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.