When I was 15 years old, Drivers’ Education, for me, took place in a classroom and the parking lot of John Marshall High School. As I recall, we spent many class periods reading and talking about the act of driving a car. We had a simulator that arrived by truck and was parked in the parking lot for us to practice in before we were ready to take to the road.
Mr. Knipshield, Nipper as we called him, showed us movies, told us stories and had us read articles about driving. Along the way, he would give us quizzes to ensure that we were ready to pass our permit test so that we could graduate from the parking lot driving to the open road. My guess is that he would adjust his lessons based on what we still needed to know.For this portion of our learning, the permit test was the summative assessment. If we did not pass, we would be stuck in the parking lot.
As we were driving back and forth or in an oval in the parking lot, Nipper was talking to us over the radio in our cars. “Slow down, speed up, car #6-leave more space between you and the car in front of you.”
On the road, he was continually giving feedback and was even equipped with a brake in case of an emergency. We had to do our part, but we knew exactly what we needed to work on at all times.
So, what does this reminiscing have to do with classroom teaching? Everything. When we think of the power of formative assessment, it is incredible. Many educators argue that this is the most integral part of effective teaching. With regular formative assessments, both the student and the teacher know the next steps for teaching and learning. The student knows what they know and don’t know, and the teacher knows what to do next. By gathering this information, classrooms become less of a “string of activities” and more of a direction on a clear path.
As an assessment expert, Paul Black put it, “When the cook tastes the soup, that’s the formative assessment. When the customer tastes the soup, that’s a summative assessment.” One definition of formative assessment can be found here.
When I think of Nipper, he was continually individualizing our learning based on what we were doing at any given time. He would adjust our classroom lessons based on our quizzes, questions, and answer during class. He would adjust and give feedback on our behind-the-wheel lessons based on our driving performance. Depending on our need, he interacted with us differently. We all had the same goal in mind-passing the driving test! We just may have needed a different way of getting there.
In this article , there are 10 examples of formative assessments. By choosing the appropriate one for the situation, a teacher will be able to adjust instruction or practice to fit the needs of a learner or group of learners.
One conversation I have been a part of many times has to do with the time that it takes to give and analyze formative assessments. One thing I think about is the amount of time that may be spent preparing lessons that may or may not address the needs of the students. With formative assessments, our lesson planning time will be targeted and more efficient. When our goal is learning for all, knowing where my students are will help me know where to take them next.
As I think back to Mr. Knipshield and his many classes of 15-year-old adolescents, I am thankful that he gave us all the feedback that we needed along the way. We needed to learn and practice in many different ways in order to become road-worthy. I am also aware that my learning is ever present. I am now the one that is formally assessing my driving. After 37 years of driving, I still need to check myself to ensure that my practice is up to par. This is the highest level that we can hope for our students to attain; to internalize the process and using it through life. Check out this blog for a peek at how formative assessment and self-assessment go hand in hand. This topic just may appear in a future blog!
This post brought to you by Ann Miller, K-8 Math Specialist
I was recently shopping at an on-line marketplace that has "Everything from A to Z". A few days later I realized that I had forgotten an item that I needed to purchase so I returned to the site to make my selection. Upon logging in and beginning my shopping, I noticed that, as always, the bottom of the screen was displaying items they believed I may be interested in buying based on my previous purchase history. It dawned on me that this was a formative assessment process much like the ones we strive to implement with our students. Just like this marketplace, I seek to collect meaningful information about my students, through the use of formative assessments, to inform me which path to take with each learner.
Obviously it isn’t just the education world that has keyed in on the value of using these types of assessment processes. This marketplace has found a way to collect the data they wish to analyze. As an educator, I need multiple ways to collect and assess data on my students. In conversing with colleagues throughout our district in regards to formative assessments, there two main ideas that keep bubbling to the surface: 1) wanting clarity around what a formative assessment does and does not do and 2) examples of quick and simple formative assessments. Let’s first take a quick look at what a formative assessment does and does not do. Here are some of the basics:
A much more extensive list could likely be compiled, however, when creating or identifying a formative assessment, this chart provides a satisfactory amount of tips to guide my decision making. With this knowledge in mind, let’s look at some examples of quick and simple formative assessment ideas. These ideas can be adapted from the format presented to better meet the needs, age, or ability of the learns you teach.
-Formative Assessment Ideas-
Have students make a two sided chart stating what they do and do not understand. Students can be given a time limit to write, a number of items to include on each side of the chart, or asked to free write until they feel they are done.
Students are given 3 minutes to explain to you 1 new thing they learned from the lesson. You could give students more or less time to complete this activity. Students could also do a drawing to show their learning instead of writing a response.
Using this method, students are not given a specific method to communicate their learning back to you. Instead, you say to the student, “prove to me you understand” in any manner they choose to communicate it.
Metacognition allows for students to process what they did in class and why it was done. At the end of class, have students complete a table similar to the one below. Students could discuss their answers to these questions instead of writing them down.
