Monday, October 29, 2007

Significant Studies

While surfing the web tonight, I found an on-line resource for my Second Grade ELA team. We will be using the text Significant Studies in Second Grade as a book study to delve into deeper studies in dialogue and non-fiction strategies. This on-line resource includes the first 75 pages of the text and covers the dialogue lessons. Check it out if you are interested in enhance your own classroom studies.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Give me a... C-H-E-E-R-L-E-A-D-E-R

Cheerleaders are enthusiastic and vocal supporters. Their positive comments can inspire someone to go above and beyond and they always make it a point to applaud excellence. You won't find this term listed in my roles and responsibilities as a coach, but it is certainly something I take very seriously.

We all know those people we want to spend the most time around. Those that always have a sweet smile, positive word, and glass is half full outlook on life. I was not born with this optimistic carefree personality but I work to remember what it feels like to be around individuals with this gift.

I make it a point to cheer on a teacher whenever I can. Some of my cheering is embedded in casual conversation, some typed in an unexpected email, and some as I pen a hand written note on a Positive Postcard each week. There is no special occasion, no fan fare, just a pat on the back that says-- Dear Christy,

I thoroughly enjoyed watching you videostream your Writing lesson for Literacy 101. Each time I watch a lesson in your room, I stand in awe at your thoughtful and well planned lessons, your engaging delivery, and your focused closing sessions. Your students' writing shows incredible depth for fourth graders. You fuel my passion for our craft. Thank you for being you.

From me, this is not just fluff and stuff. These are genuine accolades that show evidence that I care about teachers and appreciate all they do to educate our children.I'm not the only one with this outpouring of support. In fact, at Chets each Wednesday a Positive Postcard with postage is placed in every teacher's box. Each teacher takes the opportunity to pen a positive note to a student, parent, or colleague. Then, they drop the postcard in the Principal's mailbox and she reads the note before mailing it off. What a great way for her to hear an outpouring of all the exceptional things happening in her school each week, and what a positive culture of compliments we are all share. If you don't have this same tradition, it is certainly worth pursuing.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Zealous Learner

I may not be Joe Paterno or Vince Lombardi, but I am an instructional coach on a mission. My mission is that of a learner, the most important hat I wear. My team expects me to be knowledgeable, to be on the cutting edge, and to be able to deliver the most up-to-date and valuable information. In other words, at least one step ahead of them! That is not always easy in my community of learners and leaders.

The past several weeks, I’ve participated in many activities to be a Learning Leader. I’ve gone to state conferences, attended local meetings, read a literacy text, participated in collegial conversations, and been totally involved in the world of on-line conferences.

State Math Conference
I traveled to Orlando to attend and present at FCTM, Florida Council of Teachers of Mathematics. While participating I attended two valuable sessions presented by the Florida Department of Education. The first was a presentation by Rob Schoent and Todd Clark from the Math Department on the newly adopted mathematics standards. To see their Power Point presentation visit , scroll down to Oct 11-12 FCTM Power Point presentation. The second was hosted by Steve Ash of the Testing Department on the implications to FCAT based on the new standards. To view their Power Point visit the above page and click on Oct 12 FCTM Presentation.

I immediately shared my new learning with the two math coaches in my building. They are in the process of creating a plan to share the new information during their Teacher Meetings and WOW Days.

District Math Council
I went to DEMC, Duval Elementary Math Council, with six other Chets’ Teachers. The presenter was James Williams from America’s Choice. His message was about students’ misconceptions in mathematics, and how teachers can help resolve misconceptions. He presented a well researched and written intervention program, Mathematics Navigator, which targets students’ misconceptions. Chets has been using the program for the past two years and the results have been unprecedented.

