Writing Instruction

This year, our school goal is to explore best pedagogy in writing instruction. We started by building our foundational knowledge and skills based on the research by Lucy Calkins. From there, our professional development has focused on cross-curricular Thinking Strategies.  We first learned about these strategies as comprehension strategies when we honed our teaching in the area of reading instruction.  Staff explicitly teaches these strategies in reading and now we will teach these strategies for writing instruction:

Schema                                    Determining Importance

Asking Questions                   Drawing Inferences

Visualizing                               Synthesizing

Monitoring Meaning


Stating Goals

There are many reasons why explicitly stating learning goals is so important for both students and teachers.  During a professional development day, the staff at Iron Ridge Elementary Campus unpacked the idea of “stating goals” not only within the context of Daily 5, but across the curriculum as well.  Below is a link to our google presentation that includes our thoughts, current best practices, and ideas for future implementation focusing on why and how stating goals is essential within the learning process.

Ped First.PNG

Gradual Release of Responsibility


image from www.online-instagram.com

Do you ever get a sneaking suspicion that this is what your students are feeling once they’ve been given a project or assignment?

Maybe it’s time to try Gradual Release of Responsibility.


Why is gradual release of responsibility an extremely effective structure in education?  Because it follows a map of transferring the learning process from the traditional “Holder of Information” (aka Teacher) to the students in a way that clearly sets them up for understanding, ownership and success.  Students assume confidence and responsibility when GRofR is done properly.  Note that the Gradual Release of Responsibility can happen within an individual lesson, but will most likely take a series of lessons to complete from beginning to end.


Above is a model of what Gradual Release of Responsibility can look like.  Notice how the lesson begins with a very high level of support from the teacher.  Once students are ready to do their independent work, the teacher needs to give very little or no support as the learner has been taught, modeled to, and worked together with guided assistance.  They have a deep understanding of what they need to do and how they can achieve their learning goal or skill.

Here is another simple graphic displaying the transfer of learning responsibility from the teacher to the student.


Yes.  Gradual Release of Responsibility takes extra time at the beginning of a lesson.  However the instances of teacher intervention and reteaching decreases significantly during the lesson.  Students have a solid plan of what they need to do, how they can achieve their learning goal, and they have a clear picture of what their final expectations are.  Teachers that use the Gradual Release of Responsibility empower their students and set them up for success with confidence and deep understandings.

How Did We Do: Strategic Plan 2012.2013

Iron Ridge Elementary Campus

Our Mission

Empowering learners to lead and succeed

Our Vision

I.R.E.C.-A Culture of Excellence

A Community of Learners

A School of Choice

“Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it themselves.”

by Stephen Covey

A Culture of Excellence

  • Creating a collaborative environment
  • focused on student learning
  • based on assessment for learning and instructional design
  • Empowering student for success
  • Creating a safe and caring community through the principles of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Covey)

A Community of Learners

  • Preparing dependent learners for:
  • Critical Thinking
  • Problem Solving
  • Collaborating
  • Working in diverse teams
  • Applying technology
  • Leadership
  •  . . . in the 21st Century and for a Changing World (Trilling and Fadel (2009)

A Community of Leaders

  • Be Proactive
  • Begin With the End in Mind
  • First Things First
  • Think Win Win
  • Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
  • Synergize
  • Sharpen the Saw

(Covey 2008)

What We Did-2012-2013

Goal 1: What will be the effect on student achievement if we deepen our understanding of the 12 ELEs within a guided practice structure?

Specific Strategies:

