Saturday, November 21, 2015

Reading Formative Assessments

We have officially wrapped up our first unit in Reader's Workshop that focused on characters! Our kids really grew so much, especially in their written responses!

One of the things that Kate and I have been reflecting upon as we continue our Personalized Learning journey is how we can implement more immediate strategy groups within our Reader's Workshop block. Due to the skill-based nature of our math workshop, it is easy to have a "bull pen" using our daily exit slips. In reading, we try not to have daily tasks, allowing the students more freedom to apply the different skills they need as they naturally come up in their self-selected text. In addition, increasing class sizes means that it takes about 2+ weeks to get through the entire class with individual or small group conferences. These don't help our issue of needing more immediate strategy groups.

Due to this, we decided to implement a form of formative assessment approximately once per week (sometimes every 1.5 weeks). One of the simple ways we do this is through a sticky note check in. Students have the opportunity to submit their best "character thinking sticky note" from that week (since we were in our character unit). They stick their sticky to a laminated class poster that is filled with numbers. Each of our students is assigned a number, so they each have their own "home." We ask them to put their name/number SOMEWHERE on their sticky note, because they will get mixed up later.
We collect the entire batch at the end of Reader's Workshop and can easily sort the sticky notes into "got it" or "don't got it." This allows us to quickly be able to organize a strategy group for the next day.

Another project that I have been tackling is becoming more familiar with the new Teacher's College Reading Progressions, as we utilize Teacher's College materials for both reading and writing workshop. While these are truly amazing tools, as with many other Teacher's College materials, they are incredibly "wordy." The entire Narrative Reading Progression is approximately 20 pages, which doesn't always lend itself to 4th graders that have the attention span of a fruit fly! :) Due to this, I modified them into bulleted tables. This format allows the entire Narrative Reading Progression to fit onto 4 pages (2 pages if you copy them back-to-back). I also made them for the Informational Text band, as well.
In addition to the entire document, I also saved each, individual band as smaller, PNG files. This allows us to insert these images anywhere we would like them (SMART files, Google Slides, Docs, or FORMS!) You can even print them out when working with strategy groups or individual students that you feel need to focus/reflect/set goals on one particular area.
We have also introduced individual bands of the progression as they pertained to our Character Unit of Study. This sparked the idea of self reflection for our students against the progression bands. We aren't using them as an exact rubric, more for reflection, discussion, strategy group work, and goal setting. We also decided to implement an alternate form of formative assessment. We used the applicable reading progression bands that we had been discussing the most that week, and created a weekly response/self-reflection tool using Google Forms. 
(Click to view actual form)
This allowed our students to create one "long and strong" about their best character thinking that week. It also asks them to reflect on their work against a specific band in the narrative reading progression. After reflection, they can go back and revise their response prior to submitting. The best part of Google Forms, is that all of your student responses (in our case...51 of them!) all feed into one, beautiful spreadsheet that you can now tweak, sort, and view in multiple ways!
There are many benefits to the spreadsheet! 1. Having ALL of your kid responses in one place! This is such a gift for a teacher to not have 51 sticky notes or papers to sort through (or lose!). 2. I set my responses to feed all into one place, making my entire unit of thinking all in one document! 3. I added a column called "score" to my spreadsheet, where I can easily give them a score against the band they were focusing on. This is super helpful, because you can then SORT your entire spreadsheet lowest to highest (or vs. versa depending on your needs). Now I can see all of my lowest responses in one chunk, making them my first strategy group that I will meet with the next day!

