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A reader of my blog recently asked for additional details about how I created a collaborative classroom management plans in my middle school classroom. I thought I’d share my reply, as it’s that time of year when we’re thinking about setting up our learning environments for the school year.
On the first day of school, I always reviewed the UDL Guidelines with students to give them a sense of the type of instructional strategies I would use throughout the year. Details of this lesson are in my book, UDL Now! if you’re interested. Two of the UDL Guidelines suggest that teachers heighten the saliency of goals and objectives and foster collaboration in the classroom. I meet both of these guidelines starting on Day 1 by creating a collaborative classroom management plan. Below are steps you can follow to do the same.
- Day 1: To begin, place students in collaborative groups with diverse partners. Ask them to think about what makes a successful classroom. Specifically, what are acceptable and unacceptable behaviors that can improve the function of a classroom or completely derail it? Ask students to make lists. Once each group makes their list, ask them to present their list of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. All students have an opportunity to weigh in on whether behaviors are appropriate or not appropriate.
- Write these lists on the Smart board, chart paper or on paper projected on a document camera. If you teach multiple sections, ask each class to complete the activity, but always share the collective list from previous sections.
- Day 2: Once you decide on a list of unacceptable behaviors, ask groups of students to think about relevant consequences that are appropriate. For example, if talking while the teacher is talking is unacceptable, a relevant consequence may be to receive one warning and then get seat permanently changed. Offer a few of your own ideas, if necessary, such as writing a reflection after the inappropriate behavior, calling a parent and explaining the incident, meeting at lunch to discuss, etc… During this step, I was always amazed at the depth of thought that went into this management plan. Students had ideas that I would not have thought of and it was interesting to share these findings during each section and ask them why they felt certain consequences were just.
- Day 3: Look for themes and organize the unacceptable behaviors, and their consequences, into categories. In my classroom, the students decided on three categories: respect for people, respect for property, and respect for ideas. Every class agreed on the consequences and wanted to place the inappropriate behaviors in tiers based on severity. Once this work was done, we created a bulletin board that stayed up all year that outlined the offenses and the consequences. I called it a “draft” until every class had an opportunity to discuss and make changes.
- From this bulletin board, I created a classroom contract that was shared with parents and signed by the students. It was really organic and didn’t require a lot of planning on my part because I really wanted students to get into it. They pretty much understand what they should and should not do, but it’s valuable to hear their reasoning sometimes about why certain behaviors occur and how we can prevent them. I would definitely try it in your own classroom as they are much more likely to adhere to a management plan that they developed because it’s authentic, relevant, and meaningful to them.
If you have a curriculum question that you’d like me to blog about, don’t hesitate to contact me!
Last week at the UDL Seminar hosted by the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and CAST, Adam Deleidi, from Revere Public Schools, shared the process his school went through to fully implement UDL. His experience may help you to implement UDL in your own school.
Step 1: Educate
The first goal was to educate as many teachers as possible in the UDL framework. UDL is not an initiative and it’s not something else to do. It lives in every decision you make, and will affect your learning environments on every level. Even though many teachers already use some of the UDL Guidelines, implementation of the framework requires knowledge of the brain research, the scientific validity, and the connection between implementation and increased achievement for all students. In short, UDL is a change in the way to think and to do this, all educators need to learn about it. To educate his teachers, a team from Deleidi’s school attended a week-long UDL Institute.
Step 2: Form a Leadership Team
After a cohort was educated in UDL, they formed a UDL Leadership team. That team was responsible for planning the roll-out at the school level, so they received additional training throughout the year in a UDL Academy, hosted by CAST. That UDL team continues to come together in Revere to design professional development for their teachers in UDL.
Step 3: Continued Professional Development
Deleidi started with words of wisdom, “Start simple.” Begin PD by introducing the UDL principles and then transition to applications to lesson planning as these are the most practical applications for teachers. Different schools may focus on different pieces, but in Revere, they focused on writing objectives, how to add enhancements to lessons during the planning process, and how to induct all new faculty into the UDL mindset. This teacher-led PD was designed and implemented by the UDL team to increase buy-in and authenticity.
