Archive for the 'English' Category

English +Common Core +Mobile = Success (ISTE2014 Poster -details)

Here are the ten examples I showed at my English + Common Core  + Mobile ISTE 2014 Poster Session:

Based on CCSS Anchor Statements:

L.2 Take a Conventions Mobile Online Quiz  to pick the  incorrect sentence from four choices (capitalization)

SL.2  Evaluate audio recording of a  book chapter on mobile and predict for next chapter.

SL.4 Tell about a mobile picture of a place far from your home by using space organization.

SL.6 Present mobile recorded news to two different groups (HS class and elementary class).

R.2 Create a one minute small group video to record the  theme of  the story.

R.5 Analyze the structure in downloaded literature by doing a key word search.

R.7 Integrate mobile content. Find online image to show the meaning of each poem stanza by identifying the key words in the stanza.

W.5 Revise a paragraph about non-fiction article using point of view and claims.  Orally dictate to voice to text on mobile, read, improve and re-record.

W.6 Publish school news as tweets; publish much info in few words.

W.7 Do map and image research for a novel like Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.

Use the 150+ different mobile activities in my ebook ,English Common Core Mobile Activities, to guide your students in learning and demonstrating the English Language Arts Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Anchor Statements in Language, Speaking and Listening, Reading, and Writing. The activities, organized by Anchor Statements, actively engage your students. More than half the activities are non-fiction. Although the ebook is intended for grades 6-12, teachers at both the elementary and the college level can easily adapt the activities. Over 98% of the suggested apps are free and work on both Android and iPad. Many of these activities can be implemented immediately in the classroom. Each activity is described in detail; most students already can use the app in each activity. Students spend time in achieving the Anchor Statements, not in learning apps. Many of these mobile activities are done in pairs or small group so not all students need to have a mobile device.  $7.99

English Common Core Mobile Activities

English Common Core Mobile Activities

English + Common Core + Mobile = Success in Learning Poster Session at ISTE 2014

In my ISTE Sunday 8-10 am poster session, I demonstrate many diverse mobile activities to help students achieve the English Language Arts Common Core Anchor Statements through mobile devices. The mobile activities focus on free common tool apps that are available on both the Android and the iPad. The students use the apps as a seamless tools with which to show their demonstration of the Anchor Statements.  Here are short descriptions of three activities:

L.2 Conventions Mobile Online Survey. Teachers can give their students quick conventions formative assessment QR codes that link to an online survey/quiz such as in Google Forms. Each week the teachers focus on a specific part of the conventions such as capitalization. For example, teachers give four statements and the students select the one with incorrect capitalization. As the teachers project the graph of that day’s online quiz and they discover that many students have made errors, they present a micro-lesson on that aspect of capitalization. Teachers can have QR codes for online videos so students can also review that specific convention at another time.

SL.4 Photo Description Organized by Space.
Teachers have their students describe a picture using space organized words. Teachers ask their students to take a mobile picture from their home of a far away location. In class, the teachers review how to use space or location words to organize the students speaking. The teachers share a list of space words such as “in front of,” “to the left,” and “two blocks.” The teachers ask their students to pair up. One student describes how to get from his/her house or apartment to the far away place. The other student listens for and writes down all the space words or phrases that the speaker uses. The listening partner tells the speaker how many space organization words he/she used and suggests other space organization words that would clarify the directions even more. Next, the other student describes his/her picture while the partner listens and gives feedback. The students audio record their revised speaking and post it in an online class management system such as Schoology.

R.5 Key Word Search in Downloadable Literature

As students determine the theme for a piece of literature, they focus on key words that help them explore that theme. In groups of two or three students, one student has downloaded to a mobile device the public domain version of the literature such as Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding. That group of students may search for the word “knife” in the play by using the Find feature in the e-publication. They create a paper chart with three columns: 1) Act and Scene 2) number of times the word appears; and 3) who says it or does something with it that reflects the theme of the play. When they finish with their chart, they take a picture and post it in an online class management system such as Schoology.

Use these 150+ different mobile activities in my ebook,English Common Core Mobile Activities, to guide your students in learning and demonstrating the English Language Arts Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Anchor Statements in Language, Speaking and Listening, Reading, and Writing. The activities, organized by Anchor Statements, actively engage your students. More than half the activities are non-fiction. Although the ebook is intended for grades 6-12, teachers at both the elementary and the college level can easily adapt the activities. Over 98% of the suggested apps are free and work on both Android and iPad. Many of these activities can be implemented immediately in the classroom. Each activity is described in detail; most students already can use the app in each activity. Students spend time in achieving the Anchor Statements, not in learning apps. Many of these mobile activities are done in pairs or small group so not all students need to have a mobile device.

English Common Core Mobile Activities

English Common Core Mobile Activities

Common Core and Modern Languages- Do not panic

No, there are no common core standards for Modern Languages.    Yes, Modern Language teachers are looking at  the English Language Arts Common Core.      No, those teachers should not panic.

