While the Pulse blog loves all things teaching and learning, we would rather shine the spotlight on the talented and passionate folks at C&I who share their passion through their content-specific newsletters. Therefore, the Pulse will take an indefinite hiatus from publication in the hope that you will tune in to the news you can most use. Whatever your role, there is support for you!
Here are samples of the great work happening out there:
Career Links Choice Link Newsletter
Computer Science Updates
DTL Weekly Update
Ed Tech Blog
Secondary ELA news: ELA Café
The Elementary Element
The ESL Memo
Visual Arts Newsletter
World Language Newsletter
From the Math Curriculum Specialist Team
Have you heard? In connection with Jeffco Thrives Priority #1: Our Learners, Our Future, some of our Jeffco schools will be implementing a new Math resource during the 2022-2023 school year!
Illustrative Mathematics (IM) is a K–12® core curriculum designed to give all students equity and access to grade-level mathematics — ensuring students are active participants in their learning. Teachers and students will be able to access the resource digitally through the Imagine Learning (formerly known as Learn Zillion) platform. Imagine Learning is an IM-Certified Partner, and the digital platform provides an interactive experience where students thrive through inclusive instructional routines, collaborative math discourse, and digital tools that promote thinking and reasoning.
Starting in the Fall of 2022, Cohort 1 schools will be diving into this problem-based curriculum. This curriculum aligns closely with ideas outlined in the Jeffco K-12 Mathematics Instructional Framework by engaging students through embedded differentiation, instructional routines, and math discourse that promote modeling and reasoning.
Want to learn more? Click here!
ELL/Dual Language Team
English Language Learners (ELLs) need instruction in grade-level academic content, but they need that content delivered in a way that is both comprehensible and helps to develop English proficiency.
Fortunately, there are a number of strategies you can build into your lessons to support ELLs. They include:
Think about it. Classroom activities that build background knowledge and front-load vocabulary also expose ELLs to lots of academic language. That’s good! And the use of non-verbal supports like pictures, gestures and models make it easier for ELLs to follow the content of your lesson, which in turn allows them to process even more English. Finally, the use of sentence frames and word banks can help ELLs to answer class questions while at the same time giving them practice with English grammar and vocabulary.
Want to learn more? If so, the central ESL/Dual Language team has developed a series of Quick Start Guides to provide you with a fuller overview of these instructional strategies. Each guide includes a topic overview, useful tips, and color photos and illustrations of the strategies in use. You can find them here.
(And if you want to go even deeper, or if you have a question about a specific ELL, please reach out to your school’s ESL staff member or centrally-based ESL/DL Resource Teacher.)
Many of the benefits stated above are a reality in classrooms across Jeffco because of the success of the TechforEd program. This was a voter initiative that was passed to create an equitable and sustainable model for technology-enabled classrooms that prepare students to thrive in a connected, digital world.
Get Your Tech On
By Megan Motley
Happy April! Happy National Poetry Month!
As an ELA teacher, I always felt obligated and hesitant to teach poetry. Where to begin? Iambic pentameter? Sonnets? Enjambment? Emily Dickinson wandering around in a white dress?! Ultimately, I found that sharing poetry that I liked and giving students space to find poems that they enjoyed in units throughout the year was enough. I didn’t need to provide hours of direct instruction to prepare them for poetry: students are smart, and they appreciate lyrics, rhythm, and lovely phrases. I also found that some students were already reading poetry on their own thanks to Instapoets like Rupi Kaur.
Not only did my classes appreciate reading poetry, I found that many students enjoyed writing poetry. Students loved creating “found poems” from a chapter of a novel that we were reading, and I loved that it was a sneaky and scaffolded way for all students to reread, examine language, and explore themes regardless of their reading level.
While there are only a few days left of National Poetry Month, it is worth prioritizing space in our own lives and our classrooms to simply read and appreciate poetry regardless of grade level or content. After all, as the poet Audre Lorde reminds us, “Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity for our existence. It forms the quality of light from which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.” Let’s continue to grow and refine our quality of light.
To celebrate spring’s return of songbirds and the last few days of National Poetry Month, here’s one that I keep coming back to by Mary Oliver.
What Gorgeous Thing
I do not know what gorgeous thing
the bluebird keeps saying,
his voice easing out of his throat,
beak, body into the pink air
of the early morning. I like it
whatever it is. Sometimes
it seems the only thing in the world
that is without dark thoughts.
Sometimes it seems the only thing
in the world that is without
questions that can’t and probably
never will be answered, the
only thing that is entirely content
with the pink, then clear white
morning and, gratefully, says so.
By Julie Doyle
The challenges and restrictions that arose and changed during the last two years made it difficult -- if not impossible -- for international exchange students to live in the U.S. and be a part of our wonderful Jeffco communities. We are celebrating that international exchange students are back! For the 2022-2023 school year, Jeffco will host up to 100 international exchange students. International exchange is a great way for the youth of today to meet the global challenges of tomorrow by building bridges of cross-cultural understanding.
