Instructional Coaching, Moving Beyond Observation to Co-Teaching

Over the past 7 years, I have seen the power of instructional coaching and the impact on student achievement. Transfer from initiative adoption of professional development does not automatically happen. In fact, without the presence of an instructional coach, I would guess the implementation of any strategy, program, or initiative; even by educators sitting in the same professional learning, is  50/50.

With that being said, I am aware of the difference in effectiveness among instructional coaches as well. Without clearly defined roles, ongoing collaboration and professional learning, instructional coaching could look a lot like observation, sitting in a classroom and taking notes while coaching a colleague.

One untapped model that would promote the transfer into the classroom is co-teaching. Co-teaching, like coaching, can be a mixed bag of applications. That is why it essential to investigate and determine the type of co-teaching that works best in your coaching partnership.

Co-Teaching

Modeling – A traditional type of co-teaching is modeling. An expert teacher models, demonstrates, or shows the partnering teacher how to instruct. Modeling is designed to span the whole class period where the partnering teacher is observing and noting instructional moves displayed by the expert teacher or instructional coach.

Micro-Modeling – Micro-modeling is a partnership in the planning and delivery between the instructional coach and partnering teacher. During the planning session, each educator designates specific parts of the lesson they will deliver. For example, the instructional coach may deliver the minilesson during the writing workshop, demonstrating sound pedagogy in the specific area the partnering teacher designated. The partnering teacher may then agree to deliver the instruction for the small groups.

Tandem Teaching – Tandem teaching is a partnership where the coach and teacher work together in the classroom, almost “feeding” off of each other. This requires a trusting relationship, a true partnership in learning, and an adept understanding of strengths and areas of focus each has in the classroom.

Coaches who use a co-teaching model send the message that they are ready to dig-in and do the work alongside the partnering teacher. From my own experience, this dynamic process and shared vision not only improves instruction but increases transfer and student achievement in the classroom. 

Sweeney, Diane. Student-Centered Coaching

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I am Not a Reading Teacher, I Am a Gatekeeper of Information

Working with hundreds of educators over the past ten years, the phrase I hear most frequently is, I am not a reading teacher. From science teachers to math teachers, when you ask most Middle School and High School educators what they teach, reading is the last response (if at all) you typically hear…unless you ask a literacy teacher.

When this occurs, I can’t help but think of them as  “Gatekeepers of Information”. An educator who claims no responsibility in the teaching of literacy strategies because they are not the “reading teacher” can most definitely be classified as such. With this stance, students are denied skills, strategies, and opportunities to understand content specific discourse. The teacher, once again, becomes the “gatekeeper” of information; the lone expert in the class, able to decode foreign concepts or understand information as if by magic. This logic only strengthens the dependency of the student on the teacher, contradicting the goal of education; to move all students towards independence.

Take, for instance, the following example of a typical 8th-grade science test question:

The annotations I provide highlight areas that a science teacher could model as literacy skills. The goal of literacy across discipline areas is not to have all teachers require and teach a classroom novel, but to teach students the necessary skills needed to read, write, and think like a “scientist” or “mathematician”, etc.

Most educators enter the profession with an open heart and a passion for teaching. They often find teaching students how to read and write a daunting task. They do not know where to start, how to assess, or lack confidence in their own skills. With this in mind, I offer the following advice.

5 Ways to Tackle Content-Specific Literacy:

  •  Vocabulary – Identify common words that are specific to content areas, terms that are needed to build a foundation.
  • Structure/Format – Recognize the format a text uses is important to understand the type of reading required. Headings, Bold-Faced Words, Glossary, Pictures or Diagrams; all of these things provide information for the savvy reader.
  • Organization – Content-specific text often has repetition in the organization. Cause/Effect, Chronological, General to Specific; identifying and modeling how the author organizes the text will help students locate needed information.
  • Mentor Texts – This term often confuses many educators because of the formal tone, but simply stated, a mentor text is a specific example that students can approach from a variety of angles because it has so many things done correctly. Students use mentor texts reflectively and ask themselves, how can I parallel what that author did in my own work? All teachers should have a collection of mentor texts (including their own writing examples) that students can dissect, study, and keep as a reference.
  • Model your thinking – Finally, as the expert in the room, modeling your thinking aloud makes clear strategies used to comprehend the text or question. This consistent modeling, paired with gradual release, will increase a student’s own learning and provide needed practice which eventually leads to independence

Being able to support students as they encounter discipline-specific texts means ALL educators support and teach literacy. Remember, you are the expert in that content area and need to unlock how to read like a… historian, mathematician, musician for students!

4 Games to Boost Media Literacy Skills

Critical thinking, healthy skepticism, fact-checking; in today’s information age, these three are more important than ever. On a daily basis, students are bombarded with information from multiple platforms that they must wade through, analyze and interpret, to make the most informed decisions on the authenticity and relevance. 