Step 4: Celebrate
After the first year, the school hosted a UDL Showcase at a principal’s meeting. Groups of content area teachers formed PLCs, participated in a book study, and then planned and implemented a 15 minute mini-lesson, in their content area, that incorporated all the information they’ve learned about UDL. All staff members had the opportunity to experience UDL as a student and celebrate each other’s success and the new school wide philosophy.
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) require writing across the content areas, which places a renewed focus on the meaningful assessment of writing. Although rubrics are valuable for both teachers and students, there are two potential errors that can lead to very different assessments using the same rubric. Becoming familiar with these sources of error, and following a protocol to minimize them, will enhance the capacity of all teachers to reliably assess student work and provide mastery-oriented feedback.
What are common sources of error?
- Interactions between students and raters: Because teachers know students so well, they sometimes predict how students will perform on a task. These predictions can subconsciously affect scoring.
- Interactions between raters and task: Raters sometimes have different interpretations of a task, and therefore are expecting different responses.
Now that you know the common sources of error, you need a protocol to minimize those errors. Get together with a team of teachers and complete the steps below to help guide the team in assessing student work.
What is the protocol for establishing interrater reliability?
- Before reading student responses, discuss the prompt and the type of response that would be necessary for a complete, clear, and accurate answer. This discussion will minimize errors based on the interactions between raters and the task.
- After this discussion, the first response is selected and one rater reads the prompt aloud. The response should be read blind, so no one knows the identity of the writer. This will minimize errors based on the interactions between students and raters. Note: The writing is read aloud in order to minimize the impact of spelling, grammar, and handwriting on the score assigned although this will come into play when examining language conventions.
- After listening to the response, each rater records brief comments indicating their impression of the content, using the prompt rubric.
- After marking comments, individual raters may ask for the writing sample to be read again or they may ask to see the piece of writing. After each individual rater has recorded their mark, the marks are revealed.
- If there is consensus on the marks, then the raters read the paper to score the language conventions. Scores for language conventions are then revealed. If there is a difference in the scores assigned, a discussion begins. In this case raters describe their rationales for the marks they have given and a consensus is reached. Once a consensus is reached, that paper becomes the anchor paper, or the exemplar, for that scoring category.
- Teachers can then use those exemplars as they assess all remaining student papers. This helps everyone to get on the same page!
The end of one educator evaluation cycle means the beginning of a new one. As I think of my own professional practice goals (PPG) for next year, I realize that the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) can positively impact the goal setting process for all of us.
When setting PPG, remember that you are a learner, and that your goal should guide you to learn. Malcolm Knowles (1984) proposed six assumptions regarding the characteristics of adult learners that differentiate them from child learners and all of these impact the goal-setting process.
- Adults tend to see themselves as more responsible, self-directed, and independent.
- They have a larger, more diverse stock of knowledge and experience.
- Their readiness to learn is based on developmental and real-life responsibilities.
- Their orientation to learning is most often problem centered and relevant to their current life situation.
- They have a stronger need to know the reasons for learning something.
- They tend to be more internally motivated.
All six characteristics relate to Universal Design for Learning when writing PPG. Here’s how.
Step 1: Identifying the goal area
In order for us to be internally motivated, we have to choose goals that are relevant and meaningful to us. We should search for the practices we would explore even in the absence of an evaluation tool, because these practices make us stronger educators.
To do this effectively, begin by identifying a problem. For example, “I have a diverse group of students and I feel like I’m not providing a curriculum that meets all their needs.” Once you have a problem, you can research a solution. In this example, one possible solution would be exploring and implementing Universal Design for Learning (UDL).
