Thursday, March 28, 2013

*STAR* Teacher--Jean Bland

Norman Elementary's new *STAR* Teacher is...
Jean Bland
3rd Grade

How many years have you been teaching?
30 years (I can’t believe it, but it’s true).

What is your best memory?
Along time ago, my 5th graders had a surprise birthday party--they invited Dynomite the Clown to perform.

What is the funniest memory?
When I took my class out for a fire drill, I was so proud to be the first class out in a straight, quiet line. Then , Erv Jones came outside to tell me it’s a tornado drill and that my kids would be half-way to Big Rapids.

Can you share a writing strategy?
A writing strategy I use is to put clear page protectors over a final draft and have peers proofread with markers (not permanent) or crayons. Student proofreaders also write helpful suggestions on the page protectors. This is a peer edit and final edit.

Student sharing Proofreading Marks with peers

Students proofreading

Students with their final Writing Project--Well done!! 

What advice do you have for teachers just coming into the field?
Don’t give up! Find a colleague you admire, and imitate their teaching practices.

Classroom Pictures

Thank you for the opportunity to observe your class. I was able to observe the editing process-- what hard workers you have! I love the ABC books (final project). It is obvious the amount of time  and effort that you and your class put into this project, they turned out amazing. 
Thank you for sharing your memories, strategies and advice.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Literacy Stations- April Cole's video

During Norman Elementary's "Professional Learning Communities," the entire building participated in a study with Debbie Diller's Literacy Stations books. These books were a great motivator to many of our teachers.
The video below is from our 2nd grade Teacher, April Cole. She is new to 2nd grade this year, and although Literacy Stations were a little scary & overwhelming to her, she has managed to implement them into her classroom routine very successfully. 
I had the pleasure of visiting her room and taping April and her students in action.
Great job April--your students were all on task, learning and having fun.
Thanks for sharing your classroom,

*STAR* Teacher--Doug Emington

Norman Elementary's *STAR* Teacher is....
Doug Emington
Physical Education

  How many years have you been teaching?
      In all, I have been in the profession for 28 years.  I taught in Toledo, Ohio at Sherman Elementary for three years, at Father Gabriel Richard High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan for five years, and now I am completing my 20th year in Reed City.

 What is your best memory?
     Among my favorites is when we questioned a 5th grade student with a mature crawl stroke about where he learned to swim and who taught him and he answered proudly, 
“You guys did.”

 What is the funniest memory? 
     Over the years, a number of humorous incidents have happened to me including splitting my pants from seam to belt while attempting to show the kids a low slide position last year.  Fortunately I was able to keep my front side to the students until Mrs. Emington who was subbing for the next class of the day could run home and get me another pair of slacks.

     I thank God for a position working with the youngest students.  As Art Linkletter used to say: “Kids say the darndest things!”  After hearing me use the expression “Oh, my Word!” a number of times, one student finally asked me 
“What is your word Mr. Emington?”

     When I first started teaching, my Kindergarteners at Sherman Elementary  used to think my name was Jim.  The students would come in to my class greeting me with a big smile and saying, “Hi, Jim.”  After a while, I figured it out.  Their teachers would say to them, “We’re going to gym now,” so they assumed that was my first name.

     Just this year on the way back to a class, we stopped at the drinking fountain for water.  One of Mrs. Kailing’s kids informed the group with a glimmer in her eye that our water comes from Paris.  I wondered about where she got that idea until I saw her pointing to the button on the side of the fountain marked “Press” and realized she was sounding it out.

Can you share a P.E. best practice. 
     One teaching practice that seems to work is instilling the importance of never giving up.  In every endeavor from learning to tie shoes, to riding a two wheeler without training wheels, to learning to play a musical instrument, from success in the classroom to success on the athletic field,  a Try, Try, Try attitude is Key.  When a student perseveres to experience success where they had once failed, the lesson learned will have a lasting effect on their attitude and confidence.   We make a big deal of this in gym, and I feel so blessed to be one of the agents whereby kids learn this secret of success.

Can you share another best practice.
     Another important lesson I have learned through my training is that there needs to be something for a student who “gets it” right away as well as for the student who needs extra help.  In my graduate work, we learned about extending tasks.  These can be tasks that simplify or restate the work for the struggling student, or tasks that add challenge for those who immediately excel at the task.  For example, an extending task for catching fly balls may be to bounce it to a student to make it easier to track, but for those who are good at it, we extend the task by tossing a smaller ball or making them run to catch.
     I feel that many times we teach to the middle and try to help those who are challenged, but neglect those who we could challenge further.  

