The following strategies and instructional practices are designed for every classroom and school. Implement 8 key recommendations and improve the quality of instruction at your school.
#1: Meaningful lesson plans
Issue: Administrators often focus on the type of plan and if a teacher has handled in their lessons. Countless hours are spent trying to collect lesson plans. Administrators usually do not have the time to critique them. It tends to be a pointless activity.
Solution: Rather than struggle over the type of lesson plan a teacher uses, create a template to highlight critical components of a lesson plan. Decide components that must be included in the plan such as preview and review, vocabulary building, assessment tools, unpacking standards.
#2: Realistic instructional and pacing guides
Issue: Teachers feel they are unable to spend more time on certain standards because of deadlines to complete units. We are driven by the calendar and learning can take a back seat. However, at the same time, we need a structure that will guide us.
Solution: Departments should meet to determine pacing guides for the semester and year, based on the school calendar and key essential standards. It is better to learn fewer concepts with a deeper level of understanding than to introduce many strands with little or no comprehension of the content.
#3: High leverage strategies
Issue: Ask yourself a few guiding questions. What instructional strategies are necessary for mastery of a content skill? What strategies are high level strategies? Do not assume that staff will know what strategies are best to build a particular skill.
Solution: Have department and grade level teachers collaboratively determine a list of high leverage strategies to use with certain standards and skills. Create a user friendly template that can be adapted and easily interpreted.
#4: Check for student understanding
Issue: It is difficult to find ways to continuously monitor student understanding. When dealing with diverse students with varying learning styles and levels, it is critical for teachers to check for understanding and adjust lesson plans.
Solution: Use daily assessments to review student progress and to monitor mastery of skill content. Create a series of questioning strategies to check for student understanding in a group setting.
#5: Department wide focus on common standard
Issue: Standards overlap and share common elements. Different grade level and/or subject teams may find it challenging to select common standards to implement as a department.
Solution: Have department or grade level teachers’ select one standard, discuss the instructional strategies that support the standard, and how the strategy is used in the classroom. Share student work at meeting.
#6: School wide focus on one common practice
Issue: The best professional development for teachers is to learn from each other and to have learning take place during the work day. However, it is difficult to find and model activities that are common to all.
Solution: Go through an inquiry process to determine what standard to focus on. Departments can decide the activities. For example, you can select literacy (writing samples, reading comprehension strategies) and integrate common standards and curriculum in content areas. Develop a forum for teachers to share best practices.
#7: Support for different learning styles and levels
Issue: It is difficult to include student opportunities that accommodate the diversity of all students (the struggling and the advanced student.)
Solution: Establish extended activities in and out of the classroom. Technology is a great avenue for students who need and want to work independently, at their own pace, and in an interactive setting.
#8: Collaborative classroom walkthroughs
Issue: Observations can be obtrusive and intimidating. The task is to provide feedback that is helpful and meaningful. Determine what is the reason for the visit. The teacher and administrator should be able to easily communicate the intent of the visit beforehand.
Solution: Walkthroughs are not observations. Focused and collaborative classroom visits can be a productive activity. Ask teachers for input . It is best to decide a department or school wide focus for the walkthroughs. When the process is fair, it will not be met with skepticism.
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