Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Session 1: Checking for Understanding Strategies, Simple Formative Assessments

Our sessions for the Common Core Café are back! I am excited to present our first one today and to have two amazing “teacher” facilitators on board!

David Keys, Montebello High School, and Angelica Paz, La Merced Intermediate, are the two expert teachers that will assist in facilitating today’s session on formative assessment. 

What is formative assessment? 

Teachers use a variety of assessments in K-12 classrooms today—summative, formative, criterion referenced, benchmark, diagnostic, screening, and norm referenced. Formative assessment is a process used by teachers and students during instruction. It is different from other kinds of assessment because it doesn’t occur at the end of the learning process. Instead, it is integrated into instruction and takes place as ideas and concepts are developing within a lesson or unit. As such, it provides important feedback for both teachers and students.
Teachers obtain information that helps them know how to adjust instruction to advance student learning.
Students have opportunities to gauge their own learning, ask questions, and improve their understanding.
Formative assessment presumes that students can themselves take action to improve their learning. Via formative assessment, teachers act as guides to help students acquire knowledge and develop skills. This focus on “learning how to learn” is especially significant as we move further into the 21st century because it helps learners become resilient and adaptable in a world of challenges and opportunities.
Three examples of how we use formative assessments to check for understanding are listed below. I have also collected some additional resources that may help you deliver these. 
1. Elementary: 

My student facilitating a math problem solving strategy. He is discussing his thinking process and explaining several ways to solve the problem.

2. Intermediate
Teaching Science Terms and Concepts Using TPR

3. High School
Gallery Walk, Graphic Organizers, and White Board Peer Editing

What is TPR? 
Total Physical Response (TPR) was developed by James Asher (1982)
Learning another language through actions: The complete teachers’ guidebook. The method was designed primarily for students in the early stages of language acquisition. Since commands can be made comprehensible to students with very limited language, Asher used commands as the basis for TPR. The teacher or a more proficient student gives a command, demonstrates the command, and then students respond physically to the command. Because students are actively involved and not expected to repeat the command, anxiety is low, and student focus is on comprehension rather than production. Hence, they demonstrate comprehension before their speaking skills emerge.

Features of TPR
In a nutshell, here are the most salient features of the TPR:
  • The coordination of speech and action facilitates language learning.
  • Grammar is taught inductively.
  • Meaning is more important than form.
  • Speaking is delayed until comprehension skills are established.
  • Effective language learning takes place in low stress environment.
  • The role of the teacher is central. S/he chooses the appropriate commands to introduce vocabulary and structure.
  • The learner is a listener and a performer responding to commands individually or collectively.
  • Learning is maximized in a stress free environment.
TPR Activities
Activities in the TPR method rely on action based drills in the imperative form. In fact the imperative drills are introduced to elicit physical/motor activity on the part of the learners. The use of dialogs is delayed. Typical classroom activities include:
  • Command drills
  • Role-plays on everyday situations (at the restaurant, at the movies …)
  • Slide presentations to provide a visual center for teacher’s narration, which is followed by commands or questions
  • Reading and writing can also be introduced to further consolidate grammar and vocabulary and as follow ups
Formative Assessment Resources for Teachers: 

Formative Tools for Teachers : Tools for teachers to incorporate successful formative assessment practices in their classroom.

NCTM: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) article “Five ‘Key Strategies’ for Effective Formative Assessment.”
Practice Tests | Link
Practice tests for English language arts and mathematics can be found at the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium website.
MARS Tasks | Link
MARS (Mathematics Assessment Resource Service) is a project of UC Berkeley, Michigan State, and the Shell Centre in Nottingham England. The tasks and their associated rubrics provide a platform for professional development in schools transitioning to the Common Core Standards. The tasks can be used to promote discussion about student work and provide real performance data.
Data Tools | Illuminate Education | Intel-Assess
Some California school districts are adopting specific data tools to implement formative assessment relative to the Common Core State Standards. Two companies providing these tools are Illuminate Education and Intel-Assess. Districts are using resources from these companies to guide formative assessment and their work in professional learning communities.

