I have officially finished another school year.  Our last day with students was Tuesday, and we had a work day on Wednesday.  Thursday and Friday were professional development days.  We were very fortunate to have a guest speaker (Ken Williams) come in and talk to us about Professional Learning Communities (PLC).  Our district will implement PLC in the upcoming school year.  This workshop gave me a good idea of how to prepare and what to expect.

Why I'm excited for my district to implement Professional Learning Committees

Here are my five big takeaways from this workshop.

Teachers need to work as a team to do what's best for all students.  This goes beyond sharing copies and ideas.  We will be composing a list of what is most important for every child to learn and creating a plan to ensure that students master these concepts.  This requires a set time each week, not to plan lessons but to plan interventions and enrichment for specific students.  This may include flexible grouping across classrooms and/or involving specialists.

Expectations should be set at the first PLC meeting.  For example, everyone must be on time and prepared.  Other norms are also set such as not having cell phones out.  Whatever the expectations are, they should be set by, agreed upon and acted on by each group member.  

Every student must meet or exceed the "bar".  The bar is a set of standards from a unit, quarter or trimester that each child must meet. (Five was recommended, but not set in stone.)   The recommendation was to look at a unit, and select the most critical standards that every child must accomplish.  That does not mean to let the other standards go by the wayside.  Of course, you teach them with the same rigor as you always have.  However, all students must at least reach or exceed the bar that is set.  With this being our first year, we will start by focusing our PLC on one subject - yet to be determined.

The bar is set by the teachers.  I liked the recommendation that teachers first work independently to determine what they feel are the most critical standards.  Once each teacher has their "top five" most essential standards, the team can come together, share their ideas, state their cases, and come to a consensus on what the most critical standards are.  Having teachers create the bar gives them the ownership they need to make sure that the plan is meaningful.  It also allows them more flexibility than if the "must learn" standards were handed to them from administration.

Formative assessment and planning are keys to success.  Now, I have always been a believer in using formative assessment to drive my instruction.  I have shared ideas that worked with my colleagues and asked for help when I was stuck.  This takeaway was more of a validation to an idea I have had in place for a long time.  However, now I feel pushed to take this idea to a new level.  Although my colleagues and I have always been willing to share ideas, we have never explored the idea of flexible grouping across the grade level.  This is something new.  I am excited to give it a try, as I think the students will benefit from different delivery models.

Does your district have PLC in place?  I would love to hear any advice if you do.

***I hope that all of you have a wonderful summer whether it has already started or is just around the corner.  Enjoy!

Thank you!

We are currently studying ecosystems in science, and I found a fantastic mentor text I'd like to share with you today.

Aliens from Earth is an awesome mentor text for teaching ecosystems!

The book is called Aliens from Earth.  From the text to the illustrations, it is the perfect mentor text to help explain animals' effects on the environment!

Aliens from Earth is an awesome mentor text for teaching ecosystems!

I love this text for teaching balance in ecosystems. It is all about how organisms enter ecosystems and disrupt the balance. Sometimes the invasion was intentional and sometimes it was accidental. For example, it explains how fire ants arrived in Mobile, Alabama in the late 1930s from South America by cargo ship.  The book shows their destruction through pictures and words.

Nonfiction mentor text on ecosystems perfect for teaching cause and effect.

After introducing the book to the class, I hand out copied pages from this book for students to partner read.  This organizer works very well with the text.  Students fill it out while they are reading.

This form goes with a perfect text for teaching about ecosystem.  The form is a free download, and the mentor text is described on this post.

This book is also great for reviewing cause and effect.  The text is very clear about how the "invasions" affected the natural balance of the ecosystems.  I created a graphic organizer for cause and effect.  You can easily use the organizer with this book or any other mentor text that has a cause and effect structure.

This free organizer is perfect for practicing cause and effect relationships.

You can download both of these form on a Google Doc by clicking on the pink button below.

Another option for using this book would be to have students research solutions to the problems being caused.  I may use that as an optional end of the year activity.  My students this year love using the Chrome Books for research!

If you teach ecosystems or a unit on informational reading, I highly recommend this book.  It is well-organized, full of great information & illustrations, and highly engaging for our young readers.

Thank you and have a great week!

I love books!  I mean I really love books!  One of my biggest missions is to get students to enjoy reading as much as I do.  A huge part of that mission is finding books of high interest that are at a "just right" reading level.  Today I'd like to share three sites that have helped me do just that.

This post shares three great websites for finding just right books for your classroom library.

I share all of these sites with my students and parents.   They are perfect to link up if you have a classroom webpage.  

Kidsreads logoKidsreads - Kidsreads is a great site that includes book reviews designed to hook students into reading.  You can search reviews by title, genre, author or date. One of my favorite parts of this site is the "Cool New Books" section.  Not only is this site great for finding books, but it is also a great way to model book reviews for when students write their own.  The list of recommended series (by age) is also fantastic!

What Should I Read Next? - This site is perfect when you have a reluctant reader who finally finds book that he/she loves.  All you need to do is type in the title, and the site will produce a list of books with similar themes and at a similar level.  I love using this site when I am ordering new books for my classroom library.  Every year, there seems to be certain books that students gravitate toward.  This site is great for finding similar books.

 Guysread - This is an awesome site designed to encourage young males to love reading.  You can find a wide variety of book categories that appeal to guys, including "Creepy and Weird", "Tales and Scales" and "The Wild West".  When you click on a book title, you get a short review and a chance to rate the book for yourself.  This feature encourages students to come back, contribute to the site, and find more great books.  Seeing high ratings from peers can be a strong motivator for our students.

These sites are all easy and fun to use.  Enjoy!

This post shares three websites for teachers to expand their classroom library with lots of just right books.

Thank you and enjoy the rest of the week!

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