Sunday, February 23, 2014

CTA Region 3 Conference

It was exciting this weekend to spend it at the Region 3 CTA conference. More so since it's my region for CTA and I saw many familiar faces. The was a few people from my local, the Montebello Teachers Association. On Saturday, I presented with Norma Sanchez, in her workshop, Common Core and Literacy Strategies. Although, I have done this workshop with her a few times, it always seems new to me. Since, the teachers that attend and participate always have different questions and approach to the strategies we present. I always learn something new that I can bring back to the district's Cafe workshops or to my school site. 

The second workshop I did was especially important to me. It was the presentation of my Teacher Leadership Project with my Region 3 Cohort. The workshops title was "Teacher Leadership: Taking the Lead in Implementing the Common Core and New Initiatives."
I am so honored to have presented with these ladies. They truly are the definition of what teacher leadership should look like. Their projects are as diverse as our personalities. However, they are meaningful and they are what really drives instruction in the classroom and what makes teaching at any level an art. 
From left to right, Monica Cooper, Barbara Ransom, Adriana Perez, Tina Gruen,
Gabriela Orozco Gonzalez, Ashley Cooper.  
Check out one of the participants blog, Barbara Ransom:

The blog is focused on best practices while they transition into teaching the Common Core Algebra 1 standards.

On Sunday, the third workshop I presented, "Common Core and the New English Language Development Standards" was fantastic. The participants were engaged and had great questions. 

Click HERE to be able to access my PowerPoint. 

I covered the demands of the NEW English Language Development Standards.

Key Shifts:

and the PLDs

and of course… provided TONS of ideas and strategies! I added them to the TAB above labeled CCSS Resources, scroll down until you see the ELD links I provided. There must be over 25 resources I collected. 

Right now, I am loving this one:
I use it specifically for finding reading passages I can use in my classroom: 

Resources for your classroom, that I discussed today: 

You can find the ELD Standards in the link below: 

More Resources:

Friday, February 21, 2014

National Education Association (NEA) Teacher Ambassadors Project

I was recently selected by the National Education Association (NEA) to participate in the Teacher Ambassadors Project. This initiative is a partnership among the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced), the NEA, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and WestEd, and is generously funded by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. Teacher Ambassadors from across the nation will learn how the Smarter Balanced Assessment System, including the formative assessment process, can be used to implement the Common Core State Standards. This project is the first formal partnership among Smarter Balanced, the NEA, and the AFT.

I am personally very excited to be part of this project, since it ties in all the work I have been doing with my colleagues at my school district and across the state (with the CTA Teacher Leadership Cohort). Almost two years ago, I was selected to be part of the Smarter Balanced Consortium. As an assessment writer, I received all my training through webinars and literature that was provided by Smarter Balanced. This training was unique in the sense that I was able to meet with them face-to-face. It was insightful to be with a room of teachers across the nation and listen to their questions, concerns, and perception of what is occurring in their state, thus far in implementation of the Common Core Standards. This component of the training was invaluable. It expanded my knowledge (especially the Q & A with Joe Willhoft, the executive director for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) of the Assessment System Components.

Me, Joe Willhoft (Executive Director for Smarter Balanced), and Julie Webb (fellow CTA Leadership Cohort Participant)

Julie Webb  and I met this summer at the CTA Leadership Cohort Training. She is also knowledgeable in CCSS and has a great blog with tons of resources. Please check it out:
Here are just some of the topics we covered (I attached some links to the topics): 

It was two days filled with information and tons of resources that I am excited to share with the teachers that participate in the Common Core Cafe. I posted below some of our posters that we worked on during the trainings. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Recap of Session 2: Using Read Alouds to Maximize Learning of CCSS Standards

With the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, we are in the midst of identifying best practices not just for teachers and their development, but also for helping students in areas such as understanding complex texts. There is so much concern about the challenges that these standards present, that we often forget how significant and exciting it is that educators across the country can now work collaboratively to meet this challenge. Today, I was fortunate to deliver the second session for the Common Core Café. The teachers that came to this session are not only curious, professional, driven, but also open to sharing their “tool kit” of strategies they currently have with the Café participants across the district. Listening to their engaged discussions gave validity to the work that we are trying to accomplish. That as teachers, we have a repertoire of strategies that will help our students master the Common Core standards.

Here is an overview of the material we covered.

You can access my PowerPoint HERE for this session

Reading Aloud to children, even after they know how to read, is such a valuable experience! Children of all ages love to gather around and hear a good story, told by a skillful reader. 