I also have found that each student, depending on the task, may find themselves in the gifted or challenged category.  Some excel in rhythmic activities but struggle in sports skills, a kid who is gifted in gymnastics may struggle in overhand throw for example.  This is good in that it teaches them to be humble in accepting help when they struggle and helping others when they are excelling.  
Our challenge is to keep all students on task and ever reaching to become their personal best.

  What advice do you have for teachers just coming into the field?

      My best advice to new teachers would be to learn and spend quality time on classroom management techniques. Time spent on rules and procedures is never wasted.   I also suggest that you borrow techniques from experienced teachers.  In time you will discover what works best for you.  Get to know your students.  As the axiom says:  “They need to know that you care before they will care what you know.”  I personally take the time to learn the names of and pray for the 250+ students that I see each day.

  Anything else you would like to add?
     I want my colleagues and administrators to know how blessed I feel to work at G.T. Norman.  Our Physical Education team is proud to serve our kids and community and is grateful for the support and flexibility of our staff.  The people at G.T. Norman make a great Team!

Doug's pictures

I've had the pleasure of knowing Doug for many years---our Sons (now 25!) went to elementary school together. This was an awesome interview---I love your stories, I love your advice, and I love that you pray for all of your students. 
Thank you for being part of the great Team at Norman!

Friday, March 22, 2013

*STAR* Teachers--Evelyn Webster & Tracie Koopman

Norman Elementary's new *STAR* Teachers are...

Tracie Koopman & Evelyn Webster
Team Teachers
5th Grade & RTI

How many years have you been teaching?

Evelyn- 33
Tracie-  23

What is your best memory?

Evelyn-  Some of my best memories are spending a day at our cabin with my students at the end of every year.  Along with swimming, students have an opportunity to ride in a boat, sail, and go tubing- and these experiences are often new ones for many of the kids.  It’s always a highlight of the year and a wonderful time for us to just be ourselves before the students leave elementary school!  At the end of the day, no one wants to leave.

Tracie-  Some of my best memories involve student writing.  Although I don’t directly teach writing here at Norman- it’s in my blood!  I love seeing how students can use writing to connect what they are learning about to their life experiences.  I am amazed at students’ creativity. 
*Both of us also have favorite memories of students who return long after they have been in our class to tell us about what they remember learning and how we have influenced them in ways we didn’t realize.  What can be better than that?

What is the funniest memory?

*We both think that funny things happen every day.  We like what we do and our students make us laugh all the time.
Evelyn-  I remember one time that I handed out science books and asked students to read from the text.  One student kept telling me that he couldn’t read the book.  After encouraging him several times to just try, I noticed he had a Spanish textbook and he was not Spanish speaking!  
When he said he couldn’t read it- he wasn’t joking! J

Tracie-  I remember a time when I was teaching middle school and I heard someone’s beeper go off.  I told the students that I didn’t know who had the electronic device that was making the noise, but I didn’t want to hear the sound again as we had lots of work to get done.  After hearing it a few more times and feeling myself starting to lose my patience, my students and I realized it was a little bird making beeping noises outside our classroom window.  We all had a good laugh! 

Can you share a reading strategy/best practice?
Evelyn-  I think Reading/Writing Workshop is a best practice.  The best thing about Reading/Writing Workshop is it gives students choices when it comes to reading and writing.  They have more of an opportunity to read and write about what matters to them rather than if it were all teacher directed.  
Choice = love of reading and writing!

Tracie-  I think best practice is writing across the curriculum.  Students should be writing in all subjects, not just during writing!  I think when students write about what they are learning, they form a deeper connection to the topic.  Instead of just reading about what slavery was like in America, students can write from the perspective of an African slave.  Instead of learning a new math concept, students can write about the procedure and explain the process.  
Best practice:  write, write, write!

Can you share a math strategy/best practice?

Evelyn-  I feel it is very important to build students’ number sense.  The way to do that is by doing lots of hands on activities, which allow students to explore the concepts before jumping to the abstract.

Tracie- I think a best practice is to have students keep math journals.  This is a place for students to take notes about the current topics, draw pictures to show math ideas, explain their understanding, and summarize their learning. 

