Organizing Instructional Tasks with Landing Pages

By Sara DeMartino

Institute for Learning

Organizing Instructional Tasks with Landing Pages

What is a Student-Centered Routine in ELA?

A student-centered routine in ELA is a sequence of actions that students are asked to take to develop a response to open-ended, text-based task.
This document shows the various elements of student-centered routines used during ELA instruction. We always recommend that students get an opportunity to capture their thinking in writing before being asked to share in pairs or with the larger groups. This practice offers students a chance to surface what they initially think, gives them a document to speak from as they share, and allows them to add to or revise their thinking.

Although we are not physically present in your districts, we’ve been working with and talking to many of you virtually throughout the fall. In reflecting on our conversations with you, it’s clear to us that teachers are leading the way in understanding how various online tools work to facilitate student-to-student and student-to-teacher interaction. You’ve found that how teachers provide students opportunities to interact with a text, share their thinking with a peer (either synchronously or asynchronously), share their thinking whole group, and then reflect on what they’ve learned should remain consistent whether students are in class or at home. Keeping the routine consistent and using online tools to facilitate interactions among students allows them to know what to expect, whether they are present in the classroom or at home. It also provides opportunities for students who are in the classroom to interact with students who may be learning at home.

Teachers have found great success using landing pages to organize learning for students across one text or across multiple texts in a unit. A landing page is a page on a website where students “land” to do their work or engage in a task. We’d like to share with you an example of a landing page designed for a sequence of work with the text, “The Censors” by Luisa Valenzuela. You can access the sample landing page here.

Why Landing Pages?

Landing pages, much like task sheets, provide students with both the why and the what of an instructional task. They support more equitable access to instructional activities by making expectations clear and providing step-by-step guidance for students as they engage in learning.

Landing pages provide the why by explaining to students the purpose of the work they will be engaging in during one task and across multiple tasks. Purpose statements help students see where they are going and help them to see that the task isn’t just busy work.

Purpose statements for an arc of work across one text and for a task.

Landing pages also provide students with the what–the steps they need to take to be successful with a task and the tools they need to help them along the way. If you’re familiar with our student-centered task sheets, then landing pages should feel pretty similar. Landing pages help to alleviate some of the “Miss, I don’t know what to do!” comments we often hear from students, and students report that they appreciate the consistency that working from a landing page provides (whether students are working at school or at home).

Setting Up a Landing Page

We used Google Sites for creating instructional landing pages because it’s easy to use (no coding required!) and plays nicely with other tools in Google Suite (i.e., Google Classroom). You can link directly to landing pages in Google Classroom and provide students with a calendar of when the work will be completed.

Once students navigate to the landing page, they will see that it includes links to sub-pages for each instructional task. For example, the first linked subpage for “The Censors” is the comprehension task.

Subpages are built to mirror paper task sheets. We strongly recommend that when planning an instructional task through a landing page, that you begin planning as if you were creating a paper task sheet and then take a step back to decide how you’ will facilitate the student-centered routines (Do you need to structure the routines for a class with students who are both in school and online? Are your students entirely asynchronous?) and how students will demonstrate their learning (Will students work in a collaborative slide deck? Will you add links to an assignment in Google Classroom?). This guide provides a few suggestions for translating student-centered routines to online spaces. You will notice that we’ve annotated the following images of the comprehension landing page to provide some insight into how we structured the comprehension task for the text, “The Censors.” This task was structured for a class that utilizes some synchronous time with students.

The comprehension subpage provides students with the purpose statement and information that students may need to help them engage with the task and text.
Each step of the task is provided for students as well as links to the applications or tools needed to complete the step.
In STEP 1, students are expected to add to a Jamboard to allow the teacher an opportunity to assess what students understand about censorship.