The anchor standards that we focused today on are: 




Here are a few reasons why reading to your class is such a relevant strategy to increase learning in your class:

  1. Reading aloud exposes children to complex language, which will help the children in all areas of their development, especially their reading development.  

  2. Reading aloud to children enhances a child's oral vocabulary. A strong oral vocabulary is essential to reading comprehension.

  3. Reading aloud teaches children about the world. It promotes lots of conversations about what is like in different parts of the world, for people who are different from themselves. They travel to faraway lands and they travel through time.  

  4. Reading aloud models reading fluency and good reading habits.

  5. Reading aloud models good reading strategies.  Most teachers "think aloud" while reading, modeling the types of thoughts readers have.  ("I wonder what happens next." or "I think he's going to..." are great conversation starters with children!)

  6. Reading aloud helps children learn how stories are structured.  They learn how stories typically begin by introducing the characters and setting, then things develop, a conflict arises, then a solution.

  7. Reading aloud helps children recognize and explore feelings through the characters in the stories read to them.  They develop empathy and compassion.

  8. Read alouds encourage thinking.

  9. Read alouds encourage imagination!

  10. Read alouds encourage children to express themselves more clearly and more confidently.

The CCSS Exemplar Texts

Should you only stick to these or explore others...? Yes! Explore! Tailor your own curriculum to meet the needs of students. 
One issue of  concern to educators is the grade-level lists of text exemplars that are included in Appendix B of the CCSS. Many schools and some states interpret these lists of stories, poems, and informational texts as core lists that all students should read and are attempting to purchase these sets and mandate them for classroom use. A close reading of the standards document indicates that the list and text excerpts are provided to help teachers explore the levels of complexity and quality of texts recommended for a particular grade level, so they can make their own informed selections. The lists are thus exemplars of text complexity, not a mandated reading list.

For lists of the CCSS Exemplar Texts for your grade click HERE.

After looking at all these books on, I'm aching to buy them all and read them to my kids!  They represent a variety of cultures, people, places, and topics that will inspire any child!  

Here are some of my favorite books to read aloud to my class. They also lend themselves to crafting Common Core Standards based lessons that enhance student learning and deepen student understanding. Sarah Perry

This is a rather interesting book about eccentric and preposterous suppositions stated in simple text but accompanied by surrealistic images, as the cover indicates with fish for leaves.

If... has very little text, but the content and illustrations are extremely powerful. The text and illustrations demand a response, both immediate and in imaginative "what if " type discussion. Interaction with the text is immediate...
If cats could fly..., If mice were hair..., If worms had wheels..., If toes were teeth..., If ugly were beautiful..., If music could be held, ... The book ends with If this is the end ... then dream up some more!
The front cover of the book shows a branch covered with green fish ("If leaves were fish"). Before the initiation the reading of the book, the children predicted what the book could possibly be about. Could this relate to the world we know? Why / why not? Could there be a time or situation where this could happen? How? What questions did they want to ask about the possibilities of "If.."? Why such a strange title? How could this fit with what we predict about the book?
This inquiry approach to the introduction to this book set the mood for imaginative thinking, a sense of fun in contributing ideas and listening to what children could suggest. As a class, we establish some ground rules for further sharing of opinion. I will refer the students to revisit our rules for academic class discussion.  I also teach artistic inquiry in my classroom and to also teach students how to draw conclusions.
Here is a great article on how to teach artistic inquiry: 

Fortunately by Remy Charlip

About This Book
Fortunately Ned was invited to a surprise party. Unfortunately the party was a thousand miles away. Fortunately he borrowed an airplane. Unfortunately the motor exploded. Good fortune follows bad through a hilarious series of cliff-hanging escapades that lead to a fortunate ending. 
My students and I love this book. Not only were my students able to make predictions, but they were also able to create funny predictions that were more elaborate than the story provided. They loved making their own cause/effect book. It was a great way to teach the concept, read fun literature that connected to their lives, and try a different type of writing. They loved sharing the books they created.

Additional literacy ideas to use with this book:

Story Pattern- this is a FUN story to imitate as a writer. Have your child write their own Fortunately story. They could narrate it to you, or they could make it in the form of a book complete with illustrations if that interests them. Alternatively, a student could predict what happens next and continue writing the story.
1st Grade Student practicing writing in a pattern (Cause and Effect)

Vocabulary- the words "Fortunately" and "Unfortunately" are repeated throughout the story. Does your child know what they mean? Complete shutterflap book.

