Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Spy Photos

So, I was poking around in Jeana Turner's stuff, and look what I found: a little guided reading toolkit.

Let's see what's in here.
Jeana Turner's Guided
Reading Toolkit

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge. Mm-hm.

Comprehension Prompt Cards!

What!? MORE Comprehension
Prompting Cards?!

Oh, that seems fun.
One mini-crate per reader.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Hope for the Future

My second-grader took the initiative to create a standardized test for Kindergartners.

I discovered this as I stopped by the Art Table to peruse the latest creations. There on top sat a multiple-choice, bubbled-in test of four questions about Littlest Pet Shop in an eight-year-old's handwriting. She had administered the test to her six-year-old brother after instructing him to bubble in his answers completely.

After a quick data review, it became apparent that the six-year-old boy performs at the Proficient level when it comes to Littlest Pet Shop (LPS). He missed an Advanced score by one question, but—to be fair—there were only four questions on the test.
“What did you want this information for?” I asked the test creator.

She looked at me blankly. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, did you want to see what your brother already knew about Littlest Pet Shop? Did you want to know what he was ready to learn next? Was it a baseline assessment so that you could show growth in the future? Were you applying for grants?”

“No. I made these Littlest Pet Shop worksheets. If he passed the test, then he would win them.” She showed me the worksheets, which were small and resembled trading cards.
“Did he pass?”

“Yep,” she said.

“May I borrow your test?”

“Just bring it back.”

As I scanned the two-page test into my computer, I couldn’t help but marvel at what a great test it is. In the multiple choice options, the detractor choices are plausible; the correct answers are almost equally distributed among A, B, C, and D.

This gives me great hope for the future. So far, our daughter has told us that she wants to be a writer, an artist, and owner of a restaurant, and we have encouraged her to chase these desires. If she does all three simultaneously, she might earn enough to live in our basement. Perhaps she should consider writing state-mandated assessments; after all, the state of New York alone paid Pearson $32 million last year to produce a standardized test. If she writes test questions for Pearson, runs a restaurant, writes books of poetry, and sells her art, maybe we could live in her basement.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Pinterested in Literacy?

Batman and Robin Bambrey, of course!
Holy Pinterest, Batman!
Check out our very own Robin Bambrey's elementary literacy pinterests. Of course, you'll have to do that at home. Some things are too pinteresting for the school firewall.

(Thank you, Robin!)

Are You Having Fun Yet?

Word Study Games!

There are a bunch of ideas in the Words Their Way book, you can print off pre-made games online using your code in the back of the book, or you can make your own.

Our HCSchools/Literacy site has lots of blank game boards and a super-trendy spinner for you.

And...we can make stuff. If you want something custom made for you, leave a comment below or e-mail Jeff Paulson.

Game Boards (Look under "G" for Games)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Justifying Thinking

Check out this gem from Diane Huseman's class. Common literary themes are posted on the wall. After a read aloud is finished, students discuss in small groups which theme best describes the text.

The group comes to a consensus, writes out their declaration, and then--here comes the meaty part--they justify their thinking using evidence from the text. Each group shares out and a class determination is set; a miniature copy of the cover is posted under the categorical theme.

(Check out the Comp & Flu pages 232-234 about keeping a class record of read alouds, too!)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Word Study Resources

These resources are in your building! Ask your literacy coach!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Students Cite Evidence from Text

Citing evidence from a text is a big deal in Common Core and in Constructed Response Testing. I introduced some third graders to this idea a few weeks back as they were learning about genres. Students read an excerpt from "Tops and Bottoms", and then wrote a formulaic response to it. One student wrote:

"Tops and Bottoms" is a fantasy text. Fantasy storys include elements that are impossible. For example, the athr rote "I'm hungry," Bear said.

This author of this three-sentence text response did several things:

  • Made a claim: Determined the genre of the text.
  • Described the genre.
  • Cited evidence from the text to support the claim.
The student showed me:
  • That he understands the genre of fantasy.
  • That he can apply his knowledge of genre to a text.
  • What he applies regarding grammar and word knowledge.
  • That he can reference an anchor chart ("...include elements that are impossible").
  • That he can cite evidence from a text.
Now, we're ready to apply this skill at a deeper level! Oh-ho!

Check out this anchor chart from Jennifer Hartley's 5th-Grade class:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Holy Common Core Resources, Batman!

