Sunday, November 28, 2010

Daily Assignment #25: Rubrics

Heidi Goodrich, author of Understanding Rubrics, defines a rubric as "a scoring tool that lists the criteria for a piece of work, simply put, rubrics 'list what counts,' " based on a gradation of 1-4.  Also, teachers should include exemplars for students to have a visual of what the gradations look like.  I found this link,, which offers several different types of rubrics.

Rubrics help students to evaluate and revise their own work. They empower students.  Rubrics will also eliminate students playing "Guess What's on the Teacher's Mind."  A favorite game of many teachers.  No longer will you hear, "I didn't know what you wanted."  Or that all time favorite, "You gave me that grade because you don't like me." 

The unfortunate part about a rubric is, as the designer of the tool, (meaning any teacher who uses them), it can be time consuming in designing just one.  So, I would like to suggest, design rubrics for authentic assessments and use "Criteria for Success" for all other assignments.

Criteria for Success would be number 3 on a rubric.  Bottomline, for #3, the teacher will not accept anything less on an assignment but will certainly accept more.  As someone who has used this strategy, particularly for writing assignments, the quality of work is amazing.  Student performance was much better.  In fact, by spring, the students would establish the criteria with me.  In this way, everyone was invested in the assignment.

Also, using rubrics and criteria for success helps tremendously with conversations with parents.  Grading/scoring is objective.  It is based on a student's efforts on their performance.  No confusion there.

I hope you will experiment with rubrics and criteria for success.  Student performance will surpise you.

On another note, if you are following this blogsite link from Facebook, I will not be advertising for the month of December.  However, I will continue to post blogs.  So, please bookmark this blogsite for future viewing.  Thanks so much.

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Best Effort,

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Daily Assignment #24: Multiple Intelligences

We're all familiar with Howard Gardner's work on multiple intelligences.  Gardner has identified 8 intelligence, which are listed below:

  • Spatial
  • Linguistic
  • Logical-mathematical
  • Bodily-kinesthetic
  • Musical
  • Interpersonal
  • Intrapersonal
  • Naturalistic

 So, what does this mean for a classroom teacher?
Well, it means that as we plan our lessons we need to think about these intelligences and how we might incorporate them into our lesson.
For example: 

Spatial--use graphics, drawings, maps, pictures, visualizations, videos, art, graphic organizers, illustrations, smartboards 

Linguistic--speaking, dialogues, debates, plays, narratives 

Logical/Mathematical--reasoning, deductive & inductive logic, facts, data, organizing, analyzing, assessments, outlines, timelines, analogies, patterns, problemsolving, formulas 

Bodily/Kinesthetic--art, activity, action, hands on experiments, drama, sports, manipulatives, touch, field trips, role playing, learning centers, labs, games, cooperative learning activities 

Musical--music, rhythm, pacing, chorus, jingles, background music, songs 

Interpersonal--interactions, share, talk, socialize, clubs, working in pairs, group work, think-pair-share 

Intrapersonal--solitude, think time, reflection,journal, self-assess, set goals, write, introspection, independent assignments 

Naturalist--exploring nature, outdoor education, observation, identification, classifying, categorizing, living things, field trips, ecology studies

As you plan a lesson for next week, try to include, within that lesson, at least 2 strategies to address 2 different multiple intelligences.

When planning a unit of study, include as many of the intelligences as possible.  You and the students will meet with more success.

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Best Effort,

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Daily Assignment #23: Chunking Instruction Within a Lesson

Chunking Instruction is when a teacher varies the activities within a lesson to keep a quick pace and to address different learning styles.

The lesson structure might look like this:

1.  Teacher does direct instruction: teacher explains how the Greeks explained things in nature and gives an example.
2.  Small group interaction:  groups of 3 students spend about 5 minutes thinking about other myths that explain elements in nature.
3.  Whole group sharing:  groups report out on their thinking.
4.  Small groups apply skills/knowledge:  the small groups now write their own original myth explaining an element of nature.
5.  Whole group sharing: groups share their stories
6.  Teacher does direct instruction:  explains characteristics of several Greek Heroes.
7.  Small group interaction: groups select a hero and, using a descriptive graphic organizer, list the characteristics.
8.  Whole group sharing:  groups share their graphic organizers
9.  Individual students apply knowledge/skills independently:  each student must create a myth, which explains an element of nature and include at least 1 Greek Hero.

By doing a lesson, in this way, you are addressing the introverted and extroverted learners in your class, among other learning styles. The pace is quick, which helps with attention. The students have an opportunity to take in learning, discuss it and apply it many times in different ways.  Because students have had opportuinities to practice, within small groups before they work independently, the success of the writing assignment will be greater.

I hope this helps with lesson planning.  It will make a difference in students' learning.

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Best Effort,

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Daily Assignment #22: Downtime-Be Prepared

We all have those moments when something happens unexpectantly and downtime occurs, students have nothing to do.  It can be very scarey, especially if you haven't developed a repertoire of strategies to fill those moments.

Let me give you some examples of what I mean:  the music teacher is behind schedule and your class is waiting in the hallway, or  the school nurse is checking all the students' hearing and vision, you can't teach a lesson because half the class is at the nurse's office and the other half is with you, or it is photo day, the class is lined up waiting for their turn, which feels like forever, or some students have finished their work and others are still working, or it's dismissal time and buses are late, and the list goes on.  Sound familiar?  What is amazing is that these can all happen within one day.

So, what should you do?  Keep on hand ideas to fill these moments.
Examples:  Fast Math, Simon Says, Hangman, Math Facts, name states, capitals, countries, rivers, baseball/football teams, famous pairs, e.g. Bert and Ernie, Otis and Milo, Anthony and Cleopatra, Adam and Eve, songs, e.g. Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, skip counting, telephone, spelling challenge.  Notice some of these are content related, others are fun and just to get through the moment.

