#210 – Educator Voices: Strategies and Best Practices for Teaching and Learning

Unpacking Education August 16, 2023 39 min

This episode is Part II of a four-part series featuring educator voices from the 2022 AVID National Conference. Each episode features interviews with teachers and school leaders. In this episode, our educator guests share their favorite AVID teaching and learning strategies. Their insights are both inspirational and practical.

Read a transcript of this episode.

Paul Beckermann
PreK–12 Digital Learning Specialist
Rena Clark
STEM Facilitator and Digital Learning Specialist
Dr. Winston Benjamin
Social Studies and English Language Arts Facilitator

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.

William Arthur Ward, motivational writer

Empowering Students Through Best Practices

One thing that you will likely notice when listening to the guests featured in this episode is their undeniable love for their students. These educators want the very best for the children they serve, and the strategies they bring to their classrooms help them to empower their students for future success.

This episode is packed with strategies that you can use in your classroom. In most cases, these strategies focus on building learning skills so that students can be successful in any future learning situation they encounter. Many of the practices center around AVID’s WICOR® strategies of writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization, and reading.

The following are some highlights from our interviews with educators from across the nation:

  • Jenny Piel, Instructional Coach, Lakeview Middle School, Greenville County Schools, SC: “AVID takes the best of everything that is offered to educators in general for our kids and builds on those—allows our students to grow in those areas.”
  • Mitzi Campbell, Principal, Kenneth D. Bailey Academy, Danville School District 118, IL: “We start with basic strategies, even just the organization piece. A lot of our students come from homes that are just discombobulated. . . . It’s just amazing to see when things are organized, when strategies are put in place, and routines are put in place, they just feel comfortable, and they feel safe. And so it takes it to that next level.” She adds, “Any teenager struggles with focusing for long periods of time, so we’re huge on brain breaks in our classroom. . . . And it’s just fun because it’s a quick way to get them engaged and reset themselves.”
  • Nicole Zaayer, Principal, Southwest Elementary School, Danville School District 118, IL: “One of my favorite AVID strategies is a strategy called Give One, Get One. And so I often see students in classrooms doing Give One, Get One, and one of the reasons I really love this strategy is because students are able to collaborate with their peers. And so oftentimes, in elementary school, kids are a little bit timid, or they struggle academically, and maybe sometimes they don’t understand the question that the teacher is asking in the lesson, and so Give One, Get One gives them an opportunity to collaborate with their peers to maybe feel a little bit more confident in what it is the teacher is wanting, and then they can feel more confident in their work.”
  • Georgette Sierra, District AVID Coach, Pulaski County Special School District, AR: “We are really pushing certain strategies to help with reading because that’s our lowest deficit area, so we did writing in the margins and marking the text. We started with marking the text, and now we’re building on that in our district schoolwide from K–12.”
  • Steven Bockover, Secondary Staff Member, Francis C. Hammond Middle School, Alexandria City Public Schools, VA: “One of my favorites is an AVID eBinder. I’ve been using a Google Slides template that was pitched to me. . . . What I really like is throwing our bell work in there. . . . I can post the bell work in the slide, click update. It automatically prompts for all the kids to update. It gets us going with bell work very quickly in the day.”
  • Teresa Gooch, AVID Elective Teacher, Hickman High School, Columbia Public Schools, MO: Teresa likes the Said, Means, Matters Framework for “getting kids to identify what’s said in the text, put that into their own words, and then explain why it’s important.” She adds, “I’ve used it in AVID, but I am really excited to have my kids learn that strategy in my content class because I think they can really apply it.”
  • Leeza Roper, English Teacher, Syracuse STEM at Blodgett, Syracuse City School District, NY: Leeza talks about integrating podcasting into her classroom. “I’m going to create a PBL out of it, project-based learning, because we’re a PBL school, AVID, and STEM school, and I think podcasting touches on all of those things.” She adds, “Now for the second semester, we’re going to go into more CTE, STEM, AVID, PBL with this podcasting project that I’m going to be implementing.”
  • Maya Waters, Elementary Teacher, Lincoln Middle School, Syracuse City School District, NY: “The AVID Claps, they love that. They go so hard for the AVID Claps, and they all want to do their own. . . . They’re just really into it, and it’s just really nice to see them applauding their classmates and actually getting excited for them to present.” Maya adds, “We use it if a student shares an answer that’s really outstanding, we’ll give them an AVID Clap. If they ever present anything, even something small, we’ll give them an AVID Clap, or some sort of celebration, so they feel appreciated. And if we see a student that they have all of their materials, or they’re just being an outstanding student like a role model for the class or school, we’ll give them a little cheer and just acknowledge them for what they’re doing.”
  • Christy Meier, Academic Coach, Stanley Switlik Elementary School, Monroe County School District, FL: “A favorite of all elementary children are the celebration cheers, and those are always a lot of fun. . . . The crowd favorite right now is the skydiver.”
  • Carmena Woods, Administrative Assistant, Tri-Cities High School, Fulton County Schools, GA: Carmena shares that a lot of teachers in her school like using the GIST strategy. “It’s one that can be used across all curricula. And with that, that strategy gives students the opportunity to think about what they’ve read and be able to gather their thoughts and give a response to what they’ve read in whatever subject area that is.” She sums it up, saying, “It’s kind of like a ticket out the door. . . . What is the GIST of the lesson?” This approach allows teachers to give immediate feedback and gain a quick assessment of what students know.
