Showing posts with label books to read. Show all posts
Showing posts with label books to read. Show all posts

What is Academic Rigor?

The term “academic rigor” has been making its way back through my building, but many teachers are not familiar with the concept or how to support rigor within their classroom. Understanding rigor is essential for understanding how to approach and measure the learning of students. It questions the standards and makes me think about what I really want students to know. (think 40 years from now)

“Rigor,” in the academic sense, is referring to that fine line between challenging and frustrating a student. It means that students are challenged to think, perform, and grow to a level that they were not at previously. It means that students must work, like an athlete at a team practice, to build their skills, understanding, and thinking power so that they can achieve at higher and higher levels. It means that the standards of the course are calibrated so that students are compelled to grow, but are not frustrated and overwhelmed in the process.

Academic rigor is commonly thought of in three different phases of the educational process. The first is setting the standard for students; the second is equipping students through instructional and supportive methods; the third is student demonstration of achievement.

Setting the Standard

We all know that there is a certain standard of excellence that we implicitly expect of our students. My students know that those expectations involve everything they do for me from writing assignments, pictures drawn, or speaking and listening to peers.

Sometimes these standards are made clear to students with examples, rubrics, directions, and instruction. Sometimes these standards are less defined. What is essential for establishing the appropriate degree of rigor in my classroom is making sure that you overtly demonstrate to students what the expected outcome is.

Not only is maintaining a high standard essential for student success, but excellent teachers must also make sure that they are supporting each and every student to move progressively toward the desired level of achievement. I make sure whatever content or skill is I'm are covering, I have the needed materials and instructional patterns.

  • Lessons are systematically scaffolded from one to the next.
  • Materials are consistently organized to clearly provide instructions and demonstration of task
  • Intervention tasks or instructions are regularly utilized to ensure no students are left behind.
  • I'm available for helping students individually at other points throughout the day.
  • Parents are communicated with regularly regarding the academic goals of the course.
  • Learning tools are color-coded, graphically organized, reinforced, and interactive.
  • Content is made relevant and relatable to student background information and interest.
  • Validation of Achievement

It’s not enough for teachers simply to “teach” and expect students then to “learn.” The final step for assessment of academic rigor within the classroom is to provide students with various opportunities to demonstrate their degree of achievement in relation to the given standard.

  • A balance of formative and summative assessments intermittently provided.
  • Student demonstration measured using a rubric or other standard-based assessment tool.
  • Students allowed the opportunity to conference and revise work.
  • Homework and class activities thought of as “practice.”
  • Students work independently or collaboratively on a given project.
  • Students connect material to real-life examples and situations.
  • Students provide a written or spoken summative report.
  • Students metacognitively apply a variety of content learned.
  • Student performance compared to previous student attempts.
  • Students provide high-level answers to high-level questions.
  • Students do not give up or feel overwhelmed when faced with challenges.
  • Students reflect on their learning progress and efforts.

So what are your standards in your classroom? How are those communicated, supported, and demonstrated throughout the year? Take time to consider how “rigorous” the academic requirements are for your classroom, and shape the environment to consistently demand of students higher and higher levels of academic progress!

Anticipate Difficulty

  • Traditional remediation for struggling students imposes interventions after students have failed. It's more productive, however, if teachers anticipate areas of difficulty before students approach new material. Part of that anticipation includes the teacher considering the classroom population by knowing which students have identified learning disabilities, which have limited English proficiency, or how students have previously performed in class. Teachers should also be aware of which concepts and ideas have been difficult for classes in the past, where student misperceptions or confusions have been particularly strong.

Use Graphic Organizers

  • Struggling students often need help organizing information in a coherent fashion to show how different parts relate to the whole and other kinds of relationships and connections. Graphic organizers can help, provided that teachers don't use them like worksheets. I demonstrate using them and make my student create their own. I only provide copies if I have a student that for whatever reason just can't--this is VERY rare. The point of the graphic organizer is to show kids how the facts are connected so they can organize them in their heads. Organizing information into a mental model or framework is the first stage of rigorous learning, and if you don't get that part right, it's harder to go farther in rigor. Ultimately, the goal is to get kids spontaneously creating their own graphic organizers—not on paper, but in their heads.
  • A graphic organizer used in advance of a lesson gives students a heads up about key vocabulary, concepts, and skills, that they will encounter in a unit, showing the relationships of the upcoming information but also clarifying expectations of student learning. At the same time, such organizational tools can help teachers clarify in their own mind what kind of work they'll need to do to activate student's prior knowledge in a given area and fill gaps for some students, to better level the playing field as a new unit is undertaken.

