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Active Reading in 21st Century (41:365)

5th grade student actively reading online through Reading Street

5th grade student actively reading online through Reading Street

To some the term Active Reading may sound like an oxymoron… Isn’t reading supposed by relaxing? Well, yes and no. In order to teach kids the skills needed to comprehend and make higher level connections, they need to be active readers. So how do you make reading active?

 

Well, if you want to be 20th century about it, you can teach kids to use post-its or flags to mark their learning. It is a tried and true way that students have been using to mark their learning. I used it alot in graduate school, and it sure made my classmates and professors feel I was active with my reading. But as the 21st century crawls into schools, how do you teach students to active read on a device?

 

One of the ways that our students are able to access text is online. We are currently piloting Reading Street to see how this program assists students in meeting the needs of the Common Core and 21st century learning. To be honest, Reading Street did their homework. Students can interact with the text by flagging, marking and even adding hyperlinks for words they struggle to grasp. Even better, these active reading strategies are there for them when they return to the text. So their text becomes a platform to go global, make connections, and take reading to a whole new level.

Butt-ing in Line (38:365)

source: lifehacker.com

source: lifehacker.com

Ask any elementary principal this question and I can guess their answer, “Do you have problems with kids in lines?” I guarantee you that everyone will say YES! I was thinking about this today when I saw yet another write up of a kid in line.

 

No one likes when kids butt in line. When I was a kid I didn’t like it and I am sure you didn’t either. I talk to kids all the time about butting in line. I ask Why so often. Why do you care? Why do you butt? Why did you step on their toe? Why did you push him/her? It’s not like teachers aren’t teaching it because I see evidence of their efforts. Teachers in early grades practice standing in line. They try different combinations of the line. There are line leaders, tails, trails and the strong middle. Everyone has a place. Everyone will get a turn. Yet it goes on and on.

 

Fortunately, the older I get, the less I have to stand in line. I find myself in lines if I am going to a busy concert, sporting event or a supermarket before a snow. I am thankful I don’t have to sit in traffic because some of those lines are long! I have been more than annoyed at adults who just can’t wait their turn and butt in line. When this happens, I think of what I tell the kids and try to find peace with it.

 

Somewhere along the line (no pun intended) it stopped mattering….

 

 

Are we there yet? When change takes time

source: www.wauwatosa.k12.wi.us

source: www.wauwatosa.k12.wi.us

This year we have transitioned from traditional faculty meetings to Professional Learning Communities (PLC). The reason for this shift is twofold. First, our new evaluation tool requires (if you want to get higher rankings) participation and leadership in a PLC. The second, and more important reason, is that we are ready! But this change did not come over night, it took time!

 

I want to thank not only my PLN, but also those advisers and mentors who encourage me to push the envelope and try new things. In preparation for this change, I was provided so many tools and resources. I was told to “trust the process” and “empower the staff.” I am so thankful to have a network of stakeholders willing to provide guidance!

 

source: www.hr-survey.com

source: www.hr-survey.com

Based on our needs, we established PLCs for Math, Language Arts, Technology(these take place during the first faculty meeting of the month) and PBIS, Healthy Schools and Family/Community Engagement (which takes place during the second faculty meeting of the month).

Each of the PLCs has a chair and co-chair that was selected this summer. Yet,anyone can choose to present or take on a leadership role based on their interests. The PLCs have an agenda and are required to record their minutes.

At the end of every meeting, the PLC must do  ”plus/delta” to conclude their meeting. All minutes are then emailed to me and I send to the entire staff (eventually we will use a tool such as edmodo to chronicle our PLCs but we are not there yet). We are in the infancy of this model but it is clear that we are going in the right direction.

 I had leadership goosebumps

source: blog.speek.com

source: blog.speek.com

During our most recent PLCs, I found myself in a really great place. Honestly, I had leadership goose bumps. The conversation was thoughtful, and focused on continuous improvement. Teachers laughed, encouraged each other, discussed data, and made connections. I was impressed by the chairs who provided the framework for action research through their thoughtful integration of best practices, peer reviewed research, and technological resources that could be immediately implemented in the classroom. For instance, the Family/Community Engagement PLC used a tool I was not familiar with… Padlet! They used it to take notes and share their learning. I learned something new!  hashtag wow!

 

source: www.newcenturyeducation.org

source: www.newcenturyeducation.org

Honestly, we could have never engaged like this last year or the year before…. For one, I wasn’t ready! This transition is purposeful and takes a long time to build the capacity needed. As a principal, coordinating meetings in a de-centralized manner requires you to give up the traditional “control.” For some principals out there, it might difficult to up give that control… yet I see it more about giving control to those who matter most… your teachers!

 

Eventually, I would like to make these (and all PD sessions for that matter) voluntary. I feel that by giving teachers a choice on how they would like to develop professionally is the key to unlock the potential of true professionals! I can see in the future our staff getting beyond PLCs and creating something new based on their person and professional needs. We are not there yet…. yet!