Prefix- Un- for older students who are reading well, this would be a good time to introduce the concept of the prefix UN. Make a list of all the words you can think of that start with un-. Your older student may also enjoy finding other prefixes that are frequently used in the English language and making lists for each prefix.
Students come up with words that have the prefix "un"
We use our spiral notebooks to go over the prefix "un"

  The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

The Day the Crayons Quit, Drew Daywalt’s clever story of a box of crayons gone rogue will get the whole family laughing at the letters written by the occupants of the ubiquitous yellow and green box. The combination of text and Oliver Jeffers' illustrations match the colors' personalities beautifully as the crayons share their concern, appreciation, or downright frustration: yellow and orange demand to know the true color of the sun, while green--clearly the people pleaser of the bunch--is happy with his workload of crocodiles, trees, and dinosaurs. Peach crayon wants to know why his wrapper was torn off, leaving him naked and in hiding; blue is exhausted and, well, worn out; and pink wants a little more paper time. The result of this letter writing campaign is colorful creativity and after reading this book I will never look at crayons the same way again--nor would I want to. -Seira Wilson,


This picture book is not only clever and charming, but it is a great mentor text.  
Here are a few of the possible things you can use it for with the writers in your workshop:
  1. Building Content Through Show, Not Tell (Using Illustrations): This idea comes from Dorfman and Cappelli’s book Mentor Texts: Teaching WritingThrough Children’s Literature, K-6 (pages 94-95). Each crayon’s mood or situation is reflected in each illustration that accompanies its letter. Students who are drawing and writing can study the illustrations in this text to help them better show what’s happening in their pieces through pictures and text.
  2. Commas in Lists: If your students need guidance, there are many examples of commas that appear in lists in this book.
  3. Ending Punctuation: The ending punctuation is varied in this text. Many sentences trail off (…), ask questions (?) or end in a declaration (!).
  4. Friendly Letter Format: Page after page, each crayon’s letter to Duncan begins with a salutation (e.g., Dear Duncan; Hi Duncan) and ends with a closing (e.g., Your overworked friend, Red Crayon; Your naked friend, Peach Crayon) that reflects each crayon’s voice.
  5. Lead:  The book begins with “One day in class, Duncan went to take out his crayons and found a stack of letters with his name on them.”  I don’t know about you, but I was wondering what was in those letters immediately!  While the book began like so many other books, with the words, “one day,” it immediately sucked me because of everything else in this powerful first sentence.
  6. Precise Words: Each crayon uses precise words (i.e., nouns, verbs, and adjectives) to describe his/her situation.  You can examine these author’s word choices alongside students and talk about the way precise language helps create a greater impact (than less specific words would have if they were used).
  7. Variations in Print: Some words are capitalized, some phrases are underlined, and some sentences are written slightly larger. You can ask students to consider why the author (and illustrator) did this so they can try it out in their own writing.
  8. Voice:  Each crayon has his/her own distinct voice. You might choose to examine the way each crayon writes with voice with each student.  In addition, you can have a conversation about the tone students use in letters by examining the way some crayons are  more respectful towards Duncan (with their persuasive arguments), while others are downright whiny

Oliver Jeffers: Picture Book Maker 

This video clip is poignant to the classroom teacher that appreciates the value illustrations bring to text. Every year I have one, maybe two (if we are lucky) artists that love to draw in the class. I say "we" because students in class always enjoy learning and appreciating the artwork of our classmates. Sometimes these students that are artist, only love to draw. They come to school with the hope that they will get to use their very talented skills during the day. I love to incorporate illustrations, artwork of all mediums, as a component of finalizing a project. I love to read books to the class that are rich not only in words but in illustrations. Hence, this video clip is about Oliver Jeffers, an illustrator.

Oliver Jeffers takes us through the process of writing and illustrating his picture books in this fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the artist. Oliver Jeffers has written the picture books This Moose Belongs to Me, Stuck, The Incredible Book-Eating Boy, Lost and Found, How to Catch a Star, The Great Paper Caper, Up and Down, The Heart and the Bottle, The Hueys and illustrated the upcoming The Day the Crayons Quit.

Use this video to show students that illustrators play a huge role in bringing words to life. 

Word Mover’s Word Mover mobile app can be used to supplement classroom instruction, reinforce concepts taught in class, offer increased student engagement, and promote out-of-school literacy through the use of tablet devices and their associated functionality.

Word Mover allows children and teens to create “found poetry” by choosing from word banks and  existing famous works; additionally, users can add new words to create a piece of poetry by moving/manipulating the text.

Today, I also discussed a great leadership opportunity: 

California Teachers Association (CTA), Leadership Cohort 2:

Be a part of an essential group of advocates for public education:

Imagine serving in important leadership roles and becoming a strong advocate for the teaching profession and for the students you serve. CTA is looking across the state for 24 teacher activists to join the CTA Teacher Leadership Cohort. 
Click HERE to read more about it and apply! 

