Table of Contents, 2013-15

To make accessing the content of this blog easier, I created a table of contents to ease the way for you:

General CCSS:
Deeper Learning:



Summer STEM fun

STEM is actually fun, it is. Follow these links for some summer STEM action.

Movie time travel debunked! (7 min). Science v. Fiction...who will you believe?

Movie science – Guardians of the Galaxy (8 min) Could raccoons really talk?

Movie science – Interstellar (10 min) Whoa, time is relative and pliable?!

Schoolhouse Rock – Science Rock (30 min, full episodes) Enjoy the classics.

Steven Colbert interviews Neal DeGrasse Tyson (90 min) 1½ hours of funny people talking about science.

Math isn’t hard, it’s a language (9 min.) Math is a human language that we all can learn.

I don’t do math (15 min) STEM literacy is a critical thinking, an important skill for everyone. (taped at OSU)

STEM is foundational for language development (6 min) Early Science instruction critical and leads to advances in literacy skills.

Apps for kids with a STEM slant More than Angry Birds.

Summary of new research on STEM literacy, and what a STEM classroom looks like.

And when its planning time... here is a Lesson checklist provided by our STEM partnership. It does a nice job describing the variety of things that might make a lesson STEM-y.

At the end of this summer, consider STEM and inquiry-based learning. Can you think of one way to ask a critical question, or provide a real problem to solve? You’re on your way to STEM instruction for next year.


STEM: Why Now?

As this school year winds down, it makes sense to ask "why now" about STEM. The answer is that STEM is already here. Just by using your cell, you figure out pretty quickly that we live in an increasingly complex, interconnected, technological world. To be successful in this world, our students will need to think critically, solve problems, and communicate about the science, technology, engineering and math that hold our world together.

Here’s a snapshot of where our students are with high-stakes math and science assessments:

These charts indicate we’ve got some work to do. Fortunately, we are already headed in the right direction:

  • Since 1998, CHS has and continues to offer dual credit (college and high school) STEM courses.
  • CHS's Achieve Center and Career and Technical Education program provide access to tech-based careers.
  • Check out CHS's video tour.
  • At BPMS, science teachers continually align and integrate curriculum and best practices with the Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards (“NGSS”).
  • K-6 teachers have been improving their instructional practices in math through the Teacher Development Group training and support, implemented since 2008.

Why we must keep growing:

  • STEM occupations are projected to grow by 7% more per year than non-STEM jobs.
  • There are 2.5 entry-level job postings for each new 4-year graduate in STEM fields compared to 1.1 postings for each new BA graduate in non-STEM fields.
  • STEM jobs offer a substantial salary premium. The average advertised salary for entry-level STEM jobs requiring a 4-year degree or higher is $66,123 compared to $52,299 for non-STEM jobs.

The NGSS is the content and STEM provides the instructional strategies that will prepare students for these opportunities.


What is STEM?

Not everything that counts can by counted, and not everything that is counted counts.

Albert Einstein.

So, we're hearing about "STEM"...what is it? By one definition, STEM is an acronym for

STEM is not a curriculum or a set of standards. STEM learning engages students in doing science by modeling, analyzing, and designing (per Jeff C. Marshall Clemson University, director of the Inquiry in Motion Institute).

You are already implementing STEM instructional strategies if you are…

  • Incorporating Teacher Development Group practices
  • Asking students to reflect and write in content areas like math
  • Allowing students to fail or come up with different pathways or a variety of solutions
  • Linking learning to real-life experiences that require students to act as responsible individuals, collaborating with their groups

One thing we know about young children, they are all about the “Why?” Take two minutes to listen to Neil DeGrasse Tyson talking about what little it takes to foster a child’s intrinsic curiosity. His statements are backed up by tons of research around guided, inquiry-based learning. Studies (1) of students from Kindergarten to high school chemistry show that allowing students to ask 'why' questions is more likely to increase conceptual understanding, and to add excitement to learning.

While STEM is an acronym, at the heart of STEM instruction are inquiry-based practices that make it just plain fun to teach and to learn. Next post, we’ll talk about why teachers – with everything else we have to do - should even care about STEM.

(1) The K-12 study summary is here: and the Chemistry class study summary is here:


Claims, Evidence, and Reasoning: Cracking the Code to Complex Questions

Check out these constructed response (short answer) questions from Smarter Balanced Assessment:

  • Two groups of students from Douglas Elementary School were walking to the library when it began to rain. The 7 students in Mr. Stem’s group shared the 3 large umbrellas they had with Ms. Thorn’s group of 11 students. If the same number of students were under each umbrella, how many students were under each umbrella? You may use the space below to draw a picture of the problem (Math, 3rd Grade).

  • Describe the way the poplar grows his branches. Explain why the tree decides to grow them this way and how the actions of the Old Man, Iris, Zeus, and Mercury lead to his decision. Use details from the story to support your answer. In your response, be sure to include the following:
 the direction in which the poplar tree’s branches grow
 the events that made the tree’s branches grow this way
 the roles that the Old Man, Iris, Zeus, and Mercury play in the decision
 details from the story to support your answer

Write your answer in complete sentences (ELA, 3rd Grade)
  • The author of Article 1 shows support for the reintroduction of the Mexican gray wolves into the wild by emphasizing the benefits over the risks. What risks does the author mention, and what evidence is there that they are less important to the author? Support your answer using details from the article (ELA, 9th Grade).
  • A trainer for a professional football team keeps track of the amount of water players consume throughout practice. The trainer observes that the amount of water consumed is a linear function of the temperature on a given day. The trainer finds that when it is 90°F the players consume about 220 gallons of water, and when it is 76°F the players consume about 178 gallons of water.
    • Part A: Write a linear function to model the relationship between the gallons of water consumed and the temperature.
    • Part B: Explain the meaning of the slope in the context of the problem. (Math, 8th Grade)

Three Strategies to Help Student Answer Rigorous Questions:

While students may have the knowledge to take on these questions, they probably don't have a strategy to deconstruct the multi-layered prompts. Below are three strategies you can consider for your students:

R.A.C.E. is an acronym for a simple writing strategy that can help students construct more thoughtful and thorough responses. This strategy can be modified to fit all grade levels and with a few modifications can also be used in mathematics.

  1. RESTATE – Students restate the question in the form of a topic sentence
  2. ANSWER – Students answer ALL parts of the question.
  3. CITE – Students cite examples from the text that support their answer.
  4. EXPLAIN – Students explain how their evidence supports their answer or connects to another text.
Here's a second strategy to help students understand the foundation of constructed response questions--Claims, Evidence, Reasoning:

ABCD Prompts--you may have noticed that both the constructed-response questions above are dense and contain two parts. If students do not know how to attack a prompt, they will find themselves distracted by verbiage.
Most prompts contain two parts:
  • Warm-up or background information
  • Actual writing prompt
Example: By the time students enter high school, they have learned about many moments in history that have influenced our world today. Think about a moment in history you studied and consider its importance. Write a composition in which you discuss a moment in history. Share its importance in today’s world. Be sure to support the moment with details and examples.

Click for full-size image

Here's another example:

Click for full-size image

Want more prompts for deconstruction practice? Check out this link--see key on second page.

Want a hand teaching students how to deconstruct complex questions? Give me at call at ext. 3919, or call Cathy Lambeth at ext. 3917--we'll come to your classroom to help you practice this process with your students.



Engaging Students in Academic Language

Last week's post on Winning the Verbal Lottery was timely, judging from the response I got from teachers. Thank you for emailing me and talking to me about the challenges of shifting students into academic language. As promised, this week I'm posting strategies to ease the way for your work.