Step 2: Writing the goal
Once you have an idea that is relevant to your current position and your real-life responsibilities, it’s time to write your goal. A great framework to writing a goal is to use the SMART framework.
|What does this mean for me?|
|S = Specific and Strategic||How exactly will you improve your professional practice? Be specific about what you want to accomplish.|
|M = Measurable||How will you “prove” you met this goal? Think about specific evidence and artifacts that would make completion of this goal possible.|
|A = Action Oriented||Think about strong action verbs. Will you model, observe, facilitate, reflect, etc…|
|R = Rigorous, Realistic, and Results Focused||Balance rigor with realism. Push yourself to improve your practice without sacrificing other professional obligations. If done well, what will this accomplish?|
|T = Timed and Tracked||How often will you will complete each task, and when? This is something you could “prove” with artifacts.|
Here is a PPG that is SMART:
As a team, we will meet at least 2 times per month to learn about the Universal Design for Learning framework in order to increase student engagement in the classroom, gain expertise to improve practice and student outcomes, and design and implement universally designed curriculum materials which reflect embedded scaffolds to support students of all ability levels, and by January, 2015, we will all implement at least 2 UDL lessons per week.
Here is the alignment to specific SMART indicators.
As a team, we will meet at least 2 times per month (M, T) to learn about the Universal Design for Learning framework (S) in order to increase student engagement in classroom (R), gain expertise to improve practice and student outcomes (R), and design (A) and implement (A) universally designed curriculum materials which reflect embedded scaffolds to support students of all ability levels, and by January, 2014, we will all implement at least 2 UDL lessons per week (T).
Step 3: Write your action steps
In order to be responsible, self-directed, independent learners, we need to support our planning and strategy development by identifying specific actions steps that will help us meet our goal. Think about creating a to-do list that will keep you on track as you work toward your goal. Choose actions that are relevant and valuable to you because you will be more motivated to complete each action step.
During this step, put your diverse experience to good use. Could you add Twitter chats to your action steps, could you model for other teachers, could you start a book club? Think about your experiences as an educator and harness your strengths in your action plan.
Here are just a few possible action steps – but in order for them to be meaningful, choose steps that are most relevant to you.
- Participate in a book study on Universal Design for Learning (some good ones: UDL Now!, Design and Deliver, Universal Design for Learning: Theory and Practice, and UDL: Practical Applications)
- Start a discussion thread on Edmodo or another blog where each teacher reflects on their learning at least once a month
- Participate in the #UDLchat on Twitter the first and third Wednesday of each month
- Observe cohort members implementing Universal Design in their own classrooms at least once a quarter
- Participate in Looking at Student Work protocols to examine Universally Designed curricular materials at least once a month
- Creating a virtual PLC on google hangout
Step 4: Determine when you will complete each action step.
After creating your action steps, decide when each step will be completed, so you can check them off as you develop professionally and meet your goals. This will enhance your capacity to monitor your own process and will allow to self-assess how you’re doing and reflect at the end of the cycle.
Right now I’m feverishly trying to keep up with an awesome #ECET2 Twitter chat. I just got a question about using all 9 UDL Guidelines (teaching strategies) in each lesson, so here is an example to show how it’s done. This is the lesson outline for a lesson I taught for a Teaching Channel video. Let me know how it goes!
Description: Students will practice writing narratives with descriptive details by participating in a Showing, not Telling engaging activator and by examining text, images, and audio recordings through reading Beowulf.
Prerequisites: Introduction to Book Builder and how to use built in scaffolds; introduction to how to work collaboratively in a group; knowledge of Common Core standards with an emphasis on how elements of a story interact.
Common Core focus:
- RL3: Analyze how particular elements of a story or drama interact (e.g., how setting shapes the characters or plot).
- W3: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.
- Learners will identify the setting (time/place) in Beowulf and analyze how differences in setting impact the movement of a plot.
- Learners will write short narratives, adding enough effective detail about a Grendel, so a listener could visualize him with accuracy.
- Learners will be able to identify the setting in Beowulf whether they choose to focus on the text, images and/or Book Builder versions of the story.
- Learners will be able to identify two ways that setting creates conflict and therefore advances the plot.
- Learners will be able to revise passages of Beowulf to maintain the setting and plot, but will include more descriptive details about Grendel so a reader could visualize the monster.
Engagement: Students will be participating in a writing workshop, where they will demonstrate effective use of detail, or imagery. The do-now activator will be a “lame” menu projected on the screen. Students will have to justify (a previous vocab word) what they would order and why. This will be difficult as there is no imagery (alas, the point of the lesson). This will segue into a mini-lesson on imagery using multiple means of representation and manipulatives. This will allow visual, auditory, and hands on learners to access a lesson on imagery while also promoting engagement and collaboration.
