Will Remmert

Will Remmert is an elementary principal in Minnesota. He has over 15 years of experience as a teacher and administrator at both the elementary and secondary levels. He played an integral role in the success of Washington Elementary School.

How Kids WIN Systematically

 

            My experience as a teacher was amazing! I loved teaching, my colleagues, my families, and my students; but I wish I could have a complete redo on my time in the classroom. Regrettably, as a teacher I never had the opportunity to function within a Professional Learning Community. Sure, I had amazing colleagues who became life-long friends. Yes, they were willing to share their “things” that worked for their kids in their classrooms. I definitely was able to get to know “their kids," just as they were able to get to know “my kids” because we shared them for periods of time throughout the week. We even shared data! If you’re reading this and thinking, “Why is Will suggesting he didn’t function within a PLC?”, let me explain.

            My teaching colleagues are friends to this day. They definitely shared many things with me and helped me grow as an educator, but if we were to have functioned as a PLC, we would have shared instructional strategies, not just worksheets and bulletin board borders. If we were a PLC, we would have shared kids across the grade-level or school, based on their needs, and with the teacher that is most likely to meet the needs of each child– not sharing kids primarily on departmentalization or because I LOVED teaching Minnesota History! If we would have been a PLC, we would have shared data in a systematic and timely manner to improve our instruction and the learning of our kids, not because we all had to fill out the carbon-copy report cards for the subjects we taught to their kids; for those of you who are unfamiliar with carbon-copy report cards, talk to a colleague that is over 40.

            In the Solution Tree book series, It’s About Time (2015), I had the privilege of contributing a chapter titled “Looking in the Mirror.” In the second chapter, I describe the systematic process we designed and implemented at Washington Elementary to meet the needs of our students, called What I Need Time, or, WIN Time. This systematic process, scheduled within the school day for each grade level (similar to lunch and preparation time), has been replicated and enhanced at my present school, Eagle View Elementary with New Prague Area Schools. 

            WIN Time is a 30-minute block of time and process that works within the Professional Learning Community structure to address the Three Big Ideas of a PLC (DuFour, et.al, 2016, pgs. 11-12):

1.      A Focus on Learning

2.      Collaborative Culture and Collective Responsibility

3.      A Results Orientation

            WIN Time is intended to focus on questions three and four of the Four Critical Questions of a PLC (pg. 36):

1.      What knowledge, skills, and dispositions should every student acquire as a result of this unit, this course, or this grade level?

2.      How will we know when each student has acquired the essential knowledge and skills?

3.      How will we respond when some students do not learn?

4.      How will we extend the learning for students who are already proficient?

            Our students WIN when we can guarantee that all students have mastered, at a minimum, the grade level expectations. WIN Time is our structure and process designed to target students who identify with Critical Question #3 in a specific skill, as defined by our collaborative teams (Critical Question #1), and tied to state standards. There is a key component to addressing the needs of our students who have yet to show proficiency in a skill. It makes WIN Time effective and should be considered a logical step, yet is frequently missed. This component is:

Data is COLLBARORATIVELY analyzed and students are retaught by the teachers who have shown to have been most successful in their initial, or Tier I instruction; not necessarily by the same teacher or in the same manner.

            WIN Time is also an important structure for our students who identify with Critical Question #4. This group of students, in traditional schools, are given packets of work to complete, asked to tutor students who aren’t meeting proficiency, or are told to quietly read a book while the individual teacher is laboring to figure out how to meet the needs of the kids that are struggling. In a school that utilizes WIN Time, students who have mastered Critical Question #1 aren’t asked to put their learning on hold to wait for others to catch up, they are provided opportunities to deepen their knowledge. 

            A key message I’d like people to recognize when considering exploring the implementation of WIN Time is that students are flexibly grouped on a skill-by-skill, student-by-student basis on a WEEKLY basis. When students have demonstrated mastery of a skill, they are provided the opportunities to deepen their knowledge just as those who were able to demonstrate mastery the first time around. This is NOT tracking. Students should move in and out of groups dependent on their most current need.

