Sunday, August 25, 2013

Close Reading

So let's be honest here.  I do have a fundamental understanding of what close reading is but I have been avoiding speaking the words out loud in conversations for a reason.  I don't know if it's because I'm from the south, or because I got it confused with cloze reading in the beginning, but I didn't know if it was pronounced close (as in - close the door) or close (looking at something closely).  Well now I know for sure.  Look at that reading closely! 
Kelly Hohne

Kelly Hohne helped refine my thinking to seeing close reading as a way to see more in text than you did before to help you grow new thinking about it.  Use different lenses to do this.  Then they take these lenses to new texts.  It’s not about understanding the text only.  It's about learning to do something that you can do again on your own later.

When to do close reading?  You don’t want to do it all the time or you will never finish reading!  Do it purposefully.  Maybe look across the introduction of texts, or maybe kids in book clubs might make a decision to do a close reading of this part where they think it is really an important part.  Or maybe if there is a passage of text they think is not important, then why would the author choose to add it?

Think about why, what will kids get out of it, and how will this help my kids with other texts reading independently. 

Stop at the part you want to look at closely and talk about why that part is powerful. Point out which part they can look at to support their thinking about that part.  With informational text the author chooses illustrations, headings, subheadings and possibly even a word bank for a reason.  Does that support your thinking about this important part you are looking at closely? Is the word choice helping make this part important? 

Lenses to Use with Close Reading:

point of view - What is the perspective of the author on this topic?  What perspectives are included in this text?  Missing?
language author used - How has the author used language?  (Non-fiction - How have experts quoted in article used word choice?)  What words stand out?  Why jight the author have chosen these words?  What do they show?  Are the words creating a positive or negative tone?
text structure - How has the author organized the text?  Why might he/she have made these choices?
Go close with very small portions of text
You could do close reading with an except from an article using the lens: what does the author want you to think, then show them an opposing article or text.

As a teacher read the passage as a reader.  Stop  and then reread it and think what part do you want them to look at closely.  What part do I want them to see more in....look at the standards and see what they need to work on.  That’s the part you base the lesson on. 

You may have the students take that portion of reading and write a response connecting their new thinking with evidence from the text. 

Close reading can be used in a mini lesson, while conferring with students, in the closing of a workshop and during book clubs.  When do you use close reading?

Cross posted on Once Upon a Teacher

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Ramping Up Readers' Workshop

Most of us who are elementary teachers know we are going to have to teach readers to grapple with complex text in order to help them meet the more speedy growth that common core requires but we don't know yet what exactly that will look like in our classrooms.  We can't go faster or squeeze in more lessons so we need to be very prescriptive about what strategies we use to move our students through text levels and help them respond critically writing about what they read. 

Kathleen Tolan
On Day 2 of Teachers College Reading Institute, Kathleen Tolan reminded us about not forgetting to use the important metacognitive strategies in our lessons but showed us ideas to help students dig deeper for more complex work. 

*  Visualization and Envisionment help students be more engaged in their reading because they see it in their minds eye.  What you envision may be wrong until the text corrects you.  As a reader, you adjust to what the author is showing you with their words.  This is why reading fantasy can be so hard because you don’t have a schema for what something may look like.  You can practice this with kids by reading aloud and having them close their eyes while you read something.  They can sketch what they are see in their mind movie.  This is a whole part of reading that can be lost to some students.  Build the world of the story.  When you can do this and you really understand the character you can better make predictions.  Prediction engages students.  It makes them want to find out if they are right.  Kids can be unspecific about what they think “I think she will be able to do it”  Make them predict the steps that leads to their prediction.  When the prediction is wrong, then you have some work to do about why they predicted wrong. 

* Character work is important because it helps us understand why characters do the things they do.  What are the traits of this character?  Help kids understand which traits might be positive or negative, what happened in the story that might change the character’s traits.  Find text evidence to support it or things that are evidence to the contrary.  Read over your jottings during reading and find out how they go together.  Group your jottings together to make new ideas.  Look at your jots through the eyes of another character.

*Theme in a book is not looking at what book is about.  It is about the aspect of that topic.  Example:  Book is about Friendship.  Theme is how friends can be there for you when you are going through a hard time.  Don't let kids get away with broad statements.  They should be used to you saying, "Say more...".

*Make a chart of sentence starters for students to dig deeper and tell more about their noticings and judgements after reading.
To add on...
This makes me realize...
My other theory is....
The bigger idea I am having now is....
In other words...

Digging Deeper
How do we help our children know that there is hard work that will have to be done for a book?  Tell them.  When you are modeling for your students you need to point out what you are doing specifically, because this is hard work and they need to know exactly the steps to do.  It is possible to over-scaffold or over-coach but you need to be honest about the hard work they are doing so they expect to struggle and reach for the answer.

Because reading is invisible, we have to make it more tangible for kids. There is not a reading skill that we don’t use in life.  Watch their actions and point out when they predict and infer and make connections when they are just living their lives as readers.

Cross posted on Once Upon a Teacher

Friday, August 16, 2013

Interactive Read Aloud

Alexis Czeterko
This week at the Teachers College Reading Institute I've had a School Leaders Group Session with Alexis Czerterko, staff developer for upper grades for TCRWP each day of the week.

Alexis has really pushed my thinking about things I thought I already knew how to do.  Some of those things I will share here on this blog and others I will share on my personal blog after I have had a chance to do the activities with you (Chets Creek Elementary School teachers) in person! 

One interesting thing about these sessions with Alexis each day is that we took the role of students in a Readers' Workshop.  Do you know how hard that is to do?  Let me tell you, as she goes conferring around the room your heartbeat starts going a little faster thinking, "Is she going to ask me a question?  Aaaccckkk!  What if I don't know the answer?"  You may be laughing but really it made me think about how students feel when they know they are going to be talking with a teacher about something they are not sure about.  So I guess what that taught me is I have confidence in my reading, but I don't have confidence that I am thinking deeply enough about my reading.  So what do I need to work on?  Because if I am not living my life as a growing reader than how can I teach my readers to grow?  More about that later...

