#SOL15: March Challenge Day 6 Instructional Strategies Bracket

Slice of Life

Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsy at “Two Writing Teachers” for creating a place for us to share our work.

Last week one of  my literacy team members had the opportunity to see and hear Dave Burgess, Teach Like a Pirate, with teachers in a district she serves.  Dyan shared this idea and then went on to use it yesterday in our professional development session. (“Novel idea, use the information gained from PD!”)

  • What strategies are in place in your building?
  • Have all teachers “revisited”  the strategies that may have been a part of previous training?
  • What would teachers say right now?
  • What would that discussion sound like in a faculty meeting?
  • What would be used as the “winning criteria”?
  • How rich would  these conversations be?


This bracket was begun with two ideas already included:  Think-Pair-Share and Question Answer Relationships (QAR).  Both of those have been included in work from the Iowa DE Academies in previous years.  You could easily give teachers one that was completely blank at this time of year when brackets are in play for state athletics and March Madness!

Dyan’s Challenge

What if the principal /  instructional leader in the building took the teachers’ strategies from the brackets and tallied or charted a status of the building based on the frequency of “seeing those strategies” in action in classrooms?  What if the principal reported his/her findings back to staff?  What if that data became a part of planning for future PD sessions?

Teachers using strategies could “partner up” and lead a short session for peers about the strategy and how they  use it. A quick review of the purpose, theory, and research could benefit all learners. Teachers could then have the opportunity to plan how they would use the strategy themselves.  Relevant PD led by  peers! Collaborative teacher leadership in action!

OR consider how you review strategies from previous year’s PD sessions.  Which strategies should teachers be using?  How can they be reviewed in a FUN and yet engaging, useful way as an example for classroom use!

Thanks, Dyan @dyansundermeyer, for not only sharing your learning but also for using your learning within our PD!

How could you use brackets to spark a debate or deepen content conversations?

27 responses

  1. Thanks for this idea. I may be borrowing it as a way to review what teachers have learned this year with our PD.

    1. Lee Ann,
      I just had to spotlight this – such a fun review for teachers! ❤

  2. This is way cool and such a fun and invaluable way to both find the pulse of your school and make it stronger.

    1. Thanks, Kim.
      Learning and using learning should both be fun and purposeful. How nice to have it fit together so well!

  3. What is it about brackets that gets people excited? For my students we are participating in #mbm2015, March Book Madness. They are excited to see what book will become crowned champ. The bulletin board has prompted both teachers and students to stop and view. What a great idea to tweak for professional development. When I was at a Rick Wormeli workshop he said something to the effect that the real learning from professional development occurs when you wrestle with it in your classroom. The bracket is an effective way to discuss and wrestle.

    1. That’s the perfect explanation! The brackets require a “choice” and I think that’s part of the appeal – I thought of “book brackets” after I hit publish. I’m always curious to see which books the students pick. Thanks so much for commenting!

  4. We too have been using brackets for our own March Madness book contest. I love the idea of doing this for PD and the others you provided in your link. Thanks.

    1. It’s such a simple tool that can be drawn to fit the needs – 4, 8, 16, etc. and yet capture some learning without being a huge “production” or presentation. Thanks for commenting!

  5. LOVE the idea of linking the very popular March Madness Bracket to professional learning dialogue. Dyan’s idea of having the principal tally frequencies would provide interesting data to analyze.

    Another idea – pull out the bracket in the beginning of the year. Many schools will have new teachers (to the profession or school) that may not be familiar with the strategies used in the school. Instructional coaches could use the bracket as “What areas do you need a coach?”

    Thanks for sharing!! And Dave was in Iowa! Cool!


    1. Kathy,
      I was actually thinking of more of a “Bingo” idea for introducing the strategies at the beginning of the year. Which ones do I know? Which ones do I use? And then use the brackets later in the year for the assessment piece! And yes, Dave was in Iowa – barely – Keokuk – that SE tip of the state!

  6. Love this! There’s such a potential for PD to be taken out of the hands of the teachers as districts make most of the decisions for these days. I love that this puts it back in the hands of the teachers.

    1. Thanks, Jen and Darla!
      All teachers crave ideas from teachers when they have been proven to work with “our kids” in our buildings, so this is another way to empower them and FOCUS on the learning!

  7. What an incredible, and fun, way to look at the action in your school. A great way to disect what is really happening across a school.

    1. Exactly, Julieanne! Not requiring a ton of “implementation logs” but looking at the current status thoughtfully, purposefully, and quickly. Initial data collection does NOT have to be a long, drawn out process. Conversation and a bit of fun add to the learning environment rather than seeming like “another add-on”!

  8. Interesting idea. I like it! I will need to ponder how I could do this with the teachers i work with. It would be interesting to see how they perceive their instruction and how they are incorporating balanced literacy practices. Wow!

    1. Erin,
      Wouldn’t it be fun to have them list all the balanced literacy practices and then discuss which ones they feel should “win” – all are important, but which ones are ESSENTIAL? (and what if the answers aren’t the same every day – great conversations!)

      Great thinking, Erin!!!

  9. What I love about this is that it includes our voice and what we do – it’s a generative conversation. This is what meaningful communication across grade levels and departments is all about.

    1. Tara,
      So true . . . this conversation on a regular basis among all teachers would be so powerful for student learning! ❤

  10. During a training we did for staff on Project Based Learning we introduced the 8 essentials of PBL. Then we intentionally bracketed the 8 essentials and had small groups debate the essentials through the bracket to come out with their most essential part of PBL. While all are important, it made for great conversation among teachers about what they value.

    1. Emily,
      Love PBL work – what a great use of the brackets. It’s hard to say one part is “more essential” but as you said “great conversation among teachers about what they value.”

      Thanks for commenting!

  11. The district I teach in has a serious case of initiative fatigue. An exercise like this could help us all find focus and reflect on what matters most. Thanks for sharing!

    1. What a description – I love that “initiative fatigue” – but I hate that you have that issue. Good luck!

  12. […] professional development session continues here. Yesterday you saw a fun activity with Instructional Strategies Brackets. Today’s post provides a window into “quality” of […]

  13. I read this one AFTER your March 7th post. I have another one to print! I am going to share this with principals next week when I meet with them. What a fun way to inspire teachers to talk about instructional practices. Thank you Fran.

    1. Melanie,
      and LEARNING!
      We MUST model this!

  14. […] then based on learning with Dave Burgess, Teach Like a Pirate, I shared the Instructional Strategies Bracket on Day 6 that Dyan Sundermeyer created and used to refocus attention on common strategies in a […]

  15. […] You can learn more about Instructional Strategies Brackets here. […]

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