It was a rainy day in Shenzhen and, while the world outside of our school was cast in a sleepy shade of grey, Level5 was awash with light and bright colors. Today we read a research paper about small group reading comprehension intervention. We used a mind map to pull out ideas that resonated with us and discussed how the research applied to the work we do with students in reading. Here are our notes from the first couple pages of reading and the team in action:
We also enjoyed a Make-and-Take activity were we shared 3D organizers and paper crafts which can be used to support students' efforts to visually represent their thinking. We can't wait to see some of the strategies we discussed in action within our classrooms!
Scholin, S. E., Haegele, K. M., & Burns, M. B. (2013). A small-group reading comprehension intervention for fourth- and fifth-grade students. School Psychology Forum, 7(2), 40-49.
First day back from break and we were ready to rock!
To start our session off, we refreshed our understanding of Gracious Space protocols. Tosca led us through the activity and we really were able to see how the elements we learned about back in the beginning of the year have played a part in the work we have done over the last eight months, or so. Then, we gathered in small groups to develop some great Learning Exchange induction activities in preparation for next school year. One of our action items is to focus on building rich cross-cultural relationships among staff members and today's activity supports this work.
Please access the slide deck for this Learning Exchange below.
We are meeting today on Level5 at 3:30pm. We will begin our dive into DESIGN THINKING!!! Join us to learn what design thinking is and how it can be applied within your classroom to build empathy, solve problems, connect learners, and foster communication. For our first session, we will present a fun challenge so that you can experience the parts of design thinking by going through the actual process. We are sure to laugh a lot while embracing our creativity, and we will hopefully walk away with some great solutions to the problem presented.
Here is the link to the Google Slide Deck for this learning experience
Vivian, Tosca, and Erin
We will be doing things a little different today.
We are still in the process of preparing our next series of sessions looking at design thinking. Because we are not quite ready to start, we will not be holding a formal Learning Exchange on Level5 today.
Devastated? Don't start crying yet!
Attached is a great article we have recently read and thought you would love. It is on what brain research...like actual brain imaging studies...say(s) about effective reading instructional practices!!! It is a quick and easy read with some really great information.
Erin and Vivian will be in their office after school, until catching the 4pm bus. They will be happy to discuss the article with anyone who wants to dive into a discussion.
We hope you enjoy the read and would love to see you stop by our office, this afternoon, to chat about it.
All the best,
Vivian, Erin, and Tosca
Today's Learning Exchange will be quick and very helpful for steering our work for the remainder of the year! Please think about joining us to share wishes for future topics! The meeting will be very brief, but very important.
All the best,
Vivian, Tosca, and Erin
Unfortunately, Erin is out sick today, so we will postpone our Learning Exchange until next week. We had planned on sharing the administration and scoring for some easy-to-use reading screeners. We will carry on with this work next week!
We also will be diving into our first equity action project soon, looking at how to design equitable spaces within our learing environments. Keep your ears to the ground for more information because we will run a really exciting two-part session where we will be working through the design process.
To tide you over, attached is a great read about Oral Reading Fluency (ORF) progress monitoring and why it is a valuable tool for assessing reading proficiency.
We are excited to announce that we ARE HOLDING A LEARNING EXCHANGE TODAY! Happy dance time!🎉
In this afternoon's session, we will be looking at CBMs (Curriculum-Based Measurements) in the area of Reading that can be used to assist in tracking student growth and measuring the success of intervention. Attendees will get some background information on what a CBM is, why we use them, and you will be able to see one in action...with a student...and learn about how to administer the tool that Erin demonstrates.
Today's session will be uber practical. We hope you can join us.
Dear Equity Friends,
We have to start this email with a genuine thank you for all the positivity we have encountered this year in regards to the research we are doing. This year we have been exploring the question, How do we increase equity in international school contexts? The semester has been an exceptional learning journey, with not only the co-practitioner researchers, Vivian, Erin and Tosca, but also with the entire group that has been participant in the Learning Exchange (LE).
