EPPL Goes to Washington

By Sarah P. Hylton, SURN

EPPL students take part in a policy field trip to Washington, D.C.

EPPL students take part in a policy field trip to Washington, D.C.

At SURN’s Board Meeting on Wednesday, Dr. Mike DiPaola promoted William and Mary’s EPPL cohort and its goal to develop capable school leaders. The EPPL acronym stands for educational policy, planning, and leadership, and students in the program take courses in each of these areas, ultimately synthesizing those classroom experiences during comprehensive examinations. The natural extension, of course, is how these areas will interact in their professional lives as school leaders. Students in the program are reminded often of the necessity of leaders being conscious of the policy process in order to be able to engage positively and intentionally in that process.

Students currently doing policy coursework, including SURN Graduate Assistants Jamon Flowers and Sarah Hylton, took part in a policy field trip to Washington, D.C. on October 27, 2017. The trip, organized by Dr. Pamela Eddy, provided us with the opportunity to meet with K12 and higher education interest groups and with congressional education legislative aids and staff. We were reminded of how critical it is for school leaders to envision themselves as policy actors and to foster relationships with a broad swath of individuals and organizations. Those we spoke to urged us as school leaders to know our own narrative and to use it to shape our policy goals and aspirations. Faithful commitment to the organization’s best interests framed consistently and positively serves schools leaders well as they navigate policy issues at the local, state, and even federal levels.

SURN ESL Workshop Featured in School of Education News Release

SURN Workshop Featured in School of Education News Release:

by Julie Tucker | March 8, 2017

“The faloopious scaringas tringled quaransically to the barton.” This sentence, projected on a conference room screen, welcomed 65 middle- and high-school teachers from across Virginia to “ESL101,” a workshop at the William & Mary School of Education last week.

The group of educators, led by Katherine Barko-Alva, clinical assistant professor of TESOL, puzzled out possible meanings by analyzing the sentence structure and using the visual cue offered by an accompanying photograph. A consensus quickly emerged about a grumpy cat holding tight to a treat he did not want to share.

“Every sentence has layers upon layers of meanings,” said Barko-Alva. “The beauty of ESL is when you bring content and academic language together for the purpose of classroom instruction.”

The workshop, offered through the William & Mary School-University Research Network (SURN), was geared toward teachers with English language learners in their classrooms and offered strategies to help them meet the needs of those students.

The need for this type of training for teachers is huge. “When I ask superintendents what kind of professional development opportunities they need for their teachers, ESL training is almost always at the top of the list,” said Amy Colley, executive director of SURN.

Luckily for Colley, the William & Mary School of Education brought Barko-Alva onto the faculty last fall, and she enthusiastically agreed to collaborate on a series of workshops for elementary and secondary public school teachers from across the state.

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Dr. Katherine Barko-Alva speaks to an attentive group of teachers at the ESL 101 Workshop.

For Barko-Alva, teaching ESL is a passion born from personal experience. She arrived in the United States from Peru with her family at age 15. And though well-prepared by her schools in Peru and ready for college study, she spoke only a smattering of English.

She recounted one memorable experience in a pre-calculus class when she was given a math problem about baseball. “I knew how to do the math, but the language of baseball — bases, runs, strikes, walks — was totally foreign to me.” Language, she added, depends entirely on context, and every content area has its own specific register. The challenge for the ESL teacher is to navigate the disconnects between content and academic language.

It takes anywhere from one to three years to gain the language skills needed for day-to-day social interactions. Cognitive academic language proficiency — the ability to read, write, analyze and evaluate subject-area academic content — can take up to 10 years.

A year and a half after arriving in the U.S., Barko-Alva enrolled as a freshman at the University of Florida. She’s now a leading voice in ESL education, advocating for students like her who arrive in this country with little or no English but who deserve a full and engaging education.

Public schools in Virginia serve somewhere around 100,000 English learner students. And while these students are guaranteed equal access to grade-level materials and content under federal law, the resources, structures and policies supporting these students vary greatly among districts and schools.

“Our focus for the workshop was to offer specific strategies that teachers could take back to their classrooms and put to use right away,” said Colley. “These are techniques that every teacher can use, regardless of how much experience they have working with ELLs.”