Some pictures of our talented teachers collaborating: 

Feedback from our session 2

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Recap of Session 1 - Get Students Talking: Habits of Discussion, Mastering the Language of the Common Core Standards

 Where did the time go? I was aware that an hour was going to go by quick, but it really flew. I hardly had anytime to discuss in-depth any of the classroom strategies, or to go around and hear the ones of the participants!
Click on this link to access my presentation: 
Presentation PowerPoint

Here’s a recap of some of the classroom strategies I discussed on Thursday’s meeting. All these strategies focus on the Common Core Standards. Tonights strategies focus primarily on: 
The Common Core Standards are woven into clear and developmentally aligned learning progressions that chart a course from kindergarten through college readiness. A learning progression is a sequenced set of aligned standards that students must master in order to graduate prepared for life beyond school.
The Common Core Standards reflect a spiraling progression that is sequential and yet recursive. As students make progress, the learning targets do not change essentially, but continue to expand in breadth and depth, allowing teachers and students multiple opportunities to develop the knowledge and skills defined by the standards.

The CTA has done a superb job in putting them together into progression spirals. Click on the link below to see the full document.In the document you can see how the anchor standard SL.1 spirals upwards from Kindergarten to 12th grade. 

CTA ELA Progression Spirals for Speaking and Listening

All  the strategies I presented today are geared to be used in collaborative groups. I usually group students in mixed abilities and there are at least 1 or 2 strong English language models. I use the Steps to Structuring an Academic Class Discussion to guide how I group the students. I also constantly focus on academic language development. All the lessons that I prepare always have a vocabulary component. You can look at some of the CCSS strategies I used in my presentation at CTA Good Teaching Conference, in San Jose. Click on the following to view them: Literacy Strategies. Our focus on Thursday was to get students talking in our classroom.  Not just talking, but having meaningful talk. How can we get our students to have meaningful discussions?

  • Provide opportunities for extended discourse & engagement with academic registers
  • Develop meaningful collaborative tasks that allow students to use their full linguistic/cultural resources
  • Teach students strategies to engage in varied communicative modes

Use a Metacognition Checklist to help students guide their thinking process and the ability to monitor their own learning. This concept needs to be explicitly taught along with content instruction. I usually start with one item on the checklist, model how I would use it, then have a few students who have understood the concept demonstrate to their groups.

require that 
students provide evidence 
justification for their answers.

Using lyrics of music to enhance your lesson:  
If you have ever wanted to teach a lesson using songs, here are few ideas how to organize a lesson. When it comes to teaching language you have to plan your lesson thoughtfully so that you evade any hitches that might come up along the way. The first thing you should do is to select the song. While this might sound quite simple, from my personal experience, it may be the most challenging part when planning a “music lesson”.

First begin by considering what do you want to teach? Setting up the goal of your lesson will help you determine which song to use. You should choose the song provisional on the topic you are about to teach. For example, if you want to teach prepositions you should choose a song with some in the song lyrics. If your goal is to teach adjectives, choose a song that has a lot of adjectives in the lyrics. You may also choose songs of a specific genre, like patriotic songs.

Once you have chosen a song, warm up the students by discussing the title and artist. Have they already heard of that song? If yes, what did they think of it? If not, can they guess what the song is about?

Gap fill – leave out some of the words and give the lyrics to students to fill in. Write all the missing words on the board for students to choose from.          

Vocabulary in use – students have to use the words from the song in the sentences. You can use the missing words from the previous exercise, or you can add other words from the lyrics. This type of exercise is also good for practicing expressions. You can also have the students circle the part of speech you are practicing.  

Adding missing elementswrite the words or sentences and ask your students to fill in the missing letters or the missing element of the phrases, for example phrasal verbs missing prepositions.

I also like to put the lyrics in a word document, use large font, laminate the paper, and next cut the song into sections. The students can practice listening skills, by listening to the song, then putting it into correct order.  We also use dry erase markers to circle words we are focusing on. I ask students to create a word bank using the words we circled. It’s using the strategy close reading with the lyrics.   A close reading is a careful and purposeful rereading of a text. It’s an encounter with the text where students really focus on what the author had to say, what the author’s point was, what the words mean, and what the arrangement of the text tells us.

Here are a two of the songs I demonstrated on Thursday:

WhenI Was Your Man, Lyrics by Bruno Mars (I taught students pronouns with this song) 
The video link below does not have any performance images. It is just the music and lyrics. 

