We are proud to announce LearnZillion’s 2014 Dream Team

Over 4,000 people applied for the 200 spots available on the 2014 Dream Team, making it harder to get onto the Dream Team than get into any Ivy League school! Selected for their content knowledge, grit and humility, these impressive math and English Language Arts (ELA) teachers represent the best of district, charter and independent schools in 42 states and three countries (U.S., Singapore and Tunisia). Together, the 2014 Dream Team has more than 2,300 years of teaching experience, ranging from two to 42 years in the classroom.

The Dream Team will convene in New Orleans for TeachFest, a unique professional development event from June 4-7, where they will kick-off a rigorous summer-long collaboration to create high-quality formative assessment tools and resources that will support teachers implementing the Common Core across the United States. Following TeachFest, Dream Team members will return to their respective districts and continue to work in facilitated online professional learning communities (PLCs).

As the 77 returning Dream Team members will attest, being on the Dream Team is “the best professional development of my career.” However, being on the Dream Team is about more than world-class PD and creating great content — it’s about being a member of a vibrant and enthusiastic community of educators who are eager to help others and hopeful about the future.

 

2014 Dream Team Members

Dream Team Member State School District / Charter
Heidi King AK Little Rock School District
Victoria Whitfield AL Autauga County School System
Amy Ordonez AZ Kyrene School Distrcit
Ben Metcalf AZ Washington Elementary School District
Cheryl Martin AZ Dysart Unified School District
Deanna Jergenson AZ Deer Valley Unified School District
Jessica Finley AZ Wilson School District No. 7
Jill Patruno AZ Paradise Valley Unified School District #69
Cheryl Shay CA Berryessa Union School District
Debbie Neighbors CA Berryessa Union School District
Debi Bober CA Long Beach Unified School District
Helen A. Papadopoulos CA Walnut Valley Unified School District
Jaime Bonato CA San Juan Unified School District
Kim Bobadilla CA Davis Joint Unified School District
Kristen Miller CA Natomas Unified School District
Laureen-Nadirah Nayo CA Pasadena Unified School District
Lisa Stone CA Santa Clara County Office of Education
Marcello Sgambelluri CA Santa Clara Unified School District
Miriam Hannig CA Union Elementary School District
Nikole Gaines Reina-Guerra CA Davis Joint Unified School District
Rebecca Scarfone CA Temecula Valley Unified School District
Ryan Keeley CA Berkeley Unified School District
George Christopher Moore (Chris) CO Littleton Public Schools
Katherine Christie CO Littleton Public Schools
Kristi Steele CO Littleton Public Schools
Ruth A. Melendez CO Academy District Twenty
Wendy Turner CO Denver Public Schools
Colleen Haberern CT Watertown Public Schools
Jacqueline Kremer CT Ledyard, CT (JWL) & IDCS is its own district
Jameson Parker CT Danbury Public Schools
Lorrie Quirk CT New Haven Public Schools
Rachel Saunders CT Danbury Public Schools
Tiffany Dietelbaum CT Naugatuck Public School District
Tracy Yanouzas CT Monroe Public Schools
Becky Nolin DC E.L. Haynes Public Charter School
Jacqueline Christy DC Washington, DC
John F. Mahoney DC District of Columbia Public Schools
Lauren Jarrell DC District of Columbia Public Schools
Lisa Apple DC E.L. Haynes Public Charter School
Marija Crosson DC District of Columbia Public Schools
Michael Gueltig DC District of Columbia Public Schools
Valerie Krauser DC DC Prep
Caitlin Salmon DE Reach Academy for Girls Charter School
Christina Hanna DE Christina School District
Erica Matlock DE Worcester County Public Schools
Karen Warner DE Cape Henlopen School District
Kate Bowski DE Cape Henlopen School District
Kate Libby DE Woodbridge Elementary School
Margaret Brady DE Red Clay School District
Michelle Morton DE Red Clay Consolidated School District
Shani Benson DE Capital School District
Shannon Lapinsky DE Caesar Rodney School District
Jeremy Thompson FL Sarasota County Public Schools
Olga Westergaard FL Hillsborough County Public Schools
Ahmed Najm GA St. Martin’s Episcopal School
Amy Stanley GA Whitfield County Schools
Brenda Reagan GA Retired
Cathleen A Dees GA Clayton County Public Schools
Christine S Collins GA Edinburg Academy
EJ Sharif GA Richmond County Public Schools
Katherine Learnard GA DeKalb County
Lexie April Mobley GA Fayette County Board of Education Fayetteville, GA
Linda S. Smith GA Atlanta Public Schools
Linda Trawick GA Cobb County School District
Lisa Ashmeade GA Cobb County Schools
Lorenzo Dale Robinson GA Fulton County Schools
Mariaum Brunner GA Lumpkin County Public Schools
Melissa Huneycutt GA Gwinnett County Public Schools
Meredith Fletcher GA Houston County Schools
Michelle Blackwell GA Odyssey
Robin Valentine GA Gwinnett County Public Schools
Heather Dawn Harmon ID SD #271 Coeur d’Alene School District
Stacie Knight ID Meridian Joint School District #2
Alison Childers IL Carmi-White County CUSD 5
Andrew Parece IL Chicago Public Schools
Gabrielle Testerman IL Oak Park River Forest High School District/District 200
Jenni Iwanski IL Saint Charles Community Unit School District 303
Jennifer Rising IL Science & Arts Academy, Des Plains
Jessica Pilgreen IL Wesclin Community Unit District #3
Kathy Ogean IL Oak Lawn Hometown School District 123
Kim Stancl IL Illinois School District U-46
Kyle Harlow IL Herrin Community Unit School District No. 4
Terry Vaughn Jr. IL Germantown Hills School District 69
Bradley Mitchell IN Archdiocese of Indianapolis
Cory Howard IN Maconaquah School Corporation