STEP 2 engages students with the text. This work is linked through Google classroom. It allows students to individually work through reading and annotating the text, while giving the teacher an opportunity to see how students interact with the reading.
In STEP 3, after reading the text, students are asked to complete a quick write in response to a comprehension question. Working asynchronously, students are asked to post the quick write to a Pear Deck presentation with the expectation that when the class meets for their synchronous time, students will share and discuss what they wrote.

STEP 4 is the final step in the work for the comprehension task. It lets students know that they will be expected to have steps 1-3 finished when they meet with the rest of the class online to collaborate around a slide deck that will be used during a virtual gallery walk and whole class discussion of the text.

We love hearing from our teachers!

  • How are you organizing online learning experiences for your students?
  • Have you tried landing pages? How are they working for your students?
  • What are some other digital tools that have proven useful for you and your students as you work together online?

Tell us your story here.

    Tagged with: ELA, Elementary, High School, High-Level Tasks / Curriculum, High-Leverage Teaching Practices, Middle School, Online Instruction, Reading / Comprehension, Writing

    Remote Coaching for Rigorous and Engaging Online Classroom Discussions: Layering New Forums with Fresh Insights

    By Lindsay Clare Matsumura and Dena Zook-Howell

    Institute for Learning and LRDC

    In many districts, teachers have worked hard to incorporate Accountable Talk® practices that enable rich classroom discussions. In the COVID-19 pandemic, inequities in resources available to students have been further exacerbated. Often student learning is interrupted by inequitable access to computers and to the internet. Burdens on teachers and other educators also are extreme. Teachers are contending with their own hardships in addition to teaching online for the first time with little training. It can feel like rigorous and interactive conversations are no longer an option. It is possible, however, to engage students in the kinds of rigorous and interactive discussions online that are foundational to student learning. Coaches, even while practicing social distancing, have an important role to play in assisting teachers to continue, rather than abandon, this important pedagogy. Here we describe some things that we are learning from our ongoing research at the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center on how coaches can support teachers remotely to engage students in rigorous and interactive online discussions.

    What is different about coaching in a pandemic?

    Coaching teachers remotely during a pandemic is similar to face-to-face coaching in its focus on student thinking, rigorous content, and cultivation of an inquiry stance toward instruction. Overlaid on top of these, however, is a new role for coaches to support teachers to use features of online platforms to achieve particular learning goals and establish positive online communities. Compounding these knowledge demands is the very real uncertainty that teachers themselves are experiencing in this pandemic. Uncertainty and anxiety provide a weak springboard for learning and responding to teachers emotionally in this new environment is a larger part of the coaching context than it was previously. In the following sections, we discuss specific ways coaches can support teachers to move their discussions online.

    ⁘ Helping teachers reestablish their classroom learning community.

    Even though teachers may have established a strong learning community in their face-to-face instruction, it is likely they will need to reestablish their learning community in the new online environment. Teachers may find, for example, that students who jump in right away during in-person discussions are reluctant to participate in online conversations (and vice versa). Encouraging teachers to take the time to promote the same climate and norms online is essential. This is not a step backwards but instead a path forward to creating the necessary conditions for optimizing online instruction.

    Coaches can assist teachers to think imaginatively about options that develop a new sense of community.

    Coaches can assist teachers to think imaginatively about options that develop a new sense of community. These should begin with non-academic, low-risk interactions that build toward the academic, robust interactions that support student learning. A sample sequence might begin with each student showing a pet or a favorite toy/hobby to the group. The next interaction could require students to share or upload a picture or description of their favorite place in their home to read or relax, and then, in turn, explain to the group why they chose that place. The idea is to reintroduce students to each other, strengthen a home and school connection, and allow students to get used to the platform before launching into rigorous academic content.

    Certain features of online discussion platforms also can be useful to support a low-risk way for students to gain entry into online discussions. This can be especially important for students who are developing their English language skills or for other reasons may feel shy to participate. For example, the polling feature on many platforms can be a useful way to start a discussion or keep students engaged throughout a discussions in the same way that turn and talk can be useful for students to try out their ideas with a peer before speaking with a whole group. We describe this further in the next section.

