Episode 006 – Aug Elementary Literacy Show

In August, the Elementary Literacy Show sat down with a tremendous panel of teachers from Timberline PK-8 to talk small group learning and purposeful collaboration. We also met with Jessica Evans at Thunder Valley k-8 to hear how she approaches her small groups.

Getting ReadyGen Access to Support/Intervention Teachers

Elementary schools, if you have support and intervention teachers who could benefit from access to the teaching materials from ReadyGen, we’ve made the process a bit easier.

To get a teacher access, they will need to fill out this work ticket.

In the description box, they should copy, paste, and complete the following:

First Name:

Last Name:

IC Number:

Within a few days of submission, these teachers will be able to log in to ReadyGen through Ceran, the same way as their general classroom peers.

If you have any questions, please email Shannon Stimack.

Aug ’17 – Elementary Literacy Show: Structures & Routines

Mentioned Resources

Panelist Questions

  • How do you give students ownership in your classroom?
  • How do you help students think about the culture of the space?
  • How do you structure working with the needs of multiple learners in the space?
  • What role does language play in how you think about structures and routines?
  • How can we better facilitate conversation and collaboration about these concepts in our school communities?

Reflection Questions

  • What did you learn? – What routines and procedures have you found most useful for literacy learning?
  • What curricular resources do you want to investigate further to help your instructional practice?

Additional Videos

Guest Post: What we learned prepping for the Literacy Show

The following is a guest post from August ’17 Elementary Literacy Show panelists Sherie Dike-Wilhelm, Tanisha Lucero, and Jessica Schrader from Columbine Elementary.

When Zac invited us to be part of the Lit Show for routines and procedures, we weren’t sure where to start. Of course, we teach students daily routines – how to manage bathroom needs and such.

But so much of what we do is on “auto-pilot.”

We had to reflect on how we teach students to manage space, materials, devices, and time. Transitions from one activity, place, or content area are important, too. But the real “meat and potatoes” is how we teach students to work together and cultivate ownership of the work that they need to do.

Kids don’t automatically sit down to discuss how they solved a problem or how they know a character changed in a story. Sometimes, even partner flashcards are hard! As teachers, we model expected behavior, practice, practice, practice, and then fine-tune our practice as we ratchet up our expectations. Thinking purposefully about teaching students systems and procedures helps us get to the good stuff–the learning and the creating that makes learning real.

As you think about this episode, consider your routines and systems. Think about the ones that work for you, and which ones you might want to adjust, either to increase efficacy,  independence, or learning goals. It has been engaging to think about some of our practices that have become commonplace and to intentionally seek ways to change and improve.  Come on in and join us!!

Here are links to a few of the resources we talked about today:

 

5 Suggested Steps for Elementary Teachers Moving Grade Levels

What to how with arrow pointing from what to how.

As I said many times last year, this second year of implementation of our new elementary literacy resources will have the benefit of being the “How?” year, after the ups and downs of last year’s “What?” year (as in, “What are all these things and what do I do with them?”)

For some teachers, though, this year might feel as though it is starting out as a smaller version of a “What?” year. I’m talking about teachers teaching a new grade level of students this year. The good news is the overall structure of the ReadyGen resources and sequence is largely the same from one year to the next. This provides students with common experiences and expectations and does a bit of the same for teachers as well. Still, the content of each year is certainly a shift.

This post is meant to highlight a suggested path and resources to consider in preparing to help a new grade level of students improve their reading and writing this year.

Getting to Know Your New Grade

  1. Talk to others. This might seem obvious, but it can be easy to forget when we’re starting to fill overwhelmed with content. Seek out your new grade-level team members and ask if they will share their planning documents from the beginning of the previous year. Yes, you’ll make them your own, and they’ll also give you a firm place to start understanding the sequence of learning for this new grade.
  2. Understand the scope and sequence. Taking a look at this document will help you understand not only the scope and sequence of content and big ideas within your new grade level, but put it into the context of all elementary grades as well. The outline will also familiarize you with the flow of your year and give you an at-a-glance look at what kinds of writing your students will focusing on throughout the year and when.
  3. Consider unit plans and standards. With a general overview of your year of learning and teaching you’re ready to take a look at your new grade’s unit plans and standards. The unit plans can be accessed via the Curriculum Resources page. For an understanding of the where and when of standards, take a look at the resources starting on page 62 of your grade’s ReadyGen Implementation Guide. These resources include a Scope and Sequence, Unit Overviews, and Common Core Standards Correlations.
  4. Investigate your modules. Now that you’ve got a broad understanding of the unit plans, take a look at the module planners in your ReadyGen Teacher’s Guide. These can be found on pgs 6 (Module A) and 156 (Module B) in the K-2 manuals and pgs 6 (Module A) and 206 (Module B) in the 3-5 manuals. They will provide an overview of where your students’ learning will be headed regarding each module’s performance-based assessment and a suggested, editable path of focus for each module’s lessons.
  5. Plan your performance-based assessments. Within each grade level’s Scaffolded Strategies Handbook in “Part 2: Unlocking the Writing” is a wealth of resources for planning your students performance-based assessments. You’ll find help there from everything from understanding the prompt, to checklists for self-assessment. Remember, these resources are suggestions for those looking for a place to start. Only you know the choices and resources your specific classroom of students need to be successful.