I’ve been reading, Significant Studies for Second Grade by Karen Ruzzo and Mary Anne Sacco who teach at the Manhattan New School. The Second Grade Pacing Guide needs infused with new ideas and resources so I’ve turned to this book to help. I’ve found it so user friendly that I now have it on order for the whole 2nd grade ELA team. We will begin a book study as soon as it gets here. The plan is to implement the non-fiction part of the text after the first of the year followed by the dialogue lessons in early February. I’ll keep you posted about student work and performance based on this implementation.

At the same time I’m reading this text, I’m in search of what I’ll read next. I think I’ll turn to Stephanie Parsons. The 1st Grade Team has recommended Second Grade Writers which is hot off the press, because they’ve used the First Grade Writers in their Pacing Guide for several years.

Collegial Conversation
My most valuable learning opportunity comes at the hands of my talented and knowledgeable literacy colleagues, dayle and Melanie. Like a sponge, I try to absorb their every word and walk away with a wealth of information. In the past two weeks alone, they have opened my eyes to the world of blogging, twittering, social bookmarking, and on-line conferences. Their passion is contagious and I will forever be grateful!

K-12 On-Line Conference
Because of the collegial dialogue, I’ve spent countless hours listening to keynotes and presentations, and reading comments and blogs. I am astonished that sitting in the comfort of my own home, I can attend an educational conference. I hear and see the information first hand and simply send a link to my team for them to see the same message I’ve received. This has opened my eyes to a whole new world and I am ecstatic!

The learner in me is glowing!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Coaching Spills Over

What started out as a “moral obligation,” sold to us by our former beloved principal, has turned into so much more. About five years ago, Terri was charged as a Regional Superintendent to move student achievement forward in her 26 schools. Her niche in the power of persuasion helped convince the three Math Leads at Chets to embrace a Math Cohort. Two teachers from 26 schools would attend a full-day of monthly math training at Chets to learn from our best practice. The idea was to build math leads at each school so they could build capacity at their school site.

We thought, who in the world wants to come listen to us? Well, it turns out, they all did. Seldom did any of them miss a day of Math Cohort. One of the most valuable lessons we learned from the three years of Math Cohort was that math teachers were hungry to discuss professional practice, read professional literature, and watch other teachers in action. The highlight of each meeting was a live demonstration lesson in a K-5 classroom and a debrief.

At the end of three years, the county made the recommendation that this training be provided to all Duval’s elementary schools. The Chets team, which added a couple new players along the way, agreed to merge with district math coaches to offer the training to a larger audience. The Math Cohort became known as the Academy of Mathematics and over a hundred schools were invited to attend. The location changed to the Schultz Center for Teaching and Learning but the basis of development stayed the same. Each agenda would include a live demonstration lesson and debrief. To accomplish this we turned to videostreaming.

The first Academy of Math gathering of the year was held last Friday. Math professionals from around the district participated and the demonstration lessons were as valuable as ever!

A 2nd Grade Math Teacher, Melissa Ross, videostreamed her math mini-lesson, work period, and closing session. Then, she comfortably took a seat in the corner of her classroom in front of the TV to debrief with the live audience.

The math presenters from Schultz asked her to reflect on her lesson. Then, the presenters opened the discussion to the audience. They asked her questions; How did you plan for this lesson? Did you group your students according to data? Did you teach this lesson any differently this year than you did last year? How did you choose students for closing session? They also complemented Melissa on her tedious planning, impeccable rituals and routines, and use of technology in the lesson. They told her they were going to take her visual best practices during closing and implement them in their classrooms.

Changing other teacher’s classroom practice based on best practices they’ve observed, can it really get any better than that? Kudos to the coaching spilling over!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Coaching LIVE

Broadcasting live lessons through videostreaming allows the doors of Our Magic Kingdom to open to the outside world. “Why is this important?” you might ask. It is no secret that teaching is traditionally hailed as a closed door profession, and at Chets Creek we have broken that barrier. Since the school opened in 1998, teachers have been building a culture of collaboration and collegiality. They have been hosting and participating in demonstration lessons and debriefs, attending weekly teacher meetings, working with content coaches in their classrooms, and delving into professional book studies. The next evolution was sharing our best practice with the outside world. Video streaming on real time has allowed us to begin this journey.