I  have been in education for over 40 years.  I have seen many many movements and new  approaches.  I have been in education long enough to see the same movement resurface with a new name.  With each new building principal came a new way of doing things, with each new superintendent came the newest approach, and with each new leader of  state education or professional organization came a new vision.  Usually the new approach, especially the common core in Modern Language,  does not require multiple days of professional development even a half day; most times modern language teachers can make the change within about an hour.

I have used a simple technique to change to any new  approach.    I analyze the new approach thoroughly and then determine
1. What am I presently doing that directly fits in that approach?
2. What am I doing that I can modify slightly to fit the approach?  Sometimes it is as simple as a name change or where something goes in a lesson. For example, what  is the new name for an anticipatory set?  I believe that Common Core English just uses different labels than we do in Modern Languages when we use the labels from ACTFL or state guidelines.
3. What do I have to change completely or add to what I already do?

I am waiting for someone to develop the magic cheat sheet that converts  the English Language Arts Common Core to Modern Language learning.  We already do  them, we just have to give our activities a new name or number.

I have attended two workshops on Common Core and Modern Languages  and neither kept it simple. In fact, I walked out more confused than when I went in.  A Modern Language department could do a  CC to ML conversion chart  in about a fifty minute meeting.

If you know of anyone who has developed the magic conversion chart, please let me know so I can share it with other Modern Language teachers.

I have developed many  Spanish activities that allow students to begin to express themselves and to begin to move toward spontaneous speaking as in a natural conversation.  My Spanish spontaneous speaking activities (20+) includes Modified Speed Dating (Students ask  a question from a card-whole class), Structured Speaking (Students substitute in or select words to communicate in pairs),  Role Playing (Students talk as people in pictures or drawing from 2-4 people) and Speaking Mats (Can talk using a wide variety of nouns, verbs and adjectives to express their ideas- pairs or small group),  Spontaneous Speaking (based on visuals or topics in pairs),  and Grammar speaking games (pairs or small group). Available for a nominal fee at Teacherspayteachers:  http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle

My three formative assessment books:   http://is.gd/tbook

Problems with Institutional Assessment

Assessment dominates education from K-12 through college.   There are different types of assessment, formative (helps students improve) and summative (grading of students).  However, institutional assessment  involves the bigger picture of how an institution or a department is doing academically.

In institutional assessment, teachers enter data into a  mega-database. For example, teachers may enter their students’ grades  on each section of the final. Then someone, often a department head,  analyzes the overall results using the online data, to assess the student learning across specific courses and across the department.

Institutional assessment has some basic flows
1) Most institutions have not identified a specific  enough curriculum that can be assessed.  Many contain very general statements of learning.  For example, English might state that  students will write a well-written essay. Has the English department specified what constitutes a well-written essay?  Likewise, a Modern language department may have the curriculum statement  “The student should speak in sentences that have relatively simple structures and concrete vocabulary”.  What does “speak” mean?  Does it mean to be able to talk about one’s life, to hold a conversation. to repeat from memory?  When there are only general  learning statements, there cannot be any  meaningful assessment.

2) If departments have identified specific learning goals, what is the priority of those learning goals? For example, in English the purpose of writing is to communicate ideas or feelings.  Shouldn’t the organization of ideas be more important than the spelling?  Or does spelling/grammar have the same assessment weight as organization?  Likewise,  in  Modern Languages, are all skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) treated equally in assessment weighting even though both in class and in the real world, people listen and speak almost double the amount that they read and write?  Have the specific learning goals and their priority been communicated to the teachers/students through a department website/wiki?

3) The departments do not have exemplars that show the quality that they expect of students.  Does the English department share  electronically with all English teachers essays that show what constitutes a high level paper,  an acceptable paper, and a non-acceptable paper?  Again, are these exemplars on the department website for each course?  Does the Modern Language department share audio files of  a good ten sentence conversation through their website or an their department app?

4) They have vague assessment tools.  The English department has a generic rubric (has good organization,  conveys ideas, etc.) that can be interpreted differently by different people.   What type of essay will be the written? An autobiographical essay requires a very different approach than a contrast essay.  In Modern Languages, how will writing be assessed – holistically or analytically?  If different educators can come up with different scores for the same student, then the assessment tool does not accurately measure learning.  Teachers can receive a digital image of the rubric and work assessed using that rubric.   How well does the assessment tool match up with how the information was taught in class?  Is the assessment tool such as the final developed  at the  competency level or at the highly competent level?  Students may be competent but not highly competent

5) The departments do not do a thorough analysis to get at the root problem once they have discovered a gap.   If the students do not achieve well, was it due to the  students’ lack of effort, a misunderstanding of  how to answer the  assessment question, a specific word in the  assessment question,   the thinking level of the test question,    the structure of the assessment item,  the textbook, the textbook’s powerpoints,  the teacher’s explanation, the homework, or  the online work?  Usually much additional exploration is needed to determine the real reason for the gap. Once the  department identifies the gap, what  specific strategy will help the students over come this gap?  Will the department suggest  technology-based strategies that appeal to students such as Youtube videos, interactive websites,  interactive apps  and that help the students directly overcome the gap?