Now, I'll be honest, Google Forms can have their "downsides." The first being that not everyone is as familiar with them as other Google Tools. Due to this, I will try to put a blog post together about some of my favorite "tricks" having to do with Google Forms. I recently presented PD about this Google Form Reflection Tool to other teachers in our district, and I found that the majority of them needed more support in creating/manipulating Google Forms, than the actual progressions! :) So, I definitely recognize the "need" in that area! Another downside is from the student lens. If a student does NOT finish their Google Form Entry by the end of your reading block, there really is no way to save their progress (that I know of, at least? If anyone out there has a solution to this sticky problem, I would LOVE to connect! :) To alleviate this issue, we encourage our students to write their "long and strong" in their digital reading journals FIRST, then "copy/paste" it into their Google Form when they are ready. We also have a few students that use the new "voice type" option in Google Docs to "speak" their response, then "copy/paste" it into the Form when they are ready (really amazing accommodation for your students with special needs or ELL needs!). If you are an iPad classroom (we use Chromebooks), that speak option should be readily available directly within the Form. 

How do you use formative assessments in your reading workshop block? Have you been using the new Teacher's College progressions? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Happy Teaching!


Friday, November 20, 2015

Adding Inquiry using Defined STEM!

Adding inquiry and STEM activities into the content areas has been a priority for Angela and I since the beginning of our journey together. Some of the most memorable moments with our students involve inquiry and their voice and choice.

This year, our school was fortunate enough to subscribe to Defined STEM. Defined STEM offers a variety of resources, across all standards and subjects, with their subscription. These performance tasks present students with real-world problem solving around a specific career or industry. The performance tasks are inquiry based, and typically tackled in a small group. Defined STEM uses the G.R.A.S.P. Model to introduce their performance tasks.
Every aspect of the project/performance task is completely customizable. The subscription allows you to edit tasks, products, upload additional docs, videos, and/or links. Rubrics are included for each task, and those are also editable. You can even upload your own rubric. Once changes have been made to a performance task, you can share it with a colleague and your students. When given a link, they can easily access the student version!

Many of the classrooms at our school are implementing these performance tasks across subject areas. A STEM committee met last summer to look at ways we could embed this amazing resource into our already existing science units. The cross grade level conversations were empowering, and helped many of us get a better grasp on the website and all it has to offer.

After customizing the performance task and rubrics to best meet the needs of our students, I created additional materials that would support them during their product creation. I could easily link these docs directly to the online performance task so that ALL necessary materials are embedded right in the website link sent to students! I also created a PACING GUIDE to help us, as teachers, plan the inquiry project, AND to help our students use their class time wisely. Although many of our students are working on Genius Hour projects right now, this is our first inquiry group project. Angela and I felt the pacing guide would help keep them on track, and divvy up the product tasks.
For our first performance task, our students will be creating a SUPERSTAR MUSICAL GROUP! They will be working in their inquiry groups to problem solve and apply the knowledge they learned during their Physics of Sound unit. We introduced the performance task to the students today and they will be meeting with their inquiry group next week. We promise to post pictures of their progress over the next few weeks! 

~ Kate

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Learning Lab is Up & Running!

We are excited to announce that the 4th grade Learning Lab is up and running! We needed a few weeks to get to know our students, and to wrap our minds around what we were doing, but I'm happy to say that we are off to a great start and loving the 45 minute block each day. 

Learning Lab is a collaborative time for our entire 4th grade team. During this block, all students, teachers, and several support staff meet in the LL space. We have two, 20 minute rotations where students have choice in what they are working on. Our first cycle is scheduled to last 7 weeks. 

After digging through our grade level data, we determined that some students needed additional practice in a variety of areas of reading and/or math. This intervention block, run by classroom teachers, takes place during one of the rotations, but students' voice and choice still comes through in their second rotation! With all hands on deck, our 4th grade team has been able to provide our learners with the following choice activities during our first rotation:
  • Math Olympiads
  • Reader's Theater
  • Genius Hour
  • ALEKS/Dreambox/Front Row
  • Typing Agent- keyboarding practice
To get started, we gathered as an entire grade level for a few days to explain Learning Lab rotations and expectations to our students. We used this Google Slide presentation to discuss self monitoring behavior, working independently, being productive, collaborating when necessary, and problem solving. Towards the end of the week, we shared a Google Form with our students. They each had the opportunity to share their first and second choice activities with the teachers. 