The workshop was co-facilitated by Joy Martin ’02, M.Ed. ’08, who is a reading intervention teacher for Norfolk Public Schools and adjunct faculty member at W&M. For the past six years, Martin has led W&M’s Summer ESL Institute, which allows students to add an ESL endorsement to their teaching degree. Students who pursue the ESL-dual endorsement program graduate prepared to teach English language learners as content-area teachers and as ESL teachers. “And that is what our ELLs need to acquire English and succeed in school — teachers with the knowledge and skills to teach academic language and literacy,” said Martin.

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Joy Martin directs teachers at the ESL 101 Workshop.

Working within the limitations of a one-day workshop, participants at ESL101 got a primer on ESL foundations, but the main focus was on actionable techniques for the classroom.

Martin and Barko-Alva led the group through interactive exercises to conquer oral language production, such as the “jigsaw,” a group activity in which each student becomes an expert in one aspect of a topic and then teaches fellow group members. Another, “think-pair-share,” allows ELLs to practice language with a native speaker before being asked to speak in front of the class. These strategies also ensure that all students have equal opportunities for producing language in the classroom.

Kathy Smartwood, a kindergarten teacher from Yorktown, VA who attended one of the workshops, recognizes the value of having English-language learners in her classroom — to her, it’s a unique opportunity for cross-cultural exchange, rather than an obstruction to learning. “All of my students, regardless of their ability to speak English, should feel confident socially and academically.”

140 teachers from 29 school divisions and the Department of Juvenile Justice participated in the workshops, representing seven of the eight regions in Virginia. “It was a great opportunity to reach out to content-area teachers, who are the front line of support for English language learners,” said Barko-Alva. “We have a lot of work to do to improve outcomes for these students in Virginia, but we have amazing teachers.”

Thinking about Text Sets: Considering Time and Place

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Thinking about Text Sets: Considering Time and Place

by: Kerrigan Mahoney

If you ever dutifully memorized the definition of the setting of a novel as the time and place where the story happens, and never much thought about it again, well … you have much to look forward to! Setting is the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven, the eerie chirps of crickets at twilight, the sensation of a pat on the back for a job well done; the sound of hope, the smell of fear, the chills of desperation. Time and place shape identity, experiences, and social and cultural norms: both for our students and in our books. Considering how time and place impact identity and shape actions can be a powerful bridge between students’ own lives and experiences and those of the characters in a book. Centuries can become seconds when you can stand next to your character and empathize with her.

These three books put time and place, front and center:

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick, the Michael Printz Award winning novel for excellence in young adult literature, links together seven vignettes that unfold on the same Scandinavian island over the course of millennia. The sensory experience of the island itself, along with the mythology and peoples tied to this place bring together each vignette in captivating and visceral storytelling. This genre-defying book will provoke discussion on the nature of time and the congruency of the human experience among students and adults alike.

“Open Mike Fridays” in Mr. Ward’s English class bring together the students of Bronx Masquerade, Nikki Grimes much beloved Coretta Scott King Award winning novel. The first year copies of this book showed up in my classroom shelves I heard: when can I read that book? Hey, that looks like a book I actually want to read! My internal celebratory dance and accompanying whisper/shouting was immense, but I played it cool – and my students certainly took the bait. Each chapter in this story is told from the point of view of a different student in Mr. Ward’s English class along with accompanying poem shared at “Open Mike Friday.” The importance of classroom space itself and its power to help students learn through shared experiences in a positive and supportive environment cannot be undersold – in this book or your classroom.

“Where the best and brightest strive and shine and stairways lead right to cloud nine.” Sugar Hill: Harlem’s Historic Neighborhood by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie is a celebratory picture book for all ages. The reader can dance, sing, stroll, study, and play through the masterful use of language and compelling illustrations that take us on a journey in Sugar Hill. An excellent book to think about how literary devices and figurative language can help to captivate readers; it also could be an excellent mentor text for students to write about their own neighborhood, school, classroom, time, or place that is important to them.

 

Questions to consider when thinking about setting:

  • How does the setting impact the plot, characters, or conflict?
  • In what ways does the setting evoke a sensory response?
  • How does a change in setting (or lack thereof) help to propel the story?
  • How does the combination of words and images shape your experience of the story?
  • How does the setting in this story relate to places you have been or settings you have experienced in other stories? How does this impact your understanding of the setting in this story?

