Standard 8: Present professional practice for the review of colleagues

As a reflective practitioner, I consider how elements of my teaching affected student learning and determine where I can make revisions and what aspects of my teaching I will continue in the future. As I conclude my Master’s in Teacher Leadership, I find myself following a similar process as a reflective learner.

What did I learn?

One would have to read my bPortfolio from start to finish to get a small glimpse of what I learned, there is simply too much to summarize here. Throughout all of that new learning there is one common thread: there is wisdom in critical thinking. This might seem like a “duh” statement, but anyone who has spent even a sliver of time in the classroom knows how many “shoulds” and “musts” and “requirements” teachers face daily.  And every teacher can tell you about a time when those things got in the way of what she/he knew was the very best for kids.  As a professional I need to give myself the time and freedom to stop and think before charging ahead, especially when someone outside of the classroom is asking me to charge ahead in a direction that is not of my choosing. It’s too easy to get wrapped up in the next teaching trend, someone’s Pinterest board or to spend too much energy on the next mandated high-stakes test. There will always be a new reform, or a new assessment or a new curriculum, but I have the skill set and the experience to stop and think critically about how the new “thing” will impact my students, and as a professional, I have the right to choose what is going to be beneficial my students’ learning. This might mean asking hard questions, choosing to go in a different direction or standing up for what I believe, I don’t have to just go with the ever-changing flow. In fact, I would be doing my students a disservice if I did. Instead I need to stick to my values, what I know and what I can confirm as research-based best practice combined with my unique understanding of my students and community. 

Where can I make revisions?

Where can’t I make revisions? I conclude my educational experience with a never-ending list of things to try and reflect on. Some of my biggest “ah-hah” moments include:

  • To grow as a leader, I need to continue growing as a listener. I get excited, I get nervous when it’s quiet, I’m passionate…those things might all be true, but it doesn’t change the fact that sometimes I forget to listen.  I want to be known as someone who listens and who does a full “diagnosis” before giving a “prescription”. This also extends to making sure that I’m listening to my students!
  • I want to confer with my kids more and “pen and paper assess” way less. This revision is driven by two previous points: I’m growing as a listener (even if it’s slow painful growth) and I can trust my teacher intuition to tell me where a student is currently performing and what they need as a next step. I can know these things without an Angoff Method Cutscore or a 15-page district CDSA. My understanding of my students is reliable data.  (Don’t worry, those pretty assessments will still happen, but with good purpose and not as frequently!  My kids will be busy doing performance assessments and portfolios as a summative norm.)
  • Balance feels best. My classroom needs to be a place that fosters the growth of the whole child. I will continue to look for developmentally appropriate, engaging and fun ways to teach the standards. This also means caring deeply for not only the academic, but also the social-emotional growth of each student in my community.

What will I continue in the future?

I will never stop learning. Teachers are learners, plain and simple. The day I stop learning about how to be a better teacher is the day I retire. Period.

When I started this program I had two goals: complete my master’s degree and figure out my next steps. I never anticipated growing so much, both professionally and personally, through my studies. There were some magical and exciting moments and there were also some experiences that were overwhelming and difficult. I learned from the hard parts and the great parts alike. Three words come to mind that summarize the highlights of this journey: collaboration, community and contentment.


My new learning pushed me back towards my PLC constantly. I often found myself saying “guys, I’m learning this new thing…what do you think?” Not only did my classroom become a laboratory for learning, but my teammates were trying things out, too! Our collaboration felt more focused and purposeful and powerful. As I moved into a job-share during the second year of this program, I felt a sense of camaraderie with my job-share partner because we were in the program together. Our learning led to many insightful conversations about our values, perspectives and teaching styles. Learning together created a meaningful bond that shaped our instruction in our shared space.


One of my very favorite bloggers reminds me often that WE BELONG TO EACHOTHER and TOGETHER WE CAN DO HARD THINGS. I believe that these sentiments are very true of this SPU Cohort. I am leaving this program with knowledge in my head, but more importantly a community of teachers who I respect and admire and feel inspired by around me. They are amazing educators who work hard for KIDS each day, and who I know I could call on at anytime if I needed anything. I desperately hope that our paths will continue to cross as we pursue our various career goals. Together we did MANY hard things!


My first goal, completing my master’s degree is almost complete. Something that has stayed the same is that I still am not sure what my next steps are. Maybe one day I’ll be a principal. Or a professor. Or a mentor/coach. Or a stay at home mama/professional volunteer. Or maybe I’ll start something entirely brand new, something so wonderful that I can’t even dream it up right now. What is different is for the first time I am very content with not knowing. My new learning provides me with plenty of things to focus on as I return to the 4/5 classroom next year. I’m looking forward to continuing to live, and love, and mostly, I look forward to all that I will learn.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Standard 12: Evaluate and use technology for teaching and learning

Starting Points:


I must admit that I dread using technology in September.  The hours spent logging on.  The “what if?” questions that seem to rattle on for hours after watching the AUP. The fact that none of the 4th graders have ever used their individual sign on, and despite my best efforts always seem to lose, forget or mistype their passwords.  All of these things make for a very grumpy teacher! But then we turn the corner and October arrives, bringing with it a focus on digital citizenship and a basic understanding of how and why we use netbooks in the classroom.  Slowly, I move from asking the kids to keep their “paws off” to asking them to interact with the technology, with each other and with me.  It becomes a powerful tool that is central to my classroom culture. This week, I was asked to complete a self-reflection on the ISTE-NETS.  It is apparent that the greatest area I will work on this year is to provide a space for my students to “use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources.”  This goal brings me back to my grumpy September self to a certain extent.  What I am realizing is that while it’s great (and oftentimes easier) for me to dish up digital resources to my student in organized little “digital resource kits”, I’m actually doing them a digital disservice by not teaching them the process of collecting and analyzing their own data and information.  This is my starting point, and I look forward to gaining new skills for this standard as I complete my growth plan.

New Learning: 


I looked closely at some of the elements of a Flipped Classroom.  While this is not my primary method of teaching my students, I believe that it can play a key support role in (and out of) the classroom.  One of the most helpful resources that I have found for this is the LearnZillion website. Here are a few of the reasons why it gets my vote:

  • It is easy to use!  You can quickly set up a class roster and easily assign students usernames and lessons.  They also make it easy to track your student’s progress as they view the lessons.
  • Lessons are taught in a friendly format that is easy for students to understand.  Students can view the lessons as many times as they need to “get it”.
  • Is CCSS aligned!  Honestly, as I grapple with some of these new standards, I have found myself watching one of these videos for ideas and resources to teach.
  • It’s free!  Need I say more?

If you are looking for a way to start dabbling in Flipped Classrooms, I would highly recommend you check it out! 