The first important thing to do with an interactive read aloud is to choose a book carefully that aligns to the unit of study you are working on and the teaching points in that unit.  When Alexis modeled the interactive read aloud during our "Readers' Workshop" she had prepared the book ahead of time with sticky notes all through it to remind herself as a teacher the times she wanted to stop and model or help the readers draw meaning from envisioning, inferring and synthesizing.  You are to give kids
Interactive Read Aloud
an image of what proficient reading looks like.  She began by saying,"Look at the cover and get your mind ready".  Then she referenced a word bank that she had put on the document camera of words from the book we would encounter.  The word bank was separated by just new vocabulary and content vocabulary. She instructed, "Talk with your partner about words you don't reecognize."  After reading the first page in the book she walked the book over to the document camera and showed that first page and said, "Talk with your partner about words you see that were in the word bank.  When she did stop and model she gave us many opportunities to turn and talk.  If you don't prepare deliberately what you are going to talk about it would be hard to be focused about what the kids are learning from your modeling.  An example of this would be Teacher: "Given what just happened, I think the character is feeling and thinking " Then she would read a little more and stop and say: "Turn and tell your partner what the character is probably feeling now about this?  During turn and talk she circulated the room.  Her goal being for the kids to "grow" their thinking from the previous part.  After a few of the models that she did she stopped and pointed out implicitly her teaching point, "Did you see how I grew my ideas of the main character as we went along?

I loved hearing more about interactive read alouds.  I know that from now on I will prepare my teaching points more carefully and not be afraid to cover the book in sticky notes!  Even though I was comprehending the book just fine as a student the turn and talk points made me think deeper about the characters and text.  An essential as we prepare to ramp our kids up faster!

Cross posted on Once Upon a Teacher

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Helping Our Youngest Readers Move Up the Ladder of Text Complexity

Natalie Louis
This session was presented by Natalie Louis who is the co-author of Writing for Readers
(Heinemann, 2013) a unit of study for Kindergarten writers. 

The lower grade is potentially in danger with text complexity.  It's a huge learning curve from what we've been doing.  We need to find new ways to move readers forward faster.  Don’t abandon Fountas and Pinnell.  We still need reading levels, the progression of students has just been ramped up.

In kids book baskets, in the past the teacher would mostly have the students independent level.  We started to play around with the formula in the baggies.  Marie Clay says what most grows readers is the instructional level (stretch level). So already we aren’t putting the right thing in the book bags.  Reading Recovery studied and discovered kids grow one level every two weeks, so most of the instruction wasn’t at instructional level.
So we decided to get more instructional level texts in baggies - more shared reading with a small group, sometimes one to two levels above their grade level.

I want to read that book with you!!!!!
Kindergarten teachers understand the power of shared reading.  How you know its a good shared reading - the kids are excited and UNRULY!  And its mostly implicit (just doing reading - don’t talk about it).  Less blah, blah, blah, more do, do, do.  It’s why they want to read.  They hear that model of you reading and want to sound just like it.  If your kids are all sitting still, hands folded -it’s not a good shared reading (all eyes on same text - 1 book).  More like a MOSH pit where kids want to surf toward the book.  That's what she wants to see in classrooms.  Excitement! 

You do the dance of shared reading.  As much as they need, until they DO back.  Gesture for them to try, don’t talk about it. Continue saying "Join me if you can." as you turn the page.  Just read it with them.  We are talking levels below I , J. 

Take guided reading books and use them for group shared reading.  Teacher is only one with copy.  All eyes on same text.  The idea is that at the end they might be able to read by themselves. 

Kids below benchmark get this burst schedule of shared reading instruction from you.

Example "Burst Group Schedule"
You would do two week cycles where you take one group and see them intensely and work with the instructional books in their baggie.  This won't take much time!  These are low level books you can shared read the entire book pretty quickly.

Day 1: Two or three instructional texts (meaning books 2 or 3 levels above their independent level)  in shared reading. Saying to the kids: Join me if you can.  The kids are shouting out things they notice and you just don’t respond.  Keep reading and stopping and saying “Join me if you can”
Day 2:  Two shared reading two above level
Day 3: Guided reading at their level
Day 4:  Two shared reading  two above level and decide how each is doing
Day 5:  Informal or Formal assess to see if their level moved unless they are totally lost still

This can help them “burst” ahead.  Even if you can move a few up faster the one behind can get more focused one on one help.

Partner Reading - There is no reason to have a reading partner unless there is trouble.  If things are don’t need help.  A partner is there for help.  Make sure kids know why they have a partner - so there’s someone else to help when there’s trouble or join the joy!  They need to understand the why of partner reading.

Every child has that one book they keep picking up that is WAAAAY above their level.  Maybe its a book they've seen an older sibling read, maybe it's a topic or popular character right now, but whatever it is - Let them have it!  I call this the child's northstar book - way above your level but you will LEARN to read for this book. They want to read this book so bad they try to sound these huge words out when they are really a C level reader!  Mark it with a post it and say this book is special because it is hard for you but we will give you a shot.  Guess which book they work on hardest?  If I say a book is "just right" and you struggle with it what are you saying in your head to yourself in your head?  "My teacher said this book is just right and I can't read some of these words - ugh I'm so dumb."   A hard book they know is hard  they say, "Oh, I don't know lots of these words but she said it was hard for me so no big deal."  but they work harder.  Let them have it but label it with a sticky note with a star so they know that is their special hard book they chose.

As an aside...I remember when my son was in Kindergarten and hanging at the C level for so long and desperate to read Star Wars easy readers.  I bought them anyway to keep at home and I would read them aloud to him at times but he sat in front of those books longer than any others trying to sound out "Obi Wan Kanobi".  I'm pretty sure "the force" (or his Northstar books) propelled him through those primary reading levels. :)

I think the Common Core Standards and text complexity will force us to continue looking for new and different ways to get those "bursts" in reading levels.  Do you have any tips or trick to share?

Cross posted on Once Upon a Teacher

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Write Around for Reading

Write Around
This strategy can be found in the Characters Unit of Study.  A “Write Around” is a strategy to engage students in silent conversation.  It helps students share their opinions, debate or discuss.  It also fosters critical thinking because they have to consider other opinions.       

We participated in one as a pre-reading activity.  A photo or image was put in the center of a piece of chart paper.  Groups of four are ideal but we had a few more.  Everyone uses a different color marker and takes turns responding to the image. You can write what you think about the photo, your questions, your inferences or theories.  Groups members are to start new ideas or respond to yours already written there.

She encouraged us to respond to what other people wrote by elaborating on their writing and taking turns as well.   Zoom in on one portion of the photograph and write about it.  What are you now noticing about just this part?  Move around the table or rotate the chart  Read what another reader has written and respond.

You could begin:
I agree with...
I disagree with..
One question I have is...
What have you learned in other parts of your life that you can relate to this?
What’s an idea you are now having?
I think...

