Literacy Office Hours with David Liben of Student Achievement Partners pt. 3

Get tips on how to implement Common Core ELA in your classroom.

In this webinar, David Liben of Student Achievement Partners shares his insights about bringing exceptional literacy instruction to k-12 classrooms. David is the Senior ELA/literacy Specialist at Student Achievement Partners, an organization founded by the authors of the Common Core. A principal and teacher with more than 20 years experience in the classroom, David was one of the educators closely involved in the writing of the Common Core Standards, including synthesizing the research behind Appendix A.

Implementing the Common Core: Literacy

This is the third of our series of three literacy office hours (view part 1 and part two).

You won’t want to miss his explanation of the best way to share vocabulary at minute 6:10, how literacy coaches can bridge the gap between explicitly teaching comprehension strategies (inference, visualization), and Common Core’s emphasis on close reading at minute 14:25.

 

Additional Common Core Implementation Resources:

David also shared a plethora of resources that you can access below:

 

Vocabulary

COMING SOON to the Student Achievement Partners site:  The Significance of Vocabulary in the Common Core State Standards, article by David Liben. Includes research findings about vocabulary instruction and practical exercises to help teachers learn to select and teach vocabulary.

Word Nerds: mostly geared towards elementary school but works for middle school. Great book for vocabulary. Describes how to build a culture of loving and using words in your school.

Wordly Wise: Books to support targeted direct vocabulary instruction; has Greek and Latin Roots from the same publisher.

Zaner Bloser’s Word Study Programs: Word study methods to help students understand word structure and learn new vocabulary context.

 

Text dependent questions

Student Achievement Partners: Text-Dependent Question Resources – Collection of tools to help learn to write and use text-dependent questions.  Includes short and long guides and examples.

Student Achievement Partners: Featured Lessons – 20 lessons that focus on text dependent questions to support close reading (mentioned at minute 15:40).

“Scaffolded Reading Instruction of Content Area Texts” by Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey, shows how to create text dependent questions that are aligned to the standards.

 

Text complexity

Student Achievement Partners: Text complexity resources– Collection of tools and guides to help teacher analyze the complexity of texts. Includes both quantitative and qualitative measures.

Student Achievement Partners: free webinar done along with Metametrics on how people can find texts at different levels of text complexity.

 

Curriculum evaluation

Student Achievement Partners: Instructional Materials Evaluation Tool gives a step by step description on how to evaluate materials.

Engage NY is a comprehensive site from NY State with a free Common Core aligned curriculum as well as a variety of tools and resources to help teachers and districts with Common Core. It has lessons, units etc.  In particular their elementary school literacy resources are useful. Also check out EngageNY’s Pre-K Through Second Grade ELA (mentioned at minute 25:15).

 

Parent resources

Greatschools.org terrific resources for parents. Click your grade band here (Elementary School, Middle School, High School) It is a website just for parents.

 

Science and Social Studies

Student Achievement Partners: Science and Technical Subject Lessons + History and Social Studies Lessons (mentioned at minute 12:00).

 

Additional

Structured Journals – Structured journals are a great strategy for helping kids to hold students accountable for learning from their reading. Check out these resources: Essay on use of structured journals by Meredith Liben and Example of a close reading lesson that uses the structured journal technique (mentioned in minute 13:40).

 

Lily Wong-Fillmore’s “Juicy Sentences” approach – Teaching syntax is crucially important, but often ignored.  Lily Wong-Fillmore’s “Juicy Sentences” approach represents one good approach to teaching syntax. Check out this presentation on Fillmore’s approach. Also, here is a blog post by a teacher who succeeded with her (ELL) students by using the approach.

 

Ready for more?

Check out our Writing Office hours with Joey Hawkins of Student Achievement Partners, as well as David’s first two office hours (#1) and (#2).

Ways to help parents understand the Common Core

Many parents are eager to take a proactive and productive role in student learning.

To help you out, we hosted a conversation between Eric Westendorf, CEO and co-founder of LearnZillion and Greg Mullenholz, former teacher, coach, 2013 Dream Team member, and current principal in Montgomery County Public Schools, to discuss some practical actions teachers can take to engage parents. Highlights include 5 tips on how best to share resources and specific ways to support student learning in light of identified gaps or advanced student needs. We’ve summarized some of their main points in the blog post below.

VIDEO

How can LearnZillion help Parents?

