Making Good Use of Formative Assessments

 

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From Dr. Sharon Wells, Key Data Systems – Webinar

One of my goals this year is to be more active and consistent with analyzing data. Recently I participated in a webinar centered on using formative assessment to guide instruction and I came away with some really great insights! For some background, this learning experience was led by Dr. Sharon Wells of Key Data Systems. Their work focuses on formative assessments and enhancing student learning through data driven instruction. The webinar is part of the December learning series hosted by Naiku.

As I reflected on my notes from this learning, I could sum up my main takeaway in one question:

How might learning and teaching look differently if formative assessment were made an integral part of instruction, rather than a separate experience?

Breaking that idea down further: If formative assessments were built into the lessons in such a way that immediate data and feedback were able to guide that instruction as it is occurring or as close to “in the moment” as we can get….how powerful would that be?

What if that data and feedback weren’t just teacher centered? What if that data were gathered by the student? What if that feedback was not only from teacher to student but from student to teacher? Or student to student?

Researcher John Hattie has done a lot of work in the area of effect size and looking at variables to determine the impact of many different things on student achievement. Many of the most powerful things we can do, including feedback and self-assessment, are tied into formative assessment. Here is a link an article by the late Grant Wiggins (Professor and Educational Researcher) which outlines the main things that impact student achievement. I know when I read through them there were some surprises on that list for me!

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From Dr. Sharon Wells, Key Data Systems: Webinar Image

At my campus we have been implementing Learning Targets and are in year three of this process. Chapter 4 of the book Learning Targets discusses how to use feedback to feed learning forward. The information correlated nicely with the ideas presented in the webinar and affirmed what we are already targeting. The book presents 5 characteristics of feedback that feeds learning forward:

  • It focuses on success criteria from the learning target for today’s lesson.
  • It describes exactly where the student is in relationship to the criteria.
  • It provides next-step strategies that students should use to improve.
  • It arrives when the student has the opportunity to use it.
  • It is delivered in just the right amount.

Formative assessments are given in a variety of ways and the data that we get from them is useful in informing instruction and next steps for teachers. But to what extent do student’s interact with formative assessment data? Is feedback being given during instruction – when the student can use it – or after? If after, then I tend to think that the focus is more on the teacher’s use of the information rather than using it as a guiding tool that feeds the learning forward.  For sure, this is not an either – or situation.

I love this tool for giving written feedback, shared by @goformative on Twitter last week:

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I would love to hear some of your thoughts and ideas on how you are using formative assessment! Please give me some feedback on how you are using it and what’s working in your classroom.

Here is a link to the Naiku professional learning series if you ‘d like to take a peek at this or some of their other recorded webinars. They are all really informative!

GoodViews

Film provides the opportunity to marry the power of ideas with the power of images.“-Steven Bochco

Do you have a Goodreads account? I do, and I use it often to keep track of books I have read or am reading. I also write and read reviews on Goodreads and I collect favorites from others which I save to my “want to read” shelf. I set annual reading goals on it and recently celebrated having met my reading goal on Goodreads for 2016! But reading isn’t the only form of media that inspires, celebrates, presents ideas or challenges my assumptions.

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Goodreads 2016 Goal

As an educator I am often turning to video as a way of reflecting as well as learning. Today I present to you my “GoodViews” —a collection of  video resources I have found to be particularly uplifting , challenging, and inspiring. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

Simon Sinek discusses Millennials in the Workplace, challenging ideas and assumptions and giving us some great stuff to think about!

What is greatness? How can we achieve it? Will Smith shares his ideas –this video is one of my all time favorites. Very motivating!

I have been a life-long student of Zig Ziglar. As a matter of fact, one of the things on my bucket list is to one day become a certified Ziglar trainer. In this video, Zig Ziglar challenges our ideas about misfortune and bad breaks, and negative life circumstances.

Jon Gordon discusses the power of focusing on One Word. See my recent #oneword2017 post here: https://teachfearless.wordpress.com/2017/01/06/a-journey-of-self-renewal/

I love the above video and the ideas he presents to educators that make learning relevant and inspiring to youth.

These 5 videos each offer something different and are definitely worth the time to watch, so please enjoy my first GoodViews video collection! Tell me what you think and share some of your favorites with me so that I can grow my list!

A Journey Of Self-Renewal

I love new beginnings. Whether starting a new job, discovering a new passion, a spiritual journey, or a new chance to make a difference…there is nothing quite like the energy we feel when embarking on something new. I remember the inspiration I felt when I first decided to learn to crochet. And when I volunteered for the first time with Habitat for Humanity. The enthusiasm when I began writing and blogging, and the pure joy I felt when I began the journey in my new role purpose in education. I recall my once-strong focus on physical health and wellness and realize how little time or thought I have devoted to it lately.  As can sometimes happen,  what we were once eager to discover or pursue soon becomes the norm — a piece of the fabric of our lives but maybe now a rather dull, somewhat frayed thread.