Have you seen the onslaught of amazing and free Common Core resources on the HCSchools site? Check this out:

  • Common Core Scoring Rubrics by grade level (I'm not making this up.)      [Getting ready for report cards, K-2?]
  • Student-Friendly "I Can..." Statements by grade level (I know you've seen these, but what if you lose them? Look! They're right here!)
  • An Alignment of Common Core Standards and the Literacy Continuum by grade level (This is absolutely true!)
  • Text Exemplars and Sample Performance Tasks (I know! Right?!)
  • Tons of cool things like Text Complexity Bookmarks, Qualitative Rubrics for looking at texts, and Essential Questions! (Crazy!)
These are all at > and then click on the Standards tab. (Or just click here.)

Standards Based Grading

I have gotten a lot of questions about the concept of standards based vs. traditional grading. Apparently, this concept is really throwing some people for a loop!
Here are the basics:

Traditional Grading System
Standards-Based Grading System
  1. Based on assessment methods (quizzes, tests, homework, projects, etc.).  One grade/entry is given per assessment.
  2. Assessments are based on a percentage system.  Criteria for success may be unclear.
  3. Use an uncertain mix of assessment, achievement, effort and behavior to determine the final grade.  May use late penalties and extra credit.
  4. Everything goes in the grade book - regardless of purpose.
  5. Include every score, regardless of when it was collected.  Assessments record the average - not the best - work.
  1. Based on learning goals and performance standards.  One grade/entry is given per learning goal.
  2. Standards are criterion or proficiency-based.  Criteria and targets are made available to students ahead of time.
  3. Measures achievement only OR separates achievement from effort/behavior.  No penalties or extra credit given.
  4. Selected assessments (tests, quizzes, projects, etc.) are used for grading purposes.
  5. Emphasize the most recent evidence of learning when grading.

Adapted from O’Connor K (2002).  How to Grade for Learning: Linking grades to standards (2nd ed.).  Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

NEW! Reading Room

Check out our new reading room! It comes with a promise: We will never link any article or recommend any book unless it is immediately applicable and interesting to read. (We can't abide a useless, boring text.) There are videos, too!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Why Benchmark?

In the kitchen, one window was cloudy and never looked clean. The other windows around it looked fine, so I replaced the cloudy one.

When the project was done, I stood back and admired my work. The new window is clear and beautiful. All the other windows now look a little occluded. The new window is the new standard. (Well, durn.)

It made me think of working with kids. Sometimes I have a student and it is obvious what he is ready to learn next. I also have had students read so well that I’m not sure what to do with them.

This is why I like having the Continuum. I don’t compare one student to another and make decisions based on the comparison. I notice what each student understands and can do. I use the Continuum of Literacy Learning to see what is appropriate for each student to learn next. It turns out, everybody has something to learn to help them be a little more strategic as a reader and a writer.

Everything is just a little bit clearer.

Monday, August 6, 2012

So...what is a report card for anyway?

Today, my mind was on report cards.

First I considered why we even have a report card. Well, for a parent (like me), it is a document that can bring feelings of excitement and pride; it can also cause great concern and frustration. Either way, it symbolizes a new opportunity for goal setting and reflection. What areas did my child do well in? What could they improve upon?

The primary purpose of producing this "document" is to provide parents with accurate, fair, and useful information about their child's academic progress. The report card is designed to give parents a clear message about what their children know, what they are able to do, and what they need to learn in relation to both the Tennessee and the Common Core State Standards. Students are evaluated based on their progress toward end-of-year standards. In other words, the report card updates parents on their child's progress in learning what is expected at that grade level by the end of the school year.

So long story short, we create a report card for parents.

Teachers don't need a report card. It is a single document. It is a "point in time" image or a "snapshot" of where students are. What teachers need are daily records of student progress. Teachers need anecdotal notes, checklists, running records, rubrics, etc. Teachers observe student behavior and make decisions about next steps. As a teacher, I have an enormous responsibility..... not to compare my students to other students in the classroom or to "grade" them using a Pass/Fail system. I am responsible for matching texts, matching tasks, and matching resources to individual students. I support my students from where they are (when they walk across the threshold of my classroom door) to meeting grade level standards and beyond. 

