Tag Archives: Bill Ferriter

Empower learners to deepen their learning

How might we empower learners to deepen their understanding?

After creating and administering common assessments, the next question is perhaps the most challenging: “Are students learning what we think they are supposed to be learning?” (Ferriter and Parry, 75 pag.)

What if our learners are grasping the content, but they are struggling to communicate what they know and how they arrive at a conclusion?

How might we make our expectations clear? What if we empower our learners to take action on their own behalf?

What if our culture embraces the three big ideas of a PLC?

Learning is our focus.
Collaboration is our culture.
Results guide our decisions.

Our #TrinityLearns 2nd grade team sat down together last week to analyze the results of the most recent common assessment.  While our young learners are grasping the basic concepts, we want more for them. We want confident, flexible thinkers and problem solvers.  We want our learners to show what they know more than one way, and we want strong clear communication so that the reader can follow the work without to infer understanding.

Teams at this point in the process are typically performing at a high level, taking collective responsibility for the performance of their students rather than responding as individuals. (Ferriter and Parry, 77 pag.)

As a team, these teachers sorted their students’ work into four levels, shared artifacts of levels with each other, and planned a common lesson.

Laurel Martin (@laurel_martin) explained to our children that the artifacts they analyzed were not from their class and that they belonged to a class across the hall.

Here’s the pitch to the students from Sarah Mokotoff’s (@2ndMokotoff) class:

Don’t you just love the messages: Be like scientists. Make observations. Offer feedback on how to improve.

Here’s what it looked like as the children analyzed artifacts from another 2nd grade class:

Once the analysis was complete, our teachers facilitated a discussion where the children developed a learning progression for this work.

From Kerry Coote (@CooteMrs):

We created these together after looking at student work samples that were assigned at each level. Our kids were so engaged in the activity; they were able to compare and give reasons why work was at a level 3 versus a level 4. It was really good to see! I believe this will empower them to be deeper thinkers and gradually move away from giving an answer without showing their thinking and work.

Here’s what the students in Grace Granade’s (@2ndGranade) class developed:

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More from Kerry Coote:

After we helped them develop the learning progression, we conferenced with each child looking at their math assessment. They  automatically self-assessed and assigned levels for their thinking. Many scored themselves lower at first, but the activity of crafting the learning progression helped in making sense of explaining their thinking! Today in math a boy asked me – “so Mrs. Coote, what are those levels again? I know the target is Level 3, but I want to use numbers, words, and pictures to get to level 4.”  It is all coming together and making sense more with these experiences!

In their morning meeting the next day, one of Kathy Bruyn’s (@KathyEE96) learners shared the poster she made the night before.

Don’t you love how she explained the near doubles fact and her precise language?  Wow!

Since we focus on learning and results, this team offered learners an opportunity to show growth.

From Samantha Steinberg (@spsteinberg):

This is an example of leveling up after looking at our assessment.  Initially, [he] used the learning progression to rate his work at level 3.  After reading my feedback, he added words to his next attempt to show his additional thinking.

Before the class developed the learning progression:

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After the class developed the learning progression:

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Can you see the difference in this child’s work, understanding, and communication?

A growth mindset isn’t just about effort. Perhaps the most common misconception is simply equating the growth mindset with effort. Certainly, effort is key for students’ achievement, but it’s not the only thing. Students need to try new strategies and seek input from others when they’re stuck. They need this repertoire of approaches—not just sheer effort—to learn and improve. (Dweck, n. pag.)

Kudos to our 2nd grade team for reaching for the top stages of  the seven stages of collaborative teams! Learning is our focus. Collaboration is our culture. Results guide our decisions.

How might we continue to empower learners to deepen their understanding?


Dweck, Carol. “Carol Dweck Revisits the ‘Growth Mindset’” Education Week. Education Week, 22 Sept. 2015. Web. 02 Oct. 2015.

Graham, Parry, and William Ferriter. Building a Professional Learning Community at Work: A Guide to the First Year. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree, 2010. Print.