The Babe & !
The activity we did was old black and white photographs during the depression era.  Then she went straight into reading aloud a picture book with us (The Babe and I) that had the Depression era as a setting.  It really gave a deeper level to the understanding of the book as she modeled interactive read aloud.

The "Write Around" strategy is a great pre-reading activity but it can also be used as a debate format about a controversial issue.  Sharing their ideas and building on others' ideas.  Or you can use it as an end of unit activity for a read aloud or content area.  Students take turns write and responding to each other about what they learned or how their thinking has changed at the beginning of the unit or read aloud.  Can you see using "Write Around" easily in your classroom?

Cross posted on Once Upon a Teacher

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Building a Reading Community

Kathleen Tolan
My morning session Monday was with Kathleen Tolan - senior director of TCRWP, author of several books including some of the new Units of Study

Kathleen spoke passionately about building a reading community.  Below I am sharing my notes that still may sound a little disjointed even after I reread and filled in but I left what I felt was important or worth repeating.  I am italicizing her thoughts that are some direct quotes and some paraphrased by me.

How do we really think about building a reading community?  It is essential.  We will be holding on to it all year long. Most of the kids you teach have a broken relationship with reading, only a few have a good one.  Some of these essentials maybe weren’t addressed earlier you can’t make assumptions that they have heard of it before.   

When trying to develop curriculum it’s hard because you are always being given more things to stir in the pot and never one to take out.  And reading affects ALL content areas.  Reading has to matter in a school as a whole.  In every classroom.  Make things in your school that display that reading matters... Photos, displays of book reflections, book ads...  We have lots of assessment data but we need to think of the kid as a reader.  If you were making a timeline as a reader what would be on it?  Let kids talk about themselves as readers.  If they had a great experience reading what were the components of that?  If kids had a bad experience what were the components of that.  Lists of favorites and why they are favorites. Conversations with readers about their lives as readers.  Some kids who are avid readers lose the love because it isn’t cool to read.  They don’t talk about themselves as readers.  It’s important for them to speak about themselves as readers.  Tell them about YOU as a reader.  Read the books in your classroom library so you can talk with kids as a reader of that particular book.  Book buzz- sell them or talk about them to kids.  When was the last time you walked into a bookstore and just picked a book off a shelf and just read it?  Really?  Kids with broken relationships with reading do that on a daily basis.  Let kids sell books to each other. Also talk about books you found not so good.  Why did you not like it?  Oprah Winfrey’s book club sales would go up after they talked about it, not the day she introduced it. 

Build a community where we talk about books.  Rating systems for books, interactive bulletin board happening in room.  Recommendations inside covers on sticky notes.  Let kids own and not be ashamed of the books they read, every classroom has a range of readers they should still be a part of the reading community.  If you are talking about the characters of books it doesn’t matter what level you’re reading.Make sure there are plenty of choices for all levels of readers.  Struggling kids shouldn’t have fewer choices.  They need to feel part of that community.

If you want to scare yourself, do a running record on your content textbooks.  They are always written above their level. Reading identity gets established young.  Have time each week for kids to shop the classroom library to find new books to read.  1/3 of books leveled but part of the library not leveled for interest level.  Have a smaller library out at the beginning of the year so you can control choice a little until after you assess.  Getting kids turned onto a series will help kids read a ton of books.  If you have second language learners it’s good to have a few books in their native language to continue their reading skills in their native language as well as books in their English level.  When we launch book clubs or historical book clubs we need to save books to side so they won’t have read them already.  Structures and units affect how we roll out our library.  It’s important for kids to read for long stretches of time.  The more you practice something the better you get at it...  LONG periods.  AT LEAST 30 to 40 min a day.  So many “activites” around reading than kids actually reading.  The reading extensions can’t become more important than the actual reading.  How many of you as adults finish reading a book and go get a coat hanger out of the closet with some yarn and make a mobile about the book?  It’s not growing readers!

Help kids keep track of the reading they do.  They can keep a log but use it for conferring and have kids use it to look at their reading habits.  Help them see how they can use it to assess themselves for reading time and genre type and where they read.  Columns to have on the logs:

book /level / home or school / page started / page ended / minutes read / genre

If you don’t talk with kids about noticing their reading patterns and they think of it as only an assignment don’t do it.  That is not what it’s for.  Study and get data on yourself as a reader.  Also compare with a friend. 

There is a magic to books if you get kids hooked in to reading books, but they won’t progress without the right instruction.  Structuring your day with rituals and routines that make roles for the kids and teachers clear is important.  60 minute block is really needed.  Mini lesson needs to be mini.  It’s important for kids to be on the floor close to you because it creates an intimacy with you.  Your feedback is instant and if you ask them to do something to practice what you teach you can hear and see what they are doing better.  30 to 40 minutes is the time for workshop and reading. You pull small groups, assessments, circulate, confer.  Don’t do one thing only every day.  You might also be working with a book club or partners reading.  Sometimes you might have a mid-workshop reading point.  You stop what they are doing and note it.  The share closes the workshop time with a noticing where a student used what you taught in that mini lesson. 

During running records you need to look at fluency and reading rate.  If that’s not something to patch and fix the longer you wait.  Reading logs will help you assess this informally.  The important thing about a running record is you don’t stop until they bomb.    How can you assess their higher level comprehension?  Written responses to their reading.
Depending on your assessments, that will tweak your instruction and units.  Some groups may need more word work or compare/contrast.  Assessments should change your instruction. 

Our educational system teaches to deficit model, always teaching at what they don’t know.  If you teach to the strength that can spiral back to help the deficit as well.  Don’t get caught up in all weaknesses.  

I think that all the teachers in my building agree that we are ALL reading teachers and that it is important to use reading strategies and teaching techniques throughout the day, but there is always more for us to learn about teaching reading through content or informational text.  I think that we will do more of that in our professional development this year.  But I am thinking there are some creative ways we can display to our students, parents and stakeholders that we are a "community of readers".  Maybe highlight a teacher's favorite childhood book, short "commercial" clips that teachers or students can do for books to be played on morning announcements or accesible on a share site for teachers to show at a good time and maybe even capture video footage of teachers in the school that are willing to share their life and habits as a reader.  Especially those teachers that are familiar to all students, so watch out resource teachers and administrative staff...I'm coming your way with a camera!  What ideas can you share to build a reading community?

