The Next Step Forward in Running Records: Getting to the Heart of Effective Instruction Through Deeper Qualitative Analysis

by Fran McVeigh

Entire Wakelet Can Be Viewed at this Link

The #G2Great chat was electrifying on 9/23/21 as the Twitterverse welcomed C.C. Bates, Maryann McBride, and Jan Richardson for their chat around their new book, The Next Step Forward in Running Records: Getting to the Heart of Effective Instruction Through Deeper Qualitative Analysis. Dr. Jan Richardson is no stranger to #G2Great as she hosted on July 28, 2016 for The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading. This new text has so much information about running records that it would be ideal for a study by partner teachers, teams of teachers, or even a full faculty building level study. In the educational world, C.C. Bates, Maryann McBride and Jan Richardson have a total of over 100 years of experience that they honed as they wrote this text and their wisdom is found on every page.

Many educators are totally stressed by the role of assessment in their lives as they try to survive and even hope to thrive during these pandemic times. So let’s begin this post with the authors’ response to WHY they wrote this book.

1) What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have in the professional world?

We felt running records were falling short of their potential. Often times we would see teachers calculate the accuracy rate and ignore the analysis of other behaviors including errors and self-corrections. We hoped the book would provide opportunities for professional conversations around how running records can be used to make instructional decisions. The book incorporates questions we have received from teachers nationwide. The book addresses these questions and provides guidance on why running records are important, how to take, score, and analyze them, and connect the analysis to individual, small, and whole group instruction. Finally, the book provides insight into specific challenges that are uncovered through a detailed analysis of running records.

Email correspondence with C.C. Bates, Maryann McBride, & Jan Richardson

There is so much to consider when using Running Records. They are simplistic in design: a written response to what the student said out loud while reading. That “inside out” view of student processing. The deeper meaning comes from the qualitative analysis with the changes in instruction coming from a study of student patterns and teacher reflection on instruction over time. To hear that teachers would often only calculate the accuracy rate is disheartening.

I would be remiss to not state my own personal bias. Running records informed my life as a special education teacher, as a classroom teacher, as a curriculum coordinator, and as a literacy consultant. The information gained from running records analysis has the potential to transform instruction for students. The information gained from teacher analysis of their own TOLDs would be reflective action research that could also change a teacher’s self awareness. Running records are powerful in the hands of a thoughtful, reflective, research-oriented teacher.

Let us continue. This post is going to identify five key points about running records from The Next Step in Running Records that were amplified by the chat.

Know your purpose for running records

Running records would typically be classified as formative assessments. This process: take a running record, score, analyze, and then connect to individual, small and whole group instruction. All of this information is used to then guide the teacher’s decision making in developing an instructional plan that includes choosing a book for instruction, choosing the next steps in letter and word work, as well as the next steps in vocabulary, language and strategic action. Other decisions include the type of passage to be used: a cold passage (never read before) or a reread of a passage that the student has read once before.

MSV is not the order of importance

MSV is the alphabetical order of three areas. Let me repeat that. MSV is the alphabetical order of the three areas.

It is not the order of importance.

There is synergy in the crosschecking that occurs often almost simultaneously between these areas. V or Visual is a priority for “phonics instruction” because it deals with attending to the print that is in the text in front of the students. Letters. Sounds. Decoding the words. Visual information is about the print (not the illustrations). The print is often the first area that many teachers consider when they want to know if phonics instruction is working/ sticking. V or visual information is important and many critics of balanced reading instruction claim that “phonics is last in instruction” because visual is last one listed in MSV. But the listing of MSV is truly alphabetical order.

(Note: I spend a lot of time on analysis of the visual information processing to ensure that phonics instruction is meeting the needs of students.)

MSV is an analysis of student reading behaviors

Why analysis?

What are some of the the key student reading behaviors?

“V or visual information stands for the ways in which children draw upon the alphabetic principle or the connection between letters and sounds. V also includes children’s use of orthographic patterns and their automatic recognition of high-frequency words.” (p. 23) Visual information does NOT include pictures/photographs.

M is meaning and is a focus on constructing understanding whether at the paragraph, sentence, phrase, or word level. The author’s use the example of a child reading “The house is brown” for “The horse is brown” where it does make sense at the sentence level but not the text level if the child is reading about horses. We do want student using both visual and meaning simultaneously and these types of miscues can easily be clarified as words that need to be studied in the middle (/u/ and /r/) as the beginning and endings are correct.

S is structure and deals with the language and the grammar. Some miscues occur due to language or grammar that is unfamiliar to students. Coordinating the language and grammar with the visual information in the text is a challenge when the child is working with text that is outside their current areas of cognitive practice.

Monitoring and self-correcting are also windows into student processing. What the student says is important as they attempt to solve a word. Student work in their head and out loud provides data for teachers to analyze.

This was just an abbreviated overview of complex reading behaviors that are detailed in The Next Step Forward in Running Records. These behaviors can be accessed during every running record taken of a child’s reading. What a gift for teachers and students.

A running record is the key to developing a responsive instructional plan

Reading behaviors operate together. They may be analyzed separately as MSV or physical behaviors during the running record but the goal is for the behaviors to work together in order for student processing systems to function effectively. The goal of analysis is to determine which ones and HOW they are being used in order to plan for the next layer of instruction needed by the child. And inn the tweet below, C.C. Bates shares one example of what is NOT an instructional implication.

Pay attention to patterns of behavior that emerge over time

Don’t shortchange running records by just looking at accuracy. Look for patterns over time to inform and guide responsive differentiated instruction.

Let’s return to the words of the authors for a response to question two for takeaways for teachers to embrace and question three with a message from the heart.

2) What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices?

We hope teachers will see that capturing students’ reading behaviors and using the information to provide targeted instruction is time well spent. In the book, we show how running records are an integral part of the instructional cycle. We give suggestions on when to take running records, with whom, and how often. Most importantly we attempt to help teachers move beyond the accuracy rate to deepen their understanding of students’ literacy behaviors and their instructional implications.

Email correspondence with C.C. Bates, Maryann McBride, & Jan Richardson

3) What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind?

This book was a pandemic project. Focusing our energy on a topic near and dear to our hearts kept us grounded and moving forward as we tried to balance our personal and professional lives. Running records do require time, energy, thought, but we believe that children are always worth the effort!

Email correspondence with C.C. Bates, Maryann McBride, & Jan Richardson

Closing thoughts . . .

Are you using running records? If yes, how and why do you use them? If no, why not?