6) Most important of all, how does the institutional assessment help  students improve in the course right now?  Most institutions assess once a semester.  After the analysis, the department  focuses on  what changes will happen in the future year.  Unless regular assessment is done in small intervals  throughout the year and changes made almost instantly, then the assessment does not benefit  the present students.  Next year’s students may be very different than the students who took this assessment.  Classroom teachers need access to the online data and analysis so they can take class time to provide  the students new learning strategies.  Then, students can be successful learners!

How does your institution assess  student learning?

My Spanish spontaneous speaking activities (20+) includes Modified Speed Dating (Students ask  a question from a card-whole class), Structured Speaking (Students substitute in or select words to communicate in pairs),  Role Playing (Students talk as people in pictures or drawing from 2-4 people) and Speaking Mats (Can talk using a wide variety of nouns, verbs and adjectives to express their ideas- pairs or small group),  Spontaneous Speaking (based on visuals or topics in pairs),  and Grammar speaking games (pairs or small group). Available for a nominal fee at Teacherspayteachers:  http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle

My three formative assessment books:   http://is.gd/tbook

Intensity of Learning

People enjoy  intensity such as the intensity of a ski run, an amusement ride, diving into a lake, a round of Jeopardy, or a Soduku puzzle.

Students enjoy and benefit from class when we provide them with intensity of learning  We can give them short  activities that  are highly focused on critical learning.  As we move our students from talking about learning to  using what they are learning, many opportunities exist for intense learning.

In my Spanish class, I have my students do many one to two minute speaking activities. Each activity focuses on a specific language function such as asking for information or  persuading.   For example, in groups of two, one student looks at a picture such as a people in a mall and asks his/her partner questions while the partner answers the questions.  They do not prepare for this activity, they just dive into it. They have to combine their already learned vocabulary and grammar from previous lessons to do this activity. After this intense activity, they debrief by going over what they could do better next time and then practicing to show that they can improve. This formative assessment activity provides a intense experience for students.

In my English comp0sition class, my student write essays but they write them intense part by intense  part.  After my students have selected a topic, narrowed it down, written a thesis, and generated ideas, they spend a few minutes in organizing the ideas into a graphic organizer.  They complete the graphic organizer if any parts are missing.  One student described this as putting together a giant puzzle with a clock ticking.  He also commented that sometimes he has to create a missing puzzle piece.  When the students finish, they feel a sense of satisfaction.  A writing partner looks over their graphic organizer for the logical flow of ideas and the support of those ideas in this formative writing activity.

These intense activities require the students to use higher level thinking and to perform on the spot. Students like a challenge and that   students can climb higher academically if we give  them the opportunity.

How do you provide intense higher level learning for your students?

I have Spanish spontaneous speaking activities at Teacherspayteachers:  http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle

My formative assessment books:   http://is.gd/tbook

Use any Web 2.0 tool at any Level of Bloom’s Taxonomy, Don’t be Limited by Listings

I have been teaching for many years.  In fact, one of my earliest presentations was on “Using Print Shop at All Levels of Bloom” (the original Print Shop).  Therefore, whenever I see the listings that supposedly say what Web 2.0 tools works at what level of Bloom’s taxonomy, I become very confused. A few of the many such listings are http://www.usi.edu/distance/bloom%20pyramid.jpg, http://tsheko.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/visualblooms1.jpg?w=500&h=359, http://www.bcps.org/offices/lis/Reference/images/web_2_Bloom.jpg, and http://edtech2.boisestate.edu/candacemcenespy/Images/vectormap.gif There is only a very slight overlap among the listing, each usually puts the same Web 2.0 tools at different thinking levels.

Let’s look at Google docs which a few sites place at the lowest level of Bloom, Remember/Knowledge. Google docs can be used to help students recall information. However, it can just as easily be used to paraphrase the information (from the original Shakespeare to modern day texting messages), to apply/use information (How does Pareto’s 20/80 rule apply to this story? ), to analyzing/contrasting (How are these two poems the same? Different?), to evaluating (Which literature that we have read this year best expresses man’s inhumanity to man? Why?), and synthesize/creating (Write a short story in which you mock some modern day thinking or organization.)

Teachers determine how any Web 2.0 tool is used. They determine at what Bloom’s level they will use the Web 2.0 tool. If they want their students to be bigger thinkers, they will use the higher levels of Bloom. If the teachers want their students to remain in small thinking, they will use the lower levels.

The choice of what level to use any Web 2.0 is up to the teacher. At what level do you use each Web 2.0 tools? Do you consciously build up Bloom’s taxonomy with each different technology you use during a unit?

Tuttle’s formative assessment books:   http://is.gd/tbook

English Essays – Grade or Assess? Done or Keep on Improving?

