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Student Engaged Assessment

Are you looking for a way to motivate your students, get them excited about learning, and support their progress?  Then student-engaged assessment is for you!  If you have never heard of this assessment strategy or don’t know how to make it happen in your classroom don’t worry, you’re not alone and I can help.

I first learned about student-engaged assessment when our school adopted the Expeditionary Learning model.  Expeditionary Learning embraces this assessment practice in building student ownership of learning and driving achievement.  Even after learning about what student-engaged assessment was, it took me awhile to really get it and begin to put it in place in my own classroom.   When I did, my understandings clicked into place and I never looked at assessment the same way again.

Student-engaged assessment teaches students to continually track, reflect on, and share their progress towards learning targets or goals they have set for themselves.  Using assessment in such a way is motivating and fun for students!  Who’d have thought?

A key piece in the success of student-engaged assessment is maintaining the belief that everyone is capable of high achievement and that learning comes as a result of effort.  This goes for both students and teachers!

I encourage you to give it a try.  To get you started, I have included a few “Tracking Progress” printables below.

Click to Download

This first document can be used in any subject area.  I used it frequently during our “expeditions” or long-term units of study.  Fill in your long term learning targets or objectives at the bottom and provide a copy for each student.  Then introduce your students to the different proficiency descriptors and teach them what they mean.  One of the most important pieces in teaching students to track their progress is to stress the importance of honesty.  Students are often hesitant to assess themselves as “Beginning”, but let them know that this is totally okay!  When they’re clear about where they are, where they need to go, and how they’re going to get there they will build the confidence and motivation to work their way up to “Proficient” or “Advanced.”

You can ask students to track their progress against a target being worked on once or twice a week.  Students can mark a dot to show where they think they are and record the date alongside it so that they can see  their growth over time.

As you work through your unit, help students analyze their progress charts and why they are or are not making growth.

In addition to the individual tracking progress sheets, you can create a whole class tracking progress chart.  These are really fun and supportive because you can see where everyone is in relation to the targets.  Student’s competitive instinct tends to kick in and they enjoy putting forth a bit more effort to ensure they don’t fall behind their peers.

Click to Download

This second document was created specifically to help students track their progress as readers.  Both a fourth and fifth grade teacher I have been working with are using this form with their students and tell me that their kids really dig it.  They now clearly know where they stand, what level they’re working towards, and the specific goals to focus on to help them get there (you can record these goals with students in the section on the right of the document).  This progress tracker can be adjusted to better reflect the reading levels appropriate for your grade level.  Another idea is to leave it as is and include it in end of the year information to be passed up to the student’s next year teacher.  Students can then continue tracking their progress as readers in their new grade level.

Developing the skills of data collection, inquiry, and analysis in achieving goals is a great skill to teach students in the elementary grades.  It will surely set them up for success in the future.

Thanks for reading,

Visual Agendas

Sharing learning targets and the agenda with staff is always a first step in our Thursday PD sessions.  I used to post the agenda in a standard list format on a piece of chart paper. As I wrote in my last post on infographics, I’m a big fan of using visuals to enhance a message.  So rather than posting PD agendas in a boring old list, I’m now creating visual agendas.  One benefit of creating visual agendas is that the experience provides me with a clear picture of where I intend to lead teachers.  Additionally, this process helps me storyboard the entire professional development session.  As I plan I am able to see possible gaps or misunderstandings prior to PD which allows me to sharpen the agenda and subsequently the teacher’s take-aways.

As a teacher attending professional development I appreciate when my interest is sparked and the learning is clear.  Visual agendas help with this.

I’ve shared a few examples below.  You can create them electronically or with good old butcher paper.  Hopefully they will inspire you to use more visuals to enhance your instruction.

Thanks for reading!

Kristin

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

 

 

The Story of Guided Reading

Guided reading is an approach to literacy instruction that teachers at our school have been working hard to understand and implement in their classrooms.  We did a ton of work and thinking with this strategy last year in PD and continue to build on and refine our understandings this year.

Below is an infographic I created to summarize the WHAT, WHY, and HOW of guided reading in a visually friendly way.  As an educator I’m all about using visuals to help make sense of tricky topics or ideas.  Infographics allow you to “tell a story” with graphics and information.  This happens to be my first one and I have to say it was super fun to make!  I hope it helps you make sense of guided reading.