Cross posted at Once Upon a Teacher

Teachers College Reading Institute Begins

Inside Riverside Church
Our day started bright and early at the beautiful Riverside Church I spoke about yesterday .  Where Lucy Calkins gave the keynote entitled:  Leading by Influence

If you have ever heard Lucy Calkins speak even once, you know her words are powerful, she tells a story like nobody's business and she talks fast!  So I came prepared and took seven pages of notes but recorded her audio as well to go back and fill in some important parts I missed.  So, much of what I am sharing is direct quotes from her or her words paraphrased.  I want you to know that this huge church was filled to the back and you could have heard a pin drop.   The thoughts and ideas resonated with us all as I could see nods of heads around me and even tears at times.  I hope that what I share here will even have a small impact on you as it had a big impact on me.        
Lucy Calkins

We are at a juncture in education where pressures and expectations are skyrocketing.  The Common Core Standards which have been adopted in 46 states point out that there is a gap that exists from high school graduation to college entrance where students enter a year behind the reading level they should. Even though it has been made clear that if there is any dumbing down of the texts it has been done at the high school level, maybe the middle school level but definitely not the elementary level.  (The level of text complexity in the K-5 level has not increased over the last 30 years). Yet the common core has put the responsibility of raising text complexity squarely on the shoulders of K-4 teachers. Between the grades of K -5 kids are expected to grow a level of 150 lexile points a year and between the grades of 6-12 the kids are expected to grow a level of 60 points a year.  What used to be expected at the end of fourth grade now is expected at the middle of second grade. We have to escalate the quality and volume of reading that kids do.  The expectations come with punitive results if students don’t meet the them.  Instead of 1/3 of third graders not meeting expectations in the U.S. we will now have 2/3 not meeting expectations. (This just happened in NY )  It is the level of reading, comprehending and writing.

The expectations are higher so the level of support for teachers should be high as well but schools have less money to provide for books and supplies because that money is used on tests and technology to take tests ( 15 billion is being spent in the U.S. to implement Common Core Standards)  Schools have less ability to provide professional development and less ability to provision kids with books they need and teachers have larger class sizes than ever and at the same time people, the media and politicians are calling out, “DO MORE, REACH HIGHER!”  Teachers are being portrayed as screw ups. 
That wake up call has been rung, and rung, and rung and it’s not gonna work now.  Why would people think that criticism is helping grow master teachers? 

The story that schools are failing is a carefully manufactured message.  It’s not true, for example, that graduation rates are at an all time low as people keep saying.  In the beginnning of the 21st century, the graduation rate was 10%.  Now the graduation rates are 75-90% depending on how you look at them.  The question Lucy asks is, “Why would Arne Duncan, U. S. Education Secretary, NOT count those graduating in August instead of June? Why would he not count GED graduates?

Why don’t people point out that levels of child poverty have tripled over the years and the scores have remained flat for 30 years.  The single factor that most relates to scores is poverty.  They should be saying, “Good for you teachers!”  Do they actually think the way to improve teaching and learning is to demoralize teachers? 

A study recently came out that said in the last 3 years teacher job satisfaction levels have gone from 62% to 39%.  It’s worse in elementary schools.  Over half are going through their day stressed.  Think about a day with your kids where you weren’t stressed at all.  How different was that from the day you were totally stressed out. 

Whether you like it or not those of you who teach reading are entering into a horse race. The move to more universal and rigorous common core assessments will yield data about approaches to reading and writing and the expectation that we will figure out the right answers from these tests.  Many of these schools are quickly moving to Readers Workshop.  This year they received more applications than ever. 

Here’s what will matter in your school because there is less professional development.  You must lead from within.  Build capacity.

Our first goal at our school should be to create a counter narrative to this “teachers are failing” narrative.  The “teachers are failing” narrative is demoralizing and it will never tap into the energy needed to do this work.  It’s not just teachers taking a beating.  Kids are taking a beating.  Lucy referenced Sandy Hook Elementary where they could be the death of optimism.  But authors captured the stories of heroic teachers and love displayed to give that school a counter narrative.  At Teachers College they have made the story of NewTown, CT the story of the principal, Dawn who attended many of their Institutes.  The principal who put herself in harms way to protect children.  THAT is a narrative.  These counter narratives need to be told.  They are what MATTERS.  It shouldn’t take kids dying to tell these stories.  Write yours as school leaders.  You need to do this to overcome doing more with less. 

Successful communities have leaders that rally others to fight for causes greater than themselves. Success or failure of an institution is how well it taps into finding talents of individuals.  We all need to be contagious learners.  It needs to be visable.  One way to rally communities is to go on walks through the school building expecting to find beauty.  Call it “Glory Walks” - illustrate your counter narrative with the magic that happens when a teacher sits and works with a child. 

Carrot sticks will never make teachers go the extra mile.  Rally them to ideas that tap into their belief system.  Tapping into people’s energy to make good work better.  As a leader, all of the people who work with you are on your lap or shoulder.  Choose to lead by influence. 

My favorite thing about her speech was teaching us about writing the counter narrative for our school.  I think we do a good job of that within, recognizing greatness, sharing small moments and telling the story of what makes our school special but I think we can do more.  I LOVE the idea of Glory Walks.  Sometimes when you are going on a "focus" walk looking for specific things you might miss out on something amazing that could be happening that very minute.  One of my favorite job assignments my boss ever gave me was to take photos of each teacher interacting with a child or class.  Truly I get teary eyed watching the slideshow of the photos teamed together because what we are doing with kids IS magical, and rocket science, and selfless.  We need to tell our story more!

Created with flickr slideshow.
Cross posted on Once Upon a Teacher

Monday, August 12, 2013

Arriving in New York

My home for the week
Today I arrived in New York to attend the Teachers College Reading Institute.  It's a bit of a story that you can read on my  personal blog, but I hope this opportunity will be something the teachers of my school will reap the benefits of learning through me.  I am excited to be taking on the job of literacy coach this year! 