  • Anita Allen, Elementary Teacher, Thacker Avenue Elementary School for International Studies, Osceola School District, FL: “I like to use Hands Up, Stand Up, Pair Up. I use this activity or this strategy with students because they have a chance to get around, collaborate with other students, and I use it a lot of times with reviewing content in math or in reading.” She enthusiastically adds her overall feeling about AVID’s approach to learning, saying, “Everything’s possible with AVID. The strategies I use with second grade are wonderful, and second-graders love it.”
  • Heidi Ebel, Teacher, Mesa High School, Mesa Public Schools, AZ: “One strategy that I see really helped my ninth-graders is the focused notes. And really, the key piece there is going back and interacting with the notes and showing kids the benefits of that.” She adds, “They are actually getting to learn that strategy in my class, take it to their core classes, and watch their grades increase, and they’re getting pretty excited.” Key strategies include circling unfamiliar words, underlining key themes, and adding color to individualize it for them.
  • Shelby Wright, Teacher, North Dorchester Middle School, Dorchester County Public Schools, MD: “We have warm-ups every morning where the students write their own discussion, and we began practicing with the accountability talk strategy. We selected about five for the class, where we identify whether we agree with the statement because, we disagree with the statement because, a way that the students could improve, so this allows the students to be able to read another response and provide their own opinion for it as well, but they are also practicing how they can share their ideas respectfully and to assist their peers to better them and also better their own writing by their reading.” Shelby talks about the importance of scaffolding these skills. “At the beginning, we started with just a few strategies, so we would begin with the “I agree because…” or “I disagree because…” and then from there, we built onto those and added into them, and now they’re to the point where they can select which one they want to use.” She also uses sentence starters and sentence frames with this approach. She says, “Overall, it helped with their speaking and their writing.”
  • Whitney Prowell, Assistant Principal, Joseph Keels Elementary School, Richland School District Two, SC: “I love so many AVID strategies. They’re all just best practices, but my favorite is the Fishbowl. I really like using the Fishbowl strategy because it gets everyone engaged. It allows for some critical thinking. It allows for collaboration, especially when there is a pilot and a copilot, and they swap out, or they have opportunities to speak to each other. You can dig really deeply into different concepts when you’re using the Fishbowl. I like to use Fishbowl in my professional development with teachers and staff. I also like to see them use it with students, or I use it with students . . . when there’s an opportunity to have different perspectives or dig deep into text. I think the Fishbowl strategy can be used in so many different ways. It’s my absolute favorite.”
  • Angela Leonard, Secondary Teacher, Angevine Middle School, Boulder Valley School District, CO: “The whole WICOR thing is awesome, but I always talk to students about the ‘O’ being the longest letter in WICOR in terms of what’s in the ‘O.’” She says eBinders are “revolutionary” and that there are benefits of combining digital with paper formats. She says, “There’s just more options [with digital], and one of the things about paper is it’s hard to keep track of, and that’s one of the things we all struggle with. And one of the neat things I saw with the eBinder idea is . . . we’re still going to have paper, but digital can actually capture the paper and put it in the digital eBinder, so you can have both, and I love that. So for those paper people, you can still do paper, but for the digital people, there is a connection there, and hopefully, we’ll be able to continue connecting, and that’s the big piece with WICOR: connecting ideas and kids.”
  • Imani Thaniel, AVID Elective Teacher, Patrick Henry K–8 School, Alexandria City Public Schools, VA: Imani talks about her desire to “continue to WICOR-ize my learning, if you will, but make it so it’s blended—so I’m using technology, so I’m using face-to-face, so I’m using paper and pencil.”
  • Mary Grupe, Principal, Hickman High School, Columbia Public Schools, MO: Mary is working with her staff on maximizing the impact of Schoolwide Advisory to get AVID to be more building-wide.
  • Shannon Harsh, Teacher and AVID Coordinator, Wilson College Prep, Phoenix Union High School District, AZ: Shannon talks about the value of inquiry. “In my science classroom, it’s more about not knowing the answer all the time, so I use essential questions in everything. There’s an essential question for a lab, an essential question for an activity, an essential question for the unit, for the notes, for the day, for whatever, and it’s all about trying to figure out the answer to that essential question.”
  • Cameron Inouye-Ng, Teacher, Makalapa Elementary School, Aiea-Moanalua-Radford Complex Area, HI: “One of the biggest things for me is the organization, so I’ve been holding my kids really accountable this year through planners, desk checks, [and] binder checks, just so that they can have it all ready, and that way, there’s no miscommunication between me, the students, the students’ parents, and everybody else, and we can have everything set for them.”

Guiding Questions

If you are listening to the podcast with your instructional team or would like to explore this topic more deeply, here are guiding questions to prompt your reflection:

  • What is your favorite instructional strategy to engage students?
  • What is your favorite AVID strategy?
  • What new ideas did you pick up from this episode?
  • Which part of WICOR do you feel is most impactful?
  • What is a new strategy or approach that you’d like to try in your classroom?