district header logo
Professional Learning and Mentoring
Professional Development in the Department for Learning

In an effort to increase student achievement this year, District 33 teachers and staff will be involved in several trainings to increase their effectiveness as teachers. As part of our long range plan for increasing the expectations of our curriculum for students, we are also increasing professional development of all of our teachers. This year teacher trainings will focus on the following areas:

  • Kagan Cooperative Learning – To ensure high levels of student engagement in the classroom
  • Marzano’s Academic Vocabulary – To build student’s academic vocabulary

What is professional development?

Sometimes called staff development, professional development is the term used to describe a variety of opportunities to continually learn, update and improve the knowledge and skills of any professional.

Why do parents need to know about professional development for teachers?

Teachers and parents are the adults who have the most impact on children and how well they learn. As a parent, you need to know about the changes in your child’s classroom: the new learning expectations; the plans that the school has for helping teachers continually improve their practice; and the effects of these plans on your child's education.

What is the benefit for your child?

As you may know, the State of Illinois adopted new state standards for Math and English Language Arts in grades K-12; they are The National Common Core Standards. Standards are skills that students need to learn at each grade level in order to graduate high school prepared for college courses and the workforce.For children's learning to meet the new standards, their teachers must continually monitor and adapt teaching methods. Professional development provides teachers with the skills and knowledge that are critical for continued effectiveness in teaching students the new education standards.

What can parents, students and community members expect?

Generally speaking, you may not notice any dramatic or immediate changes in your child's day-to-day classroom experience. However, you will ultimately notice the improvements in education because of the higher expectations for both learning and teaching.

Possible changes you might notice:

  • Substitutes in the classroom - Your child may come home from school and tell you that a substitute teacher was in the classroom. Just as in the business community, many training sessions and workshops are only offered during the regular workday. This may mean that from time to time your child's regular teacher may need to be away from the classroom in order to attend a workshop that will improve her/his ability to teach your child. Your school district will provide qualified substitute teachers for these few situations.
  • Staff observing teachers - If you visit your child's classroom, you may notice other educators in the room. These professionals may be involved in observation and evaluation of the teacher's skills. Often, teachers learn best from other teachers who are creatively applying new teaching concepts in an actual classroom rather than in a workshop or seminar. So, while students are learning academic content from the teacher, the adults are learning new content, teaching methods, and practices from each other.
  • Changes in tradition - As your child's teacher learns new, exciting and effective ways to help your child learn, you or your child may notice a midyear change in the teacher's practice. Helping your child adjust to any changes will ensure that he/she will benefit from the teacher's new skills and knowledge. If you have an older child who had the same teacher years prior, you may notice differences in the way that the teacher handles a variety of instructional or classroom situations after participating in additional professional development.

What will be the effects on student learning due to the following teacher training in District 33:

  • Kagan Cooperative Learning - As teachers become proficient in student engagement, students should feel that they have more opportunities to interact in the classroom. Learning is more fun and meaningful to students in this environment.
  • Marzano’s Academic Vocabulary Development - As teachers become proficient in incorporating academic vocabulary in their instruction, students will learn how to connect new words to deepen their understanding while reading in science, social studies, or math.

If you have any questions about District 33’s goals for professional development, please contact your building principal.

What is Academic Vocabulary Instruction?

Academic vocabulary is the words critical to understanding the content taught in schools. In identifying academic vocabulary for instruction teachers must remember that not all words are of equal importance.

  • Some words are critically important.
  • Some words are useful but not critical.
  • Some words are interesting but not useful.

District 33 Staff developed a “draft” list of academic vocabulary words that students are expected to understand and use at each grade level. You can find the “draft” list on our web site.

Why teach Academic Vocabulary?

According to Dr. Marzano (2005) the strongest action a teacher can take to ensure that students have the academic background knowledge to understand the content they will encounter is providing them with direct instruction in these words. When students understand these words, it is easier for them to understand the information they will read and hear in class.


Vocabulary assessed in first grade predicted over 30% of reading comprehension in 11th grade (Cunningham and Stanovich, 1977).

While four encounters with a word did not always improve reading comprehension, 12 encounters did (McKeown, Beck, Omanson, and Pople, 1985).

