Instructional News
News and Celebrations

April 10, 2015


Centers and Stations

Dr. Lisa Juneau from Jefferson Davis Parrish Schools states, "Learning centers increase student engagement as collaboration allows students to be in charge of their own learning." Centers are not just for elementary schools. Centers and stations are great ways to reinforce whole group instruction, meet multiple levels, review skills and increase student engagement.

Mrs. Hyams and Mrs. Humphrey visited Mill Creek Elementary to observe centers and stations and talk to teachers and administration about their benefits. All teachers said they began the year doing one whole class station to orient students and get them accustom to the method. Then slowly, they added stations. This helped the students to gain confidence with stations and allowed them to run like a well-oiled machine. It was amazing to watch. We observed buddy games, musical math, money stations, and shape stations. Teachers were able to tell us the ‘why’ behind the station. We observed how stations were extensions for tiered instruction and reinforcements from previous whole group activities.

Mr. Thaxton was wonderful in sharing ideas with us and allowing us to observe. He plans to come to JCHS and meet with Mrs. Hyams, Mrs. Humphrey and Mr. Watters next week to debrief on the visit.

We have such great resources in our own system. It is a blessing to be able to work with each other- across grades, across contents, across schools.

If you are interested in centers and stations, please let me know. There are wonderful opportunities out there to learn from each other.

Instructional Rounds

Instructional Rounds #jchsfaculty #mcslearn #alpartners

Tuesday, April 7th, JCHS hosted instructional rounds through the Alabama Best Practices Center. Visitors from all over the state, including East Lawrence, Enterprise, Florence, and Hazel Green, attended the rounds. Instructional Rounds were adapted from the medical rounds process used by doctors and medical students. Instructional Rounds have two goals: to build skills of network members by coming to common understanding of effective practice and how to support it, and to support instructional improvement at the host site by sharing what the network learns and by building skills at the local level.

Using our area of focus (as created from our flight plan, 1 page target and school-wide indicator of 2.5), visitors observed various classes looking for:  what the students were saying and doing, what the teachers were saying and doing, and how empathy, growth and student voice were supported.

After observations, facilitators from the Alabama Best Practices Center helped visitors qualitate their evidence to form predictions about JCHS students, questions, and commendations. All of the data and feedback will be shared with the whole faculty at the April Collaborative Day.

It was a wonderful day of learning and reflecting for all involved. We are ready to evaluate our feedback and move to the next step of improving JCHS everyday.

Flight School

This week's flight school continued to focus on the essential question- What obstacles or struggles may prevent a student from meeting their goal? After creating thinking maps outlining our ideas about this question last week, this week we tried to categorize the obstacles. Patterns were noticed and categories were created including internal and external conflicts, home life, controllable factors, outside influences, ability to learn. Fourth block teachers took the card sorting a step further. They felt that distinct categories could not be created. All the factors somehow overlapped or contributed to each other. One teacher said, "If we could put these problems in categories, they could all be solved."

So they created a circle (as seen above) where each factor is next to the factor that influences or contributes to it. At the center of the circle, they placed the cards-"No mentor," "No Grit," "Defeatism." They felt these were at the heart of all the problems- those controllable and out of student and teachers' control. Notice at the heart of problem (No Grit, No mentor, Defeatism) is a lack of something.

All teachers were asked to discuss the questions: —What can students control? Why can’t students control _____? What do students need to help them control what they can?What can teachers control? Why aren’t teachers controlling ____? What tools do teachers need to help them control what they can? What can teachers and students not control? What can they do to cope with that? Where do we go from here? What do we do with all this information and reflection?

So where do we go from here? Many varying answers were left. Some said- "Administrative support," "Continuous training," "Ensure dialogue between students and teachers," "School Culture," "More Empathy," "Increase quality of instruction," "Patience," "True, Open Communication among all parties," "Choose to Improve," "Know your students," "Build relationships and a safe classroom."

What steps do we take next to bridge these barriers students and teachers face?

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Kristi Combs, MFA

Instructional Partner, James Clemens High School

Madison City Schools, Madison, AL