Native American Heritage Month
By Sarah Hurd
I have been a part of Jeffco Schools since my family moved here in the mid 1980s from eastern Kansas. Third grade brought local history to me, which was so new to me as I had only been living in Colorado for a couple of years. We had Day in Denver and I remember taking photos and using the prints to make a scrapbook for my project of architecture in Denver. And we also had Day on the Prairie. We were divided into Native American tribes and spent the day at a nearby park. At the time it seemed fun. We got to make necklaces made out of wood rings, built teepees, and tried bison burgers. I remember learning the different names of tribes. All in all, it was a fun field trip. We were outside, I was with friends, and my mom got to come along. Fast forward 20 plus years and in my current role I found a meeting placed on my calendar with Jeffco’s Indian Education Liaison. A whole new world was waiting for me. In the last seven years I have learned so much about not only Colorado’s First Peoples, but where our Native Nations are positioned in our past, present and future. It has become a highlight to share about native peoples and to thread their stories throughout the K-12 curriculum. I am now able to reflect upon my experience from Day on the Prairie and realize that while no harm was intended, approaching learning about a culture, its peoples, and traditions in that way is disrespectful and is harmful. As we approach November, I wanted to take a few minutes and elevate my personal growth and understanding to include native perspectives and heritage. I hope this coming month provides a space for you to reflect and learn as well.
In 1990, President George H.W. Bush declared November as National American Indian Heritage Month. Today, it is often referred to as Native American Heritage Month. Throughout the Jeffco curriculum, the Social Studies Team, in partnership with our Jeffco Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion team, has worked to incorporate a wide variety of resources that highlight the history and accomplishments of Native Americans within the United States, as well as internationally. We are working to include native voices and perspectives, influential Native historical figures, current prominent Native leaders, and cultural influences throughout the Jeffco social studies curriculum.
Here are some resource links that we love for this month:
Native American Heritage Month website - contains links for multiple resources including the Library of Congress materials, the National Archives, and the Smithsonian with lesson materials such as primary sources and teaching suggestions.
The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Native Knowledge 360° Essential Understandings about American Indians. It is a framework that offers new possibilities for creating student learning experiences. This site also provides guidance about teaching about Thanksgiving in an inclusive and accurate way.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org, 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
Curriculum & Instruction