Instructional Coaches Blog

  • Early Literacy

    Posted by Patricia Denton on 11/26/2018 12:00:00 PM

    Do you remember the day that you first learned how to read? Learning to read actually begins developing at birth, and for literacy development to occur, certain important skills are involved. If they are read to, young children may learn about books and print. If they have conversations about stories, learn letters and sounds, and have opportunities to draw and color, they may very well come prepared with the building blocks for later reading and writing.


    Because reading is a puzzle with many components, it is imperative to assess whether or not our students need support in any of the following reading components. These components include phonological awareness, phonics, including decoding, spelling, and word study, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.


    The foundational skills of phonological and phonemic awareness are the best predictors of future reading success. Phonological awareness is the broader term and it includes rhyming skills, dividing words into syllables, alliteration, and onsets and rimes. Phonemic awareness is under the umbrella term of phonological awareness. It involves the awareness that words are made up of speech sounds and includes blending, segmenting, and manipulating these speech sounds. Pronunciation is also important.


    Phonics is the relationship between letters (graphemes) and sounds (phonemes). It is the mapping of speech sounds to print which is referred to as the alphabetic principle. Phonics must be taught explicitly and systematically, in order for one to learn the many different letter-sound relationships. If one is to decode words automatically, early readers, including English Learners, must be able to apply their knowledge to reading words in isolation, as well as, in context. Learning the word patterns is also vital in understanding how to read, spell, and integrate words into their writing. Also, word study benefits all students within their level of spelling development.


    According the the National Reading Panel, “There are two types of vocabulary - oral and print. A reader who encounters a strange word in print can decode the word to speech. If it is in the reader’s oral vocabulary, the reader will be able to understand it...if it is not, the reader will have to determine the meaning by other means.” So, it is extremely important to read a variety of books with children and to learn names of things in children’s environment. It is also important to teach word learning strategies and multiple meaning words in order to build children’s word knowledge. If they understand how to decode these words and engage in repeated oral reading practice with decodable text, they may become fluent readers. Fluency is accurately identifying words with expression.


    Finally, comprehension is the all-important goal of reading. It involves comprehending and decoding strategies before, during, and after reading. If we expose children to a variety of genres, they may make connections, be able to respond to stories, respond to informational texts and poems, and be inspired and motivated to become proficient lifelong readers.


    According to Emily Hanford, “Research shows that children who don't learn to read by the end of third grade are likely to remain poor readers for the rest of their lives, and they're likely to fall behind in other academic areas, too. People who struggle with reading are more likely to dropout of high school, to end up in the criminal justice system, and to live in poverty. But as a nation, we've come to accept a high percentage of kids not reading well. More than 60 percent of American fourth-graders are not proficient readers, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and it's been that way since testing began in the 1990s.”


    How will we find the piece of the puzzle that may need to be addressed? How will we provide assistance in selecting the necessary techniques, technology, tools, or materials to support struggling readers effectively? We are to challenge ourselves as educators, immerse ourselves in the research, thoroughly analyze relevant data and student work, focus on areas to target, and dedicate our efforts to improving student learning. This will have a positive impact on our students and it will give them a brighter future!


     See image below.






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  • Coaching Cycles: A Partnership Approach Toward Teacher Self-Efficacy

    Posted by Greg Moon on 9/24/2018 7:30:00 AM

    Although we are moving into our fifth year of having Instructional Coaches in Romoland, there are plenty of teachers new to the district that might not be familiar with this resource, so it might be a good time to review why we have coaches and how they can be a resource to every teacher in the district.


    The overarching purpose of instructional coaching is to increase both the engagement and the achievement of every student. Though coaches don’t work directly with students, effective collaboration between a teacher and a coach helps bring out the best performance for every teacher, which has a direct effect on students. Coaches employ both teacher-centered and student-centered methods to assist teachers in improving their instructional decisions. This is done through the use of coaching cycles.


    In a coaching cycle, instructional coaches and teachers focus on using both quantitative and qualitative evidence (data) about student engagement and achievement. Coaching involves an ongoing cycle of goal setting, observation, and learning through data collection, feedback, discussion and reflection.