  • Time allotted on PD days to focus on developing and increasing understanding of all 12 ELEs. RAE (Readiness Awareness Exercise-Pre-Assessment) data indicates IREC (Iron Ridge Elementary Campus) has good starting base of all 12 ELEs. Our intention is to draw on the direction provided by the District Transformational  Leader and instruction provided to the Diamond team with respect to exercises, activities or experiences that we can replicate with our staff that will best support growth with respect to all the 12 ELE areas, particularly ELE 1 and ELE 11. We are very aware that differentiated instruction is essential to an excellent learning environment. We want to grow in our ability to apply best practices and strategies (particularly guided practice)  of DI throughout all the 12 ELE components.
  • IREC has created grade level PLTs that have embedded days and time allotted on PD days to focus on developing a deep understanding and ability to apply specific ELE components. All PLTs have been encouraged to include guided practice as part of the lens used to analyze and apply each ELE component. Grade level PLT Action research questions are a follows:
  1. Kindergarten-”Using the lens of ELE #1-Culture and Expectations, we will develop a student learning environment that supports guided practice in Language Learning
  2. Grade 1-”Using the lens of ELE #3 Pre-assessemnt, we will develop a strong pre-assessment plan in Math to provide data that supports students’ learning needs and guides instruction.
  3. Grade 2: “Using the lens of ELE #1-Culture and Expectations, we will develop effective word work practices that meet students’ varying needs to improve student writing.
  4. Grade 3: “Using the lens of ELE #1-Culture and Expectations, we will develop a culture of guided practice in Mathematics.”
  5. Grade 4: “Using the lens of ELE #1 Culture and Expectations, we will develop a structure of activities for student to work independently, while the teacher works with groups of students or 1-on-1. (guided practice).
  6. Educational Assistants: Using the lens on ELE #1-Culture and Expectations, we will explore and implement strategies to provide diverse learners more independence in a guided practice setting.
  • On PD days we intend to share with the entire staff positive examples related to the 12 ELEs taken from/observed in the classrooms of IREC. Out intent with this is that it is an empowering activity that builds understanding and celebration. Our intent is to review each ELE in context rather that in isolation.

Measureable: Critical Evidence Indicators:

All data gathered during this year of AISI will be used to determine direction for PD in 2013.2014.

  • AISI 12 ELE Self Assessment-completed in September 2012 and March/April 2013
  • Feedback from specific ELE Self Assessment Tool used by teachers for PLT work completed in February 2012 and June 2013
  • ELE-Teacher Reflection forms-filled in by teachers following each PLT Meeting-used to determine support and direction for the 2013.2013 school year.2012.2013 PAT Data-completed in October/November 2013
  • Accountability Pillar Results for AERR-completed in October 2013
  • CWT cards and reflective conversations
  • Evidence of common language and understanding of ELEs within a guided practice structure
  • Evidence in portfolios, blogs, IEPTs, and in anecdotals


  • Staff apply a fundamental understanding of guided practice to improve instruction for the 21st Century learner.
  • Students gain a grade level benchmark in reading skills
  • Students transfer thinking strategies to other content areas due to the consistency of teaching of common language across the curriculum.


  • Reading with Meaning by Debbie Miller, 21st Century Skills: Learning For Life in Our Times by B.  Trilling & C. Fadel, Strategies that Work:  Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement by S. Harvey & A. Goudvis, Classroom Instruction That Works by R. Marzano
  • Daily CAFÉ on-line resources
  • ELE Resources from Central Office
  • ELE Rubric
  • All pre-assessment material
  • Children’s Literature
  • Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark system
  • Designated time on PD Days and built in PLT time throughout the year

People resources: Diamond Team: Vicky, Karen, Maureen, and Don (SSFs, AISI, and Admin.)

Resources Needed:

  • Direction (lessons, activities, exemplars) for the Diamond team with respect to how to lead and support our staff in deepening the understanding of ELEs that have been identified district wide as being components requiring attend and growth.

Who was involved in setting the strategy:

  • The diamond team established the strategies. The staff of IREC determined the need to focus more intently in the area of guided practice and the 12 ELEs through their grade level team SMART goals
  • RAE instrument
  • AISI 12 ELE Self Assessment

All data gathered during this year of AISI will be used to determine direction for PD in 2013.2014.

  • AISI 12 ELE Self Assessment-completed in September 2012 and March/April 2013
  • 2012.2013 PAT Data-completed in October/November 2013
  • Accountability  Pillar Results for AERR-completed in October 2013
  • IREC Parent/Student/Staff Surveys 2012.2013
  • Feedback from specific ELE Self Assessment Tool used by teachers for PLT work completed in February 2012 and June 2013
  • ELE-Teacher Reflection forms-filled in by teachers following each PLT Meeting-used to determine support and direction for the 2013.2014 school year.