Any passage can be used for a running record that can be analyzed in order to determine the reading behaviors that students are consistently using as well as the next possible steps for instruction. Running records provide a window into a child’s brain to assess their reading behaviors. As a reminder, the word assess comes from the Latin assidere, which means to sit beside. Literally then, to assess means ‘to sit beside the learner.” A running record allows a child to sit beside an adult who listens intently to the child read and watches their reading behaviors. When I am taking a running record, I pull all that information together for analysis of those in-the-head behaviors along with the behaviors I observe during our work together. I believe it is important for an adult who understands the value of a deep analysis to listen to children to determine whether they are applying skills that they have been taught as they read connected text.

Isn’t that what every child in every classroom deserves?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

LINKS:

https://vimeo.com/517580786 – Running Records Webinar by Jan, C.C., and Maryann

https://www.janrichardsonreading.com

https://readingrecovery.clemson.edu – Click on Teacher Resources for more on running records

https://shop.scholastic.com/teachers-ecommerce/teacher/books/the-next-step-forward-in-running-records-9781338732856.html

Why do you need to read and study this book?

The book will help you understand the depth of the previous information as well as these Additional Tweets to Consider about TOLDS (a Teacher Behavior) that are an ENTIRE chapter in the book:

Every Kid A Writer: Strategies That Get Everyone Writing by Kelly Boswell

by Fran McVeigh

The Twitter chat is available in its entirety at this Wakelet link.

On Thursday, June 24th, Kelly Boswell joined the #G2Great chat to discuss her book, Every Kid a Writer: Strategies That Get Everyone Writing. Other books by Kelly include: Crafting Nonfiction Intermediate and Solutions for Reading Comprehension coauthored with Linda Hoyt and these two by herself, Write This Way: How Modeling Transforms the Writing Classroom and Write This Way From the Start.

This is one of those blog posts that I began early in order to process the information and to do justice to the topic amidst a busy summer. I reread Kelly’s book. I listened to her podcasts. I reviewed her quotes and then fresh off four days of writing institute, I wrote three or four possible hooks. As the chat ended, I raced to my draft “possibilities” document full of joy. The chat had been exhilarating. Joyful. Respectful. Packed with ideas. And so student-centered. But I couldn’t find a way to begin this post. Or more accurately, I couldn’t find a way that I liked well enough to begin this post. I chalked it up to being tired and waited to reread the Wakelet Friday morning to save some tweets to use. But I was stuck without an appropriate introduction.

Saturday started out with a fantastic Text, Talk, and Tea Zoom with Clare, Franki, Laura and Lynsey. After they shared their text set, I kept returning to several ideas from Colleen Cruz’s keynote closing for the #TCRWP writing institute. Colleen talked about the trust that students place in their teachers and how we need to celebrate that trust and learning in order to appreciate, amplify and pass the mic. Here’s her slide:

Colleen Cruz #TCRWP Keynote, 06.25.2021

Appreciate. Amplify. Pass the mic.

We can do that because we find JOY and LOVE in students’ writing when we remove barriers and focus on providing the instruction that supports them in writing. This joy and love was what I saw as the vision behind Kelly’s book and the reason that her writing strategies DO get everyone writing. There’s no blaming students. There’s no shaming students. There is an expectation and a vision that everyone can write . . . once the environment and instruction is prepped for them. We can do that because we are ALSO writers and we value both process and product. We value writing… and writing… and writing!

After finding my own connections to Kelly’s book, I wanted to honor her purpose in writing this book because I, too, have heard these questions.

What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have in the professional world?

This book is a response to the question I hear the most from the teachers with whom I work – “What about those kids who don’t like to write?” 

Many of us, at one time or another, have found ourselves in the company of a few (or perhaps more than a few) students who shrug when asked about their writing. They slump in their chairs instead of jumping into writing with energy and vigor. They sharpen pencils or ask for the bathroom pass or decide it’s a good time to organize and reorganize their desk. They groan when you announce that it’s time or write or they barrage you with questions along the lines of “How long does this have to be?” 

Many teachers mistakenly think that the problem lies with the reluctant student. I had a hunch that, like most things, teachers and classroom environments created either reluctance or engagement. 

In this book, I set out to explore this topic – why do the writers in some classrooms seem so reluctant while students in a different classroom dig into writing with enthusiasm and joy? Could we, as teachers, create classrooms and writing experiences that could increase engagement? As I spoke to students and teachers and taught lessons of my own,  my hunch was confirmed: The environment and community we create in the classroom, along with some specific, yet simple, teaching strategies, have an enormous impact on how students engage with writing. 

And that vision led us to our second question.

What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices?

One of the biggest takeaways that I hope teachers embrace is that the problem of reluctant writers is NOT the kids. As teachers, we have the power to embrace and use some simple, practical strategies that support ALL kids to engage in writing with enthusiasm and joy. These six strategies are outlined in the book: 

We can: 

1. Use mentor texts and teacher modeling to fuel engagement

2. Create a safe and daily space for writing

3. Expose writers to real readers.

4. Offer more choice (choice of paper, seating, topic, etc.)

5. Maintain a healthy perspective on conventions.

6. Shape and create a healthy writing identity through assessment

Let’s pull back the curtain and look a little further at some of the six strategies shared by Kelly during the chat.

1. Use mentor texts and teacher modeling to fuel engagement.

2. Create a safe and daily space for writing.

3. Expose writers to real readers.

4. Offer more choice. (choice of paper, seating, topic, etc.)

5. Maintain a healthy perspective on conventions.

6. Shape and create a healthy writing identity through assessment.

In conclusion, I return to the final question for our author and just a few additional thoughts.

What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind?

As teachers, the goal of all of our planning and teaching and conferring and assessing is, simply this: 

  • We want kids to fall in love with writing. 
  • We want kids to find words that they love and never let them go. 
  • We want kids to see writing as a way to connect with others, share ideas and engage in civil discourse. 
  • We want kids to know that writing is a powerful tool that they can use to think, reflect, remember and influence others.  
  • We want kids to discover that the act of writing is its own reward. 
  • We want them to know, deep in their bones, that writing has so much to give and so much to teach. 
  • We want kids to live joyfully literate lives. 

It starts with us.

When we provide time for students to joyfully tell their stories, we must Appreciate. Amplify. And pass the mic! This mutual respect and trust between writers and teachers of writing results in classrooms filled with joy, purpose and energy. To conclude, a repeat of the closing quote from the chat, in Kelly’s own words:

Let’s get started!

