As we finish up our DRA and prepare to report our students' ending scores, it is also important to ask ourselves what we can do with this information at this point in the year. It will be wonderful for next year's teacher to have the data, but we can also take steps with our students to ensure that this data is useful. Here are a couple of ideas to put the end of year data to work:
How can we put our other data to work?
On a different note...
Don't forget to check out all of the great Red Apple opportunities this summer. I've linked a few recommended classes below, but you can find them all at the Calendar of Sessions. Act quickly, because many are filling up!
With the fourth quarter officially upon us, assessment becomes a hot topic. Over the next 9 weeks, you will be engaged in all kinds of assessment: Smarter Balance, DRAs, AVMR, Words Their Way, and SLOs. These assessments are important, but they can overshadow the assessments that are happening all the time in your classrooms. The assessments that take place on a daily basis, that inform your instruction, that tell you where you need to go with your students - these are the assessments that truly matter.
Assessment can be thought of in two ways: assessment for learning and assessment of learning. Assessment of learning is when we give an assessment that is not used to inform our instruction. It is a summative assessment that tells us where a student ends. Assessment of learning has an important place in education, however, it seems to take up a bigger space in our psyche than is necessary. It really doesn't guide our instruction and isn't very useful to us on a daily basis.
The assessment that is most important to your teaching and to your students' development as learners is the assessment that qualifies as assessment for learning. These include the baseline data you gather throughout the year when you use the DRA to determine reading groups, AVMR to determine math groups, and Words Their Way to determine what sorts students need. Assessments for learning are also are those formative assessments that happen on a daily basis that help you determine if your students mastered the lesson or concept, if there are misconceptions that need to be corrected, if you need to slow down or accelerate the curriculum. Assessment for learning is your opportunity to receive immediate feedback as an educator. It is your opportunity to answer the questions: What do my students know? What do they need to know? How will I know they know it? What will I do if they do or do not get it? There must be student work, student data at the heart of these answers. Here are a few videos from The Teaching Channel with ideas to consider incorporating into your daily routines in order to gather that data:
As you look forward to your final quarter with your current class, think about how you can build those assessments for learning into your day. There is still time to make great impacts with our kids before gathering the final data.
On a different note...
Check out Red Apple courses coming up:
I've been taking the AVMR 2 course which is focused on the place value and multiplication and division assessments for the AVMR program. During our first day, our instructor, Jenni Scholla, showed us the video below of Ma and Pa Kettle trying to sort out a bill they owe using the algorithms for division and then multiplication. What ensues is a comedy act that isn't too far of a stretch from what many of our students do when given the standard algorithms without the proper understanding behind them. In searching for the Ma and Pa video, I also stumbled upon the Abbot and Costello video that demonstrates the same mathematical misunderstandings. These might be fun to watch yourself or share with your students. I bet there would be some good conversation about the errors in their thinking! Enjoy!
On a different note...
Top 10 Choice Mentor Texts - If you're looking for new books to add to your classroom library, check out this list from the Two Writing Teachers.
10 Math and Science Choice Mentors - Here is a list from the Two Writing Teachers focused on math and science mentor texts.
Energy and Calm: Brain Breaks and Focused Attention Practice - Check out this post from Edutopia with some ideas for brain breaks and focused attention practice. Great for those long indoor-recess days!
This week I was working with a teacher who wanted to get students to deepen their level of questioning when reading. The students were skillfully asking questions that helped them predict what might happen in the text, but this teacher wanted to get them going deeper - wanted to get them asking questions that would lead them to make inferences about the characters' motivations, the author's purpose, the greater themes in the book, etc. During our conversation I shared a protocol that I had come across on the blog A More Beautiful Question. The protocol is called "The 5 Whys".
The idea behind the process is that you can get to a deeper understanding of your initial question by asking "Why" five times. While this article shares examples from the business world, I don't feel there is any reason we can't apply the same reasoning to questioning in our classrooms. You could start with a question such as "Why did the character do that?" and go from there. The 5 Whys could also serve as an anticipatory set when launching a new unit of study. The more opportunities we build in for our students to engage in deep questioning, the better we will be preparing them for problem solving in the future.