But first, below are a few facts to inform our academic language work with students (when I know why I'm doing something, it's easier for me to stick with it):

What current research says:
  • Students need to be exposed to a word at least six times in context before they have enough experience with the word to ascertain its meaning and make it perdurable (at-risk learners often need 12-15 exposures).
  • Even superficial instruction in new words enhances the probability that students will understand the words when they encounter them.
  • One of the best ways to learn a new word is to associate a mental image or symbolic representation with it.
  • Direct vocabulary instruction works. Teaching new vocabulary directly increases student comprehension of new materials.
  • Direct instruction on words that are critical to new content produces the most powerful learning.
Source: Jane K. Doty, McREL

Below you will find three categories of strategies: elementary, secondary, digital, and how two CSD teachers approach academic language with their students:

Elementary Example to Introducing Words taken from Amanda Adrian, North Thurston Public Schools in Lacey, Washington, and from Heather Rader, Washington State

Two common approaches to introducing academic language are cueing and embedding. Veteran teacher embed vocabulary intentionally and explicitly when he / she says, “We are going to pick up a writing utensil -- a tool we use to write -- and get to work on our lists.” Many of us weave vocabulary into our classroom discourse, and that’s a good thing. In addition, it’s important to be explicit with cueing, offering easy to understand definitions, to support students' learning.

Susan Ebbers, author of Reading Way, introduces new words by having the students listen before they even see the word:

“Listen,” she says, “Re-in-force. Now you say it. Say each part after me. Re. In. Force. Say the last syllable the loudest like this -- re in FORCE.”
After attending to the sounds, syllables, and emphasis, she moves into meaning.
She says, “To reinforce means to strengthen something. When we reinforce something, we are adding to it to make it stronger.”
Making a motion with her hands coming together, Amanda turns it into a game, “I’m going to tell you about something and if it shows the meaning of reinforced you will say, ‘It is reinforced’ and do the movement.”
“The construction crew added steel beams to the bridge.”
“It is reinforced!” the students cry.
She continues with, “The teacher told students the rules for how to sit at the carpet and then showed them how to do it.”
“It is reinforced!” they repeat.
Then she gives them a non-example, “John took a block from the bottom of the tower of blocks.”
And the students stay silent.
“Now let’s see this word. There are three parts. Say each part when I point. Now read the whole word. Turn to your shoulder partner and share a sentence using reinforce.”

By now, the students have used the word reinforce a half-dozen times and have heard it pronounced correctly several more. They understand that learning a new word includes the ears, the body, the eyes, and of course the brain as they work to make the word part of their vocabulary.

Secondary Strategies to get New Words into Long-Term Memory (works for upper elementary, too)

Activity: How to do it: Time needed:
Fly Swatter
3 or 4 fly swatters
White board with words listed
Write words on whiteboard.
Divide class into teams (3 or 4).
Give each team a fly swatter.
1 member of each team lines up a few feet in
front of and facing the board.
Give a definition, students rush to the board and
swat the correct word.
White Board Check-In
Small White Boards
White Board Markers
Hand out a white board to each child or table
group or team.
Give each child/team a marker and eraser.
Give a definition and have students write the
word or vice versa (give word, they write
Vocabulary Bingo
Blank Bingo Boards
Torn up paper for markers
Hand out a blank bingo boards and have
students fill in each square with a vocabulary
Pass out bingo board markers (torn up paper).
Pull words from a bin (I keep all the words for
the year in a pencil case, putting them in as we
learn them)—give the definition and have
students cover the word.
minutes to
get a few
rounds in
Write a Paragraph Have students take out a sheet of paper .
Give them 7-10 or so words from a current unit
Have students complete a quick-write (writing
as fast as possible for 7-10 minutes) using all of
the words from the unit.
Take some time to share out examples.
10-20 minutes
Sentence Strip Race
Need: words on one card and
definitions on another card.
Optional: pictures of
Students can work in teams to begin
and then as individuals on another
day. This is an excellent small group
activity. 1. Remove word only and time
how long to place word with correct
picture and definition. 2. Remove the
meaning only (same thing). 3. Remove
all and time the activity. You will be
amazed at how important the picture is
as a mental model of the word.
on group
size 10-15
Other low-tech moves: Select 3-5 academic vocabulary words to
teach each week. Many terms will come
from the concepts and skills in your standards
5 minutes
More low-tech moves: Place the target words where all students can see
and use throughout the week. Have students add
these words to a vocabulary journal or a section
in the academic learning log. Students can use the
Frayer Model to record key ideas about each term.

At the end of the week, move the words to a word
wall containing all target words for the unit or year.

Need templates? Email or call me!
10-15 minutes

Digital Strategies:

Learning from Ourselves:

Check out Sara Minson's academic language work:
Three cheers to Sara for sharing her work and for inspiring our district-level conversations about critical language. If you want Sara's forms in Pages or Word, email or call ext. 3919.

Check out Louise Osterman's work with CSD's critical verbs and nouns list from last week's post:
I decided to make this my lesson plan for all my ELD classes today. Students were attentive. I shared with them the disadvantages that second language learners and students who do not read a lot have with access to academic language outside the classroom.
We looked at the one-page list in which you identified specific vocabulary at the different grade levels, followed by students completing the check-off page for verbs.
I am in the process of tallying where student vocabulary knowledge is by class period.
We did focus on a few items and did some exercises today. Specifically, we looked at “infer” and “articulate.” Associated with “articulate” were the words “fluently” and “coherently.” I gave two quick scenarios and asked them a question about each that required using inference skills. They got it quickly and correctly—they just did not realize that that skill has a name. We did more that I will not elaborate on at the moment.

Thanks, Louise, for sharing your approaches.

Any one else up for sharing? Please email or call me so I can feature your work in future posts.



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Winning the Verbal Lottery

By now most of us have taken a practice test for SBAC to see what our students will face in a few short weeks. Many of you have been struck by the academic language in the texts as well as in the directions and in the questioning prompts.

Brace yourselves:

Researchers estimate 85% of achievement test scores are based on the vocabulary of the standards. Students from poverty, ELL students, and other at-risk students are particularly in need of learning these words in ways that meet their specific learning needs (Sprenger, 2012).

When it comes to vocabulary, size matters:

A robust vocabulary correlates strongly with school achievement, SAT scores, college attendance and graduation, and higher adult earnings even among those who don’t attend college (Pondiscio, 2013).

To help answer the challenge of academic language:

  • CSD's Critical Verbs and Nouns List by Grade Level
  • Knowledge rating for critical verbs
  • Content frames: verbs
  • Knowledge rating for critical nouns
  • Content frames: nouns
  • Critical verbs and nouns definitions--this is still a work in progress, and I'll post the completed list soon. I kept with student-friendly language to ease students' learning.

  • I used a pdf format for this blog, but you may want these lists in a word processing document so you can manipulate the lists and the spacing. Just let me know, and I will get the lists to you.

    What does CSD's Critical Verbs and Nouns List mean?

    First of all, it's not a mandate. It's a suggested list. Also, the grade-level recommendations are not exclusive to a specific grade level. Language is a use it or lose it thing. If we only address "compare" in Kindergarten and ignore it in the following grades, we've made a major error. Recall Sprenger's words: "... it is essential that our students master the critical words to the point where the terms are automatically recognized, defined, and acted upon” (Location 78 on Kindle). Critical means the concepts are vital enough to merit recursive learning.

    Next week, I'll post strategies to help students internalize critical vocabulary, along with digital tools to ease their learning. Also, I'm working on common definitions for the words, with CCSS and SBAC in mind. In the meanwhile, please frame critical verbs and nouns in the context of conversation.

