Thursday, June 26, 2014

Collaborate...Communicate...Educate

Submitted by Shawna Stangel and Janine Taylor 
- Team BOLDT Instructional Consultants

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Where it all began
Collaboration time at Imperial Community School is far more than “buzz words” thrown around a staff room or a time that is scheduled once a month during a staff meeting.  In fact it is quite the opposite, collaboration time at Imperial embraces all components that comprise an effective and responsive professional learning community.  This is a collaboration time that is 2+ years in the making and has been a part of and seen an evolution of its use and purpose.  And if it can be done with this small staff, the potential for larger schools is endless.

It began as a support for teachers over two years ago promoting best practice outlined with the Structural Innovation movement that our division had undergone in trying to do things differently in our schools.  It is a time that has always had a focus on what is best for student learning,  achievement and success but has undergone a transformation over time leading to where the topics of discussion are now decided upon and led by the teachers themselves.  This, of course is determined by the needs seen and felt in the classroom and the school itself. This time truly does support and enhance the great work that this group of talented and dedicated professionals are doing to support the diverse needs, challenges, successes, and achievements of students in their building.  As Vice Principal Melanie Little stated, “We have a wealth of knowledge in the people resources right here in our building.  Why would we not want to find a way during the school day where we can share and learn from one another?”  

Through the hard work and support of their administration in creative timetabling and also in utilizing all support persons in the building, the staff of Imperial meet weekly to learn, discuss, share, problem-solve, and grow together.  Yes, you have read that correctly...WEEKLY.  Every week on Day 1 afternoons there are three distinct collaboration times that have been set up and established to allow learning clusters to meet.  

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The first half hour is a collaboration time for the support roles in the school.  This group is comprised of the schools LRTs, Early Reading Intervention Teacher, Literacy/Numeracy lead teacher, Instructional Consultants, and Administration. The following 2-one hour blocks are then set aside, first, for the Junior Grade 1-4 team and secondly, the Senior Grade 5-8 team.  These two grade-group teams also include the necessary supporting LRT, ERIT, Lit/Num lead, consultants, and/or admin.

Evolution throughout the year
At the beginning of the current school year, collaboration time had a split focus.  Some weeks the groups met to discuss students, curriculum, instruction, and assessment strategies and then other weeks they would meet to continue a book study that had begun the year prior. Teachers were provided with the book, Great Ways to Differentiate Mathematics Instruction by Dr. Marian Small and specific chapter readings were assigned.  Many teachers found that the book provided interesting new ideas for mathematics instruction; however, even more valuable was the discussion and sharing of student samples among colleagues.  Michael Duck, a first year teacher, said the book provided great strategies and then the collaboration time allowed teachers to share what they did and how they tried some of Dr. Small’s ideas.  He also said the book was a great springboard for discussion that led to specific strategies he could use in his classroom with support of the instructional consultant.

Judy Parley, LRT, shared how the book allowed new staff members to Imperial, the opportunity to build rapport with each other.  Since many staff were new to the building this year, the book provided an avenue for staff to have professional conversations about their students as they were also getting to know each other.  Judy also recognized the fact that a book circle does not work for everyone; variety in the use of collaboration time to share teacher knowledge and talents is extremely important to ensure all voices are heard.

Derek Racette sometimes felt like he had to do homework for collaboration time.  He stated that in the beginning it was very teacher-centered professional development.  He acknowledged that this is not a bad feeling, but he liked how this year’s collaboration time shifted to what specific strategies and supports the students needed, not only how to instruct literacy and numeracy.  Being a busy dad and community volunteer he did appreciate that the time had been timetabled into his day and week. He no longer feels the pressure to have to meet before/after school with his colleagues.  It still happens, but collaboration time has now provided opportunity for conversations and planning to become embedded into the day and more importantly within professional practice.


images.jpgCollaboration time is a form of peer coaching, and Glickman, Gordon, and Ross-Gordon (2014) share the following steps for offering direct assistance to teachers: clarify purpose, prepare teachers, schedule during the school day, and monitor closely for progress. The research on lasting classroom change has shown that scheduling release time for teachers during the school day is critical (Zwart et al., 2009) for both teacher and student success.

