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Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy day to visit our blog. We would like to invite you to contribute your ideas related to professional development in this forum. We hope to offer all teachers at BHS the opportunity to have input in the PD you are experiencing this year, and to reflect on ideas and practices of our outstanding faculty.

Friday, December 21, 2012

People we are grateful for this year...

At Berkeley High School we are extremely fortunate to work with a highly competent, caring, and dedicated staff. Below is an incomplete list of the many who have stood out this year:  
(Please add your own in the comments section.)

Allen Boltz for his smart and innovative way of looking at science education. Allen is a scientist at his core and he applies this philosophy to both his teaching and his leadership.

Academic Choice English teachers (Matt Carton, Kate Rosen, Amanda Green, Madalyn Theodore, Leslie Tebbie, Matt Laurel, Zora Tammer, and David Borelli) for their collaborative work and leadership in developing strong interim assessments for their 9th and 10th graders. You are breaking ground and setting the standard.

Tamara Friedman for her visionary and intelligent leadership in the World Language department as well as in our PD Leadership meetings

Belinda McDaniel for so many things we can't list them all but especially for always making people feel comfortable no matter how ridiculous our requests are.

Hasmig Minassian for sharing her thoughtful comments in both the PD Leadership and Lead Teachers meetings. CAS and BHS are lucky to have you.

Eileen Jacobs for her continuing work as an advocate for students with disabilities and always reminding us of the broad range of students we are committed to serving.

Jordanna Anderson for being an excellent teacher for all her students and being an early, persistent, and consistent practitioner of academic language instruction.

The PE department for their dedication to their program and their students despite all the challenges they face. They always graciously adjust their lessons to accommodate the various distractions of construction, testing, and inclement weather.  We can all learn from them.

Wanda Kelly for her professionalism and for quickly becoming one of the integral people at BHS.

Rhonda Jefferson for her calm support around the craziness of purchasing and getting people paid through BUSD.

Aaron Glimme for being on the cutting edge of Illuminate implementation. Aaron's classroom is an ongoing experiment finding new ways to make the most of Illuminate's potential.

All the students at Berkeley High School for their sophistication, critical thinking, amazing creativity, intelligence, kindness, and generosity.  They are really what makes this such a unique place to work.

Pasquale Scuderi and the entire administrative team for keeping teaching and learning at the center of it all and for challenging us to always improve ourselves to better meet the needs of all of our students.

And last, but not least, the entire Berkeley High School teaching staff for their hard work, dedication, and commitment to education.  You are the links between theory and practice and between curriculum and students. Happy Holidays and enjoy your well deserved rest.  Great challenges await educators in 2013 and beyond but there is no better staff to take them on and we are honored to work with you everyday.

Dave and Susannah

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Masha Albrecht Published in the "Mathematics Teacher"

Berkeley High School's own Masha Albrecht recently had a letter published in the December/January issue of "Mathematics Teacher".  Masha's letter praised MT for including letters from educators raising the issue of political influence on pedagogy. Additionally, she expressed concern about a number of missed opportunities for a more public discussion of topics ranging from educational funding, the privatization of education, the impact of standardized testing, and the new math standards.

Masha currently teaches Algebra 1B and AP Calculus. She is the author or co-author on three books including: 1) Navigating Through Measurement In Grades 9-12 (Principles and Standards For School Mathematics Navigations Series, 2) Discovering Geometry: With the Geometer's Sketchpad, and 3) SIMMS Integrated Mathematics: A Modeling Approach Technology Level 4

Friday, December 7, 2012

Keeping Academic Language in the Driver's Seat

John Becker modeling his compare-contrast lesson.
In my 14 years at Berkeley High, I have to say I have never seen a school-wide focus implemented with such consistency and fidelity as our efforts with academic language instruction.   Dave and I are so impressed with the level of passion and determination we have seen growing across learning communities and departments in this area.  From 20 new inductees into the Constructing Meaning program, to teachers consistently writing good learning/language objectives, to our improved CAHSEE results from last March - the evidence is everywhere that this focus is working for teachers and students.