I’ve really been thinking about some of the ways that I promote digital citizenship in my classroom.  As a 4/5 teacher, I am in many ways my students’ first experience with technology in the classroom outside of word processing and QWERTY.  This makes for some great adventures as well as some big growing pains.  I find that with each consecutive year that I teach I am better able to foresee areas of difficulty and temptation for my students. The first major tool for communication, which requires coaching and support, is teaching students how to be good digital citizens when using school e-mail.  I have my students rewrite an email etiquette contract and send it to me and their parents on the first day of log in.  This helps us to establish positive norms for communication.  Students are eager and excited to have access to e-mail so they are motived to follow our established norms so they don’t run the risk of losing this privilege. Next week, students will begin earning their “Digital Passport” in my classroom.  Moving through this process will help kids to collaborate around several activities that address important aspects of digital citizenship.  I’m excited to begin this work and collect feedback from parents and students! As I evaluate my practice and use of technology in the classroom, I have set a goal for myself this school year.  I would like to work more intentionally not only to teach students HOW to access information online, but also how to give CREDIT for information that they find there.  I’m excited to ponder this more and explore additional resources to support my work in this goal.


In the classroom, my class continued plugging along on earning their digital passports.  Students learned about the importance of privacy online.  They considered what information is appropriate to share online and what information is not.  They logged into their e-mail addresses and agreed to an email etiquette contract. My professional learning centered on presentation with a clear reminder: the technology should act as a vehicle or tool for learning and not the learning target itself.  I explored Glogster (which if I’m being honest I found to be very frustrating and would rather not repeat) looked more closely at how students could use InfoGraphics to share their learning.  I also learned about the GRASP instructional strategy, which I am eager to try at some point!  I also took time to consider my technology growth plan and to formulate plans for the way that I will begin using Haiku in my classroom. RESEARCH! I was most pleased about the work and learning that I did this week around technology.  I believe that this was mostly due to the fact, that just like my students, learning seems to be the most fun when it is mine, mine, mine.  Last week, I was asked to reflect on my current practices around technology in my classroom and to make a goal.  This week, I got to research this topic, looking for helpful sources that would launch me into the application of this goal.

I found three gems that I have bookmarked and plan to revisit often:

Another big learning that I had this week was getting my class logged onto Haiku for the first time.  It was fantastic!  Students are working in groups to research national parks and create a promotional map for their park.  I created a digital toolkit that they used to access creditable sources.  This made for much smoother sailing as kids completed their research!


I got the opportunity to collaborate online using a wiki space called PB works.  There was an initial learning curve, but eventually I got the hang of it and found it fun!  The funny thing was that I still used e-mail as my primary mode of communication to collaborate with my partner, which I believe would disappoint the creators of Wiki.  I guess sometimes you just can’t teach this old dog new tricks.  We also used Google Docs to create a collaborative presentation.  This was fantastic!  I could see using the later in my classroom. As a teacher, I have used OneNote before to encourage collaboration in the writing process.  This was a very neat experience because it allowed me to be a “fly on the wall” as my students worked around editing.  In the OneNote notebook, each child had their own tab, which was their primary workspace.  Each child used a pre-writing template in OneNote and then drafted their essay in Microsoft word.  The drafts were uploaded to the workspace and then the students partnered up to “track changes” and peer edit and review.  One of the neat benefits of using OneNote is that work was not lost.  I don’t care how many times we teach 4th and 5th graders to save to their USB properly, work always seems to get lost.  This was a great benefit of collaborating using OneNote.  At the end of the project, students posted their final work to a shared space and students gave each other kudos.  It was a really neat way to add technology and collaboration to the writing process! As I work on my goals for the integration of technology in my classroom there are a few things I would like to try in the future to increase collaboration:

  • Use Haiku discussion boards more frequently
  • Create spaces where the students can contribute to shared resources

Use OneNote again with this group of students, perhaps for keeping track of their data for the science fair? CREATIVITY! When I think about being creative what comes to mind is my Pinterest board, which is endlessly filled with creative things that I aspire to do and never seem to find the time to.  It’s a long list of wishes and “should” and “if onlys.”  When I think about creativity in the classroom, sometimes it feels the same way.  If only I had more time I could let my kids be more creative.  I know that I should make spaces for them to create.  I wish that I didn’t have to give so many assessments, then I could be more creative with my students. The reality of the situation is just like my Pinterest board, there are always going to be millions of reasons and excuses that get in the way of getting these things done. Ultimately, it’s up to me as the teacher to make spaces for my students to be creative.  If it’s going to happen, I have to make it a priority! Even more daunting than carving out time for creativity in the classroom is the task of integrating creativity with technology.  Despite the fact that so much could go wrong, a lot can also go right.  This week as a student, I was given the task of creating a short film about a day in the life of me.  Using WeVideo I created a short film about my Friday.  It was surprisingly fun, easy to use and resulted in a semi-polished product in a short amount of time.  Because of ease of use, I could see using the technology with students.  I can guarantee their products will be more creative and inspired than mine! As I think about moving my classroom towards a 21st Century space, this quote stuck out to me:  “The core aim for technology should now be instilling creativity in the classroom, he surmised, adding that technology had formed the contours of the teaching and learning process.” (Phneah, 2013)  Our goal as educators should be to move beyond word processing and e-mail with our students (as we have been so constantly reminded the quarter) and we should be moving towards meaningful work that will prepare our students for the types of jobs that await them in the real world!


THOUGHTS ON TECHNOLOGY: MOVING FROM “DON’T TOUCH THE TECHNOLOGY” TO “COLLABORATION” This quarter I was given the little nudge that I needed to grow as a 21st Century Teacher.  I learned new tricks and tips and I was given the space to apply my learning directly into my day-to-day teaching practice. At the beginning of the year, I have to admit that I approached technology cautiously in my classroom.  Between CCSS implementation and a new ELA curriculum, I simply felt that there was not space for ONE MORE THING in my plan book.  The greatest takeaway of the quarter for me came in the form of a reminder of what the purpose of technology was and wasn’t in the classroom.  It looked a little like this, and was constantly reinforced by my professor in each task we completed through out the quarter: what do you want your kids to do with tech

With this new mindset, I was able to approach the integration of technology in my classroom with a sense of openness and truly view it as a powerful tool instead of another thing. Throughout the quarter, my goal was to try to modify the strategies I was learning directly into my classroom practice.  This included a unit on Digital Citizenship, learning the Big 6, trying new presentation platforms (like Prezi) and creating spaces for my students to synergize through discussions and collaboration.  I successfully used Haiku and was thrilled with the results of my students. Collaboration within my students and among my colleagues seems to be the greatest fruit of this labor.  Not only was I able to collaborate and learn from other like-minded educators throughout the quarter, but also I was able to engage my students and create a digital place where they could collaborate.  In teaching, the learning never ends, but for me, this was a very successful start to a new approach and attitude towards integrating technology in the classroom

After thought:

The more that I have worked with this standard, the more I recognize and appreciate the importance of integrating technology into meaningful lessons. As a teacher leader, I also need to support my teammates in this process. Some ways that this can happen is buy providing times of structured support to teachers, where they can collaborate with their PLC about how they can integrate technology into what they are doing instead of thinking of it as “something extra”. Leaders can also support instruction by having clear processes for the use and storage of technology as well as systems for troubleshooting as needed. Programs like Dyknow that allow teachers to monitor student use of technology are incredibly helpful for supporting teachers as they teacher their students to be model digital citizens. Leaders can encourage excitement around the use of technology by promoting Hour of Code school-wide and can increase student buy in by choosing games that weave together fun and content. If we are helping each child to be future-ready, we simply must work to incorporate technology into our daily practice!


