Teaching Goals to Students

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Our first blog post of the year was inspired by my recent visit to the wonderful Maddy Brown’s Spanish 1 classroom in Greenwood. What follows is a set of directly usable resources and a series of videos from her classroom. It’s all directly aligned to Priority 3 of our Humanities Vision this year:

Generating a shared vision with students and measuring progress towards that vision.

What was remarkable about Maddy’s lesson on Goals was that it took the time, over the course of a full lesson, for students to:

  1. Identify what strong Goals and Action Plans look like.
  2. Create personal Goals and Action Plans for this year in Spanish.
  3. Understand and feel invested in the Class Goals.

At the same time, Maddy made sure that she was being responsive to students, listening to their concerns about Goals (and even fielding the tough question “Why are we spending so much time on Goals? Why aren’t we learning Spanish?”). You can also see how Maddy seamlessly integrates Spanish cognates and love for the content as they set and learn about goals. Amazing!

Check out the resources and video links below to start implementing this in your own classrooms!

Way to go Maddy! Thank you for showing us all an awesome example of setting goals in the classroom!

What I Am Learning

Hey friends!

I recently got a piece of feedback from one of our awesome Content Leaders that reminded me of the importance of sharing the learning I am doing in order to continuously improve in my work. I believe that this is a key practice for all of us to maintain, both because I hope you will learn alongside me and discuss these with me, but also because it’s important for us to always be honest: none of us have ever “arrived” and finished our development.

In fact, that’s really valuable for you to share with your students: have you ever considered letting them know what you have learned at a PD, or something you are trying to work on? I feel honesty and openness about development is always key to building trust and understanding among us all.

So, for this week, I am sharing with you all some of the development opportunities I am taking advantage of, as well as some of the articles and books that have been particularly impactful to me recently.

Books and Articles:

The most consistent way that I seek development is through articles and books. Often, these will come my way through colleagues, but a lot of the time they also surface as specific issues arise, or as I recognize I need to inform myself for a session.

  • A Conversation with Linda Christiansen on Social Justice Education (Golden) – Sarah Franzen introduced this one to me because we are both working on designing a Unit Planning Series around Multicultural and Social Justice Unit Plans. Christiansen, who is interviewed here, is an amazing teacher and the author of Teaching For Joy and Justice and her perspectives on what Social Justice teaching should look like, and how to embrace it, and how to tackle its challenges is acute and inspiring. She keeps it concrete, too, which is often rare.
  • Safe Spaces to Brave Spaces (Arao & Clemens) – I read this article a while ago thanks to Sam Crenshaw, who presented it to a group of us after he had undergone a national DEI training with TFA. It’s been kind of an earth-shattering article for me because it has completely shifted the way I want to facilitate and be a part of challenging conversations about race, privilege, class, etc. This article is the foundation of many of my upcoming sessions.
  • Curriculum as Window and Mirror (Style) – Again, Sarah Franzen shared this one with me since we are planning a session together. It’s one that I have seen referenced in other sources, but there is nothing like reading the source itself. The article argues for a deeper caution in selecting texts and curriculum for students – one that goes beyond just selecting works that include identities that resemble our students’. Style argues that, instead, we must present students with a wide diversity of texts and perspectives, challenging them to not only analyze different viewpoints, but also to recon with their own. She calls these Texts “Windows and Mirrors” because they both reflect students back on themselves, and challenge them to look through to another world. Once you start reading, it just gets better and more on-point.
  • The DreamKeepers: Successful Teachers of African-American Students (Landson-Billings) – We read this book recently as part of a Specialist Team book club. If you don’t know it, it is THE seminal text on Culturally Responsive Teaching. Gloria Landson-Billings focuses in on a selection of teachers whom she followed and supported in the effort to learn what it is that makes teachers (from any walk of life) effective with what has traditionally been considered the most challenging demographic to educate. Through this book, she not only demonstrates that African American students can learn, but also that at the end of the day it’s not about a one-size-fist-all strategy, but rather about some key dispositions towards teaching. While I was seeking something more in-depth, it was amazing to read the book that gave origin to the educational philosophy I feel most aligned to.
  • A People’s History of the United States (Zinn) – I have read many excerpts of this before, but the book is huge so reading it cover to cover is still a goal of mine. Especially as we have had more U.S. History teachers this year, I have wanted to increase my knowledge (and creative thinking) around the content. I have been jumping to it and reading a chapter here and there whenever I can. It is without a doubt the best account of American History I have laid my hands on, and it does an incredible job of keeping it engaging and focused on the history of the minority groups and people who actually made history happen. His retelling puts the power back in the hands of those who have always appeared most powerless. He has a student version of the book, which is A Young People’s History of the United States, for those interested in bringing it to the classroom.
  • The New Jim Crow (Alexander) – I read this book for the first time last year, and am re-reading it again now for another iteration of the book club this year. This is hands down the most important book I have read in five years, and one that has completely re-shaped my motivation for this work, and my commitment to it. It helped me learn a lot more about my privilege as well. This year, I am also pairing it with some of the awesome lesson plans that Teaching Tolerance created in collaboration with Michelle Alexander.

Online Resources:

  • Teaching Tolerance – This website is simply incredible, and it features everything from Lesson Plans to Curricula to Articles to Primary Resources and more! They created the Anti-Bias Framework as well, which has taught me so much about age-appropriate learning outcomes when it comes to the four domains they have outlined: identity, diversity, justice and action. Spend a few hours on here and you are sure to leave with more than you can handle.
    • In addition, they recently released the Perspectives for a Diverse America website, which allows you to find lesson plans and Primary Sources aligned to an essential question and one of the above domains. It’s a constant source of inspiration when I am planning example lesson plans, etc.
  • Zinn Education Program: Yep, it’s the same guy who wrote A People’s History of the United States but this time it’s a website chalk-full of lesson plans and resources and ideas for teaching students about the less canonical aspects of history. They always encourage exploration and inquiry rather than teachers telling students what’s right. Their lessons focus on everything from the Civil Rights movement to Art, to Music, and more.
  • Teaching Channel: Whenever I am seeking to re-align myself with what the best classrooms in America look like, I turn to the Teaching Channel to gather ideas. Their videos are simply awesome, and they share tons of great approaches to supporting learners, inquiry-based classrooms, and more.

Experiences and Opportunities:

  • Our most recent Whole Team Meeting, which was held on Wednesday, March 25th, was really incredible. We have recently hired someone to lead us in thinking about local issues of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusiveness while keeping a focus and clear lens on students. They have been outstanding experiences. This time, we all traveled to the small town of Monsanto to visit the DELTAPINE seed company, a huge business and employer here in Mississippi. We started the day by looking at some of the highly technical jobs they have on offer but which they are struggling to find local Mississippians to fill. We asked ourselves the question: How are we preparing our students for these jobs, or any real-life opportunities? In what ways can we ensure that we are supporting them and our teachers to practice situations that are rigorous not because they are abstract, but because they are applicable and interesting? We then got a tour of the processing plant, and learned some interesting facts:
    • 30% of Mississippi works in Agriculture
    • 86% of farmers are White
    • 13.2% of farmers are African American
    • The average age of Mississippi farmers is 60.4

With this information in mind, we considered what the future will look like for Mississippi, as well as what the opportunities could look like for our students. It was a huge window into a part of our State that I so often see, but very seldom think about.

In the afternoon, we met with participants in a Greenville non-profit called Youth Builds. It’s an organization that works with high-school dropouts aged 16-22 to help them get their GEDs and into jobs around their community. They work with Habitat for Humanity on projects, have physical education aspects, and an incredibly strong culture of positivity, perseverance, and high expectations. We had the privilege of hearing the stories of the people whose lives had been changed by this program, as well as the vision of the woman who started it all. Needless to say, it was an incredible opportunity to expand our understanding of our communities and the assets within them.

