Tuesday, October 25, 2016

#D100bloggerPD's Book Study on Hacking the Common Core, Hack 10: Involve Parents- Clarify Their Role (with Parent Resources!)

Welcome back for another #D100bloggerPD crew book study! I like starting the book study posts with an introduction of the crew. We consist of an assortment of Berwyn South School District teacher and administrator learners who enjoy blogging, are smitten with social media and make use of their PLNs as an irreplaceable source of powerful content, hence the hashtag #D100bloggerPD. We devote ourselves to staying globally connected. The crew embraces change, strives to better themselves professionally and desires to join forces with others to share what we learn because...Together we are better!

This #D100bloggerPD book study is dedicated to Michael Fisher's Hacking the Common Core. To read the hacks already discussed in the book study thus far, click HERE. You will be able to access crew members' reflections and discussions leading up to this final post in the study.

Before I jump in, I must first say Michael Fisher is one of the most down-to-Earth people I've ever had the chance to meet virtually. He has been nothing but sensational throughout this book study, offering resources, commenting on crew members' posts and even taking the time to be part of the #D100bloggerPD #D100chat co-moderated by Kristin Richey and me. Click HERE for the Twitter chat Storify (Thanks, Leah!). He's extraordinary. #ThankYou

If you haven't already read Hacking the Common Core, I recommend you do. It's yet another invaluable book in the Hack Learning series. Just as Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez conveyed practical and user-friendly ideas and tools for each hack in their book Hacking Education, Michael Fisher dispenses solutions to problems that seem to go hand in hand with the Common Core. He "debunks the mythology surrounding the standards and provides amazing strategies that will help you bring fun back to learning, even in our standardized world (p.11)." I believe Fisher's hacks have the power to unlock student engagement and enlighten teachers and parents about the Common Core. Who wouldn't want that?
This post is dedicated to Hack 10, which is different than Hacks 1-9. It's slightly less geared toward just the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), but still delivers resources to support parents with them. Hack 10: Involve Parents- Clarify Their Role is more about teachers and administrators building positive relationships with parents (and the community), as well as informing them on their responsibilities in supporting their child's learning. According to Fisher, Everyone needs a seat at the table (p.114) when discussing the Common Core. In order to do this, teachers and administrators need to build significant relationships with parens and invite them into the CCSS discussion. 
If you're in the field of Education, you know how impactful it is for teachers, administrators and parents to collaborate and clearly communicate with one another. For this reason, it is beneficial for educators to resolve any confusion or sweeping misguided information parents may be faced with. Since the CCSS and their breadth can be overwhelming, parents may be unclear about their role. No longer can students just memorize and repeat information. They need to be able to analyze, discuss, synthesize and apply their learning to the real world, which is perhaps different than when parents attended school. Nevertheless, it absolutely makes sense. We have to prepare students for jobs that don't even currently exist!

As we know, social media platforms have become quite popular as a go-to place for information. Fisher states, 
With new tools like Twitter and Facebook, parents have found efficient and convenient ways to communicate their opinions about standards, schools, evaluations, and assessments. Some of the information has been accurate, but much of it has deteriorated into hearsay, conspiracy theories, and widespread misinformation (p.113).
Since this is the case, educators need to find ways to correct and/or prevent these types of roadblocks because fabricated hearsay has the ability to sour our efforts in joining forces with parents and building crucial connections. A former (now retired) colleague named Marilyn McManus always said, If you can predict it, you can prevent it. The image below is posted next to my desk at school and serves as a useful reminder in many life situations, but is also applicable to the CCSS.
Fisher mentions his colleague, Marie Alcock, and what she calls having a *culture of connection*, rather than a *culture of correction*. He states, 
If we were to focus on students and preparing them for the future, consider what would change in terms of our conversations. Perhaps our essential questions would center on invitation and collaboration. Perhaps instead of identifying roadblocks, we could figure out how to move past them (p.114).
With this being said, if we shape positive relationships with parents, it will establish the foundation for all other parent involvement. That's our goal, right? Preparing students for the future is going to take everyone's best efforts. Children are always the only future the human race has, so we need to be committed to building strong partnerships with everyone involved.
Involve Parents:
Fisher offers a handful of good practice tips on what educators can do (starting tomorrow!) to invite parents into the Common Core conversation:
  1. Believe that parents are on your team. Figure out how to engage them.
  2. Become a customer service specialist. Make positive calls home, including personal invitations to school events.
  3. Share your work. Transparency is a must-do. Show student-created work and successes. SHARE! I'm a huge fan of using Twitter to highlight classroom happenings and resources.
  4. Model the behaviors you desire. Administrators should model collaborative behaviors with the community at large the way they want their teachers to collaborate with parents (p.115).
After reflecting on these four good practice tips from Fisher, I feel the teachers and administrators in my school (and district) have been successful in our efforts to invite parents and the community into the schools. We provide a variety of ways to keep the community abreast of the happenings related to school events, as well as curricular decisions. 

