level you would like to see. Additionally, the Delaware Department of Education has developed an extensive compilation of rubrics available on their website. Teachers can go in and access a rubric by grade level and type of writing. To access this database click here.

          Finally, I want to remind teachers of the website Achievethecore.org. This website houses writing prompts aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Additionally, achievethecore.org allows teachers access to samples of student writing with teacher annotations to reference and inform their own instruction and assessment in the classroom.

          Friday, March 6, 2015

          5DP Spring Offering

          Spring is right around the corner..... or at least we hope so! The 5DP is ready for spring and has announced a spring professional development offerings.
           5 DP has teamed up with Teach Plus to offer the 5 District Partnerships Core Collaboration (C2) course. This offering is open to teachers looking to empower experienced teachers in a collaborative cohort of like-minded individuals. If selected, cohort members will collaborate together to align curriculum to the Common Core and share best practices. The cohort will meet for five, three hour sessions throughout the spring (dinner is provided!). If you are interested in working with other content/grade level specific teachers to develop units, lesson plans and grow as a teacher leader, than this opportunity may be just what you are looking for. In addition, to increasing your knowledge, there is a small stipend involved. To learn more about this opportunity and to apply, click here. Applications are due by March 22nd.



          Friday, February 20, 2015

          Importance of Vocabulary in the Literacy Instructional Block

          Last week I attended the Literacy Partnership meeting focused on the importance of vocabulary instruction. My colleague, Tracey Martineau presented on the importance of vocabulary instruction as part of the core literacy instructional block. This week I wanted to highlight some research on vocabulary instruction and ways to increase the knowledge of words in the classroom.

          Hart & Risley published a research study on students' early childhood language experiences. When you look at the graph below, it is shocking and worrisome to see how quickly a word deficit grows across socioeconomic groups.

          There are two important articles worth taking the time to read; Four Practical Principles for Enhancing Vocabulary Instruction and Interrupting the Cycle of Word Poverty. These two publications discuss the value of deliberate vocabulary instruction as part of the literacy instructional block. In addition to the research, they offer instructional ideas and resources to bring back to the classroom.

          As teachers, you play a crucial role in your students vocabulary development. My colleague Tracey Martineau would challenge us to think about the language we use with our students. Are we increasing our language and setting a high standard? Are we using those tier 2 words actively? It is food for thought.

          Another way to increase vocabulary, could be a minor tweak by using synonyms for common phrases and throughout the day. For example, for the elementary and middle school teachers, how many times do you say, "Come to the rug."? What about instead using the phrase, "Congregate on the rug.", or "Assemble on the rug." There are creative ways we can increase the vocabulary heard throughout the school day. And, always remember one of the best ways to expose students to words is to read aloud, and have them read, read, read.

          Monday, February 9, 2015

          End of Year PARCC Practice Test has Arrived!

          It has taken some time, but the End of Year (EOY) PARCC Practice Assessment has arrived. Currently, we are all focused on the Performance Based Assessment  (PBA), which will be administered in less than a month. However, when perusing the PARCC website, or unsure of how to spend another snow day, it is worth your time to try a End of the Year Assessment. To try one of these tests, click here.

          As a reminder the End of the Year Assessment (EOY) consists of multiple choice type questions. In addition to your traditional multiple choice, this test includes drop and drag, sequencing and multiple select answers. Unlike the PBA assessment administered in March, the EOY will not require student to provide written responses.

          Monday, February 2, 2015

          Need Classroom Resources?!

          Last week I sat with a literacy specialist who was worried about providing her teachers with the resources needed for an upcoming author study. Together we created a Donor's Choose Project and within a week, her wish list was fully funded by donor's. If you are not familiar with Donor's Choose, it is a wonderful site built for teachers to post projects that outline resources that would be used in the classroom. Teachers can post projects that request resources such as books, classroom technology, field trips, and speakers, to just name a few!

          To sign up is easy, all you have to do is create a free account on www.donorchoose.org. Once you have your account, you can create a new project. Your project will outline a little bit about the classroom and student population, shop for the resources you desire, describe the project and how it will impact the students in your classroom. It is easy, and it works! I personally, have had three projects funded, and know countless others who rely on this resource to build classroom libraries and student sets of books.

          Or if you are feeling philanthropic, you could look on this site and fund other projects that are posted! So, check it out. It is a great site, which respects and helps teachers from around the country.

          Wednesday, January 28, 2015

          The Latest and Greatest from PARCC

          Even though we are still anxiously awaiting the release of the ELA end of the year (EOY) assessment, PARCC has been busy releasing and updating current online functions.  With the performance based test right around the corner here is the latest and greatest from PARCC.

          Notepad is here! One of the newest features allows students to annotate as they read through the assessment. This tool has just been released, and is not part of the online tools tutorial. To access the notepad, click on the icon in-between the arrow and the X (question eliminator) on any of the practice tests. Students taking both the paper or computer based test will be able to use a scrap piece of paper, however it is worth having them practice using this tool when you can!

          The Teaching Channel has created an excellent video that introduces Planning ELA Instruction with PARCC Tools. After viewing this resource you can download the ELA Performance-Based Assessment Task Flowchart. Finally, the Teaching Channel has released six videos used for analyzing and learning from sample PARCC assessment items. The videos and their links are posted below.

