Thursday, April 30, 2015

on your mark book study

Before we get into the conversation, here's how you participate in this virtual book study: Write a post about the book on your own blog. Link your blog post with mine below, and then read and comment on at least three other posts!

Now that that's out of the way, so glad you could join me for the On Your Mark Book Study! This book makes a case for Standards-Based Grading (SBG). The authors argue that this system is better for learning than the traditional grading scales that we may be used to from our days as a student.

What does SBG look like? Her's how I've come to understand it in the past six months: rather than having a traditional 5 grade (A, B, C, D, F) or 100 point (via a percentage grade) system, a SBG scale would have fewer, usually four indicators for describing learning: Exemplary, Proficient, Progressing, and Beginning. To grade an assignment with SBG, a rubric is needed to name indicators at each of the four levels, sometimes in one category, sometimes in a few. Take for example the rubric below. It was created by third grade teachers to assess student learning of CCSS RI 3.2: Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.

When you grade in this way, students might receive multiple grades for one standard - maybe they can name the main idea and use key words and score in the exemplary (4) category, but for details, they demonstrate work at the proficient level (3). The point with these rubrics is that teachers have defined indicators that demonstrate mastery towards the standards and students have a path toward exemplary work.

So with that being said, here are just a few of my thoughts about the text so far. I'll share a few quotes that stood out to me and then briefly discuss why I thought they were so powerful.

Few educators at any level today have any formal training on grading and reporting. Undergraduate courses in education rarely include in-depth discussions of grading. Graduate courses seldom explore the topic. And aside from sessions designed to help teachers learn how to use newly adopted grading software and online grading programs, professional development experiences hardly ever consider grading issues. As a result, school leaders and teachers typically know little about the different grading methods, the advantages and shortcomings of each, or the effects of different grading practices on students. (Brookhard, 2011a; Brookhart & Nitko, 2008; Stiggins, 1993; Stiggins & Chappuis, 2011) p. 10

The reason this stood out to me is that until SBG, I had never even thought that there might be different ways to grade. I never discussed this in Undergrad or Grad School, or with my colleagues. I guess it was just assumed that we all knew how to grade and make it reflect student learning. The more I come to understand about SBG, the more I see the grading I used to do as nonreflective of student learning. Not to say that my grades never reflected student learning - but definitely not to the extent it would today. Even as I teach my grad school classes now, everything is on a rubric. Every part of the papers I require give specific details to reach exemplary work. (Well, the first draft of my rubric isn't as good as the second, and the third version is going to be even better!) It's important to also keep in mind that it's a process, and developing sound rubrics takes time! (Unfortunately you usually don't realize the rubrics aren't working until you're grading the papers!)

Figure 2.1 shows a comparison between the typical letter grading scale and the percentage grading scale. Nearly two-thirds of the percentage grade scale describes levels of failure! is it necessary to distinguish this many levels of failure? Is it helpful to students? Does any teacher consider percentage grades in the 50s to denote modest failure and those in the teens or 20s  to represent more significant or extreme failure? Are unsuccessful students concerned about which of the sixth different levels of failure they achieved? (p. 27)

Prior to reading this book, I had never considered another way to think about grades, but yes, it's true! Why do we need all those levels of failure? I think it's because I've been having conversations about SBG for upwards of six months now, and I'm already sold, but having Guskey say it like this, and with the graphic below - I'm just left to wonder....Why? SBG makes so much better sense!

Many educators assume that because the percentage grading scale has one hundred classification levels, it is more precise than a scale with just a few levels (such as Excellent, Satisfactory, and Poor). But in the absence of a truly accurate measuring device, adding more gradations to the measurement scale offers only the illusion of precision.... In other words, with more levels, more students are likely to be misclassified in terms of their performance on a particular assessment. (p. 28-29)

Even when I was using a percentage scale to grade work, I usually didn't have a rubric. I was marking items right or wrong and then calculating a percentage to determine a grade to put in the books. Now that we are using rubrics to give students clear learning targets and for ourselves to give quality feedback, I can see that less is more. You wouldn't want 100 levels of proficiency! It would be too much! Even thinking of a gradient, say, for the levels of reading, perhaps Fountas and Pinnell's levels? There are 26 - I know I would have to look at the Continuum of Literacy Learning to know the differences between a level M reader and a level N. So, for creating rubrics to determine student progress, four levels seems perfect!