Kristi Harris IN Wawasee Community Schools
Natalie Hines IN Indianapolis Public Schools
Ronald Shaffer IN Maconaquah School Corporation
Sarah Smith IN Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation
Holly Milam-Bush KY Warren County Public Schools
Kelly Boles KY Floyd County Schools
Kimberly Johnson KY Jefferson County Public Schools
Leslie Lloyd KY Bullitt County Public Schools
Katy Patterson LA Orleans Parish School Board
Laci Maniscalco LA Lafayette Parish School System
Stephanie Renoda Gullage LA St. Charles Parish Public Schools
Andrew Vickstrom MA Wachusett Regional School District
Barbara Delaney MA Bellingham Public Schools
Dorrian Galvin MA Oakland Unified School District
Jil Blake MA Hartford
Alison Giska MD Worcester County Public Schools
Analin Adriano MD Mary Mcleod Bethune Day Public Charter School
Ashleigh Swiontek MD National Board Certified//Graduate School
Jennifer Reynolds MD Frederick County Public Schools
Julia Hill MD Worcester County Public Schools
Meghan Hearn MD Howard County Public Schools
Nick Pyzik MD Frederick County Public Schools
Rafael Velez MD District of Columbia Public Schools
Shanna Williams-Carr MD District of Columbia Public Schools
Rebecca Schouvieller ME Falmouth Public Schools
Anita Vecziedins MI Grand Rapids Public Schools
Abby Kahara MN Barnum Publich Schools
Carol DeFreese MO Ft. Zumwalt School District
Carolyn Sue Nixon MO Willard R-II School District
Amanda Gosek NC Johnston County Schools
Amy Barsanti NC Washington County Public Schools
Amy Phillips NC Chatham County Schools
Anna Gustaveson NC Orange County Public Schools
Carol Sholette-Gillespie NC Cumberland County Schools
Dana Marie Stachowiak NC Guilford County Schools
Daylen Moore NC Onslow County Schools
Kimberly Shelor NC New Hanover County School
Michelle Barnhill NC North Carolina Department of Public Instruction
Rachel Sanchez NC Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
William Jarrett NC Guilford County
Lisa Vojacek ND Grand Forks Public Schools
Shana Lindeman ND Grand Forks Public Schools
Elisabeth Chestnutt NH Amherst School District
Steve Lebel NH Derry Cooperative School District
Tim Putnam NH SAU 41 – Brookline Public Schools
Dianne Leoni NJ Hillsborough Township Public Schools
Elizabeth Stupar NJ Point Pleasant Borough School District
Mary Jane Custy NJ Flemington Raritan Schools
Rebecca Alvarado-Alcantar NM Las Cruces Public Schools
Chris Hayes NV Washoe County School District
Jodi Westmont NV Washoe County School District
Richard Villanueva NV Clark County School District
Alice Lombardo NY Rochester City School District
Caitlyn Calabrese NY New Visions for Public Schools
Daniel Steinberg NY Harlem Link Charter School
Dennis Pawlikowski NY Oswego City School District
Jacqueline Wagner NY District 15
Jeanette Simpson NY Penn Yan Central School
Jesse Goodglass NY Syracuse City School District
Juaneika Agyeman NY Lansingburgh Central School District
Julie Bocciolatt NY LaFargeville Central School
Lauren McIntyre NY Great Neck Public School District
Leslie Hefez NY New York City Public Schools District 15
Luciano D’Orazio NY New York City Department of Education
Mark Anderson NY Bronx District 10
Sarah Merchlewitz NY Manhattan District 3, Childrens First Network 408
Sarah Peterson NY New York City Public Schools
Staci Intriligator NY Various
Tammy Plucknette NY Elba Central School District
Wendy Sachel NY Phoenix Central School District
Samantha Fales OH Nordonia Hills City School District
Sarah Cummings OH Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools
Sierra Cooley OH Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow
Susan Nolan OH Coshocton City Schools
Michelle Collum OK Tulsa Public Schools
Stephanie Eggen OK Oklahoma City Public Schools
Elizabeth Tautalamoto Ellis OR Portland Public School District
Erin Maass OR North Clackamas School District #12
Jaimee Massie OR Eugene District 4J
Lisa Nichols OR Salem Keizer School District
Elizabeth Kim PA School District of Philadelphia
Ellen Hartman PA Commonwealth Connections Academy
Emily Edmonds PA Charter School Network
Leah R Weimerskirch PA New York City Department of Education
Megan Maples PA KIPP: Philadelphia Schools
Michael Cote PA Commonwealth Connections Academy
Rebecca Ritenour PA Uniontown Area
Stephanie Clarke PA Commonwealth Connections Academy
Sue Choi PA Spring-Ford Area School District
Stephen Skaggs RI North Kingstown School Department
Ashley Gombar SC Dorchester District 2
Daniel Stewart Beasley SC York District 3
Elizabeth Beerbower SC Dorchester District 2 Schools
Melissa Huffman SC Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5
Michelle Greene SC Darlington County School District
Kimberly Clark SD Multiple Districts in SD
Terri McComb Singapore Singapore American School
Christina Foran TN Tennessee State Special Schools
Tifin Calcagni Tunisia American Cooperative School of Tunis
Jennifer Yu TX Richardson Independent School District
Leslie Hirsh Ceballos TX Richardson Independent School District
Jennifer Shirts UT Jordan School District
Lauren Burton UT Alpine School District
Melissa Hesterman UT Mountain Heights Academy
Christine Gault VA Prince William County Schools
Jennifer Newman VA Friendship Public Charter Schools
Lindsay M. Stuart VA Alexandria City Public Schools
Sara Elizabeth Equi VA Roanoke City Public Schools
Michael Signal WA Auburn School District #408
Sarah Spring WA Auburn School District
Aaron Beiniek WI Whitnall School District
Dr. Michele Schmidt Moore WV Loudoun County Public Schools
Kayleigh Gillespie WV Putnam County Schools
Stephanie L. Runion WV Harrison County Schools
Virginia Guynn WV Berkeley County Public Schools

