HELP! Me Unpack the Standards: A Framework for Teacher & Student Clarity

Adobe Spark (16)In just about any classroom I enter I notice a “Learning Objective” or “I Can” statement located at the front of the room. Sometimes this statement consists of underlined words, is laminated on a beautifully bordered sentence strips, or is hurriedly written with a black expo in the designated corner on the whiteboard. The teacher states the learning target at the beginning of the lesson and students copy it down, word for word, into their notebook. But, when I ask the students what they are learning and why I am continually met with blank stares… The frustration in the teacher’s voice is evident during the coaching conversation following the class. They can’t seem to understand how or why the “I Can” statement that is clearly posted never transfers or remains with their students.

I have found two major reasons for this phenomenon, and both are fixable. First, the learning objective is typically “owned” by the teacher and not the student. The teacher determines it, the teacher writes it down, the teacher states it, and then the teacher begins the lesson. For an objective, target, or “I Can” statement to be student-centered and student-owned there must be a dialogue between the teacher and the students involving the What and the Why. What are we learning? What is our goal? Why is it important? And what does success look like?

Secondly, a student’s misunderstanding of  the learning and why it is important often occurs because of the teacher’s surface level understanding of the standards. When a teacher’s understanding of the standards (whether local, state, or national) remains at the surface-level kids suffer. To truly have a deep understanding of the standards, teachers must be given time and support to unpack them independently and collaboratively. This unpacking helps to bring clarity to teachers and positively impacts student achievement. The following template was adapted from Hattie, Fisher, & Frey and provides guidance on digging deeply into the standards.

Standard

 

 

Concepts (Nouns) Skills (Verbs)

 

 

 

Surface Skills & Knowledge Needed

 

 

 

 

Deep Skills & Knowledge Needed

 

 

 

 

Enduring Understanding(s) Assessment

 

 

 

 

Unpacking the standards brings clarity to teachers which directly impacts students. Not only can learning and targets be expressed at deep levels, but when discussed with the students, achievement is impacted. When students wrestle with the “what” and the “why” of the learning objective or “I Can” statement understanding moves past surface to deep. And what you will find is a well-articulated response when you ask students what they are learning and why.

Consider These 6 Areas When There is a Glitch in Reading Comprehension

when-reading-comprehension-breaks-down

Direct instruction in literacy should not end in elementary school. Students of all ages need continual modeling and practice of reading comprehension skills. And while many elementary teachers use running records to inform instruction, at the intermediate grades, this type of assessment can be modified to meet the needs of our older readers.

At the end of the oral reading, students retell what they had just read summarizing, analyzing, and connecting to the text. This retelling is preferred over the typical question-answer assessment for older students. Retelling gives us a glimpse into the reader’s cognition and provides valuable insight as to what was grasped and what may have been lost.

During the reflection with the student following the retell, teachers can hone in on 6 areas to identify possible sources that contribute to the breakdown of comprehension.

6 Areas to Explore when Reading Comprehension Breaks Down

  1. Background Knowledge on the topic. Do I need more information on the topic in order to understand the text? Would rereading or talking about it help me understand new concepts presented by the author?
  2. Vocabulary. Were there lots of words I’ve never heard of or seen in this selection?
  3. Cultural Differences. Is this about a way of thinking or pattern of acting that is different from mine?
  4. Word-Recognition Skills. Can I figure out hard or unfamiliar words?
  5. Comfort with the task. Am I worried about doing well?
  6. Responses to environmental influences inside and outside of school. Am I confident I can be successful?

(Based on the work of Mary Shea)

When teachers and students reflect and identify areas that contribute to the breakdown of comprehension glitches can be addressed efficiently. Teachers instruction is targeted and students understanding of themselves as readers grow enhancing independence and comprehension.

Digital Portfolios with Bloomz

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As a high school English teacher in a technology-rich school, I realized the importance of digital portfolios to capture and showcase learning. Upon graduation, each one of my former students left with both a digital portfolio and a YouTube channel accessible across platforms and shareable via links .

Can you imagine how powerful a digital portfolio would be if students began capturing their learning as early as elementary school?

A digital portfolio, I believe, holds 2 main purposes:

First, it is a curation of learning and experiences students can use in reflection. Reflection provides cognitive insight into themselves as learners, as well as an account of their learning journey.

