Spotlight School District
Nestled in the east-central section of Lake County, Illinois, Oak Grove School District is a Kindergarten through Eighth grade campus school setting. Three years ago, the district began the search for a teaching and learning partner who could provide writing and grammar curriculum resources that supported best practices and the Common Core State Standards. As a first step in the process, a team of teachers was formed with the charge of analyzing materials and listening to different presentations from four publishers. A major goal for this committee was to identify a resource that matched the districts’ beliefs in using authentic mentor texts, along with lesson structures that supported the workshop model. Another consideration was to make sure that there was an opportunity for professional learning with experienced and engaging educators which would complement the curriculum resources and provide teachers with information, models and coaching so they could apply their newly learned skills and strategies to their classroom teaching almost immediately.
After careful consideration by this team of teachers, Schoolwide was selected as a curriculum and instruction partner. Writing Fundamentals Units of Study were selected for grades 3-8 along with Fundamentals of Grammar and Conventions Units in grades K-8. One of the driving factors in selecting Schoolwide as a resource was the inclusion of rich, relevant, and authentic mentor texts paired with clearly focused lessons. Another strong factor was the collegial relationships that were established between Schoolwide’s consultants throughout the selection process.
During the initial presentation, Schoolwide described the key principles behind writing workshop and Writing Fundamentals which reinforced best practices in developing writers- using mentor authors and texts to “reading like writers” and study author’s craft, and modeling explicit strategies which demonstrate how real writers work. The committee at Oak Grove listened, and they began to think about writing as a process, instead of simply a ‘product.’ They felt like they were part of a professional learning committee which was exploring how best to teach students what it means to be a writer and to write with clarity and purpose. Teachers were equally excited about the materials and the plan to continue with professional development support.
Following the selection of Schoolwide, a professional learning plan was created. In order to ensure that there was vertical and horizontal articulation amongst the grade levels, the Assistant Superintendent, the Elementary Assistant Principal, and Schoolwide’s Director of Professional Development Pat Pollack, started with curriculum alignment and mapping. Additional consideration was given to how grammar was going to be embedded into the writing for authentic application and student practice.
In the fall, a combination of workshops, grade level meetings and demonstration lessons were planned in order to provide teachers with guidance and time to get to know the units- reading and discussing mentor texts, setting up the classroom environment and tools, highlighting and planning lessons, considering academic and content specific vocabulary to be tauight. Demonstration lessons allowed teachers to see firsthand how the gradual release of responsibility plays such an integral role in a writer’s workshop- teachers modeled whole class lessons and demonstrated small group and one on one student conferences. In between Schoolwide’s visits, the Assistant Principal would continue to provide support with in-class modeling, as well as collecting artifacts such as notebook entries and published pieces, to analyze trends and discuss with teachers what students were doing well and what were next steps for teaching and learning. The school was transforming, teachers and students felt like writing teachers and writers!
In year two, conferring with writers, co-teaching, and working with small groups of students for differentiation, became part of the professional learning that took place with the Schoolwide consultant during planned visits, as well as internally during PLCs, team meetings, classroom visits and writing celebrations.
By the end of our second year, teachers were feeling good about the teaching changes which were being made and the evidence of student growth. The staff at Oak Grove knows that reflective practicioners are always looking back to move forward and make improvements, and although this process never end, they were ready for a new teaching and learning focus- reading.
The teaching and learning partnership with Schoolwide continued as teachers began to imagine what their literacy block would look like and feel like, with reading and writing workshop happening and units of study that complement each other. And as year three starts, with a collaboratively created Professional Learning Plan in place, the teachers, students, administrators and consultants all felt comfortable and confident in the next stages of their shared journey.
Through both our professional learning partnership and integration of Schoolwide’s curriculum resources, both teachers and students are flourishing.
- Through both our professional learning partnership and integration of Schoolwide’s curriculum resources, both teachers and students are flourishing.
- Small group work has emerged as teachers have learned more about guided reading and strategy groups, and teaching which is responsive to the diverse needs of their readers and writers.
- Conferring has become a mainstay in the classrooms, as both teachers and students learn a lot from one another during these thoughtful conversations.
- Teachers are using performance based assessments in both reading and writing to create profiles of students as readers and writers, leading to rich conversations during grade level team meetings about where students need to go next.
- Celebrating what it means to be a part of a responsive, collaborative, and thoughtful literacy community has shown itself in many ways; collegial visits, writing celebrations, parent workshops, and teacher-led book talks.
