Monthly Archives: November 2018


Quick-Start Guide to Coaching Part 2 – How to Sustain Change

So you’ve constructed your cohorts, you’ve created your goals, now what?

To sustain change it is important to plan ahead, be consistent, and be transparent.

Tips to sustain change:

  1. Inform your cohorts about their group.  You can even have them assist in creating the goals for the cohort.
    1. Be sure to only select two or three goals for each group.
    2. Ensure that your goals are SMART:
      1. Specific
      2. Measurable
      3. Attainable
      4. Relevant
      5. Time-bound (consider working with each cohort for a specific amount of time: a semester, marking period, six weeks, etc.)
  2. Inform them of the schedule for visits and the objective(s) of each visit.

Want to learn more about SMART goals?  Check out this free worksheet!

Demo Lessons:

  1. If you are doing a demonstration lesson or a teacher is doing one, have a list of look fors for the teachers observing. For example, if the focus is on asking rigorous questions have teachers document the questions asked and then (in the debriefing session) identify the levels (Bloom’s) of questions, the use of open-ended questions, wait time, text-dependent questions, scaffolding questions, etc.
  2. Plan ahead for a debriefing session where teachers can ask questions, share ideas, and plan for application in their own classrooms.  Tip: These share-outs and planning ideas should be shared with the cohort for accountability and support.
  3. Consider using one classroom as a lab site, offering teachers in the cohort the opportunity to observe in this one classroom.  Alternatively, you can rotate classrooms.


  1. To create buy-in, be sure to set norms that encourage trust. 
  2. Consider having each member of the cohort lead a PLC meeting.
  3. Mid-way through the cycle, consider a check-in point where teachers can:
    1. Brainstorm how to handle obstacles/challenges
    2. Check progress on SMART Goals
    3. Share student work related to the goal

Tip: If you are working on 6-week cycles, for example, the coach can lead the first and last sessions and teachers can take turns leading the sessions in between.  If you have a larger cohort, teachers can team up to present a topic pertinent to the cohort goals.

For example, if mastering Socratic Seminar is an objective, the teacher(s) leading the PLC can share best practices about setting up Socratic Seminars. They can include a video (even one they created of their own classrooms), templates, and handouts in their presentation. Remember to leave room for discussion and planning for application!


We’d love to hear from you!  Please share your success stories and tips with us in the comment section below.

Happy Coaching!

By |2018-11-29T17:51:06+00:00November 29th, 2018|Coaching|0 Comments

The 5E Model & NGSS

For Curriculum & Instruction / Supervisors, and Principals


The 5E Model, developed in 1987 by the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, promotes collaborative, active learning in which students work together to solve problems and investigate new concepts by asking questions, observing, analyzing, and drawing conclusions.

The 5E Model is based on the constructivist theory to learning, which suggests that people construct knowledge and meaning from experiences. By understanding and reflecting on activities, students are able to reconcile new knowledge with previous ideas.

In the classroom, constructivism requires educators to build inquiry, exploration, and assessment into their instructional approach. In many ways, this means the teacher plays the role of a facilitator, guiding students as they learn new concepts.

The Model Explained

Engage:  ask a question about objects and events in the environment.

When students Engage, they:

  • Express prior knowledge
  • Ask questions
  • Make observations

Explore:  conduct a simple investigation.

When students Explore, they:

  • Think freely
  • Test predictions and hypotheses
  • Record observations and ideas

Explain:  use data to construct a reasonable explanation.

When students Explain, they:

  • Explain possible solutions
  • Listen to others critically
  • Refer to previous activities or experiences

Elaborate:  extend the concept.

When students Elaborate, they:

  • Apply new labels, definitions, etc.
  • Record observations and explanations
  • Draw reasonable conclusions using evidence

Evaluate:   demonstrate understanding of concepts and ability to use inquiry skills.

When students Evaluate, they:

  • Answer open-ended questions
  • Demonstrate understanding of knowledge
  • Evaluate own progress

The 5E Model allows educators to create a unique learning experience for students. Teachers who can incorporate instructional models like the 5E Model into their classrooms help students build a strong foundation of knowledge through active participation. 

By |2018-11-27T15:02:33+00:00November 27th, 2018|NGSS|0 Comments

The Principal Benefits of Professional Learning Communities

By Jaclyn Scotto Siano

“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” – Phil Jackson

This quote is particularly relevant in the field of education, and can be applied through the use of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). PLC is the general term used for a group of educators who meet regularly to discuss and plan for the improvement of teaching and learning.

The big question of today is why do PLCS? Beyond the fact that PLCs are job-embedded professional development, research shows many benefits of utilizing collaboration through PLCs. Today we will focus on two of the most critical: improved communication, and improved relationship/school climate.

Improved Communication

One important benefit of utilizing PLCs in your school is the increase in effective communication between staff.  PLCs incorporate a team of teachers and administrators/leaders working together to discuss and problem solve educational topics.

