Bouncy Balls #MTBoSBlaugust #oldisnew


Wondering what I should blog about for #MTBoSBlaugust, I went back to posts from early days of The Radical Rational and ran across this post “And They’re Off!”  I really like where I was at that point in my teaching.  I have felt for a while – that was the beginning of my “peak” years – when I felt I was really reflective, purposefully planning and assessing, providing opportunities for student thinking and them asking questions.

As I read through the post, I had a flashback to late spring – seeing my tube of bouncy balls in my storage cabinet and thinking – I’ve not had these out for a while.  So, I see Week 1 this year as a perfect opportunity – Do a little WCYDWT? – offering up the bouncy ball.

Hopefully the discussions will lead to data collection ideas – and then we can talk about what things we are measuring in their ideas.  What would the graphs of this data look like compared to that….  eventually leading to the idea of discrete (# bounces vs drop height)  or continuous (height of ball over a 10 second time period after dropping it).

Or maybe discussions of different “shapes” of graphs and why this maybe happens?

I have used bouncy balls several times in class and kids always love them.

What are some “cost efficient” data collection ideas you can share?






Summer Reading 2019 #MTBoSBlaugust #mtbos


Life gets crazy for me whenever school is in session, so that’s why I try my best to fill much of my summer with reading that never gets done August to May.  This summer is no different.  I did not get as much read as I had liked, but quality over quantity always.


Along with these summer reads, a post from Amy on her use of Stand and Talks from Sara led back to this Global Math from Sara.  It is a great resource and introduction if you are not familiar with the structure.  It would be a perfect PLC video.  S&T will definitely be in the lineup on a regular basis this school year!  I constantly find myself looking at graphs, questions and asking – how could this be tweaked into a stand and talk?

I have a couple of more titles – I’d hoped to finish before school started, but I think they’ll have to be the “keep in the car to read while waiting to pick up at band rehearsals” books – Five Practices into Practice and Routines for Reasoning.

Its been a productive and good break this summer.  I’ll share more in later posts about specific take a ways from my reading.

So what’s been on your reading list and what were your take a ways?


All Things Old… Are New Again: Unit Planners #MTBoS


Last week, we had a couple of required days at school to work on refining curriculum maps.  We are returning to the structure of the Course & Unit Organizers out of Kansas.  This is something we utilized for planning around 2005-2006 for several years, then it slowly dwindled away through change of administration, etc.

This is the course organizer we have for Algebra I.

One side shows a graphic map of the course.  The other lists overview of standards as defined by Kentucky Department of Education.

Here is an example of the Unit Organizer.

Left column allows me to list the unit schedule – tasks/lessons/notes in the order I have planned and link them to resources, websites.  The center graphic is the big ideas – the what of the unit, with color coded links to unit relationships – the verbs of the unit.  Right column is words worth knowing – a literacy strategy for pre-post self assessment of vocabulary I saw from @mathequalslove and modified to fit my purposes.

I struggle with Essential Questions – was told by one person these should be what determines our assessment questions, but another said it was the BIG PICTURE of why we are learning these concepts.  I need to go back and read McTighe and Wiggins book (I think that’s the correct one).

We chose to leave the backside as an open table – some teachers prefer to track HW completion, some student self-assessments during formative assessments and practice.  This table will be modified by individual teachers.

Though I loved this structure nearly 15 years ago when we were first introduced to it – I still modified the original layout to work with what I wanted in my classroom.  I used to have every student have a 3 ring binder and we used these daily to focus our learning.  However, a few years ago – a discussion with Crazy Math Teacher Lady led me to the following layout for my INBs.  It has ALL of the same information, but the look/structure of it has been helpful and purposefully used in our classroom, so I will submit the format required by administration, however, I will likely continue to use this format with students since I only need to update and refine a few items due to Kentucky’s latest release of KCAS – standards.

This is actually printed front/back and folded for booklet style with first picture the outside of the booklet and table tracker the inside.