The Power of Delaware TeachFest

We are honored to be working with the State of Delaware to recruit and develop a Delaware Dream Team to create high-quality Common Core formative assessment items that will be shared with teachers throughout the state.

The video below gives you a quick view into the spirit and impact of working with teachers in this rigorous, collaborative way — a spirit that is shared by our own national Dream Team.

It is truly an honor to help develop the teachers that, in turn, make a difference for students every day.

STATE NAMES 97 TALENTED TEACHERS TO ‘CONNECTICUT DREAM TEAM’

We’re delighted to share that the Connecticut State Department of Education (SDE) has announced that 97 teachers from 86 schools across Connecticut will take part in TeachFest Connecticut, an intensive professional learning session on the Common Core State Standards, where they will develop high-quality resources to be shared with fellow teachers. The ‘Connecticut Dream Team’ will continue working with their peers in the weeks following TeachFest and later serve as teacher leaders at a larger event for Connecticut educators this summer. Participants teach a wide spectrum of different grade levels, with 60 specializing in English language arts and 37 in mathematics.

State names 97 teachers to the CT Dream Team

Commissioner Stefan Pryor announces members of the 2014 Connecticut Dream Team

“TeachFest will provide teachers with the opportunity to collaborate and innovate as they develop high-quality Common Core resources to be shared with their colleagues. Participants will also serve as teacher leaders in future Common Core-related events and activities. We thank and congratulate the teachers who have volunteered and been selected for the Connecticut Dream Team,” State Department of Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said. “This is a new and exciting element of our growing array of Common Core supports for teachers and school leaders. We are grateful to Governor Malloy and the General Assembly for providing the resources that enable us to provide these critical supports for educators.”  

TeachFest Connecticut represents one of the professional development opportunities supported by the State Department of Education regarding the implementation of the Common Core State Standards.The Connecticut Dream Team will first convene in Hartford from April 25-27 for TeachFest Connecticut, a celebration of teaching and an intensive, structured working session facilitated by LearnZillion. A provider of digital curriculum and professional development for the Common Core, LearnZillion developed this innovative model for their national Dream Team.

“Connecticut teachers’ response to this opportunity has been wonderful,” said Eric Westendorf, CEO of LearnZillion. “We’re excited to support the SDE’s commitment to teachers by sharing our high-energy, rigorous and practical approach to developing exceptional instructional practice with the Connecticut Dream Team.”

Following TeachFest, the Connecticut Dream Team members will return to their 86 elementary, middle and high schools to continue working with peers and content coaches in facilitated online professional learning communities (PLCs). During this process, the Dream Team members will translate their proven teaching methods and classroom expertise into high-quality Common Core resources for use by teachers in Connecticut and will be available on CTCoreStandards.org. These resources will also be made available to teachers across the country, through a free Common Core resource library.

“We applaud all of the teachers who stepped up and volunteered to serve in this important role. Their firsthand classroom experience will be invaluable in helping their colleagues effectively implement Common Core — an effort that has been a significant challenge for so many of our state’s schools,” AFT Connecticut President Melodie Peters said. “Classroom educators were among the first to speak out and urge that their voices be heard in making new teaching standards work when they were adopted four years ago. This effort reflects a major step forward for implementing the core set of standards because it empowers teachers to train teachers.”

