Wrenches In Our Toolbox

In the comment field, please write to the following prompts:

  • What method (“wrench”) did you use to get your PLC/PLT working on the essential learnings for an upcoming unit of instruction/learning?
  • What did you find successful?
  • What was challenging?
  • What questions do you have?
  • What support do you need?
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About boadams1

Learner. Husband. Dad. Chief Learning and Innovation Officer at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School in Atlanta, GA. Have worked in transformation design, educational innovation, and school leadership for 20+ years.
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12 Responses to Wrenches In Our Toolbox

  1. Pingback: PLC-F Agenda: Feb. 3, 2011 | PLC-Facilitators: Learning is the Focus

  2. boadams1 says:

    What method (“wrench”) did you use to get your PLC/PLT working on the essential learnings for an upcoming unit of instruction/learning?
    We used a slide deck about Essential Learnings to help build a common language about ELs. However, one first step in the deck was a differentiated journal opportunity for facilitators to write about their understandings of ELs. I would liken this to “pre-assessment.” Then we wrote to a prompt about what “wrench” we might use to get our own PLCs/PLTs focused on “micro-ELs” in a unit of instruction. We shrunk the change. People shared their methods and we took notes so that we could build our tool box. Then, people went and faciliated a process for their own PLCs/PLTs. Now, we are writing to this prompt as a “post-assessment” and to examine our paths with data. Jill and I tried to model – we ALL need to do this, but there are multiple ways to get it done.

    What did you find successful?
    Will know soon!

    What was challenging?
    Wanting to make certain that PLC-F felt they had good support and knowledge about what they were undertaking.

    What questions do you have?
    How are the PLCs/PLTs responding to creating ELs for an upcoming unit? Do they see the unseperable connection with an assessment plan/map?

    What support do you need?
    Feedback from PLC-F of what is working, what seems too challenging, what would help most in this room!

  3. Sam Gough says:

    I asked them in an e-mail since we have had only 1 meeting together since we last met.
    The e-mail:

    In our PLC facilitator meeting, we continue to work on Essential Learnings. I ask each group to try to come up with the Essential Learnings for the next unit and send to me so that we can better gauge our common vision of EL. I would like whatever you have by the end of tomorrow.

    I had 5 courses of a possible 9 reply to my e-mail. I think the biggest challenge we faced was still finding a common understanding of what we believe to be essential. In my Algebra 2 team, we clearly have different views of how kids learn and what they should be learning.

    My biggest question is how do we as a mathematics community, whether all math teachers locally or across the country, decide what is crucial for students to understand about mathematics. This includes deciding what is the appropriate use and application of technology, since it clearly makes some algebra skills trivial.

    The support is simply that we need to continue to have the time as a PLC group to investigate our beliefs about teaching mathematics. Maybe having some of our members be able to visit and talk with other schools or attend conferences would be helpful. Are there experts in the field of appropriate uses of technolgy we could bring to the school? Could members of the department be supported in working during the summer to have a common mathematics vision from Pre-1st to 12th grade?

  4. tsadtler says:

    WWWD (What would Wordle do?)
    Our teachers have decided that they would like to live in a world without textbooks. We didn’t want to nudge them back into dystopia, so we decided that we need to rewrite the curriculum, which means starting from the end.

    1. We asked them to do a freewrite answering the question, “What does a Spanish 2 student look like by the end of the year? What would he or she be able to do?” We then put it into four different wordles and put them on the MOODLE site.
    2. We’re looking at the results today.
    3. Getting them to stop looking at the cliff and start climbing it.
    4. How can we nudge them into using the vocab that they need to use in order to begin to clearly see what is essential that our students learn?
    5. Don’t know yet.

  5. Fred Young says:

    Jen, Kevin, and I compiled an essential learnings for the Civil War and Reconstruction unit which we submitted to the full group meeting a week ago last Thursday and asked for help in editing/adding to the list. The suggestions for changes/additions were quite helpful. Having some of our teachers being there only 1 day per week is a challenge we are working on. It would be better if all of us met 4 times per week. Support needed-Getting all the history/world cultures teachers on board 4 times per week.

  6. Danelle Dietrich says:

    Mecia led all 4th pd PLC members (math & science) through the activity we did in Facilitators PLC (define/explain to new teacher/metaphor). I think this activity went well. Jill also presented a portion of her EL’s power point, which also spurred good discussion. This week, Jill asked all to respond on what they thought we were working toward. Some thought we were working specifically on EL’s of the next (or upcoming) unit. In math, we have been working & talking for a long time about aligning EL’s from 6th, 7th & 8th to see if there are gaps or to see if we can let anything go. We worked on this by posting all three regular courses (6,7,8) on the board, and then moved them together based on content. We are still in this process. I think we need to dig more deeply regarding some of the big content categories and to decide where some of the content should be placed.

  7. jgough says:

    The JH Math PLC established a set of essential learnings 18 months ago. They were our first attempt. As we began an attempt at a vertical alignment of essential learnings, we learned that we have revised them and need to revise them more. There are places where we are teaching too much and now know it. There are holes in the curriculum that need to be filled.