Other Resources

  • The What’s in ReadyGen? document includes a listing of the materials received by each classroom and a brief overview of the basic use of each.
  • The Expectations of Practice document is meant to help teachers consider how they might structure individual, small, and whole group time to meet students’ needs.
  • This collection of templates is meant to help interested teachers plan their performance-based assessment and lessons to make sure students are prepared for success.
  • This document includes links to presentations with images of the covers of each title across all grade levels and suggested prompts for getting students talking about what they’re about to read.
  • This document lists all titles included as anchor texts and within Text Collections across all k-5 classrooms.
  • Here, you can find the levels of all titles included in the ReadyGen Leveled Text Library across all k-5 grade levels.
  • Following the Fall assessment, this i-Ready Instructional Grouping Template can serve as a tool to organize and shift students across small group instruction based on diagnosed areas of need.

Annual Longmont Rotary Club Compassion Essay Contest – DEADLINE (EXTENDED) APRIL 17

In partnership with the Longmont Rotary Club, St. Vrain Valley School District schools are invited to participate in our annual “Compassion Awards” contest. We are seeking entries from students who define one of the five elements of compassion:

    • Love
    • Empathy
    • Understanding
    • Gratitude of all things
    • Giving selflessly for the happiness of all beings

Entries can include stories, essays, or poems related to a compassionate topic and must be submitted by individuals. Past winners have written about people or personal experiences that touched them in a special way such as: a person who made a positive impact on your life; caring for an elderly neighbor; helping a terminally ill person; family changes; being sensitive to a non-English speaking student; losing a cherished pet or helping a hungry or homeless person in the community.These entries fall under several Reading and Writing standards including:

    • Standard 1: Students read and understand a variety of materials.
    • Standard 2: Students write and speak for a variety of purposes and audiences.
    • Standard 3: Students write and speak using conventional grammar, usage, sentence structure, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling.
    • Standard 4: Students apply thinking skills to their reading, writing, speaking, listening and viewing.

These entries can also fall under the following Civic standard:

Students understand how citizens exercise the roles, rights, and responsibilities of participation in civic life at all levels- local, state and national.

Please note the following:

    • There will be 3 bands of competition, with one winner selected from each: grades 3-5; grades 6-8, and
      grades 9-12;
    • Submissions must be typed or handwritten (no videos or drawings) and are limited to two pages in length;
    • Writings may be submitted in another language, but an English translation must be attached; and
    • Teachers will collect and judge the entries of their students and submit no more than two entries from each class, accompanied by the attached cover memo.

Please return the essays to Zachary Chase via internal school district mail or email no later than Friday, April 14. Late entries will not be accepted. Please remember that this is an important event for your students! The students’ work will not be returned; therefore, you may either send the students’ original works or a good quality copy. There will be a winner at each of the grade levels of competition. Students will receive $50.00 from the Longmont Rotary Club and have an additional $50.00 donated in their names to a non-profit of their choice (must be a qualified non-profit organization under Section 401(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code). Teachers of the winning students will receive $50.00 for the purchase of classroom materials. Winning students, their guests, submitting teachers, and school principals will be guests of honor at a luncheon sponsored by the Longmont Rotary Club on Tuesday, May 9, 2017.

This is an exciting and wonderful contest…we look forward to your participation. Thank you!

Download Details below:

Let’s Get Together – Elementary End-of-Year Check-In

Last Saturday, Ruth Hanna and I facilitated the last of our Saturday Mid-Year Check-In courses. Over the course of 4 Saturdays, around 50 elementary school teachers gave their time to sit down and reflect on their practice and plan together for the second half of the school year. Across each course, we had rich conversations about what it means to help support a culture of reading and writing at the elementary level and how to better help all students chart pathways to reading and creating complex texts.

While we were pleased with the turnout each Saturday, we also appreciate the sacrifice of giving a Saturday to plan for our classrooms.

If I’ve been to your classroom or school over the last few months, you may recall me saying this is the “what” year of implementing our new elementary literacy resources and next year is the “how” year. Well, we wanted to make sure there’s space for thinking about the “how”.

We invite you to join us Tuesday, May 30 from 8 – 4 at Timberline pK-8 for and end-of-year check-in. Folks from across the district will be sitting down together to reflect on the close of our year and plan for how to improve our practice and learning next year.

If you can manage it, I encourage grade-level teams to come together and take a day to say, “What do we want to remember for next year?”

The course is open for registration right now through OPD – bit.ly/svvsdcheckin.

See you there!