Media Literacy, according to NAMLE, is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create, and act using all forms of communication that are interdisciplinary by nature. Media literacy represents a necessary, inevitable, and realistic response to the complex, ever-changing electronic environment and communication cornucopia that surround us. 

I am an advocate for the teaching of these skills in classrooms across the country. In fact, just last week I was speaking at a conference in Connecticut, and after my talk on Developing Healthy Skeptics, a  professor approached me and told me that starting this year, media literacy was going to be a part of all Teacher Education programs at his university. We are making progress!

From websites to extensions to games, there are many ways to talk about and use media literacy in the classroom. From single lessons, to longer units, I typically start off with a game that provides a launch into the inquiry. I have found that games in the classroom provide rich simulations in which students learn content and hone skills. In the case of teaching Media Literacy, this is no different. These games focus on the consumption of digital information and place students in a variety of situations to evaluate epic headlines, analyze misinformation, or even use strategies to gain influence and followers just as an online troll would do.   

4 Games to Get Students Thinking Critically:

Factitious – Factitious, developed by the American University Game Lab and the JoLT Program, is a viral hit! Released in 2017, this Tinder-like game asks users to swipe left or right based on if the article is real or not. In its most recent updates, Factitious now has 6 game levels and 3 different reading levels making it accessible for a huge age range. Plus, it’s super fun! 

Get Bad News – Get Bad News has users take on the persona of a fake-news tycoon trying to make a social impact by spreading disinformation while trying to get more followers. This online game developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge and the Dutch media group Drog, tasks players through six different tactics in an effort to understand this propaganda and fake news while actually creating and sharing it. As you advance through the game, users earn badges and increase their fake-news radar by walking in the offenders’ shoes. 

Cast your Vote – A recent update and release of Cast Your Vote, by iCivics is perfect for the upcoming election. Users discover what it takes to become an informed voter–from knowing where you stand on important issues to uncovering what you need to know about candidates. This new version offers ELL supports and educator guides and questions to deepen the learning! It’s a perfect way to help students identify issues that are important to them and evaluate candidates based on their qualifications, experience, voting record, endorsements, and messaging.

Troll Factory – Troll Factory, my most recent discovery, does come with a warning. Because of the authentic content and sensitive material, it is not appropriate for all students. With that being said, the insights and explanations at the end of the game are fantastic.  When placed in the right learning context, I could see this game as being useful for upper-grades and college-aged students. Troll Factory shows users how disinformation merchants infiltrate social media and spread their anti-democracy propaganda. Created by Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle’s News Lab, this game asks you to imagine you are a professional troll who tries to amass influence on social media through fear, bias, and propaganda.  

There are many more resources, tools, and games popping up as the need for media literacy increases. From chrome extensions to URL validation websites, using multiple resources to support student discernment of digital discourse should be a priority in every classroom. It is only through an ongoing effort by all teachers that we can best equip students for a life filled with digital information and the critical thinking skills necessary for life. 

Media Literacy Week: Teach Students How to Avoid Being Used by Social Media

Nothing pains me more than seeing my own children or other young people being duped by the information they see online or when a post on their social media account has the potential to adversely impact their immediate or future lives. 

We have all seen examples of students losing scholarships, or young adults getting passed over for a job because of something they posted online or from long ago. Most recently, a story from my home state erupted when a 24-year-old’s viral sign resulted in an avalanche of monetary donations, a beer company, a children’s hospital, and tweets he sent at the age of 16 were dug up by a local reporter and spiraled out of control. 

Teaching students and educators about media literacy have been passions of mine for many years, and while I do not expect all educators to have social media accounts that they use frequently, the absence of this critical conversation and the teaching of the skills needed to navigate the digital sea has dire effects on our students. As Media Literacy Week approaches, I ask you

How are we teaching students to avoid being USED by social media, and instead USE social media to benefit themselves and others? 

Shaelynn Farnsworth

Because of this question that drives many of the talks I give, and to celebrate the upcoming #MediaLiteracyWeek, I have created templates for Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook that you can use in the classroom in a myriad of ways. Here are some of my quick thoughts:

  • Consume and create social media posts. Analyze message, bias, authenticity and then have students respond in the same mode through questions, evidence, and arguments. 
  • Exit or Entrance Tickets over conceptual or topical learning during the week. Important takeaways to share. 
  • Create social media posts in the voice or lens of an author, politician, character, advocate, or historical figure.
  • Promote positivity and share for good! Create and share positive messages about the school, community, today’s youth, etc. to flood the internet with a different kind of message. 
  • Model and practice how to approach bias online, how to advocate for self, how to discern information with a critical eye and respond thoughtfully with messages they disagree with.
  • Model and practice how to deal with bullying, trolls, and bots online. 

The possibilities are endless! And I would love to hear your ideas as well, so drop them in the comments below.