            My years as a classroom teacher were professionally amazing, and I believe I was relatively successful in meeting the needs of my students; but I know I wasn’t successful in meeting the individual needs of ALL my kids. There was no question that my colleagues and I loved our kids and did our individual best to help them learn, but in order to effectively ensure learning for all, we needed to collaborate for their benefit and share strategies AND students across the grade level to effectively target their needs. There is no way that any individual teacher can possibly meet the needs of all students, every single day, in every subject – but when we collaborate as a team around the individual needs of our students, we create a systematic structure where our students will WIN.

 

References:

Buffum, A. G., & Mattos, M. (n.d.). It's about time: Planning interventions and extensions in elementary school.

DuFour, R., DuFour, R., Many, T., Mattos, M., & Eaker, R. (2016). Learning by doing: A handbook for professional learning communities at work. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Comments

Will Remmert

Dylan -
Thank you for your interest and I apologize for just seeing your question.

Great questions! The most important thing, after identifying what kids need to know and be able to do and the assessment process, is the dedication of your team to collaborate with one another to identify the students that need additional time and support, as well as extending the learning for those who have mastered it. When your team is committed to meeting the needs of ALL students, WIN Time has a fighting chance!

Answering questions 3 & 4 can feel impossible when teachers attempt to do this work individually - WIN Time provides the organizational structure to chunk students together by learning targets that haven't been met across the team, and with the teacher most likely to meet their needs. WIN also provides the structure to have students dig deeper into learning.

How do you start? Because your team is dedicated to the learning of all students - the culture has been established - now it becomes a matter of scheduling WIN into the master schedule, similar to the literacy and math block. If we are dedicated to meeting the needs of, at a minimum, 80% of our students in Tier I instruction in the literacy and math blocks, then it is critical that we schedule time above and beyond dedicated to providing more opportunities to learn when kids don't get it the first time, just as we schedule specialists/lunch/etc.

In my experiences leading schools and implementing WIN Time, it starts off UGLY - it is not easy, and feels like more work - be prepared for this! However, once students and teachers begin feeling success, things begin to take off. At the end of each school year, I ask my teachers if they believe we should continue WIN Time for the following year - in every situation and every year, the teachers believe they would be unable to effectively meet the needs of students without WIN.

Big picture - Think BIG, start small. If you have the dedication to one another to ensure
learning for all, you've scheduled the time into your day just as you would for the other core subjects, and you tackle the organizational shift in small bites, you will succeed.

Let me know if you have further questions or if I can help in any way!
Will
willremmert@gmail.com

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Dylan McHenry


Hello Mr. Remmert,

As a first year teacher, I have been blessed to work with colleagues like the ones that you have mentioned above. We are friends and we share materials that we like with one another. However, we are also beginning to wonder what it would be like if we were able to do more for the sake of our students. We have discussed differentiating students so that the needs of every student are met but we have yet to implement a strategy. It is easy to say that we do not have time to incorporate WIN into our schedule, but if I am more honest I think it is because I often strive to make sure that critical questions 1 and 2 are completed for each student before questions 3 and 4 are even considered. I understand that this is not effective practice but it is difficult to enrich some students while working to provide instruction for students who are struggling to demonstrate proficiency.

If we were able to implement WIN time, then students would have their needs met on a frequent basis which would ensure that they make progress throughout the entirety of the school year. Additionally, a stronger school community would be established when students learn from and establish connections with other teachers in their grade level.

With these reflections in mind, I have a question for you. What is the best way to begin implementing WIN in my grade level? I know that each teacher is struggling to ensure that critical questions 3 and 4 are answered. Furthermore, how do we ensure that WIN sticks to a weekly timeline to meet the most current needs of students? Thank you for your feedback.

Dylan M.

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