Besides monthly opportunities to attend School Board meetings, we offer Parent University courses, in addition to monthly Parent Coffees, to communicate details regarding academic programs being implemented, measurement of student progress, standards-based grading particulars and more. Additionally, we have a Parent-Teacher Association and Parent Liaisons program where parents and community members are welcomed into schools to provide all types of support. Most recently, we had our very first Bring Your Parents to School Day, which was a huge success! 
Thanks for the pictures, Ms. Bailey!

Our program called Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) and Super M.O.M.S. (Moms of Marvelous Students) has really sparked engagement with the parents in our school. Dads and Moms sign up to attend school on a particular day to help out in their child's classroom and throughout the building. We especially love when they make return appearances! We also offer opportunities for parents and community members to be Guest Readers in the classroom. Both of these programs are fun, informal ways to promote positive home-school relationships. 
As a Reading Specialist, I am particularly fond of promoting literacy. I love reaching out to parent volunteers to organize a date and time for them to be a Guest Reader in my classroom. The 3rd grader in the white Cubs shirt below (Go Cubs!) was thrilled to have his grandmother be a Guest Reader during his group time in my classroom. He was beaming with pride.
Clarify Their Role:
Since teachers and parents have an obligation to prepare kids for the real world, schools need to provide clear, consistent expectations of what their child should be learning at each grade level. Teachers need to be resourceful by providing parents with helpful information that better prepares them in supporting and reinforcing the skills defined by the CCSS. The CCSS help facilitate conversations between all members sitting at the proverbial table.

A vital component of student learning is what and how they learn at home, not just in a school setting. The CCSS define exactly what students need to know, so parents need to be in-the-know. The Instructional Shifts for Students and Parents resource below is from Fisher himself. He shared it to pass along for the book study. See what I mean? He's awesome. :) Click on the link or the image below to download a copy of your own to pass along to others. 
While doing additional CCSS research, I came across two further resources below to support parents. The first one outlines the CCSS Shifts in English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics, on top of explicitly informing parents what they can do at home to support their child in school. The resource was extracted from the Parent & Family Library on a site called EngageNY.   
The second resource I obtained is the National PTA's Parents' Guide to Student Success. It is broken down by grade level, sharing precise activities for both ELA/Literacy and Mathematics, and explains how parents can talk to their child's teacher regarding academic progress. Hope you find at least one of the three resources in this post helpful.
For further information on clarifying the role of parents in schools, as well as on any of the information found in Hacks 1-9, I highly suggest you buy, read, highlight and tab the book. In Michael Fisher's words, It's more of a 'practice informs better practice' book (p.15). I utterly agree. After reading this book, I am both enlightened and relieved about teaching and impacting student achievement with the CCSS. I will end this post with some first-rate tips from Fisher's Blueprint for Full-Implementation and Overcoming Pushback sections in Hack 10:
  • Plan events multiple times throughout the school year to share information about standards, curriculum, and assessment, and conduct panel discussions and question/answer sessions (p.116).
  • Clarify any concerns or questions the parents have (p.116).
  • Anything they {parents} are able to offer--showing up for a teacher meeting, participating in a school-wide event, joining the Parent Teacher Association, speaking at a board meeting, whatever it is--sincerely appreciate it and make that parent feel like royalty for contributing to the betterment of the school (p.116).
  • Also worth mentioning is that the Common Core is about divergence in thinking, not just the way the vendor or teacher is teaching. Students need multiple ways to solve problems, not just a predictable way (p.118).
  • Students can't "Think, Pair, Share" their way to successful creative problem solving in a job setting (p.119).
  • Teachers should be considering how they can become more contemporary in practice, whether these standards are impetus for change or not. We do not want a Race of Mediocrity, nor do we want a nation of compliance (p.125).
A sincere thank you for stopping by Literacy Loving Gals to learn more about inviting parents into the conversation surrounding the Common Core. When parents, teachers, administrators and the community band together for the betterment of students, everyone is the victor. 
Happy Hacking!