Quoted below is the post "Ask Why 5 Times":
"I’ve known about “The 5 Whys” for a while (I mentioned the 5 Whys in my last book,Glimmer), but I was reminded of them recently by AMBQ collaborative team member Bill Welter. He wrote:
'Toyota shifted the Japanese car market in the 1980s with an emphasis on quality. Factory workers were encouraged to ask ‘Why?’ at least 5 times. The ‘5 Whys’ technique is still the foundation of quality programs around the world. (Too bad about the recent quality issues at Toyota—maybe they forgot to ask the questions that made them famous.)”
This process of asking 5 whys is not just applicable to making cars—it can be used in almost any type of creative endeavor. It can even be used to make sense of your own life. The design firm IDEO, which is a big practitioner of the 5 Whys methodology, offers this as an example of how asking 5 whys can help you dig down to a deeper truth.
One might ask, Why stop at five? Why not just keep asking why endlessly? The answer is that you will drive the people around you insane.
As you go forward with your instruction, consider using the 5 Whys technique of questioning to help your students dig deeper. Let me know how it goes!
On a different note...
Digital Text Bins - Ever wonder what to do with all of the digital text you accumulate throughout a unit? Want a way to organize your digital content so you can locate it in the future and make it easy for students to locate? Check out this post for some organizational ideas.
Here are a couple of management articles that might be of use to you at this point in the year.
Are You Making Your Most Difficult Student Worse? - This blog discusses how treating certain students differently, such as walking on eggshells around them, may have adverse effects.
How To Stop Misbehavior Before It Starts -
Above are the 8 Standards of Mathematical Practice laid out in the common core as practices that mathematically proficient students engage in. These practices are highly important in our instruction as they are at the root of the mathematical thinking our students should be learning to do. It is paramount that we as teachers know these practices in order to model them and encourage them in our kids.
It is likely that we are all at varying levels of comfort and expertise with the above practices. Some of us may have them all internalized and understand what they look like, some of us may have mastered a few, some of us may just be hearing about these for the first time. Wherever you are in your journey, there is room to grow.
Last week a document called "Implementing Standards for Mathematical Practice" was shared with me. This document is a rubric that helps you reflect on your work with the 8 Standards of Mathematical Practices in your classroom. There are two areas that you can self-assess: task and teacher. The task descriptors are primarily geared towards planning math lessons, while the teacher descriptors are geared towards what happens during and after a lesson. I encourage you to check out this document and see where you land. Maybe you'll find yourself excelling in certain standards and lacking in others. Maybe you'll realize you needed a clearer definition of the practices. Maybe you'll stumble on an area that will support your math instruction going forward. If anyone is interested in looking deeper into the criteria outlined in this rubric, please let me know. I'd love to support you in developing your understanding of and use of the mathematical practices in the classroom. These are at the root of what we are teaching and can help transform our math talk if kept in mind.
On a different note...
27 Helpful Martin Luther King Jr. Activities - Check out this page for a wide range of ways to address Martin Luther King, Jr. in your classroom this year.
As we dive head-on into our second semester I want to extend myself to each of you and remind you of what my role as an instructional coach entails. My day-to-day job varies greatly. I balance my schedule between meeting the needs of new teachers, consulting with principals for guidance on general whole-school professional needs, planning and leading professional development, meeting with curriculum coordinators and other coaches to guide the district towards consistency. attend grade-level collaborations, observing teachers and giving feedback, and much more. The best part of this job is helping teachers help their students! I love supporting teachers with planning lessons or units, analyzing assessments, observing and giving feedback, teaching demonstration lessons, and idea-sharing in order to grow professionally. Please know that I am here and available to work with each of you in any capacity. My schedule is posted, but is often very flexible. Do not hesitate to be in touch if you need support or simply want someone to bounce an idea off. I will do everything I can to make my schedule work for you.