The Connecticut Dream Team will later serve as teacher leaders for a “Common Core Fest” to be held for hundreds of teachers across the state on July 29, 2014.   In addition to the LearnZillion experience, the State Department of Education is already sponsoring a series of professional development opportunities for educators across Connecticut. Since the beginning of the school year, school and district leaders have taken part in “communities of practice”— gatherings which focus on implementing the new standards and sharing best practices already in place.

Also, the SDE has convened over 1,500 teachers from 163 districts as Common Core Coaches to develop expertise in the new standards through a series of trainings and webinars. Common Core training opportunities are also being designed for 600 new teachers, student teachers and their mentors, as well as the faculty of teacher-preparation programs.   The K-12 educators selected for the Connecticut Dream Team were chosen through a competitive statewide application on the basis of their content knowledge, grit, and understanding of the Common Core State Standards. Each educator demonstrated the commitment and ability to “scale their impact” beyond their classroom.

 Teachers named to the 2014 Connecticut Dream Team

 Name School District
Aaron Ribchinsky Mary Morrison Elementary and Catherine Kolnaski Magnet School Groton Public Schools
Alicia Loesche East Haven High School East Haven School District
Alicia Wetherbee Edna C. Stevens Elementary School Cromwell School District
Amanda Ashley Peterson Danbury High School Danbury School District
Amanda Johnson Danbury High School Danbury School District
Amy DiNoia Chippens Hill Middle School Bristol School District
Amy Inzero Elizabeth Green Newington School District
Andrew D. Deacon Colebrook Consolidated School Colebrook School District
Andrew Hill Brookfield High School Brookfield School District
Andrew Hutchinson Meriden Elementary Schools Meriden School District
Anna Capobianco Hall High School West Hartford School District
Barbara McLean Hubbell Elementary School Bristol School District
Barbette Warren CREC Public Safety Academy Enfield School District
Briana Visone Bloomfield High School Bloomfield School District
Catherine Freeman Sage Park Middle School Windsor School District
Cheryl R. Kerison Betsy Ross Arts Magnet School New Haven School District
Christine Turcotte-White Henry Barnard Elementary School Enfield School District
Christopher Affie Ansonia High School Ansonia School District
Clinton McLeod Anna H. Rockwell School Bethel School District
Colm Duffin New Britain High School New Britain School District
Corey Nagle Chippens Hill Middle School Bristol School District
Courtney Warner Cook Hill Elementary School Wallingford School District
Craig Wisniewski Martin Kellogg Middle School Newington School District
Danielle Durso Crosby High School Waterbury School District
David P Daigneault Robert E Fitch High School Groton Public Schools
Debra Parker New Fairfield Middle School New Fairfield School District
Diana Kloskowski Slade Middle School New Britain School District
Dr. Brian Moore Bullard Havens Technical High School Connecticut Technical High School System
Elizabeth Porter Chippens Hill Middle School Bristol School District
Ellen Meyer Broadview Middle School Danbury School District
Erin Birden Washington Primary School Regional School District 12
Eugenie George Achievement First Bridgeport Elementary Achievement First Bridgeport
Fallon Wagner Meriden Elementary Schools Meriden School District
Heather DeLaurentis Polson Middle School Madison School District
Hillary Singer Roger’s Park Middle School Danbury School District
Jacqueline Kremer Integrated Day Charter School, Norwich; Juliet W. Long, Ledyard Integrated Day Charter School
Jane Giresi Miller-Driscoll School Wilton School District
Jane Martellino Warren School, James Morris School, and Goshen Center School Regional School District 06
Jane S Potts Mary Morrisson Elementary Groton Public Schools
Jennifer DeRagon Coventry High School Coventry Public School District
Jennifer Lizee-Hammer Pleasant Valley South Windsor School District
Jennifer McDougall Captain Nathan Hale Middle School Coventry Public School District
Jennifer Murrihy Frank T. Wheeler Elementary Plainville School District
Jessica Szafran A Ward Spaulding Elementary School Suffield School District
Josh Egan Washington Middle School Meriden School District
Kara levenduski Robert J. O’Brien STEM Elementary School East Hartford School District
Karen Ciarleglio Montowese Elementary North Haven School District
Kari Baransky Roger Sherman Elementary Meriden School District
Katherine Brodaski New London High School New London Public Schools
Katherine Jesmonth William J. Johnston Middle School Colchester Public Schools
Kelly Bouchard Ellen P. Hubbell School Bristol School District
Kelly Palaia International Magnet School for Global Citizenship Capital Region Education Council
Kevin Stevenson The Friendship School Waterford Public Schools
Kristen Grabowski Tolland Intermediate School Tolland School District
Kristin LaLima Griswold Middle School Griswold Public Schools
Laurie LaBossiere Griswold Middle School Griswold Public Schools
Laury LaMarche C.B. Jennings New London Public Schools
Lisa Handfield Andover Elementary School Andover School District
Marika Heughins Pawcatuck Middle School Stonington Public Schools
Mariliz Fitzpatrick Chippens Hill Middle School Bristol School District
Mary Kay Rendock Carmen Arace Intermediate School Bloomfield School District
Mary Lou Woods Meriden Elementary Schools Meriden School District
Mary Strout Griswold Elementary School Griswold Public Schools
MaryJean Giannetti Meriden Elementary Schools Meriden School District
Matthew Taber Coginchaug Regional HS Regional School District 13
Melissa Potamianos Orchard Hill South Windsor School District
Michelle Bartlett Sunnyside School Shelton School District
Michelle Combs Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School New London Public Schools
Monica Lloyd Toquam Magnet Elementary School Stamford School District
Nadine Keane Griswold High School Griswold Public Schools
Natasha Domina North Haven Middle School North Haven School District
Paul Jeffrey Laedke New Fairfield Middle School New Fairfield School District
Randy Ewart Windsor High School Windsor School District
Rita Gregory Booth Free School Regional School District 12
Robin Greenwald Leonard J. Tyl Middle School Montville Public Schools
Robin Moore James Morris School Regional School District 06
Rosanne Field Batcheller Early Learning Center Winchester School District
Ryan Howard Classical Studies Academy Bridgeport School District
Sarah Forler Hartland School Hartland School District
Sarah Worley Discovery Academy Capital Region Education Council
Shannon VanderMale Essex Elementary School Essex School District
Sharon Campolo Greene-Hills School Bristol School District
Sherri Hall Sarah J. Rawson Hartford School District
Stacey Albertson Dunbar Hill Elementary School Hamden School District
Stephanie McKenna Wethersfield High School Wethersfield School District
Steven Gionfriddo John C. Mead School Ansonia School District
Steven St. Onge Cromwell Middle School Cromwell School District
Susan Coyle Bullard Havens Technical High School Connecticut Technical High School System
Tawana Graham-Douglas Plainville Elementary Schools Plainville School District
Tiffany Deitelbaum City Hill Middle School Naugatuck School District
Tim Shortt Worthington Hooker School New Haven School District
Tina Eisenbeis Pawcatuck Middle School Stonington Public Schools
Tina Manus Platt Tech High School & Bridgeport Adult Education Connecticut Technical High School System
Tomasa Raver Center School Ellington School District
Vannessa Jane Riggio Chester Elementary School Regional School District 04
Victoria Fox Captain Nathan Hale Middle School Coventry Public School District
William McKinney Wilbur Cross High School New Haven School District

