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.

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

Student Blogs for Student Engagement

Student blogging is one of IREC’s next steps into the digital world. All of the students in my class (and many others in our school) have created their own blogs as a way to showcase their work, share their writing, and explore their communication skills. Though we are using different blog platforms, such as KidBlog and Weebly, the final product is the same: personalized and thoughtful student blogs. Please click on the links below for a sneak peek into some of the blogs currently under construction in our school.

Student blogs are an important way to connect parents to their child’s learning. Parents can see their child’s work, comment on their progress, and have meaningful conversations at home about new accomplishments and challenges that their child is encountering at school.

iPads have become an important learning tool at school, and many applications allow students to showcase their learning by creating picture files of their app-based work. Students are also creating videos and slideshows to share their experiences, to demonstrate a new skill, or to extend their learning.  These can often be inserted into blog posts and shared instantly and meaningfully with parents.

The most important reason for students to create and maintain a blog is to provide regular opportunities for authentic writing. Students are adding posts at school and from home, and are able to connect with their peers and the world on a daily basis through writing. Students can provide feeback to each other, revise and edit their own work, and share their views on many different topics. Blogs also provide excellent lessons on digital citizenship as our yooung writers constantly revisit what is appropriate information to share on the internet.

If your child has a studnet blog, please take the time to visit it often. You can stay informed and involved in daily learning, and your comments and responses mean the world to your child!