Today I returned my English students first essay. In my formative assessment manner,  I carefully explained that I want them to improvement in their writing during the course and to do so, I had to identify what they have done well and what they need to improve. Í  reminded them that the rubric  checklist has a plus (+) for doing well, a question mark (?) for inconsistent  work, and negative (-) for needs improvement.  I marked 20+ items on their checklist.  I did not give them a grade like a B since the grade tells them nothing about what they did well or have to improve in.  I also explained that, for each student,  I have identified the three areas that will lead to the greatest improvement. I stressed that I expect to see improvement in those three areas on the next essay.  They copied these three improvement areas on an Essay Improvement sheet that they will hand in with their next essay.  I explained that I will provide new strategies for those  learning gaps demonstrated by the greatest number of students at the beginning of each class.   More ideas are in my Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment

How do you help your students  to continually  improve?

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Also, my  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Constant Peer Review on the Same Essay Improves Student Writing

I  teach a college composition course.  We spend much time in peer reviewing (probably 70% of class time) in a formative assessment process. Today the students had their 6th peer review on the same “essay” and we are just up to doing  three body paragraphs.  I asked my students to do a questionnaire on the process we use.  About 15% said that they did not peer review in their high school English classes.  Of those they did peer review, they stated that peer review  focused on grammar, spelling and punctuation. As one student said of our process,  “we  focus on changing idea.”  Most students (80%) had not had more than one peer  review their writing; so far we  have had 6 different peers react to their writing.  As one student mentioned “you get a different view and different aspects about your paper from other people ” and “You receive others’ opinions using the same format you used to write it.”  My goal is simple: for students  to constantly improve in their writing.  Formative assessment which focuses on monitoring and giving feedback continually through the process enables students to improve in each aspect of their writing, starting at the pre-writing phase.  A more thorough description of this process is found in my Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment

How often do your students peer review  each other’s work?

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Also, my  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Consistency in learning

Do we have consistency in learning in our classes?  Do we translate our ending goals into daily learning?    Do our tests, quizzes, and daily classroom activities reflect that same learning?  This backward planning follows the Understanding by Design model. For example, if a social studies curriculum wants students to  answer  the universal questions of Why is there war?,  How do people fight wars? and What are the consequences of wars?, then social studies book tests should  not have  students memorize the names and dates of battles for a particular war in a specific country.  That microscopic view does not help students answer the essential questions.

Likewise, if modern language teachers want their students to be able to converse in the target language, then do students spend most of their time in class conversing?  Do the language tests reflect conversations or do these tests focus on discrete grammar and vocabulary?

Do English teachers who want their students to be better writers  really focus on writing?   Do  these teachers spend more  class time on  doing punctuation exercises than on  developing good ideas?  Do they have their  students spend more time watching a movie than writing about the movie?

When teachers  want to improve subject area learning through Web 2.0 tools,  do the students spend more time on the technology or on the content learning?

I do not believe that we need to add more days to the school year to improve student learning.  I believe that we can increase learning  best when we are consistent in what we want students to learn and then following through in our daily activities, in our quizzes and in our tests.

How consistent are you in your students’ learning?

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Also, my  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Revision as key to the Writing Process

Revision as key to the writing process

This graphic indicates an interesting aspect of the writing process.  Many students do a revision or possible two of their writing but they do not go through the constant revision that professional writers do.  However, the classroom teacher can build in many more revisions on the students’ work with little effort.

The students can peer review and revise their work as they do it.  For example, students write a thesis statement and then have  a peer assess it and give feedback based on the teacher’s guiding questions.  As the students develop their graphic organizer, other students can look it over for different categories, evidence and details and then the students can revise it.  As the students write their first body paragraph, another student can peer review it using a teacher-provided rubric and then the students can revise it.  The teacher can have writing strategies for that particular part of the writing process  to help the students who need additional assistance  in areas of the writing process or they can find other areas for peer review  as shown in my book Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment

Constant assessment and revision improves student writing.

How often do you students receive feedback on their writing during the writing process and then make revisions?

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Also, my  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Students vote to improve -Formative Assessment

I teach a freshmen college  English course. I’ve been using formative assessment throughout the course.  We do at least five very structured formative assessment peer reviews before we even write a draft (Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment).  During today’s class, we  peer reviewed a draft of their contrast essay.  I asked the class to vote whether they wanted 1)  to hand in their essays the next class which was just before  the vacation or 2) to do another  peer review  and have the essays due after Spring Break. I told them I would do whichever they wanted.  90% voted to have their essays peer-reviewed again. They wanted more formative feedback so that their writing could improve!  One student even boasted as he showed me  his peer-reviewed draft, “Look at all the ways I can do better!”