Guskey goes on to say,
By limiting the number of grade categories to four or five through an integer grading system, educators can offer more honest, sensible, and reliable evaluations of students' performance. (p. 33)
When combined with the common practice of grade averaging, a single zero can have a devastating effect on a student's percentage grade. The overall grade is unfairly  skewed by that one, atypical low score. To recover from a single zero in a percentage grade system, a student must achieve a minimum of nine perfect papers.... Ironically, the true culprit in this matter is not minimum grades or the zero - it's the percentage grading scale. (p. 31)

This just really struck me because of the fact it would take nine - NINE - perfect papers to recover from a zero. I knew zeros did damage, but I guess I had never thought about just how much! There was a student in my grad school class who just did not do one of the two papers that was required. Everything else about his performance was great, and he would have had an A in the class. But, with that zero, he ended up with a C. I can see how detrimental the zero is.

Like Guskey said, the real problem is the system of grading. Of course there are times when a child does not submit assignments, but then the teachers are unable to provide feedback because we have nothing to look at. With a SBG system, it is our job to get the work from the child, so then we can evaluate their learning.  I think this is a huge takeaway for me. SBG is always asking the question, What did the child learn?

So that's all for me today! We'll see you back in two weeks for our next post on chapters 3-6! Can't wait to hear about what you thought!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

lightbulb moment

So there I was, working on comprehension with one of my little fourth grade kiddos. We're working on reciprocal teaching / thinking processes - this week predicting, but then we'll move on to summarizing, questioning (and one more strategy that is slipping my mind right now).

I'm trying to get her to understand that Reading is Thinking. Let me say that again, Reading. Is. Thinking. When I taught middle school kids, I swear, this was the broken record saying always on repeat in my classroom, on my anchor charts, and peppered in my conversations with kiddos.

We began this awesome book from the Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) System - Hodja and the Robber. It's a classic tale from Turkey, and the main character, Hodja, isn't that smart. It's a super funny book and every kid I've read it with loves it!

So my little kiddo looked at the cover and then I asked her to read the brief excerpt on the back of the book. She read it to me, and I asked her what it said. She looked at me as if to say, "I'm not really sure," so I asked her, "Did you want to read it again?" She said yes, and then read with the understanding that should would summarize it to me afterwards, and then did beautifully. After she summarized, I asked her to predict what she thought would happen in the book.

She told me that she thought a robber would go into the house. We next talked about how a prediction is not what the text says explicitly, and since the excerpt on the back said a robber would go into the house, she cannot make that prediction. Then she told me she thought the robber would feed the donkey...a great prediction that was based on evidence of another part of the excerpt!

We begin reading. I remind her, "Reading is thinking." I continue by telling her I'm going to stop her along the way and ask her to retell or predict, so make sure that she is thinking about her reading. Or, if she forgot to, she can simply tell me she needs to reread.... "After all, good readers who forget to think about the text go back and reread!" I also told her that there will be some Tiger Tickets in her future for good thinking about her reading!

She began, read the first page, and summarized beautifully. Then she predicted that the wife will get mad at Hodja because he didn't  want to feed the donkey anymore. I prompted her to write that prediction down, and check the former one we had written, but decided we needed to read on to determine the outcome of the first prediction.

As we make our way to the next page, my kiddo begins reading again. And then she's smiling. I know it's because the story was unfolding exactly as she predicted: the wife did, in fact, get upset with Hodja and they were having an argument. So there's my kiddo, reading, and I know what she's thinking because she's smiling, and I'm overcome with pride in her work.

Afterwards, I tell her that I'm so proud of her, because I knew that she was thinking about her prediction, and because she's doing exactly what this intervention is all about. And I'm so happy that I have just a little bit of tears in my eyes. So So happy.

Am I a goof? I mean, that's not the word I need here to convey what I'm thinking....I'm not sure what to call it, but I am 100% serious when I tell you that the glistening in my eyes was real. Because I am looking at this kiddo and, just like Yetta Goodman says when she talks about being a Kidwatcher, I'm seeing everything that she can do:

  • She reads with beautiful fluency: Her intonation is impeccable, her prosody is perfect, and her speed is spectacular.
  • She's easily motivated by great books, like the one we read today.
  • She's got great handwriting and has really nailed the way we take notes about predictions in her notebook.
  • She's totally open to feedback - feedback that praises her hard work and also feedback that clears up misconceptions within her learning.
  • She speaks two languages, so when I told her, "Hasta manaña," she replied with, "Igualmente!"

I just love those moments when the lightbulb turns on. Has that happened to you lately? Please share!

One last thing before I go...
Don't forget that I'm hosting the On Your Mark book study this Thursday! If you bought the book, be sure to link up your post with reflections on the Introduction and Chapters 1 and 2 later this week!