Barbour, M. , Brown, R. , Hasler Waters, L. , Hoey, R. , Hunt, J. L. , Kennedy, K. , … Trimm, T. (2006). Online and blended learning: A survey of policy and practice of K-12 schools around the world. Retrieved from courses /787293/ files/ 23477868?module_item_id=4871422 Duncan-Howell, J. (2012). Digital mismatch: Expectations and realities of digital competency amongst pre-service education students. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 28(5), 827-840.

Gunter, G.A., Kenny, R.F., & Vick, E.H. (2007). Taking educational games seriously: Using the RETAIN model to design endogenous fantasy into standalone educational games.Retrieved April 25, 2013 from /courses /787293/files/23324341?module_item_id=4837301

Halat, E. (2008). A good teaching technique: Webquests. The Clearing House, 81(3), 109-111. P.1-6.

Koller, D. (2013, May 11). What We’re Learning from Online Education. Retrieved from

Phneah, E. (2013, March 30). Tech Critical in ‘Unleashing’ Creativity in Classrooms. Retrieved November 16, 2013, from CBS Interactive:

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the horizon, 9(5), 2.

Prensky, M. (2001). Do they really think differently? On the Horizon, 9(6), 4.

Prensky, M. (2009). H. Sapiens digital: from digital immigrants and digital natives to digital wisdom. Innovate, 5(3). Retrieved from

Merrill, D. (2008) Merrill on Instructional Design. Retrieved April 16, 2013 from

Molebash P. and Dodge, B. (2001) Kickstarting inquiry with Webquests and web inquiry projects. (Advancing Technology). Social Education. Retrieved from Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, Vol 9 No. 5,

Resnick. “All I Really Need to Know (About Creative Thinking) I Learned (By Studying How Children Learn) In Kindergarten”

Watson, S. and Wyss, V.L. (2013). Developing Videos to Better Inform Middle School Students About STEM Career Options. TechTrends, 57(2) 54-62

U.S Department of Education. (2011). Office of Educational Technology. Understanding the implications of online learning for educational productivity. Retrieved from courses/787293/files/23477902?module_item_id=4871423

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Standard 6: Teacher Leaders Communicate and Collaborate with a Variety of Stakeholders

In my role as a classroom teacher, I have always felt great about the relationships that I have built with parents and students. I work in a 4/5 multiage classroom, where I “loop” with my students. This gives me two years to get to know them as learners and two years to build meaningful partnerships with their families. I am intentionally warm and inviting, welcoming parents into my classroom for meaningful support through reading conferences, writing buddies and literature circles. I provide opportunities for my families to volunteer in the classroom at the level that they are comfortable. I obtain information about my students’ home life through a beginning of the year survey and contact parents to offer praise and also seek support as needed. I meet with parents and students twice per school year as part of student led conferences and spend hours crafting meaningful commentary on the development of the WHOLE child for report cards.

In my weekly newsletters, I always offer parents tips, tricks and suggestions for how they can support their child’s learning. I require my students to write a weekly reflection to their parents in a student-learning log that becomes a two-way communication log between the student and the parents about what the kids are learning and wondering about. Despite all of these activities, prior to the start of Engaging Communities I had never stopped to think about collaboration with families at the school level.

Here were some of my key understandings and takeaways as a future teacher leader:

  • Parents’ motivational beliefs are an important factor in building a successful relationship.  Parents sense of efficacy for helping the child succeed and parent beliefs about what they should be doing in relation to their child’s education influence parent involvement.
  • Invitations to be involved are a key motivator of parents’ decisions to become involved.
  • The school staff should suggest to the parent that they are a welcome, valuable and expected member of the school community
  • Invitations from the school in general, the teachers and also the students
  • Classroom invitations underscore the value of parental engagement in children’s learning and power of parental action
  • It’s important to empower teachers for parental involvement.  This will happen when you encourage open discussion of positive and negative involvement and share suggestions for improved engagement.
  • It’s also important for teachers to learn about parent goals and perspectives.  It’s important for school leaders to focus on developing two-way family-school communication (asking questions AND listening to responses).
  • You don’t have to start from scratch. It is very effective to join with existing parent-teacher-family structures to enhance involvement (PTA, after school groups, professional development).
  • Remember to offer a full range of involvement opportunities, including standard approaches (conferences and student performances) as well as new opportunities unique to the school or community (first-day-of-school celebrations, parent workshops, social/networking events). This will build culture and engagement at the same time!
  • Be sure to communicate the important role of parents clearly.  Emphasize that all parents can support students’ school success. Parents need specific information about:
    • What they can do to be involved
    • The general effects of their involvement on student learning
    • How their involvement influences learning

Another aspect of communication and collaboration with a variety of stakeholders is to consider changing demographics in schools. When I read Leadership challenges in addressing changing demographics in schools by Madsen & Mabokela, a quote that really stuck with me was, “Principals must determine the degree of estrangement among school participants, and then attempt to bridge those differences by finding resolution among groups. Thus, if the leader lacks the leadership to confront these conflicts, organizational outcomes will be affected.” This quote reminds leaders that it is their responsibility to create an environment where there is a sense of acceptance for all opinions and perspectives.

At the classroom level this means that teachers need to be welcoming and receptive to parents. At the school level, there are many considerations. For example, front office staff has the critical job of being the first point of contact for the school. The way they engage with families can set the tone for how welcome a family feels at the school.

In addition, the principal’s ability to form relationships within and among all groups is critical.  A study found that African American leaders used authority to address disputes, and problems were immediately addressed.  European American leaders tended to take an appeasement approach, believing this was more important than addressing the issue at hand.  It was noted that these leaders were “inadequately prepared to…respond to the racial tensions in their buildings.” Leaders also faced challenges in addressing changing demographics when trying to meet the needs of both African American and European American parents.  European American parents required much of the principals time as they had to justify at amount of time spent on multicultural awareness and teacher qualifications.  African American parents sought principal attention regarding equitable opportunities for their children and procedures for discipline were questioned. African American leaders were “constantly battling teachers’ and parents’ negative beliefs about them. They also had to be perceived as capable, proficient leaders who could lead on cultural issues.”  They believed it was important to insure equitable practices for all students and made great efforts to keep teachers accountable for all students.  They persuaded teachers to examine their own “color-blind” approaches and required high expectations.  These leaders knew how to navigate between the cultures and all groups developed a color-conscious leadership style, working to address everyone’s needs. As a future leader, it is imperative that I continue to explore my own areas of color-blindness, adopting instead a color-conscious approach in the classroom and within the greater school community.

While the population groups might look different at my current school, I feel that this learning is hugely impactful for my role as a teacher leader. One of the reasons that I feel so strongly that this is something important to be aware of is because the ability to NOT address cultural or racial dynamics when it comes to engaging families is an indicator of the white privilege that exists in my current context. I teach (mostly) a group of students who are of the dominant group. As a future leader, it is imperative that I continue to explore my own areas of color-blindness, adopting instead a color-conscious approach in the classroom and within the greater school community.

