Monday, February 28, 2011

What makes a Great Share Square by BES students

We are always looking to improve our students' understanding and know the power of the Share Square. At BES, we understand that this time when we gather, as a whole class, in a circle to do more than "share their learning. It's that, for sure, but some days it's also a forum for exchanging ideas and discussing issues, making connections from our reading (and other subject areas) lives to the world, and constructing meaning for ourselves and each other, one idea at a time." "It's about tone, it's about respect, and it's part of the language we use as we live and learn together..."  (Miller)

As thoughtful educators, we know that "providing children with opportunities to articulate their thinking honors their voices and strengthens the reciprocity between oral and written communication. In addition, the share lets children model literacy as teachers while it empowers them as learners." (Kempton)  We know that this conversation allows for students to explore a topic in depth. "Because the leader [teacher] does not provide answers, participants are challenged to think for themselves. By trying out their ideas and exchanging and examining opinions, students build their answers  and develop their own ways of understanding the selection (concept)."  (GBF)
Watch this video to see what our own students have already internalized about The Share Square.

What do your students think makes a great Share Square?

Miller, Debbie. 2002. Reading with Meaning
Kempton, Sue. 2007. The Literate Kindergarten.
The Junior Great Books Foundation. 1999. An Introduction to Shared Inquiry

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How did we get here? Where do we go next?

Thanks so much to all of the teachers who so eloquently represented BES and OCS for the soon to be published article by the Public Education and Business Coalition. It was a pleasure to be "a fly on the wall" for the conversations during the interview by Paula Miller, Staff Developer for the PEBC, as she worked to learn more about: How did we do it? How did we learn how to teach like this? How do we get our kids to think deeply and use the strategies? and the ever important question: Are you there? "Uh, NO!" Ok, so what's next?
For everyone's viewing pleasure, here are some of your peer's thoughts on:
  • Superintendents' Support- Mr. Upchurch's leadership, "We're in the business of helping kids." and the other superintendents' support. -AND WE CERTAINLY ARE HERE AT BES!
  • A focused vision- that we go in-depth to understand, and it's sustained over time through PDs, instructional faculty meetings, and PLC group meetings. We share this vision with the other OCS.
  • A collegial community from TOP to bottom- The culture developed because we have a principal who told us, "I don't know all the answer's either, but we'll work though this together." We struggle together here. As E.Keene said, we know the understanding is in the struggle.
  • An iinstructional leader-  a principal who knows good instruction and shares in our new learning.
  • Reading research- optional (but encouraged) book clubs to foster our understanding and to encourage us to dig-in and work/wrestle with the strategies and concepts we are/were learning. We have learned the benefits of GRR, using the workshop approach, and teaching through the thinking strategies.
  • Permission to practice. "There is no failure here.- ONLY SUPPORT. We believe it's a way of teaching reading... an all over approach that Lisa has given us permission to try... and to fail. "But it's not like we really fail, because we are always offered support and encouraged to try, try again."
  • Supportive (not competitive) Colleagues we can go to, lean on, talk ideas and questions through, and even go into their rooms and observe them in action.
  • Everyone is on board-The extent of the collegial support here permeates through our Special Education teachers, Related Arts, Instructional Assistants, Media Specialist, e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e is on board. Kid don't just learn about, talk about, and apply  the thinking strategies and writing expectations in their own classrooms, but in all classrooms.
  • A model The first year we got to see kids really talking about their reading and engaging in a Share Square. Now, we can have a literacy coach in our own room, or to other teachers' classrooms (in and out of BES) and see for ourselves how to do it, or how to go deeper and how to figure out our next steps. Sometimes we even take our classes on "field trips" to learn how others are successfully doing what we're trying to do.
  • Reflective practitioners- we constantly analyze and reflect our practices to make decision for the next DAY, WEEK, UNIT, etc.
  • Literacy Coaches- support us in planning, modeling, co-teaching, and the sharing of ideas and resources from both inside and outside of our building- they have a global view that we don't always have in our classrooms- they have a network in the district to draw from
  • We listen- We ask our kids, "How's it Going?"  and really listen so we can focus on their needs, not our next lesson in our "plan books".
  • We read, and read, and read- We always read up on the best practices we want to use in our classroom.  Book study or not, we're always looking for something to read and grow us professionally (so we can positively impact student learning)
  • Evidence of effectiveness-  Since our journey began, our classroom observations and test data show the improvement in our students' learning. (e.g. Reading scores in 2004  before we began our intensive work with thinking strategies were 97.02. In 2010 103.9. Our writing scores 2004 = 79.57. In 2010= 103) the list could continue!
Are we there yet? NO. NO. NO.

To go deeper- to move our, and our students', understandings to a deeper level. The
thinking strategy language can be heard, but the depth is still not where it needs to be. We've got to continue on this journey to understanding and thoughtful teaching... and we will.
Yes, BES, we will. Because we strive to grow in our craftsmanship, consciousness, efficacy, interdependence, and flexibility. Yes, we will.
Thanks again to everyone. You and your students were amazing. How fortunate we are here at BES. How wonderful it is to be on this journey with you. As the song goes, "We're all in this together!" and together we'll go far!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Authentic Writing Outlets: Are You Looking for Publishing Opportunities?

Extra! Extra! Read and WRITE all about it!!

In celebration of the Louisville Writing Project's 30th anniversary, we are sponsoring a K-12 writing contest for students in the Jefferson County and OVEC area.  Writing may be in any genre.  Categories include K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. The first-place winner in each category will receive a $50 gift card.
The deadline for submissions is April 1.  Winners will be announced on or before June 4.  Details are attached.
Student Writing Contest.pdf‎ (111 KB‎) Open this document for additional information.

Teaching for Understanding using Best Practices: Sometimes WE Just Need a Model

We all know that 5, 10, 15 years could go by and we may never see a classroom outside of our own. We often get so comfortable teaching behind our own four walls, that we make or never take the opportunity observe the practices of others for the purpose of learning, reflecting, and setting professional next steps. Reading research-based books, participating in PDs, and engaging in conversations with our colleagues can only offer so much in fostering our growth- sometimes we just need to see a model of best practices, hear the language of the classroom, and feel the rigorous, yet nurturing community established. Sometimes you just need go to on a professional “field trip”.

Something we strive to do here at BES is integrate the thinking strategies across all content areas. Over the last several years we’ve concentrated heavily on implementing the language and process in our reading workshops, but moving our understanding of teaching through thinking strategies into our writing, math, science, social studies and other workshops is the next step towards helping our students to understand, apply, and transfer their learning. Taking a planning or half-day and going outside of your classroom (within our own school or outside of BES) will grant you the opportunity to observe best practices such as:

• integrating thinking strategies within literacy and across content areas
• high expectations & rigor
• workshop model
• model conferring
• student-led Share Square the works to deepen students’ understanding of concepts
• classroom environment- physical space and classroom community
• varied (and possibly new) approaches to addressing content
• etc.

The Strategy/Activity for our Literacy Component on our CSIP includes offering teachers the opportunity to continue to observe in other classrooms ways to integrate thinking strategies and improve next steps in instruction to implement thinking strategies in all curricular areas. The Expected Impact in Terms of Progress and Success are the following: as a result of an observation student performance and achievement increase as evidenced through classroom observations, teacher reflections, and analysis of common assessments. Is this the next step for you?

Take 3-5 minutes to fill out the survey sent to your email to see if observing in another classroom is the next step for you in your efforts to refine your professional practices.