          1. Identifying Texts Worth Reading
          2. Connecting Texts to ELA Standards
          3. The Power of Pairing Texts to Demonstrate Standards
          4. Assessing Text Complexity
          5. Unpacking Sample Assessment Items
          6. Designing Purposeful ELA Instruction

          Wednesday, January 21, 2015

          MRA Conference and Aps and Selma.. OH MY!

          The holidays are a distant memory, and it seems like everyone is back to work with an increased urgency and excitement. While this makes my job incredibly exciting, it also leaves me with A LOT of information I want to get out there- and every time I go to draft a blog, something new catches my attention. Blogger problems right?

          Massachusetts Reading Association
          The annual MRA Reading Conference is coming! The conference will be held on Thursday April 9th and Friday, April 10th at the Boston Marriot Quincy. This year's lineup has caught my attention. Keynote speakers include Georgia Heard, founding member of Teacher's College, children's author Jon Scieszka (Math Curse, Time Warp Trio) and Stephanie Harvey, author of Comprehension, Collaboration and Curiosity, 21st Skills that Matter, just to name a few. In addition to the keynote speakers, the workshops happening throughout the day will not disappoint. For more information, please check out their brochure or click here for a more detailed breakdown of events. If you have not done so, you can sign up here.
          Apps and Appetizers
          Another exciting event, hosted by the New Literacies Committee of the Massachusetts Reading Association is Apps and Appetizers. This event will take place from 5:00 - 7:00pm on Thursday, February 26th, at Tavern in the Square (Porter Square T Stop). Stop by with colleague to learn and share your favorite literacy apps with other techie literacy professionals. To register for what promises to be an exciting event, register here.
          Hopefully, many of you have seen previews or the trailer for the movie, Selma; the true story of a three month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a campaign to secure equal voting rights, culminating in one of the most significant victories in the civil rights movement; the signing of Voting Rights Act of 1965. In and effort to spread knowledge and share this movie with others, 27 African-American business leaders created a fund promoting the viewing of this movie for 7th, 8th and 9th grade students free of charge. Spread the word! The following Greater Boston movie theaters will be offering this viewing opportunity for a limited time:
          AMC Assembly Row 12
          AMC Braintree 10
          Apple Cinemas
          Capitol Theatre
          Regal Fenway Stadium 13
          Showcase Cinema De Lux Legacy Place
          AMC Loews Boston Common 19
          For more information, click here

          Monday, January 12, 2015

          Promoting Writing Through Immersion

          "As teachers it seems we have to spend a lot of time fighting against what our own educational histories have taught us  to believe. We were not taught to learn to write from writers." Oh, in high school and college we analyzed the texts of brilliant (if not mostly dead) writers, but we always did it as an end in itself. No one ever said to us, "Hey, you could try and write like Robert Frost if you want."
                                                                                                                              -Katie Wood Ray

          With the shift to adaption of the common core and PARCC assessments, many educators have been talking about how to increase meaningful writing instruction in the classroom. Last week I worked with a literacy coach and our conversation was driven by writing instruction and the power of mentor texts and immersion. This week I wanted to focus on the immersion process and highlight a few resources I find helpful when educating and promoting this instructional practice.

          According to the Oxford Dictionary, immersion is defined as, "Deep mental involvement". Applying this definition to literacy is exactly what the common core is screaming and what many teachers are now trying to do. In the writing world, this translates to immersing our students in literature and to authors in which they can learn and be inspired to write. Immersion provides students with an model to follow and think about. One of my favorite books to bring to elementary students in the writing workshop setting was Ezra Jack Keats, Snowy Day. Together my students and I would study Keats craft moves with a focus of what made his writing so interesting. Through our work together, students began to do just as Katie Wood Ray would suggest; they began to think as a writer. Only by doing this were they then able to internalize craft moves and try them out in their own writing.

          Leah Mermelstein, a literacy consultant who came out of TC blogged about the "Top 5 Reasons to Begin Your Writing Units of Study with Immersion". What I love about this compiled list is that it quickly generates conversation and promotes the immersion process. This would be a great, quick promotional tool to bring to a professional development or PLC.

          Another great resource I have come across is from the Noyce Foundation titled, "Genre Studies in the Writing Workshop". This 9 page article (don't let the 9 pages fool you, it is a quick and easy read) breaks down the entire writing process, really diving into the immersion phase. Additionally, it discusses different approaches to immersion such as "best guess gathering", "sifting and sorting" and "building a definition". Each section provides knowledge and information for what these practices are and how they can translate into the classroom.

          If you had to purchase one professional book focused on student writing, I would highly recommend Katie Wood Ray's book, Wondrous Words: Writers and Writing in the Elementary Classroom. Ray's easy to read book focuses on stories from the classroom, and student writing samples to help explain in practical terms how students can learn to become better writers through reading. Terms such as "reading like a writer" and "craft studies" all present themselves in this book. In addition to the research and philosophy behind Ray's work, the book offers practical advice from how to set up writing workshop, selecting mentor texts and information on writing conferences in the classroom.