Look for Clues
  • During a lesson, teachers are constantly collecting information about students' learning through observations and other formative assessments, assignments, quizzes, tests, class participation, and behavioral cues. The feedback you collect all along from students gives you a lot of information about where kids are and where they're struggling but a lot of teachers make the mistake of seeing every struggling student as needing intervention without making the distinction between a productive struggle and destructive struggle.

If you are looking for more on Rigor or Supporting Struggling Students--check out Robyn Jackson. I love her insights and always find something new when I reread them. (Her website has great planning freebies.) My district is very big into 21st-century skills and knowledge with the 4cs--I found returning to her books the push I needed to rethink my reading instruction in a group wishing to "think outside--the box." (more on them later)

Until next time,

Great Read Alouds for Preschoolers

When you read aloud, you’re building their experiences while building vocabulary. Remember, young children can understand many more spoken words than they use. The easiest way to build language is in books that tend to be greater and more diverse than the words we use every day when talking with children. Preschoolers enjoy simple books as well as more complex books, the sound of language. Books with rhymes and nonsense words help to word reading skills.

By: Antoinette Portis
It all started with a little brown bird that tired of making and hearing the same old sounds: caw, coo, chip, peep. Instead, it said “Froodle sproodle!” which came as an unwelcome shock to the crow, cardinal and dove. But the small brown bird’s continued wordplay inspired the others — even the crow. Simple, bold illustrations and varied type present a comical tale of individuality and lots of potential for wordplay.

If You Were a Dog
By: Jamie Swenson
Effervescent language and lively illustrations ask readers what kind of dog, cat, fist, bird, bug, frog, or dinosaur they’d be — but since they are not, they can "arrooo! like a dog, hiss! like a cat," or even "chomp, stomp, roar! like a dinosaur" in this playful, imaginative book.

Kitten's First Full Moon
By: Kevin Henkes
Children will delight in Kitten’s mistake. They know that what she thinks is a bowl of milk is really the moon’s reflection. Mostly black and white (and shades of gray) illustration expressively depict Kitten. Children enjoy the visual and verbal patterns throughout.

Little Mouse
By: Alison Murray
When the young narrator feels quiet and cuddly, she doesn’t mind being her mom’s Little Mouse. Other times, she is as strong as an ox or brave and scary like a lion. A child’s daily changing moods are reflected in the open illustrations and simple text.

Llama Llama Mad at Mama
By: Anna Dewdney
Little Llama Llama has a major meltdown when he tires of shopping with Mama in the shop-o-rama. But Mama Llama is smart and figures out how do end the llama drama. The rhyming text shares not only a common experience but a great deal of llama wisdom all told with good humor and rhyme.
Marc Brown's Playtime Rhymes: A Treasury for Families to Learn and Play Together
By: Marc Brown
Twenty familiar and some lesser-known rhymes are just right for sharing. Actions are shown in small pictograms that accompany each line. One fingerplay appears on each double page with gentle, idealized illustration for a collection perfect for sharing.
Maria Had a Little Llama/Maria tenia una llamita
By: Angela Domínguez
Cheerful, childlike depictions of Maria and her much loved llama set the familiar rhyme, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, in a Peruvian village. The little white llama follows Maria to school, makes the children laugh, but with a distinctive and unique setting and characters in a familiar cadence.
Time-Out for Sophie
By: Rosemary Wells
Exasperated Mama and Daddy put Sophie in time-out when she dumps her dinner and tosses the clean laundry. But when Granny puts herself in time-out during their book-sharing, Sophie straightens up. Text and illustration capture a young child’s tenacious behavior and her adults’ reactions, sure to be recognized by all.

Tippy-Toe, Chick, Go!
By: George Shannon, Laura Dronzek
Can the youngest chick solve the problem and help the family get to their tasty meal of potato bugs and beans? Of course, for only she can run tippy-toe around the fierce — but leashed — dog! Young children will appreciate the youngest chick’s success in this brightly illustrated tale.

Tiptoe Joe
By: Ginger Foglesong Guy
A big brown bear in red sneakers tiptoes fast to invite his friends to "…come with me/I know something you should see." Each animal clops, thuds or swishes to see Joe's surprise: two sleeping cubs with their mother. Told with lively language and humorous illustrations.

Whistle for Willie
By: Ezra Keats
Oh, how Peter wished he could whistle to call his dog, Willie. Try as he might, he just couldn’t seem to make the sound come out — until one day he could! The simple description of a child’s yearning is told in natural language and charming collage illustrations.