 

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CREATE Conference

On October 2-4, 2014, SURN partnered with the Consortium for Research on Educational Assessment and Teaching Effectiveness (CREATE) at the School of Education for CREATE’s 23rd annual conference.  The conference topic for this year was Assessing Student Learning: The Impact on State, National, and International Accountability.

Over 200 researchers and practitioners came together to focus on assessment and teaching.  Dr. Jan Rozzelle, Director of SURN, presented with Amy Stamm of Middlesex County Schools and Tony Vladu of Newport News Public Schools on Visible Leadership and Action Research: Formative Feedback to Teachers Enhances Student Engagement and Learning.  Dr. Jennifer Hindman, SURN Assistant Director, presented with Amy Williams, SURN graduate assistant and doctoral student in Counselor Education.  Their session was titled, Empowering Elementary Educators in Nonfiction Literacy: Professional Development Program Design, Implementation, and Evaluation.  Julie K. Marsh, SURN graduate assistant and doctoral student in Curriculum and Educational Technology, presented on Design Thinking and Participatory Culture.  Kerrigan Mahoney, SURN graduate assistant and doctoral candidate in Curriculum and Educational Technology, presented on Transfer of Learning: Professional Development to Classroom Practice for Secondary ELA Teachers.

The CREATE conference was a wonderful opportunity to engage with researchers and practitioners of all levels in both K12 and higher education, especially current doctoral students.  While it was a larger conference, it still had an intimate feel that allowed more discussion during and between sessions that fostered scholarly engagement and feedback on research.

 

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Elementary Nonfiction Literacy Workshop

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On September 23rd, 33 third through fifth grade elementary teachers attended SURN’s Elementary Nonfiction Literacy workshop.  Participants attended from across 14 different SURN school divisions.  In addition to the 33 participants, four teacher-leaders from SURN member divisions attended to provide leadership and support for participants.

During the first session of the three-event Elementary Nonfiction Literacy initiative, participants identified key components of student engagement, participated in a sample lesson that integrated content-area knowledge with nonfiction reading skills, and engaged in over 10 different activities that promote student engagement and learning.  Participants also learned more about SURN’s Visible Leadership model and how the Elementary Nonfiction Literacy workshops fit into SURN’s larger goal of distributing leadership from central office and into each classroom.  This distribution of leadership capitalizes upon a shifting focus toward student engagement by putting John Hattie’s research on high-yield teaching and learning strategies into practice in classrooms and empowering all faculty and staff to engage in dialogues surrounding these strategies.

In addition to a wealth of new ideas and opportunities to network with colleagues, participants of SURN’s Elementary Nonfiction Literacy session left with the Power Tools for Adolescent Literacy book as a resource to begin putting new ideas and strategies into practice.  Participants will reconvene in February and again in April to reinforce and add to strategies that increase student engagement.

Teacher Appreciation Week

The first full week in May is Teacher Appreciation Week (May 5-9, 2014). Instructional leaders, PTA, School Boards, students, and others often recognize this week in a myriad of ways from proclamations to tasty treats. Perhaps there are clever plays on words or use of candy bars such as “Don’t Snicker, you are worth $100 Grand, no you are really worth the entire Mint.” Perhaps there is a token of appreciation such as flashlights for “lighting up students’ learning.”

One school’s administration and PTA designated days to show their appreciation for teachers so that students were invited to bring items to school such as:

Monday: Smile big and say something nice to your teacher
Tuesday: Give your teacher an award-make a ribbon or a certificate
Wednesday: Pick a flower to bring your teacher
Thursday: Write a letter or draw a picture telling your teacher what you appreciate about him/her
Friday: Decide how you will honor your teacher – maybe bring a candy bar or donate a book you no longer need at home to the classroom library

For an interesting twist, consider reaching out to a memorable teacher in your life. Send the teacher an email or letter reminding them when they taught you and sharing how the teacher made an impact in your life.

Consider having your students write a letter to a former teacher. Use the intra-district mail to send the letters to the teacher or place letters in the faculty mailboxes.

Looking Back on Elementary Nonfiction Literacy

This year, SURN held its inaugural Elementary Nonfiction Literacy initiative.  Two elementary teachers in grades 3 through 5 from each of SURN’s member school divisions were invited to participate in a series of three workshops designed to enhance teachers’ nonfiction literacy strategies and skills.  Each workshop focused on specific strategies for promoting elementary nonfiction literacy, while the themes of student engagement and student choice in nonfiction literacy overarched and were integrated across the three workshops.