Strategic Teaming: 3 Big Ideas Learning Communities embrace

Bringing differences to the same essential-to-learn highlighted our 2015-16 community goals and how the lessons were designed and delivered from our Head of School and Division Heads.  Today, I facilitated the next lesson for our teams.

We reviewed the 3 Big Ideas and the 4 Key Questions that high functioning teams embrace.

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We want to grow in leadership and in teaming.  In The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle writes

The trick is to choose a goal just beyond your present abilities; to target the struggle. Thrashing blindly doesn’t help. Reaching does. (Coyle, 19 pag.)

How might we, as a team, reach to target the struggle, to work on the edge of our abilities?

What if we use the seven stages that collaborative teams traverse from  by Parry Graham and Bill Ferriter (@plugusin) as a way to target our struggle? How might we use formative assessment to self-assess where we are now to make an informed decision about our next reach as a team?

Below are a sampling of the results when teams were asked to reflect and respond to the question At what stage do we currently function (most of the time) during team meetings?

If we focus on learning, have a collaborative culture, and use results to guide our decisions, how will we now differentiate with and for these teams who are different points in their collaborative journey?


Coyle, Daniel (2009-04-16). The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. Random House, Inc. Kindle Edition.

Graham, Parry, and William Ferriter. Building a Professional Learning Community at Work: A Guide to the First Year. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree, 2010. Print.

Participating in Each Others Stories: Global Connections & Microlending (TBT Remix)

If shown a world map, could I find Kyrgyzstan, Uganda, or Ecuador?  Do I have any idea how to connect with someone or something in a country that I can’t even find on a map?  How will I find content to promote global citizenship while teaching content that falls under my responsibility?

So I joined Bill Ferriter (@plugusin), Dan Sudlow, and three of their students, E, C, and J, for a webinar discussing their Kiva Club and how they use microlending to help people in developing countries throughout the world.

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E and C are 6th graders and J is an 8th grader. With expert and supportive facilitation from Bill and Dan, these young learners taught us about microlending through their experiences and stories. Worth emphasizing…I learned about microlending and integrating content and relationships that connect us to the larger world and the world to us from these three young learners.

The connections to math and geography are obvious to me, but I still have questions.  You can read more about microlending on Bill’s blog The Tempered Radical.  In High Tech High’s video What Project Based Learning Is, Jeff Robin strongly suggests to be successful with PBL you need to “do the project yourself.”  While the math and geography seem obvious to me, what will be learned from a microlending project?  So, I have taken the challenge to learn by doing.  I am participating in funding multiple loans.

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 6.07.24 PMI have a better idea of where Kyrgyzstan, Uganda and Ecuador are when I look at a map, and I have the opportunity to connect to these women’s stories.  I also know more about Kiva.  Listen to and watch this beautiful story from Jessica Jackley about poverty, money, and love:

In her talk, Jackley says

The way we that we participate in each others stories is of deep importance.

I collaborated with 18 others across the world to help Carlina improve her business and family income.  Her dream is to have a well-constructed house; her current home is made of reeds.

Each of the green pins in the map represents the location of a lender.  The map and pins tell part of the story, but while informative, it is not very personal.

Don’t you think there is a big difference in seeing the pins in the map and seeing the faces of the lenders?  The faces show humanity; the faces share more of the story.

If integrating “content and relationships that connect us to the larger world and the world to us” is an essential action, then what do we do? What actions do we take? How do we “do the project” ourselves?  How will we practice? What will we learn?

Still wondering how social media can be used for learning, leading, and serving?  Read One Tweet CAN Change the World from The Tempered Radical.  I cannot physically take my young learners on a field trip to Uganda, Ecuador, or another part of the world.  Social media (blogs, Twitter, YouTube, iChat, Skype, etc.) affords us  opportunities to “connect us to the larger world and the world to us.”

Let’s experiment.

Let’s learn by doing.