How do you use formative assessment to constantly assess students and to “instantly” help them to improve?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Also, my  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Formative Assessment Time = Success Time

This semester I am teaching  College Composition.  I find that my students’ quality of work has improved drastically since I use formative assessment. In the last essay unit,  the classification essay, the students spent over half of the time in formative assessment, mostly peer review.  We peer review each part of the pre-writing phase, starting with a narrowed topic.  Students constantly get feedback on their work according to the assessment checklists.  Their feedback is not a free-for-all, write whatever you want about the students’ writing; their feedback focuses directly on the assessment checklist.  They can give feedback  since they know whether the person has included a certain aspect such as a classifying verb or the evidence name.  I feel that they are about 90% accurate using the checklists.  In fact, I look over the previous peer-assessments before I actually assess the essay.  Since students have to have different students peer assess their work, they have different “eyes” to see their work.  Since each student gets feedback at least eight times during the writing process,  I find that  when I assess their papers, I do not have to  focus on the big issues (thesis, topic sentences, sufficient evidence, and detailed examples)  since the reviewers already helped the person with these. Each time we spend in formative assessment is time spent in helping students be more successful.   In a survey using Google forms, my students said that they made many changes (4.2 out of a five point where 5 =many many changes).  Also, they said that only 2.8 times in the past had their essay been reviewed twice or more.

How do you use build in formative assessment time for student success?

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Also, my  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Formative Assessment Class Culture

Formative assessment requires a specific culture in the classroom.

For example, I tell my students that my job is to help them constantly improve.

I remind them that in this formative assessment class, I am a coach.  I will look for what they are doing well but, more importantly, I will look for how they can improve. An athletic coach constantly watches his/her players and constantly gives suggestions for improvement.

In addition, I will only ask then to improve when they can be given a  new strategy or approach that will enable them to overcome their learning gap.

I let them know that when I call on them, I will give them feedback.  If they want to become better in the class, they will offer their answer no matter how wrong  they think their answer is. Once I hear their answer, I can help them to become better.  If they keep quiet, I cannot help them. My feedback will focus not on what they did wrong but on how to do it correctly.

I remind them that they will be constantly assessed and be constantly  given strategies. For example, in the pre-writing phase of their essays, there will be seven assessments. Each formative assessment helps ensure they are on a success track.

I tell them that we build on successes.  We do something well, then we build on that successful learning  to reach the next learning goal.  Students feel very different in a class where they know that the teacher and their fellow students are there to help them improve in their learning.

Finally, I inform them that they are expected to do well in the course since we build on and reward successes.

What is your class culture?

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Reponding to Your Students

Also, my  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment

Really Effective Technology or Not?

This semester I decided to try something different in my writing class.  After giving them a pre-assessment (writing an in-class essay), I determined that this  class was at the same level as last semester’s students.  My change for this semester was that  I taught the whole semester without using a single PowerPoint.

In all the previous semesters, I have had a PowerPoint presentation  each night that had illustrations,  certain words in different colors,  many visuals, etc.   I had noticed that my night class often went to sleep when I turned down the lights and used the PowerPoint.  Even though I asked them many questions and did interactive things, the class seemed lulled.  This semester it was just me and the whiteboard with the lights on.  I did have different colored markers. I did full up the board and erase it several times during the class.   I felt that I had more eye contact (could see their reactions better)  and more interactivity with the students (could show other  strategies when they encountered a problem)  rather than being the button-pusher for the next PowerPoint Slide.

The informal results  based on this semester’s last in-class essay  compared to the previous semester’s was that this semester’s students did just as well (really slightly better)  than last semester’s students.  The lack of PowerPoint did not negatively impact the students; in fact, they did better without it.  Teacher methodology (focusing on students’ present learning status)  matters more than technology!

How do you know if technology is a truly effective tool in your class?

My  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment

My book,  Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Reponding to Your Students

Using Writing Formative Assessments for At-Risk students

Recently I received an email from someone who had purchased my Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment.  She said that she was, at first, shocked by how I had objectified English by breaking each part of the writing process down.  She said that she had assumed that her students “knew” all the basic things about writing. However, when she began to use the book’s formative assessments for each part of the pre-writing process, she quickly found out that they did not. She  realized that they became stuck very early in the writing process and, therefore, did not move forward.  She told me that she never thought about giving students different strategies to overcome their writing gaps; she just assumed their present writing strategy was effective.  She used some of the book’s  various strategy to help them.    She commented that she could see success in her students as they used the strategy.  She ended up by saying that she was now aware of how much structure students need to be successful and how these formative assessments provided that structure.

Obviously, I felt good about her comments.  The writing formative assessments  that I included in the book were ones that I have used  in a college writing course that I teach. Some of the students in the class dropped out of school in six grade and am now working on their GED as they are taking college courses. My job is help these “at-risk” students  to go from six grade writing to college level writing in one semester.  Through the use of constant formative assessments I can guide them from where they are to where they need to be so they can  write college-level academic essays. The writing  formative assessments build in student success and  build in student confidence in their writing.

My  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment

My book,  Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Aligning activities and end goal

When a  colleague was teaching a remedial English course, she was told to focus on the creative aspects of writing.   Those beginning college students needed to able to write academic  papers for college, not to write poetry and personal narratives.  They would  become good academic writers by focusing on the standard forms of academic writing  of writing such as contrast and argument papers.