  • Human-Centered Design Course – I am currently in a TFA-led course on Human-Centered Designing, which is completely online. Besides learning a TON about what a full-scale, semester-long course can look like (without too many webinars and mostly independent or small group learning), I heave been focusing on a set of actions that basically ensure that, as you design experiences and structures for others, you are listening to their feedback consistently while still keeping a disposition towards action – prototyping, testing, etc. It has been really cool to come up with crazy ideas and share them with partners (and some of you!).
  • Rural School Leadership Academy – While this hasn’t started yet, I am proud to have been accepted to the 2015 RSLA cohort. I am hoping to learn a lot from this experience, starting with examining and developing my leadership in Rural areas, and what it might look like for me to become more deeply involved in the communities I care most about here. I am also always wavering on whether or not I want to be a principal or school administrator one day, and I hope this program will give me clarity on what that might look like, and whether or not I would enjoy and have the impact I want to have in that role.

Okay, that is likely WAY more than you all wanted to hear, but I hope that sharing this illuminates some of the areas in which I am constantly seeking to grow and learn so that I can better serve you and your students. In addition, I hope this creates some touch-points for us: read an article or check out a resource, and let me know what you think!

Teaching Tolerance’s Collaborative Learning Strategies

One of the foundational aspects of every Humanities class should be “Creative Communication”. This manisfests itself in a lot of different ways: students producing writing, speeches, performances, artworks, music, you-name-it in order to express themselves and their ideas creatively.

However, what we often think about less is how we structure the day-to-day discussion and collaboration so that our students LIVE that kind of creative communication… how will students talk to each other? how will students talk to me, their teachers? how will they “talk back” to the content and to the world on a daily basis? how do we develop the communicative skills in our students so that the outcomes we expect are achieved out of confidence, bravery, and teamwork?

Today’s blog post is directly aligned to our Priority 2 for our content:

STUDENTS ARE ”On the hook” for their learning because they believe that the Humanities matter for their education, are working towards meaningful EOY goals, and have the opportunity to do so in collaboration with their peers BECAUSE TEACHERS ARE Ensuring students are advocating for their content, are motivated by a meaningful EOY goal, and are being given ownership of their own learning by facilitating strong collaborative structures around rigorous content.

Ultimately, this is very much part of our contents – what are we asking our students to actually produce in our classrooms if not this – the actual human interaction? How are we setting students up to “talk back” to the world if not by giving them the structures to talk to each other and learn together?

Our data shows, in fact, that there is a direct correlation between students being more active participants in our classrooms and reaching higher levels of rigor. How can they every analyze if the teacher is always the driver of their learning?

This table shows our classroom's current Culture of Achievement ratings compared to those same classroom's Engagement with Rigorous Content. The correlation between higher COA (and student ownership of learning) and students' ability to reach higher levels of ERC in the Humanities.

This table shows our classroom’s current Culture of Achievement ratings compared to those same classroom’s Engagement with Rigorous Content. The correlation between higher COA (and student ownership of learning) and students’ ability to reach higher levels of ERC in the Humanities.

Most importantly, I believe that without students talking to each other and debating the content they are learning, we set them up to believe that the content is static, and that knowledge comes from a teacher or a textbook. World Languages become another set of rules, Art becomes another set of procedures, History becomes another story written by white, privileged, old people. In order for our classrooms to be truly constructivist, students must be able to engage with in through collaborative learning. We need to remove ourselves as the sole source of power and knowledge in the classroom.

The challenging aspect of this, of course, is that this happens at the nexus of Culture and Rigor in our classrooms. I wrote about this previously in Supporting Student-Student Dialog and Questions and Tasks Worth Collaborating On. However, some fantastic new resources have been made available by Teaching Tolerance in the past couple weeks, so I wanted to share them!

Check them out below… Let me know if you have any success in using them!

Performance Tasks and Projects in the Humanities

Many of us in the Humanities, at this point, have either planned and executed a full project or performance task, or we are planning to do so as part of our end of year summative and celebration of progress with students. Projects and performance tasks are great ways to push students to apply the content-based understandings that they have learned this past year and apply them to real-world, unpredictable situations.

Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe from Understanding by Design (2005) define performance tasks as:

Complex challenges that mirror the issues and problems faced by adults. Ranging in length from short-term tasks to long-term, multi-staged projects, they yield one or more tangible products and performances. They (…) (1) Involve a real or simulated setting (…), (2) Typically require the student to address an identified audience (real or simulated), (3) Are based on a specific purpose that relates to the audience, (4) Allow students greater opportunity to personalize the task, (5) Are not secure: the task, evaluative criteria, and performance standards are known in advance and guide student work.

At a time when testing is overtaking our students’ skill-set as well as their understanding of what education is really about, performance tasks can be particularly powerful tools.

With conventional paper-and-pencil tests a common problem is “teaching toward the test” or worrying more about how students will score on a test than about how they actually learn (…) but the “paradox of performance assessment” (…) is that if the outcomes are worth spending time on, if the tasks really are demonstrations of understanding, and if the criteria are clearly explained, then that’s what we ought to be teaching to.

– McTighe in Cohen, Philip. “Designing Performance Assessment Tasks”, ASCD Education Update (1995)

Performance tasks and projects are thus in direct alignment to our number 1 priority for this quarter in the Humanities:

STUDENTS ARE engaged in the content because it is rigorous, compelling, aligned to a meaningful EOY assessment, and focused around essential questions that bring to light social justice issues. BECAUSE TEACHERS ARE planning units and lessons that have strong visions of mastery, are aligned to a meaningful EOY summative, and that are propelled by essential questions and meaningful texts.

In addition, they teach students the kind of Creative Communication that we want them to experience every day as they learn in rigorous but FUN environments in our Humanities classrooms.

Today’s blog post will share with you some of the principles of what makes a strong Performance Task and/or Project, share with you some examples, and then provide you with some resources for your own planning. It should be no secret that designing a strong Performance Task is genuinely challenging, but also that it is incredibly rewarding as it offers an awesome opportunity for students, and effective backwards planning for you as a teacher.

If, as a result of this blog post you want to collaborate with Jacob (and another teacher in your content?) to create a strong performance task, teach it, and gather student work and data from it, then let Jacob and your TLD Coach know and we can arrange for some potential Tailored PD Credit!

1. What Makes a Strong Performance Task?

This cute critter demonstrates what a performance task is NOT: it’s not something that measures just ONE of our students’ skills in a “either you can or you can’t dynamic” (like the ones we often encounter on multiple-choice tests).

One thing that needs to be clarified is that performance tasks and projects should not be considered just a whole bunch of fun work time. The best performance tasks ARE fun, and they are fun exactly because there are specific expectations and guidelines and timelines, but the way of reaching and meeting them is open to students’ own thinking, interpretation, and skill-sets.

Creating effective assessment tasks requires thinking through curriculum content to establish learning outcomes, then designing performance activities that will allow students to demonstrate their achievement of those outcomes, and specifying criteria by which they will be evaluated.

– Cohen, Philip. “Designing Performance Assessment Tasks”, ASCD Education Update (1995)

It’s also critical, as Cohen articulates above, that these performance tasks are in alignment with what needs to be learned in the content. Instead of thinking about “what is a good activity for students?”, performance tasks should be the product of thinking about “given what I want students to learn, what counts as evidence that they understood it?”

As such, the best performance tasks are made up of:

  • Aligned to Content Learning
  • Generated by Meaningful Context and Audience
  • Encouraging of the Thinking Process
  • Requiring Appropriate Product or Performance
  • Sharing of Strong Criteria

In this next section, we’ll start to unpack what that actually can look like, and some resources to help you plan.

2. How Do You Plan a Performance Task?

Most of what I am about to share comes from “Designing Authentic and Engaging Performance Tasks” by Jay McTighe (2010). Please use that document directly to gain access to some of these amazing worksheets and brainstorming supports.

First of all, start out by checking out the Performance Task Blueprint that McTighe provides for our planning.

Take a look at the tables below (generated by McTighe himself) which contain examples of different kinds of Performance Tasks for the different facets of understanding AND for many of our Humanities contents!

Some awesome examples of Performance Tasks in World Languages from McTighe:

Tour Director – (World Languages) You serve on a Welcome Committee to provide tours for new students. Plan a trip to three places (e.g., school, town, mall) in the new student’s target language. Incorporate the following vocabulary: directions (left, right, near, far, next to, etc.), places (e.g., classrooms, cafeteria, gym, library, labs, churches, police and fire stations, schools, restaurants, stores) and transportation (e.g., bus, bike, stairs, escalators, taxi, train, car, elevators). Remember to include a variety of locations, directions, and forms of transportation on your “trips.” Keep sentences simple and narrate in the target language.