The other day, I happened upon an excited Matt Carton who was teaching a lesson on style.  Now, those who have seen Mr. Carton in action know that excitement is not an unusual state for his classroom.  To say the man is passionate about his subject is an understatement.  But on this day, Matt was trying something new that he learned from his work with Heidi Ramirez-Weber, Tamara Friedman, and Heather Tugwell.  And I could tell that he was genuinely thrilled about the potential for student learning that was taking place.   I saw John Becker similarly thrilled the other day when he was teaching a lesson on comparison-contrast.   This is professional development - and it is academic language, but it's not just for English teachers.

Recently, Monique DeBrito Guedes gave a presentation to Academic Choice teachers on how she has used principles of academic language instruction in her science classes.   Sam Rosen, Aaron Glimme, and Nick Pleskac created templates for using academic language in speaking and writing about science, and teachers throughout the school have created posters of these for their own classrooms.  These and other curriculum ideas are shared in your google drive.

If you have any stories, curriculum or photos about academic language in action, please send them my way.  If you feel you have a good example of a learning objective, take a picture of your board and send that to me too.  We need to share these examples so that teachers can continue to grow and students can continue to develop these important skills.  Keep up the great work, BHS teachers!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"What I did this summer...."

Berkeley High Teachers continue to learn throughout the summer:

Allen Boltz conducted research to help improve the Berkeley Darfur Stove through the Berkeley National Laboratory.

Monique de Brito Guedes spent the summer working with the  HydroEcological Engineering Advanced Decision Support (HEADS) which develops models to manage wetlands in the San Joaquin Basin of California.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Principles of Instruction
Research-Based Strategies That All Teachers Should Know
By Barak Rosenshine
This article presents 10 research-based principles of instruction, along with suggestions for classroom prac- tice. These principles come from three sources: (a) research in cognitive science, (b) research on master
teachers, and (c) research on cognitive supports. Each is briefly explained below.
A: Research in cognitive science: This research focuses on how our brains acquire and use information. This cognitive research also provides suggestions on how we might overcome the limita- tions of our working memory (i.e., the mental “space” in which thinking occurs) when learning new material.
B: Research on the classroom practices of master teachers: Mas- ter teachers are those teachers whose classrooms made the high- est gains on achievement tests. In a series of studies, a wide range of teachers were observed as they taught, and the investigators coded how they presented new material, how and whether they checked for student understanding, the types of support they provided to their students, and a number of other instructional activities. By also gathering student achievement data, research- ers were able to identify the ways in which the more and less effec- tive teachers differed.
read the rest of the article here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Berkeley High Teacher/Activities Director Awarded Fulbright Scholarship

by Mark Coplan
Berkeley High School’s Student Activities Director Chris Young has won the “Distinguished Award in Teaching” offered by the Fulbright Program within the U.S. Department of State.
To win the award the educator must have at least five years teaching experience and a Master’s in Education.  Twelve educators from the U.S. are selected every year to travel abroad and twelve from abroad are selected to come to the US.  Each one proposes a three to six month educational action research project.  Mr. Young will be funded for a six month project of his design in Argentina from March to August, 2013.
Listen to a Flip Video of Chris Young explaining his plans.
BHS Student Activities Director with Sophomore Leaders
According to Chris, “I will be doing research on ‘Youth Learning and Leadership through Guided Action Research in Community Settings’.  In other words, I will be exploring how to most effectively help young people develop academic skills and social leadership abilities through their own self-developed social change projects that address issues or problems in their local to global community.”
Chris started teaching at Berkeley High School as a social studies teacher in 2004 and was one of the lead designers of BIHS and its first lead teacher in 2006-2007. After that he did informal research on peace education in South America in 2008 and helped evaluate and develop a joint microfinance-forest conservation project in Uganda in 2009 before returning to BHS as Director of Student Activities for the 2009-2010 school year.

Congratulations, Chris!  We are proud of you!

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Focus on Linking Assessment to Instruction at Berkeley High

We invite you to share your thoughts on the following position paper authored by BHS PD Leads. Please use the comment section below.  Anonymous or unprofessional comments will be deleted.