As the year progressed, with weeks alternating from regular collaboration times and then book study times discussing Dr. Small’s book, teachers, with the support of administration, decided to change the way this time should be used.  They knew what they were doing was a good thing, but saw more potential in how they could be working together in supporting their students and the diverse needs they saw in their classrooms daily.  Marilyn Embury, the Literacy/Numeracy lead teacher, took on the leadership role for collaboration time.  She now compiles an agenda where everyone on staff has input.  She then schedules these ideas, thoughts and supports for the weekly collaboration time and facilitates the discussion.  As Derek mentioned above, it now feels more student-centered with an agenda that begins with the topic of “students of concern and/or celebration”.  

photo.JPGThis year collaboration groups also started using data boards to track the progress of each individual student; there is a primary data board and a senior data board.  Jim Manz appreciates the use of data boards because it helps to identify the kids who require additional support, and it is like putting the pieces of the puzzle together.  Many teachers echoed his comments in saying that, “we know who all of our kids are because it puts a ‘face to the data’”.

Judy agreed that seeing the kids move across the data board gives teachers something tangible to see how much the students have grown; collaboration time provides an informal discussion about students and what is going on in their learning.  Teachers can “put out fires during collaboration before the formal process of a Tier 1 meeting; it allowed teachers to verbalize and legitimize concerns”.

Marilyn shared that data boards need to be more visible for teachers and that as the the end of the year approaches the boards will be updated during collaboration time to serve as a visible celebration of learning for staff.  There has also been discussion about how the use of the data boards can evolve and be used more effectively for next year.

Other agenda items include: instructional strategies and support, teaching partner collaboration time, and school curricular events and planning.  Just a few of the great learning activities that the groups have planned this year were:
      • burgers and books (primary)
      • math games and activity buckets (primary)
      • treaty essential learnings stations (primary)
      • Peter Brass film project (senior)
      • outdoor school (senior)

Even though collaboration time has evolved this year into more teacher-directed, student-centered time, Jan Seitz reinforced the need to continually “tweak it” as they are still learning how to use the time.  Lori Howie said that versatility is the beauty of collaboration time and stressed how they must adapt the focus of this time to the changing needs of the school and more importantly the students.

Future Direction
While book studies, PD-focused meetings, strategy sharing, data board analysis, and collegial learning are all important to Imperial staff during collaboration time, the direction of this time for next year will become more balanced.  The agenda will always begin with the standing item of “students of concern or celebration” and then teachers are always invited to add their own items. However, the majority of time, as voiced by the teachers themselves, will be spent on co-planning because they would like more time to meet and plan with their co-teaching partners.  Jan Seitz stated that their shared time should be less like a meeting, and teachers agreed that stations, curriculum review, and more “doing time” is needed and appreciated.

Melanie Little shared that the structure of collaboration time will be different next year; instead of two grade groups, they will break into three, which will allow for more of a focus on similar curricula and supports for each cluster: primary - grades 1 and 2, junior - grades 3 and 4, and senior- grades 5 to 8. Melanie knows that collaboration will continue to be valuable time because, in her words, “we have rockstar teachers with an exceptional knowledge of curriculum and instructional strategies that benefit student learning”.

Denise Terry shared that collaboration time helps to find and connect with colleagues during the day; it becomes a team effort and helps everyone get stronger.  As a first year teacher, Brooke Alexander acknowledged the importance of the physical resources and people resources that collaboration time provided. She has been able to use and rely on many of her colleagues to learn from and grow with throughout the year.  So for her this must remain an important part of future collaboration time.

IMG_0750.JPGMost importantly, Kim Schroeder stated that, “this time has helped to foster a supporting, caring, and warm environment to problem solve and plan for our most vulnerable and at-risk students.  It’s provided us with hope...a sense of hope that we can meet the needs of more children because we are all working together...as a team.”  For that reason alone, reflection, problem-solving, and celebration of students will remain a top agenda item for future collaboration time.