Making the Most of Essential Questions and Exit Tickets

tickets

Most any time I’m visiting a classroom, I’m having a conversation with the students I meet. The first few questions are pretty expected –  “What are you learning about?” and “What are you doing?”

The last two questions I routinely bring to the table working with students are less expected – “Why is that important?” and “What questions do you have?”

I know those last two are less expected because they are met with silence and stares from students – no matter the grade level. For me, it raises the questions of why are students are doing what they are doing and whether they have been asked to consider the deeper implications of a text. Whether it’s a third-grade student reading The Year of Miss Agnes or a ninth-grader wrestling with Regine’s Book, our expectation must be that students can consider key ideas, themes, styles, etc. outside of the pages of what they’re reading.

Much work has been done on the transfer of knowledge and skills, and there are certainly some thoughtful, complex projects students can embark upon to show those abilities. For the purposes of this post, though, I want to focus on two activities that can build students’ understandings of their learning and thinking while helping teachers understand areas of growth and need.

Essential Question journals can help students track their thinking about essential questions within lessons or units of study. For each of the curriculum modules within our elementary curriculum resources, for instance, students are asked to consider essential questions as they read, write, and speak their way through complex texts. Journaling around those essential questions can be easy.

  • Make routine time (5-10 min) once or twice each week for students to journal their answers to the essential questions within a unit of study. As they journal, have them consider what they wrote in their previous entries and focus on what they know or understand now that they didn’t before. Ask students to share/compare their journals with their peers and then engage in whole-class conversations about reading and writing.

Standing exit tickets help your students focus on a stationary target for thinking about their learning while giving you some quick formative information on what they think they are learning and wondering.

  • Have students fill out slips of paper with their names on them at the end of each class or lesson. Have them respond to the same prompts each time – “What can you do now that you couldn’t do at the beginning of class?” and “What is one question you have as a result of your learning?” If technology is available, have students respond via a google form. Imagine being able to conference with students with not only numbers and summative assessment results, but a portfolio of their own statements of learning and inquiry as well.

Not matter their age, all learners improve their abilities and skills if they have consistent, dedicated time to reflect on their learning. By including time to journal on essential questions and checking in at the end of a class, we make that time for our learners and provide ourselves with new windows into how we can alter our instructional practice to meet students’ needs.

Family Community Literacy: Winter Break Reading

woman and child reading together

The Gist

The more students read, the better they get at it. Winter break is a chance for your children to access many district library books.

The Whole Story

One thing research has show – the amount of reading your student does over the course of their time in kindergarten through high school has an effect on how well they comprehend complex ideas, vocabulary, new concepts.  St. Vrain Valley Schools are working hard to make sure our students have access to quality books no matter where they may be.

You kids have three specific ways to access books through the District.

  1. MyOn – For elementary and middle school students, the myon library has a wide selection of digital books students can read on their own or listen and read along with. Many schools in SVVSD run challenges trying to get their students to read as many minutes in MyOn books as possible during the school year.
  2. Physical Libraries – Every SVVSD school library has a wide selection of physical books your children can check out over break. During the last week before break, consider challenging your kids to check out new books to read as a family over break.
  3. The SVVSD District Digital Library – If you have a computer, tablet, or smartphone in your home, you have a device on which you and your students can access and read books from our district digital library. Everyone from our youngest readers to adults can find a high-interest book in the library.

BONUS: Your local public library will be ready, willing, and excited to welcome you and your children to browse and check out physical and digital books over winter break.

Suggested Activity

Take on a family winter reading challenge. Visit your local public library or your children’s school library and set a reading goal for winter break. Maybe it’s a family goal for the whole house. Maybe it’s a per person goal. Maybe it’s a competition to see who can read the most pages. Either way, set a goal and track progress. The refrigerator is a great way to keep track of reading progress.

Does your family have any special reading routines? Share them in the comments below!

 

Family & Community Literacy: Book Clubs

Cousin book club

The Gist

Two factors that can help kids improve their reading and thinking about reading: 1) Having role models who help them see the skills they’re working to develop, 2) Having opportunities to question and answer questions about what they’ve read. Family or neighborhood book groups can help your children get these opportunities and build their skills and identities as readers.

The Whole Story

The idea here is not an unfamiliar or complex one. The steps to follow are:

  1. Pick a book.
  2. Set a time.
  3. Read the book.
  4. Discuss the book.

Some key variations to consider are:

  • Rotating the selection of the book across family members.
  • Make it larger than the household. If you’ve got extended family or grandparents who might want to join the group from afar, think about tools like FaceTime and Skype to help them connect. Also consider adding neighbors or family friends to the book group to show your kids they are part of a community of readers.
  • Brainstorm some standing questions. If you’re worried getting conversation started might be difficult, sit with your children to think about how you might jumpstart a book conversation.
  • Consult with your kids’ English or language arts teacher on key topics, book suggestions, or language you might try to incorporate to show school learning has a place in the home.
  • Make it about conversation and enjoying the book. There will be plenty of time for lessons on reading.

Additional Resources: