Special EDition: DL Professional Learning Continues

The AUSL DL Professional Development Series is Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 2.49.40 PMstill going strong. Session topics this year have included Behavior Management, IEP Development, and Universal Design for Learning. In February, educators from 18 AUSL schools explored the 5 W’s of Progress Monitoring. Progress monitoring is a standardized method of formative assessment that tells us how well students are responding to instruction. The data collected allows practitioners to estimate rates of improvement over time, compare the efficacy of different forms of instruction, and determine when an instructional change is needed. At this session, participants learned how to establish a baseline, set goals, and create a plan to monitor individual student progress. Additionally, several useful sites to guide this process were shared, including the following:

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Finish the Year Strong By Analyzing Student Writing

Setting aside time to discuss student writing can be hugely informative...and a lot of fun!

Setting aside time to discuss student writing can be hugely informative…and a lot of fun!

Every May, I find myself in need of a kickstart….a little shot of something to help me finish the school year strong and to carry the momentum of the mistakes I’ve made and the successes I’ve had into the fall.  Finally, after over a decade of working in schools, I’ve figured out what that kickstart needs to be or least what it should involve.

It needs to involve collaboration, reflection, and a changes in practice that are both quick wins that will affect students before school lets out in June and long term understandings that will affect students to come.  Analyzing student work with a really smart group of peers is the perfect combination of all those things.

And since none of us wants to reinvent the wheel (especially in May) here’s everything you need to know to replicate my favorite student work analysis protocol.  While I most recently used this protocol with network 9th and 10th grade history teachers to look at common DBQ essays, the beauty of it is that with a few tweaks it can be used across grade levels and disciplines. Read more

Here’s a Keeper: 5 Reasons Why You Should Connect with Facing History

"Teaching Mockingbird" is one of the myriad resources available for free from Facing History.

“Teaching Mockingbird” is one of the resources available for from the nonprofit Facing History.

When you consider all of the educational programs, techniques and strategies you’ve accumulated, which are flashy trends and which are keepers?

In a recent interview, I asked a candidate that same question. Later on the drive home, I found myself still reflecting on the question and considering all of the keepers that I recommend to teachers years after I first learned about them.

So what’s your keeper? As I continue to reflect on that question, the work of the international education nonprofit Facing History and Ourselves rises high on my list of essential resources for social studies teachers in all grade levels.  Here are five reasons why. Read more

Special EDition: Spotlight on AUSL Case Managers

CMEvery school has that special person who knows everything there is to know about the development and implementation of IEPs.  This person interprets assessment results, coordinates referrals, facilitates IEP meetings, advocates for the needs of diverse learners and their families, and the list goes on and on. That special person is your case manager.  This job is incredibly important in ensuring that all students have access to a quality, individualized education. As a former case manager, I am familiar with the challenges and joys of this work and I recognize the unique skills that effective case managers must possess.  Because of this, I dedicate this month’s post to all AUSL Case Managers.  Let’s learn a little bit more about these special individuals who keep us on our toes!

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Special EDition: Reigniting the Co-Teaching Flame

bandCo-teaching involves two adults paired together for a significant period of time to share the responsibilities of educating and raising children. Perhaps this is why co-teaching is often referred to as a “professional marriage”. This arrangement allows general and special educators a unique opportunity to blend their expertise to create a powerful partnership. But the honeymoon doesn’t last forever and now that it’s November, many co-teachers have already lost that loving feeling and are wondering…how can we reignite the co-teaching flame? Don’t file for divorce yet! You and your co-teaching partner can get back on track by revisiting a few of the following co-teaching basics:

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Special EDition: 5 Things Effective Teachers Do for Diverse Learners

Our students are more diverse than ever before – different experiences, needs, interests, and abilities. While diversity creates opportunities for students to learn with and from each other, it also means that teachers must intentionally adapt their instruction to meet various student needs. Here are five things effective teachers do to ensure that their lessons are optimal for all learners:

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Special EDition: Who’s Who in the CTR’s SPE Resident Cohort?

AUSL’s Chicago Teacher Residency (CTR) program is about to witness its first class of graduates in Special Education.  This small but mighty cohort of 11 residents will be the first to receive a master’s degree in Special Education and be fully endorsed as Learning Behavior Specialists.  All of these residents have spent the past nine months observing, planning, teaching, and learning alongside a mentor teacher and coach in an elementary Special Education classroom in one of AUSL’s training academies.