Advice to Others Who Would Like to Benefit from a Collaboration Time in Their School

The teachers at Imperial range from brand new to the classroom, profession, and province to others who have many years of experience in different educator roles here in Regina Public.  Their experiences of collaboration have also varied from not at all to only during staff meetings.  The two things that most of them had in common was being a new staff member to Imperial as well as the idea of meeting weekly to collaborate.  Upon year end reflection of being in a new building and after having experienced one year of meeting weekly for collaboration time, these are some of the thoughts, feelings and expressions of the Imperial Staff.

  • “Do what it takes to get your admin to schedule it into the timetable for you. Don’t take NO for an answer.  If you are truly wanting to work as a team, there will be a way to make it happen.”

  • MANY teachers on staff stated that “this has been their BEST year ever!”

  • “Our conversations are focused and purposeful...and our staff morale has increased because we now trust and respect each other so much more to do what’s best for ALL the students at Imperial.  We all collectively own these kids … and besides we have fun together during these times, too.”

  • “Meeting weekly is a must so that we are all on the same page. We all have the same goals.  We all know the strengths and areas of support for these students.”

  • “I look forward to collaboration time every week because it really helps to take the blinders off when I need help and support in working with my kids.  I can ask questions and look for suggestions from my colleagues”

  • “We have learned to be vulnerable with one another.  We are not perfect...we all make mistakes and we can all learn from one another’s experiences and expertise.  We now know that we can make each other greater and help to build one another up”

  • “I would have never tried some of these strategies on my own if I would not have had this time to learn about it, talk about it, plan for it, and play with it in collaboration time.”

  • “Collaboration time allows for reflection and celebration and we don’t often have time to do that on our own”

  • “Don’t take this time away from me ever...It’s the most important and valuable time I could ever have with my colleagues to plan for our students.”

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Monday, June 23, 2014

STEREOTYPES Part 2 Culturally Responsive Literature and Resources

by: Jackie Taypotat

Pam Wenger, Teacher Librarian at Dr. A.E. Perry School, felt the need to critically look at her school’s collection of resources. Together, we focused on resources with First Nations, Metis and Inuit content. Pam’s goals included: sorting resources for easier access for teachers, weeding materials containing stereotypes and those that are outdated.

The first step was to gather all First Nations, Metis and Inuit resources and sort them according to Saskatchewan Curriculum Outcomes and Treaty Outcomes. Pam feels that sorting materials in this way will make it easier for teachers to connect First Nations, Metis, and Inuit resources to the outcomes, and incorporate Aboriginal content and teachings into daily lessons, in all subject areas.

The topics and resources were recorded on a master list that will be kept in the library. The list can be requested from Pam by email  pamela.wenger@rbe.sk.ca.  In this way, she is able to see at a glance, what areas are lacking and what needs to be ordered. Topics may change in the future according to need. Pam’s idea is to have teachers explore resources on a Professional Development time in the fall, and decide how they would connect them to their own grade and treaty outcomes.
Next, we previewed literature and resources, checking for First Nations, Metis, and Inuit stereotypes. Stereotypes were found in images and embedded in text. Identifying stereotypes is an important skill for teachers and students to learn, and it cannot be assumed people will know this, without it being taught. There were quite a number of outdated and overgeneralized resources, such as: Atlas of Indians of North America, and a number of series containing mostly historical content.

Besides often being outdated, they were also a very generalist, Eurocentric view of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples, which lack diversity. For students, these resources keep Indigenous peoples in the past and perpetuate stereotypes. Pam feels these can be replaced with Canadian materials that have a balance of relevant, historical and contemporary information, which are written from an Indigenous perspective.

Time is required for this process, but will ensure the materials students are exposed to are culturally appropriate. Pam feels it is important for teachers to be trained in identifying stereotypes. If teachers are able to critically identify appropriate, culturally responsive literature and resources, they are then able to pass this on to students.