What advice do you have for teachers just coming into the field?
Evelyn-  Teaching is a great job because it keeps you young.  Through your students you will find out the latest and greatest, from books to movies to electronics.  In addition to learning from your students each day, I think it’s very important for new teachers to find a great mentor teacher, one they can lean on and trust.  Finding a teacher like that will make you a better teacher and make the learning process a lot more enjoyable!

Tracie-  My advice is just to enjoy your students each and every day.  Sometimes we get so caught up in curriculum and where we need to be by when, that we feel that we don’t have the time to stop and have that conversation with the student who really wants to tell us something or play the game that makes students laugh.  All that “curriculum stuff” is obviously important, but what’s most important is connecting with your students and making them feel valued.

Finally, we both think that it’s very important to read aloud a great poem or from an exceptional book every single day!  This broadens students’ perspective of the world!

Other:  We think this is one of the best jobs in the world!  What other job do you have where you can start fresh every year and laugh every single day?  Even though there are many other jobs out there, neither one of us can imagine doing anything different!

Pictures from their classroom

Evelyn & Tracie-
I love the way you two work together as a TEAM. You both always wear a smile and have a great attitude regardless if you're running to the other end of the building to "push-in" to kindergarten rooms, leading a small   
1st grade reading group or working with your 5th graders.
Thanks so much for sharing your strategies, advice and classroom.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

*Teacher Workshop*

Norman Elementary's 
Teacher Workshop
Focus: Literacy
March 19th

We had our 2nd Teacher Workshop last night which had a focus on Literacy.
Twenty-One Teachers from Norman Elementary spent an hour networking with their colleagues, making literacy games and enjoying snacks.

The next Teacher Workshop will be Tuesday, April 23rd and the focus will be WRITING.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Formative Assessment Video

This video is 14 minutes long and worth watching. It goes through the principles of formative assessment.

It touches on:

*Getting students talking
*Giving students feedback
*Peer Assessment
*Self Assessment
*"Comment Marking" and how it's more rewarding
*Giving students "response time"

Saturday, March 16, 2013

*STAR* Teacher--Lia VanScoyoc

Norman Elementary's New *STAR* Teacher is...

Lia VanScoyoc
5th Grade

*How many years have you been teaching?
I have taught for nine years.  My teaching experience has included many grade levels.  I was hired in at the Middle School for 7th grade Language Arts and the following year I  was transferred to the Elementary.  In the Elementary I have taught 2nd, 3rd, and 5th grades. I feel that teaching various grade levels has helped me expand my teaching strategies and have a deeper understanding of the curriculum.

*Will you share one of your best memories?
One of my best memories is when I was pregnant for my son, Liam. I was teaching 3rd grade at the time, and my students were very excited.  I had the pleasure of my sister (Ms.Erbes) taking over during my maternity leave.  The month before I was due, she and I would collaborate and team teach. The students enjoyed our “sisterly” teaching, and benefited from our positive teamwork.  Before I left, they had a party for me.  One young girl brought in stuffed animals that she loved to give to my unborn little boy. I was moved by her unselfishness to give up favorite toys for an unknown child. It made me realize that I am more than a teacher to my students. I am a important person in their life.

*Can you share one of your funniest memories?
  Funny happens weekly when you are a teacher.  Sometimes daily. One of my funniest memories includes the Lost and Found.  A student was returning with a group from RtI when they saw a pair of rollerblades on the Lost and Found table. Unsupervised, this child decided to put them on and rollerblade around the hallway.  Other students that had been with this child returned and I was wondering what was taking this other child so long.  I asked a little girl that had been with this child and she said, “Oh, he is rollerblading the hallways.” Shocked, I ran to see.  As I opened the door he walked in. I later found the rollerblades in his locker and we had a stern chat. In my head, I was laughing at his opportunistic choice.

*Can you share a reading strategy or best practice?
 I enjoy Writing and Reading Workshop. We make time for it each day. I think it is so important to remember the connection between reading and writing.  In order for students to be better readers they need to be writing.  Better writers make better readers. Research has shown the correlation between successful readers and the act of writing.  With this in mind, during both reading and writing workshop I use mentor texts. I believe that to make better readers and writers, we need to show them well crafted books through professional examples.
When teaching students about crafting “grabber” leads in Writing Workshop, I read aloud and show them the first sentences from books like  Charlotte’s Web , Shrek , Because of Winn Dixie, The 39 Clues: Book 1, and other well crafted leads in books.  We discuss what makes them “grabber leads”.  Students then research through chapter and picture books to find other examples of “grabber” leads. Students choose a favorite and put it on an index card.  They share and we help decide what type of lead it is.  I then pull out a story that I have been writing on the overhead and rewrite my lead using what we learned.  Student then go to a story they are working on and craft three different possible “grabber” leads they could use to start their story.
In Reading Workshop, I use mentor texts to help teach comprehension skills/strategies as well as word knowledge. One comprehension strategy that good readers actively do is to make connections.  I model for students how I draw connections while reading by giving an example using our mentor text.  Students then use this strategy while reading their book during independent reading time.  They use  yellow sticky notes to write down connections while they read.  At the end, we share our connections as a class.
In both Reading and Writing Workshops, students are motivated by choice. They chose books at their level to read, and are writing on their chosen topic.

