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!