This Land is Your Land, as performed by Neil Young (Patriotic song, used for a social studies lesson)

There are also some great videos that have songs you can use. Here is one of my favorites:

Using Videos as Stimuli for a Performance Task:
As an assessment writer for Smarter Balanced, I wrote Performance Tasks in the area of language arts. Most of the performance tasks I wrote had two pieces of stimuli. They were videos and reading passages. I particularly like using videos in the classroom because they are great visual aids. Students love learning with videos. They love to hear, see, and connect with the content they are learning about. I like using them as stimuli for a performance task, especially for writing pieces.   
These are the videos I showed in our session:

Mouse Caught in Trap - Nolan Cheese Commercial

Duracell: Trust Your Power - NFL's Derrick Coleman, Seattle Seahawks

These are some components of my lesson plan, and how I would utilize the videos. I showed the Duracell commercial for this lesson. I discussed the following essential questions:

Writing Task & Prompt:
Teachers Note:  guide lessons with text-dependent questions that require students to use the author’s words to support their responses.
This is perhaps the most considerable
 difference between what the Common Core demands and the previous standards. Teachers tend to shift students’
attention away from the text too swiftly by asking them what they think of what
 they’re reading, or how it makes them feel. The Common Core asks that teachers develop
 questions that use evidence from the text to support
 responses, to defend opinions, etc. Of course, by engaging in the text in this
 way, students will inevitably develop opinions and have reactions to the text. However, those feelings and reactions should not be the primary focus
 of instruction. A student who deeply
 understands Jackie Robinson’s struggle to break through the MLB color barrier in Going to Bat - in Jackie's Footsteps, for instance, will not be able to help having an 
emotional response to it. However, the focus when I use a reading passage as stimuli, is to have students respond to the passage by having them cite evidence by providing supporting details from the text. 
I provided the students with the reading passage: Going to Bat - in Jackie's Footsteps. Students were grouped in collaborative groups. The students discussed the following questions: 
  1. “What are the power academic words you find in this passage?”
  2. “Can you think of other historical figures during Robinson’s era that went through similar struggles?”
  3. “How is Derrick Coleman’s struggle similar or different to Jackie Robinson’s?”

Once the students have recorded their responses, taken notes on the reading and their discussion, they were given the following prompt: 

Using two characters, one you have read about it in class and the other in the video you saw, write an essay about how the characters overcame obstacles and persevered. Use a thinking map to brainstorm and organize your thoughts. Make sure you cite evidence from the reading and video. Your informative essay should include descriptive details and temporal words.
How can you download videos for your class without having to fuss with the Wi-Fi at work?
Well, first you have to download the free software, ClipGrab. It doesn’t take much memory. It is incredibly easy. Go to Once the software downloads, just type or copy in paste the URL into the search box. Then click on the download tab. Choose format, quality, and then Grab this clip. Yup, that easy. I usually save them on a flash drive and categorize them by lesson. For instance, the Nolan Cheese Mouse video will go into my informative writing lessons. There are several other ways to download a YouTube video. This one was easy for me. You can “Google” other ways, if downloading software is not an ideal choice.

Fake Text Messages:
This is a great blog on how to create your own fake texts in class to teach content. It’s just another tool to get students stimulated and having constructive conversations.
Click here to read the blog:  teachbytes
Or go straight to the source:

Websites I mentioned:
Another place to look for high-quality teacher-produced lesson plans that align to the CCSS is LearnZillion, a learning platform that combines video lessons, assessments, and progress reporting, In addition to sortable Math and ELA video lessons, they offer a handy Common Core navigator. This organization has a great backstory, started by a public school in Washington D.C. as a home-grown repository for screencast lessons made by their teachers, they caught the attention of edtech funders and ended up with seed money to take their idea to a national level.

Wordle lets you generate word clouds from text that you provide. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. Click on the link for 45 interesting ways to use Wordle in the classroom. These ideas are awesome.

BrainPOP Jr. is a pay site that creates online animated curriculum-based content that is aligned to state education standards. BrainPOP Jr. targets kids in kindergarten to third grade. Kids don't need proficient reading skills to use this audio-heavy site. Lessons all begin with a brief video and include a wide variety of school and life topics. The site includes video, game, quiz, and activity sections for science, health, writing, reading, social studies, and math based on national education standards.

Here are some pictures of our session. I love how the teachers are so engaged in meaningful talk!

Lastly, these are the posters the teachers generated during the collaboration time during our session. I wish there had been more time to hear their classroom strategies. 

My feedback. Thank you for leaving your thoughts!