Hitting the CCSS Target

“Today’s students are preparing to enter a world in which colleges and businesses are demanding more than ever before. To ensure all students are ready for success after high school, the Common Core State Standards establish clear, consistent guidelines for what every student should know and be able to do in math and English language arts from kindergarten through 12th grade.” (https://www.corestandards.org/what-parents-should-know)

What are the standards and what do they expect students to know and be able to do?  What key terms from the standards will students need to know, develop and use?  How do the standards progress from Kindergarten to 12thgrade?  These are some questions teachers seek to answer as they engage in dialogue centered on unpacking the standards.

Starting with the standards has put many things in perspective.  It is truly a paradigm shift.  This means putting standards before pedagogy because the reality is if all the effort teachers are putting into classroom activities is not going to evidence itself in the assessments, then that mark has been missed.  It doesn’t matter how one dresses up a lesson with strategies if the lesson itself is not tied to a grade level standard.

Teachers who have engaged in this intentional process have realized the shift in the way they plan lessons.  By shifting lesson planning to start with the standards in mind, they’ve acknowledged the great impact it has had on teaching and learning in their classrooms.  They now appreciate the value of 1) starting with the standard (a lesson-size chunk), 2) determining the level of cognition they are working at with their students (blooms) and then 3) designing a meaningful academic task tied to the standard that is both observable and measurable.  This process is then synthesized and communicated to students through content and language objectives.

OoOoh, there’s that word…objectives.

The reality is teaching is hard.  It’s not hard because we have to write content and language objectives.  It’s hard because we teachers have to think about designing a lesson tied to a standard with a measurable academic task.  Objectives are just a vehicle to help teachers put that together in a succinct way.

The bottom line is: kids are learning every day.  What this standards-based approach has done is empower teachers to ask the tough question: are they learning exactly what they are supposed to be learning?  And to answer that question, we have to cycle back to the standards again.

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Planning with the Standards in Mind

Language and Literacy has really put a focus on working through the Common Core Standards and breaking them down to truly have a better understanding of the expectations.  The efforts have led to a more focused approach on teaching the standards effectively and planning measurable academic student tasks.

Here’s what Taqwaa Mohamed, a Kindergarten teacher at Salina Elementary, had to say about participating in a coaching cycle driven by the CCSS last week:

“Focusing on writing content and language objectives has helped me plan more effectively and be mindful of using language that is tied in to the common core standards. Because I have a better understanding of the standards and writing objectives, I am using the academic language of the standards throughout my lessons and ensuring that my students are also having the same opportunity.

This week I had the opportunity to work closely with Dr. Amy Markos (Language and Literacy Consultant), our bilingual resource teacher, our literacy coach and Nadra to have a planning conversation.  I planned a lesson and then worked through it together with the team to make sure I met all components which include the “I do, we do, you do”.  I was asked all the right questions to push myself to think deep and truly reflect on what my goal was for the lesson and to ensure that my students had the best learning opportunity. I was also able to teach my lesson while the team observed and then debriefed about it. I honestly have to say that it was one of the best learning experiences I have ever had! It was an opportunity for me to grow as an educator and I finally feel like all the work that I have been doing is all coming together now!”

Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) Tutors and Students in ACTION!

The AVID tutors at Salina Intermediate and Stout Middle School are in full swing!! The study groups are a maximum of 5 students to one tutor and are supervised by the AVID elective teacher.  The tutors facilitate each stage of the tutorial process by supporting problem-solving strategies through an inquiry process.  

Students complete Cornell notes guided by an Essential Question in content area classes and identify points of confusion (POC).  The first step is for one student (student presenter) to write his/her POC question on the whiteboard and explain their pre-work.  Next, group members ask the student presenter higher-order thinking questions to probe deeper into possible approaches to solving the POC.  This process helps the student presenter to make sense of the question and record notes on the board while group members take their own three-column notes on what he/she has written.  At the end of each tutorial session all students write a reflection on their learning.
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AVID Tutor Training

The tutors for Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) at Salina Intermediate and Stout Middle School participated in 16 hours of training at the Administrative Service Center.    The tutors are college students that are strong role models and are dedicated to helping develop a culture of college readiness for students.  The tutors will facilitate tutorial groups twice a week in the AVID Elective classroom with an emphasis on growing writing, critical thinking through inquiry, collaborative teamwork, study skills, organization and reading skills.  We would like to extend a great big WELCOME to our tutors!!

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WIDA ACCESS Collaboration

The Bilingual and Special Education resource teachers  joined together to collaboratively prepare for the WIDA ACCESS 2.0, WIDA Alternate and WIDA Kindergarten Assessments. Schools will be administering these assessments to English Learners in all schools beginning on February 8, 2016.  This is a huge undertaking for our district  so the collaborative time allowed staff to revisit and review the assessment.  Most importantly, it provided time for teams to discuss key ideas for putting together  a seamless test administration plan.

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A New Face in the EL Department

We are happy to introduce our new Secretary IV, Salwa (Sue) Dakroub.
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She is a great addition to our department and we are excited to have her. Sue replaced Val Ferrante.  Sue comes to us from McCollough-Unis.  Sue is here to support the department and schools in supporting the needs of ELs.
Sue’s extension is 78044 and email is dakrous@dearbornschools.org
Sue brings with her a wealth of knowledge, experience and commitment.
We are lucky to have her!

Mary, Mary…

It is with regret but warm wishes that the EL Department announces the retirement of Mary Niebel.  She is an integral part of the team (and a fun part too!).



One way to look at it is that your retirement actually means that you got promoted to one of the best roles in your life.  Congratulations!

Thanks for everything you have done for your colleagues and the EL Department.  Hard work, dedication and joy are only a few precious things you have shared with us every day.  If you put as much effort into enjoying your retirement as you have all the years you’ve been working with the EL Department, your retirement will truly be amazing!

May the years ahead bring you great joy and relaxation.  We will truly miss you Mary!

-EL Department



Socratic Seminars in Action

AVID students at Stout Middle School are practicing Socratic Seminars.  The linked video (below) captures a Socratic Seminar based on an article claiming all students should have paid employment while going to school.

Socratic Seminars are structured, collaborative dialogues, focusing on a common text or resource.  Students prepare for the dialogue by analyzing the text and preparing questions to spur the discussion.  This strategy provides a format for students to practice skills in critical thinking, reading, and inquiry, as they participate in the inquiry-based dialogue.

CLICK HERE to watch Stout students in action


ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 is the WIDA Consortium’s next generation English language proficiency assessment system.  Beginning February 2016, we will begin administration of this new summative assessment from grades 1–12.  An online assessment will replace the earlier paper-based assessment.

ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 is aligned with the WIDA English Language Development Standards and assesses each of the four language domains of Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing.  The online test contains similar item types to the original paper-based test, with new features made possible through the use of the online test environment.wida access

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The Kindergarten and Alternate ACCESS for ELLs assessments will not change from previous years and remain paper-based.