    All coaching cycles use clear, focused goals related to the practice of the teacher and the engagement and achievement of the students. Coaching cycles are guided by goals that are specific to the teacher and informed by school and district improvement programs and priorities. The goal of a coaching cycle creates a target for the most important part of a cycle, which is learning. The power of the collaboration between a coach and a teacher comes from the learning that takes place by a teacher about a specific piece of their practice. Some of the activities that coaches and teachers engage in during a coaching cycle might be looking at student work, discussing educational related texts, observing best practices (e.g. model teaching, peer observation, or video), co-teaching, and collaborative planning of curriculum, pedagogy, and/or assessment.


    This year we have four Instructional Coaches in Romoland, and all of them are available to work with teachers within coaching cycles. Additional information about coaching and contact info for the coaches are located on the Instructional Coach Information page of the district website. Feel free to reach out to any coach for professional assistance with your professional learning.

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  • Personalized Learning

    Posted by Patricia Denton on 8/27/2018 9:00:00 AM


     Personalized learning has always been around, but in different forms for different environments. Being part of a family with 13 children, there were always different needs at different times and in varying degrees. A brother, needed driver’s training, I needed piano practice time, another needed remedial math, two younger ones needed phonics and reading, one needed braces, another needed updated shots, a brother needed glasses, and so on.


    Just as our families have varying needs, so do our classroom families. Perhaps we may have several students struggling with reading, but each one may be weak with different phonological issues. (short or long vowels, vowel pairs or r-controlled, multisyllabic word strategies, comprehension, etc.) This may also impact their struggles with writing, so diagnosing the issues is a must before customizing a plan to improve their writing.


    So, how do you become aware of the needs of our students in our own classrooms? We have teacher reports, graded and returned homework and tests, observations, I-Ready diagnostic, Accelerated Reader, DIBELS, and   foundational skills inventories which give insights into who needs what.

    Sounds simple, doesn’t it? If we address the needs that our students have, right from the ‘get-go’, we can support them with small group intervention, web sites, materials, peers, etc. It would be like having training wheels when learning how to ride a bike.


    Focusing on students’ needs may prove more manageable now and may not feel so overwhelming when the second I-Ready diagnostic comes around. Students deserve our attention to any obstacle that may hinder   their learning on a successful learning path!

    Once you’ve administered these assessments, I will be available to assist you with analyzing the results!


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  • i-Ready Resource Ideas

    Posted by Greg Moon on 8/27/2018
    As we move toward all students completing Diagnostic 1 and beginning work on the personalized learning path that i-Ready generates for each student, here are a couple of resource reminders to help you leverage your valuable classroom and planning time to get the most effective and efficient use from this learning system.
    i-Ready Success Guide for Teachers -- The Success Guide should have most everything you need for a great year with i-Ready.
    Tips, Tools, and Ideas from the i-Ready Community -- The i-Ready Central educator ideas page has a ton of ideas on how other educators around the country are using i-Ready to drive student success. Feel free to contribute your great ideas to this growing community resource.
    Please always feel free to reach out with ideas, questions, and/or comments about your i-Ready experience, including assistance with interpreting the data available in the system and how you can use it to inform and modify instruction.
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  • Sharing Writing Inspires Stories: An Eduprotocol

    Posted by Sonal Patel on 8/20/2018 4:30:00 PM

    I was super excited to read about the Digital Class Book Eduprotocol and particularly enthused by the idea of using a slides format to create books in a variety of standards aligned topics. As Heburn and Corripo stated in their book Eduprotocol Field Guide  “The books are easily published in a class website, creating a virtual class library”. You could also put QR Codes of the slides in your classroom library area. When students share their ideas like this, they inspire and come up with great stories!


    Here are some ideas I thought about as I previewed some of the first Units of Study themes for this month:


