CSRA Regional Educational Service Agency

4683 Augusta Highway SE
Dearing, Georgia 30808
Fax 706-556-8891


CSRA RESA Newsletter

May 2016

the Director's Corner

Gene Sullivan, Executive Director

Teacher Appreciation Week

The 2015-16 school year will soon conclude and what a year it was! This week is Teacher Appreciation Week honoring the hard work and sacrifice our teachers make across our great nation. Nancy Astor is credited with saying “Real education should educate us out of self into something far finer; into a selflessness which links us with all humanity.” There is no more nobler profession than that of an educator. Teachers day in and day out tirelessly devote their efforts to influence the lives of their students. What other profession helps strengthen communities shaping the course of civilized society by imparting the values that have made America the greatest nation on earth. You do so despite the excessive demands of standardized testing, over-reaching evaluations, and misguided legislative mandates. You do all this because you are a “Teacher.”

President Barack Obama’s Presidential Proclamation – National Teacher Appreciation Day and National Teacher Appreciation Week 2016, credits America’s teachers with helping steer our country’s course. “Our country’s story written over more than two centuries is one of challenges, chances, changes, and progress. Teachers witness the incredible potential of our youth, and they know firsthand the impact of a caring leader at the front of the class.”

Dr. Brooks Keel at his investiture as the first president of Augusta University took the time to recognize two of his teachers for “igniting the spark of discovery and turning it into a roaring fire.” Our future is written in schools across our country. Truly, the future belongs to the educated.

CSRA RESA appreciates and values your service. Our wish to you is that you can turn off the distractive noises that surround us as you close your door and do what you do best…teach!

Professional Learning Courses
Upcoming courses at CSRA RESA

  • May 11th - NOT PRESCRIBED! The Georgia Prevention Project
  • June 30th-July 1st - GSE Social Studies Training
  • July 29th - Investigating, Reporting, and Prosecuting Student Misconduct

    To register for courses, please click here.

Our Teacher Spotlight this month is

Cathy Sligh
Literacy Consultant at CSRA RESA

Cathy will be retiring this month.
Congratulations and Best Wishes!

Because this week is Teacher Appreciation Week, my good friend and colleague Cathy Sligh is on my mind. I have had the distinct pleasure of working with Cathy for at least 30 years. She was an outstanding and gifted science teacher at Evans High, challenging her students every day, every hour, and every minute.

I know this first hand because she taught my son. He, at the ripe old age of 30, still says today that she was one of his top five favorite teachers. Three years ago when she retired from teaching, I begged her to come to our RESA and share her strategies and talents with the other gifted teachers from our districts.

From day one, she was dedicated to the quality and professionalism of her work. She initiated our LDC trainings, worked with the new literacy standards, and offered new and interesting research and information to our teachers.

Cathy is now leaving us to enjoy her two beautiful grandchildren, her two wonderful children, and her loving husband. While she will be truly missed, we wish her the best retirement. Personally, I know she will still be sharing her talents in so many other ways.

We will miss you, Cathy, and we truly are grateful for excellent teachers like you.
Submitted by Mary Stout



It’s almost summer vacation! Time to shed the stress and frustrations of the year, and relax. Time to bury ourselves in the white sand of Edisto or dip into the mountain streams of Dahlonega. Time to let our brains go blank.

But, before long, we’ll be back to planning our adventures for next year’s classroom – because that’s how we’re wired.

What to think about in the summer as we plan for next year?

This summer, let’s take a little time to improve our approach to differentiation. Here are a few beginning thoughts:

1. Think about thinking. It’s a learned activity. Differentiation helps students strengthen their own thinking skill and exposes them to other thinking strategies. All students need differentiation. Special needs students who have accommodations (e.g., audio books) and modifications (i.e., changes in the expectations vis a vis the standards) as well as gifted students in AP classes need instruction targeted at thinking skills. “Learning occurs as a result of our thinking and active sense making” (Ritchhart, 2011). Differentiation isn’t an off-the-cuff affair that we throw in haphazardly; it should incorporate specific strategies that build brains.