Specific Ideas for Support
If you're like me, you want specifics on what exactly the instructional coach can help with. When something is too broad, it's easy for me to feel overwhelmed and like it maybe doesn't apply to me. So, here is a list of specific things (in no particular order) of ways I am here to support you.
Things to remember about instructional coaches...
If you're anything like me, you love learning about new games that can be used in your classroom. I'm always on the lookout for games that get kids thinking critically. Here are a few games you might want to ask for this holiday season.
Are there games you love to have on hand in your classroom? Share them in the comments section!
The holiday season is officially upon us. Thanksgiving is this Thursday and after that we have three short weeks until Christmas break. Below are some ideas to bring the holiday spirit into your classroom over those few weeks. Please feel free to share any other holiday ideas in the comments below.
Great Holiday Read Alouds - Check out this list of read alouds worth checking out during the holiday season. This link is in the form of a letter to parents and would be great to share with families for ideas for home reading!
47 Elf On The Shelf Classroom Escapades and Resources - Brighten up your December with these funny ideas. Elf On The Shelf can be employed as a fun and engaging management tool. This post provides ideas about how to set the elf up in the classroom, how to name it, and even what to do if a student touches the elf. If you're hesitant to use the elf, there are also alternatives ideas provided.
Persuasive Writing: Holiday vs. Holiday - This post is more appropriate for intermediate grades. It lays out a plan to write a persuasive essay about a holiday from the perspective of the mascot from another holiday. For example, Santa Clause writes his opinion on Thanksgiving, or the Easter Bunny writes about the 4th of July, etc. You could have a lot of fun with this.
Go Deep with Christmas Trees - Here is another neat idea. In this post, ideas for researching and exploring the history of the Christmas Tree are presented. Students can learn about topics such as the origin of the Christmas Tree, the evolution of holiday decor, famous trees throughout history, artificial vs. real trees, etc. A curious class could really run with this project!
I've had several conversations with teachers trying to incorporate more nonfiction text into their classrooms, whether through close reading, guided reading, read aloud, or independent reading. One of the frustrating things is finding nonfiction reading that is appropriate for our students. As adults, they will have access to a wonderful array of nonfiction that is both entertainingly constructed and highly informative. One solution to our woes is provided by The Nonfiction Detectives. This blog was created by two librarians named Cathy and Louise for the purpose of reviewing nonfiction books for kids. They have so many great resources. I encourage you to bookmark this blog.
Today, I want to share with you the information they shared from their post "The Nonfiction Detectives' Tips for Evaluating Nonfiction". In this post, they share their tips for evaluating nonfiction. These can be applied directly to the nonfiction texts you are using during your balanced literacy block. These tips could also be directly taught to students to use when they are evaluating nonfiction on their own.
First, ask yourself: WHAT TYPE OF NONFICTION IT IS? This will help you decide how and when to use it. You'll also be able to discuss text structure with your kids using the following categories. Notice, there are links to sample texts that represent each of these types.
Next, ask yourself: WHO IS THE AUTHOR? The following steps will help you determine if the text is of value or not. This is also a great step to model for your students when doing research and can even be applied to web-based research.
After that, ask yourself: WHAT ABOUT THE BACK MATTER? This set of questions guides you beyond simply the author's credentials, but gets you thinking about the research and the structure and whether the book is still useful without these.
Finally, run through the following categories to fully analyze the text:
These tips are great when selecting text for your classroom, especially if it is a close read that you'll be doing. There will be no perfect text, but at least you'll be analyzing what you are selecting to see whether it is appropriate, useful, or relevant. Please let me know how I can support your work with nonfiction instruction going forward. When you're ready to dig into some close reading or some nonfiction analysis, please be in touch.
On a related note...
Check out the images below for some sample charts that support nonfiction instruction.
I am an elementary instructional coach for the Sioux Falls School District.