Monday, March 28, 2016

Complex Instruction

Have a great week before spring break!

Excellence in Education: Complex Instruction
Complex Instruction is a differentiation strategy where students work in heterogeneous groups on tasks that draw on strengths of each student. The key, of course, to all group work is interdependence where the work of each student is indispensable to the entire group.

  1. Create open ended tasks that are explicit, challenging and interesting for students.
  2. Tasks should be varied to take advantage of each student’s strengths, skills and abilities.
  3. Incorporate reading and writing into each task.
  4. Requirement: for each task, each student must be ready to explain what their group did for each task.

As students are working, as a teacher you should move around the groups asking questions, probing to better understand what students are doing and why. Wandering also allows you to provide valuable feedback.

Why it Works:
Students are much more likely to learn if they are invested in the process. By developing appropriate tasks and having students collaboratively plan and then specialize, students will be more eager to learn.

This blog was inspired by the work I witnessed in Government class by students working on their CAP (Community Action Plan). The idea comes from Elizabeth Cohen’s Designing Groupwork: Strategies for the Heterogeneous Classroom

Shout Out

Need to Knows
Please remind your students to bring their charged computers on March 29.

We Notice Nominations Now Open - Recognize An Employee by March 31
The Albemarle County Student Council is excited to announce the start of the annual We Notice Program. This is an opportunity to recognize a teacher or staff member whose work you would like to celebrate. This recognition can be given to any staff member who works in our schools, such as teachers, office staff, building service team members, teaching assistants, cafeteria workers, school nurses, and bus drivers. Please complete the nomination form, including a message that will be shared with the staff member, by March 31.

Positive Referral Link:

Technology / Website Permission Request Form

Spring Calendar (Grades, SOL, Exams, Etc): Obviously, this is subject to change with weather, but it’s a start. Some significant schedule changes begin next week.

Don’t forget to email April Wilkerson to sign-up to help for prom! Her catchy email alone should be enough to entice you!

Calendar Items
March 29: No Mustang Morning; First Period is Extended to take Survey. Please remind your students to bring their charged computers to school.

Clubs are canceled for this week (March 30) because of exams

April 15 @ noon: Grades are due

Please read this important information to ensure that your grades are correctly calculated.
Regardless of when the mid-term exam is given, the date 4/2/2016 must be used. With this date, the exam grade will fall under the E3 Term in the gradebook.
If a teacher decides to give their exam early (March 24th or 25th), they need to understand that any assignments given after these exams, must have a date of 4/11/2016 or later, so that it falls in the Q4 Term.
If a teacher decides to give their exam March 31st or April 1st, they can use any date for Q3 assignments, prior to April 2nd (if they want it to count towards the 3rd Quarter Grade).
March 28: Hank Atkins
March 31: Chris Columbano
April 2: Karen Ye
April 5: Gwen Reynolds

Worth Your Time
Why is the Material in a Standardized Test Treated as More Confidential than Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Email Don’t worry this isn’t a political email but it makes a great point about our standardized tests.

Can There Be a More Apt Example of Trying to Do The Wrong Thing Right Than in Schools? This article reminds me of one of our early faculty meetings where we challenged each other to do the right thing, not the easiest thing.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Learning Targets, Part 3

Excellence in Education: Sharing Learning Targets/Objectives
Part 3 of Learning Targets

Some final tips:
  • The focus is on student learning. At the end of the lesson or part of a lesson, students should be able to say, “I can…” followed by the learning target. Example: I can explain the role that socio-economic problems played in the formation of the Roman Republic.
  • To see if your lesson is targeting student learning, simply complete At the end of the lesson, students will be able to…
  • You can create more than one objective for each lesson You may have one overriding target and the other objectives are targets/steps along the way. It’s not all or nothing. By sharing multiple targets in this way, students are able to see the progress they are making at a larger goal.
  • Instead of ESW/TSW (Each student will...The student will…) or some other variation, try beginning your target with You or We…
  • Will students be able to answer, What did you learn in class today? What can you do know that you couldn’t do before?

By consistently and purposefully sharing learning targets with students, we empower and engage students in their learning by encouraging self-regulation and building meta-cognitive skills. For all students, especially those who struggle, it’s important for students to understand what success looks like.

Shout Out
Tip of the cap to our 3 front-office associates. Ms. Muniz, who has to juggle and prioritize many tasks at the same time. Ms. Quirk for “busting” it to find subs and adjusting schedules and staying well past her contractual hours to ensure Monticello runs smoothly and to Ms. Menefee for her tireless efforts and probably being the most knowledgeable person about Monticello’s day-to-day operations!