Finally, I am sharing a page we were required to fill out not so long ago – initially it was for each lesson – overwhelming.  But I chose to use it as a checklist for unit planning.  This would ensure I had considered all program review requirements for Practical Living / Consumer Sciences, Writing, Reading, Arts/Humanities, Culture/Word Language/Equity.  A checklist of differentiation/modifications/formative assessment strategies and inquiry/technology/problem solving.

I could see this being useful as a modified checklist of reminders of strategies I have learned about and want to implement but also that I have completely considered all aspects of ALL the things we need to consider in planning the unit.  This is NOT my document Unit Overview checklist, nor can I give credit because it has been in my files for a while.


Do I believe the actual structure of the planning tool is the difference maker?  Absolutely not.  However I can appreciate that administration wants everyone “on the same page” and how building a resource for new teachers to ensure a continuous progress in course work can be valuable.

I do believe that having conversations with your team, ensuring everyone is focused on the same content is a change maker.  I believe having a structure to follow to ensure you have considered all things to include in your planning ahead of time… beginning with the end in mind, having a plan in place before you start, allows you to adjust within the learning cycle efficiently.

Experience as a Learner Survey #MTBoS #eduread


My summer reading has started with these two books

both highlighting the importance of an environment that supports risk-taking / academic safety.  Though a bit different discussion – both seem to say how important it is that we create a place – in our actions/words/approach that lets students feel they have access to the learning and eventually willing to engage and take academic risks.  We not only need to build that rapport and trust and safety but it is necessary to protect it once its been developed.

So many great ideas shared by each author – but one last night in our chat #eduread

When reading, this passage really stuck out to me.  Yes teachers care – but the type of caring they exhibit is different and sometimes wrongly interpreted as not caring.  I have been guilty.  Sadly.

But this sentiment shared by @druinok reminded me of a survey I have been giving my students since at least 2014.  It was shared by Grant Wiggins prior to his passing.  I adjusted it to fit my needs.  If you’ve never read any of his posts – take some time and visit – his blog is still up.  I think it was the post Student Engagement and Feedback that eventually lead me to the “Experience as a Learner Survey.”  

Students fill this out completely anonymous.  I do not read the responses until several weeks after they have submitted.  I still have not looked at this past semesters, but plan to in the next week or so.  It gives me some time away from them, but allows me time to reflect on their results and make some adjustments / set some goals for the upcoming year.  I believe it is a fair representation of their view of me and our classroom and I am able to see myself, somewhat, through their eyes.

I have another teacher/course evaluation students fill out that is very specific to our course/learning structures.  With the two combined, I feel I have a good snapshot of our classroom experiences.

What are some resources you use to weigh your perception vs. your students’ perception of you?

Summer Reading 2019 Book 1 #hackingQs


Hacking Questions:  11 Answers That Create a Culture of Inquiry in Your Classroom by Connie Hamilton


What a great read!  So many thoughtful, practical tips that can impact my classroom tomorrow – except, its summer break, so I suppose impact my classroom next fall!

I always enjoy a lighter read to begin my summer learning and a chat with colleagues and friends to reflect on what we’ve read is always a good thing.  You can search up #eduread over that past few weeks for mine and @druinok’s take on this book.

One thing I loved about this book was the quotes to begin each hack.  I am thinking I will make mini posters, highlighting the word/focus: Engage, Think, Reflect, Listen, etc.  @druinok even stated at one point – the quotes alone could lead to some great PLC conversations.

My biggest take-a-way from the entire book is INTENTIONALITY.  There are such good suggestions, but preparation and being intentional with implementation of those ideas is the foundation of creating this culture.  Many of her strategies are simple moves on things a veteran teacher may already do – but why/how it impacts learning is very enlightening to me.  I walk away after each hack, feeling like I can do this.  I can make that work in our classroom.  There was really nothing in the book that overwhelmed me.  I never once felt I had to add to what I was already doing – but simply to adjust / make what I do better with her take on things.

