Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Feedback for the Masses...

One of our six core teaching practices is providing appropriate feedback in writing and in speech on various tasks.   I believe this is important for students to improve and have some agency in their language development.  I want to do this consistently. I also have over 200 students... and growing.

Tracking student growth is a key part of this dilemma-especially in schools that use student growth as a benchmark for teacher compensation and retention.  How can I follow best practices and manage it with the numbers?  Here are some things I'm doing successfully and things I want to do, but...I want to hear from you: How are you doing it and managing the numbers?  I hear it at my state and regional conferences and at ACTFL -there are a lot of us out there working to figure it out.

I am using these techniques for 4th-8th grade,  from Laura Terrill:

1) Tracking progress:  I have a clipboard for each of my classes-with the unit can-do statements, and student names, so as I see/hear students complete tasks during the unit on assessments, I am checking them off.  I can use this to answer parent questions like "How is my child doing/How can they improve?"  I can look at the can do list to see what they can do so far.  (Below-my 7th grade roster)

2) Self-Assessments:  The students  receive a self-assessment for each unit,  pasted into their notebooks. The self-assessment form has the unit can-dos, and three columns: yes, with help, not yet.  Students can use this to monitor progress and have meaningful, specific conversations with me about where they are at. (Below-from my 5th grade, What is a Family? unit)

3) Task Rubrics:    At the bottom of each assessment is the rubric for that task(on an IPA-there may be three rubrics) so I can give very specific feedback to that student, on each area. (This one is an example from a 5th-6th grade unit on What the World Eats)

Listen to David from Spain:  http://www.audio-lingua.eu/spip.php?article934

List three foods he likes(in English)

1____________________________ 2___________________________


How does he feel about vegetables? ______________________________________________

Strong comprehension

Identifies the  complete    main  ideas(s) of the  text
Meets expectations

Identifies the key parts of the main  ideas(s)  of the  text but misses some elements.
Approaching expectations

Identifies some parts of the main  ideas(s) of the  text
No comprehension
Does not provide a response.    

Things I'm looking to do...

1) TALK scores:  This technique comes from Eileen Glisan and Judith Shrum, and looks at assessing interpersonal speaking focusing on target language use(and appropriateness to the situation), accuracy, listening and kindness(since I'm in Montessori, I really like that it includes kindness).  The idea is to circulate during interpersonal activities and listen for those four areas-assessing each student at least once during a two week or so period, trying to assess each student twice over the course of the unit.  Using the Glisan and Shrum model, I'm planning to use the rubric below that can be filled out quickly, and hopefully recorded quickly in my roster.

✓excellent!    + Good/Fair     - needs work

(T)arget Language

(roster view):
✓excellent!    + Good/Fair     - needs work
(T)arget Language


2) Class passports

 This feedback technique appeals to me for younger learners- first through third grade groups, in my case. Each child has a little booklet(passport)with their name and can do statements for the unit/units we're working on. As we progress through the unit, the child, working with the teacher, gets a stamp on their completed can-do, filling their passport with can-do stamps.  With so many children, this would require lots of work at the beginning, but once up and running, seems like it would be easy to integrate into the class practices.

Are you using any of these?  What are you doing to help give appropriate feedback in writing and in speech to your elementary learners?  I want to hear about what's working in your setting. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Teaching for Proficiency-Like Your Hair's on Fire

"In trying to get her alcohol burner to light, I set my hair on fire and didn't even know it until the kids started screaming," he says. "But as ridiculous as that was, I actually thought, if I could care so much I didn't even know my hair was on fire, I was moving in the right direction as a teacher — when I realized that you have to ignore all the crap, and the children are the only thing that matter."  
Rafe Esquith, from Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire

 I recently read a tweet from a teacher-"Writing a curriculum for proficiency is like building an airplane while in flight." 
Plane in mid-flight. Hair on fire.This is what I aspire to.

Despite all the stuff we have to deal with as teachers-schedules, logistics, school requirements-I try to stay focused on those things that matter: The children. Proficiency. Cultural context. The children. Justice. The children.  Curriculum development. The children.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

A Fresh Start in the Classroom for 2016?

I'm always a sucker for the New Year's Resolution: I'll get fit this year, I'll save money, take a trip, I will be a better me.  Clean slate. Fresh start. But it's not really a fresh start when I return to school tomorrow. In fact, I'm just approaching the halfway mark in what I think of as a  marathon that started last summer.  In December, my elementary students didn't neatly wrap up their thematic units-rather they're in the midst of messy exploration of biodiversity and conservation, and what defines a family while working to express thoughts and opinions with new language.   So, I'm setting aside thoughts of resolutions and am simply going to reflect on where my students and I are now-what's going well, and what needs some attention.  I feel like I'm hitting my stride and I want to keep going, so...

  • This summer I tossed the textbook and replaced it with units that I have written centered on themes and can-dos.  The students focus on language function and developing global mindset-asking questions and exploring their answers using the language.  It rocks. The children like it and so do I.
  • The students are slowly building bridges with children from other parts of the world via pen pals.  I'd like to add more by using Mystery Skype and collaborating on projects virtually.
  • In August I vowed to grade less and plan more-so I gave up homework. As we start 2016, the children  are still making progress and I feel freer than ever.
  •  I want to create more IPAs. I think I'm assessing the three modes separately too much, and I'm working to find the best way to do that with 9-10 year olds.
 So, where are you at? What's going well as we approach mid-year?  What tweaks are you making to your plan?

By the way,  I am still aiming to convert the clothes hanger back into a treadmill-it's a whole new year, after all.