Place a piece of paper or whiteboard (or use a technology app) in the center of a table and have numerous students respond to a prompt/question at the same time.
Have students draw/diagram what they understand instead of writing it.
Check for Transfer
Check to make sure your students are able to transfer a concept from one domain to another. This could take a variety of forms. For example, can they identify a climax in a short story, a novel, a movie, and an advertisement?
This is similar to checking for transfer. Have students build/create something that requires them to apply what they have learned.
Write It Down
Have students write down an explanation of what they understand. Read these explanations to help inform your instruction, and write comments on them (or discuss them with the student) to give them feedback.
Have students list 3 things they think another student might misunderstand about the topic.
Have students write a postcard as a historical figure to another historical figure discussing and describing a historical event.
To check for understanding, ask students to write three different summaries:
One in 10-15 words
One in 30-50 words
One in 75-100 words
The different lengths require different attention to details.
Used for a pre-assessment, student self-assessment and even as an exit slip. Green = I know this; Yellow = I may know this OR I partially know this; Red = I don’t know this. You can do this before a topic, during a topic and right after the topic.
Students hold an index card (that has a red circle on one side and a green circle on the other) in front of them where you can see it. As they are following along with you and understanding, they show the green circle side. When they miss some information, need clarification, or don’t understand, they turn it to show you the red circle.
Create a Video
Students create short videos or screen-casts where they explain their reasoning. You can then watch what they create and see what they are able to explain, what they omit, and what they may not understand.
Photo to Assess Learning
Choose two or three photos that represent a process. Have students write captions for each photo followed by a short summary.
As you look through the ideas, note that many of them contain little to no preparation, or need to only be prepped before the first time they are used and may then be used repeatedly. These are just a handful of ideas that are out there. For additional ideas, check out Tools for Formative Assessment and Formative Assessment Strategies.
With all the options for ways to formatively assess students, be careful not to get overwhelmed with the amount of choice. Select one or two new methods to implement as a place to start. As you become more and more comfortable with the assessments you are using, slowly add new ones to your tool kit. Before you know it, you will have a multitude of options to select from as you work with differing groups of students. Most importantly, remember that just as the marketplace from the beginning of my story uses a formative process to encourage & sustain my buying and spending habits, our formative assessments should encourage & sustain our students engagement in their learning.
This post brought to you by Rebecca Mecikalski, Elementary Implementation Associate
I love the Verizon ads that always asked that question. Perhaps it is because one of the greatest challenges I hear repeatedly from teachers across the district is in regards to parent communication. Each year as a classroom teacher, I would reflect on how effective my chosen methods of communication were over the course of a school year. I typically had frequent contact with about 25% of my families, moderate contact with about 50% of my families, and little to no contact with about the other 25% of my families. By contact, I mean two-way communication that takes place on a weekly basis.
In looking at my own practices, I realize now that I was great at one-way communication; newsletters, notes in planners, forms sent home with students, etc. However, I was not offering my families any great tools, other than email or phone, to actually converse with me about their student and how things were going at school. Therefore, this summer I set out to find what other educators are using.
What I learned is that there is a TON of apps out there specifically designed to accomplish the task of parent-teacher communication. I spent some time exploring and weeding through the plethora of options out there and have come up with a list of 5 that impressed me the most and had fantastic teacher reviews.
If you are looking to communicate in a timely manner with parents these days, some form of technology is a must. These are just 5 of a multitude of apps that are available to accomplish this task. If none of these strikes your fancy, there are much more from which to choose. Ultimately, all that matters is that our families can hear us.
This post brought to you by Rebecca Mecikalski, Elementary Implementation Associate
During this past year, many of you at your sites and within your PLC’s have worked very hard to identify the most important or prioritized learnings for your specific grade level. Prioritized Learning is the learning that has been identified as most essential to a particular grade level or course and for which significant time and resources are devoted to ensure mastery. To identify priority learnings we used the five key areas, asking ourselves; does this learning have:
After work was completed within site PLC’s, representatives from each RPS Elementary site in the content areas of English Language Arts and Math came together as a collaborative effort to construct the prioritized learning for each grade level and content area. (insert working Prioritized Learnings) Once the prioritized learnings were identified, teachers again went back to sites and PLC teams to begin the task of building proficiency scales for each priority learning. The proficiency scale will indicate specific information about what student achievement looks like, ranging from no knowledge to in-depth knowledge.
Within the Rochester Public School District it was determined that a three point proficiency scale indicating proficient, partially proficient and not proficient would best rate and communicate information regarding student performance.
In the next couple months, elementary site representatives will come together again to collaborate in the building of District Proficiency Scales for each prioritized learning in the content areas of English Language Arts and Math at each grade level.
Each grade and content area collaborative team will work to be sure each proficiency scale includes the fundamentals, specific word choice, and clarity allowing PLC teams to have the ability to asses, or build multiple common formative assessments based on the content of the proficiency scale.
A great deal of RPS effort, time and resources have been dedicated to this endeavor, WHY??