Our last LE before the winter break will be held on December 11th at 3:30pm-4:30pm. For this meeting, we would like to engage in a discussion model that lends itself to greater equity. We will set up a Digital Fishbowl. We would like to invite you to be part of the inner fishbowl. In the centre of the fishbowl we have invited people we know are able to be risk-takers and engage fully in discussions.
We will frame the conversation around the following quote:
"Human beings are not built in silence, but in word, in work, in action-reflection." -Freire
As the conversation swims around the bowl, we will discuss: In what ways do you feel valued in this community? What would you describe as the assets you bring to your team? What are your hopes and dreams for yourself, for your team, for your school?
On the outer edge, silently watching those within the fishbowl, participants will be invited to contribute to a shared Google document and anonymously offer insights, thoughts, questions, and ideas to the discussions. In this way we will construct a narrative around voice and value. Giving equal opportunity to those who feel like they want to contribute anonymously and those who feel able to speak out-loud.
It is our intention to discover themes that may lead to actionable items for which we can design solutions together.
Please join us for one hour and support us in this important equity work. We value your voice and recognize we are unable to move forward in true equity without your shared story.
Thank you again for your support and we are looking forward to seeing you Monday!
Vivian, Erin and Tosca
TECH USED: Google docs
App: Equity Maps are used to collect the equity of socratic seminars and harkness conversations within classrooms... try it- the app yealds very interesting data!
Happy Last-Week-Before-Break Monday!
Today, we have an awesome Learning Exchange 互换学习 planned! We hope you can join us on Level5 at 3:30pm. Our conversation will grow out of consideration of this quote:
The topic, for today, is applicable to everyone. We will be discussing:
We will structure our discussion as a digital fishbowl. In the centre of the fishbowl, a varied group of TAs, teachers, and leadership, who have offerred to be risk-takers and engage fully, will participate in a discussion of our questions. On the outer edge, silently watching those within the fishbowl, participants will use a shared Google document to anonymously offer insights, thoughts, questions, and ideas to the discussions. In this way we will construct a narrative around voice and value. This approach will allow us to give equal opportunity to those who feel like they want to contribute anonymously and those who feel able to speak out-loud.
It is our intention to discover themes that may lead to actionable items for which we can design solutions together.
We will be meeting at 3:30pm on Level5 to dive into some phonics work. Here are the offerings this week:
Erin: Multi-sensory Phonics Instruction (Reading Horizons model)
Beryl: International Phonetic Alphabet
Vivian: The Grapheme Connection/Fine Motor Intervention
Joy: Core5 Lexia
Tosca: Phonics Apps
This week, we looked specifically at some tools which can be used to address comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary acquisition!
We began our session with a share-out by our colleague, Dan. He demonstrated some seriously dynamic ways to utilize Seesaw and develop student agency in the process. We were able to engage with student-directed videos demonstrating mastery of concepts, student reflections of learning moments, and tools for creating extension activities within Seesaw. Dan inspired us to think about how we might use this platform to track student growth in literacy. Thanks, Dan!
Next, Tosca and Erin demonstrated a barrier game. The amount of communication embedded within this engaging activity makes it a great resource for working with all students, not just our EAL and LS kiddos. Check out the link below to learn more about barrier games:
We then transitioned to a speed-dating style exploration of comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary interventions. Most of the highlighted activities were pulled from The Florida Center for Reading Research. The FCRR provides educators with evidence-based strategies to support learner development in the five domains of reading. Erin has incorporated the FCRR-created materials into her flexible literacy groups for years, and feels that they provide educators with a solid foundation of targeted intervention materials. Take some time to browse the link below to learn more about the FCRR:
At the end of our session, we regrouped to digest our break-out discussions and pose questions to our peers. We supported colleagues struggling with how to work flexible and targeted intervention groups into the framework of Reader's and Writer's Workshop, and with how to develop empathy for students with EAL needs. From interest-driven vocabulary journals to embedded visuals, we learned so much about the masterful pedagogy happening in our school community. Thank you to everyone who joined us this week.
