If you know me well, you know that my passion is helping students to take responsibility for their own learning. This starts with students setting daily learning goals and monitoring their own progress.
Douglas Elementary School in Tyler, Texas is a great example of professionals who focus on intentional teaching and learning. Under the leadership of Christina Roach, the Pre-K through fifth grade teachers have worked diligently over the past six years to refine their practices of using learning targets and success criteria, along with formative assessments to partner with their students for learning. The staff members are truly experts at intentional teaching.
I was talking with four 2nd grade teachers last week who are very worried about how they are going to send their students to 3rd grade reading and writing "on level." Given that during first grade, the students went into lockdown for the entire fourth quarter of the year and then with the challenges of keeping kids safe this year, these teachers were feeling very defeated. They wanted to know what I thought is possible for their students with the forty days left in the year.
With virtual and hybrid learning, it can be challenging to keep student engagement alive and formatively assess student learning in the moment. Here are two strategies I use to not only increase student engagement, but quickly monitor student learning and identify any misconceptions. These strategies can be used in all content areas as well as all grade levels.
When it comes to writing, some writing skills are constrained, meaning once they are learned there is no need to continue to teach or have deliberate practice. Grammar skills are constrained skills. After direct instruction, coaching, and practice, students will have learned these skills and are using them with automaticity as they move through the writing process. Only data will tell if students need to continue to learn or deliberately practice. We can gather this data by looking at student writing and giving students weekly spelling and grammar checks.
The "Always, Sometimes, Never" Strategy can be used in any content area as an invitation to classify information about a topic. Watch this one-minute explanation of the strategy using Google Jamboard.
By Ashley Taplin
As I think about interventions, I am reminded of a quote by Mike Mattos in which he says, “the best intervention is prevention.” When interventions are embedded within daily formative assessments, students can see that learning is an ongoing process. Below are some strategies that can be used virtually or in-person, and give both students and teachers clear next steps for learning.
I like to use a rating system with students. I explain that a rating of 5 means you are an expert and you could teach someone else. A rating of a 3 means you are an apprentice. You need more coaching and/or practice to clear up misconceptions or misunderstandings. A rating of 1 means you are a novice. You are just beginning to learn the learning target. There may be vocabulary in the learning target that you don't recognize or understand. At the 1 or 3 level, you can set personal learning goals. This might sound like "I'm a novice and I need to know what character motivations are and how you would describe them."
During Tier 2, the goal is to provide teaching and time for students to master grade level standards. Many times, students are missing necessary prerequisite knowledge and skills. We gather assessment data, plan how we will assess growth and mastery, and then provide multiple learning opportunities for students who need time to master the critical grade level learning goals. We follow up with a post assessment to determine the learning and effectiveness of the intervention.
I recently attended a virtual session on Visible Learning with Dr. John Hattie. He talked about what works best in order to cause dramatic increases in student learning during face to face and virtual instruction. Turns out, just about everything we do as educators causes students to learn. However, he said there's no evidence that teaching more results in more learning. In fact, through his vast meta-research, there is evidence that highly impactful teachers don't focus so much on what they or the students will do. Instead, they focus on their impact on student learning. According to Dr. Hattie, it's how we think, not what they do, that has the most impact on student learning.
Written by Ashley Taplin
Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a conference by Steve and Michelle Ventura focused on growing our teams through data, strategies, and teacher clarity. We dove into Visible Learning research, founded by John Hattie, which synthesized instructional influences and ranked their effect size on learning. Hattie found that .4 was the average effect size of a year’s growth and thus, the strategies that are identified as .4 or higher can have an even greater impact on student learning.
By Ashley Taplin
In the fall, I had the opportunity to attend a Visible Learning Institute in which John Hattie and Peter DeWitt dove into the topic of assessment capable learners. They explained that students need to be able to answer three questions: where am I going, how am I doing, and where to next? (download this classroom poster I created here). Furthermore, there are 6 key characteristics of assessment capable learners:
This month, as we dive into the consistency of school days, I have been thinking about ways we can develop and foster a growth mindset for students in math to gain confidence in their knowledge. I have been working with another department in our district to bring more SEL practices to the curriculum. We have been talking about how the foundation of this mindset is helping students become self-aware in their learning in order to take on challenges and new situations. Below are some strategies and ideas I have been reflecting upon to cultivate this.
