Friday, February 24, 2017

Classroom Book = Formative Assessment

I've shared a lot on my blog about classroom books. That's because they're a best kept secret, and I think more early elementary classrooms would benefit from them. By the end of the year, my class will have made over 70, and my students will voluntarily read them every day. That's telling.

This week, Jackie, my friend and coach from the Idaho Coaching Network, gave me a great new idea for how to use classroom books. She suggested creating one as a formative assessment. How brilliant! This is how it played out.

We investigated this question: Why do we have teeth? Byway of a document-based inquiry, we learned that teeth help us smile, talk, laugh, and eat. Then each student made a page for a class book by writing these words: I have teeth so that I can... They had to finish the sentence by deciding on their favorite use of teeth.

I'm guessing that if I can turn a formative assessment into a classroom book for dental health, I can surely do the same in other content areas.

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Saturday Sayings: The Right Thing the Wrong Way

This week I received some peer feedback on a unit I wrote that has me thinking about the feedback I give my students, as well as the kind I might give to colleagues. My experience begs the question: 

How often have I said the right thing the wrong way? 

First off, I don't believe the feedback I received was entirely correct. I think the reviewer overlooked some vital information. Secondly, and more importantly, at times the tone felt patronizing and judgmental, as if my teaching abilities were under a microscope instead of the unit I created, which no doubt was not her intent. As a result though, the tone compromised my emotional ability to receive what the reviewer had to offer. I was too caught up in the reviewer's approach to consider her viewpoint. 

As a teacher I give feedback daily, all day long. I nudge my writers. I confer with readers. I meet with mathematicians. I talk with students about behavior. I even give feedback byway of facial expressions, body language, and physical touch. I wish my feedback were always on target, but I know at times I judge too quickly without seeing the whole picture and get it wrong. Negotiating recess drama is a perfect example. 

Then there are the times when I'm right but my approach misses the mark. At that point, growth is compromised, because the student can't hear what I have to say. Just this week, in the midst of literally being sick and tired, one of my students responded to directions in a way I wish he hadn't. I showed no outward anger, but my approach didn't offer him a strategy for growth either. I said the right thing in the wrong way.  

Today I plan to tackle my reviewer's feedback. I owe it to my unit and my students to look passed the tone and mine out the parts that could raise the quality of my work. And in the future, as I give feedback to both students and colleagues, I must remember that even if the feedback is right, the wrong tone can sabotage everything.

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Sunday, February 5, 2017

Wantability: Book Recommendations

I started the year thinking about reading wantability, and I'm still stuck on that word. Wantability increases the odds that my students will want to use all the skills and strategies we spend so much time practicing. Without wantability I'm simply dragging children through hoops. I do believe I've convinced most of my readers that all this work to become readers is worth it, but I refuse to assume my students have reached wantability satiation. I'm pushing myself to continually give them more reasons to love books, and so I again I'm wondering how to open the door to the literacy club a bit wider. 

Sometimes the answers to our classroom questions lie within our own experiences, which is how I decided on my most recent wantability project. 

I love book recommendations. When I get a good one, I typically can't wait to get my hands on that book. This is the exact feeling of wantability I desire for my students. So I began asking myself how I could use book recommendations with my readers. 

I eventually want my students to recommend books to each other, but first they need to experience what it's like to be on the receiving end. They also need some mentor texts before it's eventually their turn to write them anyway. So I gave this letter to the staff in my building.

Within hours of sharing this letter books starting showing up, and readers in my room fell in love with more great books. 

The story is unfinished. More books are on their way. Wantability is growing. This journey is never ending. I'll keep you posted.

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