Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Using Book Baskets To Talk Feedback

Tomorrow night’s #OHedchat is a Book Basket approach to discussing feedback.  Book Baskets are a way to think differently about how we choose to organize classroom, school or our even professional libraries. Instead of focusing on literary or informational text, reading level or lexile, pull together text sets based on content or concepts.  Group books in the “basket” by introductory or foundational content and more specific content. For example, my Feedback book basket has books that address the broad concept of feedback along with books that have a smaller grain size, like feedback for at risk readers or the role of coaches in providing feedback.  Research shows that this approach to creating text sets helps to build content knowledge and grows academic, tier 2, and tier 3 content vocabulary. This in turn scaffolds students of any age into more complex text and increased fluency and comprehension.

Spotlight Resources:  Assessments

Upcoming Opportunities:
  • Can't wait for #OHedchat 3.6.19 at 9:00 EST We will be reflecting on quotes from our Feedback Book Basket.  Lindsay Dexter - the President of Ohio Learning Forward, will be co-facilitating the chat.
  • Tomorrow Night… The long awaited HS Coherence Map for math is going to be unveiled by . Join the webinar on March 6 at 7:00 PM to learn all about it. SO EXCITING!!
  • Next week @sharemylesson kicks off 3 days of free, online #EduPD courses for teachers, #paraprofessionals & school support staff incl keynote by @AFTunion prez @rweingarten: #PublicSchoolProud
  • Let me know if you have created an Open Space account or are thinking of ways to start using it with your team! If you haven’t already done so - go to and click LOGIN at the top right to create an account for yourself.  This is the NEW Ohio Collaborative, Open Education Resource authoring platform from  Then click on GROUPS at the top of the page and choose the OPEN group. This is where the tutorials live.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

How to Close The Gap For Students By Changing How You Perceive Yourself

I have always been a dog person. Until this summer, when a cat showed up at our backdoor one night. For three weeks our family took care of this cat, while she lived in first a box, and then a homemade Rubbermaid tote house, complete with a golf umbrella awning.  I started worrying about this cat at night and through storms, and looking forward to seeing her at the end of the day. I started to ask my “cat friends” for advice on how to best take care of this cat. Long story short, the cat is now sitting next to me on the couch as I put together Talk-Oh-Tuesday. The dog is sitting on the other side.  So often as teachers we catch ourselves saying “I am a math person, or I work best with __________ kinds of kids”. As you start to dig into your District Report cards, look closely at what role you can play in Gap Closing. How can you go outside your comfort zone to support students who challenge you as a teacher or administrator? Who might be a resource that you can reach out to?

One good starting point for gap closing is to look at the connections between standards aligned resources, assessments that have enough stretch to allow all students  to show where they are in their mastery, and Performance Level Descriptors. Performance Level Descriptors are a great starting point to plan how you will stretch or support students. They are also great if you are not a “math person” or “ELA person” or a "Gifted person" or a "Special Ed person" and need to figure out what student work needs to look like or sound like as they build their own competency.  Are your lessons or assessments giving students the opportunity to show you that evidence? If not, what can you do to tweak them? Who might you reach out to?

Find all of the Ohio Performance Level Descriptors here.

If you have never joined in on #OHedchat Weds. nights at 9:00 EST on Twitter, this is the week to join in.  David Liben, one of my literacy superheroes and a Senior Fellow in Literacy at Student Achievement Partners ( will be the special guest moderator this week.

Draft Ohio Model Curriculum - Science, The Nature of Science, Content Elaboration for ODE Science - take time to read through this and make comments by Sept 28….get some great resource ideas and progression of learning connections in the process!
Draft Ohio Model Curriculum - Social Studies  and Draft Ohio Model Curriculum - Financial Literacy  - take time to read through these and make comments by Sept. 28...great way to see that vertical alignment and help kids connect to prior learning.  