I will be starting the Institute tomorrow, so check back here or simply register your email on this blog to get updates straight back to you.  I will also be "tweeting" as much as possible on twitter.  My username is @Holtsman.  I hope to make long lasting connections with the literacy leaders here and if it wasn't for the connection I made on twitter a few years ago I might not be here today - check out my blog for that story.  Back here soon!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Duval County Teacher Academy-Day 5

One of the nicest things about large county-wide professional development is the chance to see and reconnect with good friends that you once taught with (see left)... or in my case, reconnect with former students who are now your teacher colleagues!  I was delighted to run into a former pre-k student who is now a teacher in the county! What a thrill!  Love you Melissa! I am also thrilled that this is the last day of the Teacher Academy.  It's been a l-o-n-g week. 
Gradual Release
Out with the old.  In with the new!  Except I think in this case, it is out with the old and in with the older!  The Gradual Release of Responsibility is a research-based instructional model developed by Pearson and Gallagher, I think in the early 80's.  Fisher and Frey have written about it extensively, as have many researchers and practitioners over the years.  Those of you who are familiar with Anita Archer's work in Duval County may also remember her referring to this model.  Of course, being older, does not mean there is anything wrong with it.  The fact that this model is still around, as popular as ever, means that it probably falls into that "tried and true" category.
Although the graphic above is not the exact one used in the Duval presentations, I think it accurately represents the principles.  The idea is simply that the teacher begins with the "I do" of explicit instruction, which is similar to Lucy Calkin's mini-lesson model that begins with the Connection, connecting to prior learning and the Teach, which is the instructional focus for the day's lesson (reference to Lucy is mine and was not expressed by any of the Duval presenters, but it is necessary for me to put this new requirement into a framework that aligns with my current practice).  The "we do" is guided practice and then the "you do" is the collaboration, much like Lucy's Active Involvement. Finally the "you do it alone" is the Independent Practice that Lucy would say is the  Link, which gives a purpose for the Work Period, which is the time that student read and practice the strategies that they have learned, the application stage or Independent Practice. 
How does this effect us?
Although I have heard of this model being used extensively with improving literacy achievement and comprehension, I don't remember so much about its application to Math and Science (although that may very well exist!)  While I think the model matches well with what we already do in most Readers' and Writers' Workshops, I will be very interested in the conversation of my Math and Science colleagues who have been successful with a discovery, Japanese influenced type model.  It's easy to adopt something new when what you are doing is not working.  It is more difficult to adopt something new if what you are doing is extremely successful.
We now have the YAG (Year-at-a-Glance) that opens each CG (Curriculum Guide).  Each CG includes CLG (Curriculum Lesson Guides) and will be assessed with the CGA (Curriculum Guide Assessments).  Oh my! or maybe I should say OMG!  The Curriculum Guides were written with intensive stakeholder input.  The guides are meant to be a framework of suggestions.   Teachers have the autonomy to veer from the Curriculum Guides, with Principal approval, of course,  but will be held accountable for the CGAs.   The Curriculum Guides are all available at
Time configurations have also changed. 
  • Math now includes 60 minutes of instruction and 30 minutes "extra".  The 30 minute "extra" might include ideas such as iReady (computer), Reflex (computer), Gizmos (computer), small teacher led groups, Rti (did I mention this is now MSTT- Multi-tied Support System) Tier 2 interventions, Envisions, and previous Math Investigation games.  It would not be a time to do Calendar Math.
  • Reading includes 150 minutes, which is same amount of time we have always had for ELA: 90 minutes of Reading which includes Skills, 30 minutes of Writing, and 30 additional minutes.  In this case, the additional minutes can include "rotations" - think of them as Centers and will also be your RtI time.
  • Notice that 30 minute blocks have been built into each schedule to make time for RtI Tier 2 interventions which are to be done in the classroom.
How does this effect us?
In Kindergarten we have always had our own Pacing Guide where we tried to put the entire nine weeks in all subjects on a single page of paper.  We did this because we really wanted to have "echoes across the day" and wanted  our entire kinder day to be connected.  We will still try to do that, but frankly, my mind is muddled with so many changes to comprehend.   I am still thinking through this and will wait until each of our Council groups (Reading, Math and Science) each meet next week to discuss the changes and implementation before finalizing a Kindergarten Pacing Guide with my Kindergarten colleagues.  Right now, I am leaning toward trying to follow much of the County's CGs.  These are my present thoughts, without having the luxury of discussing it with my colleagues.  In fact, I am SURE these comments will elicit much of that discussion!
  • In Science, for instance, we have had such little accountability in the past in K. I am sure there are probably teachers who just skipped parts of the Science curriculum while others not only taught the curriculum but spent hours adding to it.  Really there is no way of knowing, which is the point. At least if we followed the Kinder Science CG, we would have some accountability in how we are doing because we are required to give the CGAs. 
  • Reading is probably okay too, except the county has not, in my opinion, figured out an alternative to our oral language (Sulzby, Calkins) component that we have successfully used for years as a way to move children through the reading levels (DRA), so I'm thinking we need to keep those pieces (Sulzby and DRAs) in place, but the lay out of the sequence of skills and reading strategies is probably fine.
  • Writing is probably where we will have the most difficulty in making the type of change that is being suggested by the county.  We have been married to the Lucy Calkins units for a long time because they have been so extremely successful for us.  I don't see an alternative that would sway  me from that commitment.  I also know that the county's Reading and Writing curriculums were written independent of each other and there was no effort to marry the two.  Believing so strongly that one is absolutely dependent on the other and that reading and writing should be a dance intertwining together,  this may be the place to veer from the curriculum and rewrite the Writing pacing to better meet our experiences, using the new Calkins' units as the backbone.  Since there is no CGA in writing, this may be the easiest area to use our autonomy and stay true to what we believe.
  • The Math CG may also be okay.  While I think we may teach in a more discovery type model than is being suggested, the content could remain the same in Kindergarten as suggested.  The CGAs would actually give us an accountability piece that we would welcome as a way to see how we are doing.  While we have written our own end-of-the-unit assessments and have regularly compared them during common planning, a process where the county would take on more of the data collection  would be a welcome relief from all the hand scoring and comparing that we have tried to do in the past.  The county doing the collection and synthesizing would give us more time to do the analyzing
Final thoughts:  This has been a grueling week.  The accommodations have not always been welcoming.  I sometimes felt a little like a child must feel who goes into a classroom where the teacher really doesn't want another child.  We often seemed to be an unwelcome guest at the high school.  However, I have to commend the many teachers and administrators who have worked through their entire summer to make this academy possible.  I have complained about differentiation and I hope that will become a part of our on-going county PD, but the presenters did their best to help teachers to calm down and try to see the value in so many changes.  However, the sheer amount of new information was overwhelming. I do fear that the county does not have the infrastructure to accommodate the huge reliance on computer-based interventions and testing and that this massive need will undermine much of the promising results.
Also, please know that the thoughts in these blogs are mine alone and that I take full responsibility for their content.  They are simply my first thoughts and how I think we can marry the best of the new with the best of the old.  I am sure my opinions will change as the year goes on and I have the opportunity for input from my colleagues, who challenge my opinions on a regular basis and allow me to grow.  I simply wanted my colleagues who did not have a chance to go to the Academy to have a little heads up and front loading. 
We are on the cusp of a new year.  You can smell it in the air and I am thrilled to be returning to a school with a leader of vision and colleagues who, above all else, are passion-driven to make a difference in the lives of the children they teach.  Here's to the BEST year ever! Let the WILD ride begin!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Duval County Teacher Academy - Day 4