He then also provides a worksheet that you can use to help you plan out a thoughtful initial Performance Task prompt. What is key here is that Stage 1 (before you even start thinking about the activity) demands that you consider (1) what it is that you want students to understand and what questions you want them to consider before (2) figuring out what evidence you need from students to show that they have understood these questions.

Finally, in order to present this effectively and with meaningful context for students, McTighe has created an acronym for what makes a strong Performance Task Scenario.

  • Goal
  • Role
  • Audience
  • Situation
  • Product/Performance and Purpose
  • Standards and Criteria for Success

With strong GRASPS, students have what they need to complete a Performance Task or Project.

Fortunately, many of the rubrics we provide can provide at least a foundation for your grading criteria, and you should share them in advance with your students!

3. What Do Some Completed Performance Tasks Look Like?

Click on the image above to check out how one teacher sets up and executes a Performance Task in his Wolrd History classroom.

Click on the image above to check out how one teacher sets up and executes a Performance Task in his World History classroom.

In addition, you can check out our collection of Performance Tasks in all Humanities Contents, as well as your own Resource Sharing Buckets (see below) for more!

Driving for Daily Rigor in the Humanities

We’re back in the swing of blog posting now, and with our exciting new Q4 Humanities Priorities, I am feeling an increased urgency to drive towards rigorous outcomes for our students in the home stretch of the year.

In fact, our #1 Priority for this quarter is:

STUDENTS ARE engaged in the content because it is rigorous, compelling, aligned to a meaningful EOY assessment, and focused around essential questions that bring to light social justice issues BECAUSE TEACHERS ARE planning units and lessons that have strong visions of mastery, are aligned to a meaningful EOY summative, and that are propelled by essential questions and meaningful texts.

This is particularly critical at this juncture of the year, since we are seeing only minor shifts in our students’ Engagement with Rigorous Content since the beginning of the third quarter (want more info on how this is determined? Check out my State of the Humanities blog post):

ERC

In this blog post, you’ll find the following three “launching pads” for increasing rigor in your classroom. I want to stress that these are beginning points, as they may inspire more questions and may not present direct solutions, but hopefully will simultaneously move you to innovate and use new ideas!

  1. The Rigor/Relevance Framework
  2. Using Your Summative
  3. Professional Development Suggestions

Okay! Let’s have it.

1. The Rigor/Relevance Framework

As I was researching for my Q3 Session “What is Creativity?“, I came across this new frameworkk that the International Center for Leadership in Education rolled out in 2014. Check out the main graphic below:
Framework

What I love about this framework is it actually expands and refines our understanding of what rigor actually is. In some ways, it helps us grasp what Grant Wiggins (co-author of the ever-important Understanding by Design) means by his definition of rigor:

To me, rigor has (at least) 3 aspects … learners must face a novel(-seeming) question, do something with an atypically high degree of precision and skill, and both invent and double-check the approach and result … The novel (or novel-seeming) aspect to the challenge typically means that there is some new context, look and feel, changed constraint, or other superficial oddness than what happened in prior instruction.

In essence, we reach higher levels of rigor not JUST by asking for more content knowledge, but by asking for the content skills and understandings to be applied in unfamiliar contexts and situations. Consequently, we can reach high levels of application (and engagement!) even on the first day of a unit when we drive for students to apply their thinking in real-world or unexpected situations, rather than just expecting them to engage in the content in isolated ways. The following flowchart may help explain this better:

Picture2

Want some examples of lesson plans and videos that drive towards these higher levels? Check ’em out below!

 2. Using Your Summative

Now that over 80% of us in the Humanities have at least a draft summative (check them out here!), we can really start using these meaningful End of Year measures of student academic progress to:

  1. Invest students in the idea that they will have an opportunity to show their growth on an End of Year assessment.
  2. Assessing the degree to which your students are prepared to meet this rigorous bar.
  3. Using those assessments and the Summative itself to plan rigorous, focused, and exciting lessons!

While more details on this are going to come with our “Working Towards an End” session (March 19th or March 31st), you can start thinking NOW about how exactly you can leverage the fact that you have a strong Summative to help your planning. Consider taking the following actions:

  • Start telling your students about what the Summative will cover, and why this will be an exciting testament to the progress they have made this year.
  • Start telling your students about how you planned your Sumnmative – what resources did you use? how does it align with your classroom vision?
  • Start breaking down the Summative: what knowledge, skills, and understandings about your content should your students have? Which of these do you feel you still need to teach? Which do you need to remediate? What do your students need to practice in order to be confident with the Summative?
  • Use your bell ringers and exit slips to familiarize your students with the structure and format and rigor of your Summative. Don’t feed them the questions directly off the Summative, but consider adapting the questions so they are relevant to the lessons you are teaching on the daily-level. Then, you can use the data you get from the exit slips (and weekly quizzes, if you like!) to consider further how you can support your students!
  • Start planning projects and performance tasks that help your students build confidence in thinking about the content in new contexts and with unpredictable outcomes. Doing so will help them feel like anything on the Summative – even if they haven’t seen it before – is approachable!

There is a LOT more you can do to support your students in this… Reach out to Jacob and/or your Content Leaders to start planning for higher rigor using your Summatives.

3. Professional Development Suggestions

Don’t be like the teacher above! Get your professional development around real priorities and by working with one another (albeit mostly by WebEx)… here are the PD offerings this quarter specifically aligned to our Priority 1 for Rigor.

Interested in one of these? Sign up here.

  • SOCIAL STUDIES: Writing Techniques for Students (03/17)
    • If you teach Social Studies, this session is EXCELLENT for collecting methods for keeping writing engaging and scaffolded for every student in your classroom.
  • Working Towards an End: Using Your Summative to Plan (03/19, 03/31)
    • This session, for all Humanities contents, is going to help you in using your Summative to create daily, rigorous plans starting the next day.
  • Culture and the Humanities: Planning for Rigor and Joy (03/23)
    • This session, planned in collaboration with our Culture of Achievement Specialist, will be an opportunity to consider how increasing rigor and culture in the classroom go hand-in-hand.

Have questions or comments? Contact Jacob or fire off in the comments section below!

State of the Humanities (End of Quarter 3)

Hey folks!

As we dive into the final Quarter of the year, it’s important that we take stock of the huge progress we have made, but also how much further we need to take our students while we still have time with them. Every quarter, I resort to the following information to help me define our cohort and student trends:

  • Classroom observations from me and your TLD Coach (aligned to Engagement with Rigorous Content and Culture of Achievement).
  • Student achievement data that you share with us.
  • Your responses on professional development exit forms.
  • Your First Eight Weeks and Mid-Year Survey responses.
  • Feedback from our Humanities Leaders.
  • Feedback from you at our Humanities Leader Summit and through our Quarterly PD Survey.
  • Anecdotal and qualitative data such as student work, responses in professional development experiences, and so on.
  • Much more!

These data points provide a fairly holistic picture of where our cohort is in regards to our Vision for the Humanities in Mississippi, specifically in relation to our four outcomes of academic achievement, critical consciousness, cultural competency, and student leadership. So what does this data tell us?

(Note: I’ve taken some of the language about these metrics from Ethan’s great post to the Math cohort – which, in turn, he credited to me! Anyway, if you haven’t taken a look at the Culture of Achievement and Engagement with Rigorous Content frameworks in a while, definitely take a quick look right now – some of the titles like “engaged and on-task,” “apathetic or unruly,” “passive and confused” and so on can actually be misnomers if they are read without the context of how the framework describes these bands).

Data Point #1: Sharing Data – Progress Known, %Benchmark Achieved, and Students

PK and %BA

  • What is Progress Known (PK)?

PK is basically a “Yes” or “No” answer to the question: “do we have reliable and complete data on where students stand in this classroom?” Since %BA (see below) cannot be calculated if we do not have this data, PK is incredibly important as a foundational piece of information.

  • What is %Benchmark Achieved (%BA)?