    • Kindergarten: What can we learn when we try new things? Each slide could have the sentence frame “I can learn ___________” The answer could be an uploaded image. (Based on the Big idea of the unit)
    • First Grade: If I could pick any name for myself, I would pick _______ because ________. Put this on each slide and have students fill in the blanks. Encourage them to add an image that represents the name they chose. Based on the book recommendation for Cultural Proficiency. “The Name Jar”
    • Second Grade: A focus on 2nd grade narrative writing could include a slide about a particular character in a story. If I was ______ I would ______________. Each slide would represent individual students thoughts.
    • Third Grade: How do we use data represented in graphs and charts to make sense of the world around us? Have students take real life pictures of something they could graph and put them on a slide. Then have them write the answer to the question on th slide that they upload their picture to. What a great way to get students to understand why we use data represented in graphs. (Math)
    • Fourth Grade: Students can write a story about the greatest men and women in America. (Cultural Proficiency)
    • Fifth Grade: Write a place values riddle book. The students can have two slides between a one pair. The riddle on one slide and the answer on the next slide. There is nothing like a creation task to get those students thinking at a high level! (Math)
    • Sixth Grade: Students can be given a scenario about someone being bullied at school and they work in groups to write a narrative based on that scenario. They add that scenario and mini-narrative to the digital class book.
    • Seventh Grade: "Remember that one time in science class, when ... ?" Students create a slide that addresses the topic while completing the sentence.  For example: Chapter One: Lab Safety. Remember that one time in science class when Mr. Beller made us all try on lab goggles?!? Remember that one time in science class when Mr. Beller had us use the eyewash station?!? Etc., etc., etc.  Each "chapter" could be a topic/unit that becomes a running "story or blog" of what happened in science class. (Thank you to Mr. Beller for this idea)!
    • Eighth Grade: Students are assigned a colonial trade and have to assume the role of that trade -- knowing how it is performed, etc. They act it out. Somebody else videos it and that video is eventually put on a slide.  A digital class book in video format! (Thank you Mr. Nelson for this idea!)


    Please share some of your digital class book ideas here and post them using the ‘Comments’ box below. Sharing is caring!

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  • Giving Choices to Demonstrate Learning

    Posted by Sonal Patel on 5/25/2018 9:00:00 AM

    Providing options for students to express what they have learned is a major component of Universal Design for Learning (Principle ll). Learners differ in the way they express what they know. Some may be able to express themselves better by speaking and others by drawing. Providing a variety of options for learners to act and express themselves is key to ensuring greater success.

    Recently I saw a tweet by @alicekeeler and @GrimmerLisa that inspired the list created below. What about if we asked students to choose a tool of their choice to demonstrate mastery? Not only would we up the engagement levels by a significant number but we are more likely to meet the needs of every learner, whether it be the student who struggles with expressing written thoughts or the student who has trouble capturing images. Fortunately, technology allows for us to provide so many options for students.

    Here are some of my thoughts. Below each category are links to some of the more popular and easier to use tools.

    Presentation/Infographic Tools

    I put presentation tools and infographics together because they can be used in a similar manner, though many people do choose to use infographics to demonstrate information in a create poster-type of way.

    Video/Screencasting Tools

    I cannot believe how easy it has become to create videos! Screencastify is my ultimate favorite and if you have not downloaded this extension yet, I strongly suggest that you do.

    Mind-Mapping Tools

    Let’s face it, some people just like to draw it out! Giving students an opportunity to demonstrate their learning in this way may lead to a complete brain-spill, and I am constantly amazed by how students are able to organize their thoughts in this manner.

    Quiz Tools

    At the higher end of Bloom's Taxonomy is ‘Creating’  which goes way beyond general recall of facts. Student generated questions allow students to demonstrate understanding of the content, clarify content, make connections to other content, and reflect on learning.  What a great way to demonstrate learning!


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  • i-Ready: Finishing Strong and Looking Forward

    Posted by Greg Moon on 4/26/2018 2:45:00 PM

    Curriculum Associates has recently added some new items to the growing resource base in i-Ready Central. The first resource article, Finish Strong, has three tips to help you celebrate this year’s successes, reflect on your i-Ready implementation, and plan next steps. The first section of the article, “Look at Your Data” recommends using the Student Profile report and Student Response to Instruction report to examine growth across Diagnostics and specific domains. The “Celebrate Your Growth” section has student certificates that can be used during one your final data chats with students to celebrate individual growth. The certificates are great for photo ops of students holding their certificates or for simply hanging the certificates on a bulletin board. The third recommended resource for finishing strong is in the section titled, “Reflect on Your Implementation.” There is a link there to download a Teacher Reflection and Planning Template, a great tool to help reflect on current practices and plan those tweaks that will make next year even better.

    There are links to multiple resources in all three of the sections that are definitely worth a look if for no other reason right now than just to know they exist and are available to you at any time. The resources in i-Ready Central are great on-demand tools for professional learning about raising our effectiveness with this product.