Looking for some easy ways to have students reflect on their first week of school? We have you covered!
At the end of each content block, students need an opportunity to reflect on their learning for the day.This is a great opportunity for students to validate their efforts and learning, while also giving teachers an opportunity to formatively assess who hit the target and who needs more practice time.
Did you know that the first antibiotic, Penicillin, was discovered from a productive struggle that Dr. Alexander Fleming was in? Yes, a productive struggle is what lead to the discovery of the life saving drug in 1928! Dr. Fleming discovered mold growing in petri dishes after returning from summer vacation and said that the mold had contaminated his study. He later discovered that the mold actually stopped bacteria from growing.
Students need lots of time to collaborate with each other in order to develop vocabulary, learn content, process new learning, and the real world skill of conversation. Starting in partner groupings, students use accountable talk to learn how to have a meaningful conversation in which they take turns sharing ideas and listening.
With state assessments fast approaching, many educators are "teaching with their hair on fire!" We are all trying to get as much review and practice in as possible and make sure to revisit all the tested standards. Sound familiar?
Here are 3 strategies to consider when planning!
With the spring semester beginning, we are all thinking about those end-of-year expectations and assessments. It's easy to dread this time of year if it seems we are spending all our time preparing for a test, rather than teaching and helping students developing skills, strategies and processes they need for life. Instead of loathing this time of year, we can embrace it and look to providing our students with engaging and authentic practice. It's time to "show off" what they have learned and become proficient in! It's a great time to have fun with all the skills they have learned so far.
What are your resolutions this year? Knowing that we can start fresh rejuvenates our students as much as it does us.
Great leaders set goals and create action plans from the start. Teddy Roosevelt set goals to make the United States strong in the areas of economics and defense. He created an action plan to see his goals through and in effect he increased our production of natural resources and built up our Navy defense. Resulting in a stronger country as a whole.
We all know that both teachers and students alike dread test preparation. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be a drag! Here are 4 ways to make test prep fun and beneficial.
Here are a couple of ideas that take about 5 minutes of class time and get learners actively processing content from previous lessons.
Today during model writing lessons, I used a scale with all classes to help them assess their understanding at the beginning of the lesson (right after I shared the learning goal) and then again at the end of the lesson. Students really seemed to stay more focused on the specific writing goal and what they needed to know and do to meet expectations.
As we conclude (already!) another year of learning, all learners need to stop and reflect on this year’s accomplishments and goals for the future. Be sure to schedule time for success celebrations so that your students can receive praise and acknowledgement for their efforts. A good friend of mine always says “Anything worth learning is worth celebrating!”
On the inside of a file folder, divide the area into 6 sections. Using a composition written as a “pre-test” group the students based on a specific area for improvement. Place sticky notes with the names of the students who need a specific skill or strategy on the folder under the appropriate category.
During a 2-3 week period, meet with the small groups to provide direct instruction on the targeted skill. Document progress for each student by using a composition written as a pre-test and a composition written after 2-3 weeks of strategic, small group instruction.
Be sure to conference with each student and discuss his/her strengths and area for growth. The student should set a goal and make an action plan for achieving the goal.
Are there crickets chirping in your classroom? Don’t know what I mean? Just ask a struggling reader to summarize that piece of nonfiction text, name the key point, or list the supporting details… most of the time, they are at such a loss for words that all your hear is crickets. So, what can you do to help that reader navigate through an extensive piece of nonfiction and sift through the facts to uncover what’s most important?
An important prerequisite to being able to summarize is the ability to retell orally. Most kindergarteners have developed a sense of story by mid-year and can use knowledge of story elements to retell stories read aloud to them. By mid-first grade, students can retell in logical order including important characters, setting, and main events. Expository texts should be included and retelling should include main ideas and important supporting details.
Giving students time to process and store important information during a lesson increases retention and achievement. For every 5-10 minutes of instruction given by the instructor, students should be given 30 seconds to 5 minutes of time to process the information. This time allows the instructor time to assess whether the students understand the materials or need instruction adjusted. Using multi-sensory processing strategies to differentiate instruction ensures that all students have an opportunity to access the curriculum. Remember to consider the learning styles of students in the class when choosing the processing strategy.