%BA is the percent of progress that students have made in relation to their quantitative goals for this time of year. This is calculated based on the data that you submit, and the strength of student performance that it represents. Basically, we would like students to be at 75% BA at this point in the year, since we are 3/4 of the way through the year.

  • How do you collect reliable and complete data?

The reliable and complete data comes from you teachers sharing it with your TLD Coach and/or Content Specialist. As long as you have data for student progress on ALL your Metrics , and you have shared a reliable assessment with us, then your students are PK!

  • What does this data tell us?

For the first time all year, during Quarter 3, we started to have a valid quantity of data to analyze! Now that over 80% of our classrooms are assessing students holistically and sharing that data, we can now start to really look at the progress our students are making. I thank ALL of you for prioritizing this in the past quarter, and ensuring that we have valid data to look at together and make decisions from. I believe a huge part of us seeing this result is that we are all committed to the value of our vision for the Humanities. That said, I also know that we also struggle with some of the rubric-rated data that we collect (DBQs, projects, performances, etc) both because it sometimes feels tough to assess, but also because it can seem subjective. I want to encourage us all to work together more to collaboratively norm on these and brainstorm the best ways to share that progress with our students. Sharing rubric data actually means that we are bringing subtlety and complexity to what it means to be a successful artist, musician, language speaker, etc. so this can be a key lever in us gathering our students’ investment in our contents. Ultimately, I think this is where we are struggling (and which is visible in our low %BA): getting students feeling urgent about the content! A big part of that will be in sharing our data with them more effectively.

Data Point #2: Culture of Achievement

CoA

  • What is Culture of Achievement (CoA)?

CoA is the quality of the classroom culture that your students enjoy as they are learning. Some people think immediately about “management” but CoA goes well beyond that: it’s the way in which your students actively maintain and foster a positive environment because of the way they care about their learning.

  • How do you collect data around CoA?

CoA is determined by the TLD Coach in collaboration with your thinking after an observation, using the Culture of Achievement Pathways rubric to inform our terminology. This then gets collected in our Program Tracker so we can analyze the data at different levels.

  • What does the CoA data tell us?

As you can see in the above, our students are definitely experiencing more positive classroom environments (including some Joyful and Urgent ones!), but by and large this is a priority in which our classrooms are stagnating. Like at the beginning of the quarter, we are still seeing well over half of our students in classroom environments that are in the lower end of the spectrum, and thus less conducive to learning. This is consistent with the year-long trend we have seen of few collaborative structures taking place in the daily lesson. Key to changing this will be our collaboration and sharing of best practices, as well as an increased sense of urgency and joy for our content as we head into the final 8 weeks of the school year.

Data Point #3: Engagement with Rigorous Content (ERC)

ERC

  • What is Engagement with Rigorous Content (ERC)?

ERC is the level of rigor at which students are engaging with the content. Some people think immediately about “difficulty” of the questions being asked by the teacher, but this goes well beyond that: it’s the depth and sophistication with which students are thinking about and working within the content, as well as the purpose with which they do so.

  • How do you collect data around ERC?

ERC is determined by the TLD Coach in collaboration with your thinking after an observation, using the Engagement with Rigorous Content rubric to inform our terminology. This then gets collected in our Program Tracker so we can analyze the data at different levels.

  • What does the ERC data tell us?

 Like with CoA, we are seeing some small and exciting gains in ERC, but also some discouraging signs of stagnation. In addition, it will be unsurprising to find out that the same classrooms that are on the bottom half of the spectrum in CoA are also often on the bottom half of the spectrum in ERC. At the end of the day, I believe that this is because we need to emphasize more student-centered learning, while also focusing on the purpose that our rigorous summatives can give us at this time in the year. 

How will we be supported based on these findings?

I have crafted three priorities for Quarter 4 based on these findings.  The priorities (grouped by student and teacher outcome) are as follows:

Priorities

Head over to the PD Page of our Professional Development website to see what sessions will be driving towards these priorities, and sign up for them!

For more detail on all of this, as well as a some crucial context, check out Q4 Humanities Priorities document.

So what are your thoughts? What resonates with you about this data, these priorities, and these upcoming experiences? What else do you see in the data and in your own classroom? Fire off below!

An Independent Study in Sharing Data with Students

superthumb

Hey All!

This week, my time for writing an extended blog post has been limited, so I thought I would actually connect you with a resource that could be really helpful for your classroom, but that someone else on the TFA Mississippi Team created… Shout out to Sarah Blackburn for putting an awesome Independent Study for Sharing Data with students together!

Plus, some of you DID say you wished the Culture Specialist and the Humanities Specialist would collaborate some more… Well, here is the start of it!

NOTE: You will need to ask your TLD Coach if it aligns with your development priorities first, but once you do, you can complete this independent study on your own (obviously), and then use it to share data authentically with your students. You will get a tailored credit as a result! Let me know if you are interested!

To help you with this, this blog post contains:

  • How this aligns to our Humanities Priorities
  • The Link to the Independent Study
  • More Resources for Sharing Data in the Humanities

How this aligns to our Humanities Priorities

This Independent Study is perfectly aligned with our 3rd Priority for this Quarter:

Students are invested in their Humanities-content goals because they see their success as critical to their future leadership, and because they are aware of their progress. This is because teachers are invested in their end-of-year goals and what they represent for students, and thus measuring and sharing progress towards goals with students and stakeholders.

At the end of the day, I simply believe that it is our students’ right to know – with subtlety and beyond the simple “you got a B+” – where they stand in relation to their goals. It’s a question of equity and leveling out the power differential in the classroom. Students should know where they stand and what they can do to change it!

The good news? As a Humanities team, we are in a really strong position to share data with our students. According to the latest information I collected from the Program Tracker, the Humanities Team is actually the strongest content team for data! And this is a first! Historically, we have been one of the furthest behind.

Check out some of the data break-down below, which also indicates that our students are well on their way to reaching their academic goals! There is always room to grow, and for that reason, we should be sharing the data so our students can use it to focus their learning, grown in confidence, and feel celebrated!

Progress Known

Has the teacher submitted valid and accurate data? Do we know where students are in terms of their progress towards goals?

Progress Known? Social Studies The Arts World Languages All Humanities
YES 75% 81% 86% 81%
NO 25% 19% 14% 19%

%Benchmark Achieved

Given our data, what percentage of progress towards goals do we see? (Note: we were not measuring this last semester)

Content: %BA
Science 19.1
Math 30.7
Humanities 38.5
Elementary 29.8
ELA 38.0

The link to the Independent Study

Okay, here it is! The moment you have all been waiting for. The link to the Independent Study is here. Remember to ask your TLD Coach if this is the right development for you before you start!

More Resources for Sharing Data in the Humanities

Enjoy!

Teaching Resources for Black History Month

black-history-month

Hello All!

A wonderful opportunity:

It’s Black History Month! A really exciting time to explicitly connect our contents to Social Justice, Civil Rights, and African American History (past, present, and future). While I know that we have been proactively including questions of social justice and a diversity of people, themes, and ideas in our unit plans, this is an incredible opportunity for us to collaborate school-wide on building student leadership, cultural competence, and critical consciousness through focusing on African American heritage and culture.

Indeed, I think this is a powerful chance for us to really live up to our Humanities Vision for Content fully.

We believe that the Humanities are critical contents in the actualization of Social Justice and Equity in students’ lives. We thus move students towards Humanities Achievement, Leadership, Critical Consciousness, and Cultural Competence.

As such, we act with the knowledge that every Humanities classroom must aggressively pursue the dismantling of systems of oppression through the provision of rigorous Humanities content and Culturally Responsive Teaching.

A significant challenge:

That said, we often face a real challenge when we start to plan for this month. Mainly, we risk compartmentalizing Black History to a “February thing” rather than an always thing. In addition, since many of us do not share all of the same background – racial, cultural, economic, educational – of all our students, we often also run the risk of telling students their own history, acting like the experts, or, perhaps worse, simply making a cursory attempt at focusing on some key African American role models. This, and more, can be part of the challenge. But it’s an important challenge to meet head-on.