Additional Links:

Blog Posts (Heinemann):  https://blog.heinemann.com/conferring-with-kids-remotely-tips-for-remote-writing-conferences-from-kelly-boswell

https://blog.heinemann.com/positive-practices-for-you-and-your-students

Podcasts: https://blog.heinemann.com/podcast-demystifying-the-writing-process-with-kelly-boswell?hsCtaTracking=ee7df32b-f50a-49f2-adf8-67e9076b7157%7Cdc1d2e0c-2715-48ff-ab7f-4b640204da9e

Books: https://www.amazon.com/Kelly-Boswell/e/B00E59W45Q?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_3&qid=1620140304&sr=8-3

Article: https://www.languagemagazine.com/2020/02/19/harnessing-the-power-of-a-teachers-pen-2/

The Civically Engaged Classroom: Reading, Writing, and Speaking for Change

By Fran McVeigh

The Wakelet artifact is available for your perusal here.

The #G2Great chat world was alive, well, and ROCKING on Thursday, March 11, 2021. The podcasts (link) of their work was a hint of the depth of the work proposed but, WOW! What an amazing, well-orchestrated text and chat.

On one hand, when a book comes from authors like Mary Ehrenworth, Pablo Wolfe, and Marc Todd, it might be easy to say “Oh, great, another book about what kids can do in classrooms with supportive teachers, supportive administrators and supportive communities.” However, the wisdom, wit, and enthusiasm generated in the #G2Great chat merely emphasized that everyone in school communities needs to be thinking about civic engagement. Not just one class period a day. Not just the ELA teacher. Not just teachers. But the entire community. (And more about that later.)

On the other hand, naysayers may have a different view. “Really? More political speak about what teachers should or should not be doing in their classrooms? More brainwashing? Is that really the purview of our school systems?

Like any great performance from an orchestra, the resulting concert is only as good as the score. In this case, the score (written music) begins this post with the wisdom of the authors and their responses to the three questions that we ask and then moves to some specific high notes from the chat and then enthusiasm as a rousing finale for this work.

1) What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have in the professional world?

The Civically Engaged Classroom was born out of the idea that as a society we need to think deeply about the purpose of school, especially in times as fraught and divisive as those we are living in. We want teachers to look at their classrooms and see future citizens in front of them, citizens that need to be well-prepared for the hard work of leading and strengthening our democracy.

In our own teaching and staff development, we have met many colleagues who have inspired us with the way they teach with a civic mindset. We have also met countless others who aspire to do this work, but are in communities where they feel unsupported. This book is meant to both highlight the brilliant work we’ve seen, as well as to encourage, inspire and sustain those who feel like they’re teaching into a headwind.

We were also motivated to write this book because it helps to address one of the persistent questions in education: how do we get kids motivated and engaged by school? We think one of the most profound, and overlooked, ways to engage kids is to make sure that the work of school is aimed toward civic ends. When the walls of the classroom come down, kids see that their work has real purpose and impact.

Ultimately, as with everything in education, this is for the kids. We hope that some of what we put in the book helps them seize their power and shape the world they will inherit.

2) What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices?

We hope that our readers see…

●  …that identity exploration is essential to all curriculum and pedagogy, especially if we are to prepare our children to engage responsibly in our multicultural society.

●  …that schoolwork must be worldwork. That it should include political and historical content that is relevant and contemporary.

●  …that we need to move beyond the single text, everytime, in every situation.

●  …that we can model being active, engaged citizens in front of our students without being partisan.

●  …that when students consume nonfiction, they must teach each other and their parents about what they are learning and why it matters. 

●  …students need frequent opportunities to practice service to a community.

●  …that teachers aren’t alone in this work! There is a thriving, and growing, number of us who are re-envisioning school as a preparation space for citizenship.

3) What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind?

This book is a call to work. Throughout The Civically Engaged Classroom we’ve included a feature called Practice What You Teach, a regular reminder that the work in these pages is for all of us to take on, not just our kids. We can all do more to be better citizens;  we can all do more to re-envision our democracy. This is not about indoctrinating children, but it is about our duty as educators to help them realize that they have a lot of responsibility in this society and that if they don’t take it, or aren’t adequately prepared for it, they’ll continue to perpetuate grievous harms to themselves and to others.

The work in our classrooms is part of the world. The more we bring the real world in with its injustices as well as its beauty and hope, the better we serve our students, and the better we serve our society.

Ultimate Roles For Teachers and Students

What is needed? Teachers who address identity with honesty and courage, … co-creating with students on a level playing field … to determine a course of action with students … valuing listening and … arguing to listen. Check out the following four tweets that include Mary, Pablo and Marc’s own words.

What is the end goal? Dr. Mary Howard gives us the “411”straight from the book:

While it may seem “easy” to defer to the authors to use their own words, this post could become quite lengthy if a commentary was included for all their wisdom. So sticking with a personal motto of “less is more” here are three high notes of focus from the chat. These refrains will help you get started on a civically engaged classroom.

Where and How Does a Civically Engaged Classroom Fit?

Where do you position a civically engaged classroom? Do you view it as a solo? As an entire section of the performers? Or embedded in the entire musical performance? Your view impacts your planning. Consider these gems of wisdom.

Where might you begin? What do you value? What are your priorities? And then consider Pablo’s wisdom and his verb choices . . . “cut” . . . “replace” . . . “OR infuse” with the end goals of “application of skills, real-life experience, and communal celebration.”

Students: Identity, Stories, Experiences and Interests

The work of so many “artists/performers/authors” is the foundation for all work with students. Sara Ahmed’s identity work in Being the Change (blog post) has led the way for teachers and students to explore their identity and bring about social change. So too have Jody Carrington in Kids These Days and more recently Matt Kay in Not Light, But Fire as well as many other authors. When we embrace Dr. Rudine Sim Bishop’s, “windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors,” we will have a fun-filled concert program as we follow the lead of so many educators when we consider how to engage students by following their interests.

Where can you find the information to get started? What do you already know about your students? Their interests? Their passions? What are the artifacts that they already have about their own thinking beyond what they are reading and writing? How are we inviting students to be a part of this co-construction?

Explicit Instruction: Norms, “Inclusion,” Note-Taking, and Examining Biases

But what do we teach? What’s important? Of course instruction will vary depending on the needs and interests of the students in front of you! Here are a few ideas for you to consider as you wonder about the WHAT that needs to be taught and practiced before the concert is scheduled.

Instruction is all about routines and processes. Routines and processes for civil discourse. Routines and processes for research. Routines and processes for affirming information. Routines and processed for determining biases and collecting additional information. Which ones might be a priority for you and your students?

FINALE

In conclusion, the time for action is NOW. No waiting. Do not pass go. Do NOT collect $200. Move from the audience to the stage, backstage, behind the side curtains, or center stage under the lights.