Yoo-Hoo, Lady Bug!
By: Mem Fox
A small ladybug loves to hide — and she does it well in each familiar scene. "Yoo-hoo, Ladybug? Where are you?" She's hiding behind the teddy bear, tucked in a box, and other places in this brightly illustrated, rhyming hide-and-seek book for younger children.

These are some of my favorites. My family jokes that I need a 12 step for book stores. But when all else falls I hit the public library who always has a great selection of books to build language. Have a great Monday!

What to Read Aloud to Babies and Toddlers?

It’s a busy life filled with lots of things to do and even more distractions. All that’s needed is a comfy place, an adult, one child or more, and a good book to share.

The question becomes-How do you choose what to read aloud to a child? The first thing to ask yourself is simply: Do I like it? Then consider if you’re comfortable with the content. Is there something that you may want to omit or that you’d rather not tackle with your child? Children seem to know instinctively when an adult really likes something or if they’re just faking it.

Sometimes children respond differently to a book than the adults who try to share it. A book that the adult thinks is fantastic may get a ho-hum or downright negative response from the listener or sometimes the reverse is true, too. That’s OK; children have tastes, though sometimes they’re just not ready for a particular book. It’s perfectly okay not finish the book. Just try another one.

What are you looking for? 

Is there something for listeners to grab hold of? For young children, is there a phrase or perhaps something hidden in the illustration to keep them actively engaged? For older children, is there something to think about or talk about or even follow up about? Does it build on a child’s existing interest or maybe introduce a new one?

There are lots of educational reasons to read aloud to children. Reading aloud with children of all ages not only builds language — a key ingredient to success in school — but most importantly, it’s a time for adults to share with the children in their lives and to build a common, positive experience that lasts long after a book is closed.

Babies and Toddlers Picture Book Recommendations 

It’s never too early to start reading to young children. Young children are building vocabularies long before they can say them or use them in conversation. Try one of my favorite books with your baby or toddler. It doesn’t matter if you don’t read every word, but it is important that you share your enthusiasm. You can even do some of the actions suggested by the words or pictures, or you can make up your own. Maybe you just want to talk about the pictures and point to them as you do. It’s the sharing that’s important!

All Fall Down
By: Helen Oxenbury
Young children will appreciate the game played by children (also in Tickle Tickle) in this sturdy book. Rhyming text and uncluttered illustrations are just right to share with the youngest child.

All of Baby, Nose to Toes
By: Victoria Adler
All of a newborn, from head to toe, is appreciated and loved by various members of an adoring family. Lively language and joyful illustrations are used in this ebullient celebratory book.

Diggers Go
By: Steve Light
What sound does an excavator or a forklift make? Each makes its own noise, presented here in bold, dramatic typefaces dynamically shown on sturdy horizontal pages. Children can be encouraged to repeat sounds made by the variety of equipment — likely to delight construction aficionados.

I Kissed the Baby!
By: Mary Murphy
A new baby creates lots of excitement and all the animals want to kiss the baby duckling! Black pages with bold white lines depict the animals with splashes of color to highlight the joy and a repeating text makes this just right to encourage young children.

Lots of Lambs
By: Laura Numeroff
Feel the lamb's wool, then lift the umbrella to find lambs. There are lambs of all types and in many moods doing lots of things. Staccato, rhyming, catchy text is accompanied by expressive images of lively lambs that encourage active engagement with each page.

Lullaby and Kisses Sweet: Poems to Love with Your Baby
By: Lee Bennett Hopkins
Every day, young children and their families can celebrate familiar things and activities in this sturdy, handsome, and appealing collection of 30 poems. Each short piece by a range of poets is about food, family, firsts, play and bedtime, creating a memorable collection just right for the youngest listener.

Maisy's Animals/Los animales de Maisy
By: Lucy Cousins
Maisy’s favorite animals are introduced in both English and Spanish accompanied by Cousin’s signature illustrations on sturdy pages. Maisy is a familiar character with a simplicity of illustration and text that captivates young children.

Max's First Word
By: Rosemary Wells
No matter how hard Ruby tries to get her baby brother to say the names of the objects around him, Max will only say “Bang!” One day, however, Ruby gets a big surprise from Max’s first real word. Understated humor and bright, bold illustrations appeal to children and their adults.