Although this is an extreme example, I wonder how often teachers forget the real purpose of the students’  learning and have their students spend time doing something that does not directly lead to learning that goal.    A question to ask  is “How does this directly and efficiently lead students to being proficient in this skill?”  I remember watching a social studies class where  ninth grade students were coloring in the countries of South America, each country in different color.  The real purpose was to learn where each country was on the map but they spent about a third of the class on coloring.    Locating  countries on a map is a memorization activity so do memorization activities such as study a map with the names shown for  half the countries  and then , see a map without the names and put the names in.  Likewise, in a modern language class, students do not improve in their speaking ability by doing grammar drills. A student can be proficient in grammar but not  be a proficient speaker.  Students become more skillful in speaking as they speak more in class through structured activities.  Likewise, English students do not become better writers by just reading and answering questions about long literary essays.  When educators take students through the writing process with a focus on the specific type of writing, then these students become better writers.

So how does what your students do directly and efficiently lead them  to being proficient in a specific skill?

My  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment

My book,  Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Reponding to Your Students

A Writing Miracle With Timed In-Class Writing

In my college writing class,  for their last graded essay, the students have been writing in-class timed essays.  We started out with just doing the pre-writing organizing, moved to writing one period and revising  the essay the next period , and finally to a one period in-class timed essay.  About 80% of the students did as well, if not better, than their usual essay writing in which they spent 2-3 weeks per essay.  Most students were shocked at the high quality they could produce in one period.   Along with the essay, they had to hand in their graphic organizer with each essay- which included not only the thesis, evidence, and details but topic sentences, transitions, synonyms,  attention getter and an extender.   They found that the more time they spent on their organizer, the quicker they could “write” their essay.  Their  “writing” consisted of taking their ideas from the organizer and writing them out in full sentences.   Some students did not finish their whole essay but with their completed graphic organizer I could see what ideas they had.  The students had improved all semester so that they could reach this point. Their constant formative assessments help them to overcome their major and minor learning gaps.

In their class evaluation, numerous students mentioned that we should do more inclass  timed organizer and writing. They felt successful!

My new book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Reponding to Your Students

Revisions and Formative Assessment

I find that if I ask students to revise their work based on my formative feedback, some of them do make the changes  and others do not.  However, if the students have to create a Change sheet, they do make the changes.  In the Change sheet, they list the original learning problem, tell what they did to improve, and include an example from their most recent work.  As I look at their revisions, I first look at the original rubric, then their Change sheet, then put their previous work and their revised work side by side. I look for the changes in their revision. I look to see if they have changed all of the items for each formative feedback. For example, if I asked a student to improve his/her topic sentences, I look to see if all the original poorly done topic sentences have changed. If students have made the revisions for the three major areas of feedback and, therefore, reached the level of proficiency or above proficiency, they receive a new higher grade.

How do you help your students to improve?

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Students, is available through Eye-on-Education.

Reponding to Your Students

How Lost Are Your Students?

I heard from a college student who happened to read parts of my next manuscript (Formative Assessment Improves Writing) after his mother told him that she was reviewing the book. He mentioned that the smart kids “get it” but the other kids often struggle. They get lost in one part and then they get more lost  in the next and more lost in the next until they cannot find their way out. Unfortunately, their teachers usually do not help them.

He was interested in how I made sure no student could get lost since I assess each student on each minor part of his/her writing  journey.

I wonder how often teachers assess their students and then give formative feedback immediately?  How many minutes go by before the students are assessed and formative feedback is used to help students get back on the learning path if they have wondered off? How many days? How many weeks? The more time between formative assessments, they more time to get lost, to get so lost that there is almost no hope of ever finding the path again.

learninggoalfaffmap1

How lost are your students? How do you know? What do you do to help them when they get lost?

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Students, is available through Eye-on-Education.

Reponding to Your Students

Messy papers are best: Continual Improvement through Formative Assessment

I like messy papers. I like papers with all sorts of colors over them and all sorts of comments. My students enjoy them too.

The messy papers are my students’ peer reviewed papers .  The pupils color code the writer’s paper with the thesis and topic sentences in red, evidence in yellow and details in green.  They draw triangles for transition words. They put in many other marks to indicate various aspects of writing that they found.

The more colors and the more marks, the better the student has written the paper. When students get back their papers, their faces light up when they see all the colors and all the positive comments. When they are missing a color in a paragraph, they can instantly notice the lack of color. They know we are a “green” classroom; we want to have plenty of “green” in their writing.

After a quick verbal peer conferencing, they revise their papers as soon as they are made aware of their learning gaps.They want more “color” in their life!

How do you help your students to give formative feedback to other students? How do add “color” to their work?

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Students, is available through Eye-on-Education.

Reponding to Your Students

How valuable is Peer Review?

When my students hand in their final English essay, they also hand in their peer reviewed draft. I’ve noticed that usually they do not incorporate the changes that peers suggest.