Friday, April 24, 2015

five for friday...on a friday actually!

It's Friday and I'm sleepy and home with a beverage and blogging and life. is. good! I haven't done a Five for Friday in a long time and I had a great week, so here I am to share with all of you!
My week was so busy but so much good stuff happened. So here's the DL....

Last day of Grad School

I finished teaching my grad school class and I'm so happy! Another 8 week session down and it even ended with one of the students telling me that my class was "the best in the program so far." I learned new things, was able to revise my rubrics for next time, and am going to wrap it all up this weekend when I finally get grades posted.

Business Cards

A week ago, mine and Colleen's proposal to present at IRC was accepted! We're going to present on using social media for on-demand professional development! Can I let you in on a little secret/goal of mine? I want to consult one day - I mean, I want to still keep working in a school, but part-time, I really want to consult with schools and work for myself. So, I'm sure there's 100 other things I should do first to get that going, but getting business cards seemed like a good place to start. So I just ordered these today:
Super excited!
(Don't judge me!)

Family Literacy Night

We had our event last night and about 60 kids came with their families. Kids were able to participate in Reader's Theater, play Book Bingo, make a book mark, talk to the Tiger Bloggers, and buy some books in the Buy One Get One free book fair. There was such a great team that worked together to plan, and I'm so thankful for my girl Christine. Love working with you!
Family Writing Project

We had our second session of Family Writing Project on Wednesday. It was so great to have everyone together again. We started by mixing and meeting new people and then we read from My Map Book and mapped our personal stories. The energy in the room during this workshop is beautiful! I'm hoping to write more about this later this weekend, so stay tuned!
Fountas and Pinnel wants to quote me!

Okay, so it's just a Tweet, but still! I got this today on Twitter:
If you haven't done a Twitter chat yet, you totally need to. I need to find the schedule for Fountas and Pinnell; they were the first one I did! Anyways, we emailed and they are considering this tweet of mine for their catalog alongside their intervention materials:

I mean it's not a big deal really, but cool that someone from Fountas and Pinnell noticed one of my Tweets!

So that's all for me - how was your week? Head over to DoodleBugs and link your Five for Friday!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

family writing project - off the chain!

Today I held my first of six sessions of Family Writing Project!
I learned all about this after-school activity from my friend, Tracey. We worked in the same district when I lived in Arizona and since I've moved, I've been stalking following her on Twitter and Facebook. She does such great work and shared all her resources to start my very own FWP! Thank you, Tracey!

So FWP is just a Writer's Workshop for students and their families held after school. As the Parent Engagement Liaison for Emerson, it's my job to increase family involvement in our school, and FWP, along with Academic Parent Teacher Teams and our Remind accounts are a few ways I'm doing so!

Today the parents met their kiddos at school at 3:00. We started by decorating folders for each participant to keep all their work. In this Writer's Workshop, both students and parents are writers! (Teacher, too!)

We had some snacks right away too, which were so graciously donated by our amazing PTA!

After everyone arrived, we then did introductions briefly. Then it was time for the good stuff - a read aloud, of course! (Such an easy strategy for Writer's Workshop: Writing from Literature!)

We read In My Family / En Mi Familia:

This is a bilingual book that tells little vignettes of the author's life, each with a painting that was done for the story. Before we started today, I asked one of the parents to read the Spanish portions, and it was no problem, so everyone heard the story in both languages.

After, students, parents, and teacher were encourage to draw and write about anything they'd like. Most wrote about family traditions!

So exciting to see conferring between the two!

We wrapped up, in good fashion, with the share. We started by sharing in small groups:

And then some of the kids wanted to share with the whole group:

And we had a few brave parents share on session one with the whole group, too!

Best part of the day, overhearing one of the kiddos tell his mom, "This is really fun," just like that. Just matter-of-factly. To which she replied, "I know," with a loving smile.

Have you ever held a FWP? Stay tuned each week for more on our FWP! And, check out more of our pictures here.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, April 13, 2015

on your mark book study

Hello friends! Hope you are having a great weekend!

About a week ago on Instagram I posted that I will be holding a book study here on BigTime Literacy. Our district is beginning the journey with Standards Based Learning, and so some teachers all around Berwyn South are reading this book:

Frame Credit

It's all about Standards Based Grading, Reporting, and Leanring. It's about rethinking our traditional grading practices and providing students will more feedback and a path to accomplish exemplary work! Check out what the introduction has to say:

"You just opened what may be the most challenging and unsettling book you will ever read about any education topic. This book is not for anyone who's comfortable with the status quo in education. It's not for those who trust in traditions and find it easy to ignore research evidence that challenges those traditions. It's not for the weak of spirit.
This book won't be an easy or comfortable read. The school leaders, professors, teachers, instructors, board members, community members, and parents who read this book won't be talking about it in calk and casual tones. More likely, they'll be engaged in heated arguments and impassioned debates."