*Can you share a math strategy or best practice?
In Math, I believe students should be actively engaged. When practicing concepts, one way I do this is by each student using a whiteboard and marker. For example, after taking notes on the different methods of multiplication , I model each method.  I give a practice two or three digit multiplication equation. Students first work with a partner using one of the multiplication methods.  After I think most understand the different methods (Place Value Method, Algebraic Method, and Expanded Notation Method), I put a multiplication equation on my whiteboard or overhead projector. I ask students to show me how to find the answer to the equation using one of the methods independently. After a few minutes of working, I walk around and can access who is understanding and who is struggling with the concept.  I then say, “One, two, three, share.” Students know that this means to hold up their dry erase boards with their work and answers.  I check to see their answers. I choose a person who has it correct to explain how they did their work. This is a way for student to stay actively involved, learn from their peers, and a great way for me to find those who need intervention or those that need enrichment. An added bonus is that students love writing on whiteboards and are motivated to do the work.  :-)

*What advice do you have for new teachers coming into the field?
My advice for new teachers is simple. Be humble. Soak up the wisdom from veteran teachers, and mentor teachers. If you have the opportunity, observe many different classroom and reflect on how the teacher is being effective. Realize that teaching is an art that is perfected over time.  Be patient with yourself and see the things you are doing well and remember them.  Find the areas you want to grow, and actively seek out other teachers that have effective strategies.  Find your strength for each day in yourself and your colleagues.  Take all your knowledge, combine it with wisdom, research, and personal passion, there you will find your teaching identity. I am still honing my craft.

     I try to build a community of learners in my classroom.  One way I do this is through interactive literacy boards.  Students can chose to read a book and give their opinion on it by moving their picture to “yes, I would recommend this book to others” or “no, I would not recommend this book to others”.  Of course there is no right or wrong answer.  Students get to know each other by talking about books. This helps to them to feel apart of a community, and encourages them to grow as readers.

Pictures of Lia's Classroom & Student's

Classroom Library

Student's Reading

Reading Chair


"Good Readers"

Phases of the Moon

     What an awesome interview! You have shared some great Reading & Math Strategies/Best Practices. I love your Readers & Writers Workshop and the detail that you shared with us. I really like the advice that you gave to new teachers, 
                      "Find your strength for each day in yourself and your colleagues"
     I had the pleasure of working with you for a short time last year and it didn't take me long to see your passion for teaching and the love that you have for your students.
     Thanks for sharing your memories, advice and students.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

*STAR* Teacher--Kelly Stearns

Norman Elementary's new *STAR* teacher is...

Kelly Stearns
Special Education

How many years have you been teaching?
This is my 13th year. I taught in a Multiage 3rd-4th grade classroom for 2 years as the inclusion teacher, I taught 2nd grade one year, and I have been in the Resource room for 10 years.

What is your best memory?
I think my best memories are the little moments that most teachers take for granted. Like a student finally being able to snap their own pants, or when they can write their own name. The look on their faces as they beam with pride, knowing they have accomplished something they have worked so hard at is AWESOME. Those are the best memories.

Tying shoes

What is the funniest memory?
Oh there are so many. But I think the one that stands out the most would involve blue sticky tack. I had one student who liked to pick sticky tack off things hanging in the hallways. I would always tell him that is was stealing, and take the tack away. One day he didn’t have any when he came into my class. However, he was constantly picking at his belly button. Finally I asked him if there was something wrong. He said “no”. Just a few minutes later, another student said she saw blue stuff coming out of his belly button. When I went to see, sure enough there was “blue stuff”…sticky tack. He hid the sticky tack in his belly button. It was a hot day and it melted inside his belly button! It took three days to fully remove all of the tack!