Below the infographic I have included a video of a guided reading lesson, accompanying lesson plan, and guided reading planning template.

Thanks for reading and Happy Thanksgiving!

Kristin

Guided Reading Infographic

This is a video we used as a model of quality guided reading instruction during a recent PD.  Thanks Becky for letting us learn from you!





Here is a link to Becky’s lesson plan if you would like to give it a go (Becky’s Lesson Plan)!  This lesson is suited for J level readers.

Click Here to Download Planning Template 

 

 

PD Pad Set-Up

Last year I had my first go at setting up a professional development room for teachers.  It turned out to be an enjoyable space for teachers to work and learn in and has since been lovingly named the PD Pad.  Given a new fire code put in place by the district (only 20% of walls are allowed to be covered with paper), I had to get creative with how to set-up the space this year.  I used sheet metal, clipboards, chalkboards, and creatively arranged fabric to bring color and style into the room while still keeping the fire marshal happy.   Check it out!

View from the back of the room

View from the front of the room

I used a piece of sheet metal from Home Depot ($15 and fireproof!) and chalkboard paint to create the background for this documentation panel and the one below.

Our Work Plan targets for the year

I used small chalks boards and bistro chalk from Hobby Lobby to display our school’s Habits of Work and Learning.

I covered plain clipboards with decorative paper, attached our design principles, and spread them out a bit when hanging to create the illusion of a larger display space without having to use paper.

It’s amazing what a few fabric scraps and fabric glue can do for casement windows. Then if you need casement windows fitted then you need to ensure that you get a top installer who will do an amazing job and that company are the best that we have ever used.

I added a few colored flowers (turned into pens) to the pencil holders on the center of each table for a pop of functional color.

I laminated our five “Habits” and adhered them to the front of each table’s pencil bin.

Books for guided reading are available for teachers to check-out.

I asked our principal for subscriptions to a few different educational magazines. These as well as professional books (to the left) are available for teachers to look through or check-out.

A comfy space for teachers to sit and peruse through the latest read-alouds.

A few parts of the room which haven’t changed include our “Cafe” area, “All About Me” teacher cards, and teacher magnets to check-in with at the start of PD.

What An Educator Can Learn From A Cyclist

This weekend I went for a bike ride with my friend Anne.  As we were cruising through the back roads of Boulder, Colorado I couldn’t help but think how similar cycling is to teaching.  Allow me to elaborate…

Cyclists live in one of two seasons: the on-season or the off-season.  During the off-season they take time to rest and recover, reflect on accomplishments made during the on-season, and set their sights on larger goals for the season ahead.  As educators, we experience our off-season during our summer breaks.  We walk out of school on the last day and allow ourselves to deeply exhale.  We reflect on the progress made with our students or with other teachers we’ve worked with (for us instructional coaches).  Hopefully we are honest with ourselves during this time of reflection and can clearly see what worked and what might need some shaping up next season.

After each off-season for us educators, we have the great opportunity to return to school and start fresh.  As we head into this school year, here are a few things we can learn from the sport of cycling that when applied to our teaching lives may serve to strengthen our own on-season.  Let’s ride!

Hills Make You Stronger

As Anne and I were cruising along one of the flat, straightaway sections of our ride, life felt good.  I was in my comfort zone, my body felt strong, and my mind felt focused.  After rounding a bend though, the road started to change.  It started to go up.  Before I knew it I was climbing one heck of a steep hill.  My legs started to slow down, my bike wobbled underneath me, and my mind felt anything but focused.

These moments not only exist on the road, they are also very real occurrences during our days in the classroom.  A student who you feel like you’ve finally gotten a pretty good handle on all of a sudden explodes because of an argument over a pencil and the calm in your classroom turns to chaos.  The copier breaks just when you need it most or a lesson you spent a good deal of time planning totally bombs.  Sometimes these “hills” string together and you feel like you’ll never make it to the top.

Whatever you do…don’t stop pedaling.  Dig deep and keep cranking.  Once you’re off the bike it is significantly harder to get started again.   Just when you think you can’t go anymore, guess what…YOU CAN.  When you do arrive at the top you’ll be stronger and wiser as a result.