Need to Knows
Positive Referral Link:

Technology / Website Permission Request Form

Spring Calendar (Grades, SOL, Exams, Etc): Obviously, this is subject to change with weather, but it’s a start. Some significant schedule changes begin next week.

Calendar Items
March 8: School Safety Survey: 9th and 10th graders will take it at 9am; 11th and 12th graders will take it at 1pm

March 9-10: Altered Schedule for Help Save the Next Girl--the schedule sent last week will be modified slightly because of English SOL Remediation

March 11: Clubs During Mustang Morning

March 15, 16: SOL Writing Tests; First period will be extended with no Mustang Morning

March 12: Jen Meade

Worth Your Time
Brain-Based Learning: Energy and Calm: Change It Up and Calm It Down  Some ideas for helping students focus and how we can use breaks from Edutopia

How High School Would Be Different if Students Designed It which is interesting by itself but even more so when you compare it what’s going on in Virginia

Learning Targets, Part 2

Excellence in Education: Sharing Learning Targets/Objectives
Part 2 of Learning Targets

Writing the objective on the board and assuming students will pay attention to it, doesn’t work. Referring to it at the beginning of class and never revisiting it is only slightly better. As teachers we must help the students understand what the objective is, what it requires of them and why it’s important. After every part of the lesson, the teacher should return to the target, assess where the students are in relation to the objective (formative assessment). At the lesson’s conclusion, students should be assessed and allowed to reflect on the learning target.
Teachers can share learning targets in a variety of ways. A teacher can begin class and explicitly state what is going to be learned and how each portion of class will connect to the learning target. You can help students understand the learning target using the same means that you effectively teach: tell, model, demonstrate, share, question, creating/sharing rubrics, etc. Another strategy is to have the students translate the target into their own words.  All these ways allow students to see, recognize and understand the learning target, thus allowing them to take on more responsibility for their own learning.  Students who understand the learning target will be more engaged in activities that deepen their understanding. They will be more reflective and more able to monitor their own progress.

Need to Knows
Positive Referral Link:

Technology / Website Permission Request Form

Spring Calendar (Grades, SOL, Exams, Etc): Obviously, this is subject to change with weather, but it’s a start. Some significant schedule changes begin next week.

Calendar Items
February 29: 4th block fire drill
March 1: No School
March 2: B-Day; Read Across America Day--Anyone doing anything special?
March 3: A-Day, Parent-Teacher Conferences
March 4: B-Day

March 1: Carlos Bezerra

Worth Your Time

Learning Targets and Objectives, Part 1

Excellence in Education: Learning Targets/Objectives
Often when we, the administration, observe classes, we ask students, “What are you learning? How will you know if you’ve learned it? What can you do know that you couldn’t do at the beginning of the class?”

By asking these questions, we’re able to focus on student engagement and learning and focus on learning targets, all of which are research-proven at aiding student learning.

Learning targets are objectives that tell students specifically what they should be able to exhibit following instruction. In other words, learning targets communicate where students will end up at the end of the lesson. Targets tell students what to learn, how deeply to learn it and how to demonstrate their learning. (Moss and Brookhart)  

Learning targets are written in student language and enable each student to grasp the lesson’s purpose.  When students truly understand the learning target, they should be able to answer:
  1. What will I be able to do when I’ve finished with this lesson?
  2. What idea, topic, or subject is important for me to learn and understand so that I can do this?
  3. How will I show that I can do this and how well will I have to do it?

What a learning target is not A learning target is not simply quoting the content standards, as these are written in teacher vernacular and are difficult for students to understand. Learning targets are also not instructional activities. “You will complete the Venn diagram with a partner,” is not an acceptable learning target. Similarly, learning targets are not an agenda of what is going to be done in class.

Additionally, a learning target should be something that can be accomplished in that class period. While the day’s target might be part of a larger/unit objective, the target should offer guidance and direction for that class period.

Finally, learning targets should avoid terms that are open to interpretation. Understand, grasp, learn, appreciate are too broad.

Need to Knows
Positive Referral Link:

Technology / Website Permission Request Form

Spring Calendar (Grades, SOL, Exams, Etc): Obviously, this is subject to change with weather, but it’s a start. Some significant schedule changes begin next week.

Calendar Items
February 18: Faculty Meeting
February 23: Club Schedule

February 25 Triplets: Paul Jones, Krista Matheny and Joe Weaver

Worth Your Time

5 Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Unmotivated Students A great article and podcast that directly relates to our goals to Embrace, Inspire, and Innovate.

Virginia Governor Wants to Remake High School Education A must read! One that builds upon the work of Virginia’s SOL Innovation Committee; continuation of previously linked articles

Respecting Student Autonomy Through Choice : from ASCD this article builds on our mission to Embrace and Inspire and the county concept of Choice