Sunday, November 27, 2011

How To Help Your Students Experience Success...What We Can Learn From Football

I watched the Ohio State vs Michigan game this past weekend.  I saw what happens when a coach miscommunicates with his team. I saw what happens when players are asked to make plays they may not be ready to make.  I saw what happens when all the players on the field are not all on the same page of the playbook. I saw what can happen when players don't work together to make big plays.   It was not a happy day in the Shryock household. 

As teachers, I think we can learn a lot from the game of football.  As we work on interpreting the new Common Core standards over the next few years, we need to deconstruct those standards into learning targets, much like a coach breaks down plays to teach his team.  We need to figure out the best way to communicate these standards to our students.  We need to look at our students as players who must be able to master these standard "plays" and apply them in real world situations, often with a lot of outside distractions and pressure affecting them. How can we set up practice situations that will allow them to develop mastery and build confidence in their knowledge?   Just like a football team, we have students who are good at some things, and not so good at others. They come to us with a variety of prior experience and knowledge.  There are always all-stars and bench players. How can we take advantage of each learner's strengths to help them work collaboratively to accomplish our learning goals?  Our role as teacher in the new Common Core model is to truly be more of a learning coach, developing a game plan, communicating expecations, providing  specific feedback, cheering our students on and making sure that they are prepared to succeed when they are asked to apply their learning in new ways or in real world scenarios.

It was a hard weekend to be a football fan in Cleveland, but this week is a great time to start to build a winning game plan for your classroom!  To learn more about the Common Core, or find resources for your classroom - use the Common Core tab at the top of this blog, or the resources links in the right sidebar.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How to Identify Clear Learning Targets - A Thanksgiving Formative Assessment

What does identifying clear learning targets have to do with Thanksgiving?  This Thursday I will prepare and serve Thanksgiving dinner, complete with Turkey and all the traditional sides to my family of 8.  This is the standard that I will be assessed on.  The first step in identifying clear learning targets is to figure out what the ultimate target type is.  There are four categories of learning targets.  Knowledge, Reasoning, Performance Skills and Product. To identify the ultimate target, you first need to look at what the learner is expected learn.  Look at the verbs in the standard...prepare and serve.  The verbs can give you a clue to what the ulitmate target type is. Verbs also help you to identify what the learner will be assessed on.  This is a Product target, since the learner, in this case me, is expected to know how to produce a dinner. My family will assess my mastery of this target when they eat my meal.

Once you have identified the ultimate target type, you will need to identify the foundational or underpinning targets that the learner will need to understand to demonstrate mastery of the standard.  These learning targets will be the scaffolding you will put in place to support your students. You can also pick out content vocabulary that may need to be reinforced as you think about the foundational targets.
  • Knowledge - information that is memorized, needed to do reasoning, create a product or perform a skill
  • Reasoning - cognitive skills, analysis
  • Performance Skill - this requires some kind of physical act
  • Product - the standard requires the learner to make something or create something.

Think about what the learner would need to know in order to begin to learn about making and preparing a Thanksgiving dinner:
Knowledge - how to read a recipe, how to make a grocery list, measurement abbreviations
Reasoning - how to budget for a meal, how to decide servings for food, how to select quality produce
Performance Skills - how to chop, mix, bake, measure, set a table, how to carve a turkey
Product - a complete meal

Once you have identified the foundational learning targets, your next step is to convert them to student friendly language, starting with the mastery standard and then the foundational standards.  I can prepare a Thanksgiving dinner. I can serve 8 people Thanksgiving dinner.  I can read a recipe. I can set a table.  I can make a budget for a meal for 8. I can chop vegetables using safe knife handling skills.  Use the student friendly targets to plan formative instruction events. Don't forget to allow time for learner self reflection. Every year I write down what worked and what didn't work in my journal.  Since this is a Product target, the final assessment would include a rubric to define mastery levels.  Fortunately my family won't be assessing my meal with a rubric! 
I hope that all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Read more about Clear Learning Targets - by Jan Chappuis

Sunday, November 6, 2011

How to Find Extra Time For Formative Assessment - Daylight Savings Time

Today was "turn back the clock" Sunday as the first day of Daylight Savings Time.  I loved that extra hour of sleep!  Wouldn't it be great if we had "Classroom Savings Time" for those days when an extra hour would let us finish a great discussion, complete a lab, send home projects that were completely dry or give students that additional one on one help to make sure they were understanding the content?   As we continue to focus on formative assessment this year, I hear lots of "this is great, but when am I supposed to find time in my class to do this?"

Formative assessments aren't special events. Using formative assessments don't require stopping the flow of the class to give a quiz. Formative assessments won't look the same in every classroom.  At a workshop for mentor teachers I participated in this past week , the presenter referred to INFORMATIVE assessment.  I love this term because I think it really puts the focus on what formative assessments are all about - informing instruction.  

Here are some ideas for using formative assessments on a daily basis without taking time "away" from your lessons:

  • Use a stoplight card system - students have 3 colored cards at their desk or table - as they are working on an activity,  red means "help me right now, I am stuck"  yellow means " I need some help, but I am still able to be working"  green means " I get this"
  • Use a "fist to five" to quickly check on understanding - fist is "don't get this at all"  three fingers might be " I get it, but another example would help"  all the way up to five fingers up - "I get this and can explain it to someone else".
  • Use a four square - the upper right corner is the learning target, the upper left corner is what they already know about the learning target, the bottom right corner is a summary of what they learned in the lesson, the bottom left corner are questions.
  • Use a graphic organizer web to help students make connections to past knowledge, current learning and future learning...keep referring back to it during the lesson.
  • Use popsicle sticks with student names on them as a way to make sure you a selecting a variety of students to participate in a lesson - you can be tricky and put a cup within your cup to keep separate sticks for students who you know may be struggling - so you can be sure they get a question or task that is appropriate to their learning level.
  • Teach using the "chunk and chew" method - sounds gross - but is effective- Teach small pieces of the lesson, take time to have students share what they have learned with a "clock partner" or "elbow buddy" - this gives them a chance to summarize and restate info, a skill they need as we move toward the new common core standards. 
  • Use the learning targets as the starting point for writing a simple rubric.  Students can self assess using the rubric.   Here is an example of how I used this for a group of teachers I was presenting a workshop to:
    • Learning Targets for the Class
      • Explain ways to communicate classroom expectations
      • Describe effective techniques for acknowledging students who meet expectations and those who do not.
      • Reflect on how we may intentionally or unintentionally have a different set of expectations for some students in our classes.
      • Describe effective techniques for helping the teacher have high expectations for all students
    • Rubric  4  mastery  3 developing 2 basic 1 below basic
      • 4  Can describe or explain at least 3 effective techniques each for communicating expectations, acknowledging behaviors and having high expectations for all students. Active participant in discussion
        3  Can describe or explain 1-2 effective techniques each for communicating expectations, acknowledging behaviors and having high expectations for all students. Active listener, occasionally participate in discussion
        2 Can list or describe at least 1 effective technique for communicating expectations, acknowledging behaviors and having high expectations for all students. Active listener

        1 Can not list or describe an effective technique for communicating expectations, acknowledging behaviors and having high expectations for all students.  Not an active listener