Sunday, December 1, 2013

Everybody Loves A Good Sale Especially on Cyber Monday!

Cyber Shop Til You Drop Monday & Tuesday!

I promise I am going to continue my series about on-demand writing assessments in my very next post, but I couldn't help but share this shout out to a fantastic sale on TpT this Cyber Monday! 

We all know how busy this time of year is… but don't forget during your holiday shopping on Cyber Monday to visit TeachersPayTeachers because honestly this is the best SALE EVER.  The official Cyber Sale starts on Monday and runs through Tuesday.

Everything in my store will be 20% off through Tuesday, beginning tomorrow.  And don't forget to enter the code CYBER on Monday and Tuesday for an additional 10%, which actually comes out to a total of 28% of on Monday and Tuesday.

Everything in the Hello Two Peas store will also be on SALE, beginning today as well.

I am delighted to announce we have added monthly bundles for September through December and have added a new author study bundle in our second round  of Phonological Awareness lessons.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

New Units of Study Writing Assessment Reflections


 Reflections & Understandings about Authentic Writing Assessment in the Common Core Writing Workshop    Block: Part 1

This is the first post in a series about on-demand writing assessments, the teacher's role in administering, collecting and reviewing student data, and how that data will drive writing instruction.

So I'm sure you must be thinking I fell off.... you know, but I assure you I've been very busy. Actually, busier than I expected.  During the last three weeks, I have been facilitating training in my district using the new Units of Study writing assessment tools from the Lucy Calkins Common Core Workshop Curriculum.These scoring days have been the first of series of four trainings that will be provided over the course of this year to all of our elementary school teachers. They consist of cycles of grade-level professional development training using the new units of study writing assessment tools.

by Lucy Calkins and Colleagues

Here’s how it works… 

We begin the data cycle by having teachers administer an on-demand writing assessment prior to teaching in narrative, information or opinion/argument writing text types. During the on-demand assessments all K-6 students are given the same text-type specific writing prompt. (These were from They are asked to demonstrate all they know about writing within that specific text-type of writing in a forty-five minute sitting without any teacher support. 

So why an on-demand?

Our teaching on any given day is designed to lift writers, not just for that day, or piece of writing, but for every day and every future piece of writing they do. And we know that students are going to be assessed on what they can do independently, so knowing this, Lucy reminds us that we need to work with fervor to get students to transfer and apply the learning they do with your support to new work they do on their own. An on-demand allows a student to show-off what they can do independently and that gives us, as teachers, a chance to measure the stickiness of our teaching.

And why a pre and post?

I think we’re all used to an end of unit assessment as a way of determining what a student has learned and using it to determine whether or not they’re doing what they should be able to do.  This question is really about the pre-assessment. Many teachers ask me, “Why would I assess students on something they don’t know and that I haven’t taught them?” It doesn’t seem fair, or worth our time.
Here’s why we do it:
1)  It provides a baseline: We don’t know what our students know when they walk in our door, or begin a new topic of study. The pre gives us access to a starting place for each student, and it gives him or her an opportunity to work at their level.
2)  It allows teachers to self-reflect after a unit of instruction and ask “How should I adjust my teaching and expectations going forward?” 
3)  It supports our conversations with parents at conference time – a pre-post is specific evidence of learning and can be used to help parents understand their child’s growth trajectory. This is where they were, this is where they are, this is where they need to be, Here’s our plan for getting them their.
4)  It supports our conversations with students – it provides visible evidence of their growth, which spurs them on to make more progress.

Educational research has found that one of the most powerful things teachers can do in the classroom to lift student achievement is to engage them in a meaningful and regular feedback loop, using evidence (like the pre/post), goal-setting, conferring, and self-assessment, like the student checklist, to lift learning.

These writing samples are then collected and reviewed together with the company of their grade-level colleagues beginning the first steps of a data cycle.

      Step 1—Collect, sort student work in high, medium and low piles and chart data (see sorting activity below)
      Step 2—List students’ strengths and areas of concern
      Step 3— Prioritize areas of concern
      Urgent (+1)
      May need attention/remediation (+2)
      Material will be covered soon (+3)
      Step 4- Identify strengths
      Step 5-Establish goals: set, review, revise
      Focus on one-high leverage are of concern that will affect the most students
      Step 6—Select instructional strategies
      Step 7—Differentiate instruction
      Return to step 1 and identify teaching points for individual students to be used for small group instruction and/or conferring
      Step 8-Calendar when progress will be reviewed
      Next assessment date

Step 1- The sorting activity provides us with a quick way of seeing trends and patterns across the classroom and is critical in determining what is the high leverage area of concern we will target in instruction.

Next we can establish trends and patterns across grade levels and determine areas of grade level instructional focus.

