Vocabulary: Not just for ELA class
By Robyn Kehoe Ramsey and Megan Motley
No matter the content area, explicit vocabulary instruction is essential for student success. While it is by no means a panacea, strong connections between vocabulary acquisition and literacy, equity, and positive outcomes for students are clear. We must consider that when we test students’ reading comprehension, we may actually be testing their vocabulary and background knowledge and unintentionally preventing them from showing what they really know and can do (Willingham, 2017). Since vocabulary knowledge is directly linked to student success in school, it is well worth considering why and how every teacher should be teaching vocab.
Vocabulary acquisition is directly linked to equity. By first grade, higher socioeconomic groups are likely to know twice as many words as lower socioeconomic groups (Neumann & Wright, 2014), and we all know now that most children are never able to close that gap, negatively impacting their outcomes all the way through high school. “It is now well accepted that the chief cause of the achievement gap between socioeconomic groups is a language gap” (Hirsch, 2003). Therefore, it is incumbent upon us all -- not just upon ELA teachers -- to be intentional about vocabulary instruction.
How NOT to teach vocab:
How to teach vocab:
Which words to teach?
Consider that vocabulary words in any discipline can be divided into three Tiers (not to be confused with the Tiers of MTSS!). Tier 1 words are basic words in common use (“chair,” “phone,” “lion”). Tier 2 words are academic words that students encounter across contents (“analyze,” “evidence,” “theme”). Tier 3 words are content-specific (“metaphor,” “perpendicular,” “renaissance”). Tier 2 and Tier 3 words need to be explicitly taught as they influence students’ ability to understand and learn new content and concepts. Proficiency Scales are an excellent place for teachers to find specific vocabulary on which students should focus and build their knowledge.
“Teaching vocabulary will not guarantee success in reading … However, lacking either adequate word identification skills or adequate vocabulary will ensure failure” (Biemiller, 2005). Because vocabulary knowledge is so clearly linked to reading comprehension, as well as issues of equity for all students, teachers -- ALL teachers -- should consider how they are explicitly teaching the words students need to build a strong foundation for success in every content area.
Want to explore more ways to teach vocab? Check out this resource!
Biemiller, A. (2005). Size and sequence in vocabulary development: Implications for choosing words for primary grade vocabulary instruction. Teaching and learning vocabulary: Bringing research to practice.
Hattie, J. (2018) 252 Influences and Effect Sizes Related to Student achAchievement. Visible Learning. https://visible-learning.org/hattie-ranking-influences-effect-sizes-learning-achievement/
Hirsch, E.D. (2003) Reading Comprehension Requires Knowledge of Words and the World. American Educator. https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/periodicals/Hirsch.pdf
Moore, D. (n.d.) Why Vocabulary Instruction Matters. Best Practices in Secondary Education. https://ngl.cengage.com/assets/downloads/edge_pro0000000030/am_moore_why_vocab_instr_mtrs.pdf
Neumann, S. and Wright (2014). Teaching Vocabulary in the Early Childhood Classroom. American Educator. https://www.aft.org/periodical/american-educator/summer-2014/magic-words
Willingham, Daniel (2017). The Reading Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Understanding How the Mind Reads.
Social-Emotional Learning: Part 2: Music
By Amy Woodley
As we move through October, Music and Performing Arts programs are really starting to hit their stride! Our auditoriums are open once again, our students are performing for live audiences, and our community is coming together in ways we have not been able to for the past year and a half. It feels REALLY good to be making music together again!
Part 1 of this series (September 30, 2021) discussed the natural partnership between The Arts and Social Emotional Learning (SEL). Just like any classroom, instruction in Visual Arts, Music, and Theatre is enhanced when there are great SEL structures in place. It is important to be able to recognize those structures, make them a strategic part of the lesson planning process, and name them when necessary during instruction. Helping students see those connections between their content learning and the skills of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision making, and relationship building is just as important as creating an environment that values their intellectual and emotional growth.
