Quick, Relevant Professional Development

Developmental Designs Newsletter, Winter 2011

Article Discussions

For Middle Level

A challenge for many schools is finding time in their busy schedules to fit in opportunities for professional growth for teachers and administrators. One quick but effective way to address this is to select from an Origins newsletter an article that focuses on an issue relevant to your school, and then have the staff read, analyze, compare, and apply it to their own situation. Someone else's experience, as described in the article, can give you a starting place for reflection and possibly open the door to new ways to handle a challenging situation.

What's needed to expedite the process is a clear, workable, enjoyable format for the discussion. Here are some examples of how your staff might consider the articles in this newsletter. These examples might then serve as a menu of models to apply to other articles in this or other publications.

Article: Language and Mindsets for Effective Redirection

Before the meeting
Read the article and describe from your own practice one example each for the three optimal teacher mindsets: Growth, Action, and Objectivity

During the meeting
Discussion is held in a circle, or in more than one circle if group is large.

Greeting (3 minutes): Meet and mingle in the circle, greeting as many people as you can.

Triads share their mindset stories. (5-10 minutes)

Spend the Dot (15 minutes): Post the "top ten deflectors" and "ten key points for teachers" on charts around the room (2-3 per chart to save space). Participants are each given a colored marker to place dots next to their three favorite deflectors and their three favorite key points. After everyone has "spent the dots," discuss the results: Which strategies are most popular? What is particularly effective about them?

Partner share (10 minutes): What strategy are you willing to try in your classroom?

Share out: What strategy did you choose, and why did you choose it?

Article: Developmental Changes Prompt Changes in Routines

Before the meeting
Read the article and list the daily routines that you use to structure your advisory period and/or your class hours. Rate the degree to which each routine is orderly and effective on a scale of 1-5, 5 being the most effective.

During the meeting
Discussion is held in a circle, or in more than one circle if group is large.
Greeting and share (3 minutes): Partners greet with a handshake; each briefly describes a routine that is somewhat problematic in his or her classroom.

Problem-solving meeting (15 minutes): Using the format for a problem-solving meeting provided in the article, address together the problem of students failing to follow routines well. One person, the leader, guides the group through the steps of a problem-solving meeting:

1. Getting to the Root of the Problem: Do a round-robin process in which everyone comments on the challenges of establishing and maintaining a routine.

2. Brainstorming Solutions: Using ideas from the article and elsewhere, suggest strategies for addressing those challenges. List the ideas on a chart.

3. Deciding: You may come to a consensus decision as a whole group about something everyone will try, or you may decide to have each person individually choose a strategy to which they will commit.

4. Keeping Track: If your group as a whole makes a commitment to a strategy, decide how you will track the results.
Examples: Set a date on which all staff will notice and rate the degree to which students have followed the routine well; or have each teacher keep a "scorecard" on how well the routine has worked for a week. If each individual is working independently on a routine, set up a means of gathering data and reporting the results. In either case, the results can be anonymously gathered, collated, and reported back to the staff. Set a date to do so.

Think/Ink/Pair/Share (10 minutes):

Think/Ink: Consider the importance to adolescents of sharing in decision-making and problem-solving, as described in the Hoyler article. Write down some thoughts about how a structure like a problem-solving meeting can feed their need to feel competent and autonomous.

Pair: Share with a partner what you have written.

Share: Have a few people share their thinking with the whole group.

Article: Everybody Grows with CPR

Before the meeting
Read the article and think of the "Benjamins" in your classroom. Write down a few thoughts about how a daily community-building meeting (CPR) in advisory might help students who are withdrawn or who actively push back in school.

During the meeting
Discussion is held in a circle, or in more than one circle if group is large.

Greeting (1 minute): Greet the people on either side of you with a high-five.

Triads (5-10 minutes): Share about students who seem withdrawn or resistant.

Carousel (15 minutes): Create four groups and assign each a marker color. Groups choose a scribe and a reader.

Set up four large pieces of chart paper labeled with the four key adolescent social-emotional needs: autonomy, competence, relationship, and fun. Each group is assigned one of the needs. Group members list all the ways they work to meet that need, in CPR, in other advisory activities, in class hours, and in school-wide activities.

Groups then move through the "carousel" of charts, writing any additional ideas at each one, using their assigned marker color. At the end, a representative from each group reads the group's list aloud, including the ideas added by others.
Partner share (10 minutes): How does meeting the four primary needs of adolescents improve the chances that they will succeed in school?
Share a few ideas.

Article study sessions support professional growth
The purpose of these sessions is to provide a structure that allows for a fruitful professional exchange of ideas in a brief amount of time. The structure includes an assignment for preparation before the meeting, a greeting to launch the time together, a format for considering individually and as a group what has been said in the article, and implications for your own teaching practice. The meetings end on a reflective note and sometimes include a group or individual decision to act.

Linda Crawford is the director of Origins

This article first appeared in Developmental Designs: A Middle-Level Newsletter, Winter 2011