5 minutes to powerful whole class instruction

Thousands of teachers use LearnZillion every day to help their students learn.  But how do they do it? How can a 5 minute math or ELA video lesson help to drive high quality Common Core instruction? These teachers think of LearnZillion lessons as orange juice concentrate: they’re short but if you add water – in the form of questions, practice problems, and tasks – they expand into an amazing whole lesson.  In other words, these lessons are a perfect starting point for their whole class planning and instruction.

How LearnZillion Works

Each lesson on LearnZillion has been created by a member of our Dream Team directly from the language of the Common Core State Standards. As a result, every lesson is grade-level appropriate, visual, and focused on explaining the concepts at the heart of a standard.  In other words, it’s dense with high-quality, easy-to-understand Common Core content.  It’s also practical – each lesson comes with a set of power point slides that can be downloaded and customized to your particular class.

Learn how to customize downloadable slides

Learn how to customize downloadable slides

 

Turning LearnZillion concentrate into juice

Here are a few tips from our community about how to turn our short videos into powerful whole class instruction:

  1. Add stopping points and questions to the video lesson.  For example, stop at the “Common Misunderstanding” part of the video lessons and ask, “why do you think students make that mistake?”
  2. Use the guided practice and extension activities at the end of many of our slides as a basis for in-class practice.
  3. Personalize and customize LearnZillion’s downloadable slides to create practice worksheets (see 5 ways to leverage LearnZillion’s Downloadable Slides for more ideas)

For more ideas, check out the lesson plans we’ve developed for the essential 3rd-8th grade math standards, or watch this engaging video discussion with Nick Pyzik, an elementary school teacher and math coach at Tuscarora Elementary School in Ballenger Creek, Maryland. Nick gives specific examples about how he uses LearnZillion to streamline his own planning, reflects on student reactions to using LearnZillion lessons in the classroom, and shares how he’s using LearnZillion as a coach.

Ways to use LearnZillion

 

What else can you do with the lessons?

When LearnZillion lessons are the building blocks for whole class instruction, it’s even easier to use them for differentiation, for homework, or for parent engagement. Students will benefit from that direct link to what happened in class, and parents can finally make sense of the standards-driven shifts. Administrators, too, are using LearnZillion Premium as the backbone of a digital Common Core curriculum, and to help drive high-quality professional development.

 

Stay in touch!

We like to help all our users benefit from ideas and discoveries, so thanks in advance for sharing your experiences and advice for using LearnZillion with us!

My First Year Teaching: Discovering the Magic of Watching Great Teachers Work

Boaz Munro, former 3rd grade teacher

Boaz Munro, former 1st grade teacher

My first day teaching on my own came about two weeks into the school year.   I worked at an elementary charter school that devoted the beginning of the year almost entirely to promoting an orderly yet joyful school culture.  My first several days in the classroom, therefore, were spent supporting my more experienced co-teacher as she led activities and games to prepare our kids to be diligent scholars and responsible citizens.