A jot-down for each hack that I made…

  • student feedback with new protocols, what worked, and how could we refine?
  • IDK becomes a rise to action, not an end result.
  • a punctuated lesson models responsibility, time management and goal setting – the student has a plan.
  • teachers and students playing PINK PONG with questions – this gives a false sense of discussion.
  • what impact will my questions have on triggering their thought?
  • content questions alone are not enough – metacognitive…
  • teachers include themselves in student learning – GET OUT of the way!
  • answers are not transferable, logical thinking and reasoning are transferable.
  • most difficult to master (for me) passing the baton back to them – accountability – who’s doing the thinking? “might”
  • Very specific Questions trigger responses that expire.  we cannot without ownership of learning by asking all of the questions.
  • Come to school to enjoy a day with your students.

These are just thoughts from the reading that made me pause or convicted me somehow to make improvements.  There are numerous structures offered within each hack.  I would like to add a few more posts and share my thoughts on how I see things going in my classroom.  The author does a beautiful job of helping us see how to walk in tomorrow and make a small adjustment;  she shares snapshots from real classrooms, offers ways to think about the pushbacks we may encounter and how to overcome them.

I am very appreciative of her sharing of ready to use resources on her website as well.

This book is great for any teacher at any grade level with any level of experience – young and veteran alike.  Get it. Read it. Talk about it.  Reflect on it.

Let me know how your changes impacted your students’ learning!

Summer Reading 2019 #mtbos #literacy #alm


We’ve been out of school for a couple of weeks, but my calendar has been full. Finally a few days to enjoy downtime, sit outback and read.

Just before school ended, I finished reading Where the Crawdads Sing, very much enjoyed. Currently I am reading / listening to Dolphin Island, In Good Faith, All the Light We Cannot See. What in the world does a struggling reader think she is doing with 3 different titles going at once?!? One is print, another on Kindle and the last is in Audible.

As soon as I finish these, I have If You Find Me on my list – two of my friends have both been captivated by this story.

My summers usually help me fill up on professional reading. I am finishing up an informal chat with @druinok on Hacking Questions, by Connie Hamilton. Quick read filled with sensible suggestions and doable strategies. So much of it has me reflecting on my own practice and what small changes I can make to have a bigger impact.

If you are looking for something not over the top, I believe this one is a great place to start. Her structure of chapters offers ideas you can implement tomorrow, ways to overcome pushback. It really pushes me to consider how I can be more intentional in my planning for sure.

This stack is my summer goal:

This box is mostly for a classroom library I was able to receive through a literacy grant. Excited about these as well!

Do, what’s on your summer reading list?

Being Vintage at a Tech Conference


This past week I had the opportunity to attend KySTE.  The theme this year V2V  Vintage to Virtual.  I chose the Vintage sticker for my name tag.  Afterall – I went through high school and college without the internet, much less Google.  My favorite game in the early 80s was River Raid on my Atari 2600.  I learned to type on a dinosaur computer – that had to be booted with a 5 1/2 floppy each class.  I remember the very first email I ever sent.  It was my 2nd year in the classroom.  I bought my first desktop – with a CDRom when I graduated college.  My 1st phone was a Motorola Flip in 1997 – I had 30 minutes of talk for $29.95 a month.  I still have my iPod Nano.

There were plenty of other vintage teachers there – one had been in education for 42 years!  Wow. –  but I can actually say, it was the first time at a conference I looked around and saw the age differences.  Though I still have a few years left – I pride myself on trying to stay abreast of new ideas – reading, research and planning new tasks to keep my classroom fresh with up to date learning opportunities for my learners.

One thing I really learned at KySTE – that I must write my notes.  It is unbelievable when I pause and try to remember the things from each session.  It actually bothers me.  I made the choice to type my notes – it was a tech conference after all.  And I regret it.  Even looking at my typed notes – there are details that I missed.  Lesson learned.  Never again.  I will drag out my trusty graph paper composition notebook and write all that I want to remember.

I had 3 goals before attending:

  • Literacy – being a part of our ALM Team this year made me want to bring home some ideas to build on those strategies;  maybe find some tools to impact my efforts in developing better opportunities.
  • Google Classroom – I have been utilizing Classroom for about 1 1/2 years now – but I felt that I could learn more – to become more effective and efficient with it.
  • Math – always my top priority of course, but only a handful of sessions with a secondary math focus.  There were actually 2 sessions on Desmos, but one was a beginners level and the other was using for 3D printing – which I do not have.