    Establishing powerful and clear online learning routines.

    Clear and consistently applied routines that scaffold students’ engagement with complex content are critical to effective classroom discussions, and this is especially the case for online class discussions. An important job of coaches is to help teachers think through what their learning routines will be to achieve particular purposes and goals in discussions, and then connect these routines to features and functions of learning technologies and platforms. Online learners can very easily get lost and confused. Teachers must be far more explicit when giving directions to students online than when teaching face to face (which is all the more reason to develop routines and stick with them). Coaches can assist teachers by helping them develop and trouble shoot directions for participating in different activities. This can help ensure that students’ energy is spent learning and not figuring out what they are supposed to be doing. Fortunately, technologies have advanced to the level that powerful routines for in-person instruction can be translated to an online environment.

    ⁘ Learning new technologies to support student learning. 

    The ability to put online student-centered learning routines into play is dependent on teachers’ familiarity with technology (e.g., discussion platforms such as Microsoft teams). For many teachers, however, the demands entailed in learning new technologies and discussion platforms are overwhelming. The need for differentiated assistance from coaches includes understanding and responding to the range of comfort levels and knowledge of technologies/platforms that provide current instructional options. Coaches can differentiate tech support in a number of ways, such as the following:

    • Modeling a classroom online discussion. One way coaches can support teachers is to engage a group of teachers in a discussion (e.g., a model lesson), showing them ways that features can be used to meet particular learning goals (e.g., small group breakout rooms in place of “turn and talks” or a polling feature or chat box to gather individual student thinking for all to see.).
    • Creating a safe place to experiment. Coaches also can act as students in practice meetings so that teachers can “try on” various teacher moves through the features of the platform, or convene a group of teachers to take turns conducting a mock discussion and using the features.
    • Co-teaching. If teachers feel unsure about conducting online discussions, coaches can co-teach with teachers, acting as a co-host to assist with technology, if that is necessary (e.g., moving students in and out of breakout sessions, switching to a whiteboard or document reader, etc.).
    • Cultivate peer mentoring. Coaches need not have all the tech wisdom. Coaches can also assist teachers to share their knowledge and support mentor/learner partnerships between teachers via conference calls or video meetings. This is a time to cultivate peer mentoring and “think partners,” and coaches are uniquely positioned to know the strengths and needs of the individual teachers and grade levels, and harness the potential for new kinds of professional learning communities.

    ⁘ Planning lessons for teachers.

    Ordinarily, coaches support teachers to plan for class discussions. In a pandemic, however, coaches can ease the stress teachers may be feeling by creating model lessons for class discussions to support individual teachers or groups of teachers. In planning for an online lesson, it is important to consider how particular features of an online platform might be used to further particular learning goals. For example, what kinds of questions might be more productively taken up in whole group discussion or small group breakout sessions? Students can sometimes get antsy sitting in online discussions—what kinds of activities (e.g., polls, responding to teacher questions in the chat feature, doing a stop and jot on sticky notes to share onscreen) might be useful for helping students stay engaged in the discussion?

    ⁘ Choosing texts.

    Something to consider in lesson planning is that students may miss multiple days of school. It might be a good idea to plan around short texts that contain sufficient grist to support a rich online discussion but would not pose a barrier to students reengaging in discussions after several absences. Another consideration is that students are likely to feel more disconnected from school when attending online than when they are attending in person, in addition to grappling with challenges and hardships. We always want students to read engaging texts. But now more than ever is a time to think about texts that will pique student interest and get them thinking, but not require extensive scaffolding to wade through the language. Notably, if groups of teachers want to use the lessons, as described earlier, coaches could engage the teachers in a run through of the lesson with the teachers providing instruction around the platform use throughout.

    ⁘ Reestablishing a positive professional collaboration. 