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Building Bridges To Connect Prior Knowledge

Hi All, 

I had a chance to be a “new learner” this summer! I am learning how to play Ukulele.  I play violin, so when I learned how to play mandolin it was easy - the same strings and the same fingering.  Ukulele has different strings and fingering and it took awhile to get my fingers to make new shapes. What made the most difference for me was finding a note chart that I could use to play scales. That one piece of information helped bridge what I already knew with what I was learning.  At the beginning of the year, it is important to find those bridges for all the learners in your room. Here are some resources that might make bridge building easier!

Don’t forget to join in the CenterPoint Teaching & Learning Advisors –  #CurriculumMatters Twitter Chat about the Importance of High Quality, Content Rich Curriculum Thursday Sept. 6  4-5:00 PM EST
Read the blog posts at and follow #CurriculumMatters on Twitter to follow the conversation.  Please feel free to share this information with your colleagues, too. Looking forward to a lively discussion on this timely topic.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Working With ELL Students

Over the past week, a number of excellent ELL resources came through my inbox.  Being mindful of strategies to support ELL students can elevate the supports and instruction for all the students in your room or school! This is the time of year when schedules are finalized for the coming year.  Will you be working with ELLs? Here are some good starting points.

If you don’t regularly use ALL of the amazing resource on Colorin Colorado, now is the time to visit the site and bookmark your favorites!

Reading Rockets groups resources by themes and keywords.  Follow this link to see all of their resources specific to ELLs.

Stanford has assembled a set of high quality, research based tools for ELLs.   My favorite Venn diagram is based on the Mathematical Practices, ELA practices and Science practices  and can be found here

CCSSO created a framework for ELLs to support the Common Core Standards and NGSS. There is a LOT of helpful information for tiering/scaffolding work in ELA, math and science within this framework document.  The FLARE, formative language section, that begins on p 72 is a start point for identifying vocab, tiering instruction and designing scaffolds.

Resources and ideas for ELLs shared out by Student Achievement Partners (
  • Written work and classroom discussions are a critical part of college- and career-ready instruction and your English Language Learners CAN participate in these rich learning opportunities with the right support. Try some of these scaffolding techniques to support ELLs in accessing grade-level writing and discussion activities.
  • Written language is different than everyday spoken English, and can pose comprehension challenges for all students, but especially English Language Learners. Structure classroom discussions focused on helping students take apart a sentence to discover how vocabulary, syntax, and grammatical choices convey meaning. This new protocol helps teachers identify "juicy sentences," provides a 10-step protocol for conducting a classroom discussion, and includes video examples. Special thanks for Core Advocate Aaron Grossman who helped design the protocol!

Monday, July 31, 2017

How to Use A Logic Model For Evidence Based Action Planning

This blog is cross-posted from

Planning for action around learning goals or building goals can take many forms in the classroom and in your building.  Most traditional action plans include space for defining the goal, documenting what steps you are going to take to achieve it, and who will take the steps.  I have spent the past year working with a Logic Model as an evidence based approach to action planning.  What I like best is the focus not just on planning action, but collecting evidence that the action is complete along with evidence of the impact of that action.  Logic Models encourage you to have conversations around assumptions you are making about the work.  Often, these assumptions, when not discussed or addressed, lead to frustration and communication gaps.  For the past year, I have used Logic Models in planning for whole district initiatives, like our high school chromebook roll-out.  I have also used Logic Models for smaller goals, including keeping a focus on text complexity and writing good text dependent questions.  Logic Models could also be modified to be used as templates for Unit Planning or differentiating instruction for English Learners or Gifted Students.