The image below is a link to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s Interactive CASEL Wheel. Click the image, and you will be able to use their interactive wheel to investigate how the SEL competencies and Arts competencies work together to enhance student achievement. The black dots represent Music (M), Visual Arts (VA), Theatre Arts (TA), and Dance (D) and each dot is a link to more information about what SEL might look like within that content.
After you’ve had a chance to explore the Arts/SEL wheel, consider finding time to connect with a colleague. Are there aspects of SEL learning that are enhanced in your classroom through one or more of these art forms? Are there parts of the artistic creative process that would enhance the social emotional environment in your classroom? If you are a Music, Theatre, or Visual Arts teacher, how do you express the value of and create space for social emotional learning? Capture your thinking, and challenge yourself to make those connections explicit in your lesson planning. I’d love to hear how this looks in your classroom!
This is the second of a three part series focusing on the relationship between SEL and the Arts. Be sure to check out the last installment!
(Re)Investing in PBL Instructional Practices
By Adrienne Rossi-Genova
Across the years, we have picked up and discarded many instructional practices as teachers, for a variety of reasons: growth as an educator, school or level changes, the needs of the students in front of us, schoolwide requirements. Like me, I’m sure there are a multitude of reasons swimming in your mind.
Some of those practices we kept for an equal number of reasons: they fit our belief systems, they met student needs, they continued to be a priority at our school.
Today, I’d like to make a case for an investment or reinvestment in one particular instructional strategy-- Project or Problem-Based Learning (PBL). You may know it by other names, but names aside, they all boil down to these essential components:
PBLWorks (https://www.pblworks.org/why-project-based-learning ) offers reasoning for using PBL in classrooms and schools, ”. . .we need young people who are ready, willing, and able to tackle the challenges of their lives and the world they will inherit. . .” The New Tech Network (https://32dkl02ezpk0qcqvqmlx19lk-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/New-Tech-Network-Overview-2.pdf ) agrees, citing, “”By making learning relevant [through PBL pedagogy], students see a purpose for mastering state-required skills and concepts” (2). Both offer insight into the depth and richness of the student learning experience. These ideals directly correlate with The Jeffco Deeper Learning Model, whose focus lies in the authentic and relevant learning teachers in Jeffco provide students (Jeffco).
You and your school may never have learned about PBL. Or you did some initial learning, but didn’t implement. Or you and your school were on a roll but hit the speed bump named COVID. Whatever the case, perhaps it’s time to take another look at the benefits of PBL at your school. I can help with both the investigation and the journey.
If you are interested in learning more, restarting your work with PBL, or want to consider what virtual PBL looks like, you can find me at: email@example.com, 2-7537, Ed Center, 2nd Floor, Curriculum & Instruction. Let’s get some good PBLs started together!
Buck Institute for Education. (n.d.). Why PBL? PBLWorks. https://www.pblworks.org/why-project-based-learning
Jeffco Public Schools. (2021). Jeffco deeper learning model. https://teamjeffco.jeffcopublicschools.org/academic_support/jeffco_learning_model
New Tech Network. (2020). The hierarchy of change: Design your way to school change. New Tech Network: Transforming teaching and learning New Tech Network. https://32dkl02ezpk0qcqvqmlx19lk-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/New-Tech-Network-Overview-2.pdf
Social-Emotional Learning and the Arts: Part 1: Theatre
By Drew Keat
Returning to in-person learning has been a significant transition for all members of the Jeffco Community. We are facing a variety of new challenges that require careful consideration and strategic intervention. In light of some of these challenges, the benefits of intentional focus on Social Emotional Learning have drawn our attention. Social Emotional Learning (SEL) provides a foundation for safe and positive learning, and enhances students' abilities to succeed in school, careers, and life. In addition, school-wide benefits of SEL include improved attitudes and behaviors throughout the school. The Jeffco Importance of SEL webpage outlines further benefits. However, these benefits are not simply elicited from isolated SEL instruction. To maximize the intended benefits, these lessons and skills need to be revisited and reinforced throughout a student’s day.