In Engaging Communities we were encouraged to look for opportunities to change our approach, from the “soup-kitchen framework” where the teacher/leader is the holder of power, to a “potluck framework” where everyone enters on equal footing and contributes what they can. I explored some of these power imbalances in my school-community case study, suggesting future work that could be done to provide equitable communication with all families during a district reboundary process.

Standard 6 Citations:

Agbo, S. A. (2007). Addressing school-community relations in a cross-cultural context: A collaborative action to bridge the gap between First Nations and the school. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 22(8), 1-14.

Castagno, A. E. (2013). Multicultural Education and the Protection of Whiteness. American Journal of Education, 120 (1), 101-128.

Elias, M. (2013). The School-to-Prison Pipeline. Teaching Tolerance, 52 (43), 39-40.

Henderson, A. T., & Mapp, K L. (2002).  A new wave of evidence:  the impact of school, family, and community connections on student achievement.  Southwest Educational Development Laboratory.

Hilty, E. B. (2011). Teacher leadership: the “new” foundations of teacher education. New York: Peter Lang.

Hoover-Dempsey, Kathleen, Joan Walker, Howard Sandler, Darlene Whetsel, Christa

Green, Andrew Wilkins, and Kristen Closson. “Why Do Parents Become Involved? Research Findings and Implications.” Elementary School Journal 106.2 (2005): 105-30. University of Chicago. Web. 6 May 2015. <;.

Madsen, J. & Mabokela, R., (2014). Leadership Challenges in Addressing Changing Demographics in Schools. NASSP Bulletin, 98, 75-96. Doi:10.1177/0192636513514110

Payne, Ruby. A Framework For Understanding Poverty.

Robbins, C., & Searby, L. (2013). Exploring Parental Involvement Strategies Utilized by Middle School Interdisciplinary Teams. School Community Journal, 113-136.

Zepeda, S. J. (2012). Professional development: what works (2nd ed.). Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.

Standard 10: Understand effective use of research based instructional practices

There were two mentor texts that shaped my understanding of effective instructional practices, Classroom Instruction that Works and Visible Learning. Prior to my work in EDU 6526: Survey of Instructional Strategies, I had some understanding of best practice, but was not as well versed in research-based instructional practices. Both of these texts gave me some clear next steps as an educator.

Classroom Instruction that Works:

Nonlinguistic Representation

Learning about nonlinguistic representation was enlightening. A few years ago, I started talking to my readers about making “mental movies” as they were reading. What did the character look like in their mental movie? Was it similar or different to their study buddy’s mental movie? This exercise results in increase engagement with partners during reading and increased comprehension during read-aloud and literature circles. Another area in the classroom where I use nonlinguistic representation faithfully is in math class. I am always looking for ways to incorporate the use of manipulatives into my teaching to make the concepts more concrete for students. One of my favorite tools for my 5th grade mathematicians is to use Cuisenaire Rods to model fractions. It is so fun to see students transfer their learning from something tangible (the rods) to abstract (pen-paper work).

Since reading this chapter there are two things that I would like to be intentional about doing more of: incorporating kinesthetic activities into my lessons and using graphic organizers. It is important for me to incorporate more of this into my classroom practice because according to the text, it will help my students to process, organize and retrieve information from their memory. Also, it will help my students to understand their new learning at a deeper level and recall it more easily…who doesn’t want that?

Summarizing and Note Taking

As I read about this topic, I felt good about the way that I apply the principles of summarizing and note taking in the content area of science. Students are often asked to take notes as they conduct their experiments in a variety of different ways and then reflect on their new learning and capture the essence of the experiment in their science journals. Students take their role as a scientist very seriously and impress me often with their notes and observations in their journals.

One area where I feel that I have made some missteps as a teacher is in the area of note taking in writing class. A few years ago, I wanted students to use their writer’s notebook as a toolbox or reference. In and of it self, this seemed like a great idea that could promote independence for my students in writing. My “young teacher” misstep was to require students to copy my notes verbatim instead of teaching them the content and then supporting them with several different ways to capture it on their own. This became tedious work for students that gave them no ownership of their own learning and simply forced them to copy information I captured for them. More disheartening was that only a few students were observed using the writer’s notebook as a tool. This was confirmed in the reading, which reiterated the negative impact of verbatim note taking. Instead, teachers need to provide ample opportunities to let students note take in a variety of ways to distill information themselves. Teachers can support students by explicitly teaching them a variety of ways to take notes.

Homework and Practice

Homework can be a touchy subject these days! Parents are very vocal about too much or too little homework and as a teacher it can be difficult to form an opinion about the importance of homework because the research about its effects are so mixed. What was reiterated to me through this reading was the importance of providing students with opportunities to practice skills and clearly articulate the purpose of the practice to students and parents.

Three recommendations from Classroom Instruction that Works stood out to me when thinking about homework:

  • Develop and communicate a policy
  • Design homework that supports academic learning and communicate its purpose
  • Provide feedback on homework that is assigned

There were two things that I took away from this that I want to work on in my own classroom. The first is that I would like to work on clearly articulating the purpose of homework to my students. Instead of saying “tonight you will need to complete 2-3 practice in your envision work book” I would like to shift my statement to something more along the line of: “Let’s look at 2-3 practice in your Envision Workbooks. You will see that tonight when you get home you will be practice our learning target for today (state LT). Let’s try the first problem together and while we do I want you to think about how the practice connects to our learning target.This small shift might help change the connection between the lesson and the learning.

Another thing that I would like to be mindful of as I move to my new role as a primary teacher is the use of centers for the purpose of practice. The team that I am moving to uses centers for reading and math daily. While I think that centers can be executed in a fantastic way, this reading has made me mindful of a few things:

  • Does the practice that students are completing at a center clearly align with the learning target?
  • Are students receiving feedback on their practice at the different centers?
  • Are students given ample opportunities to practice? (It takes 24 times to reach 80% competency according to the text!!!)
  • How am I monitoring my student’s progress before sending them off to centers? (Incorrect practice is ineffective…duh!)

Visible Learning

The Flow of the Lesson: The Place for Feedback

When thinking about providing feedback for students Hattie distills feedback into three simple questions: Where am I going? How am I going there? Where should I go next? Despite the simplicity of these questions, providing feedback to students can be extremely complex and is certainly a craft that is learned through trial, error, practice, reflection and repetition. Here are some of my major takeaways about how to provide students with effective feedback:

  • Be sure that feedback is focused, specific and clear
  • There are several types of feedback:
    • Task/Product tells the student if they are correct or incorrect
    • Process feedback encourages deeper levels of understanding
    • Self-Regulated or Conditional level feedback enhances self-evaluation and provides greater confidence through probing questions that guide the learner on when, where or why
    • Self-Level feedback is praise used for comfort or support
  • Praise supports learned helplessness because when used as feedback students become dependent on it to engage in schoolwork
  • Want to make an impact on your students? Separate praise and feedback

My second big takeaway from this chapter was to think about the way that errors are inviting opportunities in my classroom. 10 Ways to Honor Mistakes in the Learning Process helped me to think about was that I can guide students to use errors to their advantage particularly by thinking about how to use technology, practice, immediate feedback and self-paced learning to create a classroom culture where mistakes are valued and turned into teachable moments.

