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.


JJ Brown said...

Thank you for blogging this dayle. You've got my brain going now. I already have lots of questions, which is good for me. (Not so much for you:). It will be interesting to see how we implement all of the new changes.

Haley Alvarado said...

Thanks for sharing! I like the way you wrote the info down and how each element might translate into our classrooms. It seems like we are NOT lessening the amount of assessments and tests! We'll see how they really impact our little learners and hopefully still recover our precious teaching time with them!

Laura Sambito said...

Thanks for taking the time to blog this week! I don't know how many times last week I told Nina, "I wonder what dayle will think of this..."

Cathy Perry said...

You are a breath of fresh air! I know I am strange that I follow the Chet's Creek blogs after all this time being away- it kinda makes me feel like I am still a part of that amazing school!! Sure do miss all you master teachers! :o)
School starts up here this Wednesday! Hope you all have a wonderful beginning of the school year when you start in 2 weeks! :o)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your notes and insight. I couldn't make it to the academy this summer, but didn't want to miss out on anything new. I'll be reading daily!

Chascinc said...

Thanks dayle! Even though I'm in intermediate, I always enjoy reading/hearing your perspective!

Jenny Nash said...

A few thoughts for the conversation -- Art tests are very quick in the intermediate grades. 4th grade usually gave the tests in our classroom for JS, and it only took 10 minutes or so. I'm hopeful that the new tool will continue to be quick to administer, too. Also, be sure to check out the Pick Me! App, as well. It allows for multiple class lists (importable, rather than typing them in), and has the ability to track and export/email data. Great for intermediate teachers!

dayle timmons said...

@Jenny - I'm really glad to hear about the Art tests being quick. I'm hoping that will be the case in Kindergarten too but I am thinking they will have to be individualized unless they have to produce some sort of product that would be graded. It will be interesting to see how that works out! I just hope kids don't miss art instruction. Thanks for your comment.

Maria Mallon & Cheryl Dillard said...

dayle - catching up blog reading and this makes so much more sense after being in school for a few days. Thanks MM