I plan to post a summary of the resources and sessions I took away.  But my big idea – I wanted to get into a post – as a reminder to myself – why not create generic forms utilizing my most used Literacy Strategies, exit tickets, reflection prompts?  I could quickly push these to the students in their classroom as needed during the class and access their responses quickly as time allowed.  Maybe even share their responses with the class somehow.

However, part of my is hesitant – after the realization that my written notes are not as effective for me.  Will the same be true if my students are creating their responses typed into a form as opposed to a written post-it or other physical form?

Supporting Students During Instruction #eduread


Several years ago – in the beginning of discussions / learning of RTI,  I remember a curriculum supervisor making a statement – that we need a file of several resources – addressing goal concepts at different levels of understanding – that we can pull from as we have need to address intervention needs of our students.

With recent reading, this statement comes to front of my thinking.  The reading supports the idea of formative assessment – to catch students during the learning cycle and address their immediate needs.  This book date was 2010 – just the beginning of my own learning cycle and implementation of true formative assessment.


There are five steps outlined in Chapter 2

How to Develop and Deliver an Intervention Plan

  1. Identify mastery thresholds.
  2. Establish “red flags.”
  3. Develop on-going assessment measures to identify red flags.
  4. Select appropriate interventions.
  5. Monitor the effectiveness of each intervention.

I found a statement interesting as we were asked to think about “What are some of your current mastery thresholds?  How can you tell when students have moved from “almost got it” to “got it”?  The statement was to look beyond mastery thresholds tied strictly to academic achievement, but also as related student behaviors implied by the curriculum – such as participation, note taking, study habits and work completion. ( page 36)  I see this as the behavior may actual cover-up the understanding, if I am not carefully seeing beyond the behavior.

The establishment of red flags is helpful – after all, its human nature to cover up what we don’t know – so as a teacher, we have thought about/anticipated student actions, behaviors to help us gather data and making decisions on next steps during instruction.  Red flags are objective – intervention based on data rather than my opinion of who low-performing, gives students who are not prepared or embarrassed to ask for help.  Students may seem to be getting it by their behaviors but miss the mark on an assessment.  The red-flag system provides a safety net, per se’.

Four rules for establishing red flags:

  • unambiguous
  • hard to ignore
  • trigger an action
  • focused on academic concerns not behaviors.

Well.  I had to stop after reading this.  I needed to reflect on the next Think About…

What methods do I currently use to determine that a students is struggling?  What signals let me know they are falling below mastery?  Or signals that I missed in the past?

How do I tell they are no longer struggling?  Or even bored and ready to move on?

These are questions I really have not considered.  However, I do feel that I am a responsive teacher in the classroom.  I began really listening and paying attention to student behavior, actions about the time this book was published.  I started listening to my students rather than for the answers (Thanks, Max!)

Pausing during instruction – noticing their actions – how long do they take to engage in the problem/task?  The looks on their faces.  The conversations at tables – really listening to what they are saying – when I ask them to turn and talk.  I walk around the room and truly listen.  Ask questions specifically to their conversations – to dig deeper and see if they are getting it.

I search for common misconceptions as I walk around the room.  And I like to share – using Leah Alcala’s “favorite no” structure.  Ask, “What do you think this student was thinking?”  But I love to also use the Two Stars and a Wish/a Question.  What does this student know?  What question could we ask them to help adjust their thinking and see their mistake?

I initially thought I did not have a red flag list.  But pondering my teaching – I feel that the sequence and choice of examples I present during a lesson allows for a large portion of my red-flags.  I anticipate their mistakes and even give them some “wrong” work to analyze the mistakes as part of the learning task.  I realize this may not be enough, but it is a beginning.

Step 3 is an area I worked on with a colleague in Algebra I with intention last school year.  We took our units and planned at least one formative assessment for every learning target in the unit.  We tried to plan a variety of tasks.  We have some planned followup for some of the FAs, however, this is work to continue and build upon each time it is taught.  Having planning FA is so helpful.  Ensuring those FA are also connected to a specific red flag is even more powerful.  Giving an example that is often missed during a feedback quiz, allows us the opportunity to see where the group may be.  IF a large number have issues, we can address with the entire class.  IF only a handful have issues, its an opportunity to sit one=on=one and have a quality conversation.

