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:

 

ANNOUNCEMENT: Secondary ELA Online Office Hours

With almost 450 sq. miles of district, it can be difficult to get to everyone and answer everyone’s questions. In an attempt to provide greater access and increase communication, the ELA office will be starting online office hours. Any SVVSD teacher with questions or ideas about English Language Arts in the district can jump in and get assistance or share an insight during office hours.

Details are below, followed by screen shots for those new to Hangouts.

THE DETAILS

When: First and Third Thursdays August – October, 2:30 – 4 PM

Where: gChat in your email page or hangouts.google.com, search for Zachary Chase

What: Any question, idea, or collaborative need you might have about helping our students improve as readers, writers, and communicators.

STEPS

  1. Head to hangouts.google.com
  2. Click “Sign In” in the upper-right corner of the page.
  3. Log in with your SVVSD credentials.
  4. Click on “New Conversation.”
  5. Type chase_zachary and select my email address when it pops up.
  6. A chat window will open. Start typing, hit enter, and the conversation will start.

While I’m setting up these office hours to have dedicated time to respond to teachers across the district, Hangouts are always operational and a speedy avenue for reaching out an getting answers as questions come up in your classroom.

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.

Elementary Literacy Rubrics – FEEDBACK REQUESTED

One of the most consistent questions regarding the shift in our elementary literacy practices this year has been around rubrics and assessing student writing. Given the number of resources at teachers’ disposal, it is understandable to have questions. This post is designed to help delineate the materials available as well as seek your input on how we fill the gaps.

Rubrics in Grades 3-5

Task-Specific:

  • Performance-based assessment rubrics. The can be found within each unit’s Teacher’s Guide.
  • End-of-Unit Assessments. For the short- and constructed-response items, you can find task-specific rubrics in your Assessment Book Teacher’s Manual.
  • Reader Response Questions. The rubrics for the Reader Response tasks can be found here and listed in the “Rubrics” section of the unit plans.

Non-Task-Specific:

  • PARCC ELA/Literacy Scoring Rubrics are recommended as baseline templates for teacher-created tasks. A teacher can then take that basic rubric and add details and areas of focus specific to the writing task students are completing.

Rubrics in K-2

Task-Specific:

  • Performance-based assessment rubrics. The can be found within each unit’s Teacher’s Guide.
  • End-of-Unit Assessments. For the short- and constructed-response items, you can find task-specific rubrics in your Assessment Book Teacher’s Manual.
  • Reader Response Questions. The rubrics for the Reader Response tasks can be found here and listed in the “Rubrics” section of the unit plans.

Non-Task-Specific:

Finally, all of this work will be added to a new “Rubrics” section within the grade-level unit plans for easy access.

Family & Community Literacy: Literacy as Memory Making

Image result for memories

Guest post from SVVSD Elementary Literacy Coordinator Sandra Vasquez.

Break, weekend, afternoons, and evenings are all great opportunity to spend time with our children and make memories that can be cherished for a long time. Whether traveling or staying at home, reading books is the perfect way to spend quality time with kids while setting a good example, learning new vocabulary, and enjoying conversations with them.

Memories are powerful intangibles that link us together.  Treasuring our children’s stories, chats while cooking together, singing favorite songs, or watching funny movies on a Saturday night forms connections across generations.   

Talk to your children about anything they are willing to talk about.

As a parent, I admit I sometimes do all the talking; nevertheless, I know they listen. One of my favorite things to share with them is stories about my mother’s cooking recipes.  I do this while we are preparing dinner.  I talk about the food my mother used to cook for my brothers and sisters, and why it is important to continue family traditions.To engage them, I ask questions such as: “What’s your favorite meal?  Why do you like it? Which family traditions would you like to continue when you grow up?”

To engage them, I ask questions such as: “What’s your favorite meal?  Why do you like it? Which family traditions would you like to continue when you grow up?”

Whatever you decide – reading books, singing songs, reciting nursery rhymes, or watching TV – make sure you are leaving a footprint, something you would like them to remember about the time they spend with you.

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: Read – Talk – Repeat

family reading togetherThe Gist

Set aside one evening a week for the family to read together. Turn off all devices you’re not reading on. Set aside time before bed for everyone to talk about what they read that night.

The Whole Story

Maybe your family is still noodling over setting New Year’s Resolutions. You want something manageable while still being impactful. For you, I recommend Read – Talk – Repeat.

  1. Set aside the same time one evening each week where the entire family will power down, avoid other plans, and make sure they’re home. An hour might be ideal. Keeping the same night and time each week will help to develop habit and routine.
  2. When you’re all together, pick up whatever you’re currently reading and start reading. If you’ve got younger children, you may want to read aloud to them. Consider also the possibility of giving them a stack of picture books to work their way through during the reading time.
  3. Stop reading with enough time for everyone to share what they’ve read and to ask each other questions.
  4. Repeat this process each week without interruption.

While the whys of this process are largely self-evident, a few might not stick out to you. By committing to privileging time reading – no matter if it’s newspapers, magazines, or books – you are sending the message to your children that reading and being readers is important in your household. By making time to talk about what you’ve read and ask one another questions, you’re signaling to your children that reading can be a social activity and part of the joy of reading can be discussing the stories and ideas you encounter. Allowing everyone to read whatever they choose also gives you the chance to model a balanced reading diet that mixes fiction and non-fiction, short and long-form, current events and classics. Perhaps the best part? No planning required. Put it on the family calendar, and read.

Bonus

If you and your children know you’re going to have some time to read each week, it’s a great catalyst to visiting your local public library to browse and check out new books. This is also an easy way to access texts without worrying about your family’s budget.

 

 

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!