Monday, September 10, 2012

Our PLC Group

In our school division we are very fortunate to still have PLC days set aside throughout the year.  I know in some divisions these have been reduced or taken away.  In the past few years I have found these days to be very useful.  Our school has been working on building effective PLC groups.  I am very excited about our group this year.  We have chosen two goals to work on.  One of them comes from Dylan Wiliam and his book Embedded Formative Assessment.  We have all read this book.  Dylan Wiliam is coming to our school for our second PLC day this year!

The first goal is that we are all going to work on improving our formative assessment strategies in our classroom to impact student learning.  We have all read the book and decided to choose one or two new strategies to try.  We decided that it was important to limit ourselves to one or two new things so that we are able to follow through with them.  Once they become routine then we can add in some more.  There were so many great ideas in the book that it was hard to choose only one or two!  

When we had our first meeting, we all shared what we were going to try.  It was neat to see how different strategies stuck out to different members.  The majority of our group either already does or is going to start incorporating entrance slips into their daily routine.  I blogged about these here.   Those of us that already do this feel strongly about how it impacts student learning so most other members decided it would be a good one to try.  A large number of our group also decided that they were going to use tracking student growth (which I blogged about here).  After that, it was interesting to see what others were going to try.  One person is trying to improve their randomness of questioning by using popsicle sticks with students names.  Another is going to try the red/green disks for a quick view of how students are doing during the lesson.  Another teacher is going to have students do self reflection using a rubric of understanding.  I am going to try learning logs to have students self reflect on their learning.  These were all ideas from Dylan Wiliam's book.  There are many more that I would like to try, but I need to focus on small parts at a time!   We will be reflecting on these practices at our monthly meetings.

Our second goal is to improve communication with parents, students, the community and each other.  We will be sending out group emails to parents on a regular basis.  We want them to feel comfortable talking to us.  We want them to know what is going on in our classroom.   We plan on creating some videos that explain our math pathways, assessment policies, etc.  We will share these with the parents and students.  We are also going to step outside our comfort zone and start to learn from each other.  Our goal is to observe at least one other teacher's lesson in the next three months.  This is uncomfortable for some as they are nervous when others are observing.  We are not doing this to be critical.  We want to learn from each other!  Each of us has strengths that should be shared with others.

I am looking forward to improving my teaching and hopefully that will impact student learning.  I believe this PLC group will allow me to do this.


  1. Wow! That's a lot of great ideas. I wish your team luck in implementing them. I agree that choosing 1-2 is probably realistic so you don't get overwhelmed and possibly stop altogether because it's just too much.

    I've used popsicle sticks in my own class, and it was really helpful to train me to call on a wider variety of students. It was also good because it kept the kids on their toes. For me, the important thing was to put the student's stick back in the cup. If I exhausted the sticks, then students knew they would not be called on again until I put all the sticks back in the cup.

    I think you have a great way to focus your classroom observations and make them a little less "scary". Since everyone is trying out these new formative assessment strategies, you could watch each other with that in mind. The teacher you are observing could tell you which strategies they are starting to implement and the observer can record what they are seeing related to those strategies. (Of course you can notice other things about the lesson as well, but I would notice those for your own PD.) When you debrief with the teacher you can share your observations so they can compare how they think the strategy is working with what an outside observer saw happening in class.

    Good luck to your PLC group! It sounds like you have an exciting year ahead of you.

    1. Thanks for the comment! Your suggestions for observations will be helpful! I am excited about this group and learning from them this year.

  2. I like the mass group emails. I do that too! Sometimes I forget to edit the parent list as I get new students so make sure ya'll remember to do that as well. Great post!

    1. Thanks for the reminder! Another thing our admin recommends is that we bcc all of the email addresses - two reasons for this 1) privacy of parent's emails and 2) protection for the teacher.