As teachers, we dug through the Google Form responses during our PLC time, created a schedule, and organized our students into groups using this Google Sheet. Students names and homerooms were listed under each gropu. It took a lot of checking and double checking, but we managed to organize all 130 kids. It was REALLY important to us that each child had an adult to check in with at each rotation. Although the students' voice and choice came through in their rotation picks, accountability and use of time is extremely important to us. The students know that they are responsible for the learning taking place each day, and that they must be prepared and ready to learn. 

As we finish up our first rotation, our 4th grade team is already brainstorming possible choice activities for our upcoming rotation. As we review our intervention and classroom data, we will be sending out our next Google Form in the near future. Looking forward to what's up next! A HUGE thank you to every one for their hard work, creativity, and flexibility! 

~ Kate

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Personalizing Learning in Math Workshop

Last month I had another amazing opportunity to share my knowledge in Green Bay at the Mathematics Proficiency for Every Student (MPES) Conference.  I attended this conference, sponsored by Wisconsin Math Council, last December in Oconomowoc, and this year I had the wonderful opportunity to present.

Day two of the conference focused on looking at ways to transform math classrooms to make them more personal. Jim McLure and Jean Garrity, from the Institute for Personalized Learning, CESA 1, provided the afternoon keynote. From there, the conference attendees learned more grade level specific strategies for personalizing learning in their own math classrooms. All of the afternoon breakout sessions were run by amazing teachers from Elmbrook! I was proud to be one of the six teachers sharing their expertise in this area.

Since this presentation, several classroom teachers have reached out to us, looking for some of the docs I shared. We wanted to use this blog post to share a link to my presentation and to invite others to email us with questions, concerns, or feedback. Within the Google Slides you will find links embedded throughout. We look forward to hearing from you!

~ Kate

Learning Models- A Personal Assessment Tool

Earlier this month, Angela and I, along with two 2nd grade teachers from Swanson, presented at The Institute for Personalized Learning's 6th Annual Convening Conference. We have attended this conference the past several years, and have had the good fortune of presenting the last two years. Convening is a wonderful opportunity for teachers and administrations to come together to discuss the many aspects of personalized learning in the classroom. There were people from all over the country at this year's event, and many teachers from Southeastern Wisconsin shared the amazing work they are doing in their classrooms.
T.E.A.M Togetherness & Inspiration Station
Our presentation this year introduced teachers to Learning Models. Learning Models are a personal assessment tool we use in our classroom. This summative assessment is a fun, student driven approach. Students think deeply about the standards presented, and they are given choice in how they demonstrate proficiency towards the standards. The provided rubric outlines their opportunity to aim for exceeds and supports them as they take ownership over their learning. 

Angela and I were thrilled to see the number of people in attendance. We had close to 100 attendees, eager and excited to learn more about this tool. After a brief introduction to our personalized learning environments, we walked our participants through how we use Learning Models to provide more student voice and choice in assessment at the primary and upper elementary level. We shared several examples, across subject areas, along with student exemplars. After our introduction to this assessment tool, attendees were invited to choose a topic, plan, and develop a Learning Model of their own that they could immediately implement in their classroom. Teachers brought their own device, along with curriculum materials, and we were on hand to support them in this process. We LOVED this workshop model!

As we floated throughout the room, the energy and enthusiasm was contagious. I absolutely loved listening to the ideas of others, and supporting fellow teachers as they created their own Learning Models and rubrics. I was quick to grab my own piece of paper so I could jot down new ideas learned, and even used the opportunity to network with fellow educators. It was such an amazing 75 minutes!

Thank you to The Institute for Personalized Learning, for giving us the opportunity to share our knowledge! We always walk away from this conference feeling energized and excited for all the amazing work being done!

~ Kate