    Our method:
    Print each EL on a sheet of paper.
    Tape them to the white board.
    Align them by topic, category, big idea.
    Discuss singletons and where there is depth.

    It developed into a draft. If you’ll take…then we can …

    Bright spots:
    Everyone is involved. Everyone actively participates and communciates with all. We will have a better understanding of what, when, and why we are teaching. We will better know what our learners come prepared to do and where we should review versus teach from the beginning.

    Struggles:
    It is messy. It is not linear. We often sound like we are criticizing each other when we are actually talking about what sticks and what does not stick.

    Questions and Support:
    To have depth of understanding we cannot learn everything that we have been teaching. What external measure(s) should we use to check ourselves?

  8. Jennifer Lalley says:

    Thursday in our History PLC meeting, we met with the World Cultures teachers to try to create essential learnings for the entire course, followed by a discussion on essential learnings for the Middle East specifically. Last year, we created about 5 themes that run through each of our units, but Thursday we revised and added to them. (Although we had created them last year, we have not implemented them in an intentional way.)We all agreed that we DO in fact, have themes in common, and it was not terribly difficult to agree on those themes. We discussed whether they should be in question form or in statement form.
    Our discussion of the Middle East unit proved more challenging. Although we have a common read for all 6th graders, trying to come up with essential learnings did not get very far. It felt to me that the other teachers were not especially interested in thinking about what we could create together, rather they just wanted to find what we already have in common. They do not seem terribly interested in revising how they already approach the unit, which of course is discouraging.
    On the other hand, we have not spent much PLC time working on World Cultures, so work on this course is just beginning. Teachers are just starting to think with a PLC mindset about this course. Also, we are much more similar than the US History teachers, so it seems there is less of a gap to bridge overall.
    Questions going forward:
    1. What is the next step in moving toward common essential learnings for the Middle East unit?
    2. How do we facilitate teachers thinking about what they could do rather than what they already do?
    3. How can we take the themes we came up with for the course and apply them to the Middle East?

  9. Kristen Orsini says:

    Spanish PLT – We have spent the past few days looking at what Essential Learnings are by discussing 3 slides from the EL PP from last year’s PLC Facilitators Moodle page, looking at sample Essential Learnings (a list of Spanish ELs from a school in NJ and the list of ELs from the Science and English PLCs from last year), and deciding our general framework for the ELs. Are they going to be based on our current textbook program or are we going to create our own textbook? Do we want to use the EL template, base our ELs on our rubric, or go with a more whole language approach? We have not talked about the next unit of instruction but rather the whole second semester.

    Last night we asked our members to write down what they wanted a Spanish II Intro kid to be able to do by the end of the year, and Ted and I are going to make these paragraphs into a Wordle and break into 2 groups to work on 9 or so ELs for 2nd semester Sp II Intro.

    Successful: our discussions
    Challenge: We created our rubric to stimulate EL discussion but I wouldn’t want to base our ELs on our current rubric.
    Question: Do we have to focus solely on the next unit of instruction or can we talk about the whole semester/year?
    Support: Good as is

  10. Mecia Israel says:

    Method: The 4th Period PLC discussion began with choosing one of three prompts on Essential Learnings. Each person wrote then shared their unique response with the group. From there, we broke into teams to begin to focus on the ELs for our next unit of study. That was a spring board for discussion on a common assessment for that unit.

    Bright spot: After we all shared, it was quite obvious that although we all had different ways of describing what essential learnings meant to us, that we were clear on the idea that essential learnings were what students were expected to know/learn and would be assessed on.

    Challenge: We could not come to a decision on which should be our next unit nor how we could embed smaller important concepts into our units.

    Question: Can we created our EL and common assessments and teach in the sequence we believe is a natural order?

    Support: My team stays on task when Bo or Jill are watching.

  11. Lauren says:

    Because we had just been working on how we were going to move forward with establishing our reading/literacy EL’s, this task came at a welcome time for our group.

    We had decided on what to do – mesh “old” literacy EL’s with new 21st C ones – but we had not yet hit on HOW after lots of interesting but relatively aimless discussion. When we talked about this in PLC-F last week, it immediately hit me that this would give us a more manageable scale to work with.

    The group seemed amenable to the idea fromthe get-go. We asked everyone to choose an old assessment as a starting point for the discussion. We broke into PLt groups and started trying to ID which EL’s we had been trying to assess on the old assessments. The conversation in PLT 8 was a great starting point as we challenged ourselves to put things into student-friendly language (“I can…”).

    When we met again in PLT’s , the 8th grade team got some good work done. This time we looked at the EL’s we’d already ID’d for Romeo and Juliet – the next unit – and we tried to parse them out even more:
    What was each F.A. we’d planned asking of students?
    How did “Reading for Meaning,” for example, translate into a more “21st C” language? (Critical Thinking, Making Connections)

    We felt grateful that we already had a building block in place – our Writing EL’s – to work from on this task!

  12. Pingback: PLC-F Agenda: Feb. 9, 2011 | PLC-Facilitators: Learning is the Focus

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