One of the most critical services a teacher can provide, particularly for students who do not come from academically advantaged backgrounds, is systematic instruction in important academic words (Marzano and Pickering, 2005).

The same student placing at the 50th percentile in reading comprehension, with no direct vocabulary instruction, placed at the 83rd percentile when provided specific instruction in academic vocabulary (Stahl and Fairbanks, 1986).

ELL Students and Academic Vocabulary

Marzano and Pickering (2005), emphasize the importance of teaching ELL academic vocabulary in a systematic approach. They suggest that vocabulary programs that emphasize high-frequency words fail to provide the background knowledge needed for student success in the content areas. Students learn high-frequency words through wide reading of fiction and informational text.

Six step process for teaching Academic Vocabulary

The process of teaching Academic Vocabulary includes six steps. The focus of steps 1-3 is on introducing new words and steps 4-6 offer ways to review the words providing students with deeper knowledge.

Step 1. Teacher provides a description, explanation, or example of the new term. If working with ELL students the teacher should first provide the description in the native language and a visual representation of the word.

Step 2. Teacher asks students to restate the description, explanation, or example in their own words. ELL students may write their definition in their native language.

Step 3. Teacher asks students to construct a picture, symbol, or graphic of the term. This activity is critical for ELL students.

Step 4. Teacher engages students every other week in fun activities that help them add to their knowledge of the words.

Step 5. Every other week teacher asks students to discuss the words with one another.

Step 6. Once a week the teacher involves students in games that allow them to play with the words.


Cunningham, A. and Stanovich, K. (1977). Early reading acquisition and its relation to reading experience and ability 10 years latter. Developmental Psychology, 33, 934-945.

McKeown, M., Beck, I., Onanson, R., and Pople, M. (1985). Some effects of the nature and frequency of vocabulary instruction on the knowledge and use of words. Reading Research Quarterly, 20, 522-535.

Stahl, S. and Fairbanks, M. (1986). The effects of vocabulary instruction: A model-based meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 56, 72-110.

Marzano, R. and Pickering, D. (2005). Building academic vocabulary: Teacher’s manual. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

What is KAGAN Cooperative Learning?
When students are engaged, they pay attention, they're motivated, they learn more, and the learning sticks. If engagement is the key to good instruction, then why doesn't every teacher actively engage all students? Great question! The answer: Most teachers lack the practical tools they need to make high levels of student engagement a daily reality. By no fault of their own, teachers learned tradi-tional methods, and many are simply unaware of an easier and more effective approach. We want to start a TEACHING REVOLUTION and introduce you to the power of KAGAN structures! KAGAN structures distill the best of educational theory and research into very specific, easy-to-use teaching strategies. Mediocre teachers become good. Good teachers become great. And great teachers—well, they're already using KAGAN structures.
What is CLIMBS (Content and Language Integration as a Means of Bridging Success)?
CLIMBS (Content and Language Integration as a Means of Bridging Success), is a course designed to raise awareness of the needs of English language learners and foster collaboration among ESL/bilingual and general education/subject-area teachers with the aim of supporting the academic success of ELLs in school and beyond.

The purpose of the course is to help school staff better meet the needs of ELLs by:

  • providing a space in which educators can collaborate on classroom instruction and assessment for ELLs;
  • helping educators integrate content and language standards; and
  • acquainting educators with research-based practices that support the learning of ELLs.

The course is offered by District 33 facilitators, then trained and authorized by WIDA. Authorized facilitators offer the course to school teams of ESL/bilingual and general education teachers. The semester-long course includes face-to-face and online workshops.

Language acquisition research, a sheltered instruction model, the WIDA ELP Standards, and state content standards are the foundational pieces of the course, along with one textbook. Teachers use student data from the ACCESS for ELLs® test and other assessments, ELP and content standards, and peer observation to inform instruction.

Interested in attending, contact:

Amie Correa or Kate Baker
West Chicago District 33 CLIMBS Training Cohort
What do parents need to know about professional development in District 33?
© 2015 West Chicago School District 33 | 312 East Forest Avenue, West Chicago, IL 60185 | Phone: 630.293.6000