7. Provide options for recruiting interest: Menu activity, paper bag activity – relevance and value.
8. Provide options for sustaining effort and persistence: The Beowulf student handout, like all assignments, has the standard on top of page and we review standards at the beginning of every class. All students will have a rubric for the writing assignment aligned to the language in the Common Core. At the end of class, students will self-assess and set goals for the next writing assignment. Students will present in Jigsaw groups and there is a concerted effort to increase student talking time. Also, while students are working in groups, I will be constantly walking around the room to give feedback and address any misinterpretations before students present to classmates.
9. Provide options for self-regulation: End of class self-assessment with questions about their contribution to the learning environment.
Representation: Next, we will read an excerpt from Beowulf. I will play the professional reading of the text first, so students can hear it read well. They may choose to read along in their text. The purpose for reading will be to hear the correct pronunciation of the antiquated vocabulary. Next, students will jigsaw, reread, and paraphrase the poem and focus on how elements of the poem interact. During this read, students may read silently, use the online Book Builder, sit with me in a small group to read the story, or may listen to the audio recording again. Hopefully they will note that there are no specific details given about Grendel’s appearance but that he is portrayed as fearsome and strong. He is a monster who might resemble a person, an animal, or another description.
1. Provide options for perception: Students may read silently, use the online Book Builder, sit with me in a small group to read the story, or may listen to the audio recording.
2. Provide options for language, mathematic expressions and symbols: Read aloud and Book Builder with built in vocabulary prompts.
3. Provide options for comprehension: Activate or supply background knowledge with menu activator. Guide information processing, visualization, and manipulation with imagery Powerpoint, paper bag activity, and artist drawings.
Action and Expression: When students finish presenting their paraphrased lines, they will work alone or in groups to rewrite the poem including specific details (imagery) about Grendel’s appearance using a provided rubric and the optional exemplar and scaffolding. Although they will all rewrite, they have a choice about what they want Grendel to be. (see below). When they finish, they may choose to read their descriptions of Grendel out loud in a dramatization while volunteer “artists” in class sketch the portrayals on the document camera. At the end of class, each student will complete a self-assessment to reflect on their work and set goals for the next assignment.
4. Provide options for physical action: Physical manipulatives, option of drawing or observing, use of Book Builder on multiple devices (i.e, navigate on IPad with no keyboard or on my computer)
5. Provide options for expression and communication: Templates and exemplars will be available if students choose to use them. Also, optional scaffolding is at the end of the assignment.
6. Provide options for executive functions: Scaffolding built into assignment, post goals and objectives on board and refer to often. Also place objectives on assignment handouts.
To answer those questions, I read the book, “Reading Essentials: The Specifics You Need to Teach Reading Well,” by Regie Routman, and “Closing in on Close Reading” by Nancy Boyles to solidify my understanding of both concepts. After reading, I came to the following conclusions. Hopefully they help you to wrap your head around the concepts a little better.
Shared reading is an instructional strategy based on a scaffolded model of learning. In shared reading, a teacher demonstrates how reading works – the skills, strategies, and behavior of good readers. Often, during shared reading, a group of learners observes an expert (usually the teacher) reading a piece of text with fluency and expression, and is invited to read along. Through teacher modeling, students join to read the text collaboratively. In this model, students can read the text multiple times to build confidence, fluency, and word familiarity, although it is not required. During these readings, teachers may also demonstrate their thinking and guide and support that discussion with students.
Close reading is the process by which students re-read a text multiple times to extract multiple levels of meaning. When close reading, students focus on the central ideas and key supporting details, reflect on the meanings of individual words and sentences, and the development of ideas over the course of the text. To bring student attention to the most important aspects of the text, teachers may prompt students to ask themselves questions about the context, the craft and structure, and the integration of knowledge and ideas in the text. Boyles suggests the following questions to begin:
- What is the author telling me here?
- Are there any hard or important words?
- What does the author want me to understand?
