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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.

October 21, 2014

Using the EQuIP Rubric to Build Teacher Capacity

Washoe County School District teachers working on the Literacy Unit Project met today to continue their collaboration on 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade units.  As part of the morning’s professional learning teachers worked with the EQuIP Rubric for ELA Lessons and Units. The intent of this session was to help build educator capacity to engage in collaborative, evidence-based inquiry around resources that support Common Core alignment.  Throughout the morning, teachers worked by exploring the rubric, applying it to a vetted resource, and discussing how the rubric might inform their work.  You can find resources on the Literacy Unit Project here and the resources for this morning's session on the the EQuIP rubric here

October 15, 2014

CCSS Mathematics: Core Action One

This week math teachers and administrators from Turning Point, Inspire, and ACT engaged in a morning of professional learning around the CCSS Mathematics, digging deep into the instructional shifts. This is the first of a series of sessions for teachers and administrators that will focus on each Instructional Practice Guide’s  three Core Actions. You can access the materials used in today’s professional learning here

October 13, 2014

Intersession for Adult Education

The week of October 13th is a quarter break for the Washoe County School District Adult Education Program. During this break for students, teachers are engaging in professional learning sessions around androgogy, the College and Career Readiness Standards, and instructional technology.  You can find The College and Career Readiness Standards session materials for the ELA/Literacy session here and the Mathematics session here. The materials used to support the professional learning for instructional technology are embedded here, and the Prezi for the week is here.