2020 Instructional Memo 1
Trimester 1 at South Bronx Preparatory ended an exciting and innovative first third of the year. Entry points, student discourse, the incorporation of vertical team instructional strategies and the new NYC DOE Hallmarks are all evident on a consistent basis within the walls of SBP. With the incorporation of Hallmarks across different vertical teams, teachers created unique resources as they continue to push advanced literacies in the classroom. A visit into the classrooms at SBP offers just a glimpse of all the instructional strategies and entry points coming together at South Bronx Prep. Just a couple of those highlights across our different departments are below!
The Social Studies team has been hard at work this year focusing on Hallmark 1, which has students using multiple entry points to dive into difficult primary source material. As a team we are always working on new ways for our students of all abilities to access this material. We want our students to feel confident as they move through the analyzation of difficult texts which will lead to stronger conversations and writing surrounding the texts. As history teachers, the amount of primary source material we can choose from is vast. The strategies we provide for our students is a direct link to their success.
As the 11th grade US History teacher, Mr. Tobey does an excellent job providing scaffolds for his students so they can be reading like historians. Whenever looking at primary source material they are asked to provide sourcing, contextualization, close reading and corroboration. Focusing on these skills has allowed Mr. Tobey’s students to have a deeper understanding of the material. An example of questions students will answer is below and you can see these being used in his class on a consistent basis.
Last year at SBP, the science team was looking for ways to improve student’s creation of scientific explanations. Mr. Bozovic, our Earth Science Team member, presented the Claim Evidence and Reasoning Strategy to the Science Vertical Team, and we have been performing inquiry-based work around this strategy to improve written explanations in our science classes ever since. Last year, we started using the scientific explanations rubric (from the Museum of Natural History) to uniformly assess student scientific explanations, and to help inform our adaptation of the CER tool across grades 9-12. We presented the findings from our yearlong inquiry work downtown to the greater NYCDOE through the CARP initiative. We have continued that work this year through the Science Action Research Team, expanding our approach and looking to leverage CER in regard to discussion-based work as well.
Mr. Bozovic has been a trailblazer not just in terms of planning, but also in the use of this strategy, as he has pushed the adaptation of this approach not just through small CFUs like Do Nows and Exit Slips, but also through major lab work and projects. Dan’s adaptation of CER within Lab work has been really impressive and inspiring to the Science Team, resulting in multiple lab-based curricula employing a similar strategy. His membership and support on the Science Vertical Team has truly benefited teacher practice at large, and in turn, all of our students in terms of critical thinking through problem solving, designing solutions and explaining their work.
Science Part Deux
Ms. Varon has been taking risks during her first year of teaching. She created a Socratic Seminar opportunity for her students at the end of her unit so that students could have an opportunity to synthesize the information that they have been working with throughout the unit.
Ms. Varon created open ended questions for students to brainstorm and debate upon. Students built of of the arguments of each other as they engaged in a discussion. Students were able to partake in discourse with their peers, hitting on our school-wide goal of increased student discourse, and she was using sentence starters and diagrams as entry points into the conversation. Typical in the humanities section, it is great to see a Socratic Seminar in Science. Ms. Varon is continuing her work to improve upon future Socratic Seminars. Way to go!
In an effort to address Hallmark #4 (Study a small set of high-utility vocabulary words and academic language structures to build breadth and depth of knowledge) and the 3 components of teaching Spanish Language (Speaking, Listening, Writing), Ms. Sanchez has implemented a modified version of the DPE Protocol (Discuss, Process, Explain). This instructional practice is strategically used in both her 8th grade classes and 12th /AP courses to encourage stronger discourse and ownership of learning opportunities. By incorporating feedback that suggested more opportunities for practicing conversation, Ms. Sanchez has deepened the DPE protocol further for use in preparing students for the AP Spanish Language exam. By focusing on listening as a lens, seniors will be listening to each other in small pairs and checking for target vocabulary usage and cohesive expression of content topic.
Welcoming her colleagues into her classes, I have found that her students are now using a Spanish Language Tool box in addition to normalizing DPE tasks. It’s been wonderful to see how both the Toolbox and DPE have been integrated in the class to create a more equitable and multilevel-friendly learning experiences.
Blended learning combines traditional classroom instruction with an online model to help maximize student achievement. In the middle school, Ms. Kelly has implemented a blended learning model in her math class. She has students seated in 3 different stations: an independent computer station, a teacher led station, and a collaborative group station.
At the independent computer station, students use online platforms to help reinforce key concepts within the unit. She also uses this station as an opportunity to spiral the curriculum throughout the year. At the teacher led station she has the opportunity to engage students in critical thinking tasks while also reteaching concepts that allow students to push their own thinking.
At the collaborative station students engage in an error analysis/Discuss-Process-Explain problem. Ms. Kelly aligned this station to the math vertical team goal (see image) that has been developing over the last couple of years. The station is complete with both discussion and writing as students engage with the material. Within this station, students engage in DPE- a 3 step process - as they evaluate an error analysis problem. She also consistently embeds entry points (vocabulary boxes) within her resources to provide students with access to the material.
Over the past few years the math team has been collaborating to improve the mathematical writing of our students. As a team we believe that if students can articulate their thinking by using vocabulary through discussion and writing they are achieving a deeper understanding of the mathematical content. As a team we developed an instructional strategy DPE. which stands for Discuss, Process and Explain to support students in their mathematical discussion and writing journey. During our feedback facilitator meetings we have spent a lot of time norming this work and working with our newer teachers to adapt DPE into their classrooms.
We have seen incredible efforts taken by our 7th grade math teacher, Gadi, during his first year of teaching. There are team wide posters explaining DPE in each classroom and Gadi has added one to his classroom decor. (You can see the posters shown below). Gadi has been working to integrate DPE into his weekly lessons during exit tickets and student guided stations. He has been supporting students through by providing them with a DPE protocol, word banks, discussion questions, support group seating and aligning his grading with the DPE rubric. Thanks Gadi for jumping on board with the math team focus and making it your own!!
English Language Arts
Entry points are essential to every lesson and should be implemented on a consistent basis. The differentiation of material is an integral part of the learning process. Ms. Fain's differentiation strategies have begun to have a huge impact in her ELA classroom. As she prepares her juniors with for the upcoming Regents exam, she has managed to foster an environment where each student feels individually supported. In a class than can lend itself to test prep activities, Ms. Fain continues to support her students throughout the learning process.
Specifically, she creates outlines for those students who struggle to begin the writing process. This supports the development of Instructional Hallmark 3: Write to build language and knowledge, and provides access to our students so they can master the material. Additionally, she provides immediate feedback to those who may need more emotional support and the occasional pat on the back. Through obvious care and concern she has created a supportive professional classroom environment where each student regardless of ability level has the tools they need to be successful far beyond an exam or assessment.