If you are interested in participating, I will be holding the book study here at BigTime Literacy, too! I'll provide a link-up each day we meet and you can post your thoughts about this book on your blog, and then link with me and the other bloggers who are participating. Great read, plus teacher collaboration online - what could be better?

We will have three virtual meetings about the book on the dates listed below. Read the chapters listed, write your post, and then link up with me! (And leave some comment love to your colleagues, of course!)

Really looking forward to having a discussion with all of you about this topic! If you are in D100, we are also meeting face-to-face - send me an email if you didn't get the details today in a calendar invite!

Until next time,

Friday, April 10, 2015

poetry blog hop 2015: the power of the mini-lesson

Credits: Edu-Clips, Hello Fonts, & Epiphanous Owl

Super excited! It's National Poetry Month and you've reached the end of an amazing Blog Hop. Thank you to Carla over at Comprehension Connection for organizing everything and for the super cute images! Did you pick up some great freebies along the way? Well, you're right in time for one more, here at BigTime Literacy! 

I wanted to talk to you about one of my favorite parts of teaching literacy under a Workshop philosophy - the mini-lesson! (I promise, I will get back to the poetry momentarily!)

Some people might think that mini-lessons aren't important because they're mini. I beg to differ! Mini-Lessons are the universal curriculum when you teach with workshop. They pack a powerful punch quickly, and then set students off to do the hard work of literacy learning. In a mini-lesson, there are four parts: Link, Teaching Point, Active Involvement, and Connection. 

Here is a quick review of the parts of the mini-lesson, and then after, you can find my freebie, which is a set of lesson plans for the beginning of an intermediate poetry unit!

Link: Students access their prior learning to set them up for new learning. For example: "We've been talking a lot about poetry, and how poets use emotion and imagery to enhance their poems."

Teaching Point (& Explicit Teaching): Here, the teacher names exactly what students will do and explicitly demonstrates what it looks like. For example: "Readers, today we will learn another technique that poets use: rhythm. You probably already know about rhythm...I'm sure in previous grades you learned about alliteration, onomatopoeia, and repetition of lines within poetry. There are a few more ways poets use rhythm in their poems! One way is with rhyming poetry, which gives the poem rhythm. (Use Casey at the Bat to share an example of rhyming lines.) If the poet counts syllables and makes patterns for where the stress of the syllables lie, they are tending to the meter of the poem. (Illuminate with example.) If the poem has no rhyming words and there isn't a pattern with syllables, that is a free-verse poem."

Active Involvement: In this part of the mini-lesson, student have a brief opportunity to think through the teaching point with a partner. It's important to keep this brief, so that the mini-lesson stays mini! Remember, in a Reading Workshop, students get the bulk of their time to think about what they're learning, and share back at the end of workshop. For example, "We've been reading and studying Casey at the Bat, and I'd like you to listen to a few stanzas from that poem. Now, listen as I read First Baseball Glove by Donald Graves. (Project the poem for so students can follow along.) Now it's your turn: Turn and talk with your partner about the similarities and/or differences in rhythm between these two poems. Students share out briefly at conclusion of share."

Connection: In this final part of the mini-lesson, you set purpose for the work students will do during their independent workshop time. For example, "As you read poems today during workshop, be thinking about whether or not the author used rhythm as a device to engage you with their poetry. Also, we will share about this: Do you prefer poems with emotion, imagery, or rhythm most? Be thinking about that today as you continue your poetry study."

With that background, you are ready for my freebie! I've been working on a poetry unit for the fifth grade teachers in my district, and I'm making the first week of those plans available to you!

In my freebie, you will get five days of plans, each with the four parts of the mini-lesson. The teaching points in these first five lessons are...

  1. Poetry is different than prose.
  2. Poets use emotion as an element to create engaging poems.
  3. Poets use imagery to draw their readers into their poetry.
  4. Poets use the devices of simile and metaphor to enhance imagery in their poems.
  5. Poets use rhythm to make their poems 'musical'.

So here it is, a week's worth of lesson plans for poetry! Download my freebie by clicking here.

And, if you're interested enough for the full unit, you can download that here. The complete unit includes three weeks of lesson plans, standards alignment, key vocabulary, a list of mentor texts, teacher notes page, and four graphic organizers your students will love to use!