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The first workshop, held in December, focused on integrating Power Tools strategies in the elementary grades, both in content areas and in literacy instruction through the use of nonfiction texts.  Also occurring during this session was an introduction to Edmodo, an online platform that participants used for between-session networking and assignment submission.  Participants were introduced to current research on elementary nonfiction literacy that highlighted the importance of helping students to develop nonfiction literacy skills.  Participants left the session charged with the task of constructing a text set and energized to begin integrating Power Tools strategies for nonfiction literacy into their classrooms.

When SURN Elementary Nonfiction Literacy participants returned for their second meeting in February, they arrived with shining examples of texts sets.  After sharing these with peers, participants engaged in a full-day workshop focused on the importance of student engagement and choice in nonfiction literacy.  During this session, participants were introduced to John Hattie’s work on high yield teaching strategies, and participants were provided with a framework for assessing student engagement through the use of SURN’s observation protocol.  The importance of student choice in nonfiction literacy was emphasized through an experiential book sorting activity, following which each teacher received approximately $100 worth of nonfiction trade books to keep and use in their classrooms.  With these new resources, participants were tasked with creating and teaching a lesson that integrated nonfiction literacy strategies and skills.  Participants were also asked to observe their co-participant teaching her lesson using SURN’s observation protocol, and to provide each other with formative feedback based upon the observation process.

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Participants returned for the final session with high-quality lesson plans to share.  The final session focused on developing classroom procedures conducive to student choice and engagement.  Presentations highlighted real-world classroom practices modeled by SURN member school teachers that provide clear structure and organization to promote student engagement and choice.  Additional information on differentiation strategies for nonfiction literacy was shared with participants to ensure teachers could begin the 2014-15 academic year with a clear plan for integrating nonfiction literacy practices across the curriculum from the first day of school onward.  The remainder of the final session focused on affirming the work of the teachers throughout the Elementary Nonfiction initiative.  A Gallery Walk allowed teachers to describe changes they’ve made and would like to continue making to promote student engagement through nonfiction literacy.  Teachers left with an invitation to apply for one of several SURN Elementary Nonfiction Literacy book grants, which will provide teams of teachers with $750 in nonfiction books for their classrooms.

Between each session, teachers were actively engaged in submitting assignments, providing feedback to peers, and exploring connections between workshop content and real-world classroom practices via Edmodo.  The ongoing dedication and commitment of the teacher participants was evident and impressive, particularly given the impact of multiple snow days on the teachers’ classroom schedules and plans.  The teachers were supported throughout the process by the Power Team, a group of three teachers and one SURN staff member who shared first-person reflections and feedback on the importance of topics addressed throughout the Nonfiction Literacy initiative.  Additionally, the Power Team members served as allies for the teachers, validating the challenges encountered and providing ideas for overcoming obstacles inherent in trying something new.

Next year, the SURN Elementary Nonfiction Literacy initiative will embark on year two.  The capacity, motivation, and enthusiasm of the elementary teachers who participated this year makes SURN eager to continue to support elementary teachers in channeling their motivation and excitement toward promoting student success in and engagement with nonfiction literacy!

SURN Book Recommendations

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Cross-Curricular Connections: Using Nonfiction Texts Before, During, and After Field Trips

All students get excited when they hear the words ‘field trip’.  Here are some ideas for using this excitement to connect field trips to nonfiction literacy before, during, and after the big day!
Before:
Invite students to choose nonfiction texts to read that are related to the field trip.  Help younger students focus by providing bins of books that connect in some way to topics or themes that relate to the field trip.  Encourage older students to make predictions about what they might experience on the field trip and have them self-select nonfiction texts based upon these predictions.  Students can create text sets based upon their reading choices and present these to the class prior to the field trip.

During:
Encourage students to take a notebook and camera (or paper for sketching) to document exciting or new information or experiences while on the field trip.  Groups of students can share a camera and be giving specific things to capture while on the field trip.  Nonfiction texts such as field guides (for field trips related to science) or historical journals (for field trips related to social studies) can be shared with students prior to the field trip to model information-gathering processes and products.