This week, we met to develop common understandings around the five domains of reading. We first defined each domain and then, looked more in depth at how we are addressing each area in our instruction. Through our discussions, we identified gaps and areas for growth. An interesting idea from the conversation was the need to look at how each domain is being approached in each grade level, and to think about aligning intervention practices vertically. What can the fifth grade teacher learn from the kindergarten teacher about incorporating phonological exercises into transition times? Most native speakers may have moved past the need for instruction in phonemic awareness, but our students who are at the start of their English language journey require this intervention. Vertical collaboration is one way we can support our upper primary teachers in this domain.
**The reading flow chart, shared last week, is a resource Erin has been carrying around for years. It was developed by a reading coach in her previous district and has been invaluable in her work with young readers. In an effort to clean-up the quality of the image, for use in her current school, Erin and Vivian used Lucidchart to create an updated version.
We did some research into intervention strategies we currently use and identified strategies, practices, and resources that we would like to add to our repertoire. Over the next few weeks, we will focus specifically on the target areas we have identified. If you have students who are struggling readers, the next few sessions would be great for you to attend!
Vivian and I have been having many individual conversations with teachers about supporting specific students in the development of fluent reading skills. When you find a student who struggles with reading, how should you address the need in an explicit and systematic way? We decided that rather than individually share this amazing resource 40+ times, we would send out this to reach all of you! The Florida Center for Reading Research has a wealth of evidence-based strategies and activities free for download, already prepared, with instructions and examples for use. I have used their activities in literacy centres for years and found that they enabled me to target specific needs in flexible groups without having to spend hours creating materials. If you are wondering how to identify where exactly, in the continuum of reading skills, a student begins to struggle, consider attending our next Monday Learning Exchange. We are going to be looking more closely at the basics of how reading develops and what areas need to be instructionally supported within your literacy block for struggling readers to progress. Here is one of the flowcharts we use for this if you want to give it a try on your own:
Some early learner Phonics apps
Today we will be looking at Gracious Space 让你感觉到安全舒适的／有价值的／平等的／自己的价值能被发挥的空间! Gracious Space is a model for team building that bridges cultural differences. The work we initiate today will create the foundation for how we foster meaningful Learning Exchanges. The goal of our work is to create a space for learning together where all participants are valued and have an equal share in our growth. If the equitable exchange of ideas sounds exciting to you, please join us.
We also wanted to let you know about a new addition to the learning support office. We read research ALL THE TIME. We may reference it in our conversations with you, but we rarely pass the articles on. We are changing that. From here on out, there will be a basket on our round table where we will house all of the research we have read recently. If you are interested in accessing some quick and powerful papers (all peer reviewed) to add new inspiration into your practice, stop by and borrow one. We just ask that you write on a sticky note your name and the article you borrowed so we can track it down if we need it. Here is where you will find the everything:
Erin and Vivian have offered a long-running and very successful PD session after school on Mondays. This session has been an open invitation to Instructional Assistants (also known as TAs) and teachers. The PD has focused on discrete skill development for helping teachers reach the diverse needs of learners. Vivian, Erin and all the participants thus far have taken a strong equity stance for the students and teachers at SIS.
My doctoral research is also focused on equity, and thus Erin, Vivian and I engaged in a co-researcher partnership. My research addresses the question: How can the relationships between locally hired and internationally hired employees in international school settings be more reciprocal, diminish marginalization, and lead to more equitable working environments?
Vivian, Erin and I aim to facilitate a two-fold participatory action research project (PAR) with the democratic participation of the community:
· First, we will facilitate discrete skill development sessions in technology and pedagogy (every Monday)
· Second, we will facilitate Learning Exchanges focused on specific equity questions (TBA)
Learning Exchanges focus on learning from and with each other to act collectively. Leadership in the learning exchange lexicon is a function of many, not solely invested in a person or a group of persons. Leadership is collective and relational, not individual and top down. By focusing our efforts on relational trust, dialogue, and reciprocal learning as indispensable prerequisites of effective change, LEs amplify and accomplish a balanced set of academic, social-emotional, and civic outcomes.