The following are only a few of the outcomes that require students to critically look at literature and media, or have the ability to identify stereotypes: IN1.2, CR2.1, CR3.2, CR4.2, CR5.1, CR5.2d, USC5.4d, USC6.2, USC7.7, USC8.2, CR8.1g.




Friday, June 20, 2014

The Power of Prewriting (Part 1)

posted by: Lynn Harper-Harris, Instructional Consultant

For many years as I worked through the "Writer's Workshop" process I often found many students who were continually stuck in the "I don't know what to write about!" phase. My first response to this question was to provide the student or students with a list of story starters or prompts - much to my dismay I still often heard the cry again "I don't know what to write about!". After reading "Notebook Know How: Strategies for the Writer's Notebook" by Aimee Buckner and after much reflection about how I see myself as a writer I came to the conclusion (ah-ha moment) that writing is a personal experience that can not always be ignited by story starters or prompts - indeed good writing comes from our experiences, our interests and from our heart. Writers naturally write with "good voice" when they are writing about topics or experiences that they are passionate about.

I found an answer to the cry "I don't know what to write about" in the idea of a student's "Writer's Notebook". This is not a new idea - writers have used notebooks to collect ideas, thoughts, drawings... since - well - I guess the invention of the notebook. Lucy Calkins and Ralph Fletcher have written extensively about notebooks as a tool for prewriting. I have certainly come to understand their conviction for the use of this tool. I truly believe that...




"A writer's notebook is an essential springboard for the pieces that will later be crafted in writer's workshop" (Stenhouse Publishers).

In Regina Public Schools I have worked with teachers from grades 1 to 8 in the exploration and implementation of this tool. As with any implementation of an unfamiliar tool and/or strategy I soon discovered that some critical questions arose as to how to best utilize this tool in the Regina/ Saskatchewan context. Some questions that surfaced were...
  • How does the notebook support/compliment our First Steps Writing resource?
  • How does this tool fit with the Saskatchewan Curricular outcomes?
  • How does a school organize and implement the strategies outlined by Aimee Buckner - can the same strategies be introduced repeatedly?
  • What are the best kinds of notebooks to use? Where can I find them? Who pays for them?

As I continue to blog about this topic I will address some of these questions.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Collaborative Practices in High School


Campbell Collegiate is home to a wide range of programs and course options for over 350 students who are currently designated as EAL learners.  English as Additional Language students have varied course offerings depending on need, including sheltered classes in English Language Arts, Communication Studies, Social and Science, Tutorial and Literacy classes, and Leveled Literacy Intervention (in the context of the Literacy class).

The teachers involved with this program have invested in assessing, planning and collaborating in order to provide appropriate course offerings and programming to students who, like all students, have varied academic and language needs.  Students in the EAL program generally enter the program with a recommended CFR level (Common Framework of Reference) as outlined in Ministry of Education documentation.  Students attain various levels from A1 (basic) to C2 (proficient).  This framework allows program teachers and administrators to program accordingly, depending on language level.  It is an ongoing tool to assess the student's language proficiency and is updated throughout the year.

Part way into the school year, the EAL teachers at Campbell connected with Team Lerminiaux consultants to review student progress.  The team used the Fountas & Pinnell assessment tool in order to examine student decoding and comprehension skills.  Using that data, the ongoing CFR results, and classroom marks and feedback, the EAL teachers met to plan programming for each one of the EAL students.

Out of this discussion, it became evident that a focused literacy intervention was needed for some of the students in the program to help support their reading and language comprehension skills.  At the beginning of semester two, Campbell Collegiate offered Leveled Literacy Intervention to students identified as needing additional support.  Those students met daily with their EAL teachers and followed the LLI program, adapted slightly to suit the language needs and age of the students.  The instruction occurred in small group, with learners of similar language levels and need, and allowed for explicit instruction of strategies and skills with the goal of enabling learners to becoming more proficient.

