Kathi Goes to the Coaching Institute at Teacher's College

Lucy Calkins & Kathi.TC Manning Chapel. NYC.TCRWP Coaching Institute.10.24.11
I'm so thrilled and excited for my best teacher friend in the world, Kathi Zotovich, who just got back from a whirlwind 12-hour days & 2-hour (homework) nights Coaching Institute with Lucy Calkins at The Teacher's College in NYC. Back in 1993, I began my first year teaching at Del Mar Elementary in Morro Bay, CA, and Kathi was my mentor and teaching partner.  Over the last eighteen years, through school, state and position moves,  we have remained the closest of friends and teaching colleagues.  I'm so proud of her and even more excited that San Luis Coastal Unified School District finally recognized her as a integral force for changing the way they literacy instruction is delivered and assessed in her county...Kathi, you rock! It has taken you many years to prove it, but you have single handedly brought SLCUSD into the research base and best (literacy) practices of the 21st century! Finally, it is you, driving the literacy ship of your distict, congratulations! What an awesome position to be in...you are still my mentor!  Thank you for sharing your TCRWP pictures with me....here are just a few from her week, taken at PS 199 in Queens.


Thanks Kathi, and PS 199Q for sharing! 


Bee Opinionated! Higher Order Thinking Question Sets

Here at Lake Myra, we've movin' and shakin' the higher order thinking skills!  So here's what we've done!  We've got quite an extensive leveled book room, including 12 magazine titles (6 copies of each per month), author study sets, listening center sets, and KITS (Kids Into Thinking) for enrichment groups.  Needless to say we have quite a stocked leveled book room.  Book sets are bar-coded, scanned in and out and categorized by levels A-Z (Fountas & Pinnell), fiction and non-fiction, comprehension strategy, and subject....I'll admit, we are very fortunate! Part of the reason for having so many book sets in there is that we opted out of ordering the Hougton Mifflin reading series/textbooks/anthologies/basals/workbooks  in order to spend that money on real authentic children's literature for the leveled book room.  Our LBR (1/4 of it):

This year, our staff began working on the Bee Opinionated project.  It involves creating higher order question sets for all the guided reading book sets in the Leveled Book Room.   As the literacy coach and I presented this idea to the staff, we did some capacity building with a powerpoint, a reading and discussions from the Burkins and Croft book, Preventing Misguided Reading.  If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.  The gist of the book is that since Fountas & Pinnell introduced guided reading in the 90's, it has morphed into something very different than what was intended and taken on new (sometimes district determined meaning) that was never intended.   The authors present a "new" understanding of guided reading and what students should actually be able to do during this time.   The book is divided up into two parts....the rationale behind preventing misguided reading and then a section of about 32 strategies to prevent misguided reading. 

In addition to the strategy of asking higher order questions of students during guided reading, even with text levels 1-2, the new Common Core standards is all about higher order thinking, including an entire strand per grade level about Speaking and Listening.  In my experience, students either don't know they have an opinion, are afraid to give a wrong answer and in general, don't have a lot of experience with open-ended discussions.  The Bee Opinionated project is about giving students the opportunity to talk about books and have higher order conversations by teaching them how to agree and disagree, justify their answers and realize that when a teacher asks a question that she herself already knows the answer, it's not a higher order question.   Although part of the new standards IS about teaching students how to ask their own questions of the author, text and one another, this project gets at the heart of asking students questions about their opinion, where the answers are unknown, open and critical...and there's not right or wrong answer only reasons and evidence based on ideas from the text and the reader's life.   Here is a sheet I created and presented to the staff that compares and contrasts lower order thinking with higher order thinking. 

Another common understanding that needs to be clear when we expect students to share and discuss deep ideas and opinions about text and informational content is this: if we expect students to be critical readers than they must be critical thinkers. In order for student to agree and disagree with each other, they must first be in touch with their own ideas, beliefs, values and interests so they can have a basis for agreeing and/or disagreeing.  The second common understanding that needs to be clear when we expect students to share and discuss ideas with their peers, is trust.  Students needs to feel that the environment is safe where taking conversational risks are encouraged and praised and students are made to feel like their contributions are of value to the entire group. This also means that students understand their teacher's role is that of facilitator, not the all-knowing adult in the room, and that teachers may NOT know the right answer to the question, nor IS there a right answer to the question except the justified one that comes from the students' own opinion. 

As a staff, teachers worked in table groups to develop higher order questions for specific books.  This is not the same as having a set of generic question stems in front of you.  As I'm in and out of classrooms all day, I know that some teachers are just naturally good questioners....I, however, am not.  I need to script out higher order questions beforehand, and I can't think of good ones spontaneously like some teachers can.  So, to eliminate this from the equation, if we have  Bee Opinionated questions for every book set, all teachers can be prepared to have their students use higher order thinking conversations.   Here are a few examples of some of the question sets created by the teachers.  

The Royal Bee: Reading Level-4th Grade

  After the Flood: Reading Level 13/14

On this particular morning, the staff worked for 90 minutes and created 16 question sets. This will continue to be a focus of professional development this year.  Teachers and teams may also work for an additional 10 hours on their own to create more question sets for 1 CEU reading credit.  Now when teachers, go to the leveled book room, sets that include questions are denoted with a bee sticker on the spine of the white sleeve as shown:

And teachers have also developed anecdotal checkbrics to document students who are doing well at speaking and discussing as critical thinkers.  The 4th grade team developed the following:

and the 4th grade teachers are also keeping track of the kind of questions they ask of their students as well to measure their SMART goal. 



RTI: Digging Deeper Assessments

Since posting our school's RTI plan and links to the RTI documents we created at Lake Myra, several of you have asked about the Digging Deeper Assessments we use to drill down a child's most foundational literacy level....identified on the Otter Talk Form below (more on this form and the other RTI documents we created in my earlier Response to Intervention post). 

 So, here are the all Digging Deeper Assessments we use in our school & district.  Although none of them were originally created by our school/district, they are public assessments for anyone to use: 

Diagnostic Phonological Awareness Assessment
Download this free diagnostic PA assessment HERE
Direction for administration and scoring are included. 

 Print Concepts based on Clay's Concept About Print from the Observational Survey
use Busy Beavers or Detective Dog from the Story Basket Collection from the Wright Group

Letter/Sound Identification, also a part of the Observations Survey

Names Test from Patricia Cunningham

Early Names Test

Words Their Way Word Study Assessments

Here is the binder cover I created for the RtI Digging Deeper Assessment binder...{click to download}

Also, if you missed the video {from an earlier post} regarding how all these assessments fit into the Lake Myra RtI process, here it is...for the RtI documents we created, see my previous post about RtI at Lake Myra Elementary.


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