The End of the Lesson

To conclude my learning, I considered the end of the lesson. Hattie argues that the lesson does not conclude when the students leave and the bell rings, but rather when the teacher takes time to reflect on student progress and performance as a result of the instruction. He implores teachers to ask tough questions: What did students understand and not understand? What evidence can I use to support this?

As I reflect on my lesson closure as an educator, I feel that there are two areas where I am consistently engaged in best practice. The first is that I regularly connect new learning to real-world application. This is something that I value as a learner, so I naturally connect it to my teaching. Another strategy I use often is to give my students a quick exit ticket. This helps me to have data to support my reflection about what students understand (or not) and allows me to progress monitor and adjust my instruction and groupings during the next part of the learning.

One thing I would like to be more intentional about is to help students to understand how the learning will connect to future work. I plan to try the strategy “It Fits Where?” (from closure ideas assembled by Ann Sipe) by having students create a timeline of their new learning in a future unit and add the learning targets to a timeline as they move through the unit. I can also be more explicit about previewing how students will use the new learning in the future at the close of a lesson.

Between my reflections on reading, and my Instructional Strategies Inquiry Final Project I have many clear ideas of how I can continue to refine my teaching craft and support my team as a reflective leader.

Anderson, C. (2000). How’s It going?: A Practical Guide to Conferring with Student Writers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Calkins, L., & Martinelli, M. (2006). Launching the Writing Workshop. Portsmouth, NH: Firsthand.

Dean, C., Hubbell, E., Pilter, H., & Stone, B. (2012). Classroom Instruction the Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement. Aleandria , VA: Pearson.

Fountas, I., & Pinnell, G. (2001). Guiding Readers and Writers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Fountas, I., & Pinnell, G. (2009). When Readers Struggle: Teaching That Words. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Hattie, J. (2012). Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning. New York, NY: Routledge.

Himmele, P., & Himmele, W. (2011). Total Participation Techniques. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Price, K., & Nelson, K. (2011). Planning Effective Instruction: Diversity Responsive Methods and Management (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Medina, J. (2008). Brain Rules. Seattle, WA, USA: Pear Press.

Price, K. M., & Nelson, K. L. (2011). Planning Effective Instruction (4th Edition ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Routmann, R. Reading Essentials: The Specifics You Need to Teach Reading Well. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Shubitz, S., Cockerille, A., Hubbbard, B., Moore, B., & Murphy, D. (2013, December 15). Two Writing Teachers.

Retrieved May 23, 2014, from Tips from Amanda Hartman, Conferring Guru:

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Standard 11: Utilize formative and summative assessment in a standards based environment

To begin reflecting on my understanding of how to use formative and summative assessment, I had to first reflect on my understanding of what I would be assessing, the CCSS. At the start of the quarter I reflected:

“…Common Core State Standards. From professional development modules (given by my district) I have learned about some of the ways that the standards are different from previous state standards. First, there is a great emphasis on expository text. We have been challenged to spend equal (50/50) time in expository and narrative text. Also, there is a great emphasis on practicing skills using complex texts. Last, students must make sure that their responses are grounded in evidence from the text.

In addition to some time exploring the CCSS as a building, my teams chose to focus on Common Core last year for our team development focus. We read the book Pathways to the Common Core by Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth and Christopher Lehman. I would strongly recommend this book for anyone looking to further understand the standards. The book does a great job of speaking to what the standards value in reading and writing. This helped me tremendously, as I was better able to see the standards objectively and supplement as needed.”

In all honesty, assessment is an area where I have struggled as an educator. Most of my struggle comes from a feeling that my students are being OVER-assessed, and feeling like there is not anything that I can do to change that. Between grade-level data team work, common district assessments, assessments from the curriculum, and state assessments it can feel like I don’t have enough time to teach because I’m always giving an assessment! On top of that, some of the assessments that are given to 4th and 5th graders are LONG and complex to grade using a standards-based system and cut scores. This means that I spend long hours grading and still sometimes find myself struggling to keep up. This limits my ability to monitor and adjust my instruction using assessment data, and the assessments become pointless as they collect dust on my desk, or in my car, or as they get recycled because they are JUST TOO OLD TO RETURN. (Please, teachers, we have all been there—right!?!) At some point, enough has to be ENOUGH!

My new learning around utilizing formative and summative assessment helps me to conquer some of these struggles that I face. It was a breath of fresh air that reminded me of the good that can come from standards-aligned, creatively crafted and diverse assessments. I have been reminded that I’m NOT powerless to change the way that assessment looks in my classroom.

Here was my process:

Unpacking the standards helped me to create an initial unit assessment. In order to unpack standards I went through a careful process of identifying the standard, the nouns and the verbs within the standard, finding an appropriate depth of knowledge, redefining the verb in a student-friendly way, and asking myself, “What does this look like in student work?”  One thing that I learned about myself was that I was used to pulling from available resources when it comes to assessment, not creating my own from scratch. I also practiced applying my understanding by giving formative feedback using a rubric.

As my understanding of assessment for student learning deepened, I found myself intrigued by the effectiveness of portfolios as a tool that would work best with my learning targets for the unit covered in the exam I created.  I explored the idea of using a Growth Portfolio, as a place where students could compile artifacts that show their progress towards the unit learning targets. I designed a plan that allowed students to be able to self-select some artifacts that will show their growth will use some of the prompts from Stiggins to promote self-reflection.

I created artifacts designed to show student growth throughout the unit including: 

My Learning Guide Anticipation Guide:

  • Students can use this to track their progression (student ownership, growth over time)

Monthly Menu

  • Student accountability during practice/center time in the library (student ownership/accountability)

Student Selected Artifact:

  • Students will choose from center activities, Big 6 Research projects or any other work they feel represents their progress (student choice/voice)

Student Reflection:

  • Using student reflection prompts to encourage critical thinking (depth of knowledge)

Genre Bookmark:

  • Final performance assessment (engagement and student voice, technology integration, teacher feedback)

Throughout my learning process I refined my initial work:

“My summative assessment did not include any selected response questions, as it was a performance assessment. Upon further consideration, I decided that it was important to add a short online assessment as another piece of evidence.”

I also learned that an area of opportunity for me was to be mindful of creating a variety of assessment opportunities for my students. In the past I found myself conforming to the norm of giving mostly pen/paper traditional assessments (yuck). As I continue to refine my practice, I will keep looking for creative and varied ways to all my students to demonstrate their understanding of the standards.

In the case of assessments, I can really see how knowledge is power when it comes to avoiding the trend of over-assessing. As I begin to plan for my return to the 4/5 classroom next year, I have already found myself thinking and speaking differently about formative and summative assessments and asking myself very new and different questions. The question that first comes into my mind is, “is there another way?” I find myself pondering how I can check for understanding in a way that engages my students, excites my students and fosters relationships with my students. Is there a way that I can confer with a child instead of putting a pen and paper into their hands? Is there a way I can offer them choice or ownership in demonstrating their learning? Above all I find myself thinking, “if I give this assessment, then what next?” How will my instruction change? How will my conversations with my PLC change? If it won’t, then perhaps it’s not worth my time or my kids time, and it’s certainly time to go back to the drawing board for a new plan!

Calkins, L., Ehrenworth, M., and Lehman, C. (2012).Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. London: Routledge.