  1. Help them understand the standards
  2. Help with homework
  3. Support struggling students
  4. Accelerate bored students

For more, check out this blog post: Parent Resources: 4 Ways to Support Your Child’s Learning with Instructional Videos.

 

What’s the best way to share?

 

1. Email:

Send parents the Common Core content their child needs to master via URL, Quick code, or use the assign feature.

On LearnZillion we’ve made resource-sharing easy. You can simply copy and paste the URL or quick code of a video lesson and email it to parents. You can also directly assign math content or ELA content to students to complete for homework; parents can help their child complete this work at home.

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2. Letter Home:

Tell parents HOW they can use the resources available on LearnZillion.com

Sometimes paper is still the best medium to communicate with parents. Simply download this letter, customize the yellow portion to the standards your students learned that day and voilà, your students’ parents are ready to access the content online.

Click this image to download the parent letter and customize it to your class

Click this image to download the parent letter

 

 

3. Text:

Use a service like Reminder 101 or Edmodo to text parents video lesson quick codes

Quick codes – short six digit number attached to each lesson – allow teachers and parents to easily access lesson content by typing the code into any search bar on LearnZillion.com. Remind 101 allows you to text these codes to parents with the click of a button. We’ve seen parents watch these videos on their phone while waiting to pick up their children at school, or during a quick 5-7 minute break in the middle of the day. It’s a great method to bring parents closer to their children’s education amidst their already busy schedules.

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4. Create a context:

Make it easy for parents to take action.

It’s not enough to just give parents resources. Ease of use matters; the directions you give to parents should be as bite-sized and targeted as possible. Give parents a specific lesson that will best help with homework. Suggest how they can use the video with their child. Creating context can give parents confidence that they are supporting their child in the right ways.

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5. Use as basis for math or ELA night:

Share this information with parents through an in-school educational session.

Consider using LearnZillion content as a basis for a math and ELA night. These nights – organized for parents, students and teachers for topic-specific support – are a great way to demonstrate effective practice of parent involvement. Model what it looks like to find a lesson, talk about a lesson, work on homework using the lesson, and take notes. You can kickstart a habit so that parents and students can feel comfortable using the resources without the teacher present.

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These are some good steps to consider the next time you try to engage parents. Have any other ideas? Leave a comment below. And thanks for forwarding this post along to your friends and colleagues.

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: A Reading Revelation

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Beyond the serial illnesses and perpetual lack of sleep, my first year teaching was a set-up for the rest of my professional life as an educator.

With an undergraduate degree in economics and an early career in real estate development where I analyzed the merits of new deals, I came to teaching with a practiced analytical lens.

Recognizing the Problem

My first year AH HAH moment. . .

  1. Not every student in my 4th grade class was on grade level in regard to their literacy or numeracy.
  2. The curriculum and materials did not in any way account for this reality.

This was 15 years ago.  Instruction was primarily delivered via whole class instruction and student activities.  I quickly realized my students that read below grade level struggled in all academic disciplines.  I marinated uncomfortably in this ‘knowing’ for a while-frustrated by the disconnect between the curriculum/my instruction and my students’ needs. Some of my students were soaring, learning every day, while others just slogged through the day learning little.  I was missing the mark.  It drove me nuts.

Understanding the Problem

The essential question that drove my insanity was how do I get all my students to love learning like those who are already successful in my classroom?  How can I shape my teaching and the curriculum, so ALL my students engage enthusiastically to learn?  What is my responsibility in this dynamic?  Some teachers told me to chill out-that it was not my responsibility to worry about those that don’t learn what is taught well.  That perspective did not work for me.

Addressing the Problem

The first realization was I needed to break from my current approach. It just wasn’t working.  So, after relentless research through reading and discussion with respected veteran colleagues, I took a risk.  I decided a love of reading might address many of my worries for my students.  Towards that end, I begged, borrowed and stole (like any effective teacher) any trade books across a continuum of reading levels for my classroom.  Research by Dr. Richard Allington indicated that the volume of reading was the best pathway to growing reading achievement, so applying the human axiom that we prefer to do what we are successful at, I started an independent reading program in my classroom by putting three components in place:

  • An assessment of each reader in my class in order to appropriately match readers with texts, so a high success rate would be ensured.
  • A diverse collection of books that met the distribution of reading levels in my classroom and offered choice to students.
  • A system of accountability on daily reading volume and reading growth over time, especially around comprehension.

