2014 SIM Impact Award: Brooklyn Junior High School

Commitment to the Strategic Instruction ModelTM runs deep at Brooklyn Junior High School in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. The school, recipient of the 2014 SIM Impact Award, embraced SIM in 1987 and continues to build successful programs based on its interventions and instructional methods.

In the last few years, the school has renewed its focus on schoolwide literacy and the use of SIM to meet the needs of its highly mobile and diverse population. As part of this initiative, teachers embedded Content Enhancement Routines, the Proficiency in the Sentence Writing Strategy, and Makes Sense Strategies in core curriculum, and intervention classes taught additional Learning Strategies as needed.

As a result, everyone—administrators, staff, and students—are on the same page when it comes to instruction and learning.

“Students know what I mean when I ask them about the Frame, SLANT, inferences, or Unit Organizers and how it helps them learn,” says Kim Monette, principal. “I believe that is one of the most effective ‘litmus tests’ one can do as a leader: Talk to the students. Hear what they are saying.”

SIM in the classroom

Examples of SIM abound in Brooklyn Junior High classrooms. Here are just a few of the many ways in which the school uses SIM interventions:

  • The school’s English department (10 teachers) has used the Proficiency in the Sentence Writing Strategy for more than 15 years. It is a whole-class strategy embedded in the curriculum, and teachers believe it is the most effective way to teach this skill.
  • The English learner and special education departments (seven teachers total) teach Fundamentals in the Sentence Writing Strategy. The English learner department creates word walls—nouns in green and verbs in red—to help students begin to develop sentences quickly.
  • Nine teachers in the special education, English learner, and reading and writing lab intervention courses use Fundamentals of Paraphrasing and Summarizing and the Inference Strategy in their courses.
  • Science teachers use Unit Organizers for many of their units.
  • English teachers have developed Unit Organizers related to Common Core State Standards and report that the devices have been especially helpful in teaching students academic language, such as “textual evidence.”
  • The school has developed a variety of supports for teachers, including professional learning communities, which have been in place since 2006. Two literacy coaches help teachers embed SIM routines and strategies in their instruction. In addition, math and reading coaches teach at least two hours a day, keeping them tuned in to the classroom experience from a teacher’s perspective.

    “Our biggest challenges are time, time, and more time to have teachers collaborate, reflect on their work, and develop quality formative and summative assessments,” says Janet Jones, literacy coach and reading teacher at the school.

    Show me the data

    In addition to ensuring effective use of SIM interventions, teachers and administrators rely on data to guide their instructional decisions. School staff identified teaching students how to find main ideas in informational text as a priority in the fall of 2010. Since then, staff members in English, social studies, science, music, technical education, and family and consumer science have used the FRAME as a literacy tool to help students capture main ideas and details while reading a variety of texts and organize their ideas for writing. Data collected during this period showed a marked increase in the number of students able to identify main ideas proficiently after instruction in the Framing Routine—a 36 percent increase in 2010–2011 and a 35 percent increase in 2011–2012.

    From 2008 to 2011, the school steadily increased student proficiency and adequate yearly progress in reading and math, as indicated by Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment in Reading results. Subsequent results indicate the school has made significant progress in closing the achievement gap when comparing white students (25 percent of the student population) to students of color (75 percent). Significantly, Brooklyn Junior High made AYP in all categories.

    In addition, to graduate from high school, Minnesota students are required to pass the Minnesota Comprehensive Writing Assessment. In 2013, 91 percent of the ninth-graders at Brooklyn Junior High School passed this test.

    “The outcomes for students in Brooklyn Junior High are impressive, particularly given the diversity and, up until this year, high mobility rate of the student population,” says Patty Graner, KUCRL director of professional development.

    Flipping SIM

    One of the innovative practices undertaken by staff members at Brooklyn Junior High is the Proficiency in the Sentence Writing Strategy flipped classroom initiative.

    The school provided substitute teachers so that a special education teacher and seventh-grade English teacher could develop video versions of Sentence Writing Strategy lessons.

    Students received packets of lessons and were encouraged to watch the videos over and over.

    The blended, or flipped, classroom approach frees teachers to help individual students during class.

    “It was quite impressive to go into her class and see all the knowledge these students have about writing,” says Jones.

    Looking toward the future

    Far from being satisfied with the outstanding results they’ve achieved so far, Brooklyn Junior High staff members continue to look for ways to improve instruction through SIM. In the future, teachers, coaches, and leaders within the school want to integrate Unit Organizer and Course Organizer routines, the SMARTER planning process, and standards-based grading and instruction practices across departments.

    “SIM has a bright future at Brooklyn Junior High,” says Monette.


    Posted on Tuesday, February 17, 2015 in About Schools