I gave them a survey on peer review to help me better understand their use of peer’s comments. They admitted that they use very little of peer review.

Some of their reasons:

The reviewer isn’t as smart as I am.

I don’t care what they “feel” about my paper. What is good/bad according to the rubric?

They don’t understand the rubric.

It does not help me when a reviewer finds a mistake if he cannot tell me how to fix it.

They don’t understand my thinking/how I wrote the paper.

The reviewer found some spelling mistakes but missed the big things like my first body paragraph having two topics.

They don’t try/ they do not  take it seriously.

How well do your students peer review each other? How valuable is the peer review to the author?

For any one who is interested in implementing formative assessment in the classroom, my book,
Formative Assessment: Responding to Students is available through Eye-on-Education.

Reponding to Your Students

New Learning If Have Options

My wife just purchased an all-in-one printer-fax-copier.  The machines lists eight special features. However, next to six of the eight features, there is a comment such as  “Optional hardware/service needed to utilize this feature.”

I wonder how often we give instruction to students but we have not included the optional features.  As I talk and survey students more about their writing, I find out that my assumption that the students  already know “how to” or that they remember “how to” are not true.  The wonderful lesson of two days ago has not been internalized so that they do not use the new technique; they revert back to the learning gap.  Likewise, they face a new writing pattern and they suddenly disregard all the good writing structures they used previously.  Finally, they encounter a writing topic that engages them so much that they forget the writing pattern completely.  All subject areas have optional features.

As I break the writing process more into thinking units and have the students practice these ways of thinking, I find that optional features need to become part of  the standard writing process. I have to be prepared to help the students negotiate their thinking so that they use these features.  They have to internalize the formative writing process so that they can produce high quality work at any time and in any condition such as in an in-class writing essay.

How do you build in the options for success for your students?

Activating Prior Knowledge and Formative Assessment

As I work with my students to develop their writing skills, I want to know what they already know about writing. I want to activate their prior knowledge and experiences. However, there is a down side to activating prior knowledge. A science teacher friend says that his students have many more misconceptions about science, then conceptions. He is careful to find out their misconceptions about a topic at the very beginning of the unit so that he can spend time in helping them to understand that their misconception is not valid science thinking. If they continue with this misconception, they will never grasp the real conception. I find that the same thing happens in writing. Students have misconceptions about writing such as “if I write it, it has to be good”,  “A very long story at the beginning of a very short essay is a great introduction.” or “One small piece of evidence is enough to convince my reader”.

I think we have to be aware that activating prior knowledge means activating whatever the student s may  think they “know” about the topic. Such activation does not assume that all prior “knowledge” is really positive knowledge. Activating prior knowledge provides a great formative assessment tool since we can “see” the students’ previous learning.  Therefore, we can guide the student forward instead letting student being stuck in his/her misconceptions.

Do you activate and diagnose students’ prior knowledge and  figure out strategies to  help the students improve in their learning?

Panic Attack: Chalk is the Technology in the classroom

I’m teaching as an adjunct at a community college which is part of the state system. I was shocked when I went into my classrooms and discovered that chalk was the technology. There was a dusty overhead in the corner. There was no computer and no LCD. For as many years as I can remember I’ve had a computer and projector in my classroom. Now when I want to use images in the classroom, color coded items in a paragraph, graphics to highlight a writing aspect, Youtube clips as a writing prompt, I cannot. Apparently, English teachers do not need technology. This English teacher does!

I am finding it very hard to go backward in terms of teaching. I’ve covered the chalkboard, erased it, and written over it again. So much wasted time. Each class is in a different room so I have to rewrite the same thing. I certainly am not going to write a long paragraph on the board.

I may have to  resort to buying transparencies so that at least I can show some items- about $1.50 per transparency. I may use up my pay for the courses just in transparencies.

I need  technology for my classroom so that I can spend more time teaching and less time writing on the chalkboard.

Paragraph Writing Ideas Pre-Assessment: Formative Assessment

I am starting my composition course with a self-assessment of the students’ ideas about writing. I ask them to list all the things that make a “good” paragraph.  They do  this individually on their own paper.  Then I ask them to draw a line after the last item.  Next they get in groups and each person reads their lists.  If they have the same item on the top of their list, they check it off. If they do not have the item and they think it is a good idea, then they write it under the line.

By looking at their papers, I begin to get an idea of what they  originally thought  about paragraph writing and what ideas they added.  This short in class activity (about 4 minutes) provides a good starting point for my understanding of their ideas about paragraph writing. It only takes me a few minutes to go through their papers.

I will keep their sheets to compare their actual paragraph writing against their ideas as soon as they do their first inclass writing.

How do you pre-assess the ability of your students so that you can modify future lessons?