Ride With Others

Going on a ride with others is just more fun.   Team rides can motivate you and improve your skills.  You can also be sure there will be someone there to help you out in the case of a flat tire or a forgotten granola bar.

Teachers have an enormously complex job with a crazy number of responsibilities.  Working together as a team (grade-level, administration, specialists, school wide) matters.  Our fellow educators can inspire us, support us, laugh with us, or just grab a coffee with us.  Research shows that relational trust among teachers and school leaders improves student achievement.

So this year remember to smile and say “hello” to other teachers in the hall, assume positive intent, and stop to help when you see another teacher with a flat.  Little things like that make a difference.

Set Goals, Train Hard

If you were to ask just about any cyclist who has completed a century ride how they were able to accomplish such a feat, I would be willing to bet they would say it involved goal setting and some serious training.

Setting goals for yourself and your students using all current data (formal and informal) that you have ensures that you have a clear target to aim for.  Without that do you really know where you’re headed in your day-day work or why you’re headed there?  Concrete goals inspire us and tracking our training or our progress motivates us.  If you can involve students in tracking their OWN progress towards clear learning targets, even better!

Our instruction in the classroom must be strategic, precise, and engaging to make “century ride” results a reality.

Coaching Counts

Competitive cyclists care about results.  They realize that few can sustain their best performance on their own.  This is where coaching comes in.

I recently read a great article that spoke to this truth about coaching.  In it the author discusses the importance of coaching in becoming your “personal best.”  The following excerpt from this article aptly describes the important role a coach plays in doing so:

Élite performers, researchers say, must engage in “deliberate practice”—sustained, mindful efforts to develop the full range of abilities that success requires. You have to work at what you’re not good at. In theory, people can do this themselves. But most people do not know where to start or how to proceed. Expertise, as the formula goes, requires going from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence to conscious competence and finally to unconscious competence. The coach provides the outside eyes and ears, and makes you aware of where you’re falling short.

Through a variety of approaches (co-planning, demonstration, descriptive feedback) instructional coaches can help push your thinking and your practice.  Letting someone into your classroom to observe you can feel like an intimidating risk.  Taking important risks like this however can pay off greatly for you and your students.  So this year open your doors, invite in your instructional coach and see how far you and your students can climb.

Rest and Recover

Rest and recovery are essential for high-level performance.  This is true for both cycling and teaching.  One of the best things you can do for yourself after a long ride is to eat a good meal, kick up your feet and take it easy.  This is great training advice for us educators as well.

Cyclists know that when they don’t build in enough days for rest and recovery, they’re at risk of suffering from overtraining syndrome – a difficult condition to recover from.  Likewise with teaching, if we’re not careful about creating some balance in our lives, we are at risk of teacher burnout.  This condition isn’t fun for you or your students and is also very difficult to recover from.

Remember to take care of yourself this year.  Pack a healthy lunch, pause during your hectic day just to breathe, and maybe even enjoy a nice glass of red wine at the end of your day.  I’d say you deserve it.

iPad for Instructional Coaches

I’m super lucky…over the past few months, I have had the opportunity to play around with one of our school’s 30 iPads.  As I started to work with it, I focused mainly on researching and testing out different apps and iBooks to support literacy instruction.  Then I began to wonder about how I might use it to support the work I do as an instructional coach…hmmm…

After a few Google searches, I found a wealth of information on how to use the iPad in the classroom.  There was very little information however (none really!) on how to use an iPad as an instructional coach.  OK, I thought, I’ll just figure it out on my own.  Well, this figuring out piece ended up taking much more time than I thought…but I thought I was on to something.  Up to this point, I had been doing my observations and debriefs with paper and pencil and keeping them all in a binder.  I like paper and pencil because it feels much less intrusive in a classroom than a laptop and it’s also what I’m used to, so I feel comfortable with it.  On the other hand, I really don’t like it.  I wasn’t doing a good job of making my notes accessible to teachers and my notes felt more like a jumbled mess than a solid record of our work together.