This is where the arts provide synergistic support for enhancing SEL. Arts education lends natural answers to the question “How do we reinforce the explicit instruction of SEL skills with authentic experiences and practice?” In January of 2020, the Journal of the National Association of State Boards of Education published a theory of action recognizing the implicit social-emotional learning involved in the daily experiences of arts education. While SEL competencies are not necessarily the primary instructional focus for arts courses, most arts educators do spend additional time and energy focusing on social-emotional development because these skills naturally supplement the outcome of their own content standards.
For instance, in Theatre, the recurrent experiences of auditioning for a production, rehearsing for performances, building ensemble, and engaging in the rigorous analyses necessary for creative self-expression provide fertile ground for the developmental experiences that are essential for high-quality SEL outcomes. Alternatively, by overtly building self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making, theatre students are able to give stronger performances, participate more effectively in ensembles, and execute more meaningful artistic analyses. Arts teachers tend to recognize that the development of SEL skills provide the answers for students when they ask “Why are we learning this?” This inherent relationship between SEL and Arts education indicates that some of our most valuable resources for SEL integration are arts teachers and their programs.
This synergy between content and SEL does not need to be confined to arts classrooms. Natural connections and interdependencies between SEL competencies can and should be made within all contents. With this in mind, we should remember that opportunities to draw on the experience and best practices of arts educators can be leveraged to enhance SEL instruction throughout our educational communities. As we approach the goals of SEL integration, one place to start could be the use of pedagogical strategies that are essential for Arts education.
This is the first of a three part series focusing on the relationship between SEL and the Arts. Be sure to check out our upcoming installments!
Theatre Activities for Reinforcing SEL
High School Credit in Middle School
By Jill Kalb, Lindsey Kjoller, and Alison Tanner
In October 2020, the Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education approved a policy change regarding students receiving high school credit for certain World Languages and Mathematics courses they complete while in middle school.
What was changed in board policy?
Why was there a change in policy?
Who does this impact? When does it begin?
Where is this policy in place? All secondary schools, including middle schools, high schools, and K-8 schools will follow this board policy.
Questions? Please refer to the following resources:
Hispanic Heritage Month
By Natalie Schaefer and Sarah Hurd
When I was a little girl, my grandmother made it her mission to find me any and every doll she could find who looked like me. She bought me every Barbie she could find with brown hair. I knew she was looking for dolls who had brown hair like me, but I did not come to realize that my brown hair and brown eyes signified anything more than the fact that everyone on my mom’s side of the family also had the same. My grandparents spoke both Spanish and English. Growing up, I knew they spoke Spanish because I knew when I could not understand what they were saying and typically, if they were speaking Spanish around me, it meant they had a secret -- a birthday present or information only the adults could know. In my family, Spanish names for certain things replaced their English words in such a way that I literally had no idea that there were different words for those things. As an adult, I was eating a salad with pine nuts on it and commented to my grandmother just how much like piñones these curious nuts tasted. My grandmother actually laughed at me when she had to explain that piñon is just the Spanish name for the same nut. I didn’t know, as a kid, that my family was any different from any other family in my neighborhood. I thought everyone’s grandfather carried a packet of chili pequin in their pocket and that mi hita was his nickname only for me. I didn’t identify myself as Hispanic until I had to fill out my first formal documents as a young adult -- you know the ones where they ask you to choose, “White - not Hispanic, or Hispanic” and at that moment I realized the complexity of the ideas we have come to know as identity especially when identity meets other terms like government, hierarchy, and discrimination.
This month, we honor Hispanic Heritage Month. The month actually lasts from September 15th to October 15th. The national holiday started as a week-long celebration in 1968 and was extended to the full month 20 years later, under the Reagan administration. The month begins on the 15th of September in recognition of the date of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Additionally, it aligns with Mexican Independence Day on September 16th and Chile’s Independence Day which takes place on September 18th. The month is meant to recognize the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans and their role in the history, culture, and achievements of the United States. While the holiday is marked as Hispanic heritage, it is important to remember that the term Hispanic itself is complex and may not fully represent the spectrum of individuals and their personal identities and experiences. There is not, as Stef Bernal-Martinez explains, a single Hispanic identity.
