December 26, 2014

Supporting Classroom Instruction: Annotation Guides

Last week at North Star Online School and Inspire Academy teachers gathered to create school-wide annotation guides. Discussing what annotation means, why students use annotations, and what annotations might look like,  teachers created school-wide annotation guides they and their students will use to support a careful reading of text in a variety of content areas. The materials for these collaborative session can be found here. The guides teachers created are linked below. 

December 17, 2014

Shifting Instruction to the Core: Planning for the Shifts

During separate sessions this week, teachers at North Star School and Inspire Academy gathered and continued their work to align instruction to the shifts. During these sessions ELA and literacy teachers collaborated to design and implement vertically aligned annotation guides in their middle and high school classes and mathematics teachers planned for focus, coherence, and rigor. Materials for this session include:

December 5, 2014

Supporting Classroom Instruction: Text & Task Resources for Adult Education

Many educators in Washoe County School District's Adult Education classrooms have questions about where to find texts appropriate for both the learning and maturity levels of their adult students. While the resources for K-12 teachers have expanded immensely over the last couple of years, textbooks fully aligned to Adult Education's College and Career Readiness Standards are still in development. As publishers work to better align resources, Adult Education teachers might consider newspapers, periodicals, and civics course materials to support pairing complex text and text dependent tasks in basic adult literacy and English language courses . In working with Adult Education teachers, Dawn Adams and I drafted a text-dependent activity resource (linked here) that teachers could possibly use to integrate texts worth reading and tasks worth doing into their lessons. Later supports will look at selecting a series of texts to support building a coherent body of knowledge throughout basic literacy and language courses.

December 3, 2014

Shifting Instruction to the Core: Planning for Coherence and Rigor

Inspire Academy and Turning Point educators gathered Wednesday to continue their professional learning around the Instructional Practice Guides for the CCSS Mathematics. Working through resources from the Teaching Channel, Student Achievement Partners, and Illustrative Mathematics, teachers and administrators planned lessons that reflect the coherence and appropriate aspects of rigor called for by course standards. Resources for the days session included:

Shifting Instruction to the Core: Continued Introduction to Core Action Two

On Wednesday afternoon educators at Inspire Academy and Turning Point continued their professional learning centered around the Instructional Practice Guides, Core Action 2 (the first session description and materials can be found here). In this second introductory session, teachers and administrators shared their completed 'Steps for Addressing Core Action 2' and engaged in text-centered, standards-specific tasks that addressed both the substance and the craft of The Atlantic article, "The Myth of 'I'm Bad at Math'".  Resources from this session include:

November 25, 2014

CCSS: Writing to Sources, Session Two

Tuesday evening Washoe County teachers participated in the second of a two session in-service class, ‘Writing to Sources’ (information on the first session is in a previous post here). The focus for this final session was on supporting writing with exemplar lessons and the use of formative assessment. Throughout the evening, teachers collaborated around writing lesson exemplars, explored writing rubrics from the Nevada Department of Education and SBAC, and reviewed literature on formative assessment from the Carnegie Corporation and Kelly Gallagher. Resources for this second session are linked below. The next ‘Writing to Sources’ in-service will be held in the Spring of 2015.

November 24, 2014

Exploring the Yearly Practice Guides at North Star School

As part of their ongoing professional learning learning effort, 'Aligning Instruction to the Core', North Start teachers and administrators gathered Monday to engage in sessions focused on using the Yearly Instructional Practice Guides for ELA/Literacy and Mathematics

Educators began the afternoon by working in content area groups analyzing student work and classroom observation data to better understand how they might increase support for students engaging in complex text during a Live Lesson. Teachers then studied resources for yearly planning aligned to Core Action 1. ELA and Literacy teachers engaged with the Common Core Standards and Publisher's Criteria while Mathematics teachers worked through print and video resources from Student Achievement Partners, Smith & Stein, the Common Core Standards, standard authors Daro, McCallum, and Zimba, as well as Ryan Debry Talbot. Both groups finished their sessions by spending time collaboratively planning with vetted resources from WCSD Department of Curriculum & Instruction, Louisiana Believes, Student Achievement Partners, EQuIP, and Washoe County teacher groups. Resources used during this session are linked below. 