So on the heels of Teacher Appreciation Week, I thought it was fitting to feature this group of future AUSL Special Educators and get to know them a little better as we explore Who’s Who…

Back Row: Brittany Anderson, Christine Roche, John Devine, Celia Davenport, Shannon Conroy, Nathan Rosiejka. Front Row: Agata Sidorkiewicz Jean Wilkinson, Jessica Kimbrough, Sally Tabatsalis, Chris Roeloffs.

Top Row: Brittany Anderson, Christine Roche, John Devine, Celia Davenport, Shannon Conroy, Nathan Rosiejka. Bottom Row: Agata Sidorkiewicz, Jean Wilkinson, Jessica Kimbrough, Sally Tabatsalis, Chris Roeloffs.

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How to Achieve the Core: Make Powerful Connections Across Texts, Schools and Initiatives

His heart is in the right place…

The third quarter AUSL Instructional Shifts focus is Reading Across Multiple Texts.  This shift is the most obvious example of how the CCSS break from traditional standards.  Reading has traditionally been defined and assessed as comprehending a single text.

A recent conversation at a Critical Thinking Cohort 2 workshop showed that in order to meet such standards, we need to make powerful connections not only across texts, but across schools and initiatives as well.  Teachers were sharing the results of rigorous, CCSS-aligned performance assessments they had developed.  Meghan O’Keefe from Chicago Academy HS shared a freshman performance assessment she created with her teaching partner E. M. Miller.  It was an authentic task requiring students to write an editorial for a Chicago paper, making an argument for how citizens and authorities could improve Chicago’s communities by nurturing healthy adolescent identities.  This task required them to engage in “intertextual rhetorical analysis”, including analyzing central themes from “legacy” texts (canonical, complex texts that the CCSS emphasize, e.g. Romeo and Juliet) and connecting these themes to contemporary nonfiction texts (e.g. a 2 News Chicago report on challenges facing Chicago youth) to support their argument.  Clearly, the task required students to apply critical thinking skills such as comparison, analysis and evaluation across multiple texts.

As Meghan described how they developed the assessment, I was immediately struck by how many school and network PD initiatives contributed to this work.  They designed their unit backwards mapping from CCSS with the 9-10  Planning Guide 1.0.  They assessed student writing using the Argument Writing Rubric developed by the CAHS ELA and History teams in a half-day workshop led by their department chairs and supported by History Coordinator Carolyn Henderson and myself.  To prepare students for this work, they applied strategies shared in earlier Close Reading PD and their Content Cluster cycles.  Prior to writing, their students engaged in Paideia discussion, an approach developed by the mastermind behind Shared Inquiry, which has been at the center of our Instructional Shifts workshops (and additional coaching visits to several elementary and high schools).  They used Critical Thinking workshop tools such as the Elements of Thought and the Critical Thinking Rubric to help students refine their thinking and give feedback to peers.  Meghan and E.M. fine-tuned their co-planning in the Co-teaching PLC led by Tiffany Ko.

Meghan shared that they were pushing their freshmen further than ever before.  I asked her what made the biggest impact on her work and her answer was a combination of all of these experiences:

“I’m fortunate to have been included in the Critical Thinking Framework PLC for the past two years.  The work we’ve done in that PLC around the Common Core, performance tasks, and critical thinking has set me up for success during this major instructional shift.  The changes that teachers are having to make with the advent of new standards and assessments is profound.  We will be most successful if we’re all able to participate in quality PD like the Critical Thinking Framework, Close Reading, and Paideia PD I’ve been fortunate enough to receive.  I appreciate the investment our administration has made in my professional development, and I hope that everyone in the network has the same opportunities”. 

mountain clipped

Even with the support, it still took a leap of faith to give the performance assessment to her students since the task was far beyond what had been previously asked of them.  She realized the task itself didn’t have to be perfect, and the kids wouldn’t master it the first time.  Rather she was giving them the opportunity to show what they could do, and then examining their writing to determine their needs.  In this case, her students made clear claims and supported them with evidence, but they understandably need more support in combining evidence from different sources (e.g. learning and utilizing complex sentence structures that will help them integrate ideas across texts).