O’Connor, K. (2009). How to grade for learning, K-12 (Revised/Expanded ed.). Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin.

Marzano, Robert. (2010). Formative Assessment & Standards-Based Grading. Bloomington, IN: Marzano Research Labratory.

Stiggins, R., & Stiggins, R. (2008). An introduction to student-involved assessment for learning (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall.

Stiggins, R., Chappuis, J., Chappius, S., & Arter, J. (2007). Classroom assessment for student learning: Doing it right — using it well (Revised/Expanded ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Education.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Standard 7: Utilize instructional frames to improve teaching

Charlotte Danielson, the creator of the Danielson Framework says, “a commitment to professional learning is important, not because teaching is of poor quality and must be ‘fixed’, but rather because teaching is so hard that we can always improve it. No matter how good a lesson is, we can always make it better. Just as in other professions, every teacher has the responsibility to be involved in a career-long quest to improve practice” (Danielson, 2011). Using the Danielson Framework is something that I have had the opportunity to do through my role as my building’s PGE Teacher Leader. In addition, I learned the most about the Framework for Teaching the year that I had a student teacher, as I found myself often referring to and referencing it as I worked to support and stretch her practice. I have also had the experience of receiving 5 years of valuable feedback from my administrator using this framework. All that to say, I find that different aspects speak to me at different times. Every time I dive into the book, I leave with something new to think about or refine. My experience echoes Danielson’s quote that our work as educators is never done.

As a (hopeful) future school administrator or new teacher mentor, I recognize the importance of utilizing instructional frames to improve teaching. Danielson reminds us that beyond the legal responsibility to the public, it is important to assess teacher effectiveness because quality teaching is an important factor in the classroom; in fact, teacher credibility in the eyes of students has an effect size of .90 according to Hattie. A good Professional Growth and Evaluation system clearly defines the “what” of teaching, has clear procedures that provide evidence of teaching (the “how”), and evaluations are conducted by trained evaluators who can make accurate and consistent judgments based on evidence. This evidence is used to provide meaningful feedback to teachers. Goe (2013) reminds leaders that meaningful feedback is based on evidence from research-based instruments. “Data” becomes “evidence” only through the act of analysis and interpretation. This means taking time to provide feedback to teachers through coaching conversations. In addition, leaders have many high quality tools for collecting data available to them: observation, artifacts, surveys, student assessment, and portfolios. All of this collected data serves two useful purposes: accountability and feedback. Effective feedback is tied to specific standards, immediate, specific and detailed, focused on specific evidence and constructive, not critical.

As I ponder my next steps, I have also taken some time to reflect on strengths and intentions using the Association of Washington School Principal’s Leadership Framework. Here are some of the key things I learned about myself as I created my professional growth plan:

  • Using the Ross-Barger Philosophy Inventory, I know that my philosophy of leadership is strongly existential. This means that I place emphasis on individuals and their life experiences and believe strongly that education should encourage exploration of fundamental questions. I believe that school should be truthful and non-manipulative and place emphasis on choice, action and consequences. Conversely, my lowest area on the inventory was realism. I view systematic learning, which organizes curriculum into separate subjects as a barrier to student learning. I also do not believe that the teacher is the final authority in the classroom, or the holder of knowledge.
  • The ‘X – Y Theory’ Questionnaire revealed that my management style is Y as well as I prefer to be managed by Y leaders. This leadership style means impacts my visionary leadership because it is my desire to create a vision that is created by the individuals on staff and based on their shared experience. I desire a school-wide vision that is interwoven authentically into the practice of the school, not just revisited yearly. Part of the growth that I will have as an educational leader will be to find a balance between continuously revisiting and renewing the school vision and holding the vision as a leader to allow the work to progress.
  • My self-evaluation using The Managerial Grid revealed my management style as 9,9: Contribute and Commit (Sound). This management style demonstrates high concern for both results and people. Part of my goal as a leader will be to be a consistent and approachable leader.
  • The Leadership Survey revealed that my dominant leadership style is Quadrant 2: High Task and High Relationship (score of 8) and my supporting style (score of 2) is High Relationship and Low Task. Additionally, I scored reasonably high on Adaptability (+15). My management style that favors relationships and also high task completion, combined with my ability to adapt helps me to manage effectively.
  • According to Jung’s Temperament Interpretation I am naturally a “Teacher” as an ENFJ on the Meyers-Briggs assessment. I have “ a natural talent for leading students or trainees toward learning.” Additionally “teachers (around 2% of the population) are able-effortlessly, it seems, and almost endlessly-to dream up fascinating learning activities for their students to engage in.” This trait’s greatest strength “lies in their belief in their students. Teachers look for the best in their students, and communicate clearly that each one has untold potential, and this confidence can inspire their students to grow and develop more than they ever thought possible.” This naturally leads me to believing in all students and deeply desiring for them to experience success at school. A growth area for me is to make sure that I am also allowing others to lead instead of naturally falling into that role. I must remember to foster and encourage leadership in others since I am so naturally inclined to pick up leadership roles. Additionally, I am working on listening. I often want to jump in to share ideas in a way that can cut others off. I am working to listen completely, with the intent to understand instead of the intent to respond.
  • According to the Thomas-Kilmann Instrument Conflict Mode Instrument, I am equal parts compromising and accommodating. When I am compromising, I hope to find an expedient and mutually acceptable solution that satisfies all parties. When I am accommodating, I have the tendency to neglect my concerns to satisfy the concerns of another, or yielding to another’s point of view. As I grow in leadership, I will have to learn to become unaccommodating in my willingness to flex when it comes to leading the school in the direction of its mission and values.
  • Reflecting on my results of the Conflict Style Questionnaire, I found that my strengths are compromise and collaboration. I can use these skills to help me understand the needs of all students in my building and to collaborate with teachers and the greater community to provide a positive learning experience for them.

Both the Framework for Teaching and AWSP Leadership Framework provide clear direction for me regarding my next steps for growth on my teaching journey.

Works Cited:

Association of Washington School Principals. (2014, 7 22). AWSP Leadership Framework. Retrieved 11 12, 2014, from

Danielson, C. (2014). The Framework for Teaching: Evaluation Instrument. Retrieved 10 22, 2014, from Danielson Group:

Danielson, C. (2011). Evaluations that help teachers learn. Educational Leadership (35-39).

Distad, L. S., & Brownstein, J. C. (2004). Talking Teaching: Implementing Reflective Practice in Groups. Lanham, Maryland, USA: Scarecrow Education.

Goe, L. (2013). Can teacher evaluation improve teaching? Principal Leadership, 24-29.

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: a synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. London; New York: Routledge.

Holland, B. M. (2008). Appreciative inquiry: a strategy for reshaping education that builds on strengths and hopes. In P. D. Houston, A. M. Blankstein, & R. W. Cole, Spirituality in Educational Leadership (p. 53). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

York-Barr, J., Sommers, W. A., Ghere, G. S., & Montie, J. (2006). Reflective Practice to Improve Schools: An Action Guide for Educators. Thousand Oaks, CA, USA: Corwin Press.