    Let's talk about what you see as critical vocabulary and what grade-levels you think are appropriate for these concepts in the context of CCSS and SBAC. The researchers are a sound launching point, but you are experts in the field, and your voices matter.


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    The 3+ List

    Feeling disorganized? If so, you're not alone:
      Top 3 New Year's Resolutions from 2014
      • Lose Weight
      • Getting Organized
      • Save More Money

    While the weight loss and money resolutions are predictable, I was surprised that getting organized ranked second as a top goal because Americans have so many gadgets and devices to help them get and stay organized.

    I picked up a few pointers about staying relaxed while facing the demands of work from Sarah McKibben's article, How to Conquer Your To-Do List and why creating a short list (3+) can quiet the inner nag that keeps many of us up at night with worry. I've edited and reposted Sarah's article because the 3+ strategy is a flexible, fluid means of getting organized that I found helpful:

    To-do lists have been around for centuries, but they often get neglected. In fact, a LinkedIn survey of 6,500 professionals found that although the majority (63 percent) regularly pen to-do lists, only 11 percent actually complete them. An overwhelming workload can lead to an equally overwhelming to-do list.

    Researchers claim that professionals try to juggle up to 150 tasks at once, resulting in unrealistic expectations of what can be achieved in the span of a day or week.

    The 3+ List

    Mazzone and coauthor Barbara Miglionico introduce the 3+ List, a technique for chipping away at tasks:

    Start each morning with a 3+ List. The three tasks are your nonnegotiable tasks that will make the day feel productive and successful. Rank them. Then add two "plus" tasks.

    Your plus tasks are not urgent and can be considered bonuses if you actually get to them. Post the 3+ List where you will see it, and cross off each item as you get it done.

    Monday's 3+ List

    1. Create tiered math assignment for tomorrow night's homework.

    2. Organize homogeneous book club groups.

    3. Send an e-mail blast to parents about an upcoming field trip.

    Plus List

    +1. Arrange a time to meet with the literacy coach next week.

    +2. Request whiteboard markers and masking tape.

    Stay attentive to your three tasks during the school day and don't add to them. After crossing off those tasks, you can consider working on the plus tasks. Plus tasks eventually make their way to the top of the list unless they are achieved as pluses.

    How to Organize Tasks

    When drafting a 3+ List, there's no out-of-the-box formula for deciding what takes priority. It needs to be a fluid process: if you're running on empty Friday morning or bombarded by a day of meetings or testing, then your 3+ List should be forgiving.

    Baumeister offers this advice for tasks that drag on: "Be flexible: many things take longer or more work than one anticipates." Often, the task was too big and needs to be broken down into smaller parts, or the following day's tasks need to be restructured to fit it in.

    Baumeister suggests an even easier solution to an incomplete list: "Just cross 'Wednesday' off the top and write 'Thursday!'"

    Celebrate Small Wins

    Creating a to-do list gives us a small win over our workload—and gifts us valuable headspace for those other 147 tasks on our plate. Choosing a few non-negotiables to undertake each day can increase our productivity, at least three (to five) tasks at a time.

    Welcome to the 2015 half of our school year. May you stay organized, healthy, and productive for the entire year!



    Learning From Each Other

    Teaching and learning are the two most vital components of our school district, and we believe regular classroom walkthroughs honor that importance. After over two hundred classroom visits between Cindy, Sheryl, Cathy, and me, we've learned a lot about teachers' instructional decisions and the health of our schools.

    When we observe teachers in their classrooms, we generally look for three big areas:

    · Student engagement—are students listening, writing, reading, interacting, or working alone?

    · Lesson and lesson objectives—what is being taught? Is the objective of the lesson is aligned within the curriculum?

    · Instructional strategies—what is the teacher doing to ensure students’ learning?

    In our learning walks this year, we've witnessed six heartening trends:

    • Student-friendly learning targets published as "I can ..." statements. One student at in a CHS math classroom not only identified what the present learning target was, but he mentioned where the learning was going beyond today's lesson, as well as what the previous learning target was. True, this student was remarkable, but we saw clear learning targets in many classrooms. What's more, when clear learning targets were posted, students could articulate what they were learning versus what they were doing to show evidence of their learning.

    According to education researcher and author John Hattie, communicating with students (and with parents) about our current learning targets has a solid influence (effect size) in effective, lasting learning for our students (see table below).

    What's an effect size? It’s the average difference between one type of instruction and a control condition. It indicates strength of the effect:

    .20= mild effect
    .50= moderate effect
    .80=strong effect (Hattie, 2006)

    • We've also seen clear evidence of collaborative planning as we walk classroom to classroom within the same 30-40 minutes. High school teachers are in sync with each other's lessons while still retaining individual teaching strengths. We applaud collaboration that invites differences as well as team approaches to aligning standards to instruction and to assessment.
    Middle school teachers share a clear focus on the close reading strategies from fall's collaborative teaming in cross-content areas. We also saw teachers effectively employing workshop strategies in several content areas where students conferred with each other on formative assessments. We saw teachers conferring with students to strengthen understanding and to help students take ownership of their learning.
    Walk from elementary classroom to elementary classroom, and you'll observe thoughtful progressions in Daily Five and CAFE, beginning with kindergarteners discussing schema and metacognition. In addition, teachers' work with Math Studio and Teachers' Development Group reinforces students' conversations by pressing students to justify their work and to make generalizations about math concepts. We also applaud the on-going assessments present as a foundation of elementary mathematical learning, as well as public records of students' thinking.
    • Evidence-based thinking, writing, and discussions--this is a huge shift from learning walks three years ago. Everywhere, from K-12 classrooms, we're seeing students dig into to their sources to discuss why they think what they think, cite the evidence that supports their thinking, and explain why that evidence is valid or invalid. We've learned from the teachers who encourage student voices, and then turn to the class, asking, "Do you agree or disagree with X's thinking and use of evidence?" It's the norm to see students turn and talk to each other, and then take the floor in discussing their agreement or disagreement in academic language.
    • Argumentation--what an incredible difference three years makes. Three years ago, the only teacher I knew who took on argument in formal study was CHS Speech and Debate coach Debbie Groff. Most of us weren't sure how to begin, what a warrant was, and how often we needed to practice claims, evidence, and counter claims. Now, third graders articulate stances on whether or not a main character in a narrative text is a hero, cite evidence, and acknowledge and answer counter claims. Not only do we know and practice the differences between persuasion and argument, some teachers, such as Trost's Abbie Perrin, feature arguments that students love to share with us. The idea of teaching argument was overwhelming three years ago; now you make it look easy. Three cheers for that!
    • Transparency in our practices--as we checked in with principals and teachers before and after our walkthroughs, we've felt welcomed and keenly aware of open doors into classrooms. Our districts' collective, collaborative mindset helps us all grow as educators, but we're experiencing something even deeper: an eagerness and a curiosity in learning that goes beyond trying to have everything right. We're not trying to be perfect; we're honoring missteps in a lesson or with a student through professional discussions in an effort to learn from each other. There's a groundswell of honest, professional feedback as we strive for on-going improvement in our students' achievement. There's a growing sense of celebration in our collective good work, which we heartily endorse.
    • Strong, positive relationships--while our classrooms have changed dramatically as CSD implemented CCSS and NGSS, we're remaining constant in our high regard for students and our interactions with them. Remember the STAR walkthrough from two years ago and how CSD teachers ranked high in their relationships with students? Well, we're still strong in our teacher-student connections, which also has a strong effect size. Kudos for knowing when to stay the course!
    We have a lot to learn from each other, so we will continue to practice regular walkthroughs into the new year. The more frequent our observations, the more we learn. Meanwhile, we are grateful and celebratory for all that we have learned from you and your students in the last three months.

