Sunday, February 3, 2013

Teacher Spotlights

Teachers sharing best practices with one another is one of the most effective ways of improving instruction.   Too often there isn’t a structure in place to foster meaningful sharing  and teachers are left swapping new ideas quickly over lunch or in the hallway.  This sharing is often done quietly behind closed doors, but I would love to see it become more public.  With so much noise about what isn’t working in education, we need to find a way to shine the spotlight on our effective practices, incredible educational programs and outstanding teachers.  Or as the Heath brothers write in Switch, we need to “find the bright spots.”  Sure it’s easy to focus our time and energy on the things that aren’t working, but is that the best course of action for improvement?  During a time of rapid change it’s even more critical to find and focus on the bright spots because they are the first sign that things are working.  The next challenge then becomes how can we replicate and expand our bright spots?

Dan Heath: How to Find Bright Spots

Last week, we held two professional learning days focused on having our K4 teachers rethink instruction.  As we continue to revolutionize learning for students, we are focused on finding and identifying “bright spots”  that will move us closer to this goal.   Once identified, we are beginning to invite teachers to share the incredible work they are doing with their colleagues in hopes that we will grow these “bright spots” across our organization.  These Teacher Spotlights also validate and recognize teachers for their work.  I’d like to shine the spotlight on the following incredible teachers and thank them for sharing their experiences and successes with other teachers in our district.  

Digital Storytelling Using Educreations 
Barbara Lichenstein & Krysta Accola 
First grade teachers shared how they used Educreations to rethink the "Gingerbread Unit."  Each student wrote their own version of the story, created a storyboard and created a digital recording of their story.  Final products were emailed to parents.  

Design Thinking: Prototyping - Carrie Middleton
A first grade teacher  shared an update to the Gingerbread Unit using design thinking.  Students built prototypes of traps to capture the gingerbread man.  Great introduction to design thinking and incredibly engaged hands-on learning!

Pre-Assessing for Math Using OnlineTools
Courtney Andersen, Laura Cargile & Kelly McLean
Teachers shared how they pre-assess prior to every unit of math instruction and use the information to create small groups for instruction and/or compact the curriculum for students who have already grasped the concept.  Great way to help meet individualize needs of all students in math. 

Incorporating Writing & Buddies in Math  - Linda Figone
A fourth grade teacher shared many learnings from SVMI and work using AIMs activities in math with buddies. The examples shared were great extension learning opportunities that were not taken right out of a textbook and planned based on student need.

Skype in the Classroom: Bringing Experts to Students 
Lily Alberts & Melissa Dowling
Two teachers shared their experiences using Skype to connect students to experts in both science and social studies. They talked about the set-up required prior to the Skype call, the jobs of students during the call (interviewer, blogger, photographer, etc) and how it enriched the learning experience for all students. My guess is that the interviewee learned a thing or two as well.

The results from each of the instructional practices and projects shared were amazing.  The best part was hearing the teachers talk about how successful, engaged and excited every student was during their particular project!  Here’s to finding more “bright spots” in LASD!

Alyssa Gallagher, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction

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