Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Learning From Student Work

I hope that everyone is enjoying some much deserved time off with family and friends. In the spirit of being thankful, this week I would like to give thanks to you…. the teachers, school leaders and administrators. Your dedication to your students, staff and school is what creates promise for the generations to come. Thank you.

As we move into December, educators know their students. They have assessed, are progress monitoring, and continue to push their students to engage in new content. One protocol teachers can bring to PLCs or grade level meetings is Learning from Student Work. What I love about this protocol is that it gives educators a time to engage with each other in professional dialogue around instruction. Before looking at two resources, take a look at the Teaching Channel’s video of educators engaging in this practice.

Atlas’ Learning from Student Work protocol is featured on the National School Reform Faculty website. This resource serves as a tool to guide teachers in discovering what students understand and how they are thinking. The protocol takes about one hour, if followed closely and provides educators an opportunity to really dive into one students work in order to analyze their learning and understanding. What comes out of this conversation are misconceptions, next steps and reteaching opportunities.

Many times teachers engage in the routine of learning from student work. However, educators can bring this practice back to the classroom in a different way. Examining Student Work: A Constructivist Protocol invites students to join in on the conversation. In this protocol, students undergo a “self assessment” with the ultimate goal of generating insights and increasing student investment in their work. Why not provide students the opportunity to reflect with the hopes of increasing their engagement and investment?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Reading, Technology and PARCC

Whether or not your school district is taking PARCC this year, we know that our state assessment will undergo a makeover. In order to prepare for the next generation of assessments, this week's blog will be highlight two resources that offer content and integration of the ELA Frameworks (Common Core) integrated with technology, as well as a recently released document from PARCC. 
In case you were not aware, PARCC has released  K-2 and 3-11 Content Model Frameworks in both ELA and Mathematics. These frameworks (aligned to the Common Core State Standards) were developed to help educators pace and clarify areas of emphasis in each grade. Additionally, the recently released K-2 frameworks serve as a guide for educators as they develop formative tasks to help inform instruction and provide data as to how their students are doing in mastering the standards.

As districts shift to PARCC, educators will be requiring students to read, annotate and analyze online. In order to provide students opportunities to feel comfortable there are two resources I would like to spotlight.

StudySync is a grades 4 - 12 service with an extensive library of classic and contemporary literature as well as hundreds of poetry, short story, speeches and nonfiction contemporary texts. The product provides an annotation and highlighting tool allowing students to access texts and media clip online. This is a purchasable resource that offers a 60 day trial for educators.
Diigo is another online resource which allows you to access a wide array of informational and fiction texts. Similar to StudySync, Diigo allows students to highlight, annotate and use sticky notes when accessing a text. All texts are saved on the cloud, allowing students to save their work and access it from home, or at school. Additionally, students can send their notes and thinking to others- a nice feature for small group and even as a check-in for teachers. Diigo has multiple levels of subscription. The basic allows access to parts of the digital library. As in any resource, the more you pay, the more you get.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Accessing Complex Texts in Middle School

Over the past few weeks I have spoken with middle school educators around how to help students who are not reading on grade level access complex, grade level texts. Over the past years we have seen a slight rise in Lexile Levels, an increase in ELL students and a growing gap in grade level demands. Additionally, many educators believe that foundational reading skills are taught during elementary school years, moving us away from strategies and into content as students reach middle school. This week I would like to provide a few thoughts and resources to address this growing problem.                             

If you are a middle school teacher, there is a Model Curriculum Unit gem hidden amongst the units online. The unit is called Starting Complex Text Mini-Unit and was designed to explicitly teach strategies students need in order to comprehend and discuss a longer text. It was written using the 5th grade text, Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. Don’t let the 5th grade book fool you. What you will find inside this unit are differentiated reading options for struggling students. These include instructional practices such as paired reading, using an audio version of the text, or creating small groups. As you reading through the individual lessons, educators will find even more differentiated options and ideas.  What I love about this unit is that is follows the thinking of providing students in Middle with explicit reading instruction that is differentiated to meet their needs.

I am a big believer in the power of academic conversations around a complex text. I find that providing students’ opportunities to share their thinking allows a deeper interaction for the students to analyze and internalize texts, themes and big ideas. Recently the Teaching Channel released a new video and the accompanying teaching and instructional materials around deepening text analysis through student talk. In this video you will be transported into a 6th grade classroom where the teacher, Viet-ly Nguyen sets expectations for the assignment. You can see how she takes time to lay ground rules around talk through a participation protocol. Additionally, she speaks about planning questions that are debatable or have multiple answers and reasoning to enhance overall comprehension for her students. By setting the stage, she is putting them in control of their learning. Additionally, Nguyen speaks about pairing ELL or struggling students with stronger students in order for them to hear the academic language and fluency in the classroom. This video can be used to help inform teachers of what an engaged conversation looks like, and the planning which coincides in order to make the lesson a success.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Writing in Action

Writing in Action

Many educators are still addressing the increase in writing about text with the implementation of the 2011 ELA frameworks. This week I wanted to highlight two different resources for educators to reference as they address the need to increase writing within the curriculum.

Educators, parents and students often ask, “What does good student writing at this grade level look like?”
The answer lies in the writing itself.
This ESE derived project came out of the need for educators to have access to exemplar samples of grade level student work to help inform their teaching. On this site, educators can currently find writing samples of students in grades 2-8 for opinion/argument, inform/explain and narrate assignments. This project is currently a “work in progress” as they are requesting educators submit samples from their classroom. Their ultimate goal is to provide exemplars for grades K-12 in writing categories of argument/opinion, inform/explain and narrate. These exemplars are accompanied by teacher commentary and reasoning of what teachers should look for in high quality student writing. These samples are not only informative for teachers as they think about their own student writing, but can serve as student exemplars for educators to use within their classroom as instructional tools. is another website filled with samples of exemplar student writing along with annotation for educators and the original writing prompt. As I have probably referenced in a previous lesson, Achieve the Core also houses hundreds of lessons aligned to the common core standards. This website houses more student exemplars, teacher comments and prompt information when compared to the Writing Standards in Action website.

What I love about these resources is that both offer authentic examples of student writing. They offer teacher insight into what exemplar grade level writing should look like, and can also be used as models and teaching points within classrooms.