    Thank you, and congratulations on all that you've accomplished together.


    Joan, Cindy, Cathy, and Sheryl


    Close Viewing, Listening, and Observing

    I've been writing a lot about close reading, which is an analysis of text in order to internalize three core concepts:

    • What it says (comprehension--standards 1, 2, 3)
    • How it says it (analysis--standards 4, 5, 6)
    • What it means (synthesis--standards 7, 8, 9)

    However, we can go further by applying the habit of close reading to other ways of thinking: viewing, listening, and observation.

    Watch this Teaching Channel video to see how the habit of close viewing can be applied to art:

    Click here to view the five-minute video

    Close viewing in art:

    • 1st viewing: What is it?
    • 2nd viewing: How was it created?
    • 3rd viewing: What does it mean?

    Close observing in science:

    What makes you think that?
    What evidence supports your conclusion?
    Can you justify your conclusion based on your evidence?

    CHS's Jeremy Ensrud Elaborates on Close Observing in Science:

    Initial Observations

    • What is happening? (Observation)
    • Why? Can you explain this phenomenon? (Hypothesis)
    • How can we test this? (Exploration, Critical Thinking)


    • What do the results tell you about your hypothesis? Do the results support or refute your hypothesis?
    • Can you identify specific data that led to your conclusion?
    • Use your understanding of the scientific evidence to justify your conclusion.

    Interpreting the results of the lab (Critical Thinking)

    Step 1: Write a sentence or two stating whether or not the results from the lab procedures fully support your hypothesis, do not support the hypothesis, or support the hypothesis but with certain exceptions.

    Step 2: In a paragraph, identify specific data from your lab that led you to either support or reject your hypothesis. Refer to

    the visual representations of your data as evidence to back up your judgment about the hypothesis.

    Step 3: In a paragraph or two, use your understanding of the scientific concept of this lab to explain why the results did or did not support your hypothesis. If the hypothesis from the Introduction was not fully supported, show how your understanding of the scientific concept has changed. Note any citations you use here for including in the Reference section of your report.

    Step 4: In a paragraph or two, restate the research question and present the answer your experiment has suggested for that question. Show how the experiment has helped you to solve for the unknowns.Then restate the problem that your research was designed to solve and discuss the solution to the problem suggested by the answer to the research question.

    Step 5: Discuss other items as appropriate, such as (1) any problems that occurred or sources of uncertainty in your lab procedure that may account for any unexpected results; (2) how your solution to the problem compared with the solutions of other students in the lab and an explanation for any differences; (3) suggestions for improving the lab.

    Close viewing of instructional videos to introduce an academic conversation:

    • Rule of thumb: one-minute of video per grade-level
    • Screening #1: listen for main ideas--note three that stand out
    • Screening #2: look for the ways the ideas were supported
    • Screening #3: (with sound off) notice the images and scene selections--how do they contribute to the message?
    • Screening #4: Focus on the soundtrack. How does the music affect the message?*
    • Screening #5: Focus on the speaker’s technique. What does he or she do to make the talk engaging?*
    * may not apply to your video choice

    Listening isn’t the same as passive hearing; it is purposeful, active, and interactive. Also, beginning critical thinking with analysis leads to deeper engagement and learning.

    Please contact me if you'd like help customizing a close thinking activity in your content area for your students.

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    Five Close Reading Strategies That Boost Comprehension

    I really liked this June 2012 post by Court Allam's blog iTeach. iCoach. iBlog on how to teach students close reading because it's so pragmatic and easy to follow:

    1. Number the paragraphs--the Common Core asks students to be able to cite and refer to the text. One simple way to do this is by numbering each paragraph, section or stanza in the left hand margin. When students refer to the text, I require them to state which paragraph they are referring to. The rest of the class will be able to quickly find the line being referred to.

    2. Chunk the text-when faced with a full page of text, reading it can quickly become overwhelming for students. Breaking up the text into smaller sections (or chunks) makes the page much more manageable for students. Students do this by drawing a horizontal line between paragraphs to divide the page into smaller sections.

    In the beginning, group the paragraphs into chunks before handing out the assignment. Say, “Chunk paragraphs 1-3, 4-5, 6-8, 9-12.” I look at the paragraphs to see where natural chunks occur. Paragraphs 1-3 may be the hook and thesis statement, while 6-8 may be the paragraphs where the author addresses the opposition. It is important to understand that there is no right or wrong way to chunk the text, as long as you can justify why you grouped certain paragraphs together.

    3. Underline and circle… with a purpose--direct students to underline and circle very specific things. Think about what information you want students to take from the text, and ask them to look for those elements. What you have students circle and underline will change depending on the text type. For example, when studying an argument, ask students to underline claims. We identify claims as belief statements that the author is making. Students will quickly discover that the author makes multiple claims throughout the argument.

    Circling specific items is also an effective close reading strategy. I often have my students circle “key terms” in the text. I define key terms as words that: are defined; are repeated throughout the text. If you only circled five key terms in the entire text, you would have a pretty good idea about what the entire text is about.

    I also have students to circle the names of sources or figurative language. Providing students with a specific thing you want them to underline or circle will focus their attention on that area much better than “underlining important information." By the end of the year, I begin to let go of that responsibility and ask my students to chunk the text on their own. They number the paragraphs then must make decisions about what paragraphs will be grouped together.

    4. Left margin: What is the author SAYING? It isn’t enough to ask students to “write in the margins”. We must be very specific and give students a game plan for what they will write. This is where the chunking comes into play.

    In the left margin, ask students to summarize each chunk. I demonstrate how to write summaries in 10-words or less. The chunking allows the students to look at the text in smaller segments, and summarize what the author is saying in just that small, specific chunk.

    5. Right margin: direct students to complete a specific task for each chunk. This may include:

    • Use a verb to describe what the author is DOING. (For example: Describing, illustrating, arguing, etc..) Note: It isn’t enough for students to write “Comparing” and be done. What is the author comparing? A better answer might be: “Comparing the character of Montag to Captain Beatty."
    • Represent the information with a picture. This is a good way for students to be creative to visually represent the chunk with a drawing.
    • Ask questions. This to be a struggle for many students, but when modeled by a teacher, students can begin to learn how to ask questions that dig deeper into the text.

    There are many other things students can write in the margins. However, we must model and teach these strategies so that students will have an idea of what to write when they are on their own.

    To ensure our students are college and career ready, we must teach them critical reading strategies in order for them to independently attack a text. They must learn how to own a text, rather than letting the text own them. After following these steps, students have read the text at least five times and they are actively interacting with the text. This is a much different experience than skimming through a text one time with a highlighter in hand.

    Here's a PowerPoint from ODE to make this lesson easier to internalize for your classes (see slides 5-6; slides 1-4 are skills that students will need to do well to be success with SBAC testing).

    ext. 3919


    Creating Mini-Performance Tasks

    There's a growing body of research suggesting that performance tasks embedded within curriculum improves instruction and supports children's higher-ordering thinking skills (Wood et al, 2010).

    I contend that effective assessment supports academic growth. Mini-performance tasks invite strategic thinking (DOK3) and help students build stamina and perseverance. From a teacher's point of view, mini-tasks are fun to create and interesting to deliver. Observe as much as you can, taking notes and realizing you can learn a lot about your students: who takes a long time coming up with ideas? Who jumped right in without planning? Who writes word by word, pausing between words or sentences? You are learning about your students as thinkers—that’s huge because you’ll be better able to coach them into being effective writers who can wrestle with complex thinking and problem solving.

    Most importantly, observation is the beginning of the one magic solution to improving student achievement: thoughtful, informed teacher observations, conversations, and collaboration. I like this template to hold my thinking as I observe students at work.