November 22, 2014

Innovations High School Saturday PD: Blended Learning Boot Camp

In order to better help educators at Innovations High School use instructional technology, Tony Filicchia facilitated a 'Blended Learning Boot Camp' today at the Innovations HS Second Street campus. Educators worked through 'The Basics of Blended Learning' to determine what models of blended learning might work best for them and sessions throughout the morning were based on a flex model as teachers moved at their own pace through tutorials on Mac Basics and using Keynote.

November 19, 2014

Shifting Instruction to the Core: Introduction to Core Action Two

Educators at Inspire Academy and Turning Point gathered again today for the next professional learning session in 'Shifting Instruction to the Core'. The focus of this session was 'Core Action 2' and supported teachers to better understand how to use text specific questions and tasks in their instruction. Teachers worked through Core Action Two of the Instructional Practice Guide with resources developed by WCSD History-Social Studies department  and Student Achievement Partners and they applied these resources to an Atlantic article, "The Myth of 'I'm Bad at Math" . Teachers will gather again on December 3rd to continue their exploration of Core Action 2. Resources from today's session include:

November 18, 2014

CCSS: Writing to Sources - Session One

Washoe County School District teachers gathered Tuesday evening for the first of a two session in-service class, ‘Writing to Sources’. In this first session, teachers explored print resources from the ELA/Literacy Common Core State Standards and the Aspen Institute, video content from EngageNY, Teaching Channel, and Fisher & Frey, and a variety of reading strategies. Teachers will spend this week between sessions exploring potential reading and writing lessons to use in their own classrooms. Resources for this first session are:

November 17, 2014

Preparing Students for the New Tests

A recent post at Core Task Project details what teachers can do to better prepare their students for the new accountability tests rolling-out this Spring. Titled, 'How to and How Not to Prepare Students for the New Tests', the post cautions against skill-based test prep measures that interrupt instruction, instead offering research and resources to support learning aligned to the Common Core Instructional Shifts. For those of you interested in what you might do in anticipation of the next generation assessments, the post is linked here and is featured in full below. 

‘How and How Not to Prepare Students for the New Tests’Posted on by  
A popular question, since Nevada officially adopted the SBAC Test for the 2014-2015, is how to best prepare students for the coming assessments. I certainly have an opinion and have consistently noted that if you take full advantage of well-vetted resources, including the Basal Alignment Project, Close Read Exemplars, Core Knowledge, We the People curriculum, Document Based Questions, and the resources at www.63000resources, you can feel confident that you are headed in the right direction. Yet, some vendors and national consultants outline a different strategy in which you diagnose skill deficits and remediate. Dr. Timothy Shanahan, the former President of the International Reading Association and work team member on the Common Core State Standards, challenges this strategy in a piece for The Reading Teacher. He writes:
Already, new test prep materials are starting to appear on the Internet, and teachers ask me all the time how they can best prepare students to respond to these new items. Many educators assume that, since these tests will be aligned to the CCSS, they will detect which standards the students are meeting: Johnny meets Reading Standard 4 but is still not getting Standard 7.
The problem is that it doesn’t work that way. It hasn’t in the past, and it won’t with these new tests, either.
Dr. Shanahan follows this claim with the research to buttress his assertion and suggestions for how best to prepare for the coming assessments. You can gain access to the full article here.

November 12, 2014

Core Task Project featured on National Public Radio

Earlier this year, American RadioWorks produced a documentary titled ‘Greater Expectations’ that told the story of the Core Task Project in Reno, Nevada. This week, smaller segments of that documentary are featured on National Public Radio shows ‘All Things Considered’ and 'Morning Edition'. These shorter segments, ‘Common Core Reading: ‘The New Colossus’’ and 'Common Core Reading: The High Achievers'  are well worth a listen, as is the original American RadioWorks episode Greater Expectations: The Challenge of the Common Core'  are well worth a listen.