So far, we have students coming from Germany, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Puerto Rico, Sweden, France, Norway, Brazil, Switzerland, Thailand, Belgium, and Ukraine. We have expedited the application process for our students from Ukraine in the hopes of getting them to safety as soon as possible, and we are looking forward to welcoming them into our communities. We have so much to learn from them.
International students certainly get to enjoy the opportunities of participating in the academic, athletic, and social lives of their schools. However, American students also benefit when their peers are from very different cultural backgrounds. American students do not hesitate to ask questions and learn from their new classmates. Teachers also enjoy having international students in their classrooms and the new learning and connections that are made.
If you are interested in hosting an international exchange student, please reach out to Julie Doyle, International Exchange Coordinator, at Julie.email@example.com.
By Adrienne Rossi-Genova
“Engagement is more about what you can do for your students. Empowerment is about helping students to figure out what they can do for themselves.”
- G. Couros
Project Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question, problem, or challenge (PBLWorks). PBLs can range in duration, from a week to a full unit’s length of time. The culmination of learning is to create a project or presentation to deliver to a real audience.
There are many high-leverage teaching practices used in PBL which translate to any classroom’s work. One of these wrap-around practices is culture building, which is a Gold-Standard PBL teaching practice from PBLWorks. “Teachers explicitly and implicitly promote student independence and growth, open-ended inquiry, team spirit, and attention to quality” (WHAT: Gold-Standard PBL).
This view of culture reflects real-world skills that anyone might do as part of their job. From task organization to research to developing public products, teachers who routinely use these practices as a part of the way they do business in the classroom are promoting the deepening of Essential or 21st Century Skills. In addition, developing the classroom’s culture improves learning because students know their work and feel empowered to carry out tasks independently.
“Classroom environment is one of the most important factors affecting student learning. A positive environment is one in which students feel a sense of belonging, trusting others, and feel encouraged to tackle challenges, take risks, and ask questions”.
Joan Young, Encouragement in the Classroom (2014)
Culture is defined as ‘the set of shared attitudes, beliefs, values, goals, and practices that characterize an institute or organization’” (PBLWorks, 2021). In Candice Steinke’s and Erika Lee’s classrooms at Foothills Elementary, their Smart Doll PBL exemplified a positive classroom culture. They promoted student independence through student voice and choice-- students made decisions about who they would research and which major life events to include in their timeline and essay. Students developed an attention to quality when creating their own Smart Doll-- from choosing a design to cutting to sewing; students themselves did the work.
Many teachers engage in culture-building activities at the beginning of the school year or semester. Dedication to the development of culture in the classroom not only builds relationships but strengthens students’ convictions about themselves as learners and their ability to create excellent independent work.
PBLWorks. (n.d.). What is PBL? https://www.pblworks.org/what-is-pbl
PBLWorks. (n.d.). WHAT: Gold standard PBL: Project based teaching practices. https://www.pblworks.org/what-is-pbl/gold-standard-teaching-practices
PBLWorks. (2021). Project based learning handbook for elementary school.
Young, J. (2014). Encouragement in the classroom: How do I help students stay positive and focused? (ASCD Arias). ASCD.
By Kristina Harris, Apryl Thompson, and Anne Folsom
Within a reading workshop how many minutes are students reading? This year has brought a return to consistent, in-person learning environments for most students. Teachers have worked hard to create these learning environments through consistent routines that leverage learning to build independence. The last few years have brought a need to adjust instruction to meet the needs of an even wider range of students. As you examine the needs of your classroom and the promise of grade level learning, we encourage you to consider the balance you are creating. “Children need time to read — a lot of time. Time spent reading contributes to reading achievement in ways that simply doing worksheets or other activities does not” (Allington, 2002; Foorman et al., 2006). Look at the categories below from your students eyes. How are your readers building stamina in their texts? Consider ways for them to read, take a little break, and jump back into a book.
Structure and Environment- Consider how students access books. A robust classroom library builds excitement and interest in books. Students will have the option to read books that meet their needs, interest and purpose. Book boxes contain a variety of text, some for fluency, some for print work, some for student interest and choice. Students have more device access than ever before and you will want to consider how ebooks are assigned or accessible to students. One caution: ensure students are actually reading, not just listening to books.
Books- Can students find books on topics that they think are interesting?
Are the books student access “just right” for them? I’m thinking of the wide range of readers you probably see in your classroom right now. Students will want to spend time in a variety of text types. Decodable texts allow students to apply the foundational skills they have learned. They are using the spelling rules to decode within a controlled environment. Predictable texts enable students to move from that controlled print work to a text that will have more engaging comprehension work. Level readers typically have richer story lines, better characters or exciting information. And lastly, think about choice or library books. Students want to read, and even just look at, texts on topics that interest them, that come in a variety of formats, that they can share with friends, and that they can learn from.
Proficiency Scales to Drive Purpose- As students head off to independent reading you may want to engage them in a purpose for reading. For years schools have used close reading as a lens for readers to examine text through. These practices can guide students' thinking about a text. Think "Notice & Note." Students engage in book clubs or collaboration that allows them to be accountable to their group as they have conversation and dig into books. Some independent reading with sticky notes or opportunities to write about reading can also be a purpose. And sometimes, kids deserve a chance to read and enjoy something they’ve picked on their own just for the sheer joy of reading.