Underpinning our practice in ethical leadership, we will explore the creation of Gracious Space when investigating self and others. Gracious Space is not a conflict-free space. As people work together in community, it is inevitable that differences in culture, values, and beliefs may cause some conflict. It is important to have the space for conflicts to emerge and be addressed productively. The Learning Exchange is that space.
We have created a website that further unpacks the ideas of Gracious Space, and Learning Exchanges. All participants of the LE are invited to act as co-authors on this site and ownership is democratic.
Our first formal Learning Exchange will happen on October 23rd at 3:30PM – 4:30PM.
In this exchange, we will explore the following questions:
1. What would you describe is your main role at this school?
2. What would you describe as your responsibilities within that role?
3. Do you feel that your role is of equal value to the teachers you work along-side?
4. In what ways do you collaborate with your team?
5. What adjustments do you think could be made to your role and responsibilities, if any?
These may seem like simple questions, however, when we engage in public, honest dialogue these questions: challenge us to reflect on the realities and assumptions we hold regarding our colleagues, require us to view our colleague's gifts and capabilities, and inspire us towards actionable change (if needed).
You are invited to join us every Monday afternoon for discrete skill development when you are able. We also hope that you join us for the first larger formal Learning Exchange on October 23rd.
Today we met to extend our explicit knowledge of some tools that we can use to help students develop executive functioning. Innovation Coach Jess walked us through the process of creating collaborative documents!
This online diagram application makes it easy to sketch and share professional flowchart diagrams.
From brainstorming to project management, it supports all of your communication needs. Check out the huge selection of educational templates.
As constructivists we had a tinker and tried it out!
As teachers, we often spend the majority of our planning thinking about the cognitive tasks we want to engage our students in. We prepare to make content meaningful and we develop dynamic learning experiences that are sure to engage. But what happens when we don't reach all learners, when not every student dives into the learning process with passion? Why do some students fail to attend during our mini-lessons or struggle to get started on independent work? Today, we grappled with these questions as we focused on the topic of how to simplify complex topics for struggling learners.
At the start of our session, we looked at a basic word problem: Ferdinand loves smelling flowers. On Monday, he smelled 13 flowers. On Tuesday, he smelled 12 flowers. How many flowers did he smell in all?
We identified many of the discrete skills that a student would need to be proficient in to access this problem. Together, we were able recognize the following skills:
After this activating conversation, we broke out into groups to discuss a variety of scenarios which may present within an elementary classroom. The group focused on partner reading, whole group mini-lesson, reflective journaling in science, and independent work time. The teams generated a list of the discrete skills a student must possess for each activity.
The interesting realization came when we moved away from focusing exclusively on the "thinking" skills and considered the "behavioral" skills necessary. One example of this came out of the discussion around journaling in science class. A student who has transitioned from an active, hands-on experiment to a quiet activity such as journaling, would need to have the ability to delay gratification. Self-expression, in a written format, requires patience and stamina. The student must self-regulate without immediate positive feedback from external sources as well as without the intrinsically motivating aspects of discovery learning. The journaling may be a non-preferred activity for that child. If the student is lacking the ability to delay gratification, to 'put the nose to the grindstone' for a period, then they may struggle to even get started.
The further we dissected each learning activity, the more we realized how complex basic classroom moments truly are. We realized that our students may be lacking essential skills, outside of the realm of content, which are limiting their ability to engage in a task. Under-development of listening and conversational skills, self-organizational skills, or emotional regulation skills could all be interfering with their academic participation. So, with this understanding, how do we move forward?