November 10, 2014


Colleagues in Washoe County School District have started an effort to highlight the excellent work of local educators. At the Twitter #TeachNV, you will find teacher and student artifacts with links to pictures, videos, and blogs. A number of posts have already been made and you do not need a Twitter account to see what has been posted. Simply click on this link to take a look! Please consider adding a Tweet!

November 7, 2014

Professional Learning: EQuIP Session II for WCSD Implementation Specialists

In order to help build the capacity of educators to better recognize and use highly Common Core-aligned materials, the Implementation Specialists and Instructional Coaches in Washoe County School District are engaging in ongoing professional learning around the EQuIP Rubric for Lessons & Units: ELA/Literacy (Grades 3-5) and ELA (Grades 6-12). This week the second of six sessions was held during the IS Institute, during which participants reviewed a training lesson, independently applied the criteria in Dimension I: Alignment to the Depth of the CCSS, and calibrated their feedback. Later sessions in the winter and spring of 2015 will use the same training lesson to explore remaining rubric dimensions: II: Key Shifts in the CCSS, III: Instructional Supports, and IV: Assessment. 

Materials for today's session include:

November 4, 2014

Site-based Professional Learning Day: Exploring the Yearly Instructional Practice Guides

As part of the site-based professional learning on November 4th Inspire, ATC, and Turning Point schools all gathered to engage in sessions focused on using the Yearly Instructional Practice Guides for ELA/Literacy and Mathematics. These sessions are part of ongoing professional learning for educators designed to deepen understanding of the instructional shifts, identify and use resources to align teaching and learning to the Common Core, and engage teachers in collaborative inquiry.

Throughout the day educators worked in content area groups to explore the Yearly IPGs and supporting resources that might inform their instruction. ELA and Literacy teachers studied print and video resources from Student Achievement Partners, the Common Core Standards, and Robert Pondiscio. Mathematics teachers worked through print and video resources from Student Achievement Partners, Smith & Stein, the Common Core Standards, standard authors Daro, McCallum, and Zimba, as well as Ryan Debry Talbot.  Both groups spent time collaboratively planning with vetted resources from WCSD Department of Curriculum & Instruction, Louisiana Believes, Student Achievement Partners, EQuIP, and Washoe County teacher groups.

October 29, 2014

Supporting Classroom Instruction: Annotation Guides in Science Class

As part of their work with Core Action One, Washoe County teachers in the Options Area have been focusing on supporting students to engage with complex text. One strategy many teachers are trying in their classrooms is text annotations. Annotations, making notes in the margins of the text, support using complex text at the center of instruction as they: provide students with a scaffold into complex text, support students to use and analyze textual evidence in discussions and writing, and ultimately help build students’ independence with complex text. Science teachers at Innovations High School modified a strategy originally intended for history-social studies to create a strategy that matches the disciplinary demands of science texts (for example, this EPA report on climate change indicators). The annotation guide they created can be found here (and the original for history texts is here). This is the first week the guide has been used in Innovations High School science classes, and so far teachers have been pleased with their students’ persistence in reading and the content knowledge students have shown after such a sustained focus on text.  Pictures of the annotation guide table tents and samples of student work are pictured below.
 annotation guide table tents
student work samples of science annotations

student work sample of science annotations

October 28, 2014

Common Core Summit - A Closer Look at the CCSS 'Core Actions' for K-8 Teachers

This week, teachers and educators in the Bay Area attended Contra Costa Office of Education's  2014 San Francisco Bay Area Common Core State Standards Summit "Strengthening The Core".  Aaron Grossman and I facilitated one of the breakout strands, “A Closer Look at the CCSS 'Core Actions' for K-8 Teachers”. In this session participants studied resources used in Washoe County's Core Task Project that focus on Core Action One. Specifically, participants explored the importance of complex text, identified features of complex text, discussed using a balance of texts to build a body of knowledge, and were introduced to instructional resources that support alignment to Core Action One.  The PowerPoint, text complexity activity, and other handouts for this session are available here and in this the post on Core Task Project. 

