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Guest Blog: Saturn Street Elementary LDC Lead & Learn Fellows Share Their LDC Implementation Experience

Note: We are pleased to welcome guest bloggers and 2017 LDC Lead & Learn Fellows Celenia Calderon and Maria Teresa Alcala from Saturn Street Elementary School in Los Angeles, CA. In this article, one in a series of blogs by Lead & Learn Fellows, they share their experience in learning and implementing LDC tools.

Saturn Street Elementary Celebrating Teachers 1233 January 2, 2018

Note: We are pleased to welcome guest bloggers and 2017 LDC Lead & Learn Fellows Celenia Calderon and Maria Teresa Alcala from Saturn Street Elementary School in Los Angeles, CA. In this article, one in a series of blogs by Lead & Learn Fellows, they share their experience in learning and implementing LDC tools.


Have you ever felt like your wheels are spinning? Two years ago we reached that point where no matter the professional development or technological gadgets we used, student academic performance was stagnant. We had maximized our supplemental educational resources, equipped every classroom with a SmartBoard, Mimio board, or document readers, and had countless PDs on the implementation of Common Core, but somehow it just wasn’t enough to yield the results we wanted to achieve.

We had systems in place to group students according to academic need, we provided small group instruction and, while some strides were made, it still wasn’t enough. We spent countless hours collaborating, reviewing student data, planning interventions and delivering those interventions without much success. Pondering over our limited success we dug out our “toolbox” and realized that we lacked the ability to articulate intended learning outcomes, and lacked a system to design and deliver coherent instruction.

This is when our Principal, Tracie Bryant, first introduced us to the Literacy Design Collaborative. Joining LDC was a voluntary process, we could only participate if we truly wanted to see a change in student achievement. We vowed to get our hands dirty, be open to learning, collaborate, grow professionally, and invest the time. There was a new sense of awareness and acknowledgment among the group of participants.

After completing the 2-day training we had a new sense of direction, a path towards effective classroom instruction and sustained student achievement. Our goal for the first year was simple: complete online courses, implement mini-tasks, and complete a module through authentic collaborative opportunities with the Principal, out-of-the-classroom support staff, and our LDC coach.

During the first year, we invested several hours learning the ins-and-outs of LDC, how to navigate the LDC CoreTools platform, and we learned to listen to each other, provide constructive feedback, and how to identify flaws in our “tasks prompts” and “instructional ladder.” We became true learners of our craft; we engaged in discussions that truly focused on enhancing our practice and centered around student achievement. If we as educators could not articulate the intended outcome, we could not expect our children to produce high-quality work. Through our interaction with LDC teaching task templates and the various components of the platform, we have learned to be intentional and deliberate when planning tasks and instruction. Our mindset has definitely shifted.  

As we are nearing the completion of year two with LDC, we can’t help but celebrate our accomplishments. Participating teachers can articulate intended student outcomes and modules; instructional timelines are posted in every room.  Students are able to analyze tasks and rubrics. Students know that they are writing in response to reading and that citing evidence is part of their scholarly work. Opportunities for writing have become more evident in LDC participants’ classrooms. Students have improved their ability to think and respond critically.  

The LDC CoreTools platform is a truly collaborative forum that allows teachers to create curriculum that is aligned to the standards. It guides teachers through a structured and sequential process. It is exciting to know that, with a click of a button, you have access to various mini-tasks and modules created by teachers from all over the country. LDC is unique because it is a structured and organized system that facilitates communication and collaboration among professionals who seek to enhance their instructional practices and better serve students.

A Guaranteed, Equitable, Viable Curriculum—A Scope and Sequence Map

Note: We are pleased to welcome guest bloggers and 2017 LDC Lead & Learn Fellows Michael Corneau, Principal, and Angela Schoon, Teacher Leader, from R.L. Stevenson Elementary School in Merritt Island, FL. In this article, one in a series of blogs by Lead & Learn Fellows, they outline a scope and sequence map.

Michael Corneau LDC Basics 1229 October 16, 2017
Note: We are pleased to welcome guest bloggers and 2017 LDC Lead & Learn Fellows Michael Corneau, Principal, and Angela Schoon, Teacher Leader, from R.L. Stevenson Elementary School in Merritt Island, FL. In this article, one in a series of blogs by Lead & Learn Fellows, they outline a scope and sequence map.

So many standards, so little time. Every teacher knows this feeling. With that being said, teachers must be purposeful when planning out their scope and sequence for the year. Sounds easy, right?!? Most teachers would agree that it’s just not that easy. Thankfully, after building a guaranteed, equitable, viable curriculum map that scaffolds standards appropriately, we finally feel like we have a scope and sequence that will ensure standards are taught in a sequential flow.  

A guaranteed and viable curriculum ensures that all students have an equal opportunity to learn. Each student will have access to an effective or highly effective teacher and access to the same content, knowledge, and skills.

What is a guaranteed curriculum?

Every student is provided the opportunity to learn a core curriculum which provides them with the highest probability of success in school.

What is a viable curriculum?

Schools make sure that the necessary time is available and protected so students will be able to learn the guaranteed curriculum within the time frames available during the academic year (not rushed and covered).

Creating a horizontal sequence of what needs to be learned across individual grade levels or subjects as well as a vertical sequence from grade level to grade level or from subject to subject is necessary if one wants to build cohesion in what and how we teach.