A Focus on Linking Assessment to Instruction at Berkeley High: 
Foundational Principles

Note: Some terms within this document require definition so that everyone is using them the same way.  Please see the BHS Assessment Glossary here.

The 2012-13 PD Calendar offers a structure that supports learning communities and departments in a focus on linking the results of assessment to instruction.  This calendar has been approved by both the PD Leaders Team and our Learning Community Leadership Team.  Much of the work of the PD Leads team in 2011-12 has focused on the rationale and methods used for this purpose as presented in Paul Bambrick-Santoyo’s Driven by Data.   In alignment with the Berkeley High School Action Plan, WASC visiting team recommendations, the 2020 Vision for Berkeley’s Children and Youth, and evidence-based practices that demonstrate high-leverage professional development experiences, the Professional Development Leadership team supports the following concerns and priorities to ensure that the focus is implemented effectively:

Need for Coherence

1.  As public school employees, we recognize our responsibility to teach to a common set of outcomes, known as the state standards.  However, we also recognize the problems inherent in the current standards, including their breadth and number.  We are hopeful that the new Common Core State Standards will address some of these issues.

2.  The art of teaching should be a combination of teacher skill, responsive pedagogy, and school goals. Teachers should have a wide range of tools which they can effectively use  to promote student learning.  Strong assessment skills need to be one of these tools.

Equity for our Diverse Student Body

3.   Calibrating instruction around common outcomes supports high standards for all students and supports our goal of a more equitable school.   Access to a curriculum aligned with the standards is a powerful equity strategy.  We believe that all students, in every classroom at Berkeley High, should be provided standards-based instruction.

4.  However, teachers must also be allowed a certain degree of latitude to respond to the challenges of our diverse student body.   Because it is also the responsibility of the teacher to address remediation, differentiation, and significant “teachable moments,” it must be understood that there are times when lessons must be tailored to meet the needs of the students, rather than solely driven by the standards. 

Fostering a Growth-Based Model

5.  Common formative (pre-, interim) and summative (final) assessments can be powerful tools for instructors to adjust instruction in order to meet students' learning needs. Supported by a strong professional learning community, these tools can highlight effective practices, identify those (students and teachers) in need of additional support, and help target instruction towards student progress on outcomes. A growth-based assessment model lets us be proud of our students’ efforts and see results in the same school year, rather than wait for scores after our students have moved on.

6.  Assessments are most effective when they support the identification of strengths and weaknesses and allow for teacher monitoring of student growth towards outcomes.

No Connection to Evaluation

7.  Data from common pre-, interim, and summative assessments should NEVER be used to evaluate teachers. Doing so will undermine any attempts to expand our use of what can be a powerful teaching and professional growth tool.

8.  Using a single summative assessment (common or not) is not an effective practice. Using data from a single summative common assessment to evaluate a student without having done a pre-assessment cannot be linked to meaningful feedback toward student growth or the effectiveness of teaching practices.

9.  Standard 5 of the California Standard for the Teaching Profession (CTSP) emphasizes how a teacher uses assessment and not the results of assessments themselves. We strongly support that teacher evaluations must recognize this critical distinction. This standard addresses teachers’ knowledge of different types of assessments, as well as how teachers use assessment data to inform instruction, involve students in their own assessment, and provide their students meaningful and timely feedback.

10.   This plan promotes autonomy by encouraging each learning community to develop consistent internal assessments that meet its goals and students’ needs.  These will be used in concert with common school-wide assessments.  This is a critical part of the plan, as too many variables in the master schedule prevent a balanced distribution of students’ academic skills to use single summative or CST assessment information to evaluate the effectiveness of teaching practices. 

We believe this pre-interim- post assessment inquiry cycle will be an ongoing process, encouraging reflection and enhancing opportunities for meaningful collaboration among staff.  By taking ownership of this process, teachers will ensure that its impact is on student achievement, where it belongs.

