From the Discovery Lab Instructional Facilitator...

March, 2013

MORE ABOUT COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS.  As mentioned in my first newsletter, most states, like Washington, have adopted The Common Core State Standards -- a new framework for educating our students for their futures.  The CCSS include several significant shifts.  One is an emphasis on students reading more informational text.  If we think about it, most of our daily and work lives depend on our ability to read for information more often than for literary pleasure.  The Standards suggest that fourth graders, for example, be taught reading through 50% literary texts, and 50% informational texts.  That recommendation gradually increases to 12th graders reading  30% literary and 70% non-fiction in school.  Teachers  in all subject areas are being asked to accelerate literacy development by embedding reading, writing, and vocabulary development, in their classes.  

Support variety in your student’s reading!  Help them follow up on their own interests!  Take them to the public library (cards are free!) or bookstore, and search for enticing books on “their” topic.  Dinosaurs? Soccer?  Outer Space?  Fashion? Rocks?  Rock Music?  Lots of great informational reads are not dry! “Literary non-fiction” is a growing genre.  Random examples in the Discovery Lab Library:  An Egg is Quiet;  Duel!  Burr and Hamilton’s Deadly War of Words; City Chickens; It’s Disgusting and We Ate it!; The Mutiny on the Bounty. I have personally read aloud every available book on trains to my one-track-minded (ouch!) grandson.  Even for the young ones, story time needn’t mean only imagination-based stories.

More about “THE FIVE STRATEGIES”.  As building blocks toward achieving the CCSS, Yakima School District is training (or refreshing)  all its’ educators in Five Instructional Strategies.  These teaching methods are highly effective for the entire range of learners, and we Discovery Lab teachers are retraining in about one per month.  By the end of this school year all five should be familiar practice to your students.

Recent staff meetings have focused on three.  The first 10/2, 5/2” --  AKA “Chunk and Chew” --  has teachers presenting information in short periods of time (approximately ten minutes or so for upper grades; five minutes for K – 2)  followed by a shorter time for students to somehow process the information with other students (discussion, shared drawing, brainstorm, etc).  This makes the information “stick.” The second is the “Optimal Learning”  or “Gradual Release” Model, AKA “I Do, We Do, You Do”.  Here the teacher models how to do something – math problem, descriptive writing, art project – you name it.  Then the class does it with the teacher; eventually students work independently. 

We have also been growing our Reflective Writing strategies.  Students might write an “entry” piece as to what they remember from last class, or an “exit” slip recapping what they just learned or still need to know. Reflective Writing is more personal than other types of academic writing, but it is helpful for both the student writer, and the teacher.  The teacher can and should pose questions at many levels of complexity. (“Who are the main characters in the story so far?” “Do you think Marty did the right thing in hiding Shiloh? Why” “How would you rewrite the ending to the story?”)  

Please feel free to call or email me with any questions or comments!

Judy Strosahl

Discovery Lab School Instructional Facilitator

strosahl.judith@yakimaschools.org

509-573-5444


Support Your Student's Reading at Home

As you already know, reading to children is one very important way to build their vocabularies, and students are never too old to share books at home! I remember trading pages of John Krakauer’s Into Thin Air with one of my daughters who was a high school sophomore at the time and still a struggling reader. At first I insisted, but we both began to enjoy it. I was amazed at how her fluency increased with enjoyable, supported practice.

Always feel free to call or email me with any questions! And read on for more...

Please see our Library page for additional Reading Strategies parents can use at home...



Excerpts From My First Letter, Dec. 2012

COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS and the Classroom

Forty-Seven States have adopted The Common Core State Standards. The CCSS are a new framework for educating our students for their futures. The Yakima School District is training all its’ educators in how to help students meet these new standards, which are accompanied by an increase in classroom “Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships.”  By way of an overview – “Rigor” refers to the depth of learning; “Relevance” to an increase in real-world application; and “Relationships” to a more respectful and caring school community. (For example, teachers are asked to know students names --- with correct pronunciation – and at least one personal interest.)  

As part of the increase in Rigor, the entire District is being trained (or refreshed) in how to use five specific Instructional Strategies.  These teaching methods are highly effective for the entire range of learners, and we Discovery Lab teachers are retraining in about one per month.  By the end of this school year all five should be familiar practice to students and teachers. 

This month it’s been “Think, Write, Pair, Share.”  The purpose of “T,W,P,S” – which has many variations – is to allow students to mentally process information and develop their thoughts, briefly write about it, exchange ideas with a partner by both listening and talking, then share with the larger class.  In addition to the essential skill practice embedded in this strategy for students (thinking, organizing ideas on paper, learning from another’s thoughts, speaking aloud), T,W,P,S also allows teachers to do a mini-assessment as to how well students are absorbing content in the class.