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

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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Writing, aligning, and sequencing text-dependent questions

This webinar, the second in our “Close Reading” series, models a proven strategy for crafting text-dependent questions and follows up on our earlier “Text Talk” webinar and our 6 step guide to crafting great text-dependent questions. Enjoy!

Download the resources referenced in this webinar here, including:

Like what you see?

Sign Up for the next webinar in our series,

“Crafting effective text-based writing prompts”

on Mar 11th 2014 at 4p ET.

5 ways to leverage LearnZillion’s Downloadable Slides

Here are 5 tips for customizing LearnZillion’s lesson video slides in ways that serve your classroom needs.

Thousands of teachers across the country use our short instructional videos to help students learn. Many have found that customizing the associated downloadable slides are a great way to turn the 5-minute video into an instructional engine for their whole class period.

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Read on to learn how to customize downloadable slides in ways to meet your classroom needs

These are the top five ways teachers are taking advantage of LearnZillion’s downloadable lesson slides:

1. Whole class instruction: use slides to help guide whole group instruction

Whole Class Instruction

Slides, presented to a class in Indiana

2. Practice: use slides to create practice problems and worksheets for students

Worksheets, created from practice problems on LearnZillion

Worksheets, created from practice problems on LearnZillion

3. Manipulatives: turn visuals into manipulatives for hands on work

A manipulative, created by a teacher in Maryland

Manipulative, created by a teacher in Maryland

4. Anchor Charts: turn visuals into posters to remind students what was taught

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Chart, turned into a poster for a third grade class

5. Google Presentations: turn slides into an online virtual discussion between students

Google Presentation

Presentation, created by an elementary teacher

Here’s a quick slideshow that walks you through the options, step by step.

Check out our library of thousands of video lessons today.

Do you have other ideas for how to customize slides? Leave a comment below.

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.

Turbocharge whole group instruction with Lesson Plans

We’re proud to introduce an exciting addition to LearnZillion.com: Lesson Plans for essential math standards in 3rd-8th grade.

 

What Are Lesson Plans?

A lesson plan is a new resource that enhances whole-class instruction.  For each section of the lesson, lesson plans provide challenging questions that increase student engagement and build conceptual understanding.  They are aligned to a LearnZillion lesson video and include printable practice problems and next steps for students who struggle with specific concepts.

The structure of the lesson plans reflects our belief that students do best when given challenging questions and frequent practice, and when teachers personalize learning based on individual needs.

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An example of simple, straightforward options for students who struggle with standard 4.NF.3d

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An example of questions for testing student misunderstanding at each stage of the lesson, with notes for teachers on the right.

 

Why Lesson Plans?

Our Dream Team has created thousands of conceptual, grade-level video lessons, and we’re keen to make those videos even easier to use.  Many teachers have told us their favorite way to use LearnZillion is to weave them into their whole group instruction: pause them frequently to ask questions, give students an opportunity to check their understanding, provide practice problems aligned to the lesson, and assign more videos to students who need extra support.

The new Lesson Plan feature provide a guide every teacher can use to transform each of our short video lessons into a classroom period characterized by powerful whole group interactivity, actionable formative assessments, and targeted differentiation support.

What Should I Do?

We’re excited for teachers to download and use any of these essential lesson plans! Find a standard or topic you’re teaching soon.  Assign practice problems to your students.  Use the differentiation links when misunderstandings arise.

Start Using Lesson Plans

Thanks for sharing this news and, as always, please let us know what works and what else you’d like to see!

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.