My coaching role in this week’s video stream was an easy one. I simply observed in Vicky’s classroom over the course of a week in Reader’s Workshop, gave her a few suggestions on tweaking her practice, and pointed her in the direction of Melanie’s blog. Reading Melanie’s blog on teaching Sub Text allowed Vicky an avenue to read about a new strategy, gather children’s literature, and implement the reading strategy in her own classroom. My role was minimized with this self-directed second year teacher, and Vicky’s colleagues from around the district got to benefit by watching her lesson live!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What is an Instructional Coach?

Whether I am introducing myself to someone new at the ballfield or at church, I always say that I am an instructional coach at Chets Creek Elementary. Most times I am met with blank stares. The courageous ones ask, "What is that?" "Do you teach?" My response is yes...sometimes I teach the children and many times I teach the adults. But, that is only a fraction of what I do. As I walk away, I feel guilty that I've left them under a cloud, but how do you explain in just a few simple sentences this job...

(Most of these roles are defined in "Taking the Lead" by Joellen Killion and Cindy Harrison.)

Roles and Responsibilities for
School Instructional Coaches (SICs)

Classroom Supporter – Increases the quality and effectiveness of classroom instruction.
• Model lessons in classrooms on a daily/weekly basis. Components of modeling include: planning with the teacher or team prior to teaching the lesson, delivering the lesson, debriefing with the teacher or team, and coaching/mentoring the teacher teaching follow-up lessons.
• Identify instructional strengths of individual teachers and assist in identifying lead teachers and model classrooms.
• Develop coaching plans, as needed, for teachers not demonstrating student gains.

Instructional Specialist – Aligns instruction with curriculum to meet the needs of all students.
• Assist in the development of school-based assessment tasks that promote higher-order thinking skills for students.
• Facilitate the examination and assessment of whether student work meets the standards (Assessment for Learning).
• Support and assess the levels of implementation (Look-Fors) of various instructional programs.

Curriculum Specialist –
Ensures implementation of adopted curriculum.
• Provide assistance in blending content knowledge and knowledge of differentiated instruction with the workshop model for instruction.

Learning Facilitator – Designs collaborative, job embedded, standards-based professional learning.
• Plan, implement, and follow through with training including professional learning community (PLC) sessions and Early Dismissal Trainings based on results of both formal and informal teacher surveys.
• Assist teachers complete a self assessment of their instructional strengths in literacy, math, and science.
• Survey faculty for amounts and levels of professional development/in-services attended at the district level to determine whole school content area knowledge.
• Prepare and present Parent Workshops on the Standards and/or content areas.

Data Coach – Ensures that student achievement data drives instructional decisions at the classroom and school level.
• Assist the Principal and Leadership Team in the disaggregation of student performance data, by school and by teacher; and assessing instructional coaching needs of individual teachers.

School Leader –
Works collaboratively with the school’s formal leadership to design, implement, and assess school change initiatives to ensure alignment and focus on intended results.
• Collaborate with the school leadership team to establish a school culture of trust, so that coaching is viewed in a positive light by teachers and a vehicle to assist teachers in improving their practice.
• Cultivate a culture that supports innovation continues improvement of teaching

Mentor – Increases instructional skills of the novice teacher and support school wide induction activities.
• Orienting and closely mentoring and monitoring all beginning and non-college of education teachers new to the school, in coordination with assigned Cadre.

Resource Provider –
Expands teachers’ use of a variety of resources to improve instruction.

Catalyst for Change – Creates disequilibrium with the current state as an impetus to explore alternatives to current practice.

Learner – Models continuous learning, to keep current, and to be a thought leader in the school.