Can you share a Reading Strategy or Best Practice?
I think the more a student reads, the better they become. I do “Book Baggies” every night. A student chooses a book at their own level, they read it to me, then take it home and read it to an adult. The next day they have to read it to me again. I have been doing this for many years and every one of my students has gained 6 months to over a year’s reading growth per year. This is a big growth for struggling learners.
One of our favorite sight word activities is using the Dolch words; students have their own set of words they are learning on a ring. We practice these several times a week, verbally, but then we also do several activities during the week as well. We will write them in sand, use stamps to write them, write them BIG and then decorate them, and our most favorite activity: using a book and colored tape. We find as many of our sight words as we can in the book. When we find one of our words, we cover it with the tape. Then we read the book, and take the tape off each sight word we can read correctly-- A visual for them to see words they really know, and a visual for me to see what words they still struggle with.

Finding words and covering with colored tape.

Can you share a Math Strategy or Best Practice?
I do a Question of the Day. It is usually a math concept like telling time, counting money, a calendar concept, graphing or number sense (I take these concepts from IEPS). Each student writes their answer on a scrap of paper. After each student has turned in their answer, I call small groups to solve the question. This gives me a quick snapshot of who understands a concept and who needs extra practice. It is also an easy way to keep track of IEP growth.

Calendar with Questions

 Weather Calendars
Kelly's students track different weather concepts monthly. Then graph results at the end of the month.

Since my students don't learn in the "traditional" way, hands on learning is best. We use a lot of hands on manipulatives to figure out math problems.We also use saying and tricks. Here is one way I teach telling time. I say that the hour hand/little hand always gets to go first when saying her name, because she is the smallest. she can ONLY say the numbers on the inside of the clock because those are the only ones she can reach. Now the minute hand/big hand always has to go last when saying his name because men always let ladies go first. He can only say the numbers on the outside of the clock because he is tall enough to reach them. As a team they can tell the time. I use a big clock that the students can manipulate and practice telling time with.

What advice do you have for teachers just coming into the field?
Use veteran teachers as resources. Also, learn all you can about classroom management and behavior modification. You will have one of my students in your class, if you establish rules and routines right away, everything else will be easier!

Is there anything else that you would like to share?
This year I am trying something different for reading comprehension. I am reading aloud the Magic Tree-House Books. They are fantastic!
I read several chapters a day to my whole class. We talk about what we just read and compare it to previous Tree-House books that we have read. We then do an activity about the book and make class notes on the board about each book. We use “Google Earth” to look for the places mentioned in each story. We create a passport for each book. After reading each book, everyone in my class from grades K-5th grade take the Accelerated Reader test. Student’s love these books and the A.R. test scores prove how much they are listening and learning. We have also sent Jack and Annie on adventures to our relatives, and have gotten a few responses back!  This is along the same concept as the Flat Stanley Idea.

My favorite part of this Post is your Magic Tree-House activities that you do with your students. I love that series and used to read it to my first grade students. You've gone the extra mile by taking it across the curriculum in very creative ways. Using Google Earth to follow Jack & Annie's adventures is such a great idea and has given your students the opportunity to see the world. 
Thanks for sharing your students, stories and advice.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Chapter 8-Learning Targets..Helping Students Aim for Understanding in Today's Lesson

Learning Targets--Helping Students Aim for Understanding in Today's Lesson
By Connie M. Moss & Susan M. Brookhart

I highly recommend that you read this book. It will really help your understanding of what Learning Targets are and their importance.

 *I found used copies on inexpensive to purchase  ISBN  978-1-4166-1441-8

Chapter 8—Using Learning Targets to Guide Summative Assessment and Grading

*Student’s grades should be based on the same learning targets that they have aimed for. It doesn’t make sense to have students learn on thing and then grade them on something else.
To truly base summative assessment and grading on the learning targets students actually worked toward, you need to do two things.
-Design classroom summative assessments to summarize achievement over a set of learning targets.
-Aggregate the grades from those summative assessments using a method that will result in a final report card grade that keeps the learning targets in balance.

*What Should Grades Mean?
Grades are supposed to communicate student achievement of state standards and curricular learning goals. Often, grades don’t reflect learning. Many teachers add points or credits that reflect effort and behavior so that the meaning of the resulting grade is not clear. Report cards need not report only academic learning outcomes, but effort and behavior and progress or improvement should be reported in separate sections, using different symbols from the academic grades, if desired.
Learning targets help clarify the grading process. Taking learning targets seriously leads to a grading philosophy rooted in the following beliefs:
            -Academic grades should be based on achievement of learning goals.
-Effort and behavior should be assessed separately and handled by working with the student.