This discussion made me realize how intentional we need to be in making connections across schools and initiatives to insure all of our supports and PD opportunities work in concert with one another.  We need to highlight connections across initiatives for teachers as they make these “profound”, and intentionally share learning across schools.

Indeed, there is no shortage of good ideas worth sharing.  For instance, at that same Critical Thinking Cohort 2 workshop, Caprice Banks at Phillips shared her own powerful inquiry project.  Students learned that their school was a historic landmark, but few knew its rich history.  They researched their building, synthesized their learning, and served as tour guides for community and school groups.  At Collins, Chase James’ team is applying strategies from Close Reading PD beyond the ELA department and making connections to their school-wide focus on argumentation.  At Orr, Dr. Debbie Caise-Fitzpatrick led the ELA team in anchoring and scoring argument writing in a process similar to the one used at CAHS.  Their department recently hosted a Great Books leader to learn how Shared Inquiry discussions can raise the level of reasoning in student writing.  At Solorio, teachers have received monthly coaching in Shared Inquiry.  Their recent work includes preparing students to serve as discussion leaders and bridging shared inquiry discussions writing literary analysis essays, ideas they shared at the recent High School PD Potluck.

Resources for Reading Across Texts

Instructional ShiftsIn the spirit of making connections across texts, schools and initiatives, I will share a few resources for reading across texts piloted and approved by our teachers.  At the recent Instructional Shifts workshop, leaders from the Great Books Foundation shared two approaches, using an anchor text such as a poem about immigration to unearth key themes of immigration and spur inquiry across several types of texts, and an overlapping venn diagram approach, where two or more similar complex texts are intentionally paired and analyzed.

CaptureAt the aforementioned Critical Thinking workshop, Jo Hoglund at Solorio shared an approach to planning with multiple texts from Sara Wessling, former National Teacher of the Year (and teaching channel luminary).    Here, Sara shares an approach for unit planning using “Fulcrum, Texture, and Context” texts (see p. 23-28).  Patrice Turk initially shared Sara’s work with their team and strongly recommends her video series on Teaching Channel.

LDCFinally, the Literacy Design Collaborative came out with a version 2.0 of their CCSS-aligned planning Template Task collection.  You can use their Their Mad Libs-style templates to design your own prompts for researching and reading across texts.  The templates are also great for designing  inquiry-based performance assessments (should you be inspired and want to develop one yourself!).

Achieving the Core through the Power of Connections

To achieve the CCSS, it will take a coordinated, concerted effort by our entire network.  All of us are smarter than any one of us.  We will be working in the coming weeks to create structures for sharing ideas across schools.  How have you experienced the power of connecting across texts, schools or initiatives?  Respond in the comments section below!

Special EDition: Co-Planning for Success

Cristina Salvador, Michael Mancini, and Bradford Capozzi co-plan an ELA lesson at Phillips Academy

Phillips Academy teachers Ms. Salvador, Mr. Mancini, and Mr. Capozzi co-plan an ELA lesson

In my last post, I wrote about the importance of co-teaching.  I highlighted several approaches that co-teachers can use to maximize their instruction, including high-leverage models such as station teaching and parallel teaching.  These approaches were first introduced over two decades ago by Friend, Reising, and Cook (1993).  Since then, much has been published about the rationale for co-teaching and the impact that reducing the student-teacher ratio (i.e. small group instruction) can have on student learning.  Why, then, is it that so many “co-taught” classrooms still implement the One Teach, One Assist model where the general educator leads the class and the special educator circulates?  The answer is simple… 

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Special EDition: It Takes Two

Would it be helpful to share lesson planning and assessing with a colleague?  Do you have students with and without IEPs in the same general education classroom? Would your students benefit from having two certified teachers providing instruction at the same time? If you have answered yes to any of these questions, then co-teaching might be a good fit!

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 2.43.17 PMWhat is Co-Teaching?

Co-teaching is a service delivery model in which a general and a special education teacher co-plan, co-instruct, co-manage, and co-assess a group of students in with diverse needs in the same general education classroom. When implemented with fidelity, this model allows teachers to maximize their professional expertise while reducing the student-teacher ratio in the classroom.  This can result in positive outcomes for all students.

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