"During third- and fourth-grade reading intervention, I am using all nonfiction text," said Katarzyna Drabik, reading teacher. "But I found that students were coming across a lot of vocabulary they didn't know. So, I created a 'word wall.' If, as we read, a student doesn't know what a word means, they knock on the desk. I add it to the word wall and we look up the definition, find synonyms for the word, and for the third-graders, draw a picture to illustrate the understanding of the word. I keep the word wall up for all the students to reference. It really helps them to delve into vocabulary and discerning meaning."
"Do you go over these with the rest of the students?" asked another Love teacher.
"I do it individually, but the words are posted and we continually add to the wall so every student is aware and watches the wall for new words."
Love Elementary School’s Professional Book Talk meets after school to help staff build content knowledge and an understanding of the Common Core Standards for ELA.
Miss Drabik was giving an example of how she implemented the ELA Standards Reading: Informational Text Anchor 4, interpret words and phrases as they are used in text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone as part of the new Common Core Standards in her classroom. Love School's Professional Book Talk, which has representatives from all areas of the school from the principal to teachers to speech pathologist to the librarian, meets once a month to build content knowledge of the Common Core Standard for English Language Arts. They hope to gain strategies that will enable their students to interact deeply with multiple forms of text in meaningful ways. The group uses The Common Core Lesson Book K-5 as the professional resource.
"As a staff, we have a regular book club," said Christina Spontaneo, Professional Book Talk facilitator. "We thought it would be a great idea to sit down and share ideas about how we are implementing the standards in our classrooms. With the new Common Core Standards, we need to adjust our teaching strategies in some cases, and this is a great way to learn what works and what doesn't in the classroom in an environment outside our regular collaborative meetings."
The teachers are enjoying the conversation.
"The Professional Book Talk gives us an informal way to sit down and discuss all of the new Common Core Standards and how it directly relates to us," said Roslyn Sisley-Kazelunas, Love Elementary School teacher. "We can share ideas, new approaches, students successes and concerns and just support each other to better serve our students in the classroom."
The meetings have a specific agenda. Prior to each meeting, participants read a section of "The Common Core Lesson Book K-5" that focuses on a pre-selected Common Core ELA standard and lesson activity. They reflect on the questions, "What are the key components of this standard?" and "What questions do I have about this standard?" Participants then implement the chosen standard in their classroom.
During meetings, participants discuss the standard and their answers to the reflection questions. They share student data/work related to the standard. Spontaneo also provides video lessons from LearnZillion or EngageNY that support the focus standard. They also receive handouts with ideas to try in the classroom. There is a lot of brainstorming and discussion during the meetings.
"The goal of the discussions is to arrive at the next steps for planning instruction around this standard," said Spontaneo. "The group will discuss and brainstorm additional learning activities, projects and extension activities that reinforce the standard."