- How does the author play with language to add to meaning?
Once students have an understanding of the basic concepts in the text, they can move on to subsequent readings to examine deeper questions. Boyles provides a figure that includes these questions, which would be great tool to use with your own students.
What’s the Difference?
Based on the analysis above, the two concepts are related, but different. Shared reading is an instructional strategy where teachers build students’ reading fluency by offering graduated levels of support. Close reading, in contrast, is a process where students read and re-read text to delve deeper into the meaning. That’s happy news, as teachers can use one to teach the other. So, next time you’re ready to teach a rigorous text, use shared reading to model close reading with your students.
Having the Common Core Standards led me to modify instruction in a number of ways. I’ll discuss the major changes based on the instructional shifts outlined for the Common Core ELA standards:
These requires students to learn about the world through many different varieties of text, rather than through teachers and literature. They are encouraged to explore the world through a rich combination of fiction and non-fiction. To accomplish this, I recommend constructing text sets that allow students to examine a different part of the world or culture and all pertinent information about the area. For example, when I taught seventh grade I taught the novel Old Man and the Sea. Before the Common Core, we spent a lot of time just reading the novel, but in order to meet both the literary and informational standards, I had to shift. I created a text set that included text about the history of Cuba (the setting), deep sea fishing, and baseball and Joe DiMaggio (important symbols in the novel). We immersed ourselves in text, videos, and pictures about Cuban culture, the history of baseball and how fishing has evolved through the centuries. Students learned about many disciplines in one literature unit.
Shift 3: Staircase of Complexity:
I started paying closer attention to Lexile scores, or the measure of text rigor when selecting literature. I realized that many of the novels I was teaching were not appropriately challenging for my seventh graders so I worked hard to gather resources that met the level of rigor expected. For more information on Lexile scores and the Common Core, here’s a great link to start examining.
Shift 4: Text-based Answers
Shift 5: Writing from Sources
Before the Common Core, I would assign writing projects that were not based on text, especially when teaching narrative writing. After adopting the Core, I ensured that all my writing prompts were text-based, especially narratives. This is easier to do than you may think. For example, if a student wanted to write a story about a trip to the beach, he or she could read non-fiction text about shorelines, the movement of the ocean, the different species of animals near the shoreline, etc… the student could then incorporate this text into the narrative in order to establish a more realistic setting that moves the narrative along the plot curve. While focusing on this skill, you can support students as they use the text, and cite the text appropriately. The possibilities of incorporating text and narratives are endless. I also starting using the Literacy Design Collaborative’s “Tasks” which are writing prompt frames that can turn any piece of text into an opportunity to write a narrative, informative, or argument piece. You can visit the site here.
Shift 6: Academic Vocabulary
The focus on academic vocabulary lead me to begin using a Word Wall where academic words were given a place of permanence in the room and students were encouraged to use and reuse the words in writing every day. All you need is a blank bulletin board to make this happen. Every week, introduce the 5-10 words that are most relevant to the task, write definitions, and place them on the board in a colorful star or other cut-out. When students use the words in their writing, they highlight them so I can see how they incorporate the vocabulary but I can also focus on its use in the sentence. Many students love using multiple words in each prompt. Also, always model your lessons using the vocabulary you want your students to use. This can be done as early as kindergarten. The Teaching Channel has an awesome video about using college talk in kindergarten. You can view it here.
For more information on designing instruction to meet the Common Core State Standards, purchase my book here.
Many districts are lucky enough to have literacy coaches, but what is the best model to utilize these talented individuals? I reviewed the research on literacy coaching and summarized information from various sources to help define the role of literacy coaches in our schools.
The roles of coaches are organized into the four Literacy Coaching standards outlined in The International Reading Association (IRA) report, created in collaboration with NCTE, NCTM, NSTA, and NCSS, that outlines the ideal of what a literacy coach should know and be able to do. Roles under each standard are summarized from the IRA report, A Study of the Effectiveness of K–3 Literacy Coaches conducted by the National Reading Technical Assistance Center, and Literacy Coaches Roles and Responsibilities published in the SEDL Letter.