Video Clips of Teachers using formative assessment:

Forest Lake Elementary School (FLES) uses technology to differentiate student learning by initially assessing students with a program called MAP on English and math skills. 

How a resource-strapped elementary school became a top-performing school with a homegrown, easy-to-implement differentiated instruction program.

Examples of Formative Assessment and MORE Resources: 
Here are a few examples that may be used in the classroom during the formative assessment process to collect evidence of student learning.

Anecdotal Notes:  These are short notes written during a lesson as students work in groups or individually, or after the lesson is complete.  The teacher should reflect on a specific aspect of the learning (sorts geometric shapes correctly) and make notes on the student's progress toward mastery of that learning target.  The teacher can create a form to organize these notes so that they can easily be used for adjusting instruction based on student needs.
Anecdotal Notebook:  The teacher may wish to keep a notebook of the individual observation forms or a notebook divided into sections for the individual students.  With this method, all of the observations on an individual student are together and can furnish a picture of student learning over time.

Anecdotal Note Cards:  The teacher can create a file folder with 5" x 7" note cards for each student.  See Observation Folder.  This folder is handy for middle and high school teachers because it provides a convenient way to record observations on students in a variety of classes.

Labels or Sticky Notes: Teachers can carry a clipboard with a sheet of labels or a pad of sticky notes and make observations as they circulate throughout the classroom.  After the class, the labels or sticky notes can be placed in the observation notebook in the appropriate student's section.

Observing Students

Exit/Admit Slips
Exit Slips are written responses to questions the teacher poses at the end of a lesson or a class to assess student understanding of key concepts.  They should take no more than 5 minutes to complete and are taken up as students leave the classroom.  The teacher can quickly determine which students have it, which ones need a little help, and which ones are going to require much more instruction on the concept.  By assessing the responses on the Exit Slips the teacher can better adjust the instruction in order to accommodate students' needs for the next class.

Links on Exit/Admit Slips:
Readingrockets:  Exit Slips
AdLit.org: Exit Slips
Writing Across the Curriculum: Entry/Exit Slips
Exit Slips: Effective Bell-Ringer Activities
Admit Slips and Exit Slips
Learning/Response Logs
Learning Logs are used for students' reflections on the material they are learning.  This type of journal is in common use among scientists and engineers.  In the log, students record the process they go through in learning something new, and any questions they may need to have clarified.  This allows students to make connections to what they have learned, set goals, and reflect upon their learning process. The act of writing about thinking helps students become deeper thinkers and better writers.  Teachers and students can use Learning Logs during the formative assessment process, as students record what they are learning and the questions they still have, and teachers monitor student progress toward mastery of the learning targets in their log entries and adjust instruction to meet student needs.  By reading student logs and delivering descriptive feedback on what the student is doing well and suggestions for improvement, the teacher can make the Learning Log a powerful tool for learning.

Response Logs are a good way to examine student thinking.  They are most often connected with response to literature, but they may be used in any content area.  They offer students a place to respond personally, to ask questions, to predict, to reflect, to collect vocabulary and to compose their thoughts about text. Teachers may use Response Logs as formative assessment during the learning process.

Websites on Learning Logs and Response Logs:
Learning (B)logs: Time to Give Students a Voice
Learning Logs Online:  Examples and Photos of Learning Logs

Monday, October 27, 2014

Close Reading and Academic Vocabulary - Interacting With Text

This morning, I am presenting here is Los Angeles to a group of educators that were selected to be part of the Instructional Leadership Corps (ILC), which is a collaborative partnership among the California Teachers Association, the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, and the National Board Resource Center at Stanford. Teachers have traveled from all over California to be part of this amazing project.
The ILC will provide professional development support to assist teachers in the implementation of the Common Core Standards (CCSS) for English Language Arts and Mathematics and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for California Public Schools. I am not only a selected participant, but also a presenter for a session. My session is on Close Reading and Academic Vocabulary. 

Presentation materials for this session

Close Reading Strategies for The Common Core 

Close Reading is a way to teach analytical reading and critical thinking in one lesson. Close reading is the foundation for all explicit and rhetorical reading exercises that demand a deeper understanding of literary works. Close reading can be presented in a simple form for students starting out and progressively advanced to a highly complex analyses of advanced literary concepts suited for graduate students. Close reading and critical thinking plus higher order questioning go hand in hand. 