The first step in starting a Logic Model is to identify your goal.  This might be a set of standards based learning goals that will be the center of an instructional unit.  The goal might also have a broader project or initiative focus.  Ideally, you should be collaborating with your grade level team, building leadership team or district team to frame your goal.  Next, connect that goal to the broader vision.  How does this work fit into the broader work of your classroom, building or district?  Once you have identified your goal, the next step is not to start planning action.  Instead, take time to talk through the assumptions you are making about the students or staff that are going to be impacted by the work.  What prior learning or experience are you assuming they will bring to this work? How are you going to connect this goal to their existing practices or beliefs?  The reflection on assumptions will also help you to identify possible barriers.  Identifying a true barrier that will need to be worked around, or an attitude or mindset that may need to be shifted in order for the goal to succeed, will help in thinking through possible action steps and evidence of outcomes.  Planning the action steps can be done next.  As you think through action steps, identify resources you have or will need.  Resources can be time, materials, human capital, or financial. If you don’t have access to the resources you need, include in your action steps a plan for acquiring that resource.  The real benefit of the Logic Model is in the last two steps.  Take time to identify what evidence will be gathered to show that the action has been completed.  This might be an agenda, minutes, emails, anecdotal records or student work.   More importantly, have a collaborative discussion on what evidence of impact or outcome of the work you will want to see or hear.  What will teachers or students or staff sound like, or act like if the action step in having a impact on moving them toward a goal?  

There are 4 levels of outcomes to think about when deciding on the mindful collection of evidence of impact.
Level 1: Reaction
At this level, evidence of impact might be pushback or a lot of questions on why we are doing this or learning this.  Often this evidence of impact is overlooked, or is seen in a negative light.  Really, it is evidence that the learners are having to re-examine their own thinking or beliefs and seeing how this new information or idea might fit or not fit into this.  Pay attention to the pushback comments or questions.  You may need to adjust or add an action step to help move this group forward.

Level 2: Learning
Evidence of learning might include a shift in questions from “Why are we doing/learning this” to “How do I…?” or “Maybe I could try…”  Much of this evidence will be anecdotal comments heard in a class or in a team meeting.  You might consider using a Google Form or a Reflection document to capture these comments and shifts in thinking.

Level 3: Behavior/Attitude Shifts
By the time students or staff start to show evidence of Level 3 outcomes, they are trying out the new skills, applying the new strategies in a small setting or as a pilot, or starting to grow their own learning around the goal. You might hear students expressing a more sophisticated approach to a task, or hear teachers talking about applying strategies or ideas to an upcoming unit.  

Level 4: Results
This is full buy-in.  There has been a change in attitudes or in skills that is evident across an entire class, grade level, building or district.  Students or teachers regularly demonstrate their new learning or skills in their daily work.  A common vocabulary has been developed and everyone now has incorporated the new skill, strategy or idea into their own belief system.   Evidence at this level might include shifts in district or grade level data, requests for additional “next step training”, increase in student success or the success of a subgroup.  

I have learned a lot about using Logic Models from the team at Bellwether Education Partners and the Collaborative for Student Success Teacher Champions Fellowship.  Using Logic Models has really changed the way I think about planning and following up on my own work, both as a Curriculum Director and as an educator leader.  I have now started to create 2 folders in my Google Drive to help me gather evidence of the work I have done, and evidence of the impact of my work.  Focusing on evidence of impact at all four outcome levels has really nurtured my own positive mindset about my work and the work of the teams I am a part of!

This LINK will take you to a blank logic model in Google Docs.  Feel free to make a copy for yourself by clicking on FILE ---MAKE A COPY.  

This LINK will take you to a Logic Model that has reflection questions for each component.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Using Games As A Final Formative Assessment of Learning