If you like what you've read here, please follow me! I love to write, I love to create curriculum, I love to share ideas with everyone, and really, I love this community of bloggers I've found - they teach me new things and collaborate with me on great projects like this blog hop!

And now you've reached the end of the Hop, but you can jump right back to the beginning by clicking the image below. I know my friend Carla will be happy you stopped by Comprehension Connection!

Before you go...since you made it this far, enter my raffle for a chance to win the complete Peel the Onion Unit!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy National Poetry Month!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

harlem hopscotch by Maya Angelou

I'm planning for our Poetry Blog Hop that will be live this Friday! As I write my poetry unit, I came across this poem that I really like....

Harlem Hopscotch
by: Maya Angelou

One foot down, then hop! It's hot.
    Good things for the ones that's got.
Another jump, not to the left.
    Everybody for hisself.

In the air, now both feet down.
    Since you black, don't stick around.

Food is gone, the rent is due.
    Curse and cry and then jump two.
All the people out of work.
    Hold for three, then twist and jerk.
Cross the line, they count you out.
    That's what hopping's all about.

Both feet flat, the game is done.
    They think I lost, I think I won.

This poem is from a collection of poems in this book:

It's got an awesome collection of poetry and music, with a CD of many of the authors reading their work. Highly recommended!

What's your take on Harlem Hopscotch? I'm currently writing plans about interpretation & close reading...I picked this poem because initially I thought it was pretty shallow, but then the more I read it, the more I see how much deeper it goes.

Obviously it's talking about having work, making enough money to pay the bills and feed the family - how life is a game - sometimes you're up and winning, sometimes it's harder...

Traces of racism? (since you black, don't stick around)

What about that last line: They think I lost, I think I won.

What's your take on it? I'd love more input on this one!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

s.o.l. tuesday

WRITE your story.
SHARE your link.
GIVE some love via comments.

Happy Tuesday, Slicers! Easter Sunday was such a great day - the weather was beautiful and we actually got to get outside on the softball fields and play a little bit!

It was a perfect day- sun was shining, light breeze, and you could be warm with or without a hoodie. There were five of us, so we had the perfect amount of people to play - a pitcher, a hitter, and three more to shag fly balls in the outfield. Unfortunately for Hektor's nephew, Aiden, he was running the outfield more than any of us, since he's young and a seriously amazing baseball player!

Now I'm on Spring Break and the weather is gloomy and grey. But, I'm thankful for that beautiful Sunday!

How was your holiday?

Sunday, April 5, 2015

sunday letters

WRITE your letters.
LINK them with mine.
SHARE the love via comments!

And I'm back! March was awesome with the Slice of Life Story Challenge, but I'm glad to be back and writing some other posts here at BigTime Literacy!

Dear Readers,
Happy Easter! Hope you have a great day celebrating with your loved ones today! Today also means the end of Lent, so I'm happy to end my Facebook hiatus and get back to posting some things there, too. If you were wondering where I was, that was what's up!

Dear Self,
Even though you missed three days, you did a great job writing (almost) every day during the month of March. You also had your students writing, including these four who wrote every day! Check out their blogs: Emily, Frances, Sidney, and Alex
Love, Teach

Dear Kacey Musgraves,
Your songs are so awesome, including this new one called Biscuits. Totally love it and can't wait to see the video! "Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy" hahhahaa, so awesome! Your cleverness totally inspires me!

Dear readers,
I'm going to be holding a book study of On Your Mark, a book about Standards Based Learning. If you have any interest, please order a copy! I need to talk to a work friend to figure out our timeline, but I'm thinking our first post will maybe be in the next two or three weeks? The introduction to this book starts out like this....
       "You just opened what may be the most challenging and unsettling book you will ever read about any education topic. This book is not for those who trust in traditions and find it easy to ignore research evidence that challenges those traditions. It's not for the weak of spirit.
      This book won't be an easy or comfortable read. The school leaders, professors, teachers, instructions, board members, community members, and parents who read this book won't be talking about it in calm and casual tones. More likely, they'll be engaged in heated arguments and impassioned debates."
Do you want to have some seriously heated debates together?! :-) Hope you'll join for this book club! More details will be coming this week, but I hope you can participate in this book club!
Your colleague in Chicago

Dear Chuy,
I'm really hopin, and prayin, and....what's that song? Anyways, hoping you are you dethrone Mayor 1% on Tuesday! I just saw a quick little poll on Twitter and this came up:

Fingers crossed!
a Passionate Public Educator

That's all for me today. Looking forward to reading your letters!

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