Second, a digital portfolio is a living artifact in which students can share their skills, passions, and understandings with a larger community or a potential employer. Having a positive digital footprint is essential for young people. Employers and colleges rely heavily on what they see and read online about potential employees or students, a digital portfolio could help in this area.

screenshot-2016-10-10-at-6-35-24-pmVideo

In a few of my more recent posts, I shared an exciting school to home communication app called Bloomz. Recently Bloomz launched another option perfect for students to demonstrate understanding and to enhance digital portfolios –  Video.  This new feature allows teachers and students to share videos via  phone or other previously recorded videos from the library.
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Student Timeline

The addition to the new video feature, Bloomz allows students full capability of creating a multimodal digital portfolio utilizing the Student Timelines feature. The Student Timelines feature allows teachers and students to post to the class feed as well to individuals (parents). Teachers can edit, annotate, and review work that students submit to their timeline before it is posted. Photographs, texts, and now videos shared in a Student Timeline provide a real-time insight into learning and conceptual understanding.

As you can tell, I am a huge fan of this award-winning app. As both a parent and an educator, I love when digital resources are agile in capabilities and serve multiple functions. Every student should graduate with a positive digital presence. Bloomz makes this easy to do with Student Timelines!

Technology and Student-Centered Assessment

Formative and summative assessment are familiar terms to most students and educators. When used intentionally, both assessment types can be used to identify student needs and help educators design differentiated learning opportunities. Student-Centered Assessment, on the other hand, is a less familar term with many educators. Student-Centered Assessment can be used during the process of learning, at the end of units, or even extend across a student’s year. The three key components that all Student-Centered Assessments have in common are: identified standards and learning targets, they are best utilized during the learning process, but can be adapted to also serve a more summative need, and finally, they are designed to be used by the student! Below are three specific examples, along with technology tools that I find fit the desired intent.

  1. Self-Assessment – When used while the learning is taking place, self-assessment is an effective tool which places ownership in assessing and learning back into the hands of the student. Self-assessment promotes learning by having students reflect upon their strengths and weakness in their own work. When used during the process of learning instead of at the end of the learning, self-assessments generate areas that are personal to the students, a time to revise and rework their product, and the ability to measure their work to the learning targets, standards, and personal skills. Self-assessment can be in the form of rubrics, checklists, or evidenced in written or oral responses.                 Google Keep would be an excellent digital tool to support the use of checklists in self-assessment. Google Keep is simple to use, easy to share, and is customizable for use. Google Keep Options
  2. Peer-Assessment – Similar to Self-Assessment, Peer-Assessment is best done during the learning process. In fact, it makes no sense to have students use this tool after the product is completed. Peer-Assessment employs students giving feedback to each other that is specific and evidenced by specific examples that are aligned to the learning target. Many educators find this tool great in theory, but students struggle when applying. Scaffolding, modeling, and clear expectations are needed to not only help students find areas of focus in another peer’s work; but also, explicit instruction and practice of soft skills that address collaboration and communication? How does one effectively work with a peer in a collaborative setting. What type of feedback is most valuable? With these objectives in mind, along with the professional understanding that the student doing the fixing is the one doing the learning; utilizing something like the “Suggesting” setting in Google Docs provides a digital tool to support Self-Assessment. “Suggest Edits” instead of directly writing on the work, editing, or even commenting, shifts revision and reflection back to the author of the piece.                          Adding Suggestions to Google Doc
  3. Portfolios – Two types of Portfolios are commonly used in the educational setting. First, a portfolio can be used as a “Process Portfolio”. A process portfolio would be documentation of a students growth, from novice to master, typically based within a unit and have an identified group of standards or learning target. When used throughout the learning, process portfolios can act as a documentation of a student’s journey in learning. It can help them set goals, and serve as a visual to remind students where they began and how their understanding transformed during the unit. A second type of portfolio found in educational settings is that of a summative collection of their best work. While examples of student’s learning could be placed throughout the learning process, a summative portfolio demands the student to reflect on their work throughout the year, evaluate it against the determined standards or learning targets, and then justify the pieces they place within the portfolio as the ones demonstrating their best work. Summative portfoliosare best used organically, and travel and change with the student as they progress through grades.                                                                      Google Sites would be a versatile, digital tool for either type of portfolio. From embedding images, documents, and videos; to uploading mp3s of vocal solos or embedding multimodal creations, Google Sites have always been a perferred choice with my former students.                                       Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 12.18.47 AM

Resource Used: Students at the Center

 

 

Undervaluing Teacher Perception in Assessment

Peter Reynolds, author of The Dot, ish, and many others; recently released his animated short entitled The Testing Camera. Described as a “whimsical poke at high-stakes, standardized testing,” The Testing Camera, paints an all-true reality of education today.

Teaching to the test, students measured by the test, teachers evaluated by the scores their students receive on the test; with this constant focus in today’s education systems, is it any surprise that: teachers have began to question their own professional perceptions? Undervalue their day to day interactions with students? Rely solely on the test score to dictate curriculum, label and track students, and justify their own strengths as an educator?

