Saturday, June 29, 2013

Reflecting on Rigor

During our study of Robert Marzano's book, The Reflective Teacher, my book group has come to this same conclusion. I have been loving my sessions with these teachers.  We are not only having awesome discussion, we are eating amazing food like this:

Jeanette brought it and we all devoured it.  You can find this recipe plus many other great ones at Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  Check it out here:

In between bites we talked about that four letter R word.....

We talked about how a rigorous curriculum doesn't need to feel severe, strict or harsh.  Although the dictionary definition leaves us with a negative feeling, a rigorous curriculum can be seen as a positive instructional move.   Having a common vision of high expectations for all students is a good thing. Who wouldn't want that?

We talked about the need to start our planning with the end in mind. Do you do that?   In other words we think it is important to clarify the standard plus the level of understanding that is expected of our students before we can even think about designing an effective lesson. We can no longer spend time on activities just because we think they are good; we need to consider whether or not they are relevant and will get our students to the goal that has been set.  Have you changed your approach to lesson design with the onset of a more rigorous curriculum?  I'd love to hear from you!

More now than ever in my teaching career, students are expected to think in complex ways, to analyze, create and evaluate. This can make an elementary classroom  an exciting place for both students and teachers to work. I am so lucky to be teaching in a county that supports teacher initiative and growth. So I'm excited to start putting into practice some of the ideas our group has been discussing. My book group and I will be tackling the creative problem solving portion of our reflection and will be planning for implementation next.   Our minds are full of ideas on how to use Marzano's instructional delivery model in our teaching.  But for now I'm off to the beach for a few days.....

Will be back soon to share some of our lesson ideas next week.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sunday's Words for the Week

Were you able to catch sight of the super moon this weekend? 
So gorgeous... I was in awe.
 God never fails to impress me.
I'm making a point of using this summer to slow things down and appreciate the beauty and splendor of the world that we sometimes take for granted.

Check out these astronomical events yet to come...

Monday, June 17, 2013

Making Mistakes and Teacher Growth

Ha..thought I'd open this post with a bit of humor since making mistakes isn't something we usually laugh about.
In my class we say, "There is no shame in a mistake." Actually I don't think there is any better way to learn.  I want my students to be risk takers and to not fear being wrong. I was recently reading a book that suggested we should deliberately place complex tasks in front of students to add a component of struggle. It is through the struggle that perseverance is fostered and deep learning is developed. Isn't that what we want for our students?
I think we need to be fair in our approach so students are not bombarded daily with tasks at their frustration level but challenge is good and worthwhile.  

So let's shift the thinking on that from students to teachers.  I'm doing an in depth reading of Marzano's The Reflective Teacher with a group of dynamic teachers. These veteran teachers have all been teaching awhile yet all want to get better at what they do and are not fearful about making mistakes along the way. I love that.
In chapter one we discussed Marzano's thoughts on the concept of deliberate practice. In deliberate practice teachers continuously strive to achieve mastery of increasingly higher levels of performance. In order to achieve this  individuals must focus on the "not-yet-attained" and challenging tasks that define a superior level of performance. Marzano states that "In attempting these tasks teachers who engage in deliberate practice often fail."  He quotes Rathunde and Whalen  on this idea, "Unless a person wants to pursue the difficult path that leads to the development of talent, neither innate potential nor all the knowledge in the world will suffice."
 Marzano writes about the ALACT model of reflective practice.  It stands for action, looking back, awareness, create alternative methods, trial. Teachers use this sequence as they attempt to build their skill in a particular area of their teaching. The cycle continues until they meet with a high level of success.
So are you ready for the challenge and prepared for the possibility of failure? My group talked about how our new teacher evaluation system could possibly prevent teachers from wanting to disclose the negatives in their teaching experiences yet Marzano suggests "making  practices transparent and  knowledge public in the presence of others" is necessary for teacher growth.
So let's put aside teacher ratings and not be hesitant to share and support each other as we grow in our profession.
Is there an area you are going to deliberately practice? I know there are many for me and will be back later to post on those. 
Would love to hear your thoughts on this topic!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Marzano on Building Expertise

It's great to hear from other Marzano fans out there!
 Our book club met this week and we had meaningful discussion after just the first chapter. We will be digging in deeper as we examine best practice and our progress in implementing these into our day to day lessons. I'll be back to share our thinking.
  The second annual International Marzano Conference on building expertise is being held in Orlando next week. Experts from all of the world will be there to discuss recent research in best teacher strategies.  Gosh, wish I could go! They are offering a live feed to hear the keynote speakers. You can go to the Marzano Institute webpage to register.

Here is what Marzano says about this upcoming conference:

Can you feel it? Change is coming. Between the emerging State Standards and the latest ideas in improving teacher practice, the transformation is happening around you. Will you get ahead of it, guide it, take charge of it?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Words for the Week

Oh joy!  I am officially on summer break and am so ready to slow down and enjoy the gifts of this season.
One of the most treasured of those gifts for me is simply time. Time to spend with my kids, family and friends  and time to spend doing things that will restore and revive my spirit.
Summer also gives me the time to stop and think about the school year- to consider those things that I tried that worked and those that didn't. I found this year that as I taught my students, they taught me. Each student who walked through my classroom door brought with them a lesson for me in how to be a better teacher. I received lessons in differentiation, lessons in time management, even lessons in patience and serenity.  As teachers we all have the ability, and perhaps the responsibility, to use our experiences to grow in our craft, to become a better teacher tomorrow than we are today.   
This summer I'm excited to be book clubbing with a group of teachers as we read Robert Marzano's Becoming a Reflective Teacher. I love everything Marzano has put out and this will be my second reading of this book and is a good follow up to his book, The Art and Science of Teaching.
Becoming a Reflective Teacher
Here is what Marzano says about reflection:
Just as successful athletes must identify strengths and weaknesses, set goals, and engage in focused practice to meet their goals, so must teachers. 
This book has its readers examining the 41 elements of effective teaching and then leads teachers in a self evaluation of progress in implementing those elements.
Some of the questions that Marzano has us probe are:
What do I typically do to organize students for cognitively complex tasks?
What do I typically do to chunk content into digestible bites?
What do I typically do to practice and deepen knowledge?
What do I typically do to help students examine similarities and differences?
Good questions...especially in light of our rapidly changing and highly demanding educational system. Those of us in this profession recognize what a complex process teaching really is. We are constantly confronted with a multitude of challenges as our society changes, as states increase their mandates and as schools reform. I am so thankful for the collaboration and support I get from other teachers.  Have any of you read Becoming a Reflective Teacher? I'd love to hear your opinions on this one! 
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Sunday, June 2, 2013