    A second resource aimed at looking ahead is a short video is a page with short videos about the exciting improvements planned for
    Back-to-School 2018. Among other improvements we will have available when next year opens is a completely redesigned teacher experience that puts the information you need front-and-center when you open your interface; new lessons based on cutting-edge research for K–5 Mathematics and K–5 Reading; and a feature I think is a game changer to address getting every student to on or above level, differentiated growth targets. Instead of having a single growth target number for an entire class, i-Ready will be calculating growth two different growth targets for each student, one typical growth, and one stretch growth target. The improvement is well thought through and should give all teachers a better understanding of individual student needs. This is definitely something worth checking out.

    Lastly, just a reminder that data collection window for Diagnostic 3 opens on May 1st and closes May 31st. Teachers will be assigning Diagnostic 3 according to the testing schedule for each campus. If you have questions about when to schedule your diagnostics, direct those questions to the Principal at your site.

    Questions and comments are welcome. Please post those using the ‘Comments’ box below.

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  • Student-Teacher Writing Conferences

    Posted by Sonal Patel on 4/23/2018 2:00:00 PM

    A student-teacher writing conference involves short, one-one, informal, teacher-student conversations about the students’ writing. Emphasis is usually on guiding students through the writing process to ensure that students have adequate support in producing the final product. There have been several studies claiming that writing conferences make better student writers and improve their ability to internalize the writing process. This essentially leads to improvement with “on demand” or timed essay performance.


    Here are some tips to get you started:


    Know the Difference Between Product and Process.
    Sounds simple but not everyone is familiar with the differences between the writing process and the writing product. As you will see on this chart created by Kristina Smekens, the writing process conference should take less time, occurs during any stage in the writing process, addresses a single area of improvement, occurs within a small group (i.e., teacher and writers), is held at the students’ desks and most importantly, occurs daily/regularly. In comparison, the writing product takes longer and occurs in preparation for final-draft publishing.


    Give the Student a Chance to Talk!

    Successful writing conferences consist of focused discussion between teacher and students that allow students to create their own ideas and solutions for their writing challenges. During the conferences teachers and students have equal chances to talk, share ideas, ask questions, describe, explain, and summarize, and when it comes time for the product conference, analyze the writing. Allowing students to find the answers themselves helps increase student confidence in writing, as they become more independent in diagnosing their own writing needs. You can also check out your Launching the Writer's Workshop book for conference starters and other tips.


    Focus on a Few Points

    The key is to hone in on a few points. Focusing on only one or two of the six plus one traits each time you confer with the students during the writing process not only encourages the students to be more familiar with the characteristics of good writing, but it eliminates the overwhelming feeling of becoming expert writers in just one sitting. If you are stuck on areas of focus, another idea might be to use the rubric that is helping guide these students. Encourage the student to reflect on areas of the rubric that they are working towards.


    Use Google Docs Commenting Feature!

    Google Docs is a great way to increase efficiency of student-teacher conferences. Writing comments and offering suggestions to the student on Google Docs allows them to reflect and ask questions as they are writing. This increases the effectiveness of the one-on-one conversation because you are already truly immersed in the student writing process and answering their questions along the way.


    Raise Student Self-efficacy in Writing

    Research has suggested that high self-efficacy leads students to motivate themselves, set goals, and increase effort to achieve their goals. In particular, John Hattie states in his 2017 research on effect sizes that raising student self-efficacy has an effect size of 0.92! That’s more than two years of growth. As we are doing these writing conferences, offer verbal praise for genuine effort (not forced) and specific accomplishments related to the task. Remember the more they reflect on what they write, the greater their own belief in what they can accomplish. Your Launching the Writer's Workshop book has a mini-lesson dedicated to holding teacher-writer meetings with ideas on specific comments you could give to students.


    Provide Writing Models

    By providing models for students to improve their writing, you are essentially helping students better understand the writing process. Anchor papers or exemplar writing, digital writing resources (perhaps even in the form of a hyperdoc) and six plus one traits resources can be helpful when conducting these conferences. Developing these resources takes time at first but will certainly be helpful in the long run! Here is an article by Kristina Smekens explaining the benefits of using anchor papers.


    Lastly, I strongly recommend taking a look at this resource by Carl Anderson, a literacy consultant and writer. There are some fantastic ideas here that will give you the kick-start necessary to have effective writing conferences with students. Good luck and please feel free to leave a comment here with any further suggestions, insights or ideas!