The templates are editable for you to customize based on intent, objective, and audience. And if you share examples on Twitter, be sure to tag me in them, I would love to see what you created! @shfarnsworth

4 Ways to Use Single-Point Rubrics

Feedback is one of the best ways to support student learning. According to John Hattie, Feedback has an effect size of .64 and is often considered as one of the top 5 influential factors on student learning, BUT… it is also the most variable. Most of the time the feedback students receive consists of answers to the questions: Where am I going? How am I going? But neglect the thrid essential answer to the question, Where to next? Rubrics can support this need and provide the type of feedback, by self, peer, or teacher, to move all students forward, but not all rubrics are created equal. 

Rubrics are a traditional part of most classrooms. Web20Classroom thought leadership expert, Steven Anderson and I are big fans of a type of rubric you might not have heard of before, the single-point rubric. We believe the single-point rubric should be a part of every classroom and because of its flexibility, there are multiple ways educators can use them in the classroom or with colleagues.

Rubrics have been a part of the assessment toolbox since at least the mid-1990s.  In fact, we would guess that many teachers reading this post have created quite a few over the years. Traditionally they have fallen into 2 categories, Holistic and Analytic

Holistic – Criterion is written as a paragraph. Assessed overall achievement on an activity or product 

Holistic Rubric Example

Analytic – Written with levels of achievement as columns and assessment criteria as rows. It allows you to assess participants’ achievements based on multiple criteria using a single rubric.

Analytic  Rubric Example

But there is a more impactful and flexible rubric everyone should be aware of, the single-point rubric.

The single-point rubric was first created by Mary Dietz in 2000 and has been gaining popularity in recent years. Different than the Holistic and Analytic Rubric, Single-Point Rubrics identify one achievement level for a set of criteria. This single column based on proficiency for each identified area allows students and teachers the opportunity to provide targeted feedback instead of a circled number or grade. The clarity in success criteria (.88 effect size) not only supports self-efficacy within students but contributes to teacher clarity as well. 

Single Point Rubric – Display a set of criteria written with a single level of achievement for each demonstrating quality work. No alternative levels included. Open space for feedback, goal-setting, or evidence. 

On top of that, the Single-Point Rubric can be used for a variety of purposes across multiple grades and disciplines. The core content areas like math and language arts can certainly benefit from the use of the single-point rubric. But other content areas like physical education, art, music, and others can use and benefit from the single point rubric as well. 

Single-Point  Rubric Example

Benefits for students:

  • Increased Analyzation skills to identify areas of strength and growth [Part of the process (self-assessment)]
  • Increased Achievement
  • Increased Motivation 
  • Personalized Learning
  • Feedback before grades 
  • Student truly own their learning

Here are 4 Ways to Use Single-Point Rubrics: 

  1. Self-Assessment–Part of what makes single-point rubrics so effective is the focus on metacognition. Whether students are proficient in a set of criteria or go above and beyond the proficiency marker, they have to explain their thinking and provide evidence that demonstrates understanding. These reflective activities are at the heart of how students grow and both outputs have high effect sizes, Self-Reported Grades 1.33 and Self-Efficacy .71). 
  2. Peer Feedback–As a student matures in age, peers play a more important role in academics, motivation, and self-esteem. Typically, peer feedback consists of single words “good” or “nice” which do little to increase understanding for either. Using a single-point rubric provides a perfect scaffold for giving meaningful feedback. Research shows that when students discuss their work with each other there can be opportunities for improvement and also this dialogic learning has been shown to help background deficiencies. When done effectively, peer feedback is powerful. 
  3. Teacher Feedback on Processes, Performance, and Product–Similar to peer feedback the conferring that takes place between the teacher and student can be opportunities for growth. Single point rubrics place the focus on success criteria and evidence that demonstrates meeting and exceeding the marker. When used during the process, single-point rubrics act more as a type of formative assessment and opportunities for direct instruction based on student needs. 
  4. PLC Analyzing Student Work Samples–Collective Teacher Efficacy and Teacher Clarity have the highest effect sizes when referring to Hattie’s research, but it makes sense. When teachers are crystal clear on what the learning target and success criteria are coupled with the belief that they, together as a team, can reach all students, achievement skyrockets. If you want to truly know your impact as a teacher and consistently refine your practice, all the proof you need is found in student work. Yes, there will always be outliers, but looking at student work that is consistently produced in your classroom is an effective way PLCs can work together. Student work samples provide information that allows individual educators and teams a tremendous amount of information, from instructional practices to directions given. When done as a PLC, examining student work allows educators to learn from each other, increases common expectations, and moves all teachers closer in range when assessing subjective disciplines. 

SIngle-Point Rubrics are quickly gaining popularity in today’s educational landscape. And while they can function as a traditional assessment tool, their versatility allows educators and students the ability to reimagine its use and adapt to multiple uses in the school. 

Here is an example of the above Infographic Single-Point Rubric (online course released soon) in a Microsoft Forms with Branching  

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