Dave Stevens and Susannah Bell, School-wide PD Co-Coordinators
Matt Carton, Angie Dean and Ben Sanoff, AC PD Leads
Mat Glaser, AHA PD Lead                          
Allen Boltz, AMPS PD Lead                                             
Matt Meyer and Nick Pleskac, BIHS PD Leads                    
Leah Katz, CAS PD Lead                                   
Andy Peck, Green Academy PD Lead 
Rachel Chodorow-Reich, LTEL Coordinator
Heidi Ramirez-Weber EL Newcomer PD Lead                                  
Amy Burke, Math PD Lead
Glenn Wolkenfeld, Science PD Lead
Eileen Jacobs, Special Ed. PD Lead
Tamara Friedman, World Language PD Lead

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Below is a letter from Pasquale Scuderi outlining his support for voting in support of our current 8 days of advisory.  Please provide your own thoughts in the comments section below.

Rules for commenting: 
-All comments must include your name. Anonymous comments will be deleted.
-This is a forum for professional discourse.  We encourage a healthy debate but inappropriate language or personal attacks will result in comments being deleted.

Over the past two years, we have been implementing an advisory program as a means to accomplish what I believe are some very important goals for our students.  As a strategy, advisory has supported us in making sure that for the first time ever at BHS that all students have had the opportunity to sit down with an adult and their peers to consider their academic progress towards CSU-UC eligibility, post-secondary plans, course selection, and get and give advice across grade levels.
On Monday morning the entire BHS staff will gather in the library at 8:00 a.m. sharp to vote on advisory for the 12–13 school year. BFT will facilitate that vote
The current proposal jointly submitted by the teacher leadership and the administrative team is for a continuation of eight (8) days of advisory in the 2012-2013 school year.
I have often expressed my support and belief in both the current program and future potential of the advisory program here at Berkeley High School and so I will attempt to be brief in summarizing why I believe the current program should continue. (moved next two paragraphs to the end)
In the long term, Advisory is a strategy to impact four specific outcomes:
1.    Increase UC-CSU eligibility by helping students plan and monitor their academic progress.
2.    Increase graduation rates through increased personalization and academic progress monitoring and support.
3.    Increased rates of post-secondary education and training through goals 1 and 2 above as well as supporting students to take a multi-year look towards their futures each year.
4.    Increased personalization as a goal in and of itself. We know that a single strong relationship with an adult can have significant impact on a student’s future.
In addition to monitoring the annual goals of advisory, we will continue to measure progress on the long-range outcomes. 
The primary reason I continue to believe in our current program and its future promise and potential is that it offers a systemic rather than a fragmented way to convey essential information on post-secondary planning to all of our students regardless of their background, socioeconomic status, or level of academic readiness.
Depending on pockets or isolated programs in the school to get students and families the information they require and help them conduct the self-analysis and planning they are now getting in the advisory program is a fragmented strategy. With the advisory program, all of our kids get a guaranteed channel of access to the information and outcomes.  This is a systemic strategy, one with far more potential in terms of equity. 
Thus far, our program has given all students at BHS the opportunity to create an academic five-year plan. The program has also allowed us to reach out and ensure for the first time ever that all BHS students have the opportunity to understand A–G requirements, and to identify and analyze their progress towards meeting those requirements. The advisory program has also continued to calendar an annual designated time and place for students to go through the course catalog with an adult, and to discuss with that adult and their peers, their class choices for the following year. The program provides a space where students have a designated adult who can check in with them on a monthly basis, thus increasing personalization and furthering our efforts to have each of our students connected to at least one adult on campus.
As we did last year, we will incorporate the feedback we receive from surveys and individual teacher input into the design of the advisory lessons for 2012-13 and will continue to be mindful that our stated outcomes and objectives are properly designed and aligned with current capacities in mind. 
While we are realistic about the impact that eight advisory sessions can have, I believe that with fidelity of implementation, we will see measurable benefits. However limited an impact advisory can have in so few meetings, it does play a role in helping BHS become more comprehensive and confident in its ability to explicitly articulate where it has generated growth for students as well as be a welcoming, caring, and personalized place where all students stay connected.
In 2012-13, advisory will remain focused on four long-term school-wide measurable outcomes: increased personalization, increase graduation rates, increased UC/CSU eligibility and increased rates of post-secondary education and training.
As you consider and discuss your vote on advisory over the next few days please keep in mind that we are asking for your vote in support of not just advisory as a program, but to an ongoing commitment to making sure that a structure for communicating post-secondary planning, post-secondary requirements, and personalized connections to staff exists for all students on campus.
Pasquale Scuderi

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Teacher Appreciation Week

Berkeley High School is fortunate to have an amazingly talented staff.  Below is a sampling of teachers who have been acknowledged by their teacher leaders and administrators for their hard work, creativity, and dedication to their craft and their students.  Please add to the list in the comments section below.