    I've co-opted the structure of SBAC's performance tasks to create smaller assessments (1-2 class periods) that teachers can embed in their curriculum to let students wrestle with content that matters in a way that prepares them for spring's SBAC performance tasks and for critical, creative thinking beyond high school.

    Stimulus (choose 2)

    Information Processing

    Product / Performance

    • Readings

    • Video Clips

    • Audio Clips

    • Research topic / issue / problem

    • Graphs, charts, other visuals

    • Images

    • Written responses: short answers, reports, summaries, scripts, short essays

    • Speeches

    • Performances

    • Diagrams / Pictures / other visuals

    Scoring: consider using one of the general 4-point rubrics from Marzano to score a task. If you already have an effective rubric to score evidence of student learning that matches your task, use that. In addition, here are SBAC rubrics for your consideration.

    Not satisfied? Call me--let's problem-solve together to create the best scoring tool for your students.

    Free Resources:

    Sample Mini-Tasks:

    Julie Johnson shared her process in creating mini-performance tasks for her students:
    Last year I decided as one of my professional goals that I would create four performance tasks
    for my 2nd Graders as they would be experiencing the new SBAC the following year. The first
    one I did was on bats. Using a guideline I got from Joan Flora to help make sure I used all the
    components of a good performance task, I searched through the CCSS and found a few
    standards that could be used as a reportable standard. Since my class is lucky enough to have
    iPads, the students retrieved their reading content through a quick response code, or QR Code.

    I teach the higher-ability ELA students. This PT works very well for them. This year my teaching partners adjusted the PT for their levels by going slower, having partners while reading, and modifying the final essay. It worked well.

    After completing my four performance tasks, the students had a better understanding of how a SBAC will look for them in third grade. I also think that sticking with one task over several days helps them build stamina on producing a final written piece that they can feel proud of.


    • Share a mini-performance task you've done with your students--perfection isn't our goal; we're all still learning. With your permission, I'll feature your work and process in a future post. Thanks in advance for considering sharing--that's how our district gets smarter.
    Create a mini-performance task for your students. Not sure how to start? Contact Cathy Lambeth or me for assistance.

    ext. 3919


    ELA Mini-Performance Task, Grades 6-12: Chief Joseph's Speech

    If you are familiar with Common Core reading standards, you probably already know–and maybe dread–standard #10: read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

    Fisher_&_Frey_Model_-_Structure_for_Instruction_that_WorksFor now, think in progressions–leave off the “independently and proficiently” part for now; that’s our goal, not our starting point. Remember, too, the these standards are benchmarks for what students will know and be able to do by the end of ____ grade. We have time, but we need to get started now.

    But which texts merit close, critical reading? I recommend you begin with less complex texts (think vocabulary, academic language, concepts) to build stamina and reading as thinking habits.

    Students won’t understand close, critical reading unless we teach it, so it’s vital that we understand how to teach it. We don’t resort to simply assigning it and rewarding students who happen to already read analytically while accidentally teaching the rest of the class to hate close reading. To ease the way, educators Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey and Diane Lapp share these guidelines for choosing a text for close study:

    • Select a short passage that is complex and worthy of study focus and time
    • Choose a section within a novel or another body of work that demands close reading for deep comprehension

    In a sample lesson below, Fisher and Frey highlight Chief Joseph’s surrender speech, “I will Fight no More Forever.” To understand the progressions of close, layered reading, follow these steps:

    • First reading: What does the text say? This is the literal foundationScreen Shot 2014-10-11 at 6.24.00 AM
    • Second reading: How does the text work? Notice the structural features–how does the author communicate?
    • Third reading: What does the text mean? This is the inference layer, which is the heart and soul of reading. You may be tempted to rush this part; don’t. Your patience will pay off in rich classroom discussions and writing if you follow the text-dependent questions. With time and consistency, your students gain stamina and strength to tackle this work independently.

    Insist that students hold their thinking via notes, guiding students each step of the way–don’t just throw this list at them. Slow down and do it with them; show them your notes for each layer. Be patient. Be zen. This is teaching as art.

    • annotating_textAnnotate the text in the service of comprehension; this becomes students’ visible footprints of thinking and future evidence for discussions and writing
    • Underline major points
    • Circle key words or phrases that are unknown or confusing (this helps students monitor their comprehension and stops them from saying, “I didn’t get it. Fix it for me.”)
    • Write margin notes restating author’s ideas
    • Consider additional annotations for students, once they understand the process; add “customized” notes that correspond with the text. For example, I like highlighters for Tracy Chapman’s song, “Fast Car,” marking evidence that indicates success for escaping poverty in one color and evidence that refutes success in a second color; look for facts vs. dreams.
    • Ask text-dependent questions (some literal, some structural, some inferential)—see progression of text-dependent questions chart above.
    • Give students a chance to struggle a bit—pause in disequilibrium to wrestle with problem-solving (aka thinking). Use your teacher spidey sense to read the room, allowing students to think not sink into frustration and quitting.

    Close reading of Chief Joseph’s surrender speech from Fisher and Frey:

    • Chief Joseph speech performance task questions via PowerPoint
    • Who is delivering the speech? What happened? (General understanding: what does the text say?)
    • What concerns does Chief Joseph have about the health and welfare of this his people? How do you know? (What does the text say? Key details)
    • What does Chief Joseph mean when he says, “From where the sun now stands?” (How does the text work? Figurative language)
    • What’s the tone of this speech? What words and phrases support your claim? (How does the text work? Vocabulary)
    • How does the structure of the speech convey Chief Joseph’s mood? (How does the text work? Structure)
    • Consider this line: “I will fight no more forever.” What is it about the word “forever” that makes this statement so memorable? (How does the text work? Structure)
    • Who is Chief Joseph referring to in this line: “I want to have time to look for my children? What other parts of the speech support your claim?(What does the text mean? Inferences)
    • Consider the second passage of his father’s deathbed plea (see PowerPoint above to access). How does this help you better understand the speech? What inner conflict would Chief Joseph have experienced? Where do you find evidence of conflict in the speech? (What does the text mean? Inference)

    Essay challenge: What is the role of surrender? After reading and discussing Chief Joseph’s speech, write an essay that defines courage and explains the courage of his decision to surrender. Support your written discussion with evidence from the text. What conclusions can you draw from this speech?

    Watch Doug Fisher deliver this lesson to students:

    Once students comprehend a short passage at a deep level, they’re ready to move beyond the three steps of close reading into the fourth level of social action:

    1. Reading and re-reading with you as the tour guide
    2. Annotating the text to hold thinking
    3. Creating text-dependent questions (literal, structural, inferential)
    4. Paying attention to social action challenge–what does this text move us to do?

    The fourth level of close reading is where your students will likely out-pace you in passion and energy. You’ve empowered them with deep understanding of one worthy text. Let them discuss and problem-solve disparities they discover in their lives. We don’t have to tell them that authentic learning carries the responsibility of action–they’ll feel it. This is where we need to get out of their way to let them lead.

    Meanwhile, you’ll be selecting the next worthy passage to study, repeating the steps above. I'll be cheering you on and will post resource sites and strategies for worthy, short passages for future study.

    Want to teach close reading together? Give me a call!



    ext. 3919


    Summer Learning for Canby Students and Staff

    Dozens of Canby teachers and other staff supported almost 700 preschool to high-school aged students this summer. Students practiced academic skills while enjoying enrichment learning experiences that included trips to the Oregon Zoo and Canby landmarks.

    Ecology was a focus of the high school class, whose activities included a trip to the Molalla River to measure water quality and examine the biology of the river.

    Jeremy Ensrud helps a student sift through a water sampleJeremy Ensrud helps a student sift through a water sample.