So, how do I do it? How to I avoid being a "grade-giver"? How do I really meet the needs of my students? I shared a passage with the Literacy Coaches today that I would like to share here: 
To look is one thing.
To see what you look at is another.
To understand what you see is a third.
To learn from what you understand is still something else.
But to act on what you learn is all that really matters.
That is how we do it. We look. We look at our students. Each and every one of them, each and every day. After we look, we do something with what we see. That is how we do it. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Hamilton County's Finest

This past Thursday and Friday I was privileged to stand along side some of the finest literacy experts in Hamilton County as we welcomed our newest K-5 teachers! With the PD room filled to capacity, we introduced these new recruits to the very best ways to support literacy in their other words, the Hamilton County Schools way.

From our Strategic Framework, to the Benchmark Assessment System, to the First 20 Days, we made sure that these teachers had what they needed to be successful. I was inspired by their excitement. I was in awe of the tremendous responsibility we have to create a literate society. I am truly looking forward to what the 2012 school year has in store!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Welcome New Teachers!

Normally, I'd say attending professional development in the middle of summer is like waking up in the middle of a great dream, or climbing out of the hot tub just to go jump in an icy pool. Today, we hosted training for teachers new to Hamilton County Schools, and--I don't know how the attendees felt--but I was pleasantly surprised. What a great morning! And, why wouldn't it be? I was in the company of 87 enthusiastic, professional  educators.

The Benchmark training went long, and only the primary samples were used; there wasn't enough time for the intermediate samples. One brilliant participant asked if the intermediate video clips were online and took extra copies of the running record home so she could practice before the year starts. Well, the videos are now uploaded in response to the request. (Thank you for asking.) See below for videos of Level O and U.

Whenever you are looking for something that you can't find, please let us know by leaving a comment here, by telling the coach in your building, or e-mailing Julie Legg, Jeana Turner, or Jeff Paulson. We'll get it here as quickly as we can.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Noticing Teacher

I’m proud to be a teacher.
During my first year of teaching, I realized very suddenly one day that I did not like the term “teacher”. It sounded like I was someone who foisted teaching on other people. It fell in the category of words in which the suffix twisted a verb into a person. Plumber. Baker. Designer. Roofer. They all do things to other things. The reason I did not like the term was that I did not like my own teaching. I had all the power, and I felt the students had none.
I was thinking about this while Irene Fountas was listening to some professional educators discuss a teacher’s performance as seen on video. These educators said things like, “The teacher posted the learning goals” and “The teacher certainly knew her material” and “The teacher has a fun, dramatic flair!” and “Obviously, the teacher carefully planned this lesson”.
And, Irene Fountas said, “Everyone is talking about what the teacher is doing. Did anyone notice the learners?” She elaborated: were they talking, creating, engaged? How would anyone know if these students understood the concept at hand? She continued, “This teacher could probably teach just as well if the students weren’t even there!” Thus began a wonderful and frank discussion. It’s not about the teaching anymore. It’s about the learning. What are the learners doing? What does that mean? What, then, needs to happen next?”
I have had the extreme pleasure of working with many teachers this year–teachers that really know their students as readers; teachers that are using the benchmarking kits to get detailed information about their students so that they can form instruction; teachers that are using the Continuum of Literacy Learning and all their years of experience to provide the most powerful education possible for each child; teachers that notice their students. These are teachers that make me proud of being a teacher.
Thank you!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Literacy Curriculum

In Hamilton County Schools, the literacy curriculum is: 
  • Teaching for Comprehending and Fluency +
  • The Continuum of Literacy Learning + 
  • You (the living curriculum).

In teaching reading, we really only have one goal: to develop strategic, independent readers. In teaching writing, our goal is develop independent writers who can communicate effectively. Our curriculum is entirely focused on realizing these goals.
  • BAS: a formative assessment tool that helps us learn about our students as readers; it’s primary goal is to find each child’s instructional level for our use in planning guided reading
  • CLL: What students need/are ready to learn; what to teach; what to look for/notice in our students’ learning
  • Comp & Flu: The “why” and the “how” of good literacy instruction
  • You: the professional; a noticing teacher; the one who notices student behaviors and abilities in literacy, builds on individual strengths, and develops strategic, independent readers
I found it interesting to learn that the CLL and the Comp & Flu initially were supposed to be one book, but they wouldn’t fit together in one binding. Each text is wonderful on its own but also incomplete.
Since these texts are now a significant part of our literacy curriculum (the other part being you), we will be focusing our professional learning more and more on these texts. I hope you are as thrilled about the arrival of this tool as I am! I wish I’d had it ten years ago.