What we hope to accomplish:

I would hope that all of us, ultimately, want to build student leadership this month. At the end of the day, we want our students feeling proud of who they are (whether they are Black or not), critical of current injustices, and united in their creative voice to take action: whether that be a celebration of African American heritage and history, or some other kind of civic engagement. We want to make sure we are learning about Black History alongside our students, in partnership with them and the community. We want to make sure to show that Black History is alive, powerful, and beautiful.

To that end…

Over the past couple years, I have worked with people on our TFA Team and among our Humanities teachers to compile resources for Black History Month that would provide (a) guidance on best approaches, and (b) examples of strong lesson plans and resources for us to use.

How it works:

  1. Read Teaching Tolerance’s “Do’s and Dont’s of Teaching Black History
  2. Go to this spreadsheet.
  3. Check out all the amazing resources!
  4. Have a resource worth sharing? Include it in the spreadsheet for others to use!
  5. Pair up with a buddy to share ideas and get feedback.
  6. Ask Jacob and/or your TLD Coach to see the awesome stuff you are working on.
  7. Teach your heart out🙂

Have an amazing February!

Summative Drafts Thus Far!

Hello again folks! Well, we have been back for a couple of weeks now, and hard at work bringing our students to not only depth but also breadth of content, pushed forward by a real investment and love for the Humanities.

In the background of all this, many of you have done incredible work to start thinking about the end of the year, and how you will measure your students’ progress in a capstone, celebratory, and rigorous final assessment!

As you all know, I have already written one blog post about Summatives, and connecting you with various resources! So I thought for this one, I would share how far we’ve come!

Thus far, 75% of our Humanities classrooms have at least a draft summative they are working towards!!!

This is very exciting, as it shows direct progress towards our Priority #1 this quarter:

Students are engaged in the content because it is rigorous, compelling, and focused around essential questions that bring to light social justice issues because teachers are planning units and lessons that have strong visions of mastery, and that are propelled by essential questions and meaningful texts.

As such, I thought it would be a helpful for all of us to learn a little from one another as we push towards this effort. I have thus collected all of the most complete drafts we have created thus far in one folder! This should be an opportunity for you to explore and learn from what others are doing in their classrooms, connect with each other to find out more, and save precious time and energy rather than inventing the wheel from scratch!

Thus, I present to you, the 2014-2015 Summative Drafts Folder!

Here is a list of the awesome people whose work it contains:

  • Art: Cat Johnston
  • Music: Amelia Kundel, Tina Goodwillie, James Mitaritonna, Alice Hasen, Gabriella Sharpe, Heather Todd
  • Social Studies: Connor Bergen, Ali Hager, Chelsea Lewis, Stephen Fritz, Patrick Newton

World Languages – you guys have it easy! Just make sure you send me the date you plan on administering the 2009 Regents, and I will make sure to send it your way!

Keep up the awesome work guys! Let’s strive for 100% complete drafts by the end of the quarter!

Annotating Unconventional Forms of Art by Shelby Goodfriend

For this week’s blog post, I invited the wonderful Shelby Goodfriend (MS and HS Art in Humphreys County) to share her thinking and planning for a recent art project. Not an Art teacher? Fear not! There is tons here to learn about analyzing primary documents, asking BIG questions, getting students excited to read and write, and more!
All of this, of course, is wonderfully aligned to our Priority 1:

Students are engaged in the content because it is rigorous, compelling, and focused around essential questions that bring to light social justice issues because teachers are planning units and lessons that have strong visions of mastery, and that are propelled by essential questions and meaningful texts.

Without further ado… Here is Shelby’s post!

—-

January has the least amount of school days in the spring semester, and with Black History Month right around the corner, I knew I wanted to create a short unit for my students that would be interesting and get us off on the right track for the new semester!

I came up with the concept of teaching unconventional forms of art to my students. I knew that with this small unit I could teach some things that would really hook my students, like body art, but I could also utilize this time to teach them about poetry, therefore making my classroom a supplement to ELA.

I’ve utilized the Internet and found some really great plans and resources to teach poetry and art at the same time. The overall mini-unit can be broken down into four lessons, which should take a total of six days in the classroom.

After reading all the awesomeness below, check out Shelby’s Frida Kahlo PPT!

Lesson One (one day): Teaching Annotating through Art

Extended Bellringer:  On a projector, I had my students look at two of Frida Kahlo’s portraits (Retrato de Dona Rosita Morillo, 1994; Retrato de Natasha Gelman, 1943)

Images used for the Extended Bell Ringer

Students looked at the images for one minute and then had ten minutes to write. I thought this would be too much time but the students honestly utilized every minute.

The rules for writing were as follows:

  1. Write the entire time
  2. Do not share your ideas until time has expired
  3. Have fun, relax, there are no wrong answers!
  4. Write quickly without letting the ‘critic’ in you escape
  5. While using this picture, think of the following: Who is the person? Is she happy with her life? How can you tell? What was happening before the moment was captured? What is she thinking? What is she wishing for? Make sure the picture is helping to guide your decisions; for example, if the person is wearing a coat, you may infer that it is winter.
  6. Write an internal monologue, you shouldn’t write, “I am a seventeen-year-old girl who is sad. Right before the picture was taken, I was…” Use dialogue to convey the voice of the person in the portrait

After students finished writing, I had three students and asked them to support the decisions they made in their stories.

Lesson: I explained what annotation is, and how it is typically used in English classes. However, the activity we did for the bell ringer is a form of annotation through art. I found that at my school specifically, they taught students that annotation is use of symbols, which caused some problems, but we eventually got to the root of what annotation is.

Annotation aides in the close textual reading of a work, whether it be a poem, book or artwork.

In my class, students often dissect a piece of art with a bubble diagram before we talk about it so that they are looking at the piece before I tell them anything. This is something we started last August, if you’re unfamiliar with using bubble diagrams, look to this lesson: http://www.warhol.org/education/resourceslessons/Brillo–But-is-it-Art-/

Students were shown Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, 1949 on the projector

Frida 2

Students created their own bubble diagram in 6 minutes with the questions being:

  • What do you notice?
  • What do you think it may mean?

After time was up, we came together and created one large diagram for the classroom.

Following this, I discussed the painting with the whole class, pulling out the symbols, asking them what they believed they meant and finally giving them what the critics believe the piece means.

Exit Ticket: I then showed 8 of Frida Kahlo’s self portraits for 30 seconds each and had the students choose their favorite.

Frida 3

Students selected their favorite, annotated it, and then wrote an analysis of the work, supporting their claims with reasoning and support from the painting.

Lesson Two (three days): Teaching Self-Actualization Skills through Art

Students are to create visual self-portraits about how they internally feel about themselves and their life, using Frida’s work as a model.

Students are to use a color symbolism chart when choosing the colors that they decide to use in their portrait.

Lesson Three (one day): Moving from Art to Poetry – Annotating Poetry

Students will utilize close reading strategies during this lesson.

I informed students that they are going to read a poem by a woman who wrote it specifically about the moment in her life that she was currently experiencing.

This should be tied back to Frida Kahlo and how she painted her self portraits according to how she felt at that exact moment..

First Read:

  • Students are to read and annotate the poem The Thirty-Eighth Year by Lucille Clifton
  • Student then should create a bubble diagram organizer for the poem.
  • Students will then work with a partner to talk about the text.

Second Read:

Third Read:

  • Students watch / listen as other students read and annotate on the white board

Fourth Read:

  • Students Reread to find answers and evidence

Questions: What message is conveyed through the voice of the speaker? What petic devices does the poet use to convey the message? What is the tone of the work? How does this relate to Frida Kahlo’s paintings?

Lesson Four: Personal Narrative Writing

  • Students look at their completed self portrait and use them as inspiration for a narrative poem about their lives
  • Students write a poem that captures who they are and where they are in their life journey. Students will use Lucille’s poem as a model.
  • Students share their poems as a class!

Identity Poem Assignment

Great Unit Plans

It’s the first blog post of 2015! Time for some pump-up jams (OH NO! HAHAHA!!!), and to really dig in to the content with our students (seriously though, good message to that song). Did you know that it’s common teacher knowledge that the 3rd Quarter is the time when students experience the most academic growth all year? #un-researchedtruths #timetodropsomeknowledge

So, for our inaugural blast this year, I thought I would simply share some AWESOME Unit Plans that I have seen come out of each content over the past couple of years. Ultimately, Unit Planning is directly aligned with Priority 1 for this Quarter:

  • Students are… engaged in the content because it is rigorous, compelling, and focused around essential questions that bring to light social justice issues.

