FOCUS:
First Things
FIRST for the 21
st
Century
American Reading Company Conference
King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
May 18, 2011
Mike Schmoker
[email protected]
480/219-4673
Sometimes the first duty of intelligent
men is the restatement of the
obvious.
George Orwell
No one has the right to waste a day in
the life of a child.
Principal quoted by
Karen Chenoweth, EdTrust
A Day in the Life…

English Language Arts

Social Studies

Science

Math

ALL subjects: worksheets
RESULT..?

25-30%

20%

7%
Solution…?
FOCUS on “first things”
1. SIMPLICITY/LESS is MORE:
first things + clarity + ceaseless
reinforcement = guaranteed results
2. FIRST THINGS-simplified
3. FIRST THINGS —in 4 Subject Areas
SIMPLICITY: Is Less Really
…MORE?
”Foxes pursue many ends at the
same time…Hedgehogs see what
is essential, and ignore the
rest.”
Good to Great p. 91
Jim Collins
Which most effective?
(re: test scores; college/career sucess)
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Laptops for all/Smartboards in every classroom
Common, content-rich curriculum
ALL existing Math/literacy “programs”
Differentiated instruction
Smaller classes
Cold calling (and other “checks for understanding”)
Various small/school-within-a-school “Academies”
90-120 minutes of purposeful reading & writing per day
“Turnaround” strategies (new faculty; school design etc.)
Cognitive/concept mapping; graphic representations
Which most effective?
(re: test scores; college/career success)










Laptops for all/Smartboards in every classroom
Common, content-rich curriculum
ALL existing Math/literacy “programs”
Differentiated instruction
Smaller classes
Cold calling (& other “checks for understanding”)
Various small/school-within-a-school “Academies”
90-120 minutes--purposeful reading/writing a day
“Turnaround” strategies (new faculty; school design etc.)
Cognitive/concept mapping; graphic representations
FIRST THINGS: Less is MORE
but…we keep adding MORE/NEW
methods, strategies
workshops, terms
programs, requirements, technology
classroom arrangements…
BEFORE implementing “first things”
M. Buckingham; J. Collins; Pfeffer & Sutton
A FAILURE IN LEADERSHIP

“Every time the ______ goes to a
conference, the teachers get worried,
because they know he’s going to come
back with something he wants to try.”
Tom Guskey
FOCUS:

Borax—safety FIRST

Hospital—life-saving solution

Flowing Wells S.D./Orange Grove M.S.
(both in Tucson, Arizona)
II. ”First Things” Simplified
REASONABLE IMPLEMENTATION OF:
1. Guaranteed Curriculum
2. Authentic, College-prep Literacy
3. Effective Lessons
ONCE FULLY MASTERED, we may
judiciously pilot evidence-based
innovations
“GUARANTEED & VIABLE
CURRICULUM”



NUMBER ONE factor (Marzano)
“Content-rich curriculum” learned
primarily through purposeful reading/writing
(Hirsch; D. Willingham; David Liben)
“viable” curriculum = more time for
reading; writing; talking @content =
gains in reading, college preparation
 Do
America’s schools now ensure
that a coherent, “guaranteed,”
literacy-rich curriculum
actually gets taught?
GUARANTEED, CONTENT-RICH
CURRICULUM? BRUTAL FACTS:



ROSENHOLTZ: teachers provide a
“self-selected jumble” of standards
BERLINER/WALBERG: wild variation from
teacher to teacher; no alignment with agreedupon curriculum/standards
GOODLAD; LITTLE; SIZER; ALLINGTON;
CALKINS: “curricular chaos" in Eng./Language
arts
Common Core standards:
BETTER, but…


STILL need to be reduced/clarified
(Reeves; Ainsworth; Schmoker)
NEVER PILOTED (Conley/Ravitch)
SO: until Common Core
assessments arrive…
CURRICULUM/LITERACY
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CURRICULUM CONTENT learned via reading,
writing, discussion in these modes:
draw inferences and conclusions
analyze conflicting source documents
solve complex problems with no obvious answer
support ARGUMENTS with evidence
Multiple 3-5 page papers & “far more books,
articles & essays”
College Knowledge by David Conley
CURRICULUM

MAP Essential 50-60% of standards/topics
– Divide by grading period (approximate time per standard)



Select Common READINGS (for each standard—to
discuss and write about)
– Textbook: specific pages for each topic (vs. chapters)
– Hist./Sci. documents; news/magazine articles; data sets
– Generate questions/tasks for each reading to argue;
infer; resolve conflicting texts; problem-solve
Define parameters for Common WRITINGS
– Number/length (e.g. Two 3-4 page papers a semester)
Identify topics for “Interactive Lecture” where
students frequently note-take; review notes; discuss
2. AUTHENTIC LITERACY
Literacy is “the spine that holds
everything together in all subject
areas …”
Phillips & Wong, Gates Foundation
E.D. Hirsch
Rafe Esquith
Thomas Friedman
AUTHENTIC LITERACY?
“Reading & Writing vs. ‘stuff’ ratio”
(Allington)

