Monday, June 8, 2015

Professional Growth 2014-15

The two SMART Goals that were met were:
Goal #1:  By the end of the 2014-2015 school year, 80% of gifted 4th grade students will score a seven or higher using the FSA writing rubric as evidenced by the district writing assessment.

Goal #2:  By the end of the 2014-15 school year,  80% of the fourth grade  gifted students will be reading  at or above grade level as measured by their Developmental Reading Assessments.

Based on observation and data collected within the gifted program I feel that Making Thinking Visible Routines, scaffolding of strategies, interactive notebooks, defining expectations, and our collaborations with others have all worked together to make an impact on my students' growth this year.

First, I really feel that our work with Making Thinking Visible Routines or Visual Thinking (MTV) truly deepen the thinking that went on within the four walls of the gifted program, which in turn improved my students writing. This happened over and over again at all grade levels. Good writing starts with good thinking and these simple routines do a great job of guiding students in deepening their thinking around just about any subject matter. Students reflections within their interactive notebooks were nothing, but positive towards these routines. The routines touch on the affective side of the students’ thinking. Although deeper thinking was required of my students they relish and invite this thanks to the guides of these routines.  I am a real big fan!! Over the last couple months,  I have been working with Susan Bowdoin, Media Specialist, Instructional Coach and Discovery Education friend from Albuquerque, New Mexico to produce a few Spotlight On Strategies (SOS) blog post for MTV Routines to be published on the DE website. I only promote strategies that work well with my students and  I truly believe The MTV Routines have had the biggest impact on the Gifted Program this year. I am looking forward to next year to continue our work with them.  When something works I feel obligated  to say so and the first of these post on DE  was published on May 12th.

Still there were times when I noticed that MTV Routines and other graphic organizers had to be scaffolded to help students take their thinking and organize it into a piece of writing. This really came to light as I watched students conduct research and organized notes into their interactive notebooks, but then never return to the materials to finish a task. This was an issue across the board at all grade levels and at both schools so that is when I began to start playing around with scaffolding. This is ongoing brain mental work for me and I am constantly adjusting for age and ability of the groups I work with. It is not always perfect, but I have seen some improvement.  In December I shared an example of this in a blog post " Who is Santa?- A Lesson Comparison Writing" .

Another area I am still working on with the students to define expectations for different purposes of writing and even pieces of writing. For example; we spend some time creating a list of what a good reading response is, what is meant by text evidence, what is a good reflective piece.... for each grade level or group. I am still trying to work on how to make these charts...readily available for each  group with the space I have. Trying to find the balance between having a literacy rich environment, but not creating an ADHD student’s nightmare.  We also worked with the utilized a rubric designed by 5th grade teachers in hopes of getting them ready. Admittedly, this is an area I struggle with and will continue to work. I need to bring the students more into this process of defining  what good and/or complete work.   (See change to the plan for more on that)

Finally, I believe in our need to create and participate in Collaborative Learning Communities where relationships are fostered and learning takes place in the context of those relationships. Although my original thoughts on this plan was that would just collaborate with fourth grade, I feel it doesn’t paint the whole picture of my collaboration in relationship to these goals. I do my best to model my participation within  several different communities of learners. I have a reached out to educators on both Oneco and Prine Elementary Schools campus, visited different grade level meeting, participated in book clubs (Making Thinking Visible, To Understand, Learning in the Fast Lane….), held many impromptu conversations in the hallway (many around these ELA goals), and popped into certain teachers classrooms to unofficially observe . Also, thanks to organization like Discovery Education and other interactions online I have been able to build an active Professional Learning Network (PLN)  that is a priceless resource for me (esp. in my current position).  I am in contact with other educators throughout the US and beyond daily through text, email, Twitter, Facebook, Google Hangout/Skype, Edmodo.... and much of that work relates to these ELA Goals. Through my PLN I have been about to collaborate, plan, and implement several projects related too and design to hone the standards within these two goals. There were our  two online Virtual Literature Circles (Oneco 5th graders with a Private Middle School in Iowa/Oneco 4th with two schools in Escambia County, Florida).  During these virtual literature circles ELA skills were honed through; Interactive notebook, reflective writing, MTV Routines and scaffolding of strategies. Through each of these books,  students' responses grew to be more well thought and deepened throughout the process (especially, in the case of Chasing Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson). I truly believe this was achieved by defining expectations and the ongoing modeling within Edmodo by myself and the other educators involved.  I have chronicled most of the fifth graders’ experience with virtual literature circles on my blog Thoughts and Tales of Digiduchess and these post were all tagged Reading Across State Lines.  On a side note, when students were asked to chose their three favorite activity in Gifted - Virtual Literacy Circles was number three. I felt like this was pretty impressive since 17 (K-3 students) out of  33 had not even  participate.

Next Year’s Plan
Due some of the weaker areas on my formal evaluation, exposure to Ellin Keene this Spring, reading her book To Understand,  students’ reflections, responses to our class climate surveys, and conversations with other educators I have decided to focus on creating a culture of thinking. In the spirit of beginning with the end in mind, I feel that I must define exactly what is meant by a culture of thinking and I will admit that I am borrowing this definition from my current reading Creating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools by Ron Richhart (Havard Researcher). The book states that within a culture of thinking: the focus should be on on the learning and not the work, teachers should teach for understanding rather than knowledge or facts, deep strategy work should be stressed, and independence should be encouraged.

Over the last several years, I feel I have been exposed to, read about, began to implement many useful strategies in creating a culture of thinking (Interactive Notebooks, (MTV) routines just to name a few)  …. and I need more time to dig deep, assess, refine and repeat this process. With this in mind, I would like to set up some sort of true Action Research, as spelled out in the book,  The Reflective Educator’s Guide to Classroom Research: Learning to Teach and Teaching to Learn Through Practitioner Inquiry by Nancy Fichtman Dana and Diane Yendol-Hoppey.

Some of the specific areas I would like to focus on next year would be:
-Classroom Talk-
  Teacher responses/ guiding thinking/setting up expectations.
  Student talk/strategies/ moves to encourage deeper thinking.
-Classroom physical environment that focus on deepening students thinking. This would include everything from furniture to student resources  (ex. Anchor charts how to use them effectively without being overrun by them. With a small space and different grade levels rotating through that space this is a huge challenge………..)

To achieve these goals I would like to:
-Observe teachers with strengthens that I would like to tap into. For example, I would really like to start with K. Lim’s classroom and observe "A  Grand Conversation".
-I would like to be officially put on the 5th grade team. I have visited a couple of their meetings and feel this is a team I could truly collaborate with. I have discussed joining them and have been assured that they would be in agreement with this.  We have also spoken about me joining their book study this summer on To Understand by E. Keene. I have read it, loved it and participated with J. Bradley this year. However, time was limited for book discussion and would love to discuss this book further.
-Throughout the 2015-16 school year, I need to be systematic about recording and completing self evaluations on these specific areas (possibly peer evaluations) on  lessons….. Might use Danielson rubric to help guide these self evaluations, but would be open to others as well.
-Throughout the year conduct stakeholder surveys that relate specifically areas of improvements.
-Incorporate other ideas from  Creating a  Culture of Thinking (ex. "Uncovering the Story of  Your School or Classroom" page 35 and "My Reflections on Learning Activities in this Class" Appendix A).
In other words, I would like to dig deep, experiment, collect data (that relates more specifically to moves being made), adjust and repeat to improve the atmosphere of  thinking in my classroom.

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