According to the 2020 Census, the Hispanic population (including those who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico, Central America, and the Spanish speaking nations of the Caribbean) is one of the largest growing portions of the American population today. There are currently approximately 62.1 million people in the United States who fit that category. Colorado is one of 12 states in the country where Hispanic residents number over 1 million. The number is actually 1.25 million, and of that 1.25 million, 26,000 residents are under the age of 18 in Jefferson County.
This month, we take the time to honor Hispanic Heritage Month not only because it is deemed a national holiday, but also because we want all students in Jefferson County Public Schools to feel supported and seen in our schools. In partnership with our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion team, our curriculum team works to provide resources that highlight stories of people from a variety of backgrounds. We want students to feel represented in our curriculum and provide opportunities for students to learn about people of identities that do not reflect their own. We also strive to ensure that students do not only hear stories of people like them in hardship, but also in triumph.
Andone, Dakin. “Why Hispanic Heritage Month Starts in the Middle of September.” CNN, Cable News Network, 15 Sept. 2021, www.cnn.com/2021/09/15/us/hispanic-heritage-month-why-celebrate-2021/index.html.
Bernal-Martinez, Stef. “Unmaking ‘Hispanic’: Teaching the Creation of Hispanic Identity.” Learning for Justice, 1 Oct. 2018, www.learningforjustice.org/magazine/unmaking-hispanic-teaching-the-creation-of-hispanic-identity.
Colorado State Demography Office. “Race and Hispanic Origin.” Colorado Demography, 2021, demography.dola.colorado.gov/population/race-hispanic-origin/#race-and-hispanic-origin.
U.S. Census Bureau. “Hispanic Heritage Month 2020.” The United States Census Bureau, 22 Sept. 2020, www.census.gov/newsroom/facts-for-features/2020/hispanic-heritage-month.html.
U.S. Census Bureau. “Improved Race and Ethnicity Measures Reveal U.s. Population Is Much More Multiracial.” The United States Census Bureau, 8 Sept. 2021, www.census.gov/library/stories/2021/08/improved-race-ethnicity-measures-reveal-united-states-population-much-more-multiracial.html.
Resources for teachers:
By Sarah Hurd & Natalie Schaefer
In 2004, Congress passed a law designating September 17th as Constitution Day. According to the statute, the purpose of the day is to help our students gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the United States Constitution. Schools may choose from a variety of options for meeting the requirements of the statute. Programs may range from school-wide observances such as assemblies, announcements, bulletin boards or other visuals to support direct instruction, and/or interdisciplinary projects to a classroom-based study related to the Constitution. The Constitution Day program is meant as a one-day special focus on the Constitution and not as a unit of study.
The Senate Historical Office says it well, “More than two centuries after its ratification, the United States Constitution remains a fundamental document. Strengthened by amendments, it continues to guide our public officials and the people they serve. It has endured through civil war, economic depressions, assassinations, and even terrorist attacks, and remains a source of wisdom and inspiration. To encourage Americans to learn more about the Constitution, Congress established Constitution Week in 1956, to begin each year on September 17—the date in 1787 when delegates to the federal convention signed the Constitution. In 2004 Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia took it a step further, sponsoring legislation designating September 17 of each year as Constitution Day and requiring public schools and government offices to provide educational programs to promote a better understanding of the Constitution. The Constitution of 1787 established the framework for the United States government, but it has fallen to succeeding generations to interpret and implement its principles. Every year, Constitution Day provides the opportunity for citizens to revisit the nation’s founding document and examine how it shapes this nation more than two centuries after its ratification”.
We are committed to the idea that activities developed to meet this law should not be something added to a social studies curriculum that is already replete with content and skills. Many of the suggestions for this one-day observance can be used as a springboard for continued study of (and connections to) the U.S. Constitution. Civics is embedded in Jeffco’s K-8 curriculum and has a stand-alone course in high school. There are also companion opportunities in our Modern US History, World History, and Economics courses for teachers to include civic related content.