    In the same way that teachers need to reestablish their classroom learning community when they move to an online format, it is important that coaches work to reestablish their professional learning communities with teachers when coaching remotely. Now more than ever, the balance of content for initial coaching conversations, if not all coaching conversations, will require much more time upfront supporting the social emotional aspect of professional collaboration. Teachers, like many other Americans, are stressed, anxious, lonely, fearful for loved ones, and/or may be experiencing financial distress. Many of their students are also facing significant hardships. Listening to teachers speak to their own experience and concerns is important for both supporting teachers emotionally and helping coaches gauge the kinds of options to pursue together, based on each teacher’s interest and readiness to try new things—one new thing or many new things. Some teachers might feel ready to learn all of the ins and outs of a platform; other teachers might want to move a little slower if they are feeling overwhelmed.

    ⁘ Reestablishing a positive professional collaboration. 

    Although the sense of co-accountability and collaborative problem solving may already be a foundation for your coach-teacher relationships, it is incumbent upon coaches to reframe an inquiry stance in light of this moment. Reminding teachers that we, as a national and global educational community, are all learning together right now, positions discussions to lean into tests of small change. Cultivating an inquiry stance about technology options and which factors seem to be supporting or impeding student learning is critical. Additionally, focusing on student engagement, which is easier to assess and address in-person, requires a critical stance.

    Adopting an inquiry stance also can help draw teachers’ (and coaches’) attention to some of the potential affordances of online instruction—for now and for later. Many teachers are reporting that some students participate more in this online environment and some participate less. By studying student engagement, coaches can support teachers to notice aspects of online instruction that support the majority of students as well as specific students. Again, approaching this as an inquiry allows actual study to occur. It may well be that some students will be most supported with a part of their day online, even when instruction becomes in-person again.


    ® Accountable Talk is a registered trademark of the University of Pittsburgh.
    Tagged with: Academic Rigor, Accountable Talk® Discussions, ELA, Equitable Instruction, High-Level Tasks / Curriculum, High-Leverage Teaching Practices, Instructional Coaching, Online Instruction, Principles of Learning, Reading / Comprehension

    Supporting Productive Talk to Promote Socializing Intelligence

    By Cheryl Sandora

    IFL English Language Arts Fellow

    When we visit classrooms that reflect a culture of Socializing Intelligence, we notice several commonalities. We see evidence of a highly rigorous curriculum, and we see all students engaging in productive conversations around cognitively demanding tasks that are grounded in complex texts and rich content. More importantly, within those productive conversations, we see students taking responsibility for their learning by initiating their own questions, asking for clarification, and challenging the ideas of their classmates. We see students who have taken ownership of their learning and understand that they have the right and the obligation to understand things, and we see students who share the belief that they have the knowledge, the analysis, and the reasoning skills necessary to aid their own learning.

    One of our goals at the IFL is to provide all students with the opportunity to sit in classrooms that reflect a culture of Socializing Intelligence, but we recognize that we cannot reach all teachers and all classrooms. As a result, we have been working on developing an Accountable Talk® resource to support teachers in engaging students in productive conversations that move their classrooms in that direction. Our goal was to design a tool that when paired with a cognitively challenging task and text, allowed teachers, new and experienced, to successfully implement Accountable Talk discussions in their classrooms. Engaging students in these productive discussions provides opportunities for all students to have a voice and to challenge and develop their thinking, characteristics reflecting Socializing Intelligence.

    This tool provides teachers with an overview of the importance of productive classroom talk and the impact it has on student learning. We emphasize the important role rich content and challenging and complex texts play in setting the stage for productive talk. In addition, the tool provides teachers with a guide to support them in the process, from preparing to engage students in productive conversations that promote Socializing Intelligence, to the actual implementation, including talk moves that keep the discussion moving and  tips to help them through stumbling blocks, and finally, to reflecting on the process in order to support both teacher and student growth.