Goals, Logs, Journals- Get to know your students' reading habits through interest surveys either for students or families. Reading logs can be a great visual way for kids to track what they have read and get them reading more. Student Friendly Proficiency Scales can help students evaluate their own progress in reading skills.
By Jamie Grimm
Sex ed. It's a popular topic in our society with strong opinions on what, where, and when it should be taught to young people. Most of the voices in these conversations are from adults. Rarely do we hear from the population that is most impacted by the decisions we make. In the fall of 2021, we decided to change this problem and develop a class for high school students to help us revise their sexual health education curriculum. This post will share the successes and challenges of utilizing students to help lead the work of revising curriculum at a district level.
With the help of counselors, SELS, schedulers, and science teachers, we recruited thirteen students from five high schools to participate in the Healthy Decision Making Leadership course. The course was run through Jeffco Virtual Academy as a .5 Leadership elective. Students met every other week in the evening with the Health Science Coordinator (the subsequent author of the unit), and Jaime Brenner, a social and emotional learning specialist from Alameda International Jr/Sr High School. The students had work outside of class that they had to complete each week as well.
Representation of student voices is incredibly meaningful. However, in order for students to have an impactful presence, they first needed to understand that curriculum is developed through the use of state standards, and in our case, state law. Having this background information and understanding helped students to better create validity to their revision suggestions.
Once students had a better understanding of what needed to be taught within sexual health education, their next hurdle was to develop student-centered activities to address the content. Through the use of student and teacher surveys, focus groups, and their own lived experiences, the students created and or revised existing activities that were relevant to their lives. Each of the ten lessons within the curriculum has a student-centered activity that was either created or revised by the students. This was the major focus of the course and took the most amount of time.
As most can imagine, bringing together students from different high schools, backgrounds, and experiences to revise a sexual health education curriculum can be, initially, really awkward! During the first couple of group meetings there was a lot of silence from the students and probing from the instructors. However, through team building exercises, laughter, and small group discussions, the students really emerged from their shells. The result was a group of students that knew their classmates were respectful, trustworthy, kind, and fierce advocates for the work.
Not only did we have a group of students that became leaders in the work, but we now have a curriculum that is incredibly student-centered, culturally relevant, and meaningful for the population that we seek to educate.
With any new endeavor there will be unanticipated setbacks. As most educators, we envision a lesson or training to go exactly how we have planned, only to realize that the best laid plans often go awry. The two biggest challenges I had was holding students accountable for their work outside of class, and being okay with changing my original expectations about what I wanted to accomplish during the course. If I was to host this course again, I would develop a better system for students to check-in with me about their progress. I think this would hold them more accountable, but also allow me to build better relationships with the students on an individual basis. Some of our students were not always comfortable sharing their opinions during whole group discussions, but when they were in a small group or one-on-one situation, they had a lot more to say.
I quickly learned that students in this class were way more involved in the work if it was through whole group or small group discussions. This was not what I had planned for each of my lessons! Therefore, in the future I would definitely build in more time for collaboration and group discussions. After a couple years of quiet students on a Zoom screen, the in-person group discussions were a very welcomed change!
Young people are incredibly knowledgeable and motivated to become agents of change. We must not use them merely as an act of tokenism, but rather a group of individuals with the foresight to recognize the challenges they will face in their present and future lives.
My last piece of advice for anyone who chooses to involve students in curriculum revisions/developments is to “feed them”. Feed them food each time you meet (quite literally…they’re always hungry) and feed them opportunities to be impactful within their community!
By Toni Bower
The philosophy of disciplinary literacy has been around for many years. The idea and practices might not have been elevated as much as they could have been. Have you heard, “Every teacher teaches reading and writing?” This is NOT disciplinary literacy. Let’s shift this thinking to “Every teacher teaches literacy skills essential to their discipline.” Our students deserve the reinforcement of the literacy skills and instructional practices that support their access to discipline-specific content and ability to be successful in learning across their day. We know that literacy happens in each and every content, but how are students accessing the information? How are they communicating it? How are they “thinking” in the various content classrooms? We want our students to participate alongside their teachers and with their peers, and not as observers.
There are some content literacy skills that classrooms use but there are also discipline-specific literacies too. This chart from Lent & Voigt separates some literacy skills illustrating the differences.
Disciplinary literacy lifts the discipline/content first and then incorporates the literacy skills through the lens of the discipline. Content literacies/ interdisciplinary literacy uses the literacy skills (taught in ELA classrooms) and brings them across all classrooms. For the most part, the skill looks the same across the disciplines (with very minor tweaks).
Currently there are several middle schools learning together through a leader group and taking the work back to their classrooms and teams. Professional development opportunities were provided for secondary instructional coaches around using MAP data in all content areas to better build understanding on students' proficiency levels in literacy and how to adapt classroom instructional practices to support all students. Additional professional development was shared with our new secondary teachers around using “Talk Moves” in all content areas to help students engage and use deeper thinking in the disciplines.
If you have any questions, want more information, or want to collaborate on professional learning or other opportunities for you, your teachers, or your students, please contact Toni Bower. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Curriculum & Instruction