    Clackamas Watershed Learning

    Sixth-grade teachers Kim Kent and Gale Hipp measure water clarity with a turbidity tube, which measures the cloudiness of a fluid caused by large numbers of particles that are generally invisible to the naked eye, similar to smoke in the air. The measurement of turbidity is a key test of water quality.

    Both teachers received a stipend for the two-day workshop at Clackamas Community College through the watershed project.

    Genius Hour summer study

    After last year’s successes, several Canby teachers participated in the Genius Hour summer study for PSU credit, reading self-selected texts like Teach Like a Pirate to incorporate strategies to raise student engagement. The Genius Hour strategies integrate core literacy and math standards into students' research and presentations. Check out a summary of their learning on this Padlet. Look for Genius Hour opportunities next summer to earn college credit and to deepen your practice.

    Math and Art in Portland

    Fifth-grade students at Carus elementary school kicked off this school year with a trip to Portland to examine public art. Students learned how artists use design elements (line, shape, form, color, value, texture, space) and principles (pattern, contrast, emphasis, balance, proportion, harmony, and rhythm) in their work. The overlap between art and math was an important part of their experience. Fifth-grade teachers Stefanie Agar and Kathie Hamill organized the day.

    BPMS students hit the road…to Italy!

    After fundraising their way, twenty-nine Baker Prairie Middle School students toured Italy this summer with teachers Jim Nosen and Kim McKie.

    The group rewarded by “amazing experiences” including a guided tour of the Colosseum and other ancient structures many thousands of years old. In Gladiator School, students dressed in tunics and learned how to use swords, archery, and spears. The newly-trained gladiators agreed it was a trip they will never forget.


    Science Articles, K-12

    ReadWorks just published new science reading passages and questions sets (see links below).

    Try their tips for using the K-12 science and engineering-based passages in your classroom:

    • Use passages for independent work, small-group work, whole-class lessons, or teacher read-aloud lessons

    • Incorporate reading comprehension across content areas by using passages in your science classroom

    • Build essential background knowledge by using passages to support your science curriculum

    ReadWorks is a free of charge for teachers, and their research-based materials align with Common Core reading levels.
    The site is updated every week with new resource. It took me about two minutes to register for full access to the content.

    ext. 3919



    Lexile: 370

    "The Four Seasons"
    Lexile: 300

    "Cloudy and Sunny"
    Lexile: 110

    "How Plants Get Food and Water"
    Lexile: 440

    Lexile: 380

    1st Grade

    "No Problem"

    "Learning About Your World"
    Lexile: 290

    "Meet a Rattlesnake"
    Lexile: 430

    "Groundhogs are Diggers"
    Lexile: 370

    "How Do Apples Get to You?"
    Lexile: 450

    2nd Grade

    "Sarah the Seagull"
    Lexile: 710

    "Mr. Whiskers' Whiskers"
    Lexile: 490

    "Atka and the Wolves of South Salem"
    Lexile: 630

    "How Rocks Are Like Dessert"
    Lexile: 610

    "Macy the Elephant"
    Lexile: 810

    3rd Grade

    "Miss Johnson's Plant Experiment"
    Lexile: 700

    Lexile: 770

    "Saving the World From Smallpox"
    Lexile: 820

    "Solve It!"
    Lexile: 780

    "Your Body, Your Hair"
    Lexile: 1040

    4th Grade

    "How Glaciers Change the World"
    Lexile: 930

    “Pythons Invade the Florida Everglades”
    Lexile: 940

    "A Plant Puzzle"
    Lexile: 970

    "Sensing the World Around Us"
    Lexile: 970

    "Penguins: Up Close and Personal"
    Lexile: 1070

    5th Grade

    "Honey to the Bee"
    Lexile: 990

    "The Ecosystem of the Forest"
    Lexile: 1000

    "Energetic Emily"
    Lexile: 540

    "Tornado Scientists"
    Lexile: 940

    "The Chicken and the Egg"
    Lexile: 930

    6th Grade

    "Water from the Air: Cloud Forests"
    Lexile: 1060

    "The Origins of the Internet"
    Lexile: 1050

    "Inheritance of Traits"
    Lexile: 1110

    "It Would Be Hard to Smile at a Smilodon"
    Lexile: 1150

    "Fossils and Earthquakes"
    Lexile: 970

    7th Grade

    "Worldwide Loss of Bees a Growing Concern"
    Lexile: 1350

    "Water: A Give and Take"
    Lexile: 1050

    "The Eco Pyramid"
    Lexile: 1080

    "Naturally Selected to Survive"
    Lexile: 1090

    "Genetic Basis of Butterflies"
    Lexile: 1200

    8th Grade

    "The Woolly Mammoth"
    Lexile: 1070

    "Hoover Dam"
    Lexile: 1230

    "The Amazon Rainforest"
    Lexile: 1240

    "Seeing the Invisible: Mutualism and Plant Reproduction"
    Lexile: 1175

    "Mount Pinatubo and the Ring of Fire"
    Lexile: 1210

    9th - 10th Grade

    "Through the Nose"
    Lexile: 1180

    Lexile: 1120

    "How to Make a Better Robot"
    Lexile: 1140

    "Digitized Signals are the Future of the Black Box"
    Lexile: 1130

    11th - 12th Grade

    "Humanity on Record"
    Lexile: 1265

    "Water on the Earth"
    Lexile: 1300

    "The Meteor"
    Lexile: 1230

    "Changes in Biodiversity"
    Lexile: 1410


    Embracing Imperfection to Grow

    For this post, I'm reposting an edited version of Kate Roberts' and Maggie Beattie Roberts' recent post from their blog, Indent. I think it captures the spirit of risk-taking in self-selected challenges that many of us may have been afraid to try in recent years.

    In the essay “Failure is a Good Thing,” columnist Jon Carroll writes that every week, he knows that no matter what, one of his columns will be the worst one of the week. He says that while he used to try and avoid this each day, now he looks forward to it:

    I have learned to cherish that column. A successful column usually means that I am treading on familiar ground, going with the tricks that work, preaching to the choir or dressing up popular sentiments in fancy words. Often in my inferior columns, I am trying to pull off something I’ve never done before, something I’m not even sure can be done.

    We can think of our lessons and units in a similar way – that only by trying new things, by venturing out into uncharted territory, will we discover ourselves and our students as teachers and learners.

    Of course, it is difficult these days to embrace imperfection. We are in the age of teacher evaluations and multi-faceted performance assessments. While these new initiatives offer insight into what makes good teaching, it is equally true that our current climate does not lend itself to a spirit of “hey you guys, let’s mess up a lot!” But without this spirit, we will be in a choke hold. We will hang back. And if we hang back, it often means our students’ needs are not met. Hanging back means we don’t get better; we stay scared longer. Hanging back means we plague ourselves with doubt or guilt.

    Here are some ways to get started looking for the imperfect places in our teaching to dive into this year:

    1. Pick a unit/topic/issue/text you have always wanted to teach but aren’t sure how:

    Do you love graphic novels? Teach your kids how to write them! Frustrated by the lack of poetry in the CCSS? Teach the heck out of poetry, knowing that the skills found there will certainly be used elsewhere. Thinking that now is an essential time to teach your kids about the forces at play in places like Ferguson, MO? Dive in and try to do it right, knowing that even if you are clumsy now, you will teach it better next time.

    2. Try out a new “thing”

    Maybe it’s a new device, like using your iPad to track student conferences (try Evernote App for your notes), or maybe you’d like to start a class blog. Or you were at a workshop where someone shared how their students made movies to go along with the stories they wrote and you thought, “my class would love that!” Take this year to play with a new whatchamacallit.