Carnival of Evidence – A Different Approach to End of Year Elementary Portfolios

It is a Friday near the end of the school year.  For Kindergartners in Mrs. Bragg’s room, it is Carnival Day.  The game centers are ready to go, prizes are arranged on the counter, popcorn is ready to be put into bags, and the camera is ready to capture student reactions as they enter the room.   The Carnival Day is a tradition. It is a chance to celebrate all that the students have learned, and give the students a chance to show what they know to their parents.
Mrs. Bragg feels that the time and effort that goes into planning for this day is well worth it.  “My students love it and remember it, but each year I wonder if I have the energy to do it again. And then, I hear from the students comments like, ‘There’s a lot more than I expected’, and ‘This is so fun’, and  that’s why I will do it again.”
What makes Carnival Day a unique way for students to demonstrate their learning are the games themselves.  All are standards based. All have extension questions or challenges to let students really show a deeper level of mastery.  Mrs. Bragg starts by identifying the central standards for the year in math and literacy.  Once she has mapped out the concepts, she takes a look at what game would best let students show evidence of their learning around each concept.    Seven game centers seems to be the just right number. This allows a class of 22 students to be divided into groups of 2-3. She tries to pair students with others who they will work productively with.  Parents help to facilitate the games and have a chance to watch students work with words and numbers. 
Mrs. Bragg has found that each year she has had to add increasingly more complex enrichment questions to each game.  “My students are able to show much higher levels of mastery than when I first started Carnival Day.  For example,  instead of just reading a word, my students are now reading sentences.”   In the Pick A Duck game, students use a fishing rod to catch a carnival duck from the pond. Each duck has a word written on it. Some students may read the word. As enrichment, students may be prompted to name a rhyming word, identify diagraphs or count syllables.  In the Plinko game, students drop 2 tokens into the Plinko board. They then write number sentences using the 2 numbers that the tokens land on.  Extensions include asking students how many more would they need to add to the answer to make 10, how could they right the number sentence another way, or can you change the number sentence by adding 3 to one of the numbers?  Spin to Win is a chance for students to identify numbers, count on to 20, and identify a number that would be 2 more or bigger or less than.  Face painting is a time for students to demonstrate their speaking and listening skills by talking about what they would like to have  painted on their face, and why.  Students collect tickets as they spend approximately 10 minutes at each game. Tickets can be exchanged for small prizes. The students are proud of the skills they have learned.  Parents have a chance to actually watch and listen as their students demonstrate their Kindergarten skills, rather than look through a traditional portfolio of student work.  Because each game has multiple entry points, all students are able to confidently demonstrate their mastery level, in an environment that is celebrating everyone’s learning.
The Carnival Day is a unique way to think about a summative assessment of student learning and how to communicate learning to parents.  The concept could certainly be applied to other grade level classrooms.  Carnival games could be replaced with game show style games or a set of problem solving challenges.  Not all parents may be able to attend.  Sending home directions for how to do at home games that would allow students to demonstrate the same skills, along with facilitating questions and a set of parent friendly mastery level descriptors could accomplish the same goal.  

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Lessons I Learned From Participating in Ohio Standards Revision Process