The Iowa, DAR, and TTS
The day started with a presentation on the Iowa which has been around since the 70's.  In fact, I think I gave it early in my career!  It all comes back around!  The Iowa, Form E is a whole group test, a screening.  It is still owned by the authors (Florence Roswell and Jeanne Chall) who consider it their life's work but is sold by the publisher. Its origin is in the Harvard Reading Lab.  Although the Iowa tests Reading, ELA, Math, Science and Social Studies, in Duval we will only be giving the Reading section.  Grades 1-5 will be taking it in the Fall and then K-5 in the Spring.  Kindergarten does not take it in the Fall because the authors do not believe that results are valid!  Now, I like that! Kindergartners, however, will need to know how to bubble a bubble sheet.  Now I don't like that!  Evidently there are some practice tests that the kinders can take to practice bubbling in.  The Iowa tests have to be sent off to be scored (Test Coordinators were warned to package them according to directions) which takes about 15 business days.  The catch is that no test is scored until every test in the County is sent in - now that could be a problem in our very large county!
Teachers will receive a detailed report through the Data Manager which is web-based.  Looks like lots of different reports can be generated including a test for the Parents.  ESE teachers and both homeroom teachers will have access to their students' data, as long as the test administrator puts all that information in correctly from the beginning.
The Iowa will identify students that need to take the DAR (Development Assessment of Reading) which is an individually administered diagnostic assessment (could take up to an hour to give).  Basically students under a certain percentage will be candidates for this extra one-on-one testing. This diagnostic is scored immediately in areas such as the following:  Print Awareness, Phonological Awareness, Letters and Sounds, Word Recognition (1st grade starts here), Word Analysis, Oral Reading, Silent Reading Comprehension, Word Meaning.  Although kinders do not take the Iowa in the Fall, strugglers can be given the DAR.
The TTS (Trial Teaching Strategies)  are a series of short lessons that link instruction to assessment.   They are the strategies and resources for teaching the identified strands of the DAR.  Lessons that have been included by the authors are those that provide the quickest results for success, backed up by research.
How does this effect us?
  • This system of screening and then Diagnostic with researched lessons seems like a very comprehensive program.
  • It is nice not to have our kinders take the Iowa in the Fall but it will still take preparation to get them ready for this 40 minutes test in the Spring. 
  • If kinders take the Iowa in the Spring, we have nothing to compare it to (no Fall test) and the students will have to take the 1st grade Iowa in the Fall  as a pre-test so I am not sure what purpose there is in taking it in the Spring for kindergarten...
  • Looking at the section of the DAR that are for kinders, I am reminded of the areas on the FAIR so it might be worth cross referencing these two tests since we are required to give every student the FAIR pre-test as part of the FLKRS.  For instance, both assessments seem to ask the students to name the letters of the alphabet and the sound that each letter makes.  Maybe it would be easier to give this paper and pencil and then transfer the results to each test...  That might need more investigation but anyway we can save time and be more efficient gives us back instructional time. 
  • I am wondering if the DAR might be the test we give to identify our RtI students and then use the results for a Tier 2 intervention in a small group in the room.
I am also wondering if the TTS might be new ideas for our Skills Block.  Would be interesting to spend some time looking at these researched activities.
Since we don't give the Iowa in the fall, we still don't have a way to place students into text.  Historically many of our students come into kindergarten already reading, so we really can't wait until the spring, when we do give the Iowa, to get them into conventional text.  It looks like we will continue to introduce Star Books and to use the Sulzby levels to begin kindergarten and then to continue to use the Level 7 Sulzby to know that children are ready for a DRA (this work taken from Lucy Calkins).  Looks like we still need the DRA to move students appropriately through levels.
On a personal note, it is interesting to me that we are going back to a more diagnostic prescriptive approach which was so popular when I was in graduate school in the late 70's. As part of my graduate fellowship I taught an undergraduate course in Diagnostic Prescriptive teaching.  The principles are the same today...
The next presentation of the day was Success Maker, another oldie, but goodie Pearson product, with a 45 year history (anyone remember CCC, its predecessor).  Although this online program is available for both Math and Reading, only Reading was bought by Duval County.  
  • can use over the summer
  •  almost game-like (from the Atari era)
  •  requires headphones and microphones to operate 
  • includes an initial placement/ testing phase
  • includes assessment in Concepts of Print, Phonological Awareness, Fluency, Phonics, Vocabulary, Comprehension, Spelling 2-5, and Grammar 2-5.
  • has guided practice embedded
  • passwords will be available when we get to school (haven't seen them yet!)
  • meant to be used for 20 minutes by every student every day
  • only 30 site licenses have been purchased for each school which means that only 30 students can be on the program at the same time
  • How does this effect us? 
  • First of all, it seems almost impossible to operate a rotation such as this in a school of 1250 students with only 30 students being able to be on the computer at a time.  I also doubt that we have the number of computers, headphones and mikes to pull this off.  We probably should invite  the Duval rep, Elain Zirakian ( to come visit and make suggestions for the best implementation.  Maybe she has worked with other schools with the same challenges.
  • I am thinking that, at least for right now, this might be a Tier 2 reading intervention program in the classroom 3 times a week. I am wondering if we can use the DAR diagnostic to place students into these strands so students don't have to do another assessment - saving time for instruction.  If the Tier 2 is not successful, the program could be taken to 5 days a week in a pull-out Tier 3. 
  • Katie Moeller finished off the day with a reading of Piggie by Don and Audrey Wood.  While I have seen Lucy Calkins and others do close readings of text, they always tend to use 3rd grade or much higher level work in their demonstrations.  This is the first lesson I have seen at the Kindergarten level.  Dr. Moeller says she has demonstrated this lesson many times in kindergarten, first and second.  It might be well worth our time to invite her to come and demonstrate it for us with all kindergarten and first grade teachers watching for one of our first Common plannings. I know our teachers would love to see someone do a close reading with our youngest learners as much as I would.  She talks about the scaffolding and struggling and I think that is one of the things we need to see.  Her questions are tough and she talks about the students looking at her blankly but staying with the questions and how she has to scaffold them to dig out the answers.  I think that's the part we need to see.
  • One other interesting note to those that might still be having difficulty seeing the Curriculum guides at, you must have Explorer 8 to run the guides.  It was pushed out through the system so you may have to go to school and plug your laptop into the network to get the fix.  She cautioned against printing the guides because you lose about 80% of the capabilities and because the guides will be updated without notice and so you may be teaching from outdated lessons.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Duval County Teacher Academy, Day 2