By the end of this initial period, I felt much less nervous than I had on the first day of the year.  I had bonded in small ways with my students, met their parents, and even led some brief activities in front of the class under my co-teacher’s supervision.  I was cautiously confident about being a teacher.

A Confident Start

During those first few weeks, we had assessed each student’s reading level and organized them into leveled guided reading groups named for the planets in the solar system.  I was in charge of Uranus—10 students at a small, crescent-shaped table—until the next assessment six weeks later.  I had planned the next six weeks carefully, organizing my library, downloading resources, and studying research on reading comprehension.

And now the day had come.  I had a hand-drawn visual anchor up on my easel, a fresh container of sharpened pencils, and placed a shiny book in front of each little seat.  I expected the students to file in and sit down respectfully, hands folded, eyes on me.  And that’s exactly what happened.

A Humbling Realization

Just kidding.  That first class quickly fell apart, as would many others.  As anyone who has ever taught knows, and as my colleagues Posie Wood and Alix Guerrier have vividly related in their own stories, the first year of teaching is one of the most humbling experiences a person can have. I spent hours preparing for each day’s class, and was still not moving my students nearly far enough.  My students’ reading levels were not increasing as quickly as those of their schoolmates.

Looking back, it’s easy to see why.  So often, I taught my students skills or standards I had never seen anyone teach before.  All of the lessons I planned started with an “I-do”—a modeling of the skill I was trying to teach—and yet I was not watching enough people model the skills I was trying to learn.

A Hope for Support

The times when I improved the most were the times when I stopped toiling alone for a moment and learned from mentors around me.  Occasionally my coach would cover a class so I could observe my co-teacher explaining a difficult concept, or I would sit with the academic dean and we would plan a lesson together.  Just like my students, I learned best by watching talented people work.  This simple realization improved my teaching significantly.  The well-known “beg, borrow, and steal” mantra described by my colleague Lisa Bernstein in a recent post is apt, but I would add a fourth verb: watch.  Watching great teachers work, by sitting next to them to plan or observing their instruction, was unquestionably the single best thing I did to improve my teaching practice during my time in the classroom.  

But there were obstacles to watching these great teachers as much as I wanted to.  I had my own students to look after, and they had theirs; I could only visit other classrooms occasionally.    

Technology has removed these obstacles.  Watching great teachers work is exactly what LearnZillion enables us to do—every day.  Each LearnZillion video is created by an exceptional teacher from around the country, with support from academic coaches, LearnZillion media experts, and peers. These teachers have watched and worked with the best.   They have struggled with the question how best to teach the same standards millions of teachers are adjusting to, and the results of their work are available for old and new teachers to learn from.

Watching the lessons on LearnZillion is like standing in back of a great teacher’s classroom—you’ll see concepts your kids need to learn a new way.  Most likely, you’ll customize or improve on what you see.  As we grow as teachers, our students benefit.

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The secret to amazing Professional Development: The 3 P’s

When people ask me for the secret to great professional development, I share our 3 Ps.

Funnily enough, we discovered these 3 P’s by accident. In the summer of 2011, thanks to a Next Generation Learning Challenge Grant, we brought 20 teachers from around the country together to work on the first batch of LearnZillion lessons.  For two days we sat in a cramped room with math books, computers, and treats, working on lessons. At the end of the two days, several of the teachers said that it had been “the best professional development” of their career.

A year later it happened again.  This time we brought 123 teachers to Atlanta and called the event TeachFest.  On the second night, after a full day of working on lessons, we gave everyone an option.  They could go out on the town, watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on a large screen, or continue working on lessons in the basement.  At 11pm, half the teachers were still working in the basement.  Again, the feedback at the end of the event was, “this was the best professional development.”

It was a revelation that our content creation process was, in fact, the key to incredible professional growth, satisfaction and impact.  And when we analyzed why that was, it boiled down to 3 Ps: product, process, and people.

1. Product

DT quote 3 v2

The experience is focused on developing a final producta lesson.  The product is practical, meaningful, and challenging to create.  The teachers know they are going to use the lessons, and that other teachers and students are going to use them too.

Lesson on a computer

Most professional development focuses on professional development.  We have come to believe that professional development is most powerful when focused on creating something useful; professional development is the by-product of creating a product.

2.  Process

Focusing on a final product isn’t enough.  Teachers have to be set up for success.  There needs to be a roadmap that provides them with the guidance and resources they need to accomplish the goal – from initial research, to outlines, to drafting.  At TeachFest, we didn’t say, here’s a block of time to plan, go for it.  We thought through every step of the process and asked ourselves, “what does the teacher need to be successful now.  What about now?  What about now?”  And then we equipped them with those things.

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Here, for example, is an overview of our TeachFest roadmap:

LearnZillion Process

LearnZillion lesson creation process

3.  People

The final P stands for people.  The 20 teachers at that initial convening helped each other out.  

