Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Are You On The Pathway To Common Core?

Sprinkle Teaching Magic's Book Review: Pathways to Common Core      

Pathways to the Common Core (Accelerating Achievement) by Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth and Christopher Lehman 2012 by Heinemann Press

You may recognize one or more of the authors.  Their expertise lends credence to the assertions and suggestions provided in this book.

The verdict  is still out about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  Are the standards developmentally appropriate?  Will the changes occur in a way that supports both students and teachers?    To answer the wealth of Common Core questions circulating through the staff room and board room, we turn to experts in the field who have jumped into the deep end of Common Core and have tested the waters.  Pathways to Common Core includes information about writing, literature, speaking and listening common core standards.  The authors include warnings, resources, priorities, processes, suggestions, examples and  myths. The authors connect the many CCSS dots for K-12 teachers, so teachers will make informed decisions when putting energy into the changes.
  Pathways to Common Core gives educators a practical blue print to launch CCSS.  The first 21 pages offers an authors’ introduction to CCSS, which is clear and concise.  We are reminded in this introduction that the CCSS document explicitly says, “the Standards define what all students are expected to know and be able to do, not how teachers should teach” (2010a,6) The authors highlight key CCSS guidelines, such as cross-curricular literacy, respecting the professional judgment of classroom teacher, and stressing the importance of critical citizenship. The introduction also includes a helpful three step implementation process for a district to use to launch CCSS, which will not break the bank and give teachers essential support.  

 Chapters two through five focus on reading standards. The message is clear that tackling the reading standards may result in possible pitfalls. The authors provide solutions to these anticipated pitfalls by naming proven programs that are already on the market, such as Fountas and Pinnell system for leveling for K-8.   Grade level examples (K-12) are given to explain student progress toward a reading skill. Chapter three includes a four step process to guide implementation of CCSS reading instruction. Technology resources and web sites are highlighted such as the RWP website http://readingandwritingproject.com/ and Goodreads, an online system.  Chapter four has a well defined teacher collaboration approach using Charlotte’s Web to gain deeper understanding of the teaching strategies for reading instruction. Chapter four also provides reading strategies and examples of how student engagement would look in a high functioning reading lesson. Next, chapter five delves into reading informational texts and what it means to focus on “close reading” which is textual analysis, not personal response. First, informational text skills are highlighted and then the authors explain the implementation process and how to overcome the challenges.   If you like getting the big picture of CCSS, the first half of the book will have you wanting more.  

Chapters six through nine cover the writing standards.  The authors emphasize that “the standards issue a call for extremely high levels of proficiency.” p107  The examples  provided of student writing help clarify the writing expectations for different grade levels. The kindergarten writing sample has created a stir.  On a bright note, you will be happy to learn that “Common Core writing standards seem utterly aligned to the writing process tradition...” p112 Chapters seven through nine presents a wealth of information as an overview for the following three writing genres: argument, narrative and information writing.  Each chapter concludes with very helpful ideas for implementing the featured writing genre. The authors provide a piece of sage advice for districts, namely, to start CCSS professional development using writing as a focus area.  
Speaking and listening standards can be found in chapter ten.  Put simply, the skills that students will practice are 1) talking together to understand texts and 2) students making oral presentations. A major shift for many classrooms is emphasized----- a requirement that students “make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information...”p. 167  The suggestions about teaching vocabulary and grammar will also start a rich discussion with your colleagues.  

Chapter eleven is a critical chapter to discuss as a staff.  Change is not easy, so the authors become the cheerleaders for how to make the change happen.  The title of the chapter---- CCSS-Aligned Assessments Fuel Whole-School Reform is the center of the change movement.  A faculty book study using Pathways to Common Core is sure to engage EVERYONE.  

In the comments below let me know how you are feeling about Common Core?  Will you consider reading this book?  Do you have another book that has been helpful?   How is your district getting ready for Common Core? 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Twitter For Teachers 101

Instead of my usual Saturday Sprinkles Linky Party Post, I am mixing it up this week! 