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe
By: Jane Cabrera
The familiar rhyme continues all the way to 20 as a rabbit helps the farm animals get ready for a party. A small chick on each page encourages young readers to look closely as chicks are hidden on each spread. Bright, boldly lined illustrations are appealing and child-like.

Peek-a Who?
By: Nina Laden
What can you “peek-a” through the die-cut window? Does it “moo”, say “boo” or could it be YOU? Turn the page and find out! A predictable format and bold illustrations are sure to engage and delight.

Peekaboo Kisses
By: Barney Saltzberg
Peekaboo! What do you see? Lift the flap and see the kissable, touchable baby animal & dash; until the final spread. The mirror on the final pages lets young children see themselves in this boldly illustrated, participatory book.

Say Goodnight
By: Helen Oxenbury
Even the most active baby or toddler must sleep sometime, and in this story the children "say goodnight." Similar to Tickle Tickle and All Fall Down, this is a sure hit to share with babies and toddlers.

Say Hello Like This!
By: Mary Murphy
How do animals greet everyone? With woofs and meows for a big hello! Beginning with a dog's "licky and loud … bow-wow-wow-wow!" the split pages hide the sounds until the turn — sure to delight young readers. Bold, colorful illustrations exude joy and spirit.

Tickle Tickle
By: Helen Oxenbury
Chubby cheeked babies of many hues are shown in crisp illustrations doing things that babies do. The simple words are playful and energetic, just like the children in this and others by Oxenbury such as Clap Hands and All Fall Down.

My favorite preschool read aloud to come. Even in my current position in Intermediate Elementary students my student's love when I do story hour. Have a great weekend.

Summer Reading

It seems only like yesterday when the year started. I always wonder where it went but I'm glad the year the year is almost over--it's been a year and then some but the pile of reading I want to get done over the summer.

My plan this summer is to continue to build my Common Core depth of knowledge and ways to shift the cognitive load to my students. My district has been pulling curriculum from just about every other district but ones in Colorado. (New York and Georgia--have great math units)

Book 1 & 2) Both of Eric Jenson's Students with Poverty books. Many of our RTI conversations seem to come back to this basic issue. Poverty impacts student learning more than most realize.

Book 3) Academic Conversations--the rubric I'm evaluated on looks at the basic of teacher to student talk and how much of that is high order thinking that students are doing without my help. Yes, without me. You would be amazed its really not super hard to get them to do that. Just lots of guided practice.

Book 4) Learning in the Fast Lane--I'm always on the look out for high impact, researched based instructional approaches that are easy to do.

Anyone have a pile of books you are planing to get through this summer? Share them below.

Have a great last couple weeks of school before summer starts.

More on Framework for Teaching

My district moved to an evaluation process that is similar to Charlotte Danielson's "Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching." Danielson's rubric is broken down into four domain:
  • Planning and Preparation
  • The Classroom Environment
  • Instruction
  • Professional Responsibilities
For more information on this book-check out my previous post here. This framework doesn't directly tackle the my role as a special education teacher but my coach hooked me up with another district exception's who had.One thing that has helped me focus on specific areas of the Framework has been this checklist.  This checklist is created so I can check off items that I can do with each lesson to score as high as possible. Each list focuses on a specific domain, this allows me to pick which one or one(s) I want to work on. This means that I don't have to deal with 20 some old things (like I don't already:)) With all the feedback that comes flying at me, I can pick and choose based on what they see I'm missing or need to work on to make something stronger. More to come. Have a great weekend.

A Framework for Teaching

Two years ago my district moved to an evaluation process that is similar to Charlotte Danielson's "Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching." Danielson's rubric is broken down into four domain:
  • Planning and Preparation
  • The Classroom Environment
  • Instruction
  • Professional Responsibilities
This framework doesn't directly tackle the my role as a special education teacher but my coach hooked me up with another district exception's who had.

What does Danielson's work and my district have in common?

In my district it's called strategic compensation. I'm part of the pilot to answer: What helps teachers be effective, and does additional pay make a difference for student learning?  It's a unique partnership among the teacher's union and the district, this innovative pilot in 20 schools involves more than 650 educators and 8,550 students. It’s national research to test new teacher pay and supports, such as individualized job-embedded professional development from master and mentor teachers; multiple observations by two evaluators (administrators and peers); frequent, useful and specific feedback to improve instruction; and more time for teachers to work together and share expertise.

