Thursday, October 29, 2015

Norming On-Demand Writing Assessments

Our monthly staff meeting around Lucy Calkins started with a celebration.  One of our third grade teachers was very excited about the work her students had done on leads.  They revised leads thinking about setting, dialogue and actions.  This was much improved over the writing we saw from the beginning of the year.

Next, we decided to spend our time norming their narrative on-demand assessments they gave the first month of school.  The reading team copied off the rubrics and then asked the teachers for 2 pieces of writing each for below, on, and above grade level. We took off the names and made copies for all involved.

We began the meeting by talking about the importance of norming.  I used the information in the Writing Pathways book from Units of Study for Writing to guide our discussion.

  • Why we norm: The purpose of a norming meeting is to establish consistent and shared expectations across the school for student writing.  We align our group as we engage ourselves in close, evidence-based reading.
  • What is the process: Four steps below
  • What happens when we disagree: Expect and embrace conflict.  Conflict is evidence that there is disconnect in the way your view student work, and digging into that disconnect will help you to align your vision.
    • If some consensus is not possible, a half-point is an acceptable difference of opinion.  Generally if 10 minutes of discussion doesn’t yield something close to consensus, the piece is set aside as a “fence sitter.”  Don’t let that one piece derail the whole activity.

Questions to consider:
Work as a group to score 1 student’s piece of writing to reach consensus – where does the student fall?
Where does the student fall on the learning progression and in relation to grade level?

Steps in a Norming Meeting:
Step 1.Work as a group to score 1 students piece of writing to reach consensus – where does the student fall?
  • Read through the piece one time
  • Then inch through the rubric to assess each item, be careful to note which traits have double the points

Step 2:Score a few other students, then everyone score individually, and come together: What score did we give them?
  • If after doing this work with 5 papers of different levels, the group finds that it can come to a consensus, the group can consider itself normed and people can now score papers individually

Step 3: Assess your own students’ writing individually

Step 4: Devise a plan for analyzing on-demand writing across each grade
  • will you just look at a few above, at and below
  • maybe you will decide just to focus on a few traits that are especially important in the upcoming unit
  • maybe you will decide that this scoring process is so valuable that you will continue this work with every on-demand assessment

When making assessment decisions, we need to ask: What are you actually trying to get out of this?

The Payoff:  A school culture in which learning progressions, benchmark pieces, and rubrics help teachers work with each other and with their students to accelerate progress.

We definitely needed more than the 40 minute staff meeting to complete the norming process, as we really only got through step 1.  However, this is the first time our staff has been asked to complete this type of work and it was great to hear the conversations around writing occuring.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Literacy Leader Networking

I have had the pleasure to attend a few literacy leader networking sessions over the past two weeks and I am really excited to share what I have learned.
The first session I went to was a literacy and math leader networking day put on by CESA #9, and led  by Casey Gretzinger and Linda Myers.  We began the day by grounding ourselves in our beliefs about what coaches/leaders do.  This began by using a survey to individually assess our beliefs, then discussed in our group, determined our individual top 5, then wrote on chart paper our common table beliefs about coaching.  This was a great discussion to ground our district coaching beliefs, which we found were very similar.  We continued to network about best practices and engage in some individualized learning during the afternoon.

Friday, I attended DPI’s Literacy Coaches Network  hosted by Barb Novak, Laura Adams and Marci Glaus. It is one of my favorite days of the year, as these ladies never disappoint in their presentation or in their enthusiasm.  We began the day with a coaching session presented by Laura Gleisner.  Laura is a coach certified by the International Coaching Federation.  She guided us through assessing our Emotional Resilience. The categories we assessed ourselves were: sleep, optimism/positive thinking, renewal experiences, support network, nutrition, exercise, communication, internal locus of control.We then used the coaching wheel to see how smooth or bumpy our road is.  

From there Laura shared with us the Dreaded Drama Triangle that we all may get drawn into during our coaching conversations as we become the rescuer.
Victim Mentality
·        It’s not my fault
·        Things are being done to me
·        I am powerless
·        There is nothing I can do

*We have to be careful so that we do not get sucked into the dreaded drama triangle (Dr. Stephan Karpman)-victim, persecutor, rescuer

The antidote to the Dreaded Drama Triangle is the Creator Orientation developed by The Power of Ted by David Emerald.

The third piece of the triangle is the Coach.  We must believe that EVERY person is creative, resourceful and whole.  We can coach someone through the Creator Orientation.  Our steps include:
·         Empathize
·         Ask what the client wants instead
·         Build awareness around their own behaviors
·         Help client work within their lotus of control
·         Capitalize on strengths
·         Help see persecutor as a learning opportunity
·         Commit to taking action

After lunch, we moved into reflecting on and discussing our culturally responsive practices.  Here is what the Wisconsin's RtI Center has developed.
Using the above chart (link), we had to reflect on what our values were growing up, what they are now, how are schools operate, how my students/families might be different, and how this difference creates conflict.  This was a great activity to bring cultural differences to the forefront of our minds.

I am so fortunate to have been invited and allowed by my district to attend these two wonderful networking opportunities.  

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Guided Reading in Grades 3-5

This week's common planning meetings centered around the topic of guided reading.  I met with grades three, four and five. Our discussion focused on transitional guided reading, fluent guided reading and literature discussion groups.

Two books that have helped me tremendously in the area of guided reading and literature discussion are the following:


I have seen all of the author's speak as well, and have crafted my small group instruction based on their philosophies.

One big misconception that needed to get out in the open was the idea of using round robin reading.  When students are involved in this type of reading, only one student is doing the work-the one reading aloud.  We have such precious little time to work in small groups with students that we have to have them working the whole time.  Students all need to be reading the text silently to themselves as the teacher listens in to each one individually at whichever point they are in the text.  Another reason this is important is the students should be hearing only the very best reader in the room read aloud...and that person is the teacher.  

Transitional Guided Reading
Levels J-P
Instructional Needs: self-monitoring, decoding, fluency, vocabulary and retell
Framework for Guided Reading
·         Selecting the Text
·         Introducing the Text
·         Reading the Text
·         Discussing and Revisiting the Text
·         Teaching for Processing Strategies
·         Extending the Meaning of the Text (optional)
·         Word Work (optional)

Fluent Guided Reading
Read Fluently above a level N, with no decoding, fluency or retell issues.
Select a focus strategy.
Materials: any relatively short text can be used-poetry, short stories, newspaper articles, magazine articles, short chapter books and informational books.
 (it is recommended not to use a novel for guided reading-these are better for literature discussion groups or self-selected reading)

From our discussions we discovered the following:
3rd grade: 2-3 guided reading groups
4th grade: 2 guided reading groups
5th grade: 1 guided reading group

The majority of students in 5th grade were able to read fluently and benefit more from rich discussions with their peers around similar texts as occurs during literature discussion groups.

Literature Discussion Groups
Small-group conversations about books.
7 predictable, yet flexible components:
  1. Introduction and Selection of book
  2. Silent Reading
  3. Teacher Conference
  4. Group Discussion w/teacher present
  5. Peer Discussion, extension of the group with only students
  6. Text Mapping and Focus groups
  7. Literature Extensions, variety of activities

This week I am modeling how to introduce literature discussion groups with our 4th grade team. Our principal graciously offered to instruct the students who are not quite ready for this, so that our whole team can watch the teaching.  I began yesterday and look forward to model the future lessons all this week.