 

Co-Authored by Celese Nolan (@litcoachmps), Instructional Coach, RM Bacon Elementary 

Micro-managing vs. sweating the small stuff?

In my previous post, We need to get down from the balcony and sweat the small stuff, I reflected on my evolving understanding of leadership in terms of being more connected with the details of student learning. Thankfully, the post initiated conversations both online and in person. I love it when a post can spark discussion!

source: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&docid=B8kFPlGYq4n55M&tbnid=oZhFxm4QJ2GsLM:&ved=0CAQQjB0&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.kraniumhr.com%2Fwhat-is-micromanagement%2F&ei=b-RVUpXvN_a-4AOR2YGIAQ&psig=AFQjCNHrV16h16qZQv94715rCS7VBgf9iA&ust=1381447090761891

source: http://www.kraniumhr.com/

I felt like I needed to revisit some of the concepts in sweating the small stuff. My interpretation of the small stuff is that we have to place importance on those things that move the organization forward. Some of these specific details such as the teaching standards, learning needs of students and importance of espoused theories vs. theories-in-use. In one of the follow up conversations, I was able to explain myself much clearer. One of the readers wondered if I was going to “micro-manage” more. Ugh, I never want to be viewed as a micro-manager. I stressed to this person that I was not going to become a micro-manager.

 

Then, as reflected more, I really thought about this question….

 

So what’s the real difference between micro- managing and sweating the small stuff?

 

 Here are some common attributes of a micro-manager:

  • They can nor or do not like to delegate
  • They spend time overseeing the process
  • They like to place value on little details as opposed to the bigger picture
  • They do not like people to make their own decisions

 

In contrast (or comparison) here are the attributes of sweating the small stuff:

  • The details of a project are important and can lead to a more effective outcome
  • The process should be followed and people should be held accountable for what they say they will do
  • Problems exist, and should be addressed before they become bigger
  • Ask the question…why?

why

As an employee I do not like to be micro-managed! Not sure who really does and I will not micro-manage as a leader. As a leader, I will sweat the details, ensure that things get accomplished, and if not, I will ask….why?

Dig the well before you are thirsty ~ Chinese Proverb

The Paradigm Shift: The Principal’s Evolving Role as Instructional Leader

Here is my PowerPoint for the presentation The Paradigm Shift: The Principal’s Evolving Role as Instructional Leader through the EIRC on July 17, 2013.

 

This workshop is designed to help school leaders find out how to…

  • Model 21st Century Leadership
  • Encourage staff to use tools to connect with parents and teachers
  • Redesign staff meetings to meet the needs of the common core
  • Make sense of digital curricula and how it impacts teaching and learning
  • Use data to drive school culture and climate
  • Use “Process-Centered” decision making

If this is water… what is education?

I was recently sent this amazing video made from a commencement speech title “This is Water.” The speech, given by David Foster Wallace, which was hardly known until it was discovered by The Glossary a few years after David had passed away.

 

In the beginning few lines of the speech, Wallace describes two young fish swimming past and older fish who says, “Good morning boys, how is the water?” The two young fish swim on and eventually one asks “What the hell is water?”

 

I’ve watched this video about 5 times now, and have discussed it with friends, co-workers and relatives. Now I ponder to myself, as a principal… if this is water, then what is education?

 

Let’s get the conversation started…. Tell me… what is education?

 

 

How about we let the kids figure out the achievement gap?

We started a Saturday program at my school in order to provide students with additional academic remediation, support, and some fun. I know that some of you might think this is just another “test prep” venture to raise scores considering we identified specific students, and it’s April…. You would be both correct and incorrect (or maybe it is just how you define test prep).

 

Here is a little information about the program. We have targeted about 30 students in grades 3, 4, and 5 to provide math and language arts remediation through a very effective tool. The tool that we use is SuccessMaker which is a digital learning curriculum that is designed to assess, remediate and instruct based on the Common Core and New Jersey Model Curriculum. In addition to the online instruction and assistance, we have teachers who work with students individually on their specific needs. SuccessMaker can develop specific lessons for the teachers and students to master. Additionally, SuccessMaker also facilitates 21st century learning as the students are required to use high levels of Blooms Taxonomy to solve problems while also providing them with the experience for taking the online assessments such PARCC.

 

But there is more to our program then SuccessMaker. First, team-building and cooperative learning activities are embedded within the structure of the program because we feel urged to not only address the academic needs but also the social and emotional needs of our learners. We want them to feel confident as they approach problems and situations that involve critical thinking.  Since we have the students grouped into three teams, we wanted to continue to push the envelope and challenge the students, and that is where Problem Based Learning comes in.