Friday, October 14, 2016

"What's in the Bubble?" Reading Strategy from The Reading Strategies Book

If you have been following my blog, you know how fond I am of Jennifer Serravallo. She started her educational career as a classroom teacher and has become, in my eyes, one of the most genius literacy consultants and authors out there. On the very first page of The Reading Strategies Book, Serravallo states, "The strategies I've crafted in this book stand on the shoulders of decades of research and master teachers from whose work I've been fortunate to learn." Educators can't go wrong with teacher tested and approved strategies that are backed by research!

After spearheading a book study dedicated to The Reading Strategies Book last year, I have since fallen in love with the book over and over again. I routinely review it in search of support strategies for my struggling readers. I am never disappointed and often feel I've hit the jackpot of resources. If you own the book, you know exactly what I mean. My copy (above) is highlighted, dogeared and tabbed all over the place. 

Since I'm a Reading Specialist servicing a handful of grade levels, I have invested time in making mini charts for strategies my RtI students often need. Invested time, meaning I've photocopied the images from the book, sized them to fit in my mini tabletop pocket chart, cut them apart and laminated them. When they are in the tabletop chart, I have the ability to swap the strategy visuals out for the different groups. However, I also place large anchor charts of the strategies most of my kiddos need throughout my room
Let's forge ahead to the strategy called "What's in the Bubble?" found on page 167 in the book. This strategy falls under Goal 6- Supporting Comprehension in Fiction: Thinking About Characters. It is best used with students reading at Levels C through M and is focused on the skill of inferring. If students are to fully comprehend fictional texts, they need to better understand characters by being able to infer character feelings and traits. In Serravallo's words, here is how she explains the strategy to students:
We can pause and think, "What's my character thinking here?" or "What might my character be saying here?" Even when the text doesn't tell us, we can imagine, noticing what's happened so far. Pause on the page and put a thought or speech bubble above the character in the picture, point to the bubble, and say what the character might be thinking.
The student pictured below is in 3rd grade and is reading at a Level I. I service him one on one for various reasons. When asked a question, he often responds by reading the text, which of course isn't a true response because he's just reading words. For instance, if I were to ask, "What do you think is happening here on this page?", he would automatically begin reading the text without even trying to answer the question. Since this is the case, I modified the activity when working with him to better meet his needs. 
I first placed sticky notes over the text and had him just look at the pictures. I asked him "What might this character be thinking?" in various spots in the book as we flipped through the pages. We discussed his thoughts orally before I had him write anything down on the thought clouds using some of the suggested prompts below. After just looking through the book, I gave him four thought clouds and explained to him that he may begin reading, but throughout the reading he will need to stop to write down what the character on that page may be thinking. 
He did an amazing job with the activity and was able to write character thoughts that went well with the images. He loved the thought clouds and wanted to reread the story. (Yay!) To switch it up a bit, I had him remove the clouds from the correct page and jumble them up. He then reread the book while placing the clouds onto the page that correlated with the image. I was able to use "Yes! That thought matches with what's happened so far." from the suggested prompts below.
Overall, it was a successful strategy for this student. I'm pleased with the results. If you would like to try this strategy with any of your students, but don't own the book (Why don't you own the book?!), you will find the recommended student prompts Serravallo suggests below. 
  • What just happened? So, what might your character be thinking?
  • What words is your character saying in his or her head?
  • Before you turn the page, pause and think about what he or she would be thinking.
  • Put your thought bubble on that page.
  • That's what's happening. What might she or he be thinking?
  • Yes! That thought matches with what's happened so far.
  • Pausing there helps you think about what the character's thinking.
One last tip: For students reading at the lower levels (Level C, for example), Serravallo mentions using thought clouds on tongue depressors. Students may place them on the book pictures to orally tell about the characters' thinking, which can be done independently or with partners. The image below shows the thought clouds I created for my students.

Happy reading!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Live Twitter Chat with Michael Fisher, Author of Hacking the Common Core!

Hello! Have you read Hacking the Common Core by Michael Fisher? If so, do you have any questions you would like to ask the author himself? Are you on Twitter? 
If you've answered "Yes" to any of these questions, join the #D100bloggerPD crew on Twitter for the #D100chat. It's being held October 18, 2016 at 8PM CST. We will be discussing the Common Core with author, Michael Fisher. Even if you haven't read the book, feel free to peek in on the chat to learn more. Intrigued? I hope so! The questions are below. :)
Hope to see you virtually in the Twitter-sphere on October 18 at 8PM CST! 
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