Molly Lawerence 
Tamara Friedman:  "Molly goes above and beyond to engage and support her students. As students walk into her classroom they are immediately welcomed by her ever-present smile and warm personality. She engages her students through cultural projects including dance lessons, creating altars, and music. She works long beyond her work day tutoring and supporting individual students. We are lucky to have her."

Amanda Levin
Mat Glaser:  "Amanda jumped into her first year of crazy AHA life and hit the ground running-field trips, inter-disciplinary projects, and incredibly rigorous and inspiring teaching."

Lauren Benjamin
Mat Glaser:  "Lauren puts the funky-fresh in our AHA world. Its only her second year and it seems like she has been here since the beginning-dancing, drawing, musical theater, karaoke- she has got it all!"

John Tobias
Allen Boltz:  "John is always there to help anytime, despite the fact that he teaches 6-8th periods. He is always present at PD meetings and willing to take on extra tasks to support students."

Kate Trimlett
Andy Peck:  "For her tireless advocacy of the 4R's and hands-on environmental science instruction. Her students are constantly engaged and active participants in their own learning. And for her consistently enthusiastic and supportive work with her colleagues."

Colleen Simon O'Neil
Glenn Wolkenfeld:  "For her fabulous work in Anatomy and Physiology."

Allen Boltz
Glen Wolkenfeld:  "For his great work bridging different philosophies on the chemistry team to support our goal of a common assessment."

Nicole Nagappan
Angie Dean:  "Nicole is above and beyond dedicated to her students.  She follows up with them in later years, always continually coaching, motivating, and advocating for their overall success as productive human beings, not just as students."

Amanda Green
Angie Dean:  "Amanda's dedication to growth, both her own and her students', is amazing and enviable."

Andy Waranoff
Amy Burke:  "Andy is an exceptional teacher who forms strong relationships with students and staff. His classroom is relaxed but focused, he creates content, supports daily, and shares them with grateful colleagues!"

Dave Goodrich
Amy Burke:  "Dave is a foundational member of our staff. In creating, organizing, and sharing his thoughtful lessons, students across the school benefit.  His calm and focused demeanor in the classroom is a model I aspire to replicate. Thank you Dave!"

Cathy Dao
Matt Meyer:  "Cathy is a dedicated teacher who always puts students first. She organized multiple field trips for our BIHS 10th graders and even volunteered to organize a field trip for students she does not currently teach."

Elieen Jacobs
Susannah Bell:  "Eileen has an extraordinary way of relating to students and holding students to a high standard.  I have learned so much from her."

Rolando Morales
Susannah Bell:  "Rolando works a certain magic with a group of our kids who need a lot of love and support. I have seen him in action and he is brilliant!"

Kate Newton
David Stevens:  "Kate transcends the traditional role of Speech Pathologist and finds ways to work with her students in their regular lives.  From joining them in their classes to helping supervise field trips Kate takes advantage of every opportunity to find ways to help her students grow."

Amy Crawford
Leah Katz:  "Amy has so many tricks up her sleeve that students can reveal any interest, question, or writing challenge and she knows how to address it with humor, integrity, and love."

Kate Garfinkel
Leah Katz:  "Dr. G manages to get to every group, every student, and every raised hand as if by magic.  Students flood her room after school for the help that she provides patiently, ever so patiently."

Lauren Lovett
Diane Colborn:  "Lauren works tirelessly and creatively to foster the inclusion of her students with learning and behavior differences in all aspects of high school culture.  She deserves special recognition for giving of her own time to organize a cooking club and social skills group."