Step 4 on selecting appropriate interventions is an area that challenges me.  Thinking of support and interventions differently – I am still not confident in this thinking.  But this statement seems to help – The most effective interventions provide a temporary learning support, are available to students on an as-needed basis and are removed when they are no longer needed.  So intervention provides the support. (?)

I honestly stressed reading this section.  It felt overwhelming and not doable.  I wanted to give up and quit reading.  Then I continued and the following list confirmed I was doing some things right.

Types of interventions discussed:

  • Student Conferences
  • Feedback
  • Concrete Examples
  • Graphic Organizers
  • Cheat Sheets & Cues
  • Memory Strategies
  • Summarizing
  • “Break Glass” Strategies – this was new to me
  • Tiered HW Assignments
  • Modeling Thinking Strategies
  • Task Breakdowns
  • Mandatory Extra Help (not punitive)
  • Peer Tutoring (we do a lot of “buddy checks” at our tables, allows students to ask a peer a question they may not be comfortable asking to the entire class)

But note these are not things I just did.  These are strategies suggested by colleagues, gathered at conferences, read from a blog post or found during a book chat reading.  These things did not just happen.  I purposefully planned them along the way.  Some worked initially.  Some failed miserably.  But most are in my toolbox and ready to pick up at any given time when I recognize a red flag.

I believe this merits a reminder from Steve Leinwand – It is unreasonable to ask a professional to change much more than 10 percent a year, but it is unprofessional to change by much less than 10 percent a year. {MT, page 582, may 2007

We cannot possibly learn and change everything all at once.  But it is a disservice to our students if we do not change at all.  Pick a new strategy or change up a lesson with an new approach.  What is it you want to do/accomplish?  What do you want to learn?  How might you apply it to your classroom instruction?  Research. Plan. Action. Reflect.  Adapt.  This is how you build a vast toolbox of quality resources and strategies.

Interventions should…

  • be designed to get students quickly back on track, addressing immediate needs but also keeping up with current learning taking place.
  • NOT be punitive, even if students are struggling because of their irresponsible behavior (not lying, I struggle here.  but I must find ways for students to recognize their choices led them to this point, discuss possible choices and the outcomes of each, help remind them the next time they are at a place to make a choice.  behavior interventions and academic interventions are not the same – although as teachers we see how some behavior leads to the need of the academic intervention.  this in my opinion is where relationships trump everything else – knowing your students, having conversations with them can lead to my understanding of why they chose the way they did.  and hopefully those conversations will continue to grow trust between us and allow me to help direct them to choices that will lead to a greater outcome.)
  • seamless and unobtrusive
  • systematic
  • temporary
  • minimal
  • specific
  • not be labor intensive (let me know when you figure this one out!)

At this point in the reading – there is a worksheet to help you in the process of planning red flags and interventions.

Step 5 Evaluate the interventions for effectiveness.  Again – reflection, analysis, adapt, action.

A suggestion made I want to make note of for my own reminder – is weaning them off of the interventions.  For example – if we allow students to use notes on a test, if we continue to do this the entire year, they become dependent on their notes and may not learn the concepts as deeply as we like.  One suggestion was to gradually withdraw.  An idea – Test 1, all notes allowed, Test 2 notes allowed during last half of the test,  Test 3 notes allowed during last five minutes of testing period.  Test 4 no notes.  OR  T1 all notes, T2 one sheet of paper, T3 5 x 7 index card, T4 no notes.  Either one shows a need for good note taking but students cannot be totally dependent.

A final statement made – is that interventions assume students want help.  When they refuse help, we need to know the way.  This falls back to knowing our students.  Relationships matter.

Thanks for allowing me to muddle through my thinking on this reading!  Have an amazing day.



Supporting Students Before Instruction #eduread #literacy


Getting back into the swing of the semester sort of bumped my reading to the back burner.  I am super excited about the opportunity to teach a section of digital literacy this semester, but I am busy planning and learning to stay a step ahead of my students!

