April showers bring May flowers or so the saying goes. However, as I sit here writing this there is a snow advisory and the world is once again all snow covered and white. So as we slowly turn the corner from winter to spring I am thinking about the past couple of months and the work the OCM BOCES professional development team has accomplished by collaboration with numerous educators across many districts.
We have co-planned, coached, provided tools, templates, and resources, delivered one time and multiple sessions of professional development galore in the past six weeks. The topics most requested have continued to focus on assessment, standards based planning, and working with students needing additional scaffolding such as struggling readers and students from poverty. Given that so much time and energy has been devoted to figuring out CCLS, assessments systems, and teacher evaluation, I think it is indicative that we are grasping more of the fine points, by starting to wrap our heads, hearts, and hands around the scaffolding and heavy lift that will be needed for some students. It seems that we are seeking ways to turn the highs expectations into student success… or to use the metaphor of turning April showers into May flowers.
So what do we talk about…
Use the data: We are awash in data so the challenge is to separate the wheat from the chaff. What data will assist us as instructors to make the right decisions regarding design of learning opportunities, curriculum, materials and further assessment? Most frequently the data that will give us the most is gleaned close to instructional moments or formative assessment. Using this data to inform next steps and actions can support additional direct and explicit instruction based on the needs identified by the formative data. This might be individual, small group or whole class based. The holy grail or the aspiration level is to involve students – are they able to articulate what needs to be learned, where are they regarding their learning targets and what is next goal. Recently I discovered a strategy that was new to me called Laundry Day. In this structure students are required to self- assess their currently level of learning regarding an upcoming assessment and group (Tide, Gain, Bold, Cheer) for an appropriate level of review and reinforcement or extension. You can find further directions and explanation within this article by Cassandra Erkens.
Words, Words & More Words: For struggling students, and research suggests especially those from generational poverty, vocabulary development both in quality and quantity may be a deterrent for academic achievement. As students progress through the grades the demands shift from concrete to abstract requiring advance and diverse levels of vocabulary with greater levels of specificity. Additionally, tier two words may be an area that will require purposeful attention. We cannot assume that students know a word or term- or we need to ascertain that knowledge is beyond recall level and can be applied across varied contexts. Education Week (February 6, 2013) included an article highlighting the need to be mindful regarding vocabulary instruction and offers a sample flow chart to determine “which words matter.” It is not enough to teach words, but educators must select carefully which words.
All the heavy lifting , efforts, and hard work are to support students to meet meaningful and high expectations. Watch these students share their appreciation for having high expectations and expressing the self-satisfaction gained from meeting them. What might their teachers say about the scaffolding, time, and careful design of the learning experiences that contributed these students success?
What are you talking about? What considerations are topics of conversation and planning as you think about scaffolding for struggling students? How are you preparing to turn April showers into May flowers for your students?