DT quote 1

When one of them had a question about their lesson, they would talk it through with a colleague or a coach.  They had opportunities to get feedback and then make revisions to their work based on that feedback.  This happened in person and then continued on-line over the summer as teachers worked on their lessons.  As a result, most of the experience looked like this…

Teacher Collaboration

Dream Team teachers collaborating at TeachFest

…as opposed to looking like an expert standing in front of a large group of people.

Put them together and what have you got…

McDonald’s talks about its “secret sauce.”  When it comes to professional development we believe the sauce shouldn’t be secret.  Just remember the 3 Ps.  Put them together and you create amazing lessons, build the capacity of teachers, and have a lot of fun.

DT quote 4

Dream Team 2013 group shot

National LearnZillion 2013 Dream Team

4 Tips for Aligning Your ELA Lessons to the Common Core

Four impressive 2013 Dream Team teachers and coaches shared their best tips for updating ELA curriculum to fit the Common Core in a recent webinar. The result?  This handy guide for aligning your ELA lessons to the new standards.

blog

Idea 1. Leverage Text-Dependent Questions

Use text-dependent questions to chunk a text into more manageable pieces. Build a series of text-dependent questions to scaffold over the course of the text, allowing struggling readers to focus on just one section of the text in the beginning and work their way up toward a more holistic view. Rather than prepare many texts for different level readers, use text dependent questions to make one grade-level, model text approachable for all students.

How this helps: Deepen student exploration of text, relieve anxiety around reading, and increase classroom preparation efficiency by leveraging scaffolded text dependent questions.

Idea 2. Show the purpose behind a strategy

Actually show kids the purpose behind the strategies that you teach. Model how a strategy can be applied when approaching questions similar in nature. Watch a LearnZillion writing or close reading lesson to see how the teacher has divided the skill up into manageable steps.

How this helps: Thinking aloud and drawing connections encourages kids to own their strategies.

Idea 3. When evaluating resources, look for authentic and worthwhile texts and topics 

Select worthwhile texts that will help contribute to students’ college and career readiness. Create text sets around a common theme or topic, integrating fiction and non-fiction. This provides your students with opportunities to make connections across texts. Reading standard 7 also calls for students to interact with and evaluate different mediums (e.g. illustrations, video, and multimedia), so look for anchor and ancillary resources that together can create a cohesive set.

How this helps: Spend class time on worthwhile resources and materials that students can really “sink their teeth into.”

Idea 4. Collaborate across subject areas

Make interdisciplinary connections. The writing and reading expectations and language should be consistent for students whether they are in science, history, social studies, or English 1. Work with your colleagues to hold students responsible for applying the same lines of questioning and deep thinking whenever they’re interacting with text.  The reinforcement of close-reading and literacy standards across the curriculum provides continuity for students and an opportunity for teachers to come together and evaluate students’ strengths and areas for growth.

How this helps: Coordinating with colleagues in other disciplines establishes continuity of reading and writing expectations.

For more on aligning your ELA lessons to the Common Core check out some of our other posts on crafting text-dependent questions and tips for close reading.

If you have additional strategies you find helpful, please let us know by posting a comment below.

 

Apply to Join the 2014 Dream Team

Watch this short video to learn how to apply to the 2014 LearnZillion Dream Team.

 

LearnZillion is looking for 200 exceptional educators to join the 2014 Dream Team. If you are a teacher who wants to broaden your impact, learn from content experts, and challenge yourself in new and exciting ways, then this is the professional development experience for you. Watch this short video to learn more. Apply today at dreamteam.fluidreview.com.

Delaware Names 34 Teachers to the Delaware Dream Team

We’re excited to announce that the 34 members of Delaware’s inaugural Dream Team have been announced!

(To recap – Delaware selected LearnZillion to lead the state’s professional development offering over several other much larger and more traditional companies last fall.)

Details of Delaware’s Press Release below – Stay tuned for news from Delaware’s TeachFest, to be held January 9-11, 2014.

For immediate release

 

Contact Alison May (302) 735-4000

STATE NAMES 34 TEACHERS TO DREAM TEAM

Thirty-four teachers from across the state will join the Delaware Dream Team, helping to develop high-quality Common Core formative assessment items that will be shared with teachers throughout Delaware.

Members will collaborate in small groups with fellow teachers and Common Core coaches from across the country to create resources, receive feedback and learn together. They will share their professional development experience with colleagues to further broaden their impact.

“The 2014 Delaware Dream Team is both an opportunity to recognize some of the state’s most accomplished teachers and a challenge to those individuals to continue to grow, to make collaboration an integral part of their practice and to create high-quality materials that will help teachers and students across our state — and around the country — be successful,” Secretary of Education Mark Murphy said.

The team will convene January 9 to 11 for Delaware’s TeachFest, a unique celebration of great teaching and an intensive, structured working session. Following TeachFest, the Delaware Dream Team members will return to their 31 elementary, middle and high schools to continue working with peers and content coaches in online professional learning communities. During this process, the Dream Team members will translate their proven teaching methods and classroom expertise into formative assessment tools and resources for use by teachers in Delaware, and around the country, through a free Common Core resource library.