Last night, @druinok and I were finally able to connect paths and chat on Chapter 1 of Robyn Jackson’s Supporting Struggling Students.  As I posted last month – this book and the ALM literacy training I have been a part of this school year emphasize the importance of planning.



The big ideas in our chat last night were –

Anticipating Confusion – there is a worksheet provided in the book which asks you to what concepts, content/processes or context you will utilize to present the lessons.  Then it asks you what common misunderstandings;  what prior knowledge and vocabulary will be needed for students to be successful and finally skills, thinking and organizational strategies the context will require.

I think back to my first years of teaching – I planned a lesson, examples to present in notes, practice problems and a mini quiz to assess where students were.  I cannot say for sure that I put this much thought into planning the lesson.  All great points to consider when I sit down to plan a lesson with the learner in mind.

Maybe this next idea arose in a chat – or did I blog about it already?  Activating or creating prior knowledge  – presented the idea that learning is like hook and loop tap – in order for it to stick, students need hooks in their brains on which they can loop new information.  When gaps occur – whether it be experiences, prior knowledge, lack of vocabulary, students do not have the hooks to hang the new information to.  The author suggested acceleration.  What?  I thought that was allowing learning to work ahead / condense information and let them work at a faster pace as in enrichment.  Same idea – except, there is simply not enough time to teach all of the gaps sometimes, so we must choose what is most important and find ways to help learners accelerate through what is missing, giving them enough to round out their background knowledge.

This is where I began seeing such a huge overlap between this book and my literacy team work with the ALM.

Strategies to activate prior knowledge – KWL outlines, Anticipation guides, Pre-reading plan, directed reading activities, word splashes, carousel brainstorming, statement strategy, paired verbal fluency, semantic mapping.  Several of these seemed familiar.  During our chat, @druinok shared that paired verbal fluency was essential pair-share or talk with shoulder partner;  the word splashes sort of like brain dump or generating a list but then making connections/showing relationships between the words.

Anticipation Guides – in math class?  What about offering 3-5 big ideas at then beginning of a unit / lesson in the form of Always, Sometimes, Never statements and allowing them to respond, share their claim and reasoning.  At the end of the lesson, revisiting the statements to see if they agree/disagree with initial claim and supporting with mathematical evidence from their learning.

I suppose the directed reading and pre-reading plan would be to offer “Look fors” as they begin the lesson / reading/activity.

The word splashes reminded me of a structure I have failed at using, but after revisiting our ALM resources and notes from training, I feel like I see a way to implement Interactive Word Walls.  When I tried them in the past, it simply became a stagnant display of text.  I am now wondering if I have students create an illustration the word  / expression makes them think of and hanging those on the wall.  Later, after some work, allow students to write the definitions in their own words and tape to the back of the illustrations.  As a class opener, review or even few minutes at end of class – Call on a student to go to the IWW, have them explain the meaning of a term.  The book suggested students at the desks should be reviewing their resources with the vocabulary.  The next student who goes to the IWW will choose a term and tell how it is related to the prior person’s word, then give a brief definition of the term.  And so on.  This accomplishes several things – students need to know the term, be able to show how it is related to other terms, it gives them a moment to review their vocabulary and listen to how others are making connections.

Strategies for creating background knowledge may be tricky.  There is simply not enough time to teach what we are supposed do, so how/when do I fill in the missing pieces?

Ideas:  movie clip, children’s book on the topic, link to website focused on information needed, analogies and mini lessons specific to skills and concepts needed.  This requires time and planning, but my thinking is – once I find a resource that helps, I add it to my toolbox and will have a set to choose from in the future.

Again – thinking what strategies and how to present the activation will need to be a part of the planning cycle.  Creating a list of background knowledge needed and how I plan to present those ideas to activate their thinking.

Often times students struggle due to lack of soft skills like organizing their learning, note taking, etc.  If I can provide them with a structure to help them organize their thinking – the author suggests explaining how this structure works in advance, previewing it and using it prior to the lesson you actually want them to use it with in order to help them develop an understanding of it and become confident in the process.