By Sarah Hurd & Natalie Schaefer
“On Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001 the al-Qaeda terrorist network successfully executed attacks against the United States using four commercial airplanes. The airplanes were used as missiles to commit suicide bombings on several key buildings in the US. The attacks killed 2,996 people, injured over 6,000 others, and caused at least $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage. The death toll increased even after the initial attacks, as additional people died of cancer and respiratory diseases related to the debris from the destroyed buildings in the months and years following the attacks” (Childs). People around the world were glued to news outlets and watched tragedy unfold as they followed the paths of Flight 93, Flight 77 and the two airliners that flew into the Twin Towers in New York City.
Twenty years have passed since the attacks on September 11, 2001, an event that would devastate a nation and change the course of history forever. “...it’s not a current, contemporary issue as much for students in the classroom as much as it’s a history lesson,” said Barbara McCormack, vice president of education at the Newseum. “It’s going from the front pages of the newspaper to the history books” (Martines). Even amidst unparalleled destruction and violence, the days after 9/11 showed the incredible strength, resilience, and courage of the American people. It is this spirit of strength that we continue to honor in the lives that were lost and those who are affected; and we celebrate the resilience of our nation over the last twenty years.
It’s not surprising that teaching 9/11 as history is a delicate task. These events are, for some people, a lived experience in recent history and for others a historical event that they read about in history textbooks or learn of the events on an online resource. For the teachers that remember that day, it can be an emotional and heavy day to be in the classroom. It can be hard to approach the subject matter as it is sensitive and the images and documents that might be used as primary sources are disturbing. The story is also very much still being written, as the effects of 9/11 on American society continue to evolve. There is no national guideline in terms of teaching the topic. Schools and teachers are able to determine what is a best fit for their students and staff. Teachers say many students have similar relationships with 9/11 as adults do with events like the bombing of Pearl Harbor or even the Challenger explosion: they know the facts but may not have the personal connection that comes with witnessing a tragedy and its aftermath.
There are several options that teachers can explore as they consider teaching about the events before, during and after September 11, 2001. Exploring the national memorials (Flight 93 National Memorial, 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, and the World Trade Center Memorial) might be a way to engage students in learning about the victims, heroes, and timeline of the events of the day. Teachers may explore the September 11 Initiative from StoryCorps and find a handful of stories to share with students. Listening to stories that commemorate the lives of those who were lost that day may help humanize the event for students and take it out of the realm of just dates and facts. A popular option for schools is to use the days around 9/11 as a way to focus on citizenship and those that serve. Schools may choose to host veterans, first responders, and other humanitarian groups to say thank you and to highlight the importance of these roles within American society.
As 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of these terrorist attacks on the United States there will be a flood of news stories, webinars, documentaries, and events. Each of these will offer their unique perspectives and observations. We encourage students, parents, and teachers to engage with what feels comfortable for them.
Childs, David. ““What Happened on September 11? I Honestly Don’t Know.”” Democracy & Me, 12 September 2019, https://www.democracyandme.org/what-happened-on-september-11-i-honestly-dont-know/. Accessed 7 September 2021.
Martines, Jamie. “'9/11 is now a history lesson for most students. It's hard to convey what happened without getting emotional.'” tes.com, The Hechinger Report, 12 September 2016, https://www.tes.com/news/911-now-history-lesson-most-students-its-hard-convey-what-happened-without-getting-emotional. Accessed 7 September 2021.
Nurturing My Own Professional Growth
Jeffco Bridge to Curriculum MMTS of resources
By Toni Bower
Welcome back to the PULSE from your Jeffco Curriculum and Instruction team. As we recently welcomed our new teachers to Jeffco during Induction, we shared and walked through our Jeffco Bridge to Curriculum. This colorful multimedia text set (MMTS) was shared and offered many opportunities for grounding in Bridge to Curriculum. We wanted to provide the same opportunity for all of those in our field to refresh or reground as we start the year. Please take a few minutes to look through this document and hopefully it helps you as you plan your units.
Explore the Bridge to Curriculum
Curriculum & Instruction