Teachers also supply the thinking environment. Not only our lessons but also what we say to a student is part of this environment. According to Salmon Kahn, we should never tell a child she is smart. That label puts her into a “fixed mindset” rather than a “growth mindset.” Rather, we should praise her struggle and hard work to solve the problem. When confronted with problems she can’t solve, a child who has been constantly told she’s smart, will work hard to hide her in-abilities instead of rising to meet the new challenge. So, this summer, spend a moment writing a list of thinking-words (e.g., struggling, observing, reasoning, connecting, describing, questioning, evaluating). Practice using these words on your family, explaining how a particular word applies to their thinking efforts: “I like the way you are connecting those two ideas to answer that question.” This gentle, verbal coaching helps create a growth mindset and highlights thinking strategies.

2. Review Bloom’s taxonomy, Webb’s DOK levels , and Gardener’s multiple intelligences. Arm yourself with the types of questions that will help students achieve those levels. Now review next year’s opening teaching unit. Are you asking the students to evaluate a process, synthesize information, create a product, or are you simply asking them to spit back what the textbook or lecture told them? Are they actively learning in a style that will motivate them to learn more?

3. Invest time in an interest inventory. Think up key questions that will give you an idea of a student’s interests as related to your content area. Copy these questions on 3x5 or 6x8 cards that the students can fill out during the first week of school. Be sure they include their Lexile level. Add information to the cards during the year. Individual cards allow you to create groups of similar interests, abilities, learning styles. (While a good excel-like computer program sorts the students more quickly than hand shuffling cards, the tactility of sorting cards helps me cement the student interests.) If your counselor does “colors” for the students, put a color dot on the top of the card by the student’s name.

4. Design a grade book that uses the achievement of standards instead of grades.“Chunk” formative (and summative) assessments, matching the questions or writing assignment to a learning target or an I Can statement, and record student progress for that skill. One quiz may have several valuable pieces of student information. Be sure to explain to the students how the system works and devise a chart for them to track their own progress. Also, develop a way to blend a computer grade book with a paper logbook or checklist so that you can keep notes of students as you walk around the room (another formative assessment).

5. Differentiate the basics. Differentiation is a “philosophy that a teacher embraces to reach the unique needs of every learner” ( Gregory, 2002). While that sounds lofty and unattainable, it truly isn’t. Once we have some basic information on our students, we can make choices. We can differentiate in four simple places:

  • The content that students learn
  • The assessment tools being used
  • The performance tasks being selected
  • The instructional strategies used

Differentiation is not an everyday tool. If all the students need the same specific information, a simple lecture might be appropriate. Differentiation comes later as the students assimilate, apply, evaluate, or synthesize the information.

Finally, as we brush the sand from between our toes and turn our thoughts to next year’s plans, we need to remember Kahn’s exhortation to adopt and keep fresh a growth mindset --- in ourselves. Just as we want our students to “struggle” to build strong, healthy brains, we have to “struggle” to create the learning opportunities for their accomplishments.

Kahn, S. (2014). Why I’ll never tell my son he’s smart. https://www.khanacademy.org/about/blog/post/95208400815/the-learning-myth-why-ill-never-tell-my-son-hes

Gregory, Gayle. (2006). Differentiated Instructional Strategies: One Size Doesn’t Fit All. http://www.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/12841_Gregory_Chapter_1.pdf

Northern Illinois University, Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. (n.d.) Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Retrieved from http://www.niu.edu/facdev/resources/guide/learning/howard_gardner_theory_multiple_intelligences.pdf

Ritchhart, R. & Church, M & Morrison, K. (2011). Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners . San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Other Resources:

Submitted by Kelly Flanders

Three key elements of this website that are worthy of your time to study include an interest inventory called Which Reading Superhero are YOU?, the interactive world map, and a fun, authentic writing opportunity for students.

In Kelly Flander's article above, she recommends completing an interest inventory with your students in regard to your content area. This website has an interest inventory for your students to help determine their reading interests. The "Which Reading Superhero are YOU?" reading inventory is a great tool to use with students. Your students will be amazed at some of the things they realize about themselves. The interest inventory results link students to books of fiction and nonfiction that might be of interest to them.