Text Complexity

Definition: Text Complexity includes three components, qualitative dimensions, quantitative measures, and reader and task considerations.

Qualitative refers to meaning, structure, text features, clarity of the language, and the intended purpose of the text.

Quantitative refers to word frequency, sentence length and text cohesion. To get a sense of the difficulty of school texts, you have a measure on your computer called the Flesch-Kincaid.  This is a tool that is designed to show if a text is easy or difficult to read.  When using this tool, you will receive a readability formula called Lexiles.  www.lexile.com

Reader and task considerations refer to the students’ cognitive abilities and skills, motivation, prior knowledge, and content/theme considerations.

Strategies for teaching complex text: 
  • Challenge students to struggle with the text.
  • Encourage use of context clues and structural analysis of vocabulary.
  • Teach the reading/writing connection by having students practice variations in their writing to match the complexities of what they are reading.Model and teach critical thinking skills to understand complex text.
  • Adjust instruction to accommodate reading issues as students read more complex text.
  •  Encourage independent reading outside the classroom to increase comprehension and vocabulary.

Additional Resources: 

Tales with a Message, Unlocking and Exploring Folktales - Educator's Guide with Close Reading embedded

Academic Vocabulary


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Teaching challenges in Common Core when planning for English language Learners

The last two months, I have been planning my units of study and making sure that I meet the needs of all my students. Every year I have a class that is composed of at least 90% ELLs, hence ensuring that I meet their needs is essential. Here are a few resources and instructional strategies I have been incorporating in my lesson plans and overall units of instruction. 

Culturally Responsive Teaching Instructional Strategies:

  • Think aloud - Teacher reads passages and models thought processes for students on how to ask themselves questions as they comprehend text. 
  • Reciprocal questioning - Teachers and students engage in shared reading, discussion, and questioning with the goal being to help students learn to ask questions of themselves about the meaning they are constructing as they read. 
  • Interdisciplinary units - Recommended that teachers include and connect content learning with language arts and culturally diverse literature. Topics drawn from children’s lives and interests (sometimes from curriculum) demonstrate how to make connections across the curriculum through culturally relevant literature. 
  • Scaffolding - Teacher explicitly demonstrates the difference between what students can accomplish independently and what they can accomplish with instructional support. 
  • Journal writing gives students opportunities to share their personal understandings regarding a range of literature in various cultural contexts that inform, clarify, explain, or educate them about culturally diverse societies. 
  • Character study journals permit students to make their own personal connections with a specific character as they read a story. 
  • Open-ended projects allow students to contribute at their varying levels of ability and explore a topic of interest drawn from their readings of culturally rich literature. Artifacts, including writings, poems, and/or letters, from students’ lives or culture can represent an ethnic or cultural group. 
  • Cross-cultural literature discussions groups - Students discuss quality fiction and nonfiction literature that authentically depicts members of diverse cultural groups. 
  • Character reading - Students form opinions about a specific issue or cultural concept put forward in the text or respond to a significant event that occurred during the character’s life. 

Click on the below links for resources to tailor your lessons to fit the needs of your classroom.
Colorín Colorado.org is the leading national website serving parents and educators of English language learners (ELLs) in Grades PreK-12.

In this classroom clip, Albuquerque teacher Ali Nava leads her students through an interactive reading of the end of "Burro's Tortillas."

"Persuasion Across Time and Space" This intermediate unit (7th-8th grade) shows instructional approaches that are likely to help ELLs meet new standards in English Language Arts. The lessons address potent literacy goals and build on students’ background knowledge and linguistic resources. Built around a set of famous persuasive speeches, the unit supports students in reading a range of complex texts.

Kindergarten through Fifth Grade Unit Guides (Level 1-5) Activities for English Language Learners 

Visit my NEA Greater Public Schools (NEA GPS Network) site to join me in a conversation about these resources. By providing me with feedback, it allows me to see what other educators across the nation are doing to meet the needs of our diverse population of students.
This site is free and its the largest professional learning community in the nation. Click on the link HERE to take you there.