Chapter 1 ends discussing the vocabulary planning worksheet – what words will be used frequently, similarities between the terms, grouping and prioritizing ones of most importance.  Have a few different strategies planned to help students develop a basic understanding.

Only posting to help myself digest what I have been reading / chatting about – in hopes it will finally make connections for my math class and I can find ways to improve what I am planning for my students.


It Has Been a While… #eduread #MTBoS #literacy


Four and a half months, actually.

There is no excuse, except the season of life I am in.  My teenager is very involved with band and July – November is all consuming marching band.  And I will never apologize for making her time and activities a priority.  In just a few short years, she will be gone to college.

As for fall semester – it was a good one.  There were some new challenges I had never faced in the classroom and definitely a learning experience.  I did my best to be present for my students – to have conversations with them, to get to know them, to laugh with them.

My professional growth goal for this school year focuses on purposeful planning and implementation of research based vocabulary and literacy strategies in my Algebra I classes.  Being part of our districts Literacy Team using the adolescent literacy model from CTL lead to this focus.

I attempted an #educhat with the Robyn Jackson’s How to Support Struggling Students book.  Again, it seemed our family calendar and in person priorities stepped in.  However, I am still in the book.  As I read, I see so many connections to what we have heard in our ALM trainings this past semester.  The book compliments our training really well.

The introduction and chapter 1 emphasized what I already knew – planning and reflection are key.  Just a few take-a-ways from my reading and minimal chats:

4 Questions up front in the intro ~ Who are your struggling students this year?  How or why do they seem to struggle?  What have you tried so far?  What support strategies seem to work best?  First couple of times I read these, I brushed them off – not wanting to think on them, because then it was my responsibility to do something.  But wait, it is my responsibility.  And the sooner I address these, the sooner I can offer better support.

Why do students struggle in school?  …they lack either background knowledge or the soft skills needed to acquire and retain new information.  Wow.  This means I have to teach the content, fill in prior gaps AND  help them develop skills to help in their learning.  I’m not sure I am cut out for this teaching gig.  Anticipating their struggles, planning for strategies and lessons to help them overcome their struggles, a pre-assessment and time to reflect on who has gaps / what those gaps are and just exactly how and which ones we can fill-in – that will most benefit their learning during the lesson/unit.

One a-ha moment was using acceleration prior to the learning to develop foundational work, allowing the students to have some of the missing prior-knowledge.  The 3 key components suggested in the book for acceleration are:  activate / create background knowledge, provide / preview organizing strategies and teaching vocabulary.  Considering these, I have some ideas I am considering for my planning this semester.

Since vocabulary is part of my PGP focus, this section particularly grabbed my attention.  Marzano, Pickering, Pollock (2001) states effective vocabulary instruction has been show to increase student achievement by 33 percentile points.  These 6 steps are suggested in the book and I intend to consider these as I begin planning/updating my units and lessons:

  • preview vocabulary prior to the lesson in order for students to develop familiarity; this will be brief, informal explanation or description
  • share an imagery based representation of the new term
  • students describe or explain the term in their own words
  • students create their own imagery based representation of the term
  • students elaborate on the term, making connections to other terms
  • ask students to add new information to their understanding, delete or alter erroneous information

(Marzano, 2003)

I see utilizing quizlet, flashcards, google slides, LINCing vocabulary, frayer model, even etymology / connections with common roots during my planning this semester.  Something I feel is important here – introducing them prior to needing them, allowing them to become familiar and work with the terms before we actually need them.

Allowing them to make connections with words they already know, maybe not use the textbook definition on the Frayer models until after they are comfortable working with the terms.

Jackson’s book offers some nice organizers to use in the planning phases, along with examples to consider.  I feel the reading can be a bit overwhelming at first – like “I can never do all of this!”  But now, after stepping away for a couple of weeks, I have gone back and skimmed the reading, considered my notes and feel I can start with baby steps.

Planning is key. This quote –  If we want our students to succeed, we cannot afford to leave to chance what happens when they do not learn.

But taking the time to reflect and make purposeful adjustments is also key.

I am looking forward to a few more days of rest before returning to my classroom with a new group of learners.  But I am also excited about better planning and how it will lend itself to better learning opportunities.