“Literature based Arts and Crafts” (Calkins):
– dioramas; game boards; worksheets;
posters; coats-of-arms; mobiles; movies;
cutting, gluing; coloring; drawing;
designing book jackets; skits; collages
FAUX LITERACY
Learn about (__ grade):
 Irregular plurals
 Silent e
 I before e
 Words ending in –y; -ed; -ing
8th grade:
Ms. Brill was disappointed when (a., b., c., or d.?)
Ms. Brill’s fur collar is a symbol of (a., b., c., or d.?)
FAUX LITERACY


Compare & contrast structure of texts and
analyze how the differing structure of each
text contributes to its meaning and style
Analyze how the points of view of the
characters and audience or reader (e.g.
created through the use of dramatic irony)
create effects like suspense or humor
8th grade Common Core--Reading
ALTERNATIVE:
--50-80% of CURRICULUM -READ, DISCUSS & WRITE ABOUT
INCREASINGLY COMPLEX FIC/NON-FIC TO:



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draw inferences and conclusions
analyze conflicting source documents
support ARGUMENTS with evidence
solve complex problems with no obvious answer
(all in common core)
READ “far more” books, articles & essays”
WRITE multiple 3-5 page papers every year
College Knowledge by David Conley
WRITING: HOW IMPORTANT?

“There are no silver bullets in education. But
…non-fiction writing is about as close as you
can get to a single strategy that has significant
effects in nearly every area of the curriculum.”
Doug Reeves

“If we could institute only one change to make
students more college ready, it should be to
increase the amount and quality of
writing* students are expected to produce.”
David Conley
College Knowledge
LITERACY TEMPLATE:
ACROSS THE CURICULUM
(up to 80% of curriculum, in ALL subjects)
I.
TEACH VOCAB./Provide background of text
--Provide question or prompt:
II. ”MODEL” critical reading/underlining/annotating
--Students individually annotate 1-3 paragraphs 
--pair/share annotations…as teacher
continuously “checks for understanding”
III. REPEAT above until…?
IV.
DISCUSS: in pairs/small group  as a class
V.
WRITE: short/long; scored— or not
SIMPLE, college-prep
literacy

Rafe Esquith

Tempe Prep

View Park H.S.

Lynn Abeln
3. EFFECTIVE LESSONS…
Clarified
All teachers and administrators in
a district or school building should
be able to describe effective
teaching in a similar way.
Robert Marzano
EFFECTIVE LESSONS and
“INTERACTIVE LECTURE”

Clear standard/backward design (revise paper for
“word choice”; apply mean, median, mode)

Teach; model/”think aloud”
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Guided practice--& lots of think/pair/share)
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Multiple checks for understanding
(“formative assessment”)
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Independent practice/assessment
Hunter; Popham; Marzano; Fisher & Frye; Lemov; Burns;
Archer; Wiliam
IMPACT of such lessons…?
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“Largest gains ever recorded” in the history of
educational research (Popham)
3 consecutive years: life-changing gains—
– 35-50 percentile points
DYLAN WILIAM:
– Extra 6-9 months per yr./400% faster learning
– 20-30 x as effective as the most popular
current initiatives (like…?)

Ohio State; Sean Connors
SIMPLE, EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP
in the Professional Learning Community

“No institution can survive if it needs
geniuses or supermen to manage
it. It must be organized to get
along under a leadership of average
human beings.”
Peter Drucker
MONITOR
1. INSTRUCTION and
2. COMMON, COLLEGE-PREP CURRICULUM
LEADERS (administrators, dept. heads) must
1. Conduct at least one unannounced
classroom walk-through each month, looking
for patterns* of strength/weakness with regard to…
– Clear focus on essential standards
– College prep: critical reasoning/higher-order
reading, writing, thinking
– Essential elements of an effective lesson
(e.g. “check for understanding”)
*September:”4/15 teaching essential curriculum”
LEADERSHIP:
Team Management
(D. Reeves; R. Marzano; R. DuFour)
QUARTERLY CURRICULUM REVIEW:
Leaders & Teams discuss…
 quarterly/unit
assessments (success rate;
areas of strength/weakness)
 scored
areas)
papers/projects (weak/strong
CONCLUSION: SIMPLE
WHAT: core content, learned through college-prep
reading, discussion and writing
+
HOW: reasonably effective lessons delivered consistently,
in every classroom/subject area
=
RECORD NUMBERS of successful students
OUR CHOICE: DO WE WANT…
20-30% ready for college/careers
80%+ ready for college/careers
III. ELEVATING THE
ESSENTIALS
in the
Core Disciplines
LANGUAGE ARTS CURRICULUM

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GENERATE COMMON LIST/NUMBER OF:
quality fic/non-fic books (10-15?) plus articles, poems, etc.
--divide by grading period
papers* of ___ length (per grading period)
for all of above: generate questions/tasks to argue;
infer; resolve conflicting texts; problem-solve
(College Knowledge)