Standard 1: Literacy Coaches are Skilled Collaborators who:
- Assess the literacy needs of the school by reviewing student data, curricular goals, student characteristics, instructional practice strengths and areas of improvement, and learning about the needs of the staff.
- Facilitate small and large group discussions about instructional practices and how they impact student learning.
- Conduct ongoing evaluations of literacy improvement action and communicate the results to teachers and administrators.
- Meet with school leadership frequently to discuss goals, progress, and areas in need of improvement.
Standard 2: Literacy coaches are Skillful Job-Embedded Coaches who:
- Support teachers as they choose curriculum materials and instructional strategies to meet the needs of all students.
- Link teachers to the most current research in the field of literacy.
- Model lessons while teacher actively observes. Reflect with teacher after the model lesson. This is not time for teachers to grade papers.
- Observe and provide feedback to teachers about their instruction in a non-evaluative manner.
- Reflect with teacher on the observed lesson, linking comments to the needs assessment of the school.
Standard 3: Literacy Coaches are Skillful Evaluators of Literacy Needs who:
- Help to set schedules to administer and analyze student assessments. Is present during the analysis of data in order to ensure that the assessments inform teacher instruction.
- Conduct regular meetings with teachers to examine student work and standardize the scoring of writing.
Standard 4: Skillful Instructional Strategists who:
- Familiar with all Common Core or state standards, educator evaluation protocols, and current research on best practice.
- Strong subject matter knowledge in the three genres of writing, the writing process, the technical nature of vocabulary, reading comprehension strategies, text structure, language conventions and sentence structure, and critical thinking skills.
When defining the role of the literacy specialist in your school, communicate that role to all staff and ensure that coaches are supported in time management, so they can meet the needs of all teachers. Below is a suggested time breakdown, adapted from one presented in A Study of the Effectiveness of K–3 Literacy Coaches (pg.18).
|Role||Suggested % of time|
|Whole faculty development in school – present best practices, instructional strategies||10|
|Small group professional development – book groups, review of research||10|
|Planning needs-based instruction with teachers||10|
|Modeling lessons while teachers observe||10|
|Coaching – looking at student work, scoring protocols, reflecting post-observation||20|
|Data reporting and analysis||20|
|Knowledge building – reading research, reviewing curriculum||10|
I just read the newest data from the National Center for Educational Statistics and the stats are alarming.
Among 25-34 year olds with a bachelor’s degree or higher, 95.1% are currently employed. Compare that to only 57.7% of 2012 high school graduates (who did not attend college) who are currently employed.
The most recent data is from 2012. BCC. Before Common Core. What’s the message? Our students need preparation for college or a specific career to be employable.
After reading the statistics, I did a little research on the employment gap and discovered an awesome video produced by McKinsey &Company. The video, which does not endorse, or even mention, the CCSS, suggests how to close the gap by sharing insights from their research on 8000 stakeholders.
The video begins with two shocking statements.
- Over 75 million young people in the world can’t find a job.
- Employers can’t find enough qualified candidates to fill their positions.
Clearly, something needs to change.
The video suggests that the knowledge and skills we teach our students must be the same knowledge and skills that jobs require. There are two examples of institutions who do this well on the McKinley video– one is Miami Dade college, who work to align their programs with job requirements. How can our public schools implement a similar model? Right now, the Common Core is the one thing on the table that was designed for that purpose.
In the CCSS Initiative Standards-Setting Criteria document, it provides some insight into the criteria that impacted the planning stages of the Core. The document notes that the standards will be developed to “align with college and work expectations, so that all students are prepared for success upon graduating from high school.” Success is further defined as the ability to excel in college coursework or become employed in a career. Not just a job, but a career that offers competitive, livable salaries above the poverty line, opportunities for career advancement, and is in a growing or sustainable industry.
Fast forward to 2014. We are currently trying to implement these standards so in the future, 75 million young people are not unemployable.
Without rigorous standards and universally-designed instruction so students can access those standards, the employment gap will perpetuate. As the McKinsey video ends, they sum up why we need to prepare students for their future: “Too many youth get lost along the way. They deserve a better chance of success.”