After:
Upon returning to school, have students write thank-you notes to the field trip location/staff, highlighting specific field trip experiences and making connections between these experiences and one or more nonfiction texts.  Encourage students to synthesize learning from both their text sets and their field trip notes.  Have students create a written field guide based field trip experiences.  Model for students how to integrate factual information into observations using mentor texts.  Students can create a final product using drawings or photos and written or typed text depending on student preference.  Additional options include creating a multimedia field guide in PowerPoint, Prezi, or iMovie.  Encourage students to share their final projects with the class or invite parents in for a whole-class field trip debriefing.  Students can create Exhibit Guides for the location they visited by working alone or in groups.  These exhibit guides can be shared with the field trip site and with future students to build anticipation for the field trip.

Helping Students Beat SOL Testing Anxiety

As winter draws to an end and spring approaches, state standardized testing is on the minds of educators. In helping students prepare for the content of these high-stakes tests, it is important that we advise them on test-taking strategies, as well. Further, as educators, we can incorporate motivational tactics into classrooms to increase students’ self-efficacy and confidence upon beginning the test. Below are several strategies that teachers, administrators, counselors, and all educators can use to enhance state testing experiences of all students, young and old.

1) Let them move Often times students have trouble sitting still for long periods of time because they haven’t been given the opportunity to get up and move around. During standardized testing, teachers can utilize break times to help students get rid of their jitters. Teaching a few yoga moves or turning on dance music are two ways to encourage students to make the most of their break.

2) Concoct a Peppermint Brain Potion While going over practice tests with students in the weeks leading up to the tests, allow students to suck on a peppermint candy. Peppermint has been found to help memory and alertness, so the smell and taste can help them with test preparation. Then, on the day of the test, give each student a drop of peppermint-scented hand lotion (which can be labeled as “Peppermint Brain Lotion”). Having associated the smell of peppermint with the practice tests can increase their performance and sense of calmness while taking the state test. Of course check for allergies first!
*From Amy Williams, SURN Graduate Assistant

3) Book a Classroom Guidance Lesson Sometimes the most difficult part of standardized testing is style and formatting of the test. Similarly, some students worry because of all of the pressure that comes with passing these high-stakes tests. School counselors can work with classroom teachers to inform them about what the test will be like and teach them valuable test-taking skills. In addition, counselors can meet with students individually to ease their worries and fears about standardized testing.

4) Create a Test-Taking Tips Bulletin Board Hearing about older students’ experiences with testing can be extremely valuable to current students. Previous students can provide insight on lessons they learned while taking the test, what they wish they would have done differently to prepare, and other helpful testing techniques. To help current students, educators can compile a number of these test-taking tips into one list to share with students as they prepare for the test. One way to display these tips is by making a bulletin board to put on display in school hallway. For examples and more information, visit: http://www.schcounselor.com/2012/03/school-counselor-spotlight-student.html

5) Facilitate Fourth Graders Sharing with Third Graders As another option or an extension of suggestion 4 is to have fourth graders write letters to third graders in their school that can be delivered. Consider having a panel of fourth graders come to the class to answer questions from the third graders.
*From Dr. Jennifer Hindman, SURN Program Coordinator

6) Invite a Message from Parents Encouragement from parents can be extremely helpful to students as they enter standardized tests. Educators can employ students’ parents to provide motivation and encouragement to their students. To do so, schools can send home a letter to parents asking them to write supportive messages to their child that teachers can give to students immediately before beginning the test. This idea was found on the following blog: http://chickadeejubilee.blogspot.com/2012/01/postive-test-prep.html

7) Motivate, Motivate, Motivate Motivational tactics on the school’s end can be used on the day of standardized testing. One suggestion is using chalk to write motivational phrases on school sidewalks and walkways for students to see as they walk into the school. Another thing teachers can do is provide students with “survival kits” for the day of the test, which might include things such as candy and other goodies. Visit http://wiseguystpt.blogspot.com/2011/10/state-testing-ideas-to-take-stress-away.html for more ideas and information.

8) Organize an SOL Pep Rally To boost students’ moods about standardized testing, have an SOL pep rally at school a few days prior to testing. Students often respond well to sporting events, so making this connection can lift their spirits about upcoming tests. Including the school’s cheerleaders and band to create a mantra or cheer to encourage SOL success is another idea that can be incorporated into this motivational tactic.
*From Dr. Kim Evans, Assistant Superintendent, Hopewell City Public Schools