Tagged , , , , , , ,


Starting Points:

A week after I enrolled in classes for the first quarter of my master’s degree, I found out that I was pregnant.  I had to stop and pause to think about if it was a good idea to begin a huge professional journey, while simultaneously embarking on the biggest personal journey of my life (becoming a mom).  After much consideration, I decided to give my master’s a try and looking back, I’m so pleased that I did!  This quarter has not only grown me as an educator, but it also helped me to think about the growth of my own little one.  While I was nervous and overwhelmed at the start, I eventually settled in to my new routine as teacher-student-wife-almost-mom.  I found the texts to be challenging, the readings to be numerous and time to be short, but I persevered.  I’m happy to say that I came out the other end of the quarter with additional wisdom in my brain and more tools on my teaching belt.  Here is a brief overview of my journey:

Brain Rule: Exploration

As I settled into my new role as a student, took a few deep breaths and dove into learning, I began by preparing a presentation for my teacher-peers about Exploration.  Little did I know that this would become the filter through which I would carefully contemplate much of the new learning that I did this quarter.  I found John Medina’s book, Brain Rules to be a breath of fresh air, as it was written in the narrative tone, which my brain feels comfortable with.  (I would come to find out later there might be brain research to support the reasons why my female brain processes information this way!)

As I learned in preparation to teach my peers, I carefully considered the opportunities for exploration that I was providing to my students in my 4/5 classroom.  I reflected, “I have found that one of the best ways to introduce exploration and curiosity into my classroom is often by engaging students in experiential education activities.  One of the simplest places to start is to begin with culture building experiential education.  This looks like giving students a task, stepping back (hardest part: without interfering in their process) and letting them sort it out and then taking them through a structured debrief.  My class debrief follows the same format each time, as I ask the following questions: What did I ask you to do?  What happened?  Where can we go from here?  The responses, connections and ideas that these simple experiences elicit are often profound and meaningful.”

Technology, Digital Learning and “One More Thing”

Throughout the quarter, I looked a technology from a few different perspectives.  The first, as this class was interlaced with my Technology Integration class, was to increase the opportunities that I was providing my students to engage in collaboration and higher level thinking using technology.  Instead of writing off technology as “one more thing” that I had to cram into a packed schedule, I was challenged to remember that, “The core aim for technology should now be instilling creativity in the classroom, he surmised, adding that technology had formed the contours of the teaching and learning process.” (Phneah, 2013)

Conversely, I looked at technology with a skeptical eye as I considered the developmental stages of students and when technology is indeed appropriate.   A quote stuck out to me in a reading from the NAEYC and Fred Rodgers Center,  “interactions with technology and media should be playful and support creativity, exploration, pretend play, active play and outdoor activities.”  This stuck with me as I planned meaningful technology instruction that encouraged my students to interact, think and collaborate and as my husband and I discussed our parenting stance on technology with our future little one.

Memory and Strategies for Students

At the halfway point, our coursework brought me to a space where I considered memory, cognition and intelligence.  (Brilliant timing on our professor’s part, as my brain was beginning to get very full and this helped me to pause and think about making the most of my own thinking!)  I remembered the learning that I did in teacher prep school about information processing theories and Benjamin Bloom.  While I found myself overwhelmed by some of the scientific specifics behind the way that our brains process and store information, I enjoyed thinking about the educators implications of what we learned about memory and strategies that could support student learning.

Here are a few of the take-away quotes that stuck with me that week:

 “A curriculum as it develops should revisit this basic ideas repeatedly, building upon them until the student has grasped the full formal apparatus that goes with them” (ibid.: 13).

“It is important to help children understand why and when a particular strategy should be used, as children do not usually transfer strategies to new situations.”  (Wolfe, 2008) 

“It is nearly impossible to consciously process two trains of thought at the same time, especially if they involve the same sensory modality (Wolfe p.128, 2008).” 

Classroom Spaces and Dream Schools 

These were my favorite weeks of learning!  I love talking about classroom spaces that build student independence and foster learning.  I also love to look at best practices and dream about the best systems that can help students to be engaged and successful life-long learners.  Charlotte Danielson, the “best-practice” guru for all teachers, speaks my language when she says, “For group work, tables of desks arranged in blocks may be preferable.  And if students are expected to discuss ideas, they need to be able to see one another.” (Danielson, 2007, p. 75)  I couldn’t agree more; from the research I have done in my humble classroom laboratory she is absolutely correct.

One area where educators are being asked to dig-deep at this time is in the area of assessments. I found myself returning to a text from my teacher-prep days as I thought about the function of assessments in the classroom.  Kay Burke says, “Learners should be able to construct meaning for themselves, reflect on the significance of the meaning, and self-assess to determine their own strengths and weaknesses…. Assessments, therefore, should focus on students acquiring knowledge as well as the disposition to use skills and strategies and apply them appropriately.” (Burke, 1999, p. xv)  This was a good reminder in the midst of the assessment-crazed, “student-learning-for-the-purpose-of-data” teaching culture that I find myself immersed in.  I looked back to one of my happy places as a teacher, the day that I visited and observed UCDS in Seattle.  I love the way that this school approaches the progression of skills on a continuum.  It was fun to dream about a way to incorporate this into a public school, and challenging to think about how to get parent buy-in to this type of thinking.

Making School Work for All Kids

The same week that I found out that I was having a baby boy, I learned about the structural and functional differences between the brains of boys and girls.

Here was my “ah-hah” for the week:

Boys Have Higher Levels of Testosterone and Vasopressin and Weaker Neural Connectors in Their Temporal Lobes (Gurian & Stevens, 2005, p. 406-406)

What does this mean?  Boys show weaker listening skills, such as picking up on clues like tone of voice.  They have a greater need for sensory-tactile experiences.  There is less verbal emphasis in the brain, instead they learn through action-response and hierarchical competition.

What can teachers do?  “Take advantage of the fact that emotional events are remembered longer.” (Wolfe, 2010, p. 223) Instead of relying primarily on written or verbal directions and teaching, create positive emotional experiences for students.  Engage them in simulations, sing, dance and tell stories. The more hands-on your students are, the more their learning and retention will benefit.

Eventually, I moved past thinking about just gender needs and began thinking about some of the wisdom that has been presented for meeting the needs of ALL kids.

  • Some of the greatest practical takeaways from Wolfe for me this quarter were:
  • —Activity and projects increase meaning and motivation
  • —Concrete experience is one of the best ways to make strong, long-lasting neural connections
  • —Engage students in active rehearsal, peer teaching, active review and hands-on learning

and, of coarse my pal, Medina:

  • Don’t multitask!
  • “Hooks are hallowed ground”
  • —Emotions affect motivations
  • —“We are natural and powerful explorers”
  • —We learn by active testing through observation, hypothesis, experiment and conclusion


I wrapped up my studies for the quarter by taking a close look at the Montessori classroom.  I found beauty in the worlds of Maria Montessori, “We discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being.”  Being a Montessori kid myself as well as reflecting on an amazing experience I had as an intern in a Montessori k-3 classroom, I wanted to know more about the research behind the method.  At the heart of the Montessori method are these core beliefs:

  • Children and young adults engage in self-construction by means of interaction with their environments
  • A child’s psychological, physical and social development must be respected
  • —Children at liberty to choose and act freely within a prepared environment will act spontaneously for optimal development
  • —Mastery is best attained through exploration, imitation, repetition and trial/error

Here are some of the lessons that I believe Montessori can teach public educators:

  • —Stop and observe your students
  • —Create meaningful spaces
  • —Incorporate the Workshop Model (Mini-lesson to whole group followed by student work time) whenever possible
  • —Look carefully at reducing transitions and increasing work time
  • —Consider using manipulatives to make meaning more concrete
  • Engage in debrief with students

Next Steps: Sleep

Medina’s mantra for his brain rule on sleep is sleep well, think well. As I wrap up this quarter and prepare for winter break, I think I will take his advice!  Despite being tired, I am also excited about the information I have learned and I am looking forward to another great quarter in 2014!