    While in the process of developing this resource, we sought feedback from several teachers in an urbanized charter school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We provided teachers with the tool and asked for feedback using the following as guiding questions:

    1. After reading the information in the tool, how confident do you feel implementing productive conversations in your classrooms?
    2. How do you see productive conversations growing student learning?
    3. What role do productive conversations play in allowing students to take responsibility for their own learning?
    4. What additional information would be beneficial in supporting you in the process?

    We were especially interested in Ms. S’s experience with the resource since she had just begun her first teaching position one month prior to implementing productive conversations. She shared that after reading the information in the tool and following the suggested steps for implementation, she felt confident preparing for and facilitating productive conversations. She added that the tool helped her understand the important role rich texts and challenging tasks and questions play in providing students with opportunities to take responsibility for their own learning and recognized that productive conversations are a way to make that learning happen.

    Ms. S invited us into her classroom to observe one of her early attempts at productive conversations. She selected the text Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh because she felt that the content of segregation as it applied to a child of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage might open her students’ eyes to segregation and discrimination beyond their own world. As Ms. S and her students were reading the text orally, one student stopped her and commented, “Wait, what? I thought segregation was only about black and white?” Before Ms. S could respond, students began a discussion around the topic, asking their peers about other groups who face discrimination. “So, can you discriminate against white people who are Jewish even though they are still white?” When talking to Ms. S after class, she stated, “I now see how important it is to use a text that allows for deep analysis, that encourages students to think more deeply about the ideas, and provides them with opportunities to ask each other questions as a way to figure out what those ideas mean.” It was exciting to watch the students as they took ownership of their learning and worked together to try to make sense of the world, a skill often seen in classrooms that reflect a culture of Socializing Intelligence.

    We will continue to observe the teachers as they facilitate productive conversations to gauge the extent to which their implementation of productive conversations reflects their thinking around and understanding of the purpose of the resource. Promoting productive conversations that support Socializing Intelligence is not specific to any grade level or content area, so our goal is to share the tool and elicit feedback from teachers of lower elementary, middle and high school, and additional content areas.

    Tagged with: Accountable Talk® Discussions, ELA, High-Leverage Teaching Practices, Principles of Learning

    Clear Expectations and Self-Management of Learning: Moving the Principles of Learning from Theory to Practice

    By Danielle Mastrogiovanni, EdS

    New Brunswick Public Schools Supervisor of Humanities, Grades 1-6

    In thinking about the work we have been moving throughout our district, we are extremely proud of the way our teachers have been incorporating Clear Expectations and Self-Management of Learning, two of the Principles of Learning that are inextricably connected.  At the onset of our work in New Brunswick Public Schools, we noticed that there was a problem of practice during small group instruction period that was impacting both our teacher-facilitated Guided Reading, as well as student-led Literacy Centers during this time.  In brief, we recognized that teachers needed support in order to provide explicit instruction of developmentally appropriate reading strategies and guidance on how to create cognitively demanding center tasks that would encourage opportunities for rigorous, independent student learning. 

    We first focused on refining the use of generalized reading strategies for all students, at all levels.  We created a Guided Reading planner that not only asked teachers to identify the specific skill or strategy that they were planning to teach, but asked them to think through the explicit instructional moves that they were going to use in order to do so.  This not only set up clear expectations for the students but also for the teachers.  The article, “Principles of Learning for Effort-Based Education,” (Resnick and Hall, 2000) states that in order for “teaching and learning environments to create intelligence, they must communicate clear expectations about what students will learn, how they will learn it, and what qualifies as good work.”  Providing both teachers and students with clear expectations of what “good” teaching and learning during Guided Reading should look like, in addition to a bank of resources that enabled them to select and plan appropriate lessons, truly helped everyone to develop a common understanding of both the rationale and the pedagogy required to increase reading proficiency across the district.

