Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Latest and Greatest from PARCC

Even though we are still anxiously awaiting the release of the ELA end of the year (EOY) assessment, PARCC has been busy releasing and updating current online functions.  With the performance based test right around the corner here is the latest and greatest from PARCC.

Notepad is here! One of the newest features allows students to annotate as they read through the assessment. This tool has just been released, and is not part of the online tools tutorial. To access the notepad, click on the icon in-between the arrow and the X (question eliminator) on any of the practice tests. Students taking both the paper or computer based test will be able to use a scrap piece of paper, however it is worth having them practice using this tool when you can!

The Teaching Channel has created an excellent video that introduces Planning ELA Instruction with PARCC Tools. After viewing this resource you can download the ELA Performance-Based Assessment Task Flowchart. Finally, the Teaching Channel has released six videos used for analyzing and learning from sample PARCC assessment items. The videos and their links are posted below.

  1. Identifying Texts Worth Reading
  2. Connecting Texts to ELA Standards
  3. The Power of Pairing Texts to Demonstrate Standards
  4. Assessing Text Complexity
  5. Unpacking Sample Assessment Items
  6. Designing Purposeful ELA Instruction

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

MRA Conference and Aps and Selma.. OH MY!

The holidays are a distant memory, and it seems like everyone is back to work with an increased urgency and excitement. While this makes my job incredibly exciting, it also leaves me with A LOT of information I want to get out there- and every time I go to draft a blog, something new catches my attention. Blogger problems right?

Massachusetts Reading Association
The annual MRA Reading Conference is coming! The conference will be held on Thursday April 9th and Friday, April 10th at the Boston Marriot Quincy. This year's lineup has caught my attention. Keynote speakers include Georgia Heard, founding member of Teacher's College, children's author Jon Scieszka (Math Curse, Time Warp Trio) and Stephanie Harvey, author of Comprehension, Collaboration and Curiosity, 21st Skills that Matter, just to name a few. In addition to the keynote speakers, the workshops happening throughout the day will not disappoint. For more information, please check out their brochure or click here for a more detailed breakdown of events. If you have not done so, you can sign up here.
Apps and Appetizers
Another exciting event, hosted by the New Literacies Committee of the Massachusetts Reading Association is Apps and Appetizers. This event will take place from 5:00 - 7:00pm on Thursday, February 26th, at Tavern in the Square (Porter Square T Stop). Stop by with colleague to learn and share your favorite literacy apps with other techie literacy professionals. To register for what promises to be an exciting event, register here.
Hopefully, many of you have seen previews or the trailer for the movie, Selma; the true story of a three month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a campaign to secure equal voting rights, culminating in one of the most significant victories in the civil rights movement; the signing of Voting Rights Act of 1965. In and effort to spread knowledge and share this movie with others, 27 African-American business leaders created a fund promoting the viewing of this movie for 7th, 8th and 9th grade students free of charge. Spread the word! The following Greater Boston movie theaters will be offering this viewing opportunity for a limited time:
AMC Assembly Row 12
AMC Braintree 10
Apple Cinemas
Capitol Theatre
Regal Fenway Stadium 13
Showcase Cinema De Lux Legacy Place
AMC Loews Boston Common 19
For more information, click here

Monday, January 12, 2015

Promoting Writing Through Immersion

"As teachers it seems we have to spend a lot of time fighting against what our own educational histories have taught us  to believe. We were not taught to learn to write from writers." Oh, in high school and college we analyzed the texts of brilliant (if not mostly dead) writers, but we always did it as an end in itself. No one ever said to us, "Hey, you could try and write like Robert Frost if you want."
                                                                                                                    -Katie Wood Ray

With the shift to adaption of the common core and PARCC assessments, many educators have been talking about how to increase meaningful writing instruction in the classroom. Last week I worked with a literacy coach and our conversation was driven by writing instruction and the power of mentor texts and immersion. This week I wanted to focus on the immersion process and highlight a few resources I find helpful when educating and promoting this instructional practice.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, immersion is defined as, "Deep mental involvement". Applying this definition to literacy is exactly what the common core is screaming and what many teachers are now trying to do. In the writing world, this translates to immersing our students in literature and to authors in which they can learn and be inspired to write. Immersion provides students with an model to follow and think about. One of my favorite books to bring to elementary students in the writing workshop setting was Ezra Jack Keats, Snowy Day. Together my students and I would study Keats craft moves with a focus of what made his writing so interesting. Through our work together, students began to do just as Katie Wood Ray would suggest; they began to think as a writer. Only by doing this were they then able to internalize craft moves and try them out in their own writing.

Leah Mermelstein, a literacy consultant who came out of TC blogged about the "Top 5 Reasons to Begin Your Writing Units of Study with Immersion". What I love about this compiled list is that it quickly generates conversation and promotes the immersion process. This would be a great, quick promotional tool to bring to a professional development or PLC.

Another great resource I have come across is from the Noyce Foundation titled, "Genre Studies in the Writing Workshop". This 9 page article (don't let the 9 pages fool you, it is a quick and easy read) breaks down the entire writing process, really diving into the immersion phase. Additionally, it discusses different approaches to immersion such as "best guess gathering", "sifting and sorting" and "building a definition". Each section provides knowledge and information for what these practices are and how they can translate into the classroom.

If you had to purchase one professional book focused on student writing, I would highly recommend Katie Wood Ray's book, Wondrous Words: Writers and Writing in the Elementary Classroom. Ray's easy to read book focuses on stories from the classroom, and student writing samples to help explain in practical terms how students can learn to become better writers through reading. Terms such as "reading like a writer" and "craft studies" all present themselves in this book. In addition to the research and philosophy behind Ray's work, the book offers practical advice from how to set up writing workshop, selecting mentor texts and information on writing conferences in the classroom.