I co-authored this blog with Tricia Ebner, the co-chair of the ELA Advisory Group. 
Over the past 18 months, Ohio has been involved in a cycle of standards reviews. Per state law, Ohio’s standards must undergo a revision process every five years. Teams of Ohio teachers, administrators, college professors and content experts have volunteered their time to do this work. In 2016, the math and ELA standards went through this process. During the 2016-17 school year, the science and social studies standards have experienced this same process.  This five year review and revision cycle enables educators and stakeholders to reflect and consider how well the standards are working and what improvements might be necessary.
The process is thoughtful and thorough. The review starts with a period of public comment, where teachers, parents, administrators, college and university faculty, and community members can provide comments, recommend changes, and point to research supporting those comments and changes. Then a revision advisory committee made up of teacher leaders and content experts examines each and every comment, with a goal of coming to consensus on the proposed change.  If the consensus is that the comment is relevant and will potentially clarify or strengthen the standards, it is passed along to the standards operational working group.  This second team of teachers, professors and content experts then work to make the revisions if they agree they are necessary. These revisions are then sent to the public for a second round of feedback, followed by the advisory committee reviewing those comments and sending any standards still needing work back to the working group.
As members of the advisory committee for ELA and the operational working group for science, we have been involved with standards review for the past two years. We’ve gained some insights into Ohio’s standards:
  • The vertical progression is key. As educators, it is critical that we know and understand the vertical progression within the standards. In the work with the ELA standards review, it didn’t take long to see that a change made in sixth grade, for example, would have a ripple effect running towards both kindergarten and grade 12. One important strand in the ELA progression is writing opinions/arguments. Standards help to frame the increasing sophistication of students use of evidence to support their argument. In science, this progression helps to map out how students build an understanding of a concept, like force and motion, starting with simple pushing and pulling in kindergarten and going all the way up to calculating force in physics. As a teacher, It is important to understand the foundation students have as they walk into your classroom.  It’s also important to understand that if that foundation is shaky, intervention needs to happen with an eye toward the requirements of the standard in previous grades. Additionally, knowing the vertical progression  of the knowledge and skills students will be working can help educators make decisions regarding students who have already mastered standards at a particular grade level. In this instance, a teacher can make a decision as to whether to broaden the student’s experiences with the skills in that standard, or accelerate the student into the next grade level’s work on that particular standard.
  • Knowing the vocabulary is also important. As we worked through the standards review process, it became clear that some terms used within the language arts standards, for example, needed a glossary, so that all educators in Ohio can work from the same definition in addressing those standards. As we prepare to transition into the revised standards, it is important to pay attention to the glossary to ensure each standard is clearly understood. These are the definitions the model curriculum writing teams are using in their work, and because the test blueprints will be developed based on these standards, the assessments will address these terms as defined in the glossary. In math and science, content specific vocabulary was also carefully looked at to be sure that correct terms were used consistently throughout the standards.  In science, the operational working group had many discussions over exactly the right word to use within each standard being reviewed. Many laundry lists of terms were replaced with a focus on a few key terms, keeping the standards language based in the building knowledge of science concepts and skills, not just memorizing lists or tables.  Beyond vocabulary for students, essential vocabulary was also clearly defined or explained as a support for the teachers who will be working with the standards.
  • Standards build from grade level to grade level, and they also work in conjunction with other standards at the same grade level.  Part of the work of standards review and revision is to be sure that the standards articulate across grade levels and within grade levels in a way that will make sense to teachers and to students. While we as educators need to break the standards down to understand their component parts, that is not the way we should be teaching our students on a daily basis. The standards aren’t meant to be taught as separate, isolated skills and concepts. While we may need to focus students’ attention on one aspect of a standard to deepen their mastery, it is also critical that we have them then work with the standard as a whole.  One way to look at the Ohio Learning Standards is to think of them as the story of the learning that we would like students to master at each grade level.  Within each story, there are a number of strands. In ELA, these include literature, informational text, writing, foundational reading, language and speaking and listening.  The science standard story begins with the nature of science statements, and weaves in Earth/space, physical and life sciences.  Just like any good story, the standards have connections to each other.  Look closely at the literature and informational text standards for reading, and you will see the writing standards reflected in the wording.  Spend time with the physical science standards and you will see that they can be taught through the lens of life science.  Going even further, it is also possible to teach many of the language arts skills through the context of the science concepts!
  • The standards are the floor, not the ceiling, of what students can and should be doing in Ohio classrooms. The standards don’t limit us to only the skills embodied within them. We can stretch beyond those standards. For example, I’ve heard concerns expressed that letter-writing is not specifically named in Ohio’s ELA standards. There is nothing preventing a teacher from addressing letter-writing skills in his or her classroom.  One creative teacher had students write letters to an author, another had students write letters to a story character, from another character.  In science, the working group worked hard to write standard language that would encourage teachers to let students explore the world around them, use authentic data, and find real world situations to build their understanding of science skills. This allows teachers to find science in their local community or their school yard and set students up to become lifelong scientists.  The science working group spent time revising the nature of science descriptions for grade bands k-2, 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12 to be sure teachers would have the flexibility to let students be actively involved in doing science.  people-woman-coffee-meeting
Perhaps the greatest take-away we have had from the work of directly helping to review and revise Ohio’s Learning Standards is the power of teachers from various grade levels and backgrounds working together to really unpack standard language together.  If time could be spent in teacher based teams, grade level teams, professional learning communities having the same kind of focused dialogue, teachers at all grade levels would grow in their own understanding of the the standards, and begin to share best practices for how to help students to master these standards.