Dr. Schmoker's message is based on his book Focus which makes the argument that student achievement would skyrocket if schools did away with all of the initiatives each school year brings and 'Focus' on two or three high-leverage strategies and carry those out better than ever. The areas of 'Focus' are not new, innovative, cutting-edge, or based on the use of technology. The areas of 'Focus' ARE tried and true educational practices which are discussed every year and in every school district, building, and team meeting. What follows are my notes from the morning's session.
Dr. Mike Schmoker
Author of Focus
Less is more. In any sphere of life people say, "Less is more." But do we truly embrace that idea?
Never more than 2 or 3 initiatives per year. Pick the top priorities and make sure that you do them better than anyone else.
"Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious." -George Orwell
When you walk through classrooms, what do you see? You know what kind of instruction/delivery should be found but do you actually find it? There's a huge gap between what the average educator is doing in the classroom and what they should be doing in the classroom.
Lecturing needs to be thrown out of the window.
Assigning homework is not teaching.
When a teacher asks a question, who is the first person to raise their hand to answer? Who's the last one to raise their hand, if at all? Who does the teacher call on? Do the struggling students even get help? Does this really benefit anyone?
Worksheets: not the most effective and wonderful tool for students.
Worksheets: easy for teachers to copy and hand out to students.
Worksheets: designed to be assigned, not taught. You don't really even need the teacher.
20-50% of students entering college are not prepared for the amount and rigor of reading required.
Simplicity/Less is more: first things, ceaselessly clarified and reinforced
First Things that All Schools Must Make a Priority
- guaranteed and viable curriculum
- authentic literacy and rich text
- effective lessons
- once these 3 are fully mastered, we may judiciously pilot truly evidence-based innovations but not before mastery
Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum
- Coherent, content-rich curriculum--learned primarily through reading/writing
- guaranteed and 'viable' curriculum creates more time for reading; writing; talking about content
- guaranteed means that parents don't have to worry about which teacher your child has
Do America's schools now ensure that a coherent, 'guaranteed,' literacy-rich curriculum actually gets taught?
- most teachers provide a self-selected jumble of standards
- wide variation from teacher to teacher
We need to have
- coherent sequence of core content learned via reading, writing, and discussion in these modes:
- draw inferences and conclusions
- analyze conflicting source documents
- solve complex problems with no obvious answer
- support arguments with evidence
(multiple 3-5 page papers and far more books, articles, and essays in the curriculum)
Every student should believe that he/she will be called on when a question is asked. Keeps them focused and on-task. If students know that the teacher will call on the first person with his/her hand up, most students won't even try to answer the question or raise their hand.
Common Core "Instructional Shifts": Literacy Across the Curriculum
- building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction and informational texts
- reading and writing grounded in evidence from text
- regular practice with complex text and its academic vocabulary
Continuous lessons and modeling is key (3rd day in a row that modeling is noted)
How to Build a Curriculum
- reduce, then map essential standards/topics
- divide by grading period
- Select Common Texts
- for each standard, for only one grading period at a time (to discuss and write about)
- textbook; specific pages (not entire chapters) for topics, not as the content-rich text
- historical/scientific documents; newspaper/magazine articles; data sets
- generate questions/tasks for texts (make arguments, inferences, compare/contrast, etc.)
- Continue and repeat the process, at team meetings, to select texts and create good questions (PLC time)
- Define parameters for common writings
- literacy is 'the spine that holds everything together in all subject areas.'
- 'literature based arts and crafts' hold NO value for student growth and achievement
- dioramas, game boards, worksheets, posters, coats-of-arms, mobiles, movies, cutting, gluing, coloring, drawing, designing book jackets, skits, collages
Writing: How Important is It?
- There are no silver bullets in education. But non-fiction writing is about as close as you can get.
- teach background vocabulary to students
- rarely happens and students have no idea what they're reading
- spending 3-5 minutes on a mini-lesson will allow students access to the text
- model critical reading/underlining/annotating (once again, modeling is key)
- Repeat the above
- 100% engagement
- clear standard/learning target
- teach, model, think aloud
- guided practice and lots of think/pair/share
- multiple checks for understanding (formative assessments - checks for understanding - formal and informal)
- independent practice
Students at 4th/5th grade level need to be reading at LEAST 10 chapter books each year. How many do your students read? Imagine the educational impact reading 10 chapter books would have on a student.