My new job? I’m in year three now and have become pretty comfortable in my role. But sometimes comfortable can become uninspired.  Complaining replaces appreciation, the daily grind takes it’s toll and serving others becomes secondary to all the other pressures we face. This past year I assisted in building 2.5 homes –I say 2.5 because I just couldn’t find the energy got too lazy to complete the last one. That new hobby I challenged myself to learn last year? It went from a vigorously pursued passion to a sometime weekend activity to…well, I can’t recall the last time I picked up that yarn! And my once-strong focus on exercise and healthy eating has gotten pushed aside through a lack of time prioritizing and planning.

Recently I spent time really looking inward and trying to find the #oneword for 2017 that I want to focus on for my own growth and inspiration. One word kept coming to the forefront of my mind. Originally, that word was restore. As in, restore my commitment to and enjoyment of these important areas of my life. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it isn’t a restoration that is needed. It’s a renewal.

To renew means to give new life. New purpose. New priority. All of the areas I mentioned are in need of renewing. As I have become comfortable and experienced with new things, I have stopped growing in them. Stopped feeding them forward. But that growth…that rich, deepening growth is the piece I want to focus on. Because serving others through my work and volunteer life, pursuing and enjoying passions, living healthy physically, mentally and spiritually, those things are not just things….they are the fabric of my life. And it’s a rich, beautiful fabric! But it needs new life and new purpose. It needs brightening up.

It needs to be renewed.

So for 2017, I’m choosing to refocus on my commitment to my own peace, happiness and opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others through the renewal of the fabric of my life:

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Part of my renewal this year will be to spend more time on this blog, because writing, collaborating and reflecting are two of the most important ways that I learn and grow. I will also be spending more time in educhats again. Last night I attended a favorite chat of mine, #ChristianEducators, and I can’t express the “renewal” I felt upon being re-engaged in this meaningful hour with other educators.

I am excited for this journey and to breathe in the newness! My #oneword2017 has already given me a jolt of inspiration and energy. I know it is the right word and focus for me this year.  And I can’t wait to enjoy the brilliant newness that I know will begin to shine through!

Social Media and The School Image

The other night, I suspect like many of you, I watched the debates. I was also logged into Twitter and was watching the reactions of people around the world. Since then, I’ve watched a lot of drama unfold and take shape on social media over the next few days. I am super busy this time of year and I’ll be honest, I get most of my news and catch up on the events going on around the world through social media. I very rarely watch the news or read a paper.

Meanwhile I have been reading the book below:
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My district provided this book and the title definitely stood out to me! What a very important role we as educators play in helping shape the image of our school, district, and education itself. I have always loved the following quote:

“If you work for a man, in Heaven’s name work for him. If he pays wages that supply you your bread and butter, work for him, speak well of him, think well of him, and stand by him, and stand by the institution he represents. I think if I worked for a man, I would work for him. I would not work for him a part of his time, but all of his time. I would give an undivided service or none. If put to the pinch, an ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness. If you must vilify, condemn, and eternally disparage, why, resign your position, and when you are outside, damn to your heart’s content. But, I pray you, so long as you are a part of an institution, do not condemn it. Not that you will injure the institution – not that – but when you disparage the concern of which you are a part, you disparage yourself.” – Elbert Hubbard, American writer (19th Century)

If public school has an image problem, then we need to help with the makeover. We have great stories to tell!  We have fantastic things going on at school and social media is a pretty efficient way to share them with the community. Our families, our community members, are on social media. That’s where today’s stories take shape.

Like anything else, our teachers are all at different places as far as interest and skill level with utilizing Twitter as a tool for sharing and collaborating. At my campus, we created Twitter challenges which you can find here to help get that started.  We also try to model that by making sure we are tweeting out the great things we see, joining in Twitter chats with other educators, and sharing resources we come across with our teachers (always giving credit to our Twitter PLN!). Finally, we have our own school hashtag (#osestars) up and scrolling all day on our office flatscreen monitor.

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Parents, students and other visitors to our campus really enjoy seeing the tweets pop up in real time and we have found this to be a big motivation as well. We use TweetBeam for this service. We encourage all our visitors to visit our hashtag and leave us some feedback, and we make sure #osestars is printed on our campus flyer.

Yes, public school has an image problem. But what an opportunity we have to influence public perception! Imagine what type of influence we can have on the image of our district and our school if we consistently share our learning experiences with the larger community.

And it is SO much more informative than those debates…. 🙂

 

 

 

Building School – Community Connections

I believe that thriving schools and thriving communities go hand in hand. Developing a shared vision for the school and community, a shared story of high expectations, big achievement, and mutual inspiration, are pathways for us to make an impact within and even beyond our schools. By building these relationships we can forge partnerships that foster student learning, strengthen families and help our communities thrive.

This year my principal and I are creating ways to generate that excitement and create those opportunities for more engagement with our community. We started this year with our first ever “Mix & Mingle” with local community businesses during our Meet the Teacher night. We set up tables in the cafeteria so that local businesses could bring their items and set up a display for our families–sort of a “getting to know our community”. We arranged for the space to be open for parents to informally browse through for about half an hour before we opened up the main doors for meeting the teacher. They also stayed set up throughout Meet the Teacher night. Many parents enjoyed visiting with our local vendors before heading to the classroom, while others hit the cafeteria after visiting their child’s class.