The Delaware Department of Education is partnering with LearnZillion on this project. This summer, LearnZillion worked with 200 teachers from 42 states to create more than 10,000 high-quality, Common Core resources in math and English language arts. They are featured on the LearnZillion website.

“We couldn’t be more excited about working with Delaware,” said LearnZillion CEO Eric Westendorf. “[Delaware leaders] really understand that teachers are the most important factor in student learning, and that the traditional model of ‘sit n’ get’ professional development doesn’t work. They are choosing to do what all the research on talent development recommends – namely, to support professional growth by providing deep practice of do-able, bite-sized tasks. We’re so energized to help make that happen.”

Members of the 2014 Delaware Dream Team, who each will receive a $500 stipend, were selected through a competitive application process evaluating both their understanding of the Common Core State Standards and their desire to “scale their impact” beyond the walls of their own classrooms. The teachers themselves represent a wide spectrum of grade bands, with 22 from English language arts and 12 from mathematics disciplines.

Members of the 2014 Delaware Dream Team

Members of the 2014 Delaware Dream Team

 

3 Steps to Understanding Your Common Core ELA Standards

Here at LearnZillion we’ve spent a lot of time with our Dream Team teachers digging into the Common Core ELA standards, and we hope this post can serve as a useful guide to you. Our three steps are:

Common Core Lesson Plans, ELA, English, Common Core Standards

Step 1. Do a vertical analysis of the standards

The ELA standards were written in a continuum, backwards mapped from anchor “College and Career Ready Standards.” In order to understand their expectations, you need to look vertically across that continuum to understand not only the foundational knowledge assumed from previous grades, but also the skills and understandings you’re setting students up for tackling in the future. It’s important to spend time both examining a your grade band (the grades immediately above and below your own) as well as a larger grade span (for example, kindergarten through fifth grade) so that you can really see how the standards spiral together. We like this version of the standards because it allows you to read the standards across three grades at a time.

Step 2. Notice shifts in key nouns and verbs

It’s important to look beyond just “what’s new” in your grade level to notice the language used in the standards themselves. Pay close attention to shifts in the nouns and verbs, as we’ve noticed that even seemingly subtle distinctions between grade-levels can reveal major changes in expected student outcomes. The language of the standards also provides a framework for the vocabulary you will use as you write objectives, lessons, and model for your students.

Here, for example, is an analysis that looks at Reading Informational text Standard Three in grades three through five. We’ve highlighted some of the key differences in each grade so you can see this for yourself.

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 7.16.13 PM

Learn how to analyze standards across grades and more in this post

Notice that third grade students must describe certain types of relationships using time, sequence, and cause/effect language. Whereas in grade four, students move from describing to explaining (including what, how, and why) key procedures, ideas, or concepts drawing specifically on what the text says. Meanwhile, in fifth grade students are expected to use all of those third and fourth grade skills to explain multiple relationships or interactions using specific information from the text.

The following questions can help guide you as do this for yourself around other standards:

  • What are the verbs and nouns in the standard?
  • How do they change?
  • What does that shift mean for teaching the standard in a particular grade?
  • What is the expected student outcome teachers will be held accountable for at that grade?
  • How might students demonstrate mastery of this outcome?

Step 3. Analyze examples of the standards in action

The goal of this step is to build an understanding of what the standard really “looks” like. It’s one thing to see a list of expectations on paper, but quite another to turn that into meaningful lessons, exemplar student work, and thoughtful formative and summative assessment tools. Luckily, you’re not on your own! Below is a list of some of our favorite places to find high quality examples of the Common Core English Language Arts Standards in action:

  • LearnZillion video lessons – LearnZillion’s reading and writing video lessons model how to approach close reading and crafting evidence-based written responses. For example, check out this series of 10th grade videos on The Tempest by Mark Anderson, watch Leigh Pourciau model analyzing a nonfiction article for 8th graders here, or see how Jennifer Reynolds leads a third grade close reading of The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
  • Student Achievement Partners’ ELA/literacy lesson bank—Founded by many of the authors of the Common Core, Student Achievement Partners has worked with teachers around the country to develop high quality ELA lessons and resources.
  • Examples of student work—Find annotated examples of student writing in all grade levels and genres in Common Core Appendix C and Student Achievement Partners’ student writing sample collection. You can use student work for your own study of the grade-level application of the standards as well as for an example to use to model with your students.
  • Literacy Design Collaborative’s template task collections— In order to accurately assess our students’ writing and understanding of text, it is imperative to craft assignments that offer students the opportunity to practice the skills you’ve taught. Use these collections of text-based prompts (which you can modify and adapt to suit your needs) to better understand how to craft creative and meaningful writing assignments that are anchored by text(s).

Shifting to the Common Core English Language Arts Standards will take time and practice. Use the three steps above to help you begin your journey or as a refresher before planning your next unit. And don’t forget another critical element for success: collaboration with your colleagues. Make your vertical analysis of the standards a group discussion—you and your colleagues will benefit by sharing your understandings, experience, and expertise.