The teams began thinking about how to teach each discrete skill required by our complex tasks. We brainstormed different supports we might put into place which would increase the opportunities for all learners to engage with a lesson. For the student struggling with delaying gratification, we proposed building stamina through a system of breaks. The student works for five minutes and then earns a two minute break. Over the course of a few weeks, we would lengthen the work time and decrease the break time until the student was able to sustain effort for the non-preferred task.
For other skill deficits, we looked to explicitly teach active listening skills, incorporate visuals as much as possible, involve students in defining and modeling appropriate behavior, and utilize anchor charts to remind students of required steps. So many phenomenal ideas developed from our conversations, and we walked away with the understanding that we may need to dig a little deeper to determine why a student is struggling.
Breaking a task down into the discrete skills required for participation and completion allows us to identify how we can adjust our practice to make learning accessible for all.
Tech for your tool box:
Each week we meet and learn together about meeting the diverse needs of students. This week we discussed working memory.
There are two types of working memory: auditory memory and visual-spatial memory. You can think of these skills in terms of making a video. Auditory memory records what you’re hearing while visual-spatial memory captures what you’re seeing. But that’s where working memory’s similarity with making a video ends.
When you make a video, visual and auditory information is stored for safekeeping and can be played back when you need to access it. You don’t necessarily need to pay attention to details when you’re filming. Working memory, on the other hand, isn’t just stored for later use. It has to be accessed and “played back” immediately, even as new information is arriving and needing to be incorporated.
Imagine a teacher reads a word problem in math class. Kids need to be able to keep all the numbers in their head, figure out what operation to use and create a written math problem at the same time.
Kids with weak working memory skills have difficulty grabbing and holding on to that incoming information. This means they have less material to work with when they’re performing a task.
In math class, they may know how to do different kinds of calculations. However, they run into trouble with word problems. It’s difficult to listen for clue words that indicate which operation to use, while at the same time remembering the numbers that need to be plugged into the equation.
Kids rely on both incoming information and information stored in working memory to do an activity. If they have weak working memory skills, it’s hard to juggle both. This can make it challenging to follow multi-step directions. Kids with weak working memory skills have trouble keeping in mind what comes next while they’re doing what comes now. For example, your child may not be able to mentally “go back” and recall what sentence the teacher wanted written down while also trying to remember how to spell out the words in that sentence.
The part of the brain responsible for working memory is also responsible for maintaining focus and concentration. Here, working memory skills help kids remember what they need to be paying attention to. Take, for example, doing a long division problem. Your child needs working memory not only to come up with the answer, but also to concentrate on all of the steps involved in getting there.
Kids with weak working memory skills have trouble staying on task to get to the end result. You could think of it like the learning equivalent of walking into a room and forgetting what you came in to get.
Working memory is responsible for many of the skills children use to learn to read. Auditory working memory helps kids hold on to the sounds letters make long enough to sound out new words. Visual working memory helps kids remember what those words look like so they can recognize them throughout the rest of a sentence.
When working effectively, these skills keep kids from having to sound out every word they see. This helps them read with less hesitation and become fluent readers. Learning to read isn’t as smooth a process for kids with weak working memory skills.
Being able to solve math problems depends on a number of skills that build on one another like building blocks. The block at the bottom—the most important one in the stack—is the ability to recognize and reproduce patterns. It’s the foundation for the next block: seeing patterns in numbers in order to solve and remember basic math facts.
From there, kids build up to storing information about a word problem in their head; they then use that information to create a number sentence to solve the problem. This eventually leads to the ability to remember mathematical formulas.
What keeps the blocks from toppling over is the ability to remember, sequence and visualize information—all of which can be difficult for a child with weak working memory skills.
Understanding how to help children and adults with working memory needs will help reduce anxiety, and move towards successful learning experiences.
Providing scaffolds and methods for organization helps to break tasks into remembered parts or parts that can be returned to for reminder.
Tune in next week when we learn the specifics of how to break down each part of a complex task to ensure children can access the learning.