It’s time to practice. Take action. Consider student identities. Have a discussion. Focus on student choices. To learn more, check out the Wakelet archive and the Additional Resources. Watch the stellar three part video series. Check out the Coalition of Civically Engaged Educators below. Explore the padlet. Find a friend to travel this journey together and have a conversation partner. Make a plan. Get started!

Additional Resources:

Heinemann Video Series for the Civically Engaged Classroom

The Coalition of Civically Engaged Educators

The Civically Engaged Classroom PADLET

Nurturing Truth-Seeking Communities in School (article by Pablo, Mary and Marc)

Do We Underestimate the Students We Teach? Vicki Vinton & Aeriale Johnson

By Fran McVeigh

Thursday, August 27th, #G2Great welcomed back familiar guest hosts Vicki Vinton and Aeriale Johnson. It was a night eagerly anticipated by the #G2Great team as we celebrated a blog post written by Vicki on February 23, 2020, that included learning examples from Aeriale’s second grade classroom. That post, “Do We Underestimate the Students We Teach?” can be found here.

But more importantly, I was personally eagerly anticipating this conversation with Vicki and Aeriale as a toast to the end of summer 2020, this neverending summer that desperately needed a finale. Vicki Vinton has been a part of my summers in New York City as a group of us typically connect and catch up on life dating back to our first #WRRD chat. I also met Aeriale in NYC at a #TCRWP summer institute while she was a teacher in Alaska and her stories fascinated me. I have also been one of Aeriale’s admirers asking about her “book” as she has so much to say about student learning.

And yet this blog writing task seemed like a mountain to scale after the chat. For the first round of quotes, I pulled 11 pages of tweets from the full Wakelet (here) that I felt would illustrate the brilliance of the chat. If you missed the chat, you really will want to read through the Wakelet as it was impossible to capture all the brilliance of our one hour chat in one mere blog post and 10 tweets.

So let me begin at the beginning.

Do you know Vicki Vinton and Aeriale Johnson?

It’s sincerely my pleasure to introduce my friends, Vicki and Aeriale. (See if you learn something new about either of them.) Vicki is a writer. She is co-author of What Readers Really Do: Teaching the Process of Meaning Making, (blog post on Literacy Lenses here); author of Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading: Shifting to a Problem-Based Approach, (blog post on Literacy Lenses here); The Power of Grammar: Unconventional Approaches to the Conventions of Language, (with Mary Ehrenworth); and a novel, The Jungle Law as well as a blogger at “To Make a Prairie.” Aeriale is an avid learner. This quote about Ellin Keene’s Engaging Children personifies my view of Aeriale: “I finished the book on a Tuesday; I integrated the four pillars of engagement she illustrates into my instruction on Wednesday.” Aeriale is a third grade teacher in San Jose, CA. in San Jose, CA, a 2016-18 Heinemann Fellow who blogs at Heinemann.com with posts such as “To Tiana, With Love,” as well as Kinderbender.com, the site of “Kinderbender: Drinking daily from the glass of tiny human giggles, hugs, innocence, brilliance, awe, and passion for life.” Both Vicki and Aeriale write extensively about all the brilliant learning that occurs when teachers are knowledgeable, build community and have high expectations.

Where do we begin?

“We must start their stories and identities with their excellence.” – Dr. Gholdy Muhammad

This quote came from Cultivating Genius and our June 18, 2020 chat (Literacy Lenses blog post here) just a little over two months ago. This book was also the #BookLove professional development book for elementary and secondary teachers this summer with two weeks spent on studying, reflecting, and listening to Dr. Muhammad twice.

How does this connect to the topic of “Underestimating Our Students?

Education is complicated. How we measure its effects is quite controversial and often very limiting. For the purpose of this blog, I am going to focus on values, beliefs, expectations, intellectualism, instruction, assessment and listening. I had to have some criteria in mind as I narrowed down tweets to use in this blog. The tweets that I immediately moved to the MUST use page were those that included statements about those topics and also matched my own beliefs and values.

Hmmm. Confirmation bias at work.

How do we focus on students without underestimating them and yet include their stories, their identities and their excellence?

Expectations … “the act or state of looking forward or anticipating” (dictionary.com)

John Hattie has teacher expectations at the top of his list of factors that impact student achievement with an effect size of 1.62. Other researchers have long documented the fact that a growth mindset allows teachers to focus on student assets instead of deficiencies. Research has shown that teachers may have lower expectations for students from low income families and/or for persons of color. It is a tragedy to set low bars of expectation for any students! As Vicki and Aeriale explain in the following tweets, “expectations” in the classroom need to be linked with learning opportunities.

To Think About: What are your expections? How do you communicate your expectations to students, caregivers, families, and the community?

Intellectualism … “the exercise of the intellect” (dictionary.com)

This emphasis on intellectualism builds an even higher target for students and their excellence. This is the call to thinking, to making thinking visible, and to applying learning as evidence of those higher pursuits by students. Students who are going to meet their potential are going to be challenged to grow every day. Low level tasks, worksheets, and activities will simply not exist in classrooms where intellectualism is the standard. Teachers in these classrooms will always be amazed by the challenging work that students do.

To Think About: How do you define intellectualism in your classroom and then communicate that value to students, caregivers, families, and the community? (Or are your children stuck being “students”?)

Instruction … “the act of assessing; appraisal; evaluation” (dictionary.com)

Instruction that values student stories, identities and excellence is rooted in a culture of belief that students can construct knowledge as they read and write. Right answers are not the norm. Inquiry is a focus and questioning is a routine expectation for students and not an inquisition by the teacher. Students need time and space to be curious and to build the relevance that matches their lives and leads to deeper curiosity and wonder.

To Think About: How do our basic beliefs about instruction emphasize curiosity and inquiry as well as nurturing genius?

Assessment … “the act of assessing; appraisal; evaluation” (dictionary.com)

Assessment, a word derived from the Latin word assidere, means to sit beside.  If we truly value meaningful assessments then we will consider the ones that allow us to sit beside students. We can share assessment results that are qualitative and rich in descriptions of all that students “can do” instead of lists of skills that may not YET be under the reader’s/writer’s control.

To Think About: How do you communicate what you value about assessments to students, caregivers, families, and the community?

Listening … “paying attention; heeding, obeying” (dictionary.com)

One of the most powerful tools in a teacher’s toolbox is the power of listening which is often underestimated. Wait time is seldom mentioned in new educational research but it still is a free attached, accessible resource. Time and how we allocate it is critical. It’s also an observable way of checking for alignment of values, beliefs and resources when matched with the priorities in the daily lesson plan/schedule.