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  • Data Chats With Students

    Posted by Greg Moon & Sonal Patel on 10/3/2017 6:05:00 AM

    In our work with some of the outstanding teachers in our district, we have the privileged opportunity to view practitioners that are doing great things to help kids move forward. One practice we've seen over the last couple of years...years that have seen good growth across the district...are teachers having chats with students about their performance data. These conversations have been observed at every grade-level, K-8. 


    These "data chats" look slightly different from classroom to classroom, but they all have the same effect, which is overwhelmingly positive. Teachers having short, but focused, discussions with students about their performance are extremely powerful.


    One of the most powerful aspects of these chats is having the opportunity to not only help students realize where they are and where they are going, but to embrace the opportunity to help students realize that where they think they are going can be so much more. John Hattie describes this effect as "student reported grades", which has an effect size of 1.44. Recall during our Back-to-Work day that Doug Fisher communicated that any effect size greater than 0.40 are practices that move students forward one year or more. So, extrapolating from that, an effect size of 1.44 is a practice that can help students move 3+ years academically in a single calendar year. Definitely worth exploring.


    Before going further, let's let Hattie have a go at explaining what "self-reported grades" mean:



    All well and good, but how do we apply this to help our students? Here are a few thoughts.


    One, we consistently hear that "we don't have enough time", and well, we agree. Time is a finite resource, and there is not enough time to do 'everything' you might think you have to do. So, what's the answer to time? We say exchange things that have greater impact for those that have lesser. One of the things we can do that has a significant impact is to talk with students, one-on-one, about where they are and where they think they need to go. And then as Hattie says, "mess them up" from where they think they can go. Don't help them meet their goals; help them exceed their self-inflicted goals.


    So another thing we hear..."Great theory, but what does that look like, and who is actually doing it?" So here are some actionable things to answer that.


    One of the "non-negotiables" that we are presented with is administering the i-Ready Diagnostic. After students complete the Diagnostic, i-Ready assigns them an instructional plan using the i-Ready online instruction. As students work through those lessons, one of the best practices we've seen is frequent teacher monitoring of student progress, in many cases a daily check to see if anyone has been flagged as struggling. Frequent checking on student progress, and quickly checking-in with a student if they are struggling, allows the student to get back on track quickly and to keep moving forward. But what if they are cruising along just fine without issue? Well, we still want to talk with them to help them keep that momentum. That's where data chats come in.


    Many teachers have developed their own protocols and tracking sheets to conduct these chats. If you have one that's working for you, by all means continue doing what you're doing. For those that might want to tweak their protocols and goal sheets, or those just venturing into trying this, there are now materials available within i-Ready Central to help. When logged into i-Ready Central you can type "data chat" into the search box on the left-side of the screen and see several resources. One of the documents is titled, "Data Chat: Online Instruction" and is available here. This two-page document gives an example protocol on page one, and a student data/goal sheet on page 2. It is straightforward and helps to focus the conversation with the student.


    If you haven't tried data chats, give it a shot. You might be pleasantly surprised.


    Lastly for now, our very own Amy Crismon-Noguera has been doing this for a couple of years now with some outstanding results. The 4th grade team at Harvest Valley has really leveraged this practice (and others, of course) to get some very solid student growth results. Have a look at one of Amy's data chats here.


    If you are doing something involving data chats and are having success, please let us know. We'd love to talk with you about sharing your practices and expertise with our professional learning community here in RSD. Keep growing!




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  • G Suite Tip: See Who Changed Your File and When

    Posted by Greg Moon on 9/5/2017 6:00:00 AM


    If you're collaborating with several people on a single file, it can be difficult to pinpoint who made certain changes and when. You can use revision history in Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides to see all the updates to your file.


    • Keep track of changes to important PLC and team project documents
    • Identify each change and its owner 
    • Revert back to previous versions if mistakes are made


    1. In Google Drive, open your file.
    2. From Docs, Sheets, or Slides menu, select File >> Revision History
    3. Click a timestamp to see a previous version of the file. Below the timestamp you will see:
      • Names of people that edited the document.
      • A color next to each person's name. The edits they made to the file appear in that color.
    4. Click Restore this version to make it the active version.

    Note: You need Owner or Can edit access to see the revision history.


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