  • Because teachers are… Planning units and lessons that have strong visions of mastery, and that are propelled by essential questions and meaningful texts.

Indeed, this MUST be Priority 1 for us this quarter, since at the moment this is where our students stand in terms of Engagement with Rigorous Content:

Table

We simply must ensure that our students start pushing towards higher levels of Analysis and Application, and the best way to do so is to plan for it. More on this in the post below!

Here is what this post contains:

1. Why Unit Plans Rock

2. What Makes a Great Unit Plan

3. Examples of Great Unit Plans

And here we go!

  1. Why Unit Plans Rock

  • For Students: 
    • Keeping them engaged: Unit Plans are great for students because they will ensure that students are engaged, and know what is expected of them for the next 2-6 weeks! How will we be assessed? What projects will we do? What big questions are we exploring? All these questions are answered the moment you step into the classroom with a great UP.
    • Meeting their needs: Unit Plans not only allow you to plan for remediation and differentiation, they also allow you to plan for more engaging projects that will meet different learning styles, AND it will allow you to adapt to your students’ interests, transforming your Unit About Hammurabi’s Code to one about what the basic rules of a society should or shouldn’t be!
    • Making it relevant: A Unit Plan also gives you the space to make connections between what you are learning, and what is happening in the world today. With the emphasis on theme and deeper understanding, you have more opportunity to add depth to learning, while still ensuring you get to all the content students need to know!
    • Researched Results: Studies show that backwards planning (which results in a Unit Plan), has direct achievement results for students. In particular, this is because they allow the time and planning of “assignments requiring more challenging intellectual work”… For more, here is a quote from Newmann, Bryk, & Nagaoka (2001):

Students who received assignments requiring more challenging intellectual work also achieved greater than average gains on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills in reading and mathematics, and demonstrated higher performance in reading, mathematics, and writing on the Illinois Goals Assessment Program. Contrary to some expectations, we found high-quality assignments in some very disadvantaged Chicago classrooms and [found] that all students in these classes benefited from exposure to such instruction. We
conclude, therefore, [that] assignments calling for more authentic intellectual work actually improve student scores on conventional tests (p.29).

  • For You: 
  • Unit plans help you make the tough decisions about what to teach, and when to teach it! Diversions will be less attractive when you have clear goals in mind. This not only avoids going off-topic, it also will help you in recognizing that students need one piece of understanding before another – rather than running into that problem when it’s too late!
  • Unit Plans keep you on-pace. With a full calendar and a clear objective, it’s easier to adjust and be flexible, ensuring that the most important aspects of your unit get across, and your outcomes are always met!
  • Unit Plans increase your cognitive capacity.  Studies show that teachers are less effective when they don’t plan ahead because they are focused on both planning AND execution. That’s no good! We want to make sure you have energy as well as time to relax. The initial effort of a UP means you have more cognitive space and time to step back moving forward!

Pretty cool, huh? I bet you are feeling just as bewildered as this guy about how awesome UPs are!

2. What Makes a Great Unit Plan

There are a lot of things that make a great Unit Plan, but here are a few that I always look for, just to give you some headlines…

  • Engaging Essential Questions. You’ve probably heard enough of this by now, but I will say it again: Essential Questions can be genuinely engaging for students if introduced correctly in the classroom. For a great Unit Plan to be implemented in the classroom, you’ll want a variety of overarching and topical questions. In other words, you want to be asking both:
    • Overarching: What rules need to be in place for large groups of people to live in a society together?
    • Topical: What kind of society did the laws outlined in Hammurabi’s code generate? What were their implications?

The former captivates and engages students, while the latter focuses them in on the topic for the day or week! The interplay between “big picture” and “pieces of the puzzle” is what makes instruction effective!

  • Alignment to National and State Standards. Again, I imagine there are no surprises here, but we should always make sure that our students are getting what they SHOULD be getting. The best and only way to do that is to research what students are learning across our nation, as well as what they are required to learn in our state.
  • A Variety of Assessments. I think we often misunderstand assessments (and I will be writing a blog about them shortly) as exclusively pen-and-ink multiple choice or written assignments. That’s simply not the case! Assessments are happening ALL THE TIME in class – they are verbal, visual, and active. Indeed, the best units PLAN for these different kinds of assessments, including things like performance assessments (a speech or debate, a presentation, or a performance that shows understanding of the content).
  • A Daily Breakdown. Ultimately, all the teacher-facing benefits of a Unit Plan are for naught if they don’t help you breakdown your calendar and know what you are teaching, when.

Hopefully, you are still with me, and realizing – HEY! UPs are actually pretty decent!

3. Examples of Great Unit Plans

Simply put, the following are some GREAT Unit Plans I have happened upon or helped create in these past couple years. Check them out! Use them, modify them, or make them your inspiration!

If you have a great UP you want to share, please email it to Jacob or upload it to the Document Bucket for your content!

State of the Humanities (Quarter 2, 2014)

Hello Team Humanities!

As many of you know, at the end of every quarter Team Humanities takes a step-back to see how we have progressed in relation to our goals, and what we will need to do next in order to move further, faster, and with a greater orientation towards our teachers and students. Ultimately, all of this is in service of seeing how far we have gotten towards our Humanities vision: 

We believe that the Humanities are critical contents in the actualization of Social Justice and Equity in students’ lives. We thus move students towards Humanities Achievement, Leadership, Critical Consciousness, and Cultural Competence.

As such, we act with the knowledge that every Humanities classroom must aggressively pursue the dismantling of systems of oppression through the provision of rigorous Humanities content and Culturally Responsive Teaching.

As we wrap up our first semester, I thought it would be important for me to share with you all the data we have collected, and the NEW priorities we are forming for Quarter 3 as a result of our feedback and interpretations. For the sake of brevity and focus on what matters most, I have narrowed this data down to the information that is most directly relevant to students in our classrooms.

As you read over this, I would love for you to consider:

  1. Where do my classroom and my students stand in relation to this data?
  2. How can I act within the Humanities Team to improve our collective data?
  3. What experiences, thoughts, support, resources, or feedback can you share to help us interpret or take action in relation to the data we are seeing?
  4. What changes can we make, as a collective, to impact this data for the betterment of our students?

As always, feel free to comment below, or email/text/call Jacob with any questions, ideas, or feedback!

Wait, first, where does this data come from?

We end up collecting A LOT of information in order to make informed decisions with regards to what our next quarter should look like. That information comes from all of the following sources:

  • Student achievement data from your classrooms, which you share with us.
  • Your First Eight Weeks Survey responses
  • Data collected through classroom observations (Engagement with Rigorous Content, and Culture of Achievement) both from me and your TLD Coach
  • Your responses on Professional Development Exit Forms
  • Your responses to other surveys (such as the ones I send out at the end of every quarter)
  • Humanities Leader and TLD Coach feedback on other surveys
  • Anecdotal and qualitative evidence (student work that has been shared, other stories and celebrations emerging from classrooms)
  • Much more!