Understanding ways to support each reader, writer, thinker, and learner is an ongoing journey Schoolwide continues to take with the educators, students and parents at Oak Grove.
Model Schools: (Use the photos on our existing website)
The Schoolwide, Inc., Model Schools Program identifies schools that exhibit a shared vision for literacy instruction; are committed to excellence and research-based strategies within a balanced literacy framework; and are dedicated to using data and assessment to analyze growth, inform instruction, and drive integrated decision making. Schoolwide Model Schools value forming partnerships that help create and sustain a collaborative community and demonstrate a willingness to share their experiences with fellow educators from neighboring schools.
Selection as a Schoolwide Model School celebrates and affirms the hard work of students, educators, and administrators. Schoolwide Model Schools are both an inspiration and a powerful resource for schools and educators seeking to transform or improve their literacy instruction.
Evergreen Park Elementary School District 124 (Illinois)
Evergreen Park Elementary School District 124 includes five schools: four elementary schools (serving grades Kindergarten through 5), and one middle school. The approximately 1800 students that attend the schools of Evergreen Park are exposed to innovative, standards-based learning opportunities daily.
Partnering with Schoolwide over the past four years, Evergreen Park Schools have transformed their literacy curriculum and instructional practices by moving to a Balanced Literacy Framework using Schoolwide’s Reading and Writing Units of Study. Visiting educators will see classroom environments which reflect the thoughts, ideas, questions, and research of individual learners who are part of a collaborative community of readers and writers. The staff has invested their time and effort in ongoing professional learning experiences through a combination of teacher workshops, demonstration teaching, staff meetings and co-teaching with Schoolwide consultants, as well as consistent in-district coaching, modeling and collaborative planning to support systemic change and growth.
Butler School District 52 (Illinois)
Butler School District 53 is an acclaimed school district in Oak Brook, Illinois. It serves a little over 500 students together at Brook Forest (grades K-5) and Butler Junior High (grades 6-8). Butler District 53 is known for its high academic achievement, nurturing community, and personalized learning opportunities, and partnering with Schoolwide has only furthered that reputation. With the help of a Schoolwide partnership, Butler has developed a strong culture that promotes responsive literacy teaching and learning and the development of individual readers and writers. Neighboring schools continue to visit this child centered environment where they see and hear teachers and students question, research, read, write and think as literate individuals and as a community of learners.
Chicago Ridge Finley Junior High 127.5 (Illinois)
Finley Junior High was a recent addition to our Model Schools program, celebrating all the gains that the classroom teachers and students demonstrated in grades 6-8. This Junior High School setting offers a well-rounded educational program that assists students in developing the skills necessary to meet the educational challenges they need to be prepared for the 21st Century.
Over the past three years, Schoolwide has partnered with Chicago Ridge Schools to examine their instructional practices in literacy while identifying resources that will support their students’ growth as self-directed, motivated readers and writers. Throughout the professional learning process and implementation of Schoolwide’s Fundamentals Units of Study, both teachers and students have transformed their own reading and writing identities and have developed the confidence needed to problem-solve, compose and communicate effectively. Visitors from neighboring districts experience what it feels like to be immersed in a workshop setting with adolescent learners who understand what it means to be independent readers and writers. Visitors also enjoy meeting with teachers and administrators to learn about their journey and positive changes that have occurred in their junior high school.
Cliffside Park NJ Schools
Located along the Hudson River, this Bergen County NJ school district has been a partner with Schoolwide for seven years. Cliffside Park is committed to ongoing professional learning which is student driven, includes both teachers and administrators and values reflection and collaboration.
Schoolwides partnership with CP began with a small pilot in which second and third grade teachers would implement WF units of study to raise the quality of student writing. Since then, Cliffside Park Elementary Schools have expanded their professional learning experiences with Schoolwide to reading workshop, teaching grammar within the context of real reading and writing, and responsive small group and individual instruction across grades K-6.
Holding the distinction of being named our first Model School district, the teachers, administrators and students of Cliffside Park have repeatedly demonstrated a zest for teaching and learning. The ongoing professional learning that Schoolwide has provided over the past seven years allowed teachers to develop their craft in a differentiated setting while also celebrating the continuous growth of students as readers and writers along the way.
Neighboring districts continue to visit this student centered setting, allowing them to witness firsthand all the possibilities that workshop teaching, ongoing professional learning and sustaining a partnership can afford.