Screen Shot 2013-12-14 at 7.05.33 PM

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Standard 9: Evaluate and use effective curriculum design

Prior to the start of this new learning I felt moderately comfortable designing my own units. I have engaged in this process with my team in the area of writing, math and social studies in the past. I have received training on the three stages of backward design regularly engaging in the practice of focusing on the design of big ideas, considering/designing assessments and then creating a learning plan that is engaging. (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005) When I have engaged in this process, I have always had the benefit of a plethora of curriculum and resources to pull from to support my planning as well as past years as an educator. This unit was a different experience because I was starting with the Standards for the 21st-Century Learner (American Association of School Librarians, 2007) but I did not have any adopted curriculum to pull from nor do I have any experience in my new role as a school librarian. This encouraged me to follow advice from Understanding by Design: “Our lessons, units, and courses should be logically inferred from the results sought, not derived from the methods, books, and activities with which we are most comfortable.” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005) This proved to be a challenging but rewarding process.

I began by working with my teammate to design a curriculum map that would guide our planning and instruction:

Unit Map.Kate and Kim

Next, we worked to craft essential questions that pointed to the core big ideas in our unit. (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005) We came up with the following questions:

  • Kinder – 1st : How can I find what I need in different books?
  • 2nd – 3rd : How do people find information in different genres of books?
  • 4th – 5th : How do researchers gather the information they want from a variety of genres?

As we moved through the process of designing our unit, one of the most challenging parts was to clearly articulate how we would prove that our learners understood the learning target. We ended up using an anticipation guide and the GRASPS strategy (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005, p. 159) to assess student understanding of the learning targets.

Through the reading of Curriculum 21 I felt strongly about incorporating two new learning components into the unit. The first was to design instruction that encouraged active inquiry as opposed to passive acceptance. (Jacobs, 2010, p. 34) The second was a commitment to the “21st Century Pledge” (Jacobs, 2010, p. 22) where students benefit from instruction that is:

  • An integrated use of technology that enhanced content
  • An application to a specific unit of study
  • Evidenced directly in student products and performances

To accomplish these goals we made a plan to use Haiku for student engagement and assessment. We also incorporated authentic assessments, asking students to engage in a performance assessment at the end of the unit. (Chappuis, Stiggins, Chappuis, & Arter, 2012) To extend the learning beyond the Library, we created a student portfolio reflection that students will complete and add to their data notebooks at the end of the unit. Finally, we created a system of student accountability where students would monitor their progress towards their learning targets each session using a monthly menu.

One of the most valuable learning experiences for me the quarter, aside from setting a strong precedent for planning with my new teammate, was learning the WHERETO acronym. This is a succinct and clear plan that a teacher could realistically use to design instruction in any classroom and I plan to use in my future classroom.

Works Cited:

American Association of School Librarians. (2007). Standards for the 21st-Century Learner. Chicago, IL, USA: American Library Association.

Chappuis, J., Stiggins, R., Chappuis, S., & Arter, J. (2012). Classroom Assessment for Student Learning: Doing It Right – Using It Well. Boston, MA: Pearson.

Jacobs, H. H. (Ed.). (2010). Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

O’Connor, K. (2009). How to Grade for Learning K-12. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Standard 4: engage in analysis of teaching and collaborative practices

Analysis and reflection have always been a core value of mine personally and has also been emphasized in my building as well as this master’s program.  In short, the practice of reflecting in a collaborative setting has been engrained in me as a teacher and is something that I am constantly doing. At the start of Accomplished Teaching, I reflected on some of my strengths as a reflective practitioner, and also set my intentions for where I would like to go next. Some things that I noticed were: the need to formalize my reflective process to include some type of record keeping or journal and to explore opportunities for collaborative reflection in my new (temporary) role as the school librarian.  My growth in the area of individual reflection can be seen here.

During Accomplished Teaching I also had the opportunity to engage in a partner reflection and collaborative coaching.  It was a meaningful experience for me as it gave me the chance to explore a possible future career in which I am very interested. I noted in my reflection that, “One way that this coaching move seemed to impact my partner’s thinking is that instead of talking simply about the use of manipulates/activity (level 2 in Danielson) our discussion shifted to discussing learning outcomes for students.” I feel that this is a constant struggle for teachers, to use reflective spaces to talk about student work and learning outcomes instead of activities. I know from personal experience, how meaningful PLC work becomes when it is founded in student data and growth. McFeetors (2008) states, “The inclusion of student data encourages teachers to reflect in more meaningful ways, with the aim of transforming practice and beliefs.” I have certainly found this to be true in my own teaching practice, as evident through my collaborative analysis of student work.

As I prepare for my future plans (to return to the classroom next year) I consider how I will authentically incorporate this new learning to my teaching rhythm. The first thing that I plan to do is one of the most important things that anyone engaging in collaborative practice can do: listen. I look forward to hearing about the work that the team has already done and where they (not where I) would like to go. As a teacher leader, I will use my newfound skills to look for opportunities to guide my team towards “best practice” collaborative work, but always gently, and at a fitting pace. I also plan to advocate for our team to engage in peer learning walks, where we can learn from each other and have collaborative conversations about what we are doing in the classroom. I know that amazing educators surround me. I feel honored to learn, reflect and grow with them!

Works Cited

Houston, P., & Sokolow, S. (2008). Spirituality in educational leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Knight, J. (2009). Coaching. National Staff Development Council, 30(1), 18-22

McFeetors, P. (2008). Using student data for teacher reflection. Canadian Journal for New Scholars in Education , 1.

Price, K. M., & Nelson, K. L. (2011). Planning effective instruction: diversity responsive methods and management (4th ed.). Belmont, CA, USA: Wadsworth.

The Danielson Group. (2013). The Framework. Retrieved November 13, 2014, from The Danielson Group: Promoting Effective Teaching and Professional Learning:

York-Barr, J., Sommers, W., Ghere, G., & Montie, J. (2006). Reflective Practice to Improve Schools: An Action Guide for Educators. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Tagged , , , , ,
Teacher Leadership

A topnotch site

SPU bPortfolio

by Chris Stroh, M. Ed., Seattle Percussionist and Music Teacher

Jodi Zygar's bPortfolio

SPU Teacher Leadership

Inspiring Young Minds

Educational Discussions

Adventures in Teacher Leadership

Teacher leader in the making.

Teach. Lead. Innovate.

My journey in teacher leadership.

Teach, Lead, Reflect

SPU Online Portfolio


Seattle Pacific University bPortfolio