Audrey Portley Bernstein
Rachel CR:  "Audrey goes way out of her way to support students, spending extra hours in their classes, designing academic supports, and helping students to believe in themselves."

Heidi Ramirez-Weber
Dave Stevens:  "Heidi is a tireless defender/supporter of those in need. Whether it be her Newcomer students, LTELs, students with disabilities, or a struggling teacher, Heidi always sees crisis as opportunity and can always be counted on for a thoughtful response."

Jenny Roebuck
Matt Carton:  "Jenny came in under hard circumstances- she had to replace a legend, Tim Moellering. She has embraced what Berkeley High is about. Its always great to see a young teacher who "gets it"."

Matt Laurel
Matt Carton:  "Oh to be young again. Matt Laurel is as good an English teacher as I have ever worked with. And to think he was born the year David Bye began at BHS..."

Kate Haber
Evy Kaveler:  "Kate goes above and beyond what most teachers do.  She helps out new teachers as well as veteran teachers in ways that would amaze you. Thanks Kate!"

Sam Rozen
Evy Kaveler:  "Sam is a favorite among chemistry students.  His daily welcome is repeated daily by both teacher and his students."

Lauren Benjamin
Shannon Erby:  "Lauren Benjamin has inspired the creativity in students in both visual and performing arts. She has also successfully worked with a student with autism, supporting him to perform in front of his peers."

Amanda Levin
Shannon Erby:  "Amanda has had success with students who have typically only known academic failure. She is a patient and skilled teacher."

Marcela Taylor
Heidi Ramirez-Weber:  "As a master Spanish Teacher, she has taken on the new challenge of teaching ELD4 this year.  She is also an immigrant who went through the BHS ELD Program for a few years and then mainstreamed into the big school.  Besides being an excellent language teacher, she is a role model for her EL students and teaches about culture, acculturation, and immigrant experiences. Moreover, she constantly challenges her ELS to improve their critical thinking and problem solving skills."

Christina Mitchell
Heidi Ramirez-Weber:  "Christina teaches SDAIE World Literature this year and as a new teacher of all English Learners she has become excellent at teaching language to ELs by directly teaching vocabulary, facilitating structured language practice like "give one get one for lines of communication", and writing objectives with academic language that can be assessed during or at the end of the class in an exit slip or exit ticket."

Angela Dean, Matt Carton, Gideon Goldman, Jordana Anderson
Daniel Roose:  "Consistently reliable with attendance records, daily attendance, paper audits, and field trips. Thank you!"

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Jordana Anderson: An Exceptional Teacher at BHS

Recently, we announced that our PD Team Leads would be nominating teachers to highlight on this blog, recognizing them for efforts to address the critical academic needs of our students.  This month, the PD leaders nominated Jordana Anderson, English teacher from BIHS.

If you have ever had the opportunity to see Ms. Anderson in action, you understand how lucky we are to count among us such a gifted educator.  Her colleagues in BIHS know how humble she is, so she would never toot her own horn, but as I have had the opportunity to observe her on three different occasions,  I can attest to her extraordinary ability to hold high expectations in an engaging, relaxed atmosphere.

Ms. Anderson also recognizes the need to scaffold her instruction so that students at every level can access her curriculum.  One of the ways she does this consistently is by making use of her Constructing Meaning PD training from this year.  On any given day, an observer could walk into Ms. Anderson's classroom and witness a veritable cafeteria of approaches to improve the academic language of our students.

Each day, Ms. Anderson posts a learning goal and an agenda that includes the academic language her students will be expected to produce.  Here is a snapshot of her white board from a typical assignment.  When I first observed Ms. Anderson's well-organized class, I found myself thinking about how I could more effectively articulate student learning goals and explicitly teach academic language skills to my students.

Another thing that impressed me about Ms. Anderson was her ability to clearly convey assignment instructions to students.  She communicates instructions both verbally to the whole class and in writing on her white board.  She is also adept at checking for understanding.  She generously invites students into her classroom for help during lunch and after school, and provides differentiation for all.