Divisional and School Goal


Powerful Uses of Twitter

Twitter image2

By @mSchlemko & @sahlinvic

What It Means to be a Networked Educator

by Alec Couros via flickr

 Twitter in 60 Seconds

Twitter can…

  • Extend your personal learning network (PLN)
  • Keep you up to date on current research, trends and news
  • Give you access to new ideas about what you are passionate about
  • Help you get feedback from peers and experts
  • Connect you to global collaboration

Twitter is an excellent social media tool that allows you to do all of this in an instant.

twitter 2

Our Professional Journey

  • Daily professional development—PLCs extended
  • Help and support from peers and experts

Todd Whitaker

Michael Fullan

Mike Mattos

  • Chat groups based on my needs and areas I would like to grow and contribute


  • Answers/feed back from peers that understand the challenges of the education field
  • Global connections for myself and my students

@Ms.J’s Class

2J Twitter

  • Social connections with others globally, locally and within your own building




Traci Landry (@tlandrydtsd)
11-08-22 2:29 PM I think being on twitter is like attending the best conference in the world and you get to pick the speakers.

IREC Teacher Reflection


Why Twitter for Schools?

Iron Ridge Elementary Campus



  • Engages parents & community
  • Changes that stories about school
  • Educates parents & community about current pedagogy


  • Starting to use for collecting & reflecting on data


5 Reasons to Use Hashtags to Gather Data

Digital Citizenship

What do you need to think about in the area of digital citizenship for yourself, your staff and for your students?

Livebinder 7 Habits of Digital Citizenship

WCPS Digital Citizenship Resources

Connected Kids by Mark McWhinnie WCPS

How to Get Started with Twitter and Building Your PLN

Video: Twitter for Teachers – Part 1 – Setting up Your Twitter Account

Twitter for Teachers – Part 1 from shannon smith on Vimeo.

Video:Twitter for Teachers – Part 2 – Creating Your Twitter Profile, Sending a Tweet and Replying to a Tweet.

Twitter for Teachers – Part 2 from shannon smith on Vimeo.

Video: Twitter for Teachers – Part 3 – Retweeting, Favorites and adding to your PLN

Twitter for Teachers – Part 3 from shannon smith on Vimeo.

Useful Twitter Links

Twitter for Educators:  A Beginners Guide

28 Ways Teachers are Using Twitter in the Classroom

Welcome to The Twitter4Teachers Wiki!

Reflections of Pedagogy, Technology & Change

“When you are engaged with others doing something meaningful, you can accomplish wonders.” (pp. 70). This quote is from a book by Michael Fullan called Stratosphere. From my perspective, this describes our journey at our school.

Our staff often celebrate and reflect what we have accomplished via collaboration. Our lead team (admin, special education facilitator/coach, & instructional/tech coach) also get together to reflect. The number one celebration theme for the past few years continues to be common language amongst staff, students and parents.  It started with the 7Habits language, then it gained momentum with the comprehension/thinking strategies and the gradual release pedagogy and now it’s carrying on with the DAILY 5 structure as well as purposeful technology integration including class blogs, student blogs and BYOD in  K-4 environment. Here is some of our baseline data for pedagogical change throughout the last few years:

  • All staff read The Leader in Me by Stephen R. Covey and were trained in the 7Habits

  • Some school council members read The Leader in Me

  • All staff collaborated on developing mission/vision

  • School council educated in 7Habits & digital citizenship

  • All staff read Reading for Meaning by Debbie Miller book and some read Strategies that Work by S. Harvey & A. Goudvis to extend their learning

  • All staff in-serviced and instructing comprehension strategies with common language

  • All staff teaching using gradual release of responsibility model to set up instruction for small groups and individuals

  • All staff assessing literacy using the Fountas & Pinnell system

  • All staff educated and implement our 7Habits of Digital Citizenship

  • All staff have class blogs and some also are exploring with student blogs

  • Grade 1-4 class implement BYOD

  • ¾ staff have been in-serviced in Daily 5 by “The Sisters”

  • All staff moving towards flexible classroom space/environment

  • School has been leveraging social media to:

    • develop professional growth

    • connect classrooms globally

    • engage parents and community

As I read Stratosphere by Michael Fullan, I realize even more what an incredible journey- pedagogically & technologically- we are traveling. Fullan states that “Pedagogy, technology, and change knowledge operating in concert will become a powerhouse of learning.” (pp.71).  I believe we are beginning to experience this:

1. Pedagogical change by implementing comprehension/thinking strategies within a gradual release of a responsibility model and flexible classroom environment model.

2. Technology integration by having the opportunity to facilitate our U21C project: Pedagogy First that provided time and support for teachers to collaborate.

3. Change knowledge by purposefully planning, innovating and building capacity: “…leadership and teaching is proactive in the sense of helping other people create a world they didn’t know they wanted.” (pp. 68).

It’s exciting work!

* Cross post from http://inspireconnections.wordpress.com