So, I'm observed formally at least three times over the year (twice before Christmas Break and once Marchish) by both principle and a peer observation. The peer evaluators are hired by the district and are higher trained on the teacher rubric. Both of them pop in throughout the year gathering informal information about what things are like in my room. I try to get them in when I'm doing something that I needed to work on or something new and want feedback. Its hard to get them to come-the peer evaluator is split between like four or five schools. (Talk about tough!!) 

I have been working on creating a document to help me when I'm planning to make sure that I"m getting the most bang for my buck. Mostly because this rubric is unlike anything I've come across. It's tough keeping all the targets needed to make "Effective" and "Distinguished." The Framework below is a mesh of what I'm expected to do as a special education teacher plus the teacher expectations. All those items are in bold. The others are taken into consideration for students with autism or ADHD. I'll share my checklist later on. Have a great week!

Unit Planning

Now, that groups are formed, I can begin planning. To start the year off, I'm pulling out a small group of 4th graders for math during the last half of the block. I need to create a differentiated math units. Easier said than done. But this summer I came across any other book written by Robyn R. Jackson "The Differentiation Workbook." Its been very helpful full in pulling apart my districts Curriculum Alignment Project (it's tells us what to teach when) but doesn't do much in the way of differentiation.

I've adopted pieces to meet my needs and have shared a couple. I'll share more as I work through my unit planning.

I start by determining what all students Need to Know and list them out. I then figure out what my criteria for mastery is and what my evidence is that they have it. The Needs to Know become the over arching lessons that I'll shoot for. This is where I what my group to be at the end of the month. These are the grade lesson standards that they will be tested on in the spring. I think with this unit--I will not be doing tons of modifications for students. But this forms makes it clear what the learning targets need to be.

I used the table below to draft plan my first two lessons. I used it as a place to put my learning target statements and instructional plan. One thing I do with all my lessons is a ticket out, so I see who got it and who didn't. This will help me plan which direction I need to go in the next day. I can also use them as part of my body of evidence that the student has mastered the target. 

I share more next week as I plan this unit out. Have a great weekend.

Progress Monitoring or Monitoring Progress

The term 'progress monitoring' has been around since the beginnings of Response to Intervention (RTI) or in my district is Response to Instruction.

Progress monitoring is the documentation where I assess students using CBM's (Curriculum Based Measurements) to show whether or not the intervention I'm using with the student is working. I collect a baseline score, I determine a goal, draw an aimline and collect weekly or bi-weekly data from the Progress Monitoring CBM probes. The graphs I use depend on what the goal is, what the CBM is and where the student's baseline is. (I've shared several.) My district uses DIBELS Next K-3 but I'm not always responsible for the progress monitoring. But I have IEP goals that I do have to monitor. Some places online to check out:,, and for online graphs if your not wanting to make your own.

So what's monitoring progress??? It's a core instructional practice that involves monitoring the academic growth of all students. My school wants to makes sure that ALL students are growing, from the low ones all the way up to the high ones because every child deserves a "years’ worth of growth" no matter where they started. 

At my school we all "take ownership of ALL the kids" on the grade level, there are very few practices that one teacher does without all the teachers on the grade level doing it.  No matter if they have a label and nowhere near making grade level benchmarks. Every student is focused on to ensure that they make that growth. We work at a team.

The research of Robert Marzano, specifically points outs some key best practices, Setting Objectives and Providing Feedback, in “Classroom Instruction ThatWorks: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement”.  When students know what it is they need to do, to improve and grow, the more targeted and accelerated their growth will be.  

Robyn Jackson’s book “Never Work Harder than Your Students” has great ideas that are easy to set up and maintain. (If you've not read it, I would highly recommend it.) The use of common formative assessments created by grade level also help students, teachers and parents know which objectives they are learning and which ones they need to continued practice with.  You know my love of graphs and tables that students can use to graph their pre and post assessment throughout the quarter. 

This make sense because you are always changing your instruction to help the student make that target. The target doesn't move because students know where the target is. I have to help them get to the target. (Learning Targets: Helping the Students Aim for Understanding in Today's Lesson by Connie Moss & Susan Brookhart--is my current read)

Monitoring how students interact with the curriculum is how they will make that years growth. Doesn't is matter what you call it-Progress Monitoring or Monitoring Progress--I'm not so sure. What I do know is that you have to monitoring the students to ensure they are getting it; so that can make those targets.

About Me

Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I empower busy elementary special education teachers to use best practice strategies to achieve a data and evidence driven classroom community by sharing easy to use, engaging, unique approaches to small group reading and math. Thanks for Hopping By.
Follow on Bloglovin
Special Ed. Blogger

I contribute to:

Search This Blog