Monday and Tuesday, I participated in two professional days to start the year off. The underlying message of both days could probably be summed up in two terms: "time on learning" and "rigorous instruction."
Time on Learning:
Essentially, my principal suggested that we have a lot of down-time in our school. Because I work in a low income district, the students get universal breakfast. That means that all students enter the school and have breakfast before they begin their day. Many times, this eats into instructional time. We discussed ways to reduce down time and to increase direct instruction. I won't go into a lot of detail on this because I think these strategies would very much be building specific. However, I've been thinking that I might start coming up with a quick activity to do with my kids during transitions from their classrooms to my room to increase their time on learning.
I'm going to preface this one by saying that I missed the first half of the session to attend a Medicaid billing session....However, what I gathered is that rigorous instruction occurs when students are actively engaged in a lesson, they are using higher order thinking and problem solving, and they are encouraged to be persistent in their efforts.
In the talks on rigorous instruction, we heard a lot about vocabulary, and the data from our school's performance on the ELA section of state-wide assessments. After hearing all of this, I have to say, my selection for my professional summer reading book, Bringing Words to Life, was the right choice! If you're not familiar, this book is about robust (aka rigorous) vocabulary instruction. Many examples of rigorous instruction that were given to us reminded me of things that I had read in the book (and my principal hadn't even heard of the book!).
Are you implementing anything new this year? I'd love to hear about it!