    3. Take on an impossible challenge

    You may have notices a few gauntlets that have been thrown down in education. The standards ask us to help our students

    reach great heights. High-stakes testing asks students to do challenging tasks on demand. Then there are the challenges we have always faced – our students who read far below grade level, our students who feel unconnected to school. One way to dive into imperfection is to take on something that you may not be able to accomplish, but feel would help your students succeed.

    Do a full court press this year on a challenge you believe in and see what happens. Educator Lucy Calkins suggests that teachers choose one child and decide to change that child's life this year. Yes, more would be better, but if we do everything we can for one of our students, while still doing a great job with the rest, we can make a huge difference.

    4. Invite people to watch you teach (and vice versa)

    Of course, the ultimate test of our desire to find areas of imperfection in our work is to work publicly. Teaching in front of colleagues is the heart of our work, learning from each other, seeing what works, brainstorming solutions to tricky bits, leaning on each others’ expertise. Set up some classroom visits this year with people you like (or are intimidated by). Practice with each other and be sure to have fun.

    5. Learn how to frame your failures

    The thing about inviting imperfection into your life is that you are going to have to develop a good, healthy relationship with failure. You have a choice to make. Do you treat the chaos around you as a bad thing, something to be ashamed of, and apologize to the group in nervous tones? Or do you smile broadly and say, “Welcome! I’m so glad you are here – we are working on our debate skills. Today we focused on being sure to debate with passion and a sense of the counterargument. Clearly, we need to work tomorrow on a structure for our conversation. Any tips?” This ability to frame any imperfection against the goals you are aiming for allows you to name what your focus is, while allowing room for growth.

    With any challenge, self-selected or not, it's important to have appropriate support. The Office of Teaching and Learning strives to support you in your work with your students. We welcome your calls:

    Sheryl Lipski, Director: ext. 3918

    Cindy Bauer, support for language learners, migrant & homeless students, TAG, ext. 3959

    Joan Flora, support for literacy & instruction, ext, 3919

    Cathy Lambeth, support for mathematics & instruction, ext. 3917

    Happy New School Year!



    The Grand Finale

    Highlights of 2013-14

    It’s been a remarkable year of growth for Canby School District, and we think it’s important to take a moment to sit with our accomplishments before we move on to our summer lives:

    • Synergy: we not only survived; we were triumphant in the learning curve of a new reporting system. Yah, Tech Team! Yah, us!
    • Standards-Based Teaching and Learning Practices with a new Report Card: we're still learning, which is natural for such a shift in teaching and learning. We certainly know more about standard-based teaching, learning, and assessment than we did last year.
    • New English Language Proficiency Standards for ELL students: ODE's Tim Blackburn helped us unpack the dense standards so ELL teachers could more closely align with general education teachers and classroom content.
    • Next Generation Science Standards: we began our study, and we'll learn more next year as we get our minds around the new standards.
    • Curriculum Renewal--BPMS and Ninety-One middle school teachers piloted condensing new learning standards into learnable units of study for Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, Health, Art, Music, and Math. Their work continues into the summer months as they prepare for next year.
    • Field-testing SBAC: Trost 5th grade teachers gained first hand knowledge of what students will face next year in Smarter Balanced Assessments; teachers also gave ODE feedback on improving the test and testing constructs.
    • Understanding Poverty and Mind Sets: educators at Lee Elementary took on the big work of understanding how poverty impacts learning and what teachers can do to meet the diverse needs of their students.
    • Math Best Practices: Knight teachers are celebratory about their Math Studio accomplishments and look forward to deeper learning next year in mathematics.
    • A Great Year for Talent: Eccles' students showed true grit and courage in putting their talents on display in front of the entire student body. Everyone was encouraged to participate, and it was the first talent show Eccles has hosted in years.
    • Performance Tasks in ELA and in Mathematics: for the second year in a row, K-6 educators took on SBAC assessments to understand integrated literacy and math to better understand what our students need to know and be able to do for college and career readiness by the time they graduate into opportunities beyond our district.
    • A Focused K-5 Math Curriculum: this is huge work from where we were last year. Bravo for this heavy lifting through innovative thinking and collaboration.
    • Daily Five / CAFE Literacy Framework: this book study continued from last year and spread to Carus and Ninety-One Schools with PSU credit. Teachers continue to learn and refine what free choice literacy looks like in their classrooms.
    • Teachers Development Group: teachers continued to learn from each other and their students to increase the effectiveness of math instruction. It's exciting witnessing students increasing intellectual agility using Habits of Mind and Habits of Interaction.
    • Innovation Grants: we had to scale back a bit this year, but we're thrilled to offer Innovation Grants for next year, too. Yah, CSD School Board for keeping innovation alive and well in Canby!
    • Learning From Field Trips: teachers and administrators facilitated student travel to Costa Rica, Korea, and to this summer's trip to Germany, as well as adventures to Ashland, Idaho, Portland, Bonneville Dam, BizTown, and around Canby. You knocked yourselves out with fund raising and grant writing so students could learn outside classroom walls and experience life that they wouldn't have experienced without your efforts.
    • Technology Round Table with U.S. Department of Education: K-12 educators learned from each other as we spent two hours after school in conversation with national representatives on what technology looks like in our district and what happens when students have access to innovative practices.
    • Meeting Essential Skills for Graduation: CHS & Ackerman Academic teachers went above and beyond for their students to provide evidence on meeting or exceeding ODE standards in literacy and in mathematics.
    We've never met anyone who doesn't have an amazing teacher story about someone who changed a life from the classroom or from an athletic field or court. Every school day, teachers nurture, listen, encourage, applaud, and work to our best abilities to reach our many diverse students. Our work with students and each other matters, but now it's time to slow down.

    Take a bow; let the applause sink in (it may be soundless, but you may have heard in it how students looked at you when you showed compassion and understanding, even when you were exhausted). Nurture yourselves this summer as you slip into the pleasures of a slow cup of coffee, a fully read newspaper, and long conversations with people you love. You've so earned your rest. Yah, you!

    Happy summer! We look forward to seeing you in late August!

    Marilyn, Joe, Cindy, Joan, and Corina


    ¡Continúen aprendiendo, incluso durante el verano!

    Aprendizaje de verano

    Por: Colorín Colorado (2010)
    Esta sección incluye:

    Terminó la escuela pero esto no significa que los niños deben dejar de aprender o leer. El verano es un excelente momento para que los niños lean lo que más les gusta y para aprender cosas nuevas.

    Como padre o madre, hay varias cosas que puede hacer para incentivar a su hijo a leer y fortalecer sus destrezas de lectura y escritura durante el verano. ¡Infórmense con nuestros nuevos recursos!

    Lectura de verano Aprendizaje de verano

    Las actividades de verano ofrecen muchas oportunidades para relacionar las experiencias de la vida real con lo que leen sus hijos. En estos artículos encontrarán algunas sugerencias sobre cómo darle vida a la lectura y algunos títulos de libros para hacer distintas actividades.

    Listas de libros y revistas infantiles

    Listas de libros

    Revistas divertidas para la lectura de verano

    Highlights MagazineLas revistas pueden resultar una manera fantástica de motivar a los niños a leer. Quizá encuentre la revista preferida de su hijo en la biblioteca o bien puede suscribirse para recibirla en su casa.

    Si quiere recomendaciones de algunas buenas revistas en inglés para niños, consulte la lista de revistas de Reading Rockets.

    IGUANA Magazine

    Si le interesa una revista en español, pruebe la Revista IGUANA.