Read more about the use of the LLI program in a high school setting from EAL teacher Barb Hilts-Most:

I have been using Levelled Literacy Intervention with a group of grade 10 and 11 EAL students since January 2014.  LLI provided the structure to develop these students’ skills in reading comprehension, word attack and fluency.  The fiction and non-fiction texts in the Red Kit (Levels L-Q) were appropriate for both their interest and ability levels.  The books provided the context for the use of reading strategies and discussions and allowed them to make meaningful connections.

 The LLI word study components helped the students to develop their knowledge of letter sounds, syllables, root words, affixes and apply them to other texts and in content areas.  The students whose first languages are not based on a Roman alphabet have especially benefitted from the word study components of each lesson.  Also, these students consistently made comparisons between words in their first languages and English. 

Through the use of the guided writing activities, the students have been able to learn more about literary features in books and how to share their ideas in writing with the support of the text. 
Overall, the students that were part of the LLI group have improved in all of the communication skills and have gained confidence in their ability to use English.

In addition, Semester 2 saw a collaborative teaching model (SIOP) involving EAL teacher Trudy Thorson and Science teacher Shayne McMillen.  This core subject area included a higher number of EAL students requiring additional language supports (34 students with 15 EAL students).  The SIOP model, or Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, is designed to support English as an Additional Language students as they meet grade level core curriculum content while developing and improving on their English Language Proficiency (Ideas and Activities for Teaching English Learners with the SIOP Model).  This collaborative model allows for both teachers to offer their own expertise while having ongoing opportunities to develop professionally with respect to planning, teaching and assessment. 

The key to implementing the SIOP approach is to include both content and language objectives in each lesson. The teachers began each class by explicitly stating the content and language objectives and students wrote these down in the template shown below. The objectives are posted on their blog at www.scienceten.wordpress.com.  At the end of each lesson, students reflected on their understanding to help them take ownership of their own learning. Teachers also used this information to help guide future instruction. Other key aspects of the SIOP model are: activating prior knowledge, using background knowledge, providing explicit strategies and instruction, ongoing interaction and discussion, and review of key vocabulary and concepts.  Below, you can see a word wall created that encourages the visual connection and provides support for vocabulary acquisition for the student.  This model also differentiates for other students in the classroom who may require content or material presented in a variety of ways.  (EAL teacher Trudy Thorson & Science teacher Shayne McMillen)
Word Wall: Sci 10 (Sustainability)
For a typical class, Shayne and Trudy co-planned in order to clarify the language and content objectives. This enabled them to have a shared knowledge of each other's content areas, which made it easier to focus on the language requirements and to consider the varied needs of the students.  They clearly identified the language and content objectives for each class, and planned the tasks required to support the various learners (pre-teaching vocabulary, visuals, additional leveled material, small group instruction, etc.).

SIOP Lesson Plan
Here is a sample from their blog which shows the areas of focus for a typical class day:
June 10th:
Photo Credit: Ingeniørforeningen IDA via Compfight cc
Content objectives (students will be able to):
To understand the global impacts of our consumer society.
To describe some of the effects of world consumption patterns on global environmental health.
Language objectives (students will be able to):
To a view a video and answer related questions to show listening and understanding.
To discuss sustainability and human's responsibility.
Key vocabulary:
Extraction, production, distribution, consumption, disposal, obsolescence

The advantages to the sheltered Science class were numerous.  Students were able to develop some confidence and begin to take risks.  All students benefited from the collaborative planning nature of the course.  The supports offered to EAL learners were beneficial to all students in the classroom.  In addition, the teachers engaged in conversations about the nature of the instruction and supports being offered.   This team approach allowed for interventions and adaptations as needed.

Throughout the year, EAL teachers, along with the Campbell Instructional Consultants, met to review student growth.  With the ongoing discussions, additional assessment data (students were re-assessed using F&P to measure growth), the classroom teachers are meeting regularly to plan for the needs of their students.  Classes in the new school year will include locally developed courses that support language acquisition and focused targets in the context of the tutorial classes.