Take a moment and collect a few ideas to build your repertoire.  Check in with colleagues, find out what they are doing, exchange ideas.

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Thanks and Best Effort,

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Daily Assignment #21: Planning for a Substitute, Plan B

It is inevitable, if it hasn't happened yet, you will be absent. Do not stress over it.  The students will be fine if you are out for a few days.  It is much better for everyone if you stay home and take care of yourself than push yourself and, in the process, contaminate everyone.

Now, having said that, please know that I went to work many times feeling dreadful, and I am sure, with a fever.  I went for many reasons: I thought the children would fall apart without me;  I knew the room would fall apart without me; I didn't have plans for the next day.  The fact is, when I was absent, unexpectantly, everything was alright, albeit the children were glad when I returned.

Here is a strategy I adapted, which was very helpful.  I call it Plan B, because Plan A are those wonderful plans we do everyday that anyone could teach.

Plan B:
For each day of the week, have a 2-pocket folder.  On one side put a typical daily schedule.  On the other side have possible generic lessons, worksheets, and activities.  For example: Literacy-- a short story with comprehension and recall questions, or a writing activity where students read 3/4 of the story and write a new ending.
Math--worksheets that review previously taught concepts, or activities/games students can do with partners or in teams.
Science--students choose an animal, from a list you have created, they are to draw a sketch and using a descriptive graphic organizer, list characteristics selected from books, articles, and other resources, which have been set aside for this purpose.
Social Studies--with partners list as many countries, or states, or continents, (challenge-list capitals).

Also, in the folder, put the names 2-3 students who would make good helpers for the sub.

By doing this now, in the unfortunate circumstance that you need to be absent, you can focus on getting better and not what is happening in your classroom and the substitute will thank you for being so well planned.

If you have any ideas for topics I welcome your suggestions.

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Best Effort,

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Daily Assignment #20: Eyes in the back of our heads

We are amazing people.  We notice things going on all over our classroom.  When working with a small group, we know what Johnny is doing over by the door and what Sasha and Claudie are doing at their seats.  We can tell Julia to get back on task by using a signal and give permission to Tim to go to the bathroom.  Amazing!

All of these are management strategies called "Overlapping".  It is a term created by Jacob Kounin, a classroom behavioral theorist.  In Kounin's book, Discipline and Group Management in Classrooms, he states "overlapping is the ability to attend to two issues at the same time."

I believe we actually attend to many more than 2 issues at a time. We are masters at doing this.

So, the next time you notice a child off task and say something to them and then turn and finish a lesson with a group, say "Aha, I just did "Overlapping".

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Best Effort,

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Daily Assignment #19: Teaching Graphic Organizers

Teachers have a tendency to give students graphic organizers and assume that students know how to use them. Each type of graphic organizer needs to have a specific lesson, which explains the purpose and use.

In the first lesson the graphic organizer is chosen by the teacher and needs to be modeled by the teacher, with students filling in the pertinent data with the teacher.  The next time, the graphic organizer is used, the teacher fills in the main topics and information with the students.  The next time, the students fill in the main topics and with the teacher they fill in the information.  The next time, the students fill in the main topics and the information independently.  By letting students take responsibility for the graphic organizer in steps, ensures more success when they are required to complete one independently.

Notice I keep saying "the next time."  That's because one step may require the teacher to model it many times before students are able to do the work independently.  

Use the same graphic organizer many times and in different content areas.  Thinking skills and graphic organizers, as a rule, are not content specific.  Students need to recognize this, as well.

Also, when introducing a graphic organizer, I recommend, using familiar content so that the focus is on the how to use the graphic organizer, not new content.

Thank you for your support and please continue to share this blog with colleagues and friends.
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Best Effort,

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Daily Assignment #18: Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers are visual tools for thinking skills. There are many different kinds, depending on the Thinking Skill.  I would like to share 3 of my favorite.

As I mentioned in Daily Assignment #17, the Descriptive Graphic Organizer is for identifying characteristics.  This is a commonly used one.  Another name for this graphic organizer is the Web or Wheel.  When using the Descriptive Graphic Organizer, not only have the students put a characteristic on the lines coming out from the center circle, but at the end of the line draw a box and have them put evidence to support the characteristic.  For example: a characteristic of the big bad wolf in The Three Little Pigs is that he is persistent.  The evidence is that he continued to chase the little pigs after failing several times.

Students have a great deal of difficulty summarizing.  They have a tendency to copy the book or information.  The Sequential Graphic Organizer is a great visual tool for summarizing an article, book, event or steps in a directions.  It is a series of connecting linear boxes.  For  example, K-1 students may just have 3 boxes.  Second graders may have 5 boxes.  Older students can make decisions on how many boxes they would need, keeping in mind that a summary is an abbreviated version of the original information.

The third graphic organizer is the Compare and Contrast, a.k.a. Venn Diagram.  I prefer the Double Bubble design to the Venn Diagram.  I can never fit in all the information in the center shape.  The Double Bubble has 2 circles with lines coming out on one side of each circle, connecting to boxes.  Between the 2 circles, in the center of the paper, there is another column of boxes, with connecting lines to both circles.  The 2 things being compared would be in the circles.  The things that are different would be in the outside boxes and what is similar/same would be in the center boxes.  (I hope this is not as confusing as I think it is.)

I went on line to see if I could find a model of what I described.  I found several that are very similar. If you search Double Bubble graphic organizers several versions come up, which may help.

On Sunday, I will describe teaching students how to use graphic organizers.

In the meantime, thank you so much for your support.  Please continue to share this site with colleagues and friends.  If you haven't already, consider becoming a "Follower."

Best Effort,