*Learning Targets and Grades
Learning targets are the connection between daily learning and the reportable achievement of learning goals. Today’s learning target should build on yesterday’s learning target, and any one learning target should fit into a learning trajectory that goes on to something bigger—at some point, something big enough to be reported.
The student’s report grades should reflect their developing understanding of the learning targets. From the students’ point of view, the rationale is simple:
            -You (the teacher) asked me to learn these things.
            -How well did I do?

(pg 134)From the teacher’s point of view, the main points are the same. Below is a list of reasoning that leads from learning targets to achievement-focused grading practices.

-I (the teacher) asked you to learn these things.
            -I shared learning targets with you, in a sequence that makes sense.
 -I presented you with learning opportunities and used strong performances of   understanding.
            -I gave you feedback on your work based on the learning targets.
            -I gave you opportunities for self-assessment based on the learning targets.

-After all this, I will assign a grade that summarizes how well you learned.
-I will design summative assessments that check on your level of attainment of the learning targets, individually or in clusters that make sense.
-I will put the grades for these summative assessments together in such a way that the summary grade is the best indicator of your achievement level that is possible with the symbol system we use in our school.
-I will communicate additional information (because one summary grade can’t tell everything) in comments and in conferences with you and your parents, as needed.

Up to this point, the book has emphasized the reasoning delineated in the first two bullets. It has described learning targets and performances of understanding and explained how they are the means by which teachers design learning tasks for students, students engage in the learning tasks, and students make sense out of their learning.
But the intent of these learning targets would be nullified if we didn’t also honor them in summative assessment and grading. In the following sections, the book provides guidance on how to design summative assessments that yield grades that are faithful to your students’ learning targets and how to aggregate those grades into a reportable summary that is, in turn, faithful to those learning targets.

*Summative Assessments: The “Ingredients” for Grades
Designing summative assessments that summarize achievement over a set of learning targets involves two general principles:
1.      For each summative assessment, use a plan, or blueprint, that faithfully represents the learning goals toward which the lesson-level learning targets were aimed.
2.      Write test items or performance tasks that elicit the intended performances, and create scoring rubrics that give credit to all intended aspects of the performances.

*Planning Summative Assessments That Represent the Learning Goals
In your instructional planning, you derive unit goals from state standards and curriculum goals. Then you derive teacher instructional objectives and student learning targets from those unit goals. You make sure that students are engaging in strong performances of understanding that focus their work on the learning target and at the same time yield evidence of student progress toward the learning target.

For summative assessment, you reassemble what has been pulled apart for instruction and formative assessment at a higher level. Summative assessments that faithfully represent learning goals are analogous to performances of understanding that faithfully represent learning targets. The unit is larger than the lesson, encompassing understanding of a set of learning targets or a more complex learning goal farther along the learning trajectory. But the principle is the same.

Recall back in chapter 2, how each day’s lesson feeds learning forward toward increasingly more complex understanding and skills. Like most formative assessment, most daily performances of understanding focus on small pieces of knowledge or aspects of skills

The reason for this narrower focus is that the main purpose of performances of understanding is learning—not grading—and understanding these small chunks of knowledge is necessary to support next steps in learning. In contrast, summative assessment typically addresses larger chunks of knowledge or more integrated skills, because the purpose of summative assessment is to ascertain what has been learned. You could call summative assessments “meta-performances of understanding.”

To assemble the chunks students have learned into a valid indicator of integrated knowledge and skill, you need a plan—typically called an assessment blueprint. Assessment blueprints are useful for planning both tests and performance assessments. There are many ways to draw up an assessment blueprint.

Figure 8.1 pg 137 is a template for a
Two-Dimensional Assessment Blueprint for One Summative Assessment.