Data Point #1: Progress Known

  • What is Progress Known (PK) ? PK is basically a “Yes” or “No” answer to the question: “do we have reliable and complete data on where students stand in this classroom?”
  • How do you collect reliable and complete data? The reliable and complete data comes from you teachers sharing it with your TLD Coach and/or Content Specialist. As long as you have data for student progress on ALL your Metrics (and are not, for instance, missing DBQ Data even if you have Mastery Data), and you have shared a reliable assessment with us, then your students are PK!
Progress Known? Social Studies The Arts World Languages All Humanities
YES 67% 60% 71% 66%
NO 33% 40% 29% 34%
Progress Known by Humanities Content as of November 20th, 2014

Progress Known by Humanities Content as of November 20th, 2014

Data Point #2: Culture of Achievement

  • What is Culture of Achievement (CoA)? CoA is the quality of the classroom culture that your students enjoy as they are learning. Some people think immediately about “management” but this goes well beyond that: it’s the way in which your students actively maintain and foster a positive environment because of the way they care about their learning.
  • How do you collect data around CoA? CoA is determined by the TLD Coach in collaboration with your thinking after an observation, using the Culture of Achievement Pathways rubric to inform our terminology. This then gets collected in our Program Tracker so we can analyze the data at different levels.
Culture of Achievement Social Studies The Arts World Languages All Humanities
Destructive 0% 14% 7% 8%
Apathetic or unruly 33% 29% 21% 28%
Compliant and on-task 58% 21% 57% 45%
Interested/ hard-working 8% 36% 14% 20%

Culture of Achievement by Humanities Content as of November 20th, 2014

Data Point #3: Engagement with Rigorous Content

  • What is Engagement with Rigorous Content (ERC)? ERC is the level of rigor at which students are engaging with the content. Some people think immediately about “difficulty” of the questions being asked by the teacher, but this goes well beyond that: it’s the depth and sophistication with which students are thinking about and working within the content.
  • How do you collect data around ERC? ERC is determined by the TLD Coach in collaboration with your thinking after an observation, using the Engagement with Rigorous Content rubric to inform our terminology. This then gets collected in our Program Tracker so we can analyze the data at different levels.
Engagement with Rigorous Content Social Studies The Arts World Languages All Humanities
Not challenged; no learning 0% 14% 14% 10%
Passive or confused re: new content 25% 21% 7% 18%
Factual recall/procedural 42% 36% 71% 50%
Analysis/application/explaining 25% 29% 7% 20%
Evaluation/synthesis/creation 8% 0% 0% 3%
Rigor

Engagement with Rigorous Content by Humanities Content as of November 20th, 2014

Okay, so what next?

Well, A LOT IS COMING UP NEXT! Given a realistic look at the above data (and much more, including your suggestions), we have come up with the following priorities for us to look forward to. Again, take the time to consider: how are you and your students doing in relation to these priorities? What do you need to accomplish in order to push more towards them?

For more detail on the data presented here, our priorities, and what is coming next in the Humanities, check out our Quarter 3 Priorities at this link.

Priority 1:
  • Students are engaged in the content because it is rigorous, compelling, and focused around essential questions that bring to light social justice issues.
  • …Because teachers are planning units and lessons that have strong visions of mastery, and that are propelled by essential questions and meaningful texts.
Priority 2:
  • Students are “on the hook” for their learning because they are collectively, collaboratively, and fully owning the outcomes of the lesson.
  • … Because teachers are ensuring students are being given ownership of their own learning by facilitating strong collaborative structures around rigorous content.
Priority 3:
  • Students are Invested in their Humanities-content goals because they see their success as critical to their future leadership, and because they are aware of their progress.
  • …Because teachers are invested in their end-of-year goals and what they represent for students, and thus measuring and sharing progress towards goals with students and stakeholders.

Summatives in the Humanities

Capture

Click on the image above to hear Claire Wandro’s students talk about why the Regents Summative Assessment mattered to them!

Check out the quick video above of some of Claire Wandro’s students reflecting on why the Regents final assessment matters to them.

As the frost starts to harden over our Mississippi fields, and plans start to emerge for the winter break, it’s yet again time to start thinking WAY ahead so that it doesn’t rush up on us: it’s time to start thinking about Summatives in the Humanities!

All DRAFTS of Humanities Summatives (unless they are directly the SATP2 or the Regents) need to be submitted to Jacob and your TLD Coach by January 2nd!

To help you with this, this blog post contains:

  1. Why summatives? Why now?
  2. Requirements for your Summatives (with links and resources!)
  3. Links to Teacher-Made Summatives
  4. FAQ and Other Guidelines
  5. Need Additional Support?

Why Summatives? Why Now?

  • Students deserve to reliably know where they stand at the end of the year: After a year of work and growth in your classroom, students deserve to know where they stand compared to their peers across the nation. Summatives are the most reliable way of comparing how our students are doing in relation to other students within TFA, or against a national bar for rigor. Communicating this progress to our students helps them celebrate, reflect on their work this year, and grow as life-long learners.
  • Summatives help YOU plan: Having a summative at this point in the year helps you get concrete on what your students still need to learn, believe, and be able to do between now and the day you administer it. You shouldn’t be teaching to the test: instead, you should be teaching beyond it. A summative will help you clarify the basics of what your students need, and help you develop plans to teach beyond those basics.
  • Summatives are different from normal tests and quizzes: Unlike tests and quizzes, summatives often contain information that students may not have seen before (think about how the AP or the ACT or the SAT work… they test you on a national bar for how you use skills and solve problems rather than for what you already know). This is a chance for students to show their resilience and confidence in potentially unknown territory. And that’s EXCITING, not defeating.
  • Summatives help us advocate for the Humanities: Once we have the data and we can compare it to national standards, often we can apply for grants, advocate for more funding and attention in our schools, etc. Being able to have reliable proof of our students’ progress is the best way to do this.
  • Sometimes we need to give summatives early: due to testing, test-prep, etc. we often don’t have the opportunity to prepare our students for summatives and administer them part-way through the second semester. Having them handy gives us the chance to be flexible with this schedule, and still guarantee our students the right to know where they stand.
  • Summatives take time, feedback, and sharing: Besides all of the above, your summatives need to be vetted by me and your TLD Coach before they are valid, and the whole process is more enjoyable if we have an environment of sharing and collaboration! If we get that going, it will just be simpler in future years when people can pull summatives straight from a resource bank!

Requirements for your Summatives.

  • What should a summative look like?
    • For the most part, a summative assessment should look like a “traditional” assessment, plus any performance tasks or additional projects that would better help you measure your students’ progress towards your holistic vision.
    • It should be a final assessment, so it should be cumulative and cover the information, skills, and progress towards vision you should have mastered this year.
    • It should usually be given in the final weeks of school. However, you should check with your administrator, since often this is not the best time for Humanities classes that become test-prep part way through the second semester.
    • It should be subdivided by standard and/or skill, should be easily trackable by those skills, and should have rubrics or student responses for any open-response questions.
  • What is my summative assessment?
    • This differs a little, depending on your specific content. Any additional performance tasks are welcome, but optional. In the table below, you will see the basic requirements.
    • PLEASE NOTE: None of what is contained in the grid below is optional! In order to have valid measurements of how your students progressed (and to be in good standing with TFA), you MUST execute these full criteria.
    • Click on the links in this table to get access to the rubrics and assessments you need!
Content Level Assessment Type Additional Academic Prompt
Art Lower Elementary A Regents-aligned  assessment pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD Artwork assessed according to the ECE Rubric
Upper Elementary A Regents-aligned  assessment pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD Artwork assessed according to the Mississippi Art Creation Rubric
Secondary A Regents-aligned  assessment (or the Regents itself!) pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD Artwork assessed according to the Mississippi Art Creation Rubric
Music & Dance Elementary A Regents-aligned assessment (Dance, Music) pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD Performance assessed according to the Dance or Music Performance Rubrics
Secondary A Regents-aligned assessment (Dance, Music) (or the Regents itself!) pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD Performance assessed according to the Dance or Music Performance Rubrics
World Languages Elementary A Regents-aligned  (Spanish, French) assessment that covers:

–          Reading

–          Writing

–          Speaking

–          Listening

–          Culture

This should be age-appropriate and pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD.

N/A
Level 1 The Regents Second Language Proficiency Exam (Spanish, French) N/A
Level 2 EITHER:

–          The Regents 1.5 that we designed for you (Spanish, French)

OR:

–          A blind assessment on the Regents Second Language Proficiency (PLEASE EMAIL JACOB IMMEDIATELY IF THIS IS YOUR PREFERENCE!!!)

N/A
Social Studies 5th Grade Social Studies EITHER:

–          A self-created Regents-aligned assessment pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD/

 

OR:

–          The 5th Grade Regents assessment

A DBQ pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD (preferably directly from the aligned Regents exam)
8th Grade Social Studies EITHER:

–          A self-created Regents-aligned assessment pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD.