FOR ALL ABOVE: LESSONS/MODELING on HOW TO:
Underline/annotate; cite & explain supporting text
participate in Socratic discussions
…hundreds of times per year, 2nd-12th grade
*PAPERS AS PRIMARY ELA ASSESSMENTS
SOCIAL STUDIES CURRICULUM
Literacy is the key word; the
teaching of history should
have reading and writing
at its core.
Sam Wineburg, Stanford University
Social Studies Stud
SOCIAL STUDIES CURRICULUM

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MAP Essential 1/2 to 2/3 of standards/topics
Select Common READINGS (for discussion and writing)
– Textbook: specific pages for each topic (vs. chapters)
– Historical/primary/current documents (___ per week?)
– Generate questions/tasks to argue; infer; resolve
conflicting texts; problem-solve (College Knowledge)
Define parameters for Common WRITINGS
– Number/length (e.g. Two 3-4 page papers a semester)
Identify topics for “Interactive Lecture”
--i.e. note-take; review notes; discuss every few minutes
Build Common quarterly/unit assessments (50+ %
written/essay format)
SCIENCE CURRICULUM
“Being science literate entails being
able to read and understand a
variety of science texts to form valid
conclusions and participate in
meaningful conversations about
science”
National Research Council 2008
SCIENCE CURRICULUM

MAP CORE CONTENT/UNITS & LABS by grading period
(with common quarterly/unit assessments)

SELECT COMMON READINGS: Textbooks (selected pgs.);
20-30 science articles (TIME for Kids; The WEEK, e.g.
theweek.com/article/index/27340/breifing-rethinking-nuclear-power )


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TEACH/MODEL (i.e. “think-aloud”)
--in-class reading/note-taking;
--discussion/debate; write to explain; argue; resolve;
problem-solve
Identify topics for Interactive Lecture (note-take;
review notes; discuss in pairs)
Create common assessments (50+% written)
Writing/note-taking in Science: from 25%  90% success; D.Reeves)
MATHEMATICS CURRICULUM
Math teachers need to focus on the
interplay of numbers and words,
on expressing quantitative
relationships in meaningful
sentences. To make mathematics
meaningful, all three Rs must be
well blended in each student’s mind
Lynn Steen
21st Century Mathematics
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Map Core Content by grading period
Identify opportunities to explain, apply, solve openended/extended-response problems orally & in writing
Select readings from: math text (pages/word
problems); data sets (sports; demographics;
news/magazine articles, e.g. “Best.Decade.Ever.” by
Charles Kenny) and write about them
Always teach with FREQUENT think/pair/share and
“checks for understanding” (Burns)
Math: Read, Write, Talk
“I can no longer imagine teaching
math without making writing an
integral aspect of students’
learning.”
Marilyn Burns
Math: Read, Write, Talk
READ: Teach/model close reading of math
text/word problems (Shanahans)
WRITE (from Marilyn Burns):

I think that the answer is _____ .

I think this because ______.

I figured this out by ____
DISCUSS: in pairs  whole class
FOCUS
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Describe/explain impact of “first things”
Clarify, Clarify, Clarify
Monitor & measure implementation in
simple, time-efficient ways
Clarify/Repeat/reinforce incessantly
Improve in team-based PLCs
FIRST…
REVIEW/REDUCE “BRAND NAME”
PROGRAMS, which often


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interrupt coherent curriculum
are multiple choice/worksheet-driven
reduce time spent reading complex text
impede implementation of FIRST THINGS
READ, TALK and WRITE in
response to lit./non-fiction

EVALUATE CHARACTERS/LESSONS/THEMES:
–
–
–
–

Jack & the Beanstalk
Stone Fox; Harry Potter
Kite Runner; Hills Like White Elephants
Non-fiction: Night; 3 Cups of Tea
ARGUE/INTERPRET
--Because I Could Not Stop for Death (Poem)
--Best. Decade. Ever. (Essay by Charles Kenny)
EXAMPLES: Social Studies
“CLOSE READING”

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TEXTBOOK (selected pages)
(Elementary) Would you prefer to be a Mayan or an
Aztec (pp.12-16)?
(Middle/H.S.) Make case for the South in Civil War
(pp.443—467)
PRIMARY SOURCE DOCUMENTS
Do you Agree/disagree:
General Sherman on “Total War”
Plessy v. Ferguson--majority opinion
NEWS/EDITORIALS/MAGAZINES (TIME for Kids)
PRO-CON: Afghan war; health care;
“Best. Decade. Ever.” (C. Kenny)
SCIENCE: “Task, Text and Talk”

TEXTBOOK: Explain similarities and
differences between plant & animal cells;
meiosis/mitosis (explanation/argument)

TEXTBOOK/ARTICLES: Cite text to
argue for/against @ current
problems/issues (stem cells; nuclear
energy; gum-chewing; multi-tasking)
--in TIME for Kids; The WEEK)
TEAM TASKS


Write student-friendly learning targets/objectives
Help each other find/select readings
– Develop good questions/prompts for readings

Develop effective anticipatory sets/advanced organizers

Identify and address anticipated difficulties in learning targets

Develop common unit/lesson assessments

Refine “interactive” lecture/s (note-taking; discussion; review
of notes etc.)
Download

Click to Dr. Schmoker`s FOCUS PowerPoint presentation.