Most recently, during a writing workshop training, a teacher expressed the joy and affirmation the framework, specifically small group instruction, has provided her in terms of formative assessment. Identifying a student need; providing examples, practice, and opportunities for improvement; targeting a specific writing skill the student is on the cusp of mastering; and continuous checks to follow-up on goals are not done through standardized testing. Instead; this type of formative assessment/observation allows the teacher to differentiate in the moment, make professional decisions based on individual students, and demonstrate the power of good teaching. Hearing this reflection simultaneously made me happy and sad. I was thrilled that this teacher regained her professional voice, but was saddened that it was lost in the first place.

This post is not intended to debate the necessity of standardized testing; instead, it is to draw attention to this culture and provide an alternative view highlighting the value in and the ease of formative assessment can in our contemporary classrooms.

Jim Knight refers to formative assessment as a GPS to “gauge how well students understand what is being taught.” As part of the Big 4 to Improve Instruction, developing and using formative assessment effectively provides insight into gaps in content planning and/or pedagogy thus allowing teachers to target learning. The formative assessment GPS allows teachers to see what direction students are heading (are they way off course, or close to the goal), which pedagogical practices were effective with which students, and a map for navigational purposes to determine teaching style (inquiry, modeling, example, etc.).

While it is clear the benefits to the learner that formative assessment provides, the ease of crafting and administering such “checks” in today’s technology-rich classrooms further add to these for both the learner and teacher. In a recent blog post by Jeff Zoul, entitled “Reimagining Learning,” Zoul reflects upon the paradigm shift in teaching and learning in a ubiquitous technology education environment. Citing Richard Culatta in his identification of challenges in education and the role in which technology can help to solve these, Zoul touches upon assessment, writing, “We can provide real-time feedback to students, an ‘LPS’ version of a GPS system in which we—and our students—know where every individual learner is currently at and where each needs to go next. We can tailor the pacing of instruction to the needs of each learner.” These two specific points align with the benefits I outline below.

Technology Assisted Formative Assessment Provides:

  1. Real-time glimpse into students’ understanding
  2. A space for all voices to be heard and recognized
  3. Opportunity for immediate feedback and differentiation of instruction
  4. Data narrating the students’ learning journey
  5. A transfer of ownership of learning back into the hands of the student

Savvy educators understand that technology tools are only as powerful as the content they are paired with, the student choice given in the unit, and the cognitive demand placed on the learner. With this in mind, I offer the following tools for exploration:

Technology Tools for Formative Assessment

forms-iconGoogle Forms

Google forms are adaptable and provide a plethora of question types to meet needs. An Exit Ticket is a common use of Google Forms. Student answers are automatically collected in Google Sheets and allow the viewer to see responses in a variety of ways. In essence, results can be cleared, and the same Form could be used each day. Paired with a script, such as Flubaroo or Form Mule, Google Forms can provide immediate results and feedback to students.

logoSocrative

Socrative is an interactive platform, where students answer questions in real-time and receive immediate feedback. Socrative is device friendly, accessible from tablets, laptops, and smartphones. It also reports individual students, as well as whole class reports which appeal to many educawtors.

imagesKahoot

Kahoot is a game-based response system where students are motivated to be on the top of the leader-board. To play along with the facilitator, a student may use any device with a web browser (no account is needed).Kahoot encourages the teacher to blend the learning experience by constructing a social, game-based assessment while folding the learning in between interactive questions.

imgresNearpod

Nearpod brings the interaction to the student’s screen. Interactive, engaging, and customizable in both creation and response, Nearpod provides monitoring of student’s progress. Control of when and who sees the questions provides a different alternative to Socrative. There is also a “draw” response option, perfect for those sketchnoters.

images-1TodaysMeet

Although not a new tool, TodaysMeet, is the prime backchannel for the classroom. Ease in setting up a room (virtual space), real-time capabilities, readability, and the option to save the transcript; TodaysMeet provides a voice to even the quietest student. Recently added features now allow moderation of content, private rooms, and longer lengths in room reservations.

imgres-1Poll Everywhere

A favorite with students, Poll Everywhere is an audience response platform that promotes interaction, ease, accessibility, and a visual of the responses. Poll Everywhere is another tool that has been around for years, but has recently added improvements to the site. Additions include: differentiation in visualizing the responses (wordcloud is one), embed a voting widget on your site, as a student, access a single webpage where the questioned are “pushed” to you. Answer questions via phone, twitter, or webpage. Poll Everywhere is a perfect tool for a bell ringer, diving into the material immediately or connecting to the previous day’s learning.

 

 

Thank you to Jeff Zoul, Mike Jaber, and Leslie Pralle Keehn for contributions to this post.  Appreciate you!