Table Headings:

Content Outline-  Knowledge-  Comprehension-   Application-    Analysis-   Total Pnts-   %-

Figure 8.2 pg 138 is a template for a
One-Dimensional Assessment Blueprint

Table Headings:

Outline-          Total Pnts-      %-

*Writing Test Items and Performance Tasks that Match Intended Assessment Outcomes

Example of a Test Blueprint
-The blueprint contains major decisions about the unit test you will write.
-It allows you to allocate the relative emphases you want the various learning targets to have in the test score by using the points and percentage column.
-If the proportions don’t look right, you can change them while you are still at the blueprint stage, before you have taken time to write or find good test questions.
A test blueprint also allows you to allocate the proportions of the test that will tap various kinds of thinking or cognitive processing, using the points and percentage rows at the bottom of the blueprint.
*Remember that the goal is not to fill all of the cells but to appropriately organize the learning targets for the unit so that you know what you are assessing and can write questions accordingly.
*Writing the questions is the next step. For each of the filled-in cells, write or select questions that are mini-performances of understanding for the content and cognitive level specified.
*When you write questions for each of the cells, understand that the purpose of the point allocation is to have the overall test score reflect the desired emphases. You would write or select the questions that best sample the knowledge and skills described by the blueprint.  

On page 140, Table 8.3 shows an example of a test blueprint for 5th grade Unit Test on Weather.

So try to visualize this table…

Top Heading is: Cognitive Level
Under the Cognitive Level there are 6 other headings each in its own column: 
Knowledge; Comprehension; Application; Analysis; Total Points; %

On the Left of these 6 headings is the “Content Outline” Column. In this column, under the Content Outline heading is: Row 1: Atmosphere; Row 2 Air pressure and wind; Row 3 Water vapor and humidity; Row 4 Clouds and precipitation.

Then at the bottom of the table under the “Content Outline” heading it Total Points and the row under that is %.

There are points & % given under each Cognitive Level Heading.
Without seeing the table you might not understand my description of it so I do apologize. As I’ve said during each chapter summary, I do recommend the book because there is so much more in it than I’m able to post.

*Report Card Grades
Report card grades that accurately summarize achievement over a set of learning goals must start with a set of ingredients—that is, individual summative assessments that accurately summarizes achievement of intended learning goals.
Report card grades that accurately summarize achievement of learning goals must combine the component grades in ways that maintain the intended meaning about student achievement.
*Have a Grading Plan that faithfully represents the set of learning goals on which you need to report.
On most report cards, academic achievement is reported in one of two ways: either as a list of subjects (reading, math, science) or as a list of standards with subjects (understand and used different skills and strategies to read). In either case, the subject or standard represents a domain of achievement that is larger than, but contains, the domain described by the learning targets and assessed with your summative assessments. The idea is to select, from the choices available in the grading scale on which achievement is reported, the symbol (usually a number, letter, or category) that best represents student achievement in that subject or on that standard. You have information from each of the summative assessments (the “ingredients” for the report card grade), and your task is to summarize that information in such a way as to be able to report the best representation of the student’s achievement.
*If you summarize the information well, you will see that there is a direct link from the learning targets to the report card grades. The learning targets were the basis for learning in classroom lessons, and the performances of understanding yielded formative assessment information for improvement. At some point, you took stock of what had been learned with a summative assessment, using a blueprint that cross referenced the grades on individual assessments with reporting standards and learning targets. Now, you summarize those individual assessment grades in ways that maintain your intended balance of information about student achievement of the content and thinking skills assessed.

*Put Grades on Comparable Scales with Meaningful Performance Levels
If the grades from your individual summative assessments are not on the same scale, the properties of the scales will alter the final information. We call it “arithmetic injustice” when a teacher puts two scales together whose numbers or levels behave differently and gets a final result that isn’t what she intended. When you record your grades, put them all on the same scale. We recommend the performance scale that matches your reporting scale, if possible. For example, you might record whether a student is Advanced, Proficient, Basic, or Below Basic on each summative assessment. Or you might record whether the student’s performance was at the A, B, C, D, or F level for each summative assessment. If you have a test that results in a percentage correct (say, 82%) and a project that is graded with rubrics (perhaps with four 4-point criteria), don’t record these non-comparable numbers. Instead, translate students’ performance on each into the same scale, and record those. Then, when you summarize, you’ll be comparing apples to apples.
Be careful of how you handle failing grades and zeros. Because the F range in a percentage scale is so much bigger than all of the other grade ranges, a low grade in one assessment may end up contributing more to the final grade than the other summative assessment, even if that was not the intent.