Accountability – Organize and document work via monthly activity report.
• Turning in monthly time logs in a timely manner, documenting a majority of time spent in classrooms.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Demonstration Lesson

By definition a demonstration is a show or display; the act of presenting something to sight or view; "he gave the customer a demonstration." As I mentioned in my last blog, all WOW Days begin with a Demonstration Lesson. A teacher or coach from the grade level offers to host a lesson in their classroom to show/display how part of their day is conducted. This puts in plain sight the work of the classroom for all other teachers at that grade level to view.

The demonstration content is usually driven by the professional development focus of the day. For example, today part of WOW Day was based on skills-block, therefore Mrs. Mallon offered to host her Kindergarten team during her morning skills-block time. The observers quietly gathered in her room as her students dutifully gathered in the meeting area. The fast paced skills-block lesson full of ritualed activities built on phonemic awareness and phonics ran for 40 action packed minutes. The audience of teachers cheerfully beebopped to several familair tunes tweaked to teach letter sounds, blends, and rhyming words, and feverishly jotted notes as they quickly noticed ideas they wanted to encorporate in their own classrooms. Upon lesson completion, the students excitedly filed out of the room headed toward WOW Day, and the team of teachers converged on the conference room.

The lesson debrief conducted by a teacher leader on the team started with Mrs. Mallon providing a reflection of her lesson. After her reflection, teachers were given the opportunity to dialogue about warm comments...compliments to Mrs. Mallon about things in the lesson that went well and/or ideas that they could borrow from her to implement in their own skills-block. A working hum took over the room as these passionate teachers conferred about this outstanding demonstration. Dialogue then included questions that the teachers had, "When did you begin using letter blends?" "How do you know when to phase an activity out and bring another in?"

This team has built a community of learning, sharing, and collegiality. As an observer, I could clearly see that an atmosphere of trust was at the cornerstone of their work. They are truly committed to growing as a team with their focus on instruction for all kindergarten students. There is no feeling of competitiveness or isolation. Each teacher is there to improve their own practice by learning from the best practices of the group. This collegiality would be the envy of any teacher that feels they are not in a professional learning community.

To see more of Mrs. Mallon's classroom happenings, view her blog at

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Working on the Work Days

Working On the Work Days
A Chets Creek Professional Development Dream…
Every Wednesday, an entire grade level of colleagues at “The Creek” gather together to spend an entire day developing professionally. They begin by observing a demonstration lesson and debriefing the lesson, then spend the rest of the day dedicated to content knowledge learning lead by a content area coach.

Sometimes the demonstration lesson is taught by a colleague and sometimes modeled and delivered by the coach. Regardless of who implements the lesson, this tradition opens the door for collegial dialogue in an overwhelmingly closed door profession. Bringing a wealth of ideas and best practices to the forefront of our dialogue allows for the development of a collegial community built on Relationships, Risks, and Results.

After the lesson and debrief, the day is spent with the professional learning group discussing reading strategies, delving into math problems, analyzing data, spilling over student work, building rubrics together, creating units of study, or a plethora of other things. Whatever the task, our “Creek Teachers” are up to the challenge.

“Where are the students?” you ask while their classroom teachers are off learning together. Are they in their classroom with a substitute teacher learning from substitute plans meticulously pecked out on the computer by their classroom teacher? Nope! Are they at home playing their day away? Nope! Are they on a field study? Nope! Then, where are they?

With great pleasure and much anticipation, students are happily rotating on a full-day schedule to all their resources in the Magic Kingdom (Art, Music, PE, Media, Technology, Science). The learning opportunity for students is tremendous as the Talented Resource Team embraces their unique role in professional development at "The Creek" and has diligently planned a day of instruction for an entire grade level of students.

At “The Creek” WOW Day occurs every Wednesday and cycles through each grade level: 5,4,3,2,1, and Kindergarten. The Resource Team then has a Wednesday Planning Day and the cycle begins again.

The students are moved from one resource to another by volunteers that willingly and lovingly give of their time to create this special day for teachers and students. WOW Days at "The Creek" are beneficial to all.