Teaching Social Studies = Opportunity and Challenge

It always seems that just when I think I have it all figured out, I don’t! The social studies scene in New York State has shifted a bit since June and we are still figuring out what that might mean to schools and districts. If you are not aware, the New York State Board of Regents voted in June to revise the timeline for the new design and of the Global History and Geography Regents and the U.S. History Regents. The memo from SED on the changes can be found here. There will be a more extended period of transition from the current Regents design to the new format, with the new format being fully implemented in June of 2021. So what does this mean? Continue reading

It Takes a Village…….

The beginning of the school year is the perfect time to bring attention to the prevalence of childhood obesity as you evaluate and implement new routines for your kids…and, September just happens to be National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Despite a significant decline in obesity among preschool-aged children (2-5) from 2003-2004 to 2011-2012 (13.9% to 8.4%), the fact still remains that children and adolescents as a whole are too heavy. Approximately 17% (1 in 5 = 12.7 million) of U.S. children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese; more than one-third (33 %) of U.S. children are overweight or obese. As age increases, so does the obesity rate: 17.7% of 6- to 11-year-olds and 20.5% of 12- to 19-year-olds. Continue reading

Demographics or data do not equal destiny!

This month’s book review is Turning High Poverty Schools into High Performing Schools by William H. Parrett and Kathleen M. Budge. I selected this title to highlight based on the summer Teacher Center poverty simulation in August and work I recently completed within districts this summer. The state of our national, state and local economy and the impact on children is of heightened concern. First the good news: schools with high rates of poverty can and do demonstrate high levels of student achievement. However- this is not accomplished without a whole system (district, school) approach. It is the system approach that sets this resource apart from other resources. Continue reading

Design…Check: Now We Need Some Habitude!

As I embark on another year of coaching teachers around Project Based Learning, I realize that understanding the “what and why” of PBL is only half the battle; It is time now to focus on the “how”. How do we move beyond surface-level implementation of projects toward deeply embedded inquiry-based practice? Teaching this way is not a way of “doing”, rather it is a way of “being”. To help frame my thinking, I revisited a blog post by John Larmer and John Mergendoller where they highlight PBL teaching practices. In it, they outline 7 practices necessary when moving from design to implementation.

This led me to ask the following when coaching teachers to shift from planning to practice:

  • Is the work of the project aligned to the standards?
  • Are students self-directed risk-takers motivated to guide their own learning?
  • Is work time balanced and productive?
  • Is inquiry scaffolded to meet the needs of all learners?
  • Does the learning environment embrace and act on a balanced assessment system?
  • Are students and teachers engaged in a partnership around shared goals?

I think if teachers start with those questions around Teaching Practice, they can acquire a PBL “habitude” as they engage, facilitate, and coach students towards understanding, while also supporting the acquisition of skills necessary for future success.

So how do we move teachers towards this habitude of authentic learning? I think I might start by providing an opportunity to dig into the Project Based Teaching Rubric so they may gain clarity and shared understanding of what Gold Standard teaching looks like. I might have them choose to focus on one or two practices; then the real work starts. Once we know the outcomes we seek, we can collect data that tells the story of the practices, evidence that proves where the teaching lies. We will look to student work, public products, interactions and assessments to see if we are being true to Gold Standard PBL Practice so that we might continuously engage in a craftsmanship that leads to powerful teaching and learning. It is arduous work, but thanks to rich resources like the Project Based Teaching Rubric and Project Based Teaching Practices, we have a clear picture of where we can take students! With the right “habitude”, the sky really is the limit!

Downs_Randi_WEB_1409Randi Downs
PBL Trainer and Coach at OCM BOCES

Laying a Foundation of Trust

Last spring, I had the opportunity to go to Oakland, California to attend Elena Aguilar’s training, “The Art of Coaching Teams.” We were in a beautiful, peaceful setting and the days were filled with opportunities to collaborate with others and reflect on our roles as instructional coaches. I left the training with a sense of goodness, hope and optimism about the work that we do. Continue reading

Teacher: After Assessing Students, What’s Next?

Upon reaching the last day of summer Observation Survey training, commonly known as Assessment Training Week, the question “what’s next?” asked by a teacher in training who was eager to learn more.  The answer wasn’t obvious to this experienced teacher, but yet newly trained to the program because the Reading Recovery program’s components have a unique, systematic approach.  You see,  after the Reading Recovery teachers in training learn the concepts of the Systematic Observation Survey, how to administer the six batteries of useful tools which capture a student’s literacy ability, and reflect on specific questions to carefully analyze and synthesize the results for a complete understanding of what the child can control, partially control, and not yet control; then, literacy teachers are ready to provide instructional guidance, leading to the next step is, and referred to as, “Roaming Around the Known!”

What is Roaming Around the Known?

We use Continue reading

It’s that time again!

Teachers are scurrying to set up their classrooms and prepare for another year of learning with a new group of students. As I recently had the pleasure of working with a group of teachers getting ready to launch a successful year of co-teaching for students with disabilities, I am reminded of what it takes for high-impact co-teaching.

Let’s face it. There is Continue reading