To ensure the attainment of higher order thinking skills school wide, our school launched a campaign titled JOT It Down! JOT stands for Justify Our Thinking.
During a school-wide Professional Development session, our teachers met as department teams to write down every skill needed to succeed in their respective disciplines. The one skill each department had in common was justification, or having the ability to showing that an act, claim, or statement is just or right.
Developing scholars’ ability to justify their reasoning became our instructional focus, or the chief skill taught in all areas of our school. Our instructional focus acted as the guiding light as we developed specific learning and skills we would teach our scholars explicitly. As an instructional team, we created observation protocols to monitor the strategy in practice and a school wide assessment to evaluate the impact the practice had on scholar outcomes. Department Chairs and teacher teams continue to innovate their instructional approach and improve upon their teachings around justification strategies as we aim to achieve scholar mastery.
J.O.T. It Down! – Implementation and Monitoring
Our instructional practices in justification resulted from a collective effort to pull together all of our resources and teacher expertise. We had sought out to address a gap in scholar performance, based on their achievement data, and we stacked hands on the instructional strategy that would drive teaching and learning at APPNLA.
To build investment and authentic participation among all stakeholders, we created a campaign to promote the practice, and our mantra became JOT It Down! We posted banners, made and distributed t-shirts designed by our scholars, and we used our slogan until it was engrained in our culture of learning.
The phrase “JOT It Down!” is used to challenge scholars to expand on their thinking, elaborate on their responses, and to provide a justification for any claim they make. In fact, claims as basic as needing to go to another class require justification. In addition to the campaign, teachers regularly lesson plan with justification in mind, and both formative and summative assignments require that scholars demonstrate their ability to rationalize and explain themselves fully.
We monitor effective implementation with classroom walkthroughs. The walkthroughs help us ensure all classrooms are working to push scholars towards a mastery of the instructional focus. We coach and support our teachers to improve their abilities and to enhance the implementation of our instructional strategy.
We also elevate the impact of our practice with the implementation of a school-wide performance task. The performance task is a written assessment in which scholars are required to write in response to a given prompt while using the JOT It Down strategies. Our scholars complete a Performance Task twice a semester. Teachers grade their responses, they collect and evaluate the data, and teachers plan for intervention, targeted supports, and re-teach lessons according to scholar outcomes.