 

For our “problem”, the students are going to have determine why there is an achievement gap and what they can do to “solve” the problem. During the first session,  we presented them with the challenge and what the end result could look like (an invention, commercial, iMovie trailer, etc.). We also asked them to define what is a “problem” and why are some students achieving while others are not. For instance, in order to engage them in self reflection (we all know that kids like to point fingers), we asked the students this question, “Who is responsible for the achievement gap… is it parents, teachers, principals or students?” Most, if not all the students said the responsibility falls on themselves. Their rationale for owning the problem included items such as low self esteem, not paying attention, and not taking school seriously.

 

Over the next few weeks the students in PBL will be presented with data about the achievement gap as well as what adults say about the achievement gap. Ultimately, the students will solve this problem and present their findings to parents, teachers and other students at our culminating event on May 11.

 

I will make sure to report back on their progress each week as well as their solutions to this age old problem… why do some students achieve while others do not…..

 

 

Egg-Possible is Nothing!

“Doc” Bunny visited RM Bacon and had the kids estimate the amount of jelly beans in the jar for a clue to the Egg Hunt treasure

Ask any educator about the week before Spring Break and you will most likely get a similar answer. Even though it comes at different times each year, it always happens at the “right” time. Everyone needs a “break” from each other….

This year, we packed a few egg-tivities into our pre Spring Break Week.  We had a 5th grade math challenge, Students vs. Teachers Hockey Game, life cycle of a chick, egg dying, egg experiments,  egg tossing, scrambled eggs and the most intense Egg Hunt we have ever experienced (thanks to @mrsbensonsbunch for coordinating). The best part of the Egg Hunt was the prize waiting for each class when they finished… a new basket of toys for recess (courtesy of our Home and School Association).

In continuing with our schools’ dedication to “telling our story” we put together a video to show the lighter side of the week (the 9 minutes is well worth it because you see the Harlem Shake, the Wobble, and a lot of shenanigans)

Life Cycle of a Chicken

Mrs. Simpson also teachers students about Russian artifacts!

Egg-cited for Spring Break!

5th Grade Math Challenge

The 2012-13 theme for our school is “Impossible is Nothing!” but this week it was “Egg-possible is Nothing!”

Happy Birthday, and don’t forget your image!

Happy Birthday from the entire 5th Grade

Yesterday was a special day for me. It was my birthday.

 

The days started out as usual. I had to wrangle the kids out of bed, while my wife got their lunches together. Fortunately, the kids were “morning drama-free.” Once everyone was ready, they sat me down for my cards and presents. My family knows me all too well. Coffee mug, and coffee. Yes!

 

When I arrived at school everything appeared normal. I knew I had a weigh-in for our Biggest Loser competition. By the way, I love weigh-in day. Most of our school, who are competing in teams, gathers near the Nurse’s office. We are very competitive, so there is a lot of banter. I lost another 2 pounds, and considering the week I had, I was happy!

 

Office with tin foil everywhere

We had our announcements (Which I announced everyone else’s birthday, but conveniently forgot to mention mine), and security drill squeezed in before an administrator meeting at our BOE office. At the administrative meeting, my colleagues wished me Happy Birthday, and made lots of funny comments about getting older. After the meeting, I had a few folks to catch up with which proved to be very productive. I rushed back to school. I knew I had a busy schedule ahead of me with walkthroughs, meetings, and a bunch of loose ends to be followed up on (I had been out for a day and 1/2 this week).

 

As I walked through the parking lot at our school, I heard a few kids inside say, “Here he comes. Here comes Dr. Cook.” I entered the building and went up to the room where I heard the chatter. They were working on “math” and everything appeared normal. I went to my office and noticed that everything was NOT normal. While I was out, staff members (who have remained anonymous), tin foiled my entire office. Pictures, clocks, computers, chairs, papers, staplers, the list goes on and on were tin foiled. I went into my office bathroom and the toilet, sink, mirror, and anything else were tin foiled. Wow.

 

My bathroom was also covered with tin foil

As I mentioned earlier, I had a lot of walkthroughs to perform, meetings, and items to follow up on, so I just left my office with the tin foil all over the office. Then, as I walked around, a great deal of my staff gave me that Cheshire cat smile as they wished me Happy Birthday. They knew something, but no one gave up any names. The rest of the day was a blur.

 

After everyone cleared out at the end of the day, I finally was able to start making headway with getting rid of the tin foil. I just wanted to be able to sit in my chair and work. I left a bunch of the tin foil up for Monday. I then went through the cards from the students and teachers. Reading the cards was the best part of the day.

 

Before one of the suspicious jokester/teacher’s left, she reminded me that tin foil could be a symbolic message. “Dr, Cook, remember what you always say, Your Image is Our Image. Have a Happy Birthday!”

Our response ….

A few weeks ago I blogged about not knowing how I would deal with the tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary school. Fortunately, I came to the realization that it was not about me, but rather WE.

 

I was contacted by Neil Haley of the the Total Education Network to participate in a discussion on the tragedy. In the podcast, I talked about how our students, parents, and staff were part of the response.

 

Here is the podcast, I hope you will find our response to the tragedy to be worthwhile.

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