Interactive Journals K-2
Looks like journals are definitely in - "highly suggested, but not mandated."
  • The expectation is that each student K-2 will have an interactive journal in both Science and Math.
  • Interactive journals are a type of formative assessment and record a student's thinking.
  • The journals have a specific "researched" (have requested a copy of the research) format which includes the "Rules of the Journal" on the inside cover, a Table of Contents, and a synopsis of the CGA's (Curriculum Guide Assessments) on the inside back cover that we will be taking as baseline, first, second and third nine-weeks and end-of-the-year.
  • Only the teacher is to write on the right side of the page and the student writes on the left side.
  • "Labs" are now referred to as "aligned investigations."
  • Teachers should write feedback in the journals on a consistent basis.
How does this effect us?  I'm a little hesitant to comment on this because I am sure Math Council will meet to decide how we are going to use journals.  Science Council did a book study all year on Interactive  Science Journals so I am sure they have great ideas of how to implement this for kinders.  I'm really sort of excited about the Science Journals, having used them in first grade last year. I can't wait to discuss this with other kindergarten teachers so we can find easy ways to actually get kinders  to effectively use this tool.

CBC-Common Board Configuration
The superintendent's expectation is that every class will use a common configuration on their board.
Objective (which can be written in kid-friendly form and is not the standard)        Home Learning
Essential Question
How does this effect us?  Since this is the Superintendent's expectation, we, like the rest of the county will figure out a way to find board space to supply this information for each subject each day - Reading, Writing, Skills, Math and Science - oh my!  We probably should discuss this as a grade level and figure out a fun, creative way for the display that will really be helpful rather than just compliance .

Rigor is not a four letter word!
How to raise rigor:
  • has to be relevant to real world
  • group work, high level work
  • connected to prior learning
  • probing questions
  • instruction is beginning to end
  • utilize essential questions
  • utilize research-based strategies
  • frequent formative assessment
  • personal commitment to each student

Gizmos are interactive, on-line simulations, focusing on Math and Science
  • Although Gizmos is developed for 3-12th grades, there are some that can be used for whole group instruction with K-2. 
  • Demonstrated Line Frog Hop gizmo which is a fun addition and subtraction number line game.
How does this effect us?  
We are very familiar with Gizmos having had this overview before, so this was just one more overview of a product that was not really made for kindergarten.  If we are going to use it, I think we would need "someone" to go through the Gizmos and make some Common Core/ Standard recommendations because just searching through can be too time consuming.

Math will now include 60 minutes of Math Investigations (and Envisions) plus a 30 minute addition that will allow for RtI interventions and centers.  This is not a time to do Calendar Math which will have to be added to some type of opening exercise.
  • iReady is a web-based diagnostic prescriptive Math intervention based on the Common Core.
  • The diagnostic is on-line and takes 30-45 minutes for each student to complete and provides a skills profile of what students know and need next in Algebraic Thinking, Numbers and Operations, Geometry and Measurement and Data.
  • Has sound that reads each problem so you are testing Math and not Reading.
  • Skill specific instead of grade specific.
  • Students are encouraged to use paper and pencil to arrive at answers.
  • Will not be available for kinder students until January.
How does this effect us?   This may be a skill based program but if this program can actually deliver all that it promises, it would be the perfect RtI Tier 2 intervention to be done in the classroom.  It could also provide ESE intervention and small group work in specific skills.  It could also provide extra enrichment for Gifted students.  Can't wait to see if this intervention delivers!

In an effort to be transparent, I need to say that I will miss tomorrow's training and will be working at my school to get materials to some of our new teachers instead.  Tomorrow's agenda includes ethics (if I haven't figured that piece out by now, I need to go ahead and retire), a piece on reading IEPs (should have this piece down after 35 years as an ESE teacher), Champs and Bullying, and ESOL.  I am fortunate to have had many, many trainings on Champs and Bullying and ESOL.  I have many praises for the training thus far, such as the American Reading Company representative telling us that Sticks in a Can is good practice and then using that technique to keep teachers engaged or the county trainers this morning who taught us about interactive journals by actually having us make a journal and using it throughout their presentation. I believe that professional development should model good practice.  If I had one criticism, it would be that we talk so much about differentiation, and yet this training has provided very little of that - a good example for me is tomorrow's agenda.  Although this agenda might be perfect for many teachers, I have had such excellent experience and PD in those areas that the agenda didn't really meet my needs.  There are so many other areas that I really do need!  Hoping differentiation will be part of the last few days.

Stay tuned...

Monday, August 5, 2013

Duval County Teacher Academy, Day 1

I LOVE the beginning of school.  Everything seems so new and exciting.  This year I'm starting with a five day County Teacher Academy.  I thought I'd blog it from one Kindergarten Teacher's point of view.  The views expressed are mine only!

Over four hundred teachers gathered in a local high school's cafeteria for the morning session!  Too many teachers and not enough chairs - hard, backless benches for a two and half hour morning presentation - two screens the size of postage stamps to try to view the PowerPoint - bathrooms with no toilet paper that hadn't been cleaned for the start of school - not such a good first impression...   However,...

Language Arts and Reading
The session began with a heartfelt expression of the influence K-2 teachers have on the children in their care.  "The number one predictor of graduation from high school is how well a student reads at the end of first grade.  We can never underestimate the 180 days that we share with each child."