To answer this question, we need to look at both the reality and the research. The reality is stated best by Larry Ainsworth, “So many standards, so little time……” Statistics provided by Dr. Doug Reeves, founder of Creative Leadership Solutions, tell us that on average a student spends 13,000 hours in school from Kindergarten through grade 12, however if all standards were taught with the same length and depth it would take over 15,000 hours, time we just do not have. Because of the overwhelming number of standards, many of us may feel we have been taking the approach Ainsworth calls “Spray and pray” to try to cover all we feel is expected. When this happens,
Research tells us that the most effective schools focus on: simplicity, clarity and priority. (Schmoker, 2011). This research is also evident in the success of 90/90/90 schools (90% free and reduced price lunch, 90% minority, 90% achievement). These schools have focused on academic achievement by clearly identifying priorities.
For more answers to Prioritized Learning Frequently Asked Questions and the research that supports these efforts, please watch the RPS Prioritized Learning video below and read the Frequently Asked Questions responses.
This initiative is intended to be a collaborative effort to improve teaching and learning within our district, with our experts, classroom teachers, having the strongest and most important voice in the room. Another key thing to keep in mind is that prioritized learning, proficiency scales and common formative assessments are living documents with future opportunities for continuous improvement. As we continue to grow and improve, so will our work in this area.
This post brought to you by Julie Ace, Elementary Implementation Associate
Best Practices/ Tom W. Many Ed.D. and Ted Horrell Ed.D www.tespa.org
Getting students to talk more seems like a very simple task. Students talk all the time, right?! Sometimes, it’s hard to get them to stop talking! The question is: are students using social language or academic language? Our goal should be to increase academic talk in our classrooms, while encouraging students to continue to develop their social language. Seems easy right? Not always true, as I have discovered in my teaching experiences.
Here is an example of a lesson that I learned a lot from:
Interaction is a key component of SIOP (Sheltered Instruction Observation Promotional). We often say we want students to talk more and teachers to talk less. However, before we can expect students to interact and use academic language, we first need to teach them the procedures and routines to do so. The error I made was I wanted students to use the academic language, but I had not taught them how to do so in the Turn and Talk.
So, here are some eight steps to help you not make the same mistake by instead creating an environment that teaches students how to build the skills needed to interact with one another and to use academic language (Echevarría and Short).
| 1 |
Teach students how to listen to each other.
If we want students to talk, we need to teach them also how to listen. What does listening to each other look like? Model for students what active listening looks like. Have students practice listening skills using social conversations first (i.e. tell each other about their favorite TV show) and then move into more content-rich conversations.
| 2 |
Teach students how to respectfully speak to one another.
What types of respectful words or phrases do you hear (I agree with you because…, I don't know that I can agree with you, and here's why...)? Provide sentence frames and model how to use them. Hang them up or write them on the board for students as a reference or to keep in a journal.
| 3 |
Align the conversation to lesson objectives.
Make sure students know the goal of the lesson. That way they know if their academic conversations are on-topic or on-target. If they are not on-topic, remind them of the target or objective to help get them back on track.
| 4 |
Pose questions that prompt high-quality discussions.
If you want students to increase their academic language, then make sure questions lend themselves to higher-order thinking skills. Questions should make students think, clarify, predict, or explain. A question such as “Tell your partner one fact about the Gettysburg Address” could be changed to “What do you think the reaction of the crowd was after President Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address and why would he have reacted that way?”
| 5 |
Teach students to ask questions or expand their thinking.
Students often need to be taught how to keep a conversation going. Put question and sentence frames around the room that expand discussions, such as Tell me more about …, Why do you think… I heard you say…, That made me think of …, Do you think that …, or That idea connects to the story by …. These frames allow students to build on each other’s thoughts and create engaging conversations.
| 6 |
Link oral discussion to reading and writing.
Academic speaking and listening are deeply tied to reading and writing. Student discussions that are linked to text bring forth deeper academic discussions.
| 7 |
Set reasonable time limits.
Think about how long it will take students to talk to each other. Don’t let a turn and talk that lasts 1-2 minutes turn into 10 minutes. This creates wasted academic time and often leads to off-task behavior.
| 8 |
Hold students accountable for their talk.
Let students know that you are listening to them. Walk around and listen to what they are saying. Have a clipboard and write down what students say. Them, when the class is brought back together, talk about the great conversations you heard. Provide examples and discuss why these conversations were so powerful. This will motivate students moving forward because they know you are listening and sharing out their examples and ideas.
Consider using all of these eight steps to take your classroom conversations to the next level. I know they certainly helped my students.
If you would like to study these ideas future, consider reading the article "Student Interaction Gone Awry" by Jana Echevarría, and/or watching the Teaching Channel video "Talk Moves in Academic Discussions". Both provide great ideas on how to help students interact.
And, of course, feel free to connect with me directly. I would love to help you increase the academic talk in your classroom.
This post brought to you by Katie Miller, K-12 EL Implementation Associate
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