Last week I took a break from summer break and travelled to Nashville to attend and present at the College and Career Readiness Standards Networking Conference, and then the High Schools That Work Staff Development Conference. I spent a lot of my time preparing for my own presentations but luckily there was still plenty of time to attend other sessions and continue my own learning. I had some really great insights during the week. Some things that were just great reminders and ideas that pushed my thinking. If you would like some overviews of sessions you could read any one of Tom White’s live posts from Nashville, or Mary Moser’s post with her take aways as well. For me, I could write on and on especially about PLC’s and peer observation and feedback protocols. I am very excited about some of these things and what I can bring back to my building and my peers. To stick to the CORElaborate theme however I would like to summarize my three big takeaways about the Literacy Design Collaborative. All three of these ideas I have had for some time, but the sessions and presenters at the conference helped to solidify them for me and formulate them into ways that I can share them. So here they are:
1. LDC is better with friends.
I attended many session where teachers, administrators, and coaches were talking about the importance of the collaborative piece of the framework. There are schools throughout the nation that are creating modules across the curriculum and then implementing them in teams of teachers. It sounded like a lot of fun to have students learning about the same topic in science, health and PE, Social Studies, and English all at once. These students were making incredible connections between subjects and using their skills and knowledge from class to class. They then created a product that was assessed by each teacher their specific elements.
In our building we have found that this is true as well, however we have done it within PLC’s. This has been our most successful model. Creating an LDC module or mini-task with colleagues helps to build confidence. I have also found that when I make them with someone else we help to fine tune it and give feedback along the way. This makes these modules stronger initially than any I have done alone. I can incorporate other teaching strategies that are not my first go-tos and solicit critique along the way. I would highly encourage that those who are working with LDC to pay special attention to the work collaboratively, find a friend who is as interested in creating quality literacy instruction as you are and go for it. I was encouraged at the conference to highlight this collaboration both in and out of your content area.
2. LDC should be taken in small steps.
One of the session was titled, Eating an Elephant One Bite at a Time. I didn’t actually go to this session however the name all by itself hits the mark for this next takeaway. The first time I did LDC it was a huge undertaking. (I did it all by myself so maybe taking my own advice in take away number one would have helped.) Really it just took me a lot of time, and I was unsure of the process. I powered through however, because I was trying to help others in my building to implement the framework and what would it say if I couldn’t complete it. I have found however that taking baby steps toward full implementation has been much more successful, both for myself and others. I have had many teachers who are really excited and dedicated to the framework who just simply needed to slow down and to have more tools. In fact the sessions that I lead with my colleague were about slowing down, incorporating good reading strategies, getting kids to read and write more as a bottom line, and starting with mini template tasks instead of full modules. (I wrote about these in my last post if you would like to give it a try. I also wrote about the two staff development days that included twelve reading strategies to get teachers started. Here is a link to day one, and day two.) There were many other sessions offered about how slow down and put the pieces together to get to the heart of literacy.
3. LDC can, will, and unequivocally does help with the new evaluation system.
I have had experience with tracking all of my student growth data using the LDC rubrics seven scoring elements. I actually don’t know anyone else who has done this, (if you’re out there let me know). I have been telling everyone that will listen that an LDC module can help to hit and serve as artifact evidence for almost all of the non-observable criteria, at least for the Danielson framework. For me this was a great way to hit three birds with one stone. By creating an LDC module I was able to increase my literacy instruction and incorporate the CCSS into my classroom. I was able to reinvigorate my social studies content and standards, and I was able to hand over a copy of my module to my evaluator and need no other evidence. The rubric provided solid growth data because I was able to score on the same elements no matter what content unit I was in. In Nashville, at the train the trainer sessions I attended, I was handed a crosswalk of the Danielson framework rubric elements and an LDC module. I felt like jumping for joy. This was exactly what I had experienced and had been saying all along. I truly think that LDC is a way to strengthen instruction, incorporate the Common Core State Standards, and as a by product create great evidence for Domain 1 especially, let alone student growth data. See… three birds, one stone, two elephants…and enough analogies, it just works.