We had about ten vendors set up and ready to interact with our families and help us kick off the new school year! The bakery brought cake samples. The local math tutoring organization brought in games. Watching families make connections with local businesses in our community was great. Below are some pictures from the event and a flyer we created:

 

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The students asked lots of great questions about the businesses and what types of things they did. What a great opportunity for them! This turned out to be a really fantastic time! Several parents stopped us in the hallways and told us how much they enjoyed this time. They also liked having something to do while waiting (many of them arrive a little early). We did have some logistical issues, such as some “bottle-necked” traffic in one particular high-traffic area that we didn’t anticipate and will need to re-route next year, but other than that it was a fantastic first time event!

We have already planned some other great opportunities to build more connections with our local community this year and I am looking forward to a fun and successful year building relationships, forging partnerships and supporting our thriving community!

 

Making Your Mark

 

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Our theme for this year, as designed by a student, is “Make Your Mark”. I think this is such a great theme for a new year—so full of possibility and opportunity! Isn’t that something we all want to do? Our students want to do that, as well. To make a difference. Change the world. Inspire others. Making our mark to me means to keep discovering who we are and why we are here, and keep making sure that what we do means something.

Maybe you are a brand new teacher. And maybe you’re afraid you won’t be able to make your mark because you aren’t quite sure you know what you are doing. And you, first year teacher, will have days when you start to question if you are making a difference. You’ll wonder if you should even be teaching at all. And yes, you’ll probably have days when you cry!  But you will also have days when you laugh out loud. And days when you see those light bulbs go on! When that one student who you thought you would never reach, thanks you for not giving up and you realize you are exactly where you are supposed to be—doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing. And you’ll realize that even though you are a brand new teacher, you are indeed making your mark.

Or maybe you are a veteran teacher given a new program to learn and you are feeling the uncomfortable feeling we sometimes feel when we take risks like that. And maybe you’re afraid you won’t be able to make your mark because you aren’t quite sure you know what you are doing. And you, veteran teacher, will have days when you start to question if you are making a difference. You’ll wonder if you should even be teaching at all. You might even have days when you cry.  But then, you will have days when you laugh out loud. And days when you see those light bulbs go on! When that one student who you thought you would never reach, thanks you for not giving up and you realize you are exactly where you are supposed to be—doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing. And you’ll realize that even though you are a veteran teacher, you are indeed making your mark.

I have a list of goals for myself going into the year and one of the goals I am really going to focus on is giving teachers more meaningful feedback. This is an area in which I need to grow. So when I think about making my mark this year I think in terms of instructional coaching and my role in the area of teacher growth.  Developing deeper, richer relationships with our families is another area that I would like to put focus on this year. These are just a couple of examples of how I am thinking about our school theme and how I might apply it in my role as an AP. And if those are the marks I make, I think they will be fine ones, indeed.

The thing is, nobody’s mark will look the same. We are not on the same journey. We might dream similar dreams or share common visions. But our journeys, our “marks”, will look different simply because of where we are and with whom we are interacting. But we can each make our mark and in doing so, have a tremendous impact on our students, our communities, and each other. We end up giving what we are meant to give; at least, that is how I see it. What a difference we can make in our world if we all commit to making our marks this year…whatever those may be.

I don’t know if you are a new teacher, a veteran teacher, or somewhere in between. Maybe you are a new administrator or a veteran administrator. But my wish for you is that, no matter where you are and no matter what you are doing,  you will make your mark this year.

And that it will be a fine one, indeed.

 

So You’re Starting Reading Workshop!

books in stairwellThis year our curriculum team has revamped the curriculum with a reading workshop framework. I am thrilled to see this! I truly believe in the power of a reading workshop classroom and have seen so many kids thrive in this type of environment. While there is no one program or method that is the “end all, be all” of reading instruction, I think it is an awesome move on the part of the district literacy team to spread the workshop model throughout the district.

When I first starting teaching reading workshop, it was a big change and I will admit I did not like it. I really felt like I was not truly teaching because I wasn’t up in front of the room instructing. It took me quite a while to realize that letting students read was the most important reading instruction I could give! Small group and individual conferencing took a while to get the hang of, as well. But once I did, I saw the powerful results of students having ownership of their goals and taking charge of their own progress as readers. Ten minute mini-lessons replaced whole class lessons…another big change that was a bit scary at first! I learned how to use read aloud picture books to kick off my openings and wrap up my closings. They soon became my most favorite times of the day! But the most important things I noticed with this change in teaching style were that my students became lovers of reading, and I became much more knowledgable of them as readers. By the end of that first year, I fell in love with Reading Workshop.

Below are some resources I used which helped me start building my own Reading Workshop classroom.

Using Ipads in Guided Reading

Beth Newingham Videos

Complex Texts: Guiding Readers

Level Your Classroom Books

Units of Study / Mini Lesson Videos

If you are moving to a Reading Workshop format or have been engaged with this style of reading instruction for a while, please share your ideas, thoughts, questions and suggestions so that we can all continue to grow together!