Sunday, March 25, 2012

Daily Assignment #108: Building Capacity

A visual strategy I used to help my students understand how much effort it takes to build capacity was a cutout of a large rhombus.  At the top of the rhombus was the word Effort.  At the opposite end was the word Capacity.

When new content was introduced, whether it was learning how to read, learning borrowing or carrying, a piece of music, whatever it might have been, I would begin by putting a Popsicle stick, or anything that can represent a bar, at the bottom of the rhombus by CAPACITY.  I would explain that the stick was at the bottom because we were learning something new and had to put in a lot of EFFORT to build CAPACITY, which was represented by all the area above the stick.  As the students became more proficient with the material the stick would be moved upward to represent that they had built CAPACITY and the amount of EFFORT they needed was decreasing.

You can use this strategy with the whole class, a group or for individuals.  Keep the rhombus in a very visible place.  I found the students were very encouraged and motivated by the movement of the stick.

Before you use this strategy, you will need to:
  1. Name it.
  2. Explain the purpose, including defining the terms, CAPACITY and EFFORT.
  3. Show how it will work.
On another note, I will not have access to the internet until May 6th.  Please take this interlude to revisit previous Daily Assignment blogs.  You can also refer to my book:

Please share this blog with colleagues and friends.
Best Effort,


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Daily Assignment #107: Feedback

Feedback can be given in many forms.  Primary teachers have a tendency to give feedback in the form of cute drawings, stickers and/or positive words, e.g., "Super,""Wow," "Great job," "Well done," or at the other end of the spectrum, "You can do better," "Try again," "Try harder." Middle school and high school teachers give percentages or letter grades.  There are times when all of these types of feedback are appropriate.  However, none of them help students to improve their performance. 

Feedback to improve student performance should be: 
  • Timely
  • Specific 
  • Understandable
  • Formed to allow for self-adjustment
                                                      Wiggins, 1998

I would add "in the form of a nonjudgmental statement" to this list.

What does nonjudgmental feedback look and sound like?
  • " This essay includes an opening sentence and 3 supporting sentences.  It does not include a closing sentence."  (This feedback provides the student with what they did correctly and what they need to improve on. I try not to use the word "you" in the feedback.  Feedback sounds less judgmental without the word "you".)
  • " The correct operation was used to solve this equation. However, the calculation is incorrect."
  • " The hypothesis is stated correctly.  Only two, out of the required three, forms of data have been recorded. A conclusion has not been included in this write-up."
  • " This story includes a beginning, middle and ending.  Punctuation marks are not included throughout the story."  

If the students don't understand the feedback a rubric will provide clarity, especially if exemplars are included.

Nonjudgmental feedback takes time and a lot of thought.  I suggest using nonjudgmental feedback on one set of papers the first week, to practice the language and then increasing the number of sets of papers each week. The more practice the easier and quicker assessing assignments will become.

Please share this blog with colleagues and friends. 
If you haven't already, check-out my book on effective strategies:

Best Effort,

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Daily Assignment #106: Reinforcing Effort Leads to Achievement

Research shows that students may not make the connection between their level of effort and their  level of achievement.   As a result, teachers may need to teach this relationship.  Robert Marzano states, "Students who believe the amount of effort they put into a task increases their achievement actually do better."  When students meet with success, when attempting to reach a specific goal, they should receive some form of recognition for their efforts

Marzano's recommendations for classroom practice include:
  • explicitly teach students that effort can improve achievement
  • ask students to chart effort and achievement
  • establish a rationale for recognition
  • follow guidelines for effective and ineffective praise
  • use recognition tokens
  • use the pause, prompt, and praise technique (Daily Assignment #99: Pause, Prompt, Praise)

                                              Classroom Instruction that Works by Robert J.Marzano, Debra J. Pickering, Jane E. Pollock

    Using rubrics helps to raise student awareness that learning is incremental and that the more effort they expend the greater their achievement will be.  (Refer to Daily Assignment #25: Rubrics)

    In Daily Assignment #69 I shared the reasons why I close each blog with "Best Effort".  Changing our language, as the models for our students, will reinforce the importance of effort.

    Please share this blog with colleagues and friends and consider becoming a "Follower".
    If you haven't already, check-out my book on effective strategies:

    Best Effort,