The site also has an interactive world map inviting students to click on a country to find reading material related to that country! Students can explore and connect with places around the world.

And finally, readers are encouraged to write book reviews to post on the site. Directions are on the home page with the reviews being moderated by the site owner, Barb Langridge. This writing experience will give students a voice in an authentic, real world activity beyond the walls of the classroom, not just for sharing their reading interests, but also to practice appropriate digital citizenship.

Remember to use the SLDS platform
GOFAR, Teacher
Resources and Student Data

Have questions? Ask a RESA consultant for help!

Please click the image to the left for Math Resources including Lesson Plans, Math Videos and MDC resources.

Growing Readers


Becoming Leaders!

One year ago the sixteen RESAs across the state submitted a grant to the GOSA office which focused on improving reading foundational skills for grades K-3. The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement funded the two-million-dollar grant. CSRA RESA invited three counties to participate; Taliaferro, Warren, and Emanuel. The learning targets for the Growing Readers grant work were:

  1. Establish a common understanding of the reading process and the Georgia Standards of Excellence for Reading.
  2. Establish classroom structures that support effective reading instruction and student learning.
  3. Engage in teacher-student conferences to assess readers, provide feedback, and set individual goals.
  4. Understand and use effective reading assessment practices.
  5. Implement targeted interventions based on data.

The Growing Readers teachers have collaborated with each other and not only have improved their Tier1 reading instruction, but have also focused on the needs and growth of Tier 2 and Tier 3 students.

These teachers are now assessing with running records instead of solely relying on computerized assessments, instructing using guided reading with leveled readers, using targeted strategies interventions and setting aside daily time to confer with students during independent reading. Through observations and nutritional feedback from their administrators and RESA consultant, they have also implemented four components of a balanced reading program. The four components are: independent reading, whole group shared reading, read aloud/think alouds, and small group guided reading/targeted strategy instruction.

The Growing Readers grant is based on best practices of reading instruction research and is enhanced by the research and practices of Richard Allington, Fountas and Pinnell, Lucy Calkins, Gail Boushey, Joan Moser, and Jennifer Serravallo.

Mid-year, the GOSA evaluation reported that the success and strength of the Growing Readers grant was that teachers across the state were receiving the same training with the same focus. It does not rely on one “program” but relies on best practices in reading instruction. It is also having a positive impact on the instructional practices of the teachers involved because they are learning that the main focus is not to teach the text, but rather to teach the reader.

As the Growing Reader teachers teach the reader they are learning to support his/her reading behaviors by teaching strategies which act as scaffolds. As the reader improves his/her use of the strategy, eventually the scaffolds disappear. This strategy now becomes a natural part of the reader’s reading behavior and eventually evolves to becoming a skill.

The Growing Readers teachers will be meeting for their last two-day session in May to learn how to select the best strategies for students and to celebrate their successes. These teachers will have the opportunity to become model classrooms next year as the grant will now offer a follow-up two-day training next year for these teachers. Since the grant only focused on four teachers from each of the schools, the participating schools can decide if they would like a new team from their school to participate. Additional schools may be selected based on third grade Lexile scores.

The participating teachers received a free subscription to www.readinga-z.com for a year, a leveled reading library, many instructional items and props to support reading instruction, the “Reading Strategy Book” by Jennifer Serravallo and “When Readers Struggle” by Fountas and Pinnell.

Teachers have shared that they cannot believe how much their students are enjoying reading. In fact, some of the classes have had a tremendous increase in not only the number of books being read with AR but also an increase in the percentage of answers correct. Teachers have also realized the impact of thinking aloud and teaching targeted intervention groups. They have realized the importance of book shopping and building stamina with their readers.

As one of the teachers shared: “This training has sharpened my kid-watching and observational skills as a reading teacher. I now know it is my job to research, decide, teach and try new strategies so that I can help all of my readers improve their reading behaviors and have a positive impact on their love for reading.”

Submitted by Debbie Callan
K-5 Literacy Consultant
For more information about the Growing Readers Grant and resources, click the image above.
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4683 Augusta Highway, Dearing, GA, 30808