Wednesday, July 31, 2013

It's All About Planning...
The "To Do" List

Summer is going be over before we know it, With 47 days of summer behind me and 6 left ahead, I am racing to cross more items off of my “to do” list.  I am excited to share with you in this post a little about my summer project that was at the top of my summer “to do” list. Yay!- I just crossed it of my “to do” list. 

As I head back to work next week, I am preparing to support our newly hired teachers in staff development about Comprehensive Literacy and what balanced literacy instruction might look like in their classrooms. One of the tips I plan to share with them is the value of collaborative yearlong planning.

Our focus on collaborative planning immerged when our district began its Comprehensive Literacy Journey over six years ago.  During that time, collaborative planning and professional development focused on balanced literacy instruction beginning with a Reading Workshop instructional model. Over the course of the past six years, collaborative planning and professional development has included interactive read aloud, shared reading, guided reading, formative and summative reading assessment practices including running records, comprehension conversations, observational notes and checklists.

Last summer, collaborative planning and professional development grew to include the Writing Workshop instructional model as a way to implement Common Core Standards. Staff developers from the Reading and Writing Project provided professional development to our elementary teachers in best practice writing instruction to include the three text types of Common Core Writing: Opinion/Argument; Information and Narrative.  Throughout the year, our team of instructional coaches and myself supported this work in nine of our elementary schools.

As district literacy coach, my role was to help teachers plan literacy instruction that included the Common Core Standards. After much research, the decision was reached to implement the Common Core Standards through writing instruction- specifically writing workshop. We used the best practices and proven frameworks from the original Units of Study for Teaching Writing series by Lucy Calkins.  Our lessons were taken, primarily, from the 2011-2012 electronic version of Curricular Plans For The Reading Workshop and Writing Workshop, Grades K-6, 20112012, © 2011 by Lucy Calkins, Firsthand, Heinemann.  

Teachers implemented Common Core writing standards by providing instruction in each of the Common Core text types of writing during the year. Our ambitious goal was to strategically implement at least one text type of writing per trimester.  Every elementary classroom began writing workshop instruction using narrative writing CCSS writing standard 3. From there, grade levels cycled through additional units of study in the two other CCSS writing text types. Each unit of study lasted approximately 4-6 weeks. Many teachers revisited each of the text types of writing using additional units of study throughout the year. During each trimester, district grade level team meetings were offered to provide more professional development and planning opportunities.

To ensure we had a common framework for articulation, I created grade level specific English Language Arts Common Core Curricular maps that articulated when ELA Common Core Standards were taught during the year using the Calkins grade level reading and writing frameworks. This was helpful for district and site collaborative planning conversations, assessment, and professional development and coaching.

This summer, I have rewritten the curricular maps to reflect not only the California Common Core Standards but also the National Common Core Standards. My goal was to create a planning tool for teachers across the nation who were using the 2011-2012 electronic version of the Lucy Calkins Reading and Writing Workshop Curricular plans. These grade Common Core aligned English Language Arts Curricular Maps are available by grade level as well as a K-6 bundle. Included in the bundle and in the grade level specific Curricular Map packets is a yearlong unit planning template as well as a weekly reading and writing workshop-planning template to assist in planning. I hope it might be useful to those of you who are using the Lucy Calkins 2011-2012 electronic curricular plans.

I am excited to share these with you at my Teachers Pay Teachers store 

Happy Summer! 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Webinars with Lucy Calkins

YIKES-  Slow down, summer!
As the days of summer pass (and they still seem like they're racing!) I feel like I just caught my breath from the school year being over and we’re already half way through July. How can that be possible? I realize many of you are on summer vacation like myself and you are probably feeling, like me, where did the summer go?
Summer Sand Castle Fun July 4th

Webinar with Lucy Calkins 

Since my whirlwind trip to North Carolina, I have had a great good fortune of receiving a personal invitation from Teachers College to participate in two webinars with my mentor Lucy Calkins!  I was able to ask Lucy my burning questions about her new Common Core aligned writing curriculum. So you ask- what are some of my burning questions?     

How are your new Units of Study different from the first Units of Study in Writing?

  1. The new units are grade level specific and are aligned to the Common Core (CCSS)providing spiraled instruction in the three major CCSS areas of writing: Opinion- Writing Standard 1; Information- Writing Standard 2 and Narrative Writing Standard 3.
  2. The new units of study differ from the original units of study structure by making the connections  portion of the mini lesson briefer hence making it easier for children to stay engaged.
  3. The new units focus on a progression of skill development across grades. 
  4. Rubrics and checklists are provided to help students assess their own writing and set  clear goals to work toward. 
  5. The new units include grade level benchmark pieces are included  to show what students should be able to do by the end of the year.
  6. The new units include formative assessments for each of the three Common Core writing types which support responsive teaching and provide actionable feedback to students. 
  7. The new units include exemplar pieces of student writing that identify what is essential to help lift the students' level of learning.
  8. Each of the new units are comprised of about 20 sessions and go about six weeks.
  9. The new units have an "If-Then" curriculum that supports differentiation.
  10. The new units are written to provide teachers with a lot of support not a lot of work.
At Teachers College with Lucy

 To top it off Lucy sent me a personal email expressing her gratitude for my participation. I am eternally grateful for the honor to participate in the webinars and am completely humbled by her email.

For those of you interested in finding out more about this Common Core Aligned Writing Curriculum Lucy will be leading one day seminars across the nation in the upcoming months.  I was fortunate enough to participate this past Winter in Chicago and would highly recommend it. 

Also, since my last post, I have been busy trying to learn the in's and outs of blogging, TpT, and re-introducing a Mac platform to my PC brain. It's been a pretty steep learning curve for sure, but what a wonderful challenge to embrace. Wowza, so much to learn! I am grateful for the many wonderful people who have reached out to support me in this endeavor. 

Along this summer sogjourn, I've realized how the lessons I'm learning about building a blog are the same lessons I need to apply in my coaching: 
  • Relationships
  • Responsive
  • Reflect
  • Read
  • Resource 

What's On Your Mind?

I am constantly in awe of how passionate teachers are in terms of lifelong learning. So many of you are a testimony to that by spending your precious summer days researching blogs for instructional tips and tools as you prepare for the year ahead.  I am eager to hear what interests you and what you would like me to post about. Please help me out by sending me a literacy topic or two that interests you. I would love to hear from you. 

While summer is such a wonderful time, my mind has turned to school preparation. I feel the excitement, as I prepare for staff development in the new year ahead. I will be back at work in just about a week preparing for district-wide staff development and coaching as well as for a New Teacher Academy designed to support newly hired elementary teachers in our district learn the Comprehensive Literacy Model. Look for future posts about that. Also, I hope to post soon about my current project which is a Common Core Aligned English Language Arts curricular calendar that compliments Lucy Calkin's Common Core Reading and Writing Workshop curriculum. I hope you continue to read, relax and rejuvenate across the last few weeks of summer.