To Think About: How do we ensure that students have enough time to make sure their invisible thinking is deeply understood?

In conclusion . . .

We all have different but yet equally challenging roles in education. Whether we are beginning to plan for school or we have already planned and executed the first week(s) of school, how will we continue to reflect on our expectations for our students? How will we be responsive to the students in front of us? What will show up in our time allocations? Our reflective blog posts? Our Twitter conversations? How will we use what we know to make this the best learning year possible for our students? Your values and beliefs will show in many visible ways as the year progresses. Prioritize based on intellectualism, instruction, assessment, and listening to your students and your families.

What are your expectations for your students? How will we know?

Every Child Can Write

by Fran McVeigh

The #G2Great team exuberantly welcomed Melanie Meehan to the October 3, 2019 chat two days after Every Child Can Write: Entry Points, Bridges, and Pathways for Striving Writers entered the world. As I pondered both entry points and organization for this post, I decided to begin with Melanie’s words in response to our three basic author questions.

1.  What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have in the professional world?

Every day I get to work with writers across all grades and across all levels. Because of my work, I have seen the impact of increasing access and entry points for writers that has led to growth for these students, regardless of functioning levels. 

Very few people enjoy a struggle when they don’t believe they will overcome it, so we have to figure out ways to make the learning and growth seem possible to everyone in the community– especially to the writer. There really is a big difference between thinking about students as struggling or thinking about them as striving, and I hope that people who read this book come away re-examining their beliefs about students.

So often our beliefs become our truths. I want everyone– including and especially our children– to believe that every child can write, and then I want teachers to have practical strategies and resources to help make that happen.

2.  What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices?

Not everyone is ready for the same curriculum and instruction on the same day, but it’s overwhelming to deliver an entirely separate lesson for students who aren’t getting it. That being said, the concept of the Zone of Proximal Development as described by Lev Vygotsky is a game changer for me. We can’t keep asking students to try out tasks and strategies that are way beyond their reach and ability, and it’s exhausting to create scaffold after scaffold that helps writers create a product without understanding the process. When we do that, we’re sending messages over and over that they can’t do it without us or the scaffolds we create. With those consistent messages, it’s human nature to stop trying and avoid the task or situation all together. So how do we change it up in ways that empower students, but is within the realm of possibility for teachers? That’s where reconsidering entry points may welcome students into the learning process. Or maybe it’s constructing bridges so that students have different ways to join the process. That’s where those metaphors that make up the title come it. I hope that teachers see practical and possible ways to teach all students to write. 

3.  What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind?

Our job is to find the entry points and provide the access so that students are challenged and moving forward without being overwhelmed and over-scaffolded. We live in a world where being able to write is a critically important and empowering skill. We can all teach them to write when we believe they can and we have the tools and understandings.

So many times even when students look like they are paying attention, they have no idea of what the lesson is really about. Engagement, interest, caring about something– those have to be in place for not only behavior, but also for academic growth. I feel like I keep repeating myself, but the message of the book is that all children can write.

Why this book?

I am a bibliophile. I probably need a 12 step program because I am addicted to books. I love to explore the ideas in a book through multiple readings. I also love to meet authors and hear about the books in their own voices. So when an author that I admire professionally writes a book, I study it pretty carefully. I was waiting for this book for months. I asked Melanie about it in March over coffee. We put the chat on the schedule in June, and Melanie submitted the quotes and questions in record time.

And then I finally had a copy to read. Every Child Can Write had me hooked from the first reading of the Table of Contents – written in complete sentences. Thorough. Thoughtful. Timely. With provocative yet practical ideas. Well organized – so well organized that I read it from cover to cover, TWICE, before I drafted my first blog post. I reread some parts, read the Blog Tour posts, revised my draft, and studied the blog posts again. I was worried about capturing the essence TWICE and doing justice to this gorgeous addition to the professional world.

This book is based on these beliefs:

1. All children can learn to write. 2. It is a fundamental imperative that we do everything in our power to teach the students in our care how to express themselves through words and through writing. – Meehan, M. Every Child Can Write. xviii.

Who has to have those beliefs?

Students and teachers alike have to believe that all students can write and that is fundamental to every chapter in Melanie’s book. It’s also fundamental to the literacy instruction in classrooms around the world. All students. All teachers.

What are obstacles that interfere with student writing?

Beliefs are the beginning. Then instruction has to match those beliefs. Sometimes the instruction does not meet the students’ needs. What obstacles might interfere with learning? Check out a sampling of responses from our twitter chat. Have you heard these from your students or teachers?

Knowing “potential obstacles” can help you address obstacles confronting writers in your classroom. Do the students need practice? Do they need choice? Do they need confidence? Crowd sourcing these possibilities from a #G2Great Twitter Chat is one way teachers can step outside their current practices, sharpen their focus, turn their gaze back to their students, and study them anew. (The responses to “perfectionism” as an obstacle can be found in the Wakelet link.) You may also have collaborative conversations with your grade level team to explore improvements in environment, routines, practices and usage of charts through a book study. Every Child Can Write provides support for instruction and problem solving with entry points, bridges and pathways to help striving writers gain independence.

What do you need? Entry points? Bridges? Pathways?

Where will you begin?

Additional Resources:

Blog Tour Stop 1 with Clare Landrigan – Link

Blog Tour Stop 2 with Kathleen Sokolowski – Link

Blog Tour Stop 3 with Paula Bourque – Link

Blog Tour Stop 4 with Lynne Dorfman – Link

Blog Tour Stop 5 with Fran McVeigh – Resourceful Link

FYI:  I reviewed an advance prepublication copy of “Every Child Can Write” that was available for the #G2Great team.

Jennifer Serravallo: Understanding Texts & Readers

By Fran McVeigh

Back in March the #G2Great community hosted a chat featuring Jennifer Serravallo and her book, Understanding Texts & Readers:  Responsive Comprehension with Leveled Texts.  Here is that Wakelet.  Previous bestsellers are Reading Strategies (2015) and Writing Strategies (2017).  (Writing Strategies Chat)

Last week I had the honor to be at Hamline University in Minneapolis for Jennifer’s three hour keynote over this book with #G2Great friend, Kathryn Hoffmann-Thompson.  Three hours for this topic…not nearly enough to cover everything in the book but so much better than a shared presentation or just an hour for surface coverage.

A Memorable Opening

Jen opened by sharing her “Identity Web” and then gave us about five minutes to begin ours.  Identity webs are a favorite activity from Sara Ahmed, author of Being the Change. This was a practical and purposeful introduction.