Jim Collins in Good to Great…"Foxes pursue many ends at the same time…Hedgehogs see what is essential, and ignore the rest." The fox always tries to innovate and come up with new ways to improve and never does. The Hedgehog does one thing and always wins. Most schools behave like the fox, trying every new innovation that comes across the principal's desk. Those schools rarely, if ever, see sustainable improvements in student achievement. On the other hand, schools that select two or three research-based instructional strategies show considerable student growth over time. What kind of school would you rather work in?
Most effective strategies:
- common content-rich curriculum
- checks for understanding
- 90-120 minutes of quality reading instruction and reading time
Here are the notes from the afternoon session with Dr. Richard Allington.
Dr. Richard Allington
University of Tennessee
Presentation Title: Improving Reading Comprehension: The Power of Access and Choice.
- As students spend more time in school the array of reading abilities broadens
- This is the primary reason why a "one size fits all" curriculum plan is always a bad idea
- "Bad" because it is always an ineffective plan
We have teachers not offering rigorous instruction beyond the grade level they teach. Can those teachers then ask why their students are 'catching up?'
Why would schools STILL use core reading programs?
- no research exists demonstrating that any core reading program actually improves reading achievement
- major finding of the What Works Clearinghouse
- so why are most schools still buying core reading programs?
Programs don't teach kids to read, teachers do.
Our best teachers teach every child to read.
Classrooms which experience more success and high student achievement have their students reading at least 3-5 times more than other classrooms.
Reading Volume (amount of reading students are required to do)
- critical to reading success
- free voluntary reading activity is best predictor
- few schools have active programs fostering free voluntary reading
- some classroom teachers foster free voluntary reading but only some
Why so little reading in and for school?
- limited reading demands in schools (teachers not requiring it)
- few classroom libraries
- little use of school libraries
- no time in school day set aside for free voluntary reading
Here is what others were Tweeting during the day:
Jake Steinmetz @JakeJSteinmetz
- Allington- One size fits all curriculum doesn't work well-more time kids are in school, the array of reading abilities broadens. #litsummit
Patrick Haney @phaney10
- We have been fed a test-prep diet for years, and we think it's nutritious. It's not. -Schmoker #litsummit
- Allington- Any more than 2 hours of "test prep" instruction per year = decrease in standardized testing scores. #litsummit
Lee Heffernan @lee_heffernan
- We don't do much reading and writing in school. Not good. Let's change that. #litsummit
- Worksheets aren’t good. 50% of kid time in K - 12 is spent filling out worksheets. Focus on reading and writing, please. #litsummit
- Unpacking EL's = finding texts, questions, tasks, writing extensions that can help us teach the EL #litsummit
- Write more grade less. Schmoker #litsummit http://t.co/ytHZMSCz
- Allington and Schmoker in the same day?! #booyah #litsummit
- At the beginning of every meeting, review the same priorities and celebrate the successes - Schmoker #litsummit
- Purposeful writing about reading is as close to a silver bullet in education as we have. -Schmoker #litsummit
- 83% of students surveyed said that discussion about interesting articles is their favorite part of school. #litsummit
- That's twice today we've heard that worksheets are not good for student learning. I'm noticing a trend! #litsummit
Mary Beth Riley @MBRileyNCE
- Only 20-50% of students in college are ready and prepared for the rigor and volume of work. Solution? Less is more. Schmoker #litsummit
- It's not programs that teach kids to read, it's people, as in teachers. - Allington #litsummit
Melissa Brisco @mgbrisco
- If in Kindergarten you are still doing letter of the week, you are 40-50 years behind.... AMEN Richard Allington!
The 1st Annual MCCSC Literacy Summit has come to an end. Attendees had three great days of professional development and lived out the meaning of 'Life-Long Learning.' I'm already looking forward to the 2nd Annual MCCSC Literacy Summit. Mark your calendars for July 22-24, 2013!