October 27, 2014

Planning for Core Action One at North Star School

On Monday, educators at North Star School continued their work on aligning instruction to Core Action One (for details on Core Action One, see the Instructional Practice Guides).

Teachers and administrators engaged in professional learning that supported their planning for alignment to Core Action One. Mathematics teachers focused on planning for rigor, while ELA/Literacy teachers focused on using annotations to support the increased use of complex text. The PPT for the entire session can be found here, resources to explore rigor in Mathematics can be found here, and annotation resources for ELA/Literacy can be found here.

Teachers also collaborated in their subject area groups to reflect on their work over the past month that aligned with Core Action One and determine next steps for deeper work with complex text in ELA/Literacy or rigor in Mathematics.

The mathematics materials in this sessions borrowed from those developed for the Nevada Core AdvocatesSummit and can be found here. The the annotation resources for ELA/Literacy are based on those developed by the WCSD history-social studies department and adapted Innovations High School science teachers.

October 24, 2014

Supporting Classroom Instruction: Excerpting Text

The Common Core State Standards expect that students are able to "Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently" (CCSS ELA Literacy Standard 10). To support students to meet Standard 10, teachers select grade-level complex text to be at the center of classroom instruction. When wanting to use a lengthy and dense piece of grade-level complex text with students, excerpting can be a wonderful tool.

In recent lesson planning collaboration with an English teacher, excerpting text was a helpful part of the work. Rather than plan to use entire chapters from the American Gothic by Steven Biel, we planned to use shorter excerpts from the chapters 'Iconoclasm' and 'Parody'. To start, we reviewed the chapters' text complexity to determine appropriate placement in the course and instructional supports to consider. Using the Lexile analyzer the text measured with a 1550L, a score that places the text in the College and Career Readiness grade band. Next, we applied a text complexity rubric to find the text is highly complex in the areas of knowledge demands and language features (both vocabulary and sentence structure). These measures are helpful not only in knowing the text is appropriately placed for use in the senior English class, but also will inform the tasks we create to scaffold learning as students read the challenging text. Knowing we had a strong text to use, we then worked to excerpt it and asked ourselves a series of questions: what is the author's purpose? what portions of this text best serve this purpose? what might we exclude from the text and still keep it's tone and focus? The result was a much shorter selection of text that was typed-up, complete with sourcing information and line numbers.

Our next lesson-planning step will be to create text-dependent tasks for these excerpts. As the purpose for using these texts is to better understand the multiple interpretations of the satirical painting American Gothic, we might consider having students use text annotations and creating a series text dependent questions for use during classroom instruction.

For more information and resources on using complex text, there is information on the centrality of complex text in CCSS Appendix A , there are excerpted examples of grade-level complex text in CCSS Appendix B, and there are resources to support determining text complexity in the resource collection available on Student Achievement Partners website

October 22, 2014

Supporting Classroom Instruction: Resources for Conducting Research

Recently, some teachers have been inquiring about resources to support student-led research projects. To start with, teachers in Washoe County can use the librarians, print resources, and databases at UNR's LearningResource Center. For librarian support or access to print resources, WCSD teachers can contact the LRC here.  Information on databases, helpful links, and an overview of the LRC can be found here. Each WCSD database provides access to specific content materials and can be accessed from a district computer. Individual database descriptions and remote log-in information can be found on this page. 

For other web-based searching options, teachers might consider using a variety of resources to search beyond Google or Wikipedia (see why students should expand their search world here ). Webpath Express is one option that both searches and filters webpages. To access Webpath Express, start here, scroll to the Learning Resource Center,  under the 'Guest' drop-down menu select 'exit', and click on the catalog tab to access the Webpath link (on the left side of the page). The resources and strategies supported by the American Libraries Association and the Beyond Google series at UMass Amherst might also be of interest.