I didn’t capture a picture of Jennifer’s Identity Web but I do remember the dancing, ballet and at home.  It captured a part of my mind that made a new connection and added to my picture of her.

As I tried to think of ideas and symbols for my web, I thought about a) this activity with Sara at NCTE and b) the fact that many of my friends comment on the conversations I have with strangers on the streets of New York City because of the college colors I wear.  That college identity is even more poignant because of this story of Sara’s. Sara in a city separated by 90 miles from me on this memorable date.  The possibilities for my web were easy to generate!

Classroom Connection

Create an Identity Web before school begins. Consider the aspects of your life that have shaped you. Share your web with your class.  Provide time for your students to create an Identity Web.

ACTION:  Use the identity webs of your students to audit your classroom libraries and ensure all students are represented.

And then the WHY.

Research

Name Dropping

Fast and Furious

Hattie

Sulzby

Fountas and Pinnell

Where do we start with Goals?

  1. It is all about comprehension.
  2. A five minute assessment conference

We watched a video of an assessment conference that involved a lot of listening.  It looked and sounded easy.  The hard part was listening and thinking about what the student “could do”.  As a first grader this student was working on the goals at the top. Any of them could have been choices – depending on the conversation. A student well matched to a text. Retelling.  Listening to what the student is paying attention to. Setting a goal for three weeks, working the goal, and meeting again with the student to figure out next steps.

ACTION:  Five Minute Assessment Conferences

RESPONSIVE

A student.

Well matched to a text.

Retelling.

Listening to what the student knows.

What can the student do?  What might be  a next step?  Plan, execute the plan, and revisit in three weeks.

What is the beauty of this work?

Simple goal  (Not a SMART goal)

Focus on “Can Do” (Not deficits)

Short Term (Not a lifetime sentence)

Responsive (Not searching for a program)

How are you using Understanding Texts & Readers: Responsive Comprehension with Leveled Texts

How are you setting goals?

Learning Celebrations Showcasing Reflection on Process & Product

By, Jenn Hayhurst

On June 27, 2019 #G2Great hosted the chat, Learning Celebrations Showcasing Reflection on Process and Product. Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about celebrations, and I think there is more to this topic than meets the eye. I mean on the surface, a celebration is a good time and that is certainly a motivator. Dig a little deeper, examine what is being celebrated, and we get a sense of collective identity, what is believed, what is valued within a community.

What if schools cultivated a day-to-day celebratory spirit when it comes to learning? That would mean, celebrations that were not just reserved for special occasions, but were present in students’ learning every day.

Imagine how joyful it would be to embrace a celebratory culture! A whole faculty dedicated to finding the “good” and putting their collective energy towards student growth and learning in a very public and meaningful way. As I read through #G2Great PLN members’ comments, I could get a sense of what that would be:

These tweets were so revealing, and I found myself feeling completely inspired. These teachers are all celebrating their students in profound ways. Each tweet honors and celebrates students’ efforts by elevating their participation, their work, and their process. Each time students are celebrated, their identity as learners becomes a little more formed. With each acknowledgment, the message is sent, “Yes, you belong here. You are worthy of attention and praise.”

Once students believe that they are valued, that they are seen and understood; then, they can begin to learn with a sense of agency. Part of this work is to teach children the language of reflection so they may set meaningful goals. When students are setting their own goals, and are motivated to achieve them, learning in and of itself becomes the main event:

If celebrations reveal beliefs, I have to wonder, how do my beliefs promote a celebratory culture? I believe in kids. Not just some kids, or those kids, but all kids. I vow to celebrate that belief in the upcoming school year. I will celebrate each student’s brilliance, and this will be my number one priority. Every day I am with my students I will be a celebration – of them.

#G2Great Embracing Books As Our Strategic Intervention Heart & Soul

By Jenn Hayhurst

May 30, 2019, marked the arrival of Part 2 of our 5 part series, Rethinking Our Intervention as a Schoolwide All-Hands on Deck Imperative. We had an inspired conversation about how we might embrace books as our strategic intervention heart and soul. When teachers use excellent trade books as a centerpiece for a classroom intervention, they are rewarded with authentic reading experiences with children. Good books combined with responsive teaching is just what is needed to bridge student gaps.

What is it about that word, intervention? To me, it gives off this negative connotation that students need something overly complex when what they really need is good teaching. So when our #G2Great team thought about having a chat that focused on using books as an intervention tool, it just felt right. The #G2Great PLN also seemed to agree:

We refer to books as a strategic intervention heart and soul because connecting with books is life changing. Literacy changes who we are in very real ways by influencing what we think about and even who we aspire to become. When teachers know who their students are they have this immense power to put students in touch with books that will resonate and reflect their identities and values back to them. It may sound lofty but as I read these tweets I see that this is inherently true:

There is so much potential for growth if we were to make a commitment to embrace books as our strategic heart and soul. Think about it. An intervention program that is built on good books and thoughtful teachers is one to celebrate. Invest some time getting to know students, add in a teacher’s expansive knowledge of books, and now there is real potential. There is the potential not only to improve a child’s ability to read but also to shape the identity of the reader. I think that Lester Laminack and Katie Kelly say it best in their book, Reading to Make a Difference:

Teachers build their bridges for their students one book at a time. Truly, the most effective interventions are both elegant and simple. A teacher, a good book, and a student with an open mind can change the world. Believe it.

On a personal note, I’d like to welcome, Brent Gilson to our #G2Great team. Welcome, Brent! What was once only three dedicated teachers has grown into a bigger more vibrant team.

Positioning Tier 1 as Our First Line of Intervention Defense

by Mary Howard

On 5/23/19, we launched the first of a five-week #G2Great chat series: Rethinking Our Intervention Design as a Schoolwide All-Hands on Deck Imperative. We knew that our first exploratory venture of the series should highlight the central intervention feature so we set our sights on Positioning Tier 1 as Our First Line of Intervention Defense. Considering the critical nature of this topic, the passionate twitter dialogue that grew to a fever pitch followed by early twitter trending did not surprise us.

From the first inspired tweet, I felt a sense of gratitude that I was bestowed the honor of writing this post on a topic that is near and dear to my heart. I have been quite vocal about my hopes and fears for Response to Intervention since IDEA 2004 made RTI a reality in our schools. In fact, it was my perpetual two-pronged hope-fear conflict that first prompted me to write RTI from All Sides: What Every Teacher Needs to Know (2009 Heinemann) and since then write extensively about this topic on my Facebook page.  