    We also felt it paramount to address what the rest of the class would be doing independently while the teacher was busy working with the students in Guided Reading.  For the most part, we observed students engaging with tasks that required low levels of cognitive demand; unclear about what they were being asked to do, the purpose of the work or what the expected outcomes were.  The center tasks lacked both clarity of expectations and discouraged self-management of learning.   In response, we created a checklist that identified and described the necessary components of small group instruction; planning, organization, relevance, rigor, choice, differentiation, accountability, and feedback. We then collected center tasks that were currently in use in order to analyze them through this lens.  After identifying the places where the tasks fell short, teachers worked together to improve the existing tasks which we used to create a bank of “before and after” task cards that exemplified the necessary shifts in instruction.  Exemplar tasks, which included visual, step by step instructions of what to do at each center from start to finish were created and shared so that teachers across the district could refer to, reproduce and modify the tasks as needed to meet the needs of their students. These tasks not only provided clarity, but also encouraged students to “take responsibility for their own engagement with learning… work productively and without distraction in a variety of settings—independently, with a partner, or in small groups—without the need for constant adult supervision,” (Hall and Resnick, 2000) critical components of successful Self-Management of Learning.  

    I firmly believe that the root of our success has been grounded in our ability to move teachers from theory to practice. In closing, if we as leaders want teachers to begin to shift their thinking and move from basic to best practice, it is critical that we provide teachers with both the theory behind the Principles of Learning as well as tangible supports that allow them to identify and replicate what they look like in action. 

    Tagged with: ELA, Instructional Coaching, Partner Spotlight, Principles of Learning

    Using Student-Centered Classroom Routines to Improve Comprehension of Complex Texts

    by Allison Escher

    IFL, English Language Arts Fellow

    The Networks for School Improvement (NSI) work taking place among Dallas ISD (DISD), the Institute for Learning, the University of Pittsburgh School of Education Center for Urban Education, and the Learning Research and Development Center, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has largely focused efforts on improving instructional rigor, providing better supports for English language learners, and improving cultural relevance. One particular change idea that teachers have been testing in order to improve instructional rigor is the use of student-centered routines. When we ask students to engage in cognitively challenging work, we recommend doing so through a set of routines: individual writing on a question or task, sharing of ideas in pairs and trios, and whole group discussion. 

    These rituals and routines, derived from research on cognitive apprenticeship, are designed to engage all students as learners in collaborative problem solving, writing to learn, making thinking visible, establishing text-based norms for discussions and writings, ongoing assessment and revision, and metacognitive reflection and articulation as regular patterns in learning. Additionally, these routines support the Principles of Learning, specifically Self-Management of Learning and Clear Expectations. 

    Using a complex and meaningful text, DISD teachers collaboratively planned a comprehension task to use with students. The task included a high-level question that asks students to make sense of the big ideas in the text, opportunities for students to write about the text informally through quick writes, and opportunities to metacognitively reflect on how their thinking about the text changed through talking and writing.

    Additionally, teachers created student-centered task sheets to help students

    • Understand the purpose for the work that they will be doing, which sets up clear expectations for students as a rationale for why they are engaging in this particular task.
    • Understand the steps in the task as well as gain some insight into how to complete new activities or skills, such as providing tips for completing a quick write if that is new for students. These scaffolded steps present an opportunity for students to self-manage their learning by working towards the goal in incremental steps, allowing space for questions, connections, and metacognition.
    • Reflect on how their thinking has changed about the big ideas in the text and how they learned from working with classmates, which again promotes self-management of learning through metacognition an gives students opportunities to manage their own learning by evaluating the feedback they get from others.

    This test of change will be adopted as teachers overall are seeing an increase in students’ repertoire of academic skills. This is evidenced by the number of students who complete quick writes, who share text-based thinking during conversation, and who state accurate or mostly accurate understandings of big ideas. We look forward to continuing to understand how engaging in the work carried by a task sheet can provide opportunities for students to engage in high-quality and rigorous work.

    Tagged with: Continuous Improvement, ELA, High-Level Tasks / Curriculum, Partner Spotlight, Principles of Learning, Reading / Comprehension