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
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.