It was a mess to start: books everywhere, confused parents and a hesitant administration.  Systems had to be developed to manage the flow of books in and out of our classroom library, to level books for easy identification, to offer feedback on student accountability, for ongoing assessment to move students up the reading level continuum, and to schedule time for students to choose an ample weekly diet of independent reading books.  Pangs of doubt that I was just creating chaos and not supporting my goal for creating a love of reading to drive higher reading achievement ate into my already deficient sleeping time.

Independent reading: classroom library

Independent reading: classroom library

Perceived Success

But one bad day, when everything seemed to go awry and desperate to regain control of my classroom, I declared 10 minutes of silent reading of independent reading booksand thunderbolt, silence descended-not one complaint!  Shocked, I realized my students must like to read their independent reading books-my hypothesis was proving true. If kids can read and understand a text, they will read more! New rule: carry your independent reading book with you everywhere.  Independent reading became a go-to when lines had to be quiet or assemblies were late to start or even when students completed math tests early.  By the end of my first year, I was thinner and harried to the bone, but my students were reading a significantly greater volume of text—and although some of them may not have admitted it publicly, they actually enjoyed reading.

Growing Success with Common Core Standards

A love, or strong like, of reading may not solve all my students’ problems, but it clearly had a positive impact.  Students start to see themselves as readers, general academic confidence grows and academic performance across disciplines nudges upward.  Please, ask any teacher with an established independent reading program about student outcomes.  By 2nd grade, the CCSS Anchor Reading Standard 10 expects students to read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently (in that grade band). The roadmap to meeting this standard is at least in part dependent on a robust independent reading program that holds students and teacher accountable.

To scaffold growth in comprehension, see any LearnZillion lesson set on reading at the appropriate reading level.  These lessons not only reveal the thinking process readers employ to create meaning from any text but also offer an instructional approach to support a teacher’s practice using any fiction or non-fiction text.

What are your thoughts? In the comments below, please share any resources you find helpful for matching readers to texts.

School closed because of the Polar Vortex? We’ve got you covered!

The Polar Vortex is closing down school all across the country. Give your students some high quality lessons to work on while they’re at home so the learning doesn’t stop.

Here’s what you need to do:

1. Download this snow-day-specific parent letter

2. Find the LZ Quick Codes you want students to work on and add them to the letter or, just direct them to the “essential” lessons from grades 3-8 at the end of the letter.

3. Share the letter with students and parents.

4. Mix up some hot chocolate and stay off the roads!

If you’ve never used LZ Quick Codes before, just find the lesson you want to share, click “Quick Code”, jot down the code and share it!
Quick Codes

We hope this is helpful! Stay warm, stay safe and happy teaching!

Cheers,

The LearnZillion Team

Parent Resources: 4 Ways to Support Your Child’s Learning with Instructional Videos

Parents: Are you eager to help support your child’s learning at home? Could you use a refresher on a few concepts yourself? Take heart! LearnZillion’s free video lessons for students in grades 2-12 are here for you. Here are just a few ways our high-quality lesson content can help you at home:

Supporting Learning at Home

 

1. Create a consistent instructional environment for your child

Use teacher-assigned video lessons to help your child receive regular support and reinforcement from all the adults they know. Kids really benefit from consistent messaging and multiple exposures to new concepts (eg: multiplication).

 

2. Refresh your own understanding of difficult concepts

Refer to LearnZillion videos to help your child understand difficult concepts, such as dividing fractions, identifying equivalent ratios, or analyzing an author’s use of rhetoric. The two-to-five minute lesson videos break down tricky concepts step-by-step. If you decide to watch along with your child, pause or re-watch the video at key moments so that your child can develop his or her own solution before seeing the answer modeled.

 

3. Get a deeper understanding of your child’s curriculum

Get a window into the concepts your child is tackling in the classroom. LearnZillion video lessons provide transparency around the Common Core for teachers and parents alike. Lesson sets describe one teacher’s interpretation of an entire standard, and each lesson video gives an up-close view of a specific concept within a standard. (Tip: Have the Common Core Standards laid out for you by looking at the Common Core Navigator.)

 

4. Supplement as practice work

Is your child ahead of the school curriculum? Our videos help both struggling learners, and those who are ready for more, build their knowledge and understanding of new concepts. Our lesson sets allow you to see how a concept progresses in complexity within a standard, and by exploring lessons from other grade levels, you can provide  your child with a rigorous and exciting learning environment at home.

Have other ideas you’d like to share? Let us know by commenting below.

To learn more about other creative ways that teachers are using our instructional videos, check out 9 Ways to use LearnZillion With Students.