After the chat, I excitedly dug into the inspired tweets as renewed hope quickly rose to the surface along with pride and gratitude for our #G2Great family. That joy was soon clouded by feeling lost in a sea of twitter goodness. After all, making Tier 1 our central intervention feature feels like an overwhelming prospect and yet irrefutably is the most crucial professional imperative of all. I didn’t want to just replicate the not-to-be-messed-with-twitter-wisdom since that’s what our Wakelet artifact is for. While I was utterly inspired by this wisdom, the sense of direction I’d hoped to find was fading.

When my writerly worries rise to the surface as they often do, my coping mechanism usually pushes me to take a side trip to my favorite thinking playground (aka Google). Realizing that accomplishing this lofty Tier 1 as the first line of intervention defense requires us to establish non-negotiables that would transform our imperative into reality, I hopefully tossed the word “non-negotiable” at my google friend. Lo and behold, my new favorite word came instantly into view:

The word sacrosanct felt like it oozed a sense of intervention urgency.  I suddenly realized that the best way to approach this post was to narrow my thoughts to a few critical factors we must regard as too important or valuable to be interfered with. Problem solved. Sense of direction back in view.

And so I give you my six “Sacrosanct Priorities” that I hope will offer a thoughtful nudge to ensure that Tier 1 does not continue to get lost in the intervention shuffle, but rather will regain a much deserved role at the very center of our efforts:

Sacrosanct Priority #1: BELIEFS

I can’t imagine how we can ever achieve Tier 1 as the central intervention feature without naming and highlighting the innermost beliefs that we hold professionally dear. I often visit schools and as I enter the building I’m usually greeted by a framed vision statement. While the calligraphy lettering and glowing language are visually impressive on the surface, too often I find a glaring mismatch between what is alluded to in that frame and the reality of Tier 1 on a day-to-day basis. The truth is that these framed papers merely represent shallow words until we are able to verbalize our values so vividly that we can show our commitment to them in the company of children where they matter most. Our beliefs are the promise that we make to our children but they mean nothing until we are able to bring them to life in our classrooms. Making our beliefs public becomes a visible reminder that anything less is simply unacceptable – not in theory but in practice. 

Sacrosanct Priority #2: CULTURE

But breathing life into our beliefs does not mean that any teacher can opt out. We do not identify our beliefs so that those who want to embrace them can do so and those who don’t can do whatever they choose even if in direct conflict with those beliefs. We must create a culture of excellence that stretches from from one side of the building to the other so that our children are not relegated to the luck of the draw. Wishing and hoping on every professional star in the belief universe will never turn those beliefs into a culture until we have collective commitment. This means that every teacher must embrace those beliefs so that we can carry them in our back pockets every day we walk into that building no matter who we are. But to do that, we must transform our beliefs into actionable experiences so that those things we value will become the beating heart of the entire building so that we will all be in professional sync. This is especially important at Tier 1 since this is where interventions students will spend the bulk of the day. Why would we make excellence optional?

Sacrosanct Priority #3: TIME

Ah, the great intervention belief killer. I’ve always wondered why most of our interventionists have a healthy respect about our limited time, respect that is not always evident in Tier 1. My theory is that the more we have of something the more we tend to forget just how valuable it is. Wealthy people seem to throw vast money sources away while those without much seem to conserve it. Perhaps this is also true in our schools where those who have thirty precious minutes to spend with children expend that limited time wisely while those who have six hours with children may feel a sense of complacency about some of those minutes. But time is precious no matter how little or how much we may have, especially for students who need more intensive support. Interventions cannot be something that we relegate to any one person. They are owned by all of us and so should happen in the Tier 1 setting. The clock intervention clock is always ticking so we can’t afford to waste a minute no matter how much time we have. The question that begs to be asked at Tier 1 is, “Why are we?” 

Sacrosanct Priority #4: INTENT

Based on my extensive work in schools, this unfortunate wasting of time isn’t always the fault of teachers. As long as we mandate belief-sucking, time-wasting culture-killing nonsense that is in direct conflict with what we purport to value, the promise of Tier 1 at the center of our intervention efforts will remain ever out of view.  If we force-feed teachers (and thus children) one-size-fits all boxes and computerized programs, interventions that could actually make a difference will be out of reach as we send mixed messages and the very practices that would be thoughtfully responsive for meeting the needs of our intervention students would be out of reach. If we set our sights only on the most effective practices then we’d have a full six hour day to intervene across virtually every curriculum area. Intent allows us to make reading, writing, talking and thinking the heart of our learning day. But this will require us to address the myth of a full day of whole class instruction so that we can we return a balance to Tier 1 with I Do, We Do and You Do experiences that include whole class, small group and side by side teaching and learning. Intent, or choosing experiences that enrich the learning lives of all children all day, creates a culture where our beliefs inform where we spend our time collectively.

Sacrosanct Priority #5: RESOURCES

But in order to make balanced literacy a reality in the Tier 1 setting, we must ensure that we make a financial investment in the resources our Tier 1 teachers need. We can’t embrace beliefs, culture, time, or intent until we provide the resources that support those things. This begins by showering teachers with the books that will enrich the entire learning day across the curriculum. Imagine what would happen if we said “NO” to the $500,000 basal program so that we could say “YES” to investing those dollars in the resources that would make a real difference for teachers and children, such as filling our Tier 1 classroom libraries to brimming. We have decades of research to support the role of dramatically increasing the volume of reading, especially for our intervention students. But until we choose to expend available financial resources on those instructional resources designed to increase rather than decrease volume, we will forever be doomed to repeat past mistakes. We don’t have an intervention problem; we have a commonsense problem. We could start to right this wrong by taking the checkbook away from irresponsible others so that our expenditures reflect our beliefs, not what blinds us to those beliefs, and thus culture, time and intent would follow.

Sacrosanct Priority #6: KNOWLEDGE

But none of those five Tier 1 priorities will ever be possible until we make a commitment to ensure that every teacher in our building has the research-informed knowledge that will fuel the entire learning day. This knowledge guides teacher decision-making and the ability to use formative assessment that will support us in using that research in practice. Our Tier 1 teachers are then far more likely to embrace each of our sacrosanct priorities and far less likely to hit Teachers Pay Teachers activity buy buttons, complain that there isn’t time for independent reading or suggest that a scripted read aloud can come even close to the invitational read aloud that can happen only in the hands of a knowledgeable teacher in the company of curious listeners. Unless we are willing to make ongoing professional learning a high priority every day, we cannot blame teachers for making the choices that derail our efforts to elevate the Tier 1 learning day. Our growing knowledge will fuel our efforts and thus become embedded in all we do, buy, say, think and support when we create a wide range of opportunities for respectful professional dialogue across the learning year in support of ongoing learning.