Not a life Threatening event for Doing Homework

This semester I’m trying a new strategy which  is to reduce the pressure to be “perfect” on assignments.  Recently, I told students to do their best at this given stage but that doing the essay was not a life threatening event.  I then added that once they hand the essay in, I’ll give them feedback and then they can make those changes. Furthermore, I told them that what I wanted to see is improvement through the semester so their beginning papers would be baby steps in doing the essay.  I could see many faces changed from pure panic to less stress.  Some students even leaned back instead of being so far forward I thought they were going to fall. My hope is that if  they can feel less stress, they will work more from thinking than from fear.  I’ll let you know if this less stress and more thinking strategy pays off.

Do you build in stress or take out stress in your students’ work?

Embedded Testing or Random Testing

A colleague was sharing a humorous story about assessment. The students in his college have to take a post-writing test to show their improvement from their first writing at the college. They have to write an essay based on the same five topics.

However, the irony is that the students who are in his business writing course which is the final English course for the students are the ones being asked to write the post-writing. In the business course, they write business letters according to very strict formats.

Having them write an essay in the business class is like assessing a pizza maker on how well he writes checks. The pizza maker certainly writes checks but those checks are a very small percent of his/her time. The pizza maker spends most of the time in making pizza. Maybe the pizza maker can be observed as he/she makes pizzas just as our students can be assessed doing regular classroom writing in their essay class, not in their business class.

How and when do you assess students? Are they doing things that they would normally do as part of your class or is the assessment a random event outside of their normal tasks?

Scaffolding Writing Handouts For Students’ Success

I’ve been revising my writing handouts for my next semester classes. I’ve tried to create a step-by-step approach  in the order that they would actually do the steps and then in the checklist I repeat the steps such as for a contrast paper:
“Do I include two items in my thesis?”
“Do I directly state that I am contrasting them?”
|…..
“Do I include a detail for the first item, a contrast transition word and then a detail for the second item?”

Hopefully, if the students have followed the step-by-step approach then they will just confirm those items in their actual writing as they do the checklist on their draft. If they have missed a step then, they can catch it in the checklist and revise it before handing it in.

My students have wonderful and dramatic stories to tell; they need a structure in which to tell them well. Hopefully, the revised step-by-step process will give them the scaffold they need.

Greater Learning Through Same Model and Technology

I talked to a student who had been in the same English classes with several friends from 9th through 12 grade. Each year they had a different teacher and each year that teacher taught them “their” way of writing. When the students got to 12th grade, they just said to the teacher, “Tell us how you want us to write.” She taught them her “official” way of writing. These students are living proof that constantly changing what we expect of students results in less than proficient writers.

How can we expect students to improve in their writing if we constantly change how they should write? They will only improve when we build on one consistent model. They same is true for all subjects.

Do you get together with your department (K-12) to talk over what you expect of students and what model the students will follow? Do various teachers produce Power Points, emovies or podcasts to demonstrate that consistent model? Do other teachers help develop scaffolded handouts or Power Points that guide students through the model?

Pre-assessment: Open Eyes or Blinded

This semester I have given many pre-assessments to my students. Last semester, I made many mistakes in instruction because I did not know enough about my students before the beginning of the semester. I taught material that they knew and did not delve into material that they did not know. I assumed that they could read the textbook when their reading rate and comprehension which I tested once I saw a problem revealed an average class reading rate in the low 100s and a comprehension rate of 60% or lower. I thought that since they were college students they could organize their own writing.

So this semester, I have given them writing diagnostic, writing patterns past knowledge diagnostic, grammar diagnostic, vocabulary diagnostic, and reading diagnostic. I can hear the moans about wasting all the time on diagnostic. My students spend 45 minutes on the combined writing and grammatic diagnostic, three minutes on the vocabulary one, four minutes on the past writing patterns and about 15 on the reading one. So in just about one hour and ten minutes I have done six diagnostic tests that have transformed how I teach writing to the students.

What pre-assessments do you give and how do you change your instruction to better improve your students’ learning?


RSS Education with Technology

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  • Digital Badges: Naming the Badge October 29, 2015
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    Do world language students use technology n the classroom? Do their  teachers go beyond having their students use technology simply for the drill and practice in vocabulary and grammar? Students can use laptops and mobile devices to hear authentic language, read authentic texts, read tweets about famous performers, see up-to-the-moment culture,  watch video […]
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  • Digital Badges: Individual or Categorized Learning Badges? September 12, 2015
    The idea of digital badges sounds appealing for the digital children in classes. As teachers start thinking about digital badges, they have to figure out what badges will be awarded. The teachers can award social or academic badges. If teachers decide to use academic badges, then the teachers may base their badges on the Common […]
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  • English +Common Core +Mobile = Success (ISTE2014 Poster -details) June 30, 2014
    Here are the ten examples I showed at my English + Common Core  + Mobile ISTE 2014 Poster Session: Based on CCSS Anchor Statements: L.2 Take a Conventions Mobile Online Quiz  to pick the  incorrect sentence from four choices (capitalization) SL.2  Evaluate audio recording of a  book chapter on mobile and predict for next chapter. […]
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    hgtuttle

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