Interesting comments:
  • Children learn to read in a jagged fashion -not in a straight linear line so it is not uncommon for a child to skip levels as they learn to read.  How does this effect us? We must be ever vigilant that we do not allow students to plod along going through every single level, but instead allow them to skip along at their own rate.
  • Even in kindergarten 50% of reading should be informational.  How does that effect us?  In Kindergarten and first grade in particular, we have worked hard to increase  the non-fiction in our leveled libraries.  Would love it if someone would go through their entire leveled library and see how close we really are.  Any takers?
  • Rereading is a key skill in the Common Core - not just repeating the reading but reading for a purpose.
  • When you plan the questions that you are going to ask about a text, pay particular attention to vocabulary and syntax.  How does that effect us? As we begin the year with our star books, we should make sure to highlight the vocabulary and talk about it in a second or third reading of the book.   That's in addition to the specific vocabulary activities that we have written for the books.
  • Our 3rd-5th grade students do poorly on multiple meaning words on FCAT.  We should spend time discussing these type of words in our readalouds. How does that effect us? This is another opportunity to look at our Vocabulary words from the star books.  I don't think we really talk about the different meanings of words in our Teacher's Guide.  For instance, the word disturb.  We should go back and add multiple meanings as we discuss these words.
  • We must continue to read complex stories during read aloud.  Simple stories are thin in meaning, are limited and restrictive.  How does that effect us?  We should probably choose 3-5 of our star books that we think have the most complex story lines and develop complex questions to use in an expanded read aloud.  We need to encourage our children right from the start to discuss the story and to go back into the book for text evidence.
  • You can't just ask questions during readalouds that are truly complex off the top of your head.  You have to plan the questions. How does that effect us? All the more reasons to plan the questions for a few of our Star Books.  This would make a great early PD session for us.
  • Text complexity is really a unit around a book, not a single lesson.  The book will be read many times.  Not all of the more complex, text-dependent questions would be asked during the same lesson.

Data, Insight and Inform
  All of our K-2 data on the many assessments that we will be taking will be reported in the county's data system.  This session was a bust for me.  For one, the screen was too small, too hard to read and I think I would have had to be more familiar with Insight and Inform to really gleam the information shared.  I sort of glazed over after the first few minutes. How does that effect us?  I guess this means that Suzanne needs to be ready for many, many questions from K-2 folks who will need to understand this system well!  Another good early PD session for Kinder teachers - maybe as soon as the first data comes in.

Interesting comments:
  • Art and Music teachers will be giving their own assessments 5 times a year (I think this is new information).  It saddens me because it means that we will be giving up at least five Music and five Art periods for assessments.  It already seems that we have too little resource in our very large school so the loss of any of that precious time for our students is depressing.  They love Art and Music so any time that they lose actual instruction will make them sad.  I'm not sure exactly how that will work for kindergartners if the assessments are individual...
  • On top of the FLKRS (which will include the FAIR without the Vocabulary) kindergartners will be taking Reading, Writing, Math and Science assessments.  The first set of tests will be baseline and will be done in the first ten days of school and then at the end of the first, second, third nine weeks which will only cover the nine weeks work, and then a final end-of-the-year assessment. It certainly seems like a lot of missed instructional time.  We were told that there has been some discussion about the amount of individual testing required for kindergartners and that a group of kindergarten teachers were meeting to discuss just how long the testing will take.    It's good to know that we have an Administration that is willing to listen and reconsider.

Building Book Baskets using Common Core
This session was presented by folks from American Reading Company.  The county has purchased 4 bins of trade books, 30 books in each bin, for each classroom teacher (I'm thinking that means 8 bins for each co-teach class.) They are expected to arrive before the children do, but are not yet in the schools. The books are leveled with the Common Core in mind using a new leveling system (we spent most of our time learning this new system).  Each level has qualitative descriptors, much like the Fountas-Pinnell System that we are currently using, but these are updated with the Common Core parameters.  Each bin of books will be unique, in that the titles will be different.  In other words, each of the 12 kindergarten teachers will have a different bin of book titles but the same four levels.  The idea is that the teachers swap books every few days to give the children access to a variety of books.  I think for us that would mean we trade bins about every two weeks. What does that mean for us?  This is quite a challenge and one I have been thinking about all day.  Certainly it makes no sense to relevel all of the current books that we have.  I estimate each classroom library probably has at least 1500+ books so the better idea might be to level all of the ARC books according to the Fountas-Pinnell levels and then put the books where the need is (time consuming, but possible).  I am absolutely thrilled that the county is purchasing 120 new books for our leveled libraries!  What a great addition!

Other interesting comments:
  • Best practice - Using sticks in a cup with the children's name for random calling keeps students engaged. How does that effect us?  We need the App Stick Pick @$2.99 that could be used under the document camera.  This would be especially appropriate for kindergartners who are learning to recognize each other's names and their own (see right).  You type in the class names and the App chooses a name at random, which appears on the screen.  Cute, huh? 
  • Best practice - Turn and Talk - Got that!
  • Independent reading is being defined as 99-100% and Proficiency as 90% comprehension (our friend Richard Allington)
  • Text complexity includes quantitative (computer formula), qualitative (levels of meaning assessed by humans) and reader and task. How does this effect us?  Hope this looks familiar because this is the rubric that Susan had us look at during book-of-the-month to figure text complexity.
Stay tuned for tomorrow's insights (?) from a kindergarten teacher.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Unpacking the standards

Florida DOE Summer Institute for K-2 Literacy
Atlantic Coast High School, July, 2013, Jacksonville FL

We last unpacked standards twelve years ago when we rolled out America's Choice's Literacy Standards.  I realize that many of our teachers have never unpacked standards so while this FL DOE workshop seemed so familiar to me, I was thinking how new it might seem to young teachers.  Regardless, it is a good exercise as we begin to plan instruction. 

To start, to confuse us all, Florida has renumbered the Common Core Standards to make them their own.  This really only confuses teachers who look for ideas on the Internet - Pinterest, for example, but it is important to understand.

National standards  RL.1.7  Would mean:  RL= Reading Literature  1=the grade level  7=the number of the standard

Florida standards  RL.1.7  Would mean:  RL= Reading Literature 1= a cluster of standards that are grouped together  7=the number of the standard

This is basically the procedure for unpacking the standard.
Standard: RL

Underline the important nouns from the standard which will help you identify concepts that the students should know:

Circle the verbs which will  tell you what the student should be able to do.

Identify the BIG Ideas:

What is the Essential Question?

What is the Learning Goal?

What is the Learning Scale? A Learning Scale is usually 0-4, much like a rubric or like the big areas of the Florida Writing Rubric. "3" is the standard. "4" would be above the standard and is approaching the next grade level standard. To me the Learning Scale looks a little more holistic than what I think of in a rubric.  On a writing rubric, for instance, we have previously learned that a child might have a different score on each element of the rubric and that by looking to the left, he can tell what his next step might be for that element, but on the learning scales, the numbers seem to be a description of the work at that level.

The idea is to take the standard apart at the beginning of a unit and to write the learning scale and the assessment before you teach the unit - keeping the end in mind.