A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to participate in what we (ESSD instructional coaches) deemed "Dave Week." Dave Holden (@DavidHolden) is a co-founder of the American Alliance for Innovative Systems (AAIS). As our consultant, Dave works with the instructional coaches in our district with two primary goals: (1) Helping instructional coaches develop understanding of the coaching cycle and other roles related to coaching; (2) Increasing our understanding of instructional practices and demonstration classrooms.
Developing instructional coaches
We learned about the different roles that instructional coaches can take on and how to be as effective as possible. I am excited to try out some of the coaching strategies that Dave shared with us during this time.
A focus on instructional practices
Academic language, in my opinion, is one area that is often over-looked as teachers plan instruction and is also an area that can have the greatest impact on students.
- Tier 1: These are words that require no instruction (examples: dog, truck, house, etc)
- Tier 2: These are words that are more sophisticated, but have the same meaning as tier 1 words. When students (it doesn't matter what age!) show true understanding of Tier 1 vocabulary, it is time to introduce tier 2 replacement words. Examples include: Currency (money); rapid (fast); etc..
- Tier 3: These are words that are almost only used in a specific domain. Examples include mitochondria (only used in science).
A second aspect of developing academic language that is incredibly important is developing a student's ability to participate in Academic Conversations. Academic Conversations foster deeper thinking and understanding of topics that teachers cover in class. Academic Conversations need to be explicitly taught at first but should develop into a common practice in a classroom. These conversations lend themselves to a socratic seminar that many educators have begun to implement.
Two resources are embedded below, the discussion rules and conversation stems. Click here to make a copy and customize the discussion rules for your classroom. Click here to access the conversation stems.
The most effective educators use formative assessment on a daily basis (arguably, more than once a day). I'll be writing a blog post soon about formative assessment, but here are a few key components that help formative assessment to be successful:
- Students must understand their learning goal during lessons.
- Formative assessment should be quick and direct.
- Formative assessment should drive your instruction. Adapt your instruction to meet the needs of students based on their performance.
Our final focus during "Dave Week" was the study of critical thinking routines. Instead of giving information about the background of critical thinking, I've decided to lay out 3 of my favorite routines. If you have ideas for additional routines, please list them in the comments section below!
This routine is very similar to the KWL chart, but I would encourage teachers to give this a shot. At the beginning of a new concept or unit, ask students to list everything they "think they know." This helps to take some pressure off of some students who are afraid to be wrong and also creates a safer place if/when teachers need to correct mis-understandings. Next, have students list some things that "puzzle them" about the current topic. Finally, have students list ideas of what they want to explore and how they will explore it. This helps students to create a plan for learning and offers an opportunity to hold them accountable!
- Compass Points
Use this strategy to help students explore issues and make informed decisions.
E= Excitements... What excites you about this idea?
W= Worries... What do you find worrisome about this idea?
N= Needs... What else do you need to know about this idea?
S= Stance, Steps, or Suggestions... What is your current stance or opinion? What should your next step be in your evaluation of the idea? What suggestions do you have at this point?
- See, Think, Wonder
Have your students look at an object, image, text or video clip...
-What do you see?
-What do you think is going on?
-What does it make you wonder?
Guest Blogger, Jessica Broadbent
I asked my friend and colleague, Jessica Broadbent if she would be willing to write a personal reflection about her journey as an instructional coach and to reflect on how our work with Dave has changed her. Her piece is titled "Take A Chance On Me" and is shared below.
Three years in the classroom and now an instructional coach. We all know what you are thinking. Three years in the classroom, how can she help me? I have taught for way longer, I don't need her assistance.
Finally, in my fourth year as an instructional coach at Westview Elementary, I feel like I have solidified my role to myself and to the teachers here at Westview. Within the past three years, many changes have occurred. One of the biggest was beginning our work as instructional coaches with David Holden through AAIS. Dave has provided us with coaching resources, instructional resources as well as many protocols and procedures for coaching. Along with these detailed resources and plans, he has prompted us through reflecting on why we do what we do. Through this I have been reflecting and refining my practice as an elementary instructional coach. Brainstorming how to make all aspects of my role better for teachers here at Westview.
Last year teachers were able to sign-up for coaching through a Google Sheet shared amongst all teachers here at Westview. This helped with developing coaching relationships with teachers and identifying what teachers were needing from me. But there was still more I wanted to do, more that I know our teachers at Westview needed.
Towards the end of last year, after meeting with David Holden a few times, our building admin and me thought that "Instructional Rounds" would be a good way to facilitate a paradigm shift. A shift in thinking about our learning in a new manner. A manner of learning from our peers, debriefing about what we understand as best practice and beginning to plan intentionally. Instead of our “Instructional Rounds” identifying a need or problem amongst the building as traditional rounds do, we designed them into being observations that drive best practice conversations across grade levels and departments. Best practices centered around our district wide NEE indicators of student engagement, formative assessment and critical thinking.
Through “Dave Week” I was provided with tools and protocols that have supported myself and teachers through the development of our Instructional Rounds at Westview. My hope is that these rounds will do two things: 1) Create a culture where teachers are willing and open to observe or be observed and conduct debriefings centered around best practice, and 2) Teachers will feel validated in their own practice and/or receive new resources or instructional practices to take back to their classroom.
We will see what the year brings as we meet with David Holden and other things evolve. But excitement stirs because it is October and I know exactly what each of our teachers are looking for from me.
Go ahead, take a chance on me.