Twitter is my next frontier!  For years I have been confused and puzzled by Twitter.  Just like any new social media, Twitter seems overwhelming, daunting, confusing, and I wonder---- where do I even start?!?!?! My boyfriend uses Twitter all the time.  He is a hockey fan and during the hockey game people from around the United States will tweet about his favorite team and use the hashtag #nyr.  He can search this hashtag and participate in a running conversation during the game.  I love this idea!  It hit me.  Are teachers chatting on twitter?  I started doing some research by seeking out teachers on Twitter.  Almost every teacher I found has a "ghost town" of a twitter page.  Yes, teachers are using Twitter.  When a teacher posts a blog post, there will be a link to Twitter.  Any Instagram pics or posts on Facebook are linked to Twitter with a generic post.  I love the idea of spreading the content teachers create, but I wonder if it's working?  Are other teachers listening?  Or is it just a big push?  Notice MMMMMEEEEE!  I am guilty of pushing too.  There is no conversation among colleagues; instead it's check out my post, check out my link.   I posted a picture on Instagram and Facebook; check it out.  The potential for collaboration and communication is missing.  However, Twitter provides collaboration and communication opportunities for teachers. 

Yes, teachers have embraced several media platforms, Instagram, Blogs, Pinterest and YouTube. Instagram for teachers is thriving.  I LOVE Instagram!  I have found a community of teachers and love seeing what is happening in their classrooms.  I have also made wonderful teacher friends through Instagram even though we live miles and miles apart.  The #widn (what am I doing now) tag is huge!  Search #teachersfollowteachers or #teachertalktuesday and you will find a database of great instagram pictures posted by teachers.  Teacher blogs are also thriving and a wonderful place to link up and share our classroom happenings.  And of course who could forget Pinterest!  Ideas galore all at the click of a button.   

But what about conversations?  Live conversations?  Discussing educational topics?  Getting together in real time to just chat?  Maybe we should launch a Twitter chat?   

This week I picked the Twitter topic Valentine's Day because February 14th is fast approaching.

On Sunday, February 9th at 12 PST/ 2 EST for 30 minutes all of us could virtually meet-up on Twitter.  I see so many teacher meet-ups in other states that I wish I could attend but I live much too far away!  Why not meet up virtually?!?!?!  With the Valentine's Day topic we could share links to our Valentine's Freebies, ask each other questions about whether our school allows a celebration,  and if so, what do we have planned, share ideas, crafts, read alouds, funny stories and much more!  

Twitter Tutorial Available---- so no excuses!
Now there is one slight problem… what if you are new to Twitter, don't have a Twitter account, and not quite sure how to get started.  NO PROBLEM!  I will include info graphics and links below that will help you get started. 

1. Go to Twitter.com and sign up for a free account.  

Here is my iPhone's home screen.  Yikes!  I am so bad about deleting emails.  The Twitter App is installed near the bottom of my phone. 

The Wiki How To Use Twitter is the most straight forward and clear instruction guide I have seen.  I am a visual learner and the pictures in this tutorial really helped me understand Twitter.  Click HERE to follow the guide. 

Here is my Twitter page.  I named it ShesparkleTV after my lifestyle YouTube channel and blog. I am still in the very beginning stages of Twitter.  Hopefully you will join me so we can learn together.  

On Sunday when we have our Virtual Teacher Meet-Up open up your Twitter App and search the hashtag #sprinkleteachingmagic  This hashtag will help us all find one another!  You can see I have searched for Lauren Conrad, my favorite YouTuber Tanya Burr and wine!  

Today I searched for the hashtag #sprinkleteachingmagic and there are no tweets.  That is because we have not started our Sunday Meet-Up and started using this hash tag!

 My favorite Twitter personality is Blunt Educator!  Once you sign up check out his twitter page. 

Bellow are some of the amazing teachers I follow on Twitter!  

*The following info graphic is from THIS website. A great article by Joyce Valenza on how Twitter can be a valuable tool for teachers. 

This slide show really breaks twitter down in manageable chunks of info!