Providing teachers with a correlation to the standards and assessments is an attempt to assure students are as well prepared as possible. To understand that there are differences in the standards is necessary. Knowing the differences between priority standards verses supporting standards will help to define the direction you want to have curriculum planning go.  In other words, what is the prerequisite information that you want students to have prior to learning new skills or information?

Other factors to consider:

Districts and schools have “non-negotiables” built into their yearly delivery of instruction. These are the things that you cannot change. For example, standardized testing takes up a “chunk of time” in the school year where there will be less time to teach new material. These tests examine what students have learned. Our sequence map factors in review time because teachers feel it is necessary so that students are prepared for standardized tests.

Another factor when considering the building of an appropriate scope and sequence map is that when students return to school after being away, “a summer slide” occurs. These are just two examples of items out of our immediate control that impact the new learning that can actually take place.

Who is responsible for the development of an appropriate curriculum map?

Teachers and administrators who understand the necessary components that will impact learning and have an understanding of how to build capacity and fidelity about how we learn need to be a part of our ongoing discussion. The journey is not complete for us. We are on the journey but want to share what our discoveries are thus far. Creating a curriculum framework that is practical and can be easily adapted to your requirements is what we want to share as you think about a scope and sequence map that includes a guaranteed, equitable, viable curriculum.

 

Guest Blog: A Lead & Learn Fellows' Perspective

Note: We are pleased to welcome guest blogger and 2017 LDC Lead & Learn Fellow Katie McNelly from Van Siclen Community School in New York. In this article, one in a series of blogs by Lead & Learn Fellows, she shares her school's experiences implementing LDC.

Katie McNelly Celebrating Teachers 1226 August 29, 2017
Note: We are pleased to welcome guest blogger and 2017 LDC Lead & Learn Fellow Katie McNelly from Van Siclen Community School in New York. In this article, one in a series of blogs by Lead & Learn Fellows, she shares her school's experiences implementing LDC.

When I was first exposed to LDC by my instructional coach, Christina Wallace, I thought it would be an excellent resource for pulling lesson plan ideas, resources, and activities that had been proven to support students in learning. Honestly, it was daunting at first; despite settings and filters, there is a seemingly endless plethora of resources that I found intimidating. It took becoming a project liaison to truly open my eyes to all that LDC had to offer, and I’m so grateful in retrospect that it has.

As a school, we went into this school year with apprehension and immense pressure. We knew, statistically, we were the worst performing school in our district. Despite strong reviews in community and trust, we just couldn’t achieve the test scores of our surrounding schools. We knew that there are a variety of factors that play into student performance, and that socioeconomic status can vary wildly even on the same street in the same neighborhood. However, we weren’t in the business of making excuses. We were willing and able to take responsibility for what we could control: quality instruction. It didn’t take long for us to realize that our involvement in LDC would be paramount in increasing student performance.

Our goals were simple: increase quality in students’ writing ability and increase quantity in objectively measured reading levels through targeted comprehension instruction and as measured on state tests. We knew we had our work cut out for us.

LDC implementation began immediately over the summer curriculum sessions. However, teaching teachers new technology and pedagogy is complicated. The clichés held true for us: teachers are creatures of habit and we like to teach how we’ve been taught. Implementing LDC challenged teachers to see the value in literacy across the entire school day. It forced teachers to reexamine what we were really pushing for here; although we wanted test scores to increase, we knew that low scores indicates a much bigger social problem: illiteracy.

Our goals were simple: increase quality in students’ writing ability and increase quantity in objectively measured reading levels.

Despite a slow roll out, teachers began to see improvements. Through introducing a school-wide comprehension intervention involving the “Stop and Think” method of chunking a text and reflecting on what has been read, students and teachers alike began to experience success. Students and teachers were able to hold each other accountable. Administrators could see unified routines in every single classroom of the school. Students were helping each other, discussing their texts, and most importantly, engaging meaningfully with a text.

We anticipated rapid implementation. We had a set routine and, after a couple of trials, errors, and tweaks, we finally felt it was ready for students. However, that’s not to say our students were ready for it. We had to gradually release supports in a method that ended up taking months. Teachers got discouraged, especially when entire class periods, and occasionally even entire weeks, were dedicated to establishing new routines.

Eventually, we settled into them. Student implementation of the strategy (and others that developed in subsequent months) became automatic and constant. The months continued to roll by. Through the use of student work review, reflection, and documentation, we knew the needs of our students and could target performance with specific, structured feedback. We held conversations with colleagues to gauge performance across classes. Content teachers shared successes and asked advice. We had weekly collaborative meetings focused solely on the students; it was a truly powerful experience and clearly effective for our students.

Most recently, using low-inference data and observation, we learned of our initial test score results: student performance had doubled.  

Personally, I’m a little in shock about how effectively we pulled instruction together this year. But through the use of LDC’s online platform, coaching sessions, and support network, we made the gains we were hoping for. We worked together as a staff and a school, and we provided students with high-quality instruction. Students engage rigorously with texts and work toward becoming highly literate critical thinkers. I am relieved, excited, and proud to know that we provided students with tools to become more intellectually strong and capable individuals, and I am eager to continue this work through future school years.

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