There has been significant growth in language and reading development and the teachers and staff at Campbell are excited to see this continue to grow and evolve to support the needs of all learners.

Submitted by Campbell Collegiate EAL teachers & Team Lerminiaux Instructional Consultants

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Aski: Holistic "Help Me Talk About Math" Assessment

Aski - the star of the show
Students, teachers and parents at Gladys McDonald and Dr. George Ferguson schools had the opportunity to participate in a pilot math assessment this past April. Aski is back in the "Help Me Talk About Math" (HMTAM) assessment, and this time he has brought his friends: Nipi, Kon and Tate.

BACKGROUND


HMTAM  is the second holistic assessment initiative by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education. The first assessment ("Help Me Tell My Story"), is a holistic assessment of oral language development aimed at pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students (check out the video for more information).



HMTAM assesses the following seven mathematical processes of grade 1 students: communication, making connections, mental mathematics and estimation, problem solving, reasoning, visualization and technology.

However, this is not your typical pencil and paper assessment. The Ministry teamed up with BVo2, a digital creative agency, to develop an interactive, digital iPad assessment, complete with online story books, iPad games, and a parent portal that allows teachers and caregivers to monitor student development and to access learning activities appropriate to individual students.

Holistic Assessment Universe Model
As well, the assessment was "designed, developed and delivered through a truly collaborative process involving educators, assessment and technology professionals, and experts in First Nations and Métis learning" (Government of Saskatchewan). In fact, the underlying methodology of the assessment is based in First Nation and Metis Worldview.

Another unique feature of the assessment is the parent portal. Once the assessments are complete, parents and caregivers can access their child's assessment results online. Rather than numbers and statistics, the assessment results provide a holistic view of the child's development, complete with connections to "learning activities that help inform ongoing learning interventions at home, in school, in the community and on the land" (Government of Saskatchewan).

Assessment feedback from parents, administrators, teachers and students has been overwhelmingly positive:

"Aski is a puppet with a purpose.  Aski has brought great joy to my classroom the children love playing with Aski throughout the day.  The Aski assessment day was a wonderful opportunity to connect with families.  The math fair engaged families with a  number of math activities that they can explore at home.  The take home math package provided some materials for families to continue to explore math concepts beyond the assessment day.  Aski continues to be an important part of our classroom community."  - Jackie S., Grade One/Two teacher, Dr. George Ferguson School 
“Aski has motivated and engaged our students and families to do math.  Many families have reported the fun they are having by doing math at home.  One mother said, 'we are doing math and my daughter doesn't even know it.'  They are thankful for the math activities they received from the school.” - Lisa N.  Principal, Dr. George Ferguson School
"I think that Aski Day and the Help Me Talk About Math assessment help demonstrate the importance of mathematical literacy. The assessment itself may be finished, but the role Aski plays with my students has not, which means the learning continues too! - Amy L., Grade One teacher, Dr. George Ferguson School 
“Our students are so excited to take the weekly Math Tasks home to finish with their families.  Every child wants to do Math so that they can impress Aski at the Golden Ticket Math Gala at the end of June.” - Gladys McDonald School Numeracy Team (Papp, Flengeris, German, Truong) 
“It was such a short timeline for our Aski Luncheon but we had such a terrific turnout.  What a pleasure to see families engaged with the Aski Boardgame, working together to discuss Math and solve the problems.” - Gladys McDonald School Numeracy Team 
“Aski has become an important part of our school team. He has inspired math learning and has stimulated math conversations that are connected to real life! The time spent assessing, sitting side by side with students was very valuable. It allowed us a deeper understanding of the math processes our students are using. It also acted as a catalyst to look further at the 7 Processes of math. Great conversation, great learning, great investment of time!” - L. Daelick – Principal Gladys McDonald School 
Regina Public Schools is excited that the "Help Me Tell My Story" and "Help Me Talk about Math" assessments will be expanding within the division.

Reed Consultant Group