While students were enjoying a day off on Oct. 8, staff members at each school were engaged in professional development sessions to learn and refine new classroom strategies. 

Harvey Silver, above, president of Silver Strong & Associates and noted author of several articles and books on instructional tools and strategies, spent the day with Linden High School faculty. He discussed “Reading for Meaning,” a classroom tool that develops and assesses a student’s ability to understand and interpret what they have read as well as their ability to support a position with evidence.

“By teaching students to support their positions with evidence and examples, ‘Reading for Meaning’ prepares them to be better writers as well as better readers,” said instructional coach Reina Irizarry-Clark. “Dr. Silver showed specific examples of how this strategy can be applied across content areas and provided opportunities for teachers to practice the strategy and collaborate on what they had learned during the workshop.”

Thomas Dewing, a senior consultant at Silver Strong & Associates, demonstrated the “Compare and Contrast” strategy for faculty at McManus and Soehl middle schools. Dewing walked participants through all four phases, including description, comparison, conclusion, and application. Research has shown the technique has a significant impact on learning when students engage in all four phases of descriptive analysis.

consultant talking to teachers in Soehl cafeteria

Thomas Dewing, of Silver Strong & Associates, talking to teachers at Soehl Middle School.

“The strategies introduced by both Dr. Silver and Dr. Dewing are part of the district initiative to incorporate instructional strategies across content areas,” said Irizarry-Clark. “When students are exposed to the same strategy in reading, science, math, physical education, music, social studies, connections are formed that make learning more concrete for students. The ultimate goal of an instructional strategy is for it to become a learning strategy where a student can now use it themselves across content to make sense of what they are learning.”

Both sessions were designed to give teachers an opportunity to work through the strategies. They were provided examples of lessons where the strategies were used across different subjects and disciplines.

Elementary teachers were exposed to these strategies as well as others last year when Dewing presented “Tools for Thoughtful Assessment.” On Oct. 8, elementary teachers reviewed the strategies they learned last year as they will continue to incorporate them into their instruction this year.

“The next steps in teachers’ professional development include ‘Teacher Rounds’ at the middle school and high school,” Irizarry-Clark said. “Teacher leaders will work with Dr. Silver and Dr. Dewing to plan a lesson using the new strategy, perform the lesson, and analyze the success of the lesson.”