When I observed Ms. Anderson in September, her ninth-grade students (she teaches four sections of ninth grade English) were writing memoirs.  Her "kick-off" instructions on her board read: Have out your memoir notes and your memoir.  Today classmates will be reading your memoir and giving you feedback.  Look over the memoir characteristics in your notes.  With these things in mind, what about your memoir do you want your group-mates to help you with?  Write your needs at the top of your memoir.    Throughout this observation, I noted that Ms. Anderson was confident, relaxed and comfortable with her students – her explanations were lighthearted, funny and sometimes self-deprecating.  When she caught the eye of a giggly student, she smiled and asked him, in wry mock-embarrassment, “Why are you laughing?”  This is typical of her interactions with students, and one of her most endearing qualities.  She then reviewed instructions for peer feedback and lay out parameters for groups.  She gave students a few minutes to get in groups and then used a soft bell to end the group selection process. She explained the facilitator role and handed out peer feedback instructions and an example memoir with her comments.   While the students were in the peer feedback process, she floated around with a clipboard to check group progress, giving students credit for their brainstorm and draft.  At the end of the period, Ms. Anderson asked the students to complete a writing process exit slip incorporating academic language frames as a way to review the stages of the writing process.  It was interesting to note that Ms. Anderson provides these frames with the caveat that "you only have to use these if you need them."  On another observation, I was surprised to see that when she made sentence frame handouts available to her students for essay-writing support and repeated this caveat, an overwhelming majority of her class got up to get a copy of the handout.  

I also had the opportunity to interview some of Ms. Anderson's students, who shared these comments about their teacher:  "She makes learning more fun and interesting."  "She's always really happy, and it makes you happy."  "She's really friendly and very supportive."  "Her happy vibe is contagious."  "She breaks things down if you don't understand."  "She's good at clarifying herself and helping you one on one if you need help." "She'll do anything to help you achieve what you need to achieve."  "In a lot of classes, I don't understand what's going on, but in this class, she explains everything step-by-step."  "It is a challenging class, but she helps you out so that it's easier for you to do the challenging stuff."

Based on my observations, it is easy to see why Ms. Anderson's colleagues nominated her for recognition.  She is creative, energetic, organized, and inspiring.  In a word, exceptional.  Congratulations, Ms. Anderson.  BHS is lucky to have you.

Friday, February 3, 2012

BHS Teachers Make a Difference!

If you don't believe that's true, look no further than this PBS Newshour program, which features Berkeley High graduate Victor Rios (class of 1994).  The last time he was featured on a PBS production, it was a video captured of him in a fight at school in the Frontline documentary School Colors.

Although he grew up in dire poverty and joined a gang, he managed to turn his life around and graduate from high school.  He went on to college, eventually earning his PhD from Cal.  He is now a professor of sociology at UC Santa Barbara.  He says it took the confidence of one teacher - Flora Russ - to help him find a path to academic success.

Watch the program - you'll be glad you did!  Gang Member Turned PhD Mentors Youth on the Fringes

Check out Word Sift!

Thanks to Heidi Ramirez-Weber for suggesting an Academic Language corner, and also for turning us on to this really amazing tool for educators.  It's called Word Sift - it's free and the link is on the right.  Check it out!

Here's more about what it is:

WordSift helps anyone easily sift through texts -- just cut and paste any text into WordSift and you can engage in a verbal quick-capture! The program helps to quickly identify important words that appear in the text. This function is widely available in various Tag Cloud programs on the web, but we have added the ability to mark and sort different lists of words important to educators. We have also integrated it with a few other functions, such as visualization of word thesaurus relationships (incorporating the amazing Visual Thesaurus® that we highly recommend in its own right) and Google® searches of images and videos. With just a click on any word in the Tag Cloud, the program displays instances of sentences in which that word is used in the text.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Analysis of Academic Language in the New York Times

Thanks to AHA's John Becker for sending us this link!  The Times has analyzed its use of "common expository text structures" and mortar, and it directly relates to what we are doing with academic language this year.  A really helpful article to use with students also:

Compare-Contrast, Cause and Effect, Proposition-Support, etc.