Successful PLCs promote effective communication through open dialogue and the use of collaboration. Research by Nelson et al. (2010), Stoll et al. (2006), and Hilliard and Newsome (2013), show that PLCs are collaborative, engage participants in the inquiry process, and encourage shared leadership. By encouraging these actions, teachers and administrators learn how to better communicate with each other which can result in better teaching, planning, and learning. Teachers must feel comfortable engaging in open and honest communication with their administrators/leaders in order for a positive school climate to exist (McCarley et al., 2014)

Another added perk is that research shows that teachers who engage in open communication with their administrators/leaders experience more positive attitudes towards their jobs (Rafferty, 2003)!

Improved Relationships & Climate

There is a connection between positive adult relationships in a school building and positive school climate. Collaboration and connection are two key attributes of positive school climate (Cohen et al., 2009); both can be achieved through PLCs. Similarly, a positive school climate results in more productive students and more dedicated teachers (Rapti, 2013).  Creating suggestions for improvement through collaboration (like what occurs in PLCs) can lead to improvement in student learning and improved educational outcomes (Cohen et al., 2009).

Other research even notes that schools that engage in PLCs noticed their teachers demonstrated improved job satisfaction and higher morale; there were even fewer teacher absences (Harris & Jones, 2010)!


If you are looking to improve your school climate, staff relationships, and communication, then PLCs can help! Implementing a scheduled time for staff collaboration can have have a lasting impact on teaching and learning outcomes.


Look for our next blog on PLCs on January 22, 2019 which will focus on how to easily and effectively set up PLCs in your school!



Cohen, J., McCabe, L., Michelli, N.M., & Pickeral, T. (2009). School climate: Research, policy, practice, and teacher education. Teachers College Record, 111(1), 180. Retrieved[JB1]  from

Harris[JB2] , A., & Jones, M. (2010).  Professional learning communities. Improving Schools, 13(2), 172-181.  doi:  10.1177/1365480210376487

Hilliard, A. T., & Newsome, E. (2013). Effective communication and creating professional learning communities is a valuable practice for superintendents. Contemporary Issues in Education Research (Online), 6(4), 353. Retrieved[JB3]  from

McCarley, T.A., Peters, M.L., & Decman, J.M. (2016).  Transformational leadership related to school climate:  A multi-level analysis. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 44(2), 322-342. doi: 10.1177/1741143214549966

Nelson, T. H., LeBard, L., & Waters, C. (2010). How to create a professional learning community. Science and Children, 47(9), 36-40. Retrieved from (Accession No. 521202056)

Rafferty, T. J. (2003). School climate and teacher attitudes toward upward         communication in secondary schools.  American Secondary Education, 31(2), 49-70.  Retrieved from (Accession No. 195185353)

Rapti, D. (2013).  School climate as an important component of school effectiveness. Academicus International Scientific Journal, 8(8), 110-125.  Retrieved from

Stoll, L., Bolam, R., Mcmahon, A., Wallace, M., & Thomas, S. (2006). Professional learning communities: A review of the literature. Journal of Educational Change,7(4), 221-258. doi:  10.1007/s10833-0060001-8

By |2018-11-15T15:25:43+00:00November 15th, 2018|PLCs|0 Comments

Quick-Start Guide to Coaching Part 1 – Choosing Your Cohort


Every school has a vision and mission.  To get there, much like we differentiate for students, we need to provide individualized support for our teachers.  Great coaching differentiates for teachers.


Not all groups are the same.  Successful coaching begins with selecting your cohort.  That cohort could be based on trends you see in your building. For example, let’s say you have a lot of untenured or new teachers, you may want to put them into their own cohort and provide PD around issues that affect them: classroom management, creating standards-based lessons, student engagement, etc.  

So what trends are you seeing in your building:

  • Teachers teaching a new grade this year?
  • New teachers?
  • New curriculum?
  • Teacher-centered instruction that you want to convert to student-centered learning?
  • Classroom management issues?
  • Writing effective lesson plans?


Once your groups are created:

  • Create an email group for each cohort-this is a great way to share ideas!
  • Decide when, where, and how often you will meet with your group
  • Decide how long your cohort will stay together- A semester?  6 weeks? A marking period? All year? (Probably not all year…think flexible grouping.)
  • Look at your calendar and schedule your sessions with the team.  Remember the objective is to move them forward, so planning and consistency is key.  
  • Consider what PD topics you will provide.
  • How will you provide PD in these areas?
    • Will you provide articles that you will unpack and discuss?
    • Will you select a lab site and conduct demonstration lessons and debrief sessions with teachers?  
    • Will you have teachers observe each other and provide feedback and insights?
    • Will you watch video clips and discuss best practices observed?
    • Will you co-plan with teachers?  

Whatever you decide, make sure you plan it out in as much detail as possible.  You can always tweak as you go, but effective coaches do not fly by the seat of their pants.

  • Create a newsletter to share glows and grows with your group.  As coaches, some of what we have to share is not always good news.  Consider ways to celebrate milestones, accomplishments, and when teachers take a leap and try something new.  (A tip is to also share these “glows” at staff meetings or PLCs for an extra celebration.)

Finally, distinguish yourself from an administrator.  Remind teachers that you are a teacher, too. You are not there to evaluate, but to help them become master teachers.  You are there to coach and support them. You are a sounding board and resource!

Happy Coaching!


Stay tuned for Part II How to Sustain Change to be released November 29, 2018.


By |2018-11-29T17:38:58+00:00November 13th, 2018|Coaching|0 Comments