So, let’s play a little Mary style math here. If you add up my six Sacrosanct Priorities of Belief, Culture, Time, Intent, Resources and Knowledge, you get the ultimate Tier 1 magic: 

Child at the Center

And that, my friends, is the Tier 1 united sacrosanct priority at its finest! I believe that the potential for our intervention success rests on our ability to keep Tier 1 at the center. But this requires us to take a long hard look at what has thwarted our path to this point and how we have (or have not) thus far positioned Tier 1 within this process. Our intervention efforts must become a force of good for the children who need them and this resides within Tier 1 where children spend most of their time. The path from 2004 to present has reflected many successes to this end, but that path has also been littered with missteps along the way that are far from the force of good our children deserve. Until we honor those things we regard as too important or valuable to be interfered with, I don’t think Tier 1 will ever be positioned as our first line of intervention defense. And that would be a tragedy of epic proportions.

And so we stand at the crossroads once again…

We are at a crossroads. We can either use response to intervention as an opportunity to rebuild a positive climate or allow it to devolve into something that takes us even farther from the reason most of us became teachers.

Mary Howard, RTI from All Sides, Heinemann, 2009, page 2

Where we go from here is entirely in our hands, but I believe that if we could initiate the same kind of inspired dialogue we all witnessed on Twitter May 23, 2019 from 8:30 to 9:30 EST… well, then we would stand a chance to alter the course of our Tier 1 efforts and ultimately meet the intervention promise that I first saw in 2004. But that will never happen unless Tier 1 is leading the way as we alleviate our view of thirty-minute fix-it rooms and opt to re-envision a full day where Tier 1 can become our intervention superpower. 

As we stand at the intervention crossroads, it is my deepest hope that we choose the Tier 1 priority pathway. Anything less robs children of our best hope – a classroom teacher who should know their intervention needs more than anyone.

And that makes the Tier 1 teachers sacrosanct, doesn’t it?

 

Maximizing Our Potential: Independent Application (4/5)

By Fran McVeigh

The curtain rose on our fourth chat in our “Maximizing Our Potential Focusing on the Literacy Work that Matters” with new friends from #LitBankStreet as well as other first time “chatters”, on October 4, 2018. It was quickly apparent that our topic was of great interest.  And yet, as I reviewed the Wakelet I wondered about how the topic of “Independent Application” fit into the context of the entire series.

As I began looking for patterns and themes in the tweets,  it dawned on me that all of these topics have some dependence on each other.  The way teachers and students “spend their time” depends upon what they value in terms of student-centered learning and independent work. Classroom design is dependent on the amount of access students have to the resources within the classroom as well as the amount of time allocated for learning and the priorities for learning. Student-Centered Learning also shapes the classroom design and the flexibility of Independent Application.  None really operate “in isolation” and that is both a blessing and a curse in education.  The research “says” so many variables are influencers but has a hard time pin-pointing with laser-like precision whether it’s “this” or “that” factor because instruction, curriculum and assessment have variables as do the teacher and the many students bodies facing the teacher. So let’s begin with a bit of a review.

Part 1 began with Val Kimmel’s post:Part 2 continued with Mary Howard’s post: Part 3 continued with Jenn Hayhurst’s post: And that brought me to this chat and part 4:  Independent Application

Quality Independent Application has many definite attributes. Quality implies that it is “worthy.”  Independent suggests that the goal is for the task to be done by the student without assistance. Application adds a layer of “work” to further instruction and practice. But what does that really look like?  Many teachers have had much practice using a gradual release of responsibility model that appears to place Independent Work in the final phase of the instructional cycle as the “You do it alone” work. But it could just as easily be that check or reflection at the beginning of the class period on yesterday’s learning.

Source Link

If we truly believe our goal as teachers is to provide a safe and nurturing classroom designed for optimal learning, filled with a community of self-directed learners we have to do less. The adults in the room have to establish the conditions that will increase agency and leadership in the students.  Kym summed this up in this tweet:So how do we get there? What does Quality Independent Application look like?

Includes Choice

Quality Instructional Application does NOT produce cookie cutter pages to fill a bulletin board in stencil fashion. It involves real choices that allow students to showcase their learning in different ways. This is not homework as we used to know it because students have the opportunity to make decisions about their learning products. Students could choose their final product: a song, a poem, artwork, a TedTalk or even an essay to provide evidence of their learning. We hear about this type of learning from students who say, “let us show you the different ways we know this.” Student passion for a topic can then drive their learning so fewer incentives are needed.

Is Authentic and Meaningful

Quality Instructional Application is NOT a worksheet or busy work. Instead it includes authentic and meaningful tasks that students will find in the real world. Real work and real world.  Not school work and the school world. Students are not asking “Why do we need to know this?” because that purpose has already been established within the classroom’s culture of learning.

Feedback Fuels the Work

Quality Instructional Application is NOT about a grade in the grade book or points earned for a completed task. It may be a conference with a peer or the teacher about the learning process and the product. It may be using checklists or rubrics to check understanding as well as plan next steps. Feedback is also about comparing student work to mentor texts or student examples to deepen understanding about the task criteria. Feedback may be an excited utterance in the hall or a whispered reflection from the student that names the student learning. During the learning process approximations are valued and students know where they are because the learning targets are clear and concise. Self awareness, reflection and processing are valued as students continue to progress through learning cycles.

Includes Practice for Transfer

Quality Instructional Application is NOT about a race for mastery of standards and learning objectives in lock step fashion.  It is about providing the time and practice necessary for deep learning so that students can and do independently use the learning across the day, in additional content areas, and in unique situations in the real world. Time for the practice that is needed means allowing for differences in student learning with a focus on helping students discover the ways that they best learn. How many times does Joey need to do the work before it all makes sense?

Promote Student Ownership

Quality Instructional Application is NOT sticker charts for every successful learning activity.  It is about learning tasks that are hard work and include productive struggle. Students will embrace challenges and learn that real work does come before success. FAIL equals “First Attempt in Learning.” If the student always “gets the learning” on the first practice, maybe it’s not challenging enough or maybe the expectations are too low. Or maybe students need to be more involved in the design and delivery of the learning experiences (that pesky student-centered learning). The confident smile on the face as evidence of learning means more than a grade and provides additional reasons to set students free on their own learning paths.

These five areas are characteristics that you might use when reflecting on Independent Application.  Where do you see them?  Where might you see more of them?  Which ones are most important to you and your students?




Additional Resources

Wakelet Link

Previous Posts

Part 1 Allocating Instructional Time

Part 2 Classroom Design

Part 3 Student-Centered Learning