Through studying performance assessments that differentiate student work along a continuum and through reflecting on adult proficient writing, teachers develop an understanding of the continuum of development. This knowledge helps teachers explicitly teach writers in ways that help them progress along a trajectory of skill development.
The Calkins Units of Study curriculum, is grounded in research on evidenced-based teaching (see John Hattie's Visible Learning, Geoff Petty's Evidence-Based Teaching , etc).
Teachers study what writers do, and consider goals that are within reach yet rigorous. Teachers give feedback that helps writers understand the progress they have made, and that which they still need to make, helping writers grasp onto important goals and work, deliberately practicing, so they become more proficient.

Lucy reminds us- good instruction must be grounded in assessment.

Stayed tuned, in my next post I’ll answer questions from a follower and fellow literacy coach- Crystal from Hampton, VA:

1)   How do teachers discuss learning progressions across grade levels?

2)   What successes have you experienced with using student checklist?

3)   What is your role as coach in the process?

For more writing resources please visit my TpT store

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Formative Assessment Cycle Kick Off!

I'm excited to start this week! 

I am kicking off the first of several days of staff development in my district aligned to our formative writing assessment cycle.  

Starting tomorrow, each grade level K-6 will be attending a full day formative assessment to look at student writing on a skill progression. Teachers have been busy teaching a narrative unit over the past several weeks. In the days ahead, we will have the opportunity to come together with our grade level colleagues district-wide to closely look at authentic student work in narrative writing and learn the assessment tools from Writing Pathways from Lucy Calkins’ A Common Core Workshop Curriculum, Heinemann, 2013.

Here’s how it works…. 

All elementary teachers grades K-6 gave the same narrative writing prompt during the first few days of the school year back in August. Students wrote independently to that prompt for approximately 45 minutes. Then, focused instruction in the narrative unit took place across the next ensuing weeks. Then, teachers gave the same “on-demand” narrative prompt to their students.

We are now meeting in grade level teams, to learn the assessment system, which is comprised of:

~ Learning Progression
~ Rubric 
~ Student Checklist

The learning progressions show how writers progress step-by-step across several grade levels. The learning progression focuses on a writer’s development in three main areas of writing: structure, development and conventions. Using the progression we can study the way a child might move toward increasing sophistication as they practice and learn these areas of writing thru the grades.

The grade level rubric has the same information as the learning progression with a narrower lens focusing on your grade level and the grade level above and below the grade level you teach. Rubrics help you to see where each child is in relation to where the child used to be and where that child could be next. The rubric provides you with a band, of sorts, to help you determine if student’s resembles grade level expectations or those of the grades that bookend first grade. Rubrics can be helpful tools for noting trends across classrooms and grades. They may be shared with parents to raise the level of support they may give their children.

Narrowing the focus even further is the student checklist, which is just the learning progression, isolated at one grade level. The student checklists take the grade level expectations and change them to “I statements” for student use.  Grades K & 1 further differentiates the checklist and provides them in an illustrated format as well as in a text format. These checklists are designed to be used by students to self-assess their progress and set goals and they also serve as useful tools for revision and editing.

These tools help you look at a piece of writing and see ways that piece of writing is a step ahead of yesterday’s work and a step toward tomorrow’s work.
As we look at student samples we’ll frame our lenses with some guiding questions:
1)  What does this student know about narrative, small moment writing?
2)  What does this student know about organization? Does each page have new information or does it seem like the writer just put down the thought w/o a sense of what should go together?
3)  What does this writer say about one idea before veering off to the next?
4)  What about the pictures- do they reveal details?
5)  What about spelling and conventions? What does this writer know about letter sound relationships?

Looking at Student Work:

 When looking at student work the focus will be on the big three: structure, development and conventions.

Key Areas of Focus:

  • Overall
  •  Lead
  •  Transitions
  •  Ending
  •  Organization
  •  Elaboration
  • Craft
Language Convention:
  •  Spelling
  •  Punctuation

These questions and answers can guide us in tailoring the unit ahead and forming small groups as we see fit. As you we this process, we will expect and hopefully embrace differences of opinion. This is evidence of a disconnect in the way we are viewing student work.  Digging into that disconnect will help us align our vision and ourselves.
Rest assured we know there’ll be variation between our student writers and the benchmark pieces from Teacher’s College. (Our students are only in year two of writing workshop instruction, but the growth we have witnessed across the span of the past twelve months is staggering!)

Once the teachers have studied their students’ writing behaviors and determined where their writers fall on the learning progression, they will determine areas to guide their teaching.

Coaching suggestions:  

Focus on these in your next unit to target growth and possible gains.
1)  What did we see that our students can do well?
2)  What did we see over and over that students are struggling with?
3)  Teaching implications – If students are lacking skills in ________, what can I do in my teaching to address this?  In the next unit I should…
4)  What support will the children need to be successful?
  •  Ask yourself where will children need support in the next unit?

5)  What support will you need next to be successful?

Teaching well 

Teaching well requires looking at student work and imagining next steps for students. Here’s to an exciting week ahead, full of promise and of course next steps!