By using an iPad, I had the opportunity to not only improve my efficiency and effectiveness, but to also serve as a model for other teachers for how they might use an iPad.  So I persevered and finally came up with a functional system.  I’ve been test-driving my new system for the past few weeks and I like it…a lot.  In case you’re an instructional coach (or teacher) wondering how you might use an iPad to support your work, I hope the ideas below will save you some time in “figuring it out.”

Notes Plus

Notes Plus is $7.99. There are less expensive handwriting apps also available.

I knew that I didn’t want to use a big, bulky laptop to take notes when in a classroom observation, so my first task was to find an app that would support handwriting.  After some thorough review, I narrowed my choices down to “Notes Plus” and “Ghostwriter”  I tried using consumer reviews and information on each of their websites, but I couldn’t make up my mind…so I bought both.  The plus of Ghostwriter is that you can upload your notes to Evernote.  This is one plus however compared to the many pluses in my mind of Notes Plus (no pun intentended). With Notes Plus your handwriting feels super smooth and natural.   You can also easily organize your notes into “Coaching Notebooks.”

My coaching notebooks organized in Notes Plus

Once I’ve collected notes from a classroom observation, I upload them to Google Docs where I create a folder for each teacher I work with.  Without making any adjustments, you can upload your notes in a PDF format and add them to your teacher folders for later use.  I like to do some editing of my notes before I debrief with teachers however, and I prefer for these notes I share to be typed.  In comes the “convert handwriting to text” feature of Notes Plus.  Yes, it’s an extra $1.99, but it’s pretty cool and a feature I definitely use.   During the debrief, I can easily add information from our discussion to this existing document.  This is then housed in my teacher created folder, which I share with them.  In doing this, there is no need to email the teacher your notes (which I sometimes forget to do).  It also ensures that you both have an organized system for storing, accessing, and using information collected during the coaching cycle to support your work.

My teacher folders in Google Docs on my laptop

My handwritten notes using Notes Plus

My notes after converting to text

I also use Notes Plus to take notes during other school meetings.  I store these notes in a “School Notes” notebook. (see photo above)

One last cool feature of Notes Plus is that you can take pictures during a classroom visit or walkthrough and add it straight into your notes to refer to later!

GoDocs

GoDocs is $4.99

As an add-on to Google Docs, GoDocs allows you to quickly and neatly manage your Google Docs on your iPad.  You don’t need this, but GoDocs leverages the iPad interface making it easier to work with your Google Doc files.   I love how well organized my files appear and how quickly I can access my docs.

My teacher folders organized in GoDocs

Evernote

Evernote is free!

For keeping up with small chunks of information and taking more thorough notes, I turn to Evernote.  I have the Evernote app on my iPad, computer, and phone and it’s free!  I have one main “School Notebook” setup with different stacks, which allows me to organize my information more thoroughly than I can in Notes Plus.  While I still use Notes Plus as my primary teacher observation tool, I prefer Evernote for other teacher meetings, planning sessions, and jotting down quick ideas.

Evernote on my computer

Wunderlist

Wunderlist is free!

Awhile back I read David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” and because I’m always looking for new ways to stay organized and on top of things, I was immediately hooked.  I tried out his system with a paper notebook, which worked for awhile.  Then I came across Wunderlist…love it!  You can sync it across all of your devices and it’s completely free.  When I’m out and about in the building and something pops into my head, I immediately pull out my iPad and record it.  When I meet with a teacher and we discuss any actionable next steps, I can create a list and share it with the teacher so that we both remain accountable.  My lists are pretty simple, but you can make them as specific as you want.  Everything in Wunderlist is considered an “actionable” item.  If something comes to mind that I don’t need to take action on right away, I store it away for later in Evernote to reflect on when I have more time. 

Wunderlist on my iPad

Diggo

Diggo is free!

Last, but not least, I would recommend adding Diggo to your collection of tools.  An easy way to think about Diggo is that it’s a smart bookmarking tool.  It allows you to highlight information on a certain web page and add personal notes.  You can the share these notes and highlights with others.  With the Diggo iPad app, you can quickly pull up your organized bookmarks to refer to when meeting with teachers.

 

 

 

Although the apps and ideas described above have worked for me, you may find an iPad system that works even better for you!  Please feel free to share how you have used the iPad to support the work you do as an instructional coach or teacher.