Trying Some New Things This Year

Welcome, 2014-2015 School Year! This is my 8th year teaching Language Arts at my school. I am always looking for new ways to streamline, engage students, and improve. To that end, I am trying out a few new things this year.

First of all, my schedule has changed quite a bit. Last year, I taught only Language Arts. This year, I will teach Language Arts, Social Studies, a Reading Support class, an Academic Support hour, and I will also be the Reading Specialist. Phew! While that is quite a change with a lot of new things to learn and teach, I also think I’m going to love the variety. Teaching the same thing all day long can get kinda boring and repetitive. I welcome the challenge!

Below are a few new things I am excited to try this year:

1. Common Core Learning Target Web – At my school, and likely at yours, we are required to communicate the daily learning targets to our students as well as visually display the targets. Students benefit from knowing the intended goals and outcomes of instruction. That being said, changing up the learning target on a nearly daily basis can become a cumbersome task. To streamline, my partner and I decided to create a web of ALL the targets we will hit in our first unit (about 1 quarter). Then, we can simply put a laminated bullseye sign on the target(s) we are working on any given day. Seems like this will make things a lot easier. This has the added benefit of showing students a preview of all of the targets and where we are heading throughout the unit.

Common Core Target Web (c) Kristen Dembroski

Common Core Target Web (c) Kristen Dembroski

2. Talk Partners – For the past 7 years, my room has been organized into table groups (4 students). This fit nicely with my classroom philosophy of collaboration, group work, and community. However, it became distracting at times. Put socially-motivated 13-year-olds into a cluster, and shenanigans will happen. This year, I am trying a new idea called “Talk Partners.” You can see from the new seating chart, which I call Chevron Tables, that students are now more in rows instead of clusters. Each table will consist of one pair of students, talk partners, which I will switch up every week. The infinite campus grading program that I use can create randomized seating charts at a click, so this will not be too difficult. I will also work in more reflecting and communicating time into my curriculum. I will pause more often and say, “Explain to your talk partner what you just heard / understood” or “Ask your talk partner a question you still have about this topic,” etc. The goal will be more focused interactions.

Chevron Seating Arrangement (c) Kristen Dembroski

Chevron Seating Arrangement (c) Kristen Dembroski

3. Leveled Literacy Instruction – I will be teaching a Reading Support class this year, which is a new offering at our school. It will be for students who are performing below grade level on our district-wide reading assessments, yet aren’t receiving any other kinds of support (not Special Education). The LLI is an elementary school model that is releasing a middle school component in September. Since it’s not released yet, I can’t tell you much about it other than the Reading Specialists that use it at our district elementary schools love it and see very positive results!

LLI (c) Kristen Dembroski

4. Snacks! Okay this has absolutely nothing to do with my curriculum, but I am excited anyway. I signed up for Graze this year. School starts at 7:45 and lunch isn’t until 12:50, so I’m very likely to get hangry… So Graze seemed like a perfect solution for me. They will deliver 4 snacks per week (or every other week) directly to my school mailbox, and I can customize the snacks based on my tastes, dietary needs, etc. It’s only $6.49 a box, and I don’t have to do any shopping, prepping, or packing. Food! Yassss!!! Below is my first box that I received during Teacher Institute week. Loving this idea! If you would like to sign up and get 2 free boxes using my referral code, click here.

Graze (c) Kristen Dembroski


Are you trying out anything new this year, or embarking on a fun new adventure? I’d love to hear about it!


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