*Combine Grades in a Way That Maintains the Performance-Level Meaning.
Once you have all your summative assessment (achievement) grades recorded on the same scale, it’s time to combine them into a summary grade. A blueprint-like grading plan is helpful here because it show you how much weight to give each summative assessment. Use the standards and learning targets to think through the weighting. Which learning targets are more important? On which learning targets did you spend more time? Those should carry more weight in the final grade.
After weighting the individual “ingredient” grades so that they contribute more or less heavily to the final grade, as you intended, summarize them into one grade by taking the median of the individual grades. In most circumstances, the median will be a better representation of typical performance on a standard than the more familiar mean (sometimes called the “average”).
But don’t stop there! Remember, your task is not to do a set of calculations on your class grades. Your task is to select, from the choices available in the grading scale on which achievement is reported, the symbol that best represents student achievement in that subject or on that standard. The median grade will be the best representation for most—but not all—students.
Therefore, after you have your class list of median grades, do a “judgment review” and revise the grade in the rare cases when the median is not, in your judgment, the best representation of student achievement. There are two circumstances when the median may not be the best representation.

1-      When a student’s pattern of achievement has been on of steady improvement. In that case, privilege recent evidence. Suppose, for example, that a student began a repot period at Basic level on a standard, but improved so that h reliably performed at the Proficient level by the end of the report period. The median grade may be Basic, but this student’s current status on that standard is Proficient. Use your judgment, based on the pattern in the achievement evidence, to revise the grade and assign Proficient.

2-      When the grade is right on the borderline between two categories. Then the question becomes, “In my judgment, does the higher or lower grade best represent this student’s achievement in the subject or on the standard?” Use additional achievement evidence to answer that question. Consider how the student did in the performances of understanding you observed. Which grade or proficiency level did the student’s work, overall, reflect? Use your judgment, based on this additional evidence, to assign the appropriate grade.

This chapter illustrated how keeping students’ learning targets in mind so that it will lead to grading decisions that generate meaningful, interpretable grades for individual summative assessments and report cards. Throughout this book, they have applied the idea of learning targets to various aspects of formative assessment, to differentiated instruction to higher-order thinking, and to grading. Those are the most obvious categories of application. As you pursue your understanding and use of learning targets you will find they are useful for every aspect of instruction and assessment.

Chapter 9 is the last chapter.
A Learning Target Theory of Action and Educational Leadership: Building a Culture of Evidence
As I’ve said each week, this is a great book with a lot of examples, tables and charts that I’m not including in the post. I highly recommend that you purchase a copy of the book for further information and study.

Until next time…

Thursday, March 7, 2013

*STAR* Teacher---Pat Sugars

Norman Elementary's new *STAR* Teacher is...

Pat Sugars
3rd Grade

How many years have you been teaching?
This is my 24th year.

What is your best memory?
I think a lot about my first year teaching. I taught in a small parochial school in Prudenville. I taught a split classroom of 1st and 2nd graders. I’m sure I made many mistakes, but it was a very successful year for my students and I. I think I learned as much as my students that year.

What is your funniest memory?
A student wanted to bring in his pet cockatoo. I said okay and his parents brought it in at the end of the next school day. They wanted to take the bird out of its cage to show the children. I was not sure about this, but they said it would just sit on their shoulder and not fly around. Well, they took the bird out and it did sit on their shoulder for about 15 seconds, then it took off flying around the room. You can imagine the students screaming and laughing. The bird came to stop on top of my head. There I stood in front of the class with this big bird perched on my head, I was afraid to move. My students laughed so hard some were falling out of their chairs.

Can you share a reading strategy/best practice?
Use graphic organizers to help your students with reading comprehension. I use story maps, charts, Venn diagrams to compare and contrast, webs, cause and effect charts. There are many good internet sites with great student graphic organizers.

Can you share a math strategy/best practice?
A very good second grade teacher shared this with me (thanks Andy); I do a Morning Math every day. I put 7-10 math problems on the board for morning work. The problems are a review of previous taught math skills. Some problems are extra practice that reluctant learners need and some are challenging what they have learned to take it a step further. We do daily time and money problems also. I really feel this quick math review makes a big difference in my student’s math skills.

What advice do you have for teachers just coming into the field?
*Don’t be afraid to try new things.
*Talk with your peers and steal their good ideas.
*Enjoy your students. Each one is unique.
*New ideas are always changing in education. Ride the newest wave, but know it won’t last forever.
*Be optimistic and flexible.

Pictures from Pat's Classroom:

Pat--you win the prize for the funniest story! I would have died if that bird landed on my head.
I used Morning Math Journals too. I taught 1st grade across the hall from Andy and he shared that idea with me as well. It is a great way for students to practice the skills that they have been working on and it gives the teacher a few minutes to take care of morning business.
Thanks for sharing!