Four years ago, the IFL along with the LRDC and CUE partnered with the Dallas Independent School District to improve literacy instruction at fourteen of the district’s highest needs schools. As the network enters its fifth year, we look back on teachers’ successes.
Revisiting the Importance of Planning for High-Level Instruction
Check out four of our top ELA articles from the archives! They offer insights into why we advocate to make space for collaboarative instructional planning.
Ptáyela Waúŋspeič’ičhiyapi: Building Cultural Competence and Responsiveness
IFL partner Todd County, South Dakota serves nearly an entirely Indigenous student population. However, their teachers do not reflect that population. To bridge that gap, they are putting their students’ culture at the center of their education.
Teach Test Writing as a Genre
Despite best intentions, test writing sometimes ends up being the formula that students never have to break. In this article, I advocate for teachers to teach test writing as a genre, inviting students to develop knowledge around the features, purpose, and audience of the writing required on standardized tests.
A Journey Towards Text Analysis
High-level comprehension tasks impact the depth to which students respond to analysis tasks. Check out this article in which two teachers share their stories about working with their students on comprehension tasks that support text analysis.
Digging into Analysis Tasks
Planning for analysis tasks means highlighting those gems of an author’s craft found in rich and complex texts. In this article, I describe what we mean when we say analysis task and provide an example of what an analysis task might look like for a complex text.
Using Accountable Talk® Features to Think Through the Design of Remote Instruction
Infusing practices from the business of instructional technology with Accountable Talk® features provides a light that can guide the planning of technology-based instruction, helping educators navigate challenges in order to enrich remote learning.
® Accountable Talk is a registered trademark of the University of Pittsburgh.
Increasing Representation by Globalizing School-Based Multicultural Libraries
Students are more engaged when they see themselves in the books they read. IFL partner, Syracuse City Schools, has worked to better represent all their students by expanding their multicultural libraries on a global scale.
Planning for High-Level Comprehension
Comprehension work is critical work when we engage students with a text. Understanding and enacting the steps for planning a high-level comprehension task will help teachers provide students instructional opportunities that set every student up for success.
Making Space for Creativity Using A Mathematics Lesson Routine
Creativity in mathematics abounds at the intersection of belief and practice! When the belief that all learners are doers of mathematics and enter the classroom with valuable lived math experiences intersects with the use of a lesson routine that offers space for students to do the thinking, learners become the creators and authors of the material from which they learn.
Liberating Your Summer Readers
A district’s goal for summer reading should be to help students continue to build their independent reading skills and to foster a love of reading. Students who take up summer reading typically have access to compelling books and choice in what they read (Shin & Krashen, 2008). To achieve a reading program with books that engage students, student voice should be central to summer reading lists.
Questioning the Author: A Powerful Approach to Promote Student Understanding of Complex Texts
Questioning the Author is a discussion-based approach that supports students in studying and understanding complex texts. Comprehension work is an essential piece of any text-based task. If students don’t get the gist of the text or grasp an author’s ideas, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to do deeper analytic and interpretive work. It is especially important for emerging readers and emergent multi-lingual (EML) students to be able to access the big ideas of a text while building their comprehension muscles.
Organizing Instructional Tasks with Landing Pages
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. 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.
Remote Coaching for Rigorous and Engaging Online Classroom Discussions: Layering New Forums with Fresh Insights
Coaches have a critical role in assisting teachers in continuing, rather than abandoning, important pedagogies while teaching online. Read about what is being learned through 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.
Supporting Productive Talk to Promote Socializing Intelligence
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.
Clear Expectations and Self-Management of Learning: Moving the Principles of Learning from Theory to Practice
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.
Using Student-Centered Classroom Routines to Improve Comprehension of Complex Texts
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.
Supporting Coaches to Lead Change Efforts at Their Schools
As part of the Networks for School Improvement (NSI) work, I’ve been working directly with 8th grade coaches and their grade-level professional learning community (PLC) teams in the Dallas Independent School District (ISD) to understand and use two protocols that first work to honor the knowledge and day-to-day lived experiences that teachers bring with them to their PLCs, and then ask teachers to critically reflect on classroom experiences and student work to increase professional knowledge and enhance student learning (Vescio, Ross, & Adams, 2008).
Conferring with Teachers & Coaches Requires Setting Clear Learning Goals
Conferring with teachers in advance of observing a lesson is a critical component of the Content-Focused Coaching® (CFC) cycle. These “pre-conferences” are opportunities for the coach and the teacher to reflect together about a teacher’s lesson plan, and thus are a rich opportunity for teacher learning. Lesson planning is specifically important for facilitating rigorous Accountable Talk® classroom discussions.
Increasing High-Quality Student Talk
The Institute for Learning (IFL) and Schenectady City School District have worked collaboratively for several years, and this year, we continued our ongoing partnership with a focus on using improvement science methodology to “get better at getting better.” District-wide, there is a focus on using improvement science to work on persistent problems of practice.
Student and Teacher Agency: One District’s Reflection on Taking Action
Learning Forward and the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future conducted interviews with teachers and school administrators to understand the disconnect between professional learning that teachers need and want and what they actually experience.
Creating a Map to Bridge Differences
When we are working with teachers on their curriculum, we often find ourselves having to reinforce the idea that it’s important to do the tasks that we’d like our students to do. This is sometimes called dogfooding—it’s slang in the corporate world for testing your own product to work out the kinks.
A District’s Perspective: CFC and Differentiation
Coaching, at its best, bolsters district goals while supporting individual needs, gracefully weaving coherence and differentiation into a tapestry of continuous learning. With Content-Focused Coaching® (CFC), both the culture and the instruction are positioned to evolve in ever-increasing complexity through the interdependence of people—coaches supporting teachers through individual conferring and teachers supporting one another during PLCs that are truly collaborative pursuits.
Engaging in Meaningful Accountable Talk ® Discussions with Emergent Multilingual Students
English learners (ELs)—or emergent bilinguals (EBs) as educators now refer to these students to remove the deficit stigma from their identity (Garcia et al., 2008)—must engage in academic conversations every day to gain access to the world of knowledge. Their educational mission is the simultaneous acquisition of knowledge and English.
Empowering Teachers to Analyze the Demand of Instructional Tasks
We’ve recently begun helping districts use improvement science to work on problems of practice. To develop a more rounded view of the problems, teachers have been working in their schools to gather the stories of diverse students and other teachers about their experiences with teaching and learning.
Increasing Cognitive Demand and Focusing on What Students CAN Do
As the supervisor of humanities (at the time) for New Brunswick School District, I have had the opportunity to work with the Institute for Learning (IFL) for the past 3 years, and one of the areas on which we focused during that time was increasing the cognitive demand in the classroom.
Searching for the Root Cause: An interview with Bridget Goree, NSI Coordinator for North Dallas High School
Campus Network for School Improvement (NSI) coordinators learn to discover and understand the root causes of a problem of practice and find that understanding the problem takes time and requires a cultural shift. In this interview, Bridget Goree, an instructional coach at North Dallas High School, shares her own experience learning to approach this work. She discusses three considerations—what to stop doing, what is important to do, and what they are learning to build.
Cognitively Challenging English Language Arts Instruction
We have known about harmful effects of high-stakes state testing on students, teachers, and the curriculum for decades, yet we continue to perpetuate the belief that they test what students know and can do. Daniel Koretz (2017) demonstrates that they have become ends in themselves and take valuable time away from instruction designed to grow students’ intelligence rather than their test-taking abilities.