Monday, June 24, 2013

CM Seminar Day 1

at 5:01 PM
This week I am attending the Constructing Meaning 5-day Trainer of Trainers Seminar. That means, already having attended the 3-day Institute, I am now delving deeper in CM strategies, and will exit this week being a certified facilitator and (possibly) presenter for CM.

I did not blog about my first go around with CM because I did not fully understand it. Part of the review of today helped me to really understand the reasonings behind CM (I have a big feeling this was somehow skipped in my original training. Also, having completed my first full year of teaching, and becoming more comfortable with my student population, I can better see how the CM strategies will work in my classroom.

Today we started by going over what happens in the CM Institute Day 1 - but kind of at a skimming speed. Basically, we touched on key topics and went over important questions people might have when we are presenting this information to them. We also got to look at the new revisions (as in, just came out last week!) which were created to help align CM with the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Surprisingly, I ended today with not only a better understanding of the CM initiative, but also a better understanding of Common Core. I feel much more secure in my understanding and my ability to explain Common Core to others after today, than I did after my Common Core "training" district had me attend earlier this year. That session did more to help me understand the issues older "veteran" teachers would have in the CCSS implementation than it answered any questions about Common Core I might have had. However, I think that sort of information in useful to have, so it was not a waste of my time. Especially since I would like to get into district level training. I do remember coming home after that session thoroughly confused, worried about the way it was being implemented, and afraid we'd never make it stick, despite the fact that it was the ideal of what teaching should be.

As someone put it today, Common Core lets us be the teachers we thought we would be when we were in college.

And with CM aligning to CCSS, it will actually be plausible to get our language learners and struggling readers to meet the higher standards CCSS imposes.

Einstein said that everyone has the same amount of intelligence. Everyone in capable. 

* * *

 Academic Optimism: A school with a high academic optimism is a collectivity in which the faculty believes it can make a difference, that the students can learn, and that high academic performance can be achieved. - Hoy, Tarter, & Hoy, 2006

* * *

What is CM? 

The main question people have is exactly that. What is CM and how is it different from ELD? 
For the non-teachers out there, ELD is an inclusive class for EL students. EL stands for English Language Learner. Basically, it's another program that helps students for whom English is not their first or home language. 

Some students who end up in ELD programs are brand new to the country. This is especially true for students in the secondary ed (middle or high schools) who are still in ELD classes. However, there are some who are in ELD classes who have been in ELD classes since kindergarten. We tend to call them "lifers." At some point they just hit a plateau and stopped progressing in their English acquisition. CM is one of the initiatives created to help those "lifers" continue to gain Academic English. Fortunately, it helps our native English speakers as well. 

All students are Academic English Language Learners.

Speaking academically does not come naturally. That's a taught skill. And it's our jobs as teacher, in ALL content areas, to teach that skill.

One teacher today called it "nerd speak" and encourages his students to "sound like nerds." A video clip we watched today had a native English speaking student describe the academic phrasing as "the way a scientist talks."

The main differences between an ELD program and using the CM strategies is the base goal of the class.

ELD classes are created to help students acquire English. Students are placed in a class based on their proficiency level, and given work suited to their ability. When they progress to the next level, they move into a different class. The goal of these classes are to get the EL students from Early Intermediate, to Intermediate; from Intermediate, to Proficient. These classes teach words, phrases, sentence structure, and grammar, that can be used anywhere. The key word that stuck out to me from our readings today was "portable." Students can take this knowledge and run with it. It's a basic foundation they can use in any conversation.
Native English speakers - think of it in exactly the same light you thought of your own Spanish or French at levels 1-3. Basic, generic vocabulary. The most specific you got was types of plants, or words you could use at the market. Think about how you learned grammar in those classes. How often you practiced English. It's just like that. Building that English fluency in non-native speakers.

Now CM? CM is used in content classes. That means Math, Science, History... Even PE and Music. And yes, English. It's easy for people to forget, but English is a content class. I am not an ELD teacher. (Actually, I will have one period of ELD next year, but as of last year, I did not teach ELD.) My mainsteam English 8 class is Literature and Writing, if you have to put it into other words. But mainstream English is not for English Acquisition.
The primary goal in a content based classroom is to get the content across to students. This means hitting all those state standards, that all students are required to know at your age level for that subject matter. This means that it doesn't matter what level of language students have, they NEED to be able to understand your content. That's where CM comes in. CM is a set of strategies that help you make sure your students, of all English language levels, understand your content.

And what put in that way, it makes it so much easier to understand.

Learning to read vs reading to learn. 

Other key points from today:

Bricks and Mortar:

Brick are the content-based vocabulary that you teach in class. In a textbook, it's the bold words, the vocabulary lessons, the word bank. Ex: Mitosis, Osmosis, World War 2, Plot, Characterization, Parallelogram.

Mortar is the structure around the bricks. The words that help us understand and explain the content. 

Someone today put it this way. "If we just talked in bricks, we'd sound like cavemen." 

[I'm sure I'll be talking more about Bricks and Mortar later this week, as we continue on.] 

Successful Struggle - knowing that it's ok to struggle. 
This is where I really started to better understand how to explain Common Core. 
So, when most people try to explain what is new or different about the Common Core standards from our old standards, they get lost and end up just focusing on the fact that we're moving towards AI graded tests on the computer. Yes, that's pretty cool. Yes, we still have a LOT of bugs to work out. No, that's not the only difference from the CCSS and the CASS. 

Deep, meaningful, intellectual communication is what Common Core is bringing to the table. Common Core standards are holding students to a higher level of accountability. They are being asked to do more, but more importantly to THINK more. And then to think about their thinking, and share it with others using academic language.

Completing academically rigorous coursework entails struggle and the willingness to take a mental risk. Adolescent English learners are not likely to accept that challenge unless they truly believe success is within the reach. 

Productive Struggle is the KEY to success.
 Students need to understand that grappling with ideas is the heart of the work. Trial and Error is necessary. They will be learning to problem solve, how to come to a shared understanding, how to collaborate, to think outside the box, to analyze, synthesize, create! 

That’s what makes learning engaging! Productive Struggle. 

As an added layer of this conversation we need to remember our EL students. Struggle is important, but they have to see it as ending up somewhere positive. We need to make sure that it isn't a struggle they continually fail to meet.
That's why we move kids through a facilitated, productive progress, that allows kids to move through the process.
Rigor they can reach!

Paraphrasing a paraphrase from the seminar today: we will be able to have the flexibility to be creative in our teaching now that we have the marriage between Common Core and CM.

The day ended upbeat, with people in good spirits. We had lots of lively discussion, plenty of individual reading/note taking time, and a good amount of mingling. There is an abundance of people from my district, which was nice. I was able to work with another Eng 8 teacher from a different school in my district (which is really nice, since we have the same scope and sequence). Also, the hotel provided us with awesome food - break, lunch, and snacks!

I'm running low on energy, however, and we do have homework. So this is it for now!


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