    Sitios de Internet para niños y familias

    Sitios en inglés

    Sitios bilingües para niños

    Sitios bilingües para familias

    Navegar en: Temas de la A a la Z > Consejos para padres
    Temas de la A a la Z > Lectura

    Todos los estudiantes: Leer, escribir y pensar a un nivel más profundo,



    Making Summer Reading Gains Possible

    Research shows that children who read during the summer gain reading skills, while those who do not often slide backward. According to experts, summer slide averages about two months or roughly 22 percent of the school year. Because of summer slide, it's necessary for teachers to spend at least a month re-teaching material that students have forgotten over the summer. That month of catching up means students lose a month that could have been spent on new information and skills.

    However, with adults' help, every child can hang on to learning over the summer months:

    Don’t let your child lose all the learning gains he or she made this year. Check out ReadWorks' summer themed passages and question sets (see below for passages for rising 5, 6, 7 grade-level readers).

    Newsela, also a free source, offers articles on current events, featuring fourth-twelfth grade-level short passages.

    Summer reading should be accessible, so be sure to choose passages that are at your child's level. Click here to learn how to help your reader find a good fit reading passage.

    Literacy tips for Parents:

    • Talk to your child about what he or she is reading. Ask open-ended questions such as "What do you think about that story?" "What would you have done if you were that character?"
    • Make reading and writing a regular part of your daily home activities. Let your child see you using reading and writing for real purposes.
    • Visit the public library. Help your child to get his or her own library card.
    • Read to your child regularly, even after your child is able to read some books independently.
    • Listen to your child read. Use strategies to help your child with tricky words. For example, when your child comes to an unfamiliar word, you might say, "Skip it and read to the end of the sentence. Now try again – what makes sense and looks like the word that you see?"
    • Praise your child's efforts at reading.
    • Play word games such as thinking of different words to describe the same things.
    • Support your child's writing. Have writing materials such as paper, markers, and pencils available. Read what your child writes.
    • Set reasonable limits for television viewing.
    Adapted from Mraz, Padak, & Baycich (2002).


    5th Grade Going into 6th Grade

    "The Mermaid of Kona, Hawaii"
    Lexile: 1010

    "Water, Water, Everywhere!"
    Lexile: 1010

    "The Ecosystem of the Forest"
    Lexile: 1000

    "The Canadian Beaver"
    Lexile: 1110

    "Marine Biology"
    Lexile: 890

    Lexile: 960

    "Cicadas: No Ordinary Bugs"
    Lexile: 880

    "Honey to the Bee"
    Lexile: 990

    "Growing from Green"
    Lexile: 1060

    "Blue Lightning"
    Lexile: 765

    6th Grade Going into 7th Grade

    "The Wonders of Flight"
    Lexile: 920

    "How Soccer Can Help Us Understands Physics"
    Lexile: 1060

    "The Inside Scoop"
    Lexile: 1170

    "Lightning and Fire"
    Lexile: 1080

    "Marine Biology"
    Lexile: 890

    "The Go-Kart"
    Lexile: 1020

    "The Tree House"
    Lexile: 850

    "The Venus Fly Trap"
    Lexile: 1200

    "Tugboats: Pushers and Pullers"
    Lexile: 1140

    7th Grade Going into 8th Grade

    "Genetic Basis of Butterflies"
    Lexile: 1200

    "The Boy Who Didn't Want to Catch"
    Lexile: 900

    "Worldwide Loss of Bees a Growing Concern"
    Lexile: 1350

    "Halau Hula"
    Lexile: 1120

    "Across the Lake"
    Lexile: 670

    "The Sounds of Baseball"
    Lexile: 1150

    "The Run"
    Lexile: 710

    Lexile: 800

    "The Unknown Hall of Famer"
    Lexile: 1220

    "Water: A Give and Take"
    Lexile: 1050


    The Power of Choice in Learning

    What are you most looking forward to today in your learning?

    That's the question education writer Eric Jensen, author of Teaching With Poverty in Mind and Engaging Students With Poverty in Mind, suggests that we begin each day with. Those eleven words are powerful and can give us insight into our students' learning and motivation processes. It's a good question to ask ourselves, too, as we power through to the end of the school year. Hopefully, we're still curious learners ourselves, so that simple question can reframe our thinking, too.

    Over 30 teachers contacted me about Genius Hour from last week's post. Thanks for your questions and comments. I asked Kim Kent to share her learning on the topic because she's been practicing Genius Hour with her Knight Elementary sixth-grade students:

    I've been teaching in a choice based classroom for two years now (mostly incorporating Daily 5 as well as some of my own stuff). The results are objectively impressive (e.g., my OAKS scores are up for two years in a row; I know that OAKS “is just a test, and not a great one," but I needed something quantifiable and external to help me make sure I wasn't just hoping I was right).
    However, as I get deeper and deeper into this, new questions arise. Here are just a few:
    1) Choice -- like EVERYTHING else -- doesn't work for everyone. I have kids for whom I've had to remove choice. I hate doing that, but when a kid is wasting time instead researching a topic, you've got to do what you've got to do. It is a small minority who can't handle choice, but they are there every year. What do I do with them? Most students I can scaffold choice until they can handle it, but there will still be one (or so) in a classroom of 30 who can't get there.
    2) How do I know it's truly choice that's working? I have a feeling that there is a strong correlation between teachers who are enthusiastic about choice and people who are enthusiastic about learning. That is, is it choice that's working or the fact that I just like to learn and when students are given choices, they bring me stuff I can learn about, so my enthusiasm is contagious? Can a teacher who feels uncomfortable about learning along with her students (instead of before her students), embrace choice? But that's not all -- how do I segregate the power of choice from the other stuff I do? How do I truly know what's working?
    3) Is there an age where this works better than others? Can primary aged students incorporate choice with the same effect?
    Interestingly, I just got a note from a student thanking me for allowing her the opportunity to pursue what she wanted to learn. Woo woo!

    Genius Hour website features three teacher interviews on what Genius Hour looks like in their classrooms:

      • Read more about the KWHLAQ chart that Paul uses for his classroom

    But What if I Don't Have Access to Technology?

    Baker Prairie Middle School's Steve Bonham chose a different path to offer his students' choices:

    I was faced with the dilemma to teach an elective class for third trimester. Knowing how unmotivated students could
    be at this time of the year, I wanted something that would be fun for both myself and the students. So fly fishing seemed like an obvious solution.
    However, each rod costs about $100.00 plus the line and the reel so a $200.00 price tag is really conservative for each setup. I knew this was not possible without some outside support. I called a local fly shop, and they put me in touch with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). They have an angler education program that provided all the equipment we needed to do this type of class on a large scale like 15-20 students.
    In the first class I had 11 students and we were able to go to the Canby pond at the end of the session to fish for half a day with instructors from the state as well as myself. All the students had a great time even though it was raining that day. We did not catch any fish, but it was still a enjoyable to see the students' improvement throughout the day on the water. This session we have more students, about 14, and we are looking forward to the day on the water at the end of the month.

    Does free choice in learning violate Common Core?!

    First of all, CCSS features and endorses integrated learning. Genius Hour integrates core literacy and math standards into students' research and presentations.

    Also, here's an except from CCSS about what the Standards don't cover:

    1. The Standards define what all students are expected to know and be able to do, not how teachers should teach. For instance, the use of play with young children is not specified by the Standards, but it is welcome as a valuable activity in its own right and as a way to help students meet the expectations in this document.

    2. While the Standards focus on what is most essential, they do not describe all that can or should be taught. A great deal is left to the discretion of teachers and curriculum developers. The aim of the Standards is to articulate the fundamentals, not to set out an exhaustive list or a set of restrictions that limits what can be taught beyond what is specified herein.

    I trust we still know how to have fun in our learning and can ease the way to fun, engaged learning, even in late May, for our students.