 

OR:

–          The 8th Grade Regents assessment

A DBQ pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD (preferably directly from the aligned Regents exam)
US History The MS State Assessment

 

(OPTIONAL ADDITION: The Regents US History assessment)

A DBQ pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD (preferably directly from the aligned Regents exam)
All other Social Studies A self-created Regents-aligned assessment pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD. A DBQ pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD (aligned to the Regents assessment that closest fits your grade-level)

 

Links to Teacher Made Summatives

Check out some of the summatives that teachers have administered in the past!

Featured at the above link are:

  • MUSIC: Alice Hasen’s General Music Summative and Project
  • DANCE: Kasey Wooten’s Dance Summative and Project
  • SOCIAL STUDIES: Patrick Newton’s Summatives, as well as many others!
  • WORLD LANGUAGES:

FAQ and Other Guidelines

Check out this Humanities Summative FAQs for further guidelines, answers, and resources!

Need Additional Support?

  1. Sign up for “Knowing Where You Are Going: Summatives in the Humanities” now!
    1. Wednesday, December 3rd in Greenwood (RSVP here)
    2. Tuesday, December 9th on WebEx (RSVP here)
    3. Wednesday, December 10th in Jackson (RSVP here)
  2. Talk to Jacob, your TLD Coach, and/or your Humanities Content Leaders!
  3. Reach out to your peers!

Resource Dump #1

Don’t become a nugget. Equip yourself with some awesome resources from your fellow teachers!

Our recent discussions as a team during the Humanities leader summit have spurred an awesome flurry of sharing and caring! Is there a better time than THANKSGIVING to share that awesome teamwork that we have started to establish, and say THANK YOU for it?!?!

Indeed, for this blog post, I have compiled some of those resources (as well as some extras!) in a manner that may be useful to you and your fellow teachers.

Find a resource you really love in this blog-post? Shout out the teacher who made it!

Updated Resource Sharing Drives!!!!

  • Art Google Drive
    • Featuring NEW Unit Plans, Unit Assessments, and Project Plans!
      • Main Contributors: Amanda Welch, Mary King, Cat Johnston, Salma Akhtar!
  • Music Google Drive
    • Featuring NEW Unit Plans and Unit Assessments
      • Main Contributors: Alice Hasen, Camille Loomis, Gabriella Sharpe
  • Social Studies Google Drive
    • Featuring NEW Unit Plans, Unit Assessments, and MUCH MORE!!!
      • Main Contributors: Ali Hager, Stephen Fritz, Brandon Rauch, Julia Braunreiter, Dan Clason, Tim Abram, and Laura Butler
  • World Languages DropBox
    • Featuring NEW Culture Plans, Unit Assessments, and more!
      • Main Contributors: Nels Akerson.

Resources from photos Jacob took in classrooms!

Other Fun Resources!

Tasks and Questions Worth Collaborating On

Last week, I posted some ideas and guidelines about setting up some collaborative learning routines for students, and mentioned that there are two parts to ensuring that student-student collaboration is effective:

There are two parts to setting up strong collaborative learning: (1) Students need to have clear structures and ways of engaging with each other and with the content, and (2) Students need to be engaging with strong, meaningful content (more on this in a post to follow).

Well, here is that “post to follow”… What makes “strong, meaningful content” for our students to engage with in collaborative routines? How do we know when we are generating that content for them?

Again, this aligns precisely to Priority 2 for this quarter, which is:

Students are “On the hook” for their learning because they are hungry to discuss and engage with rigorous, compelling, and student-focused content.  This is because Teachers are ensuring students continue to collaborate daily, while also providing the rigorous content for students to collaborate around.

Step 1: First of all, we need to define what “strong, meaningful content” really is.

According to Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe (authors of the ever-important Understanding by Design) have this to say:

The best questions are not merely emblematic of their fields, but really alive. People ask and argue about them outside of school! The most vital discipline-bound questions open up thinking and possibilities for everyone – novices and experts alike. They signal that inquiry and open-mindedness are central to expertise, that we must always be learners. In the more practical sense, a question is alive in a subject if students really engage with it, if it seems genuine and relevant to them, and if it helps them gain a more systematic and deep understanding of what they are learning.

– Wiggins and McTighe, Understanding by Design, page 108

However, one thing we need to clarify right off the bat is this: big, broad, open-response questions are NOT, on their own, rigorous. Take this for example:

Why do we still experience segregation in our society today?

On its own, this question could either spur a student to write a single sentence, or an entire dissertation. We need to be careful in assuming that stand-alone questions are the most rigorous form of posing an academic challenge to our students. Let’s take a look at this same question, but in a way that demands rigorous engagement:Why do we still experience segregation in our society today?

Why do we still experience segregation in our society today?

Write a 3-paragraph answer that includes (1) a strong claim to this question, (2) an example from the  Reconstruction to support your claim, and (3) an example from current events that supports your claim.

Your short essay will be evaluated using the Mississippi DBQ Rubric.

With these expectations set, a student knows what is being expected, and can rise to the occasion of this challenge.

Let’s return to the writing of Wiggins for a little more support on this:

Huh? How can the verb, itself, determine the rigor? Couldn’t the rigor of so-called high-level verbs be compromised by a simplistic task and scoring system? Vice versa: can’t we imagine some of the low-level verbs occurring in highly-challenging and rigorous assessments? (e.g. Who, what, when, and why in a complex journalism case would be rigorous work.)

Take “predict” for example. It is viewed as relatively low-level – Level 2. But what if I ask you to predict the effects on plants of using special soil, food, and artificial lights, and I score you against industry-level standards? Vice versa: suppose I ask you to critique a drawing against the criterion “pretty”. Pretty low level stuff.

– Wiggins, “Assessment, Grading, and Rigor”

With this definition in mind, we can start to distinguish between the different kinds of questions with which we ask our students to engage in a collaborative setting.

BUT WAIT JACOB: Does this really mean we don’t ask students to answer basic comprehension, fact-based questions? Absolutely not! But it means we need to locate and contextualize those “convergent” questions (which point to just one answer) within larger, “divergent” questions (which point to many possible answers and approaches).

Step 2: Let’s start planning the kinds of questions, problems, and tasks that benefit from collaborative learning… What does that “strong, meaningful content” really look like?

what-if-i-never-find-out-whos-a-good-boy-pug

Rigorous questions are ALIVE and can torment us and be a cause for discussion even outside of class!

Convergent (Closed) Questions…

  • have very narrowly defined correct answers
  • have answers that usually require little reflection
  • Have answers that usually require the student recalls from memory factual information and applies it.
  • require little/ no original thought.

Divergent (Open) Questions…

  • can have multiple correct answers
  • have answers where the student must be able to recall some information from memory, but then must apply that knowledge to explain or further analyze a topic or problem.
  • always require original thought
  • lead to debates/ disagreement/ discourse among students

Step 3: Let’s dig into some strategies for making sure our questions are “divergent” instead of “convergent.”

  1. Consider what basic knowledge students will need so they can have a conversation about a more divergent question, and vise versa!  Why would a student even need to know that basic information?  What divergent question might it help them consider?  What divergent question might help make definitions/ factual knowledge more meaningful?
  2. Flip or reverse a closed question:  “Here’s the output, how do you think it happened?  How could we have gotten there?”
  3. Take out some of the givens:  In a lesson where you want Ss to be able to answer, “What are the causes of the civil war?”  ask first, “What are the causes of war?”.
  4. Ask for personal opinion/ judgment:  When you want to build the skill of students determining the probability of a gene/ genetic mutation being passed on to offspring, also ask, “Should these two people even have a child?  Is it worth the risk?”
  5. After the fact, re-engage: Open up convergent questions on the back end by asking students to give each other feedback or figure out why they got some answers wrong.

Step 4: Let’s make sure students are invested in the reason why they are engaging with the content in this particular way. Let’s get clear on the purpose of collaborative learning FOR STUDENTS… why should they want to partner up?

We should only be asking students to work together if the purpose is to be…

  • …discussing something worth hearing someone else’s opinion about so they can have multiple perspectives on one issue.
  • …ensuring that we are gaining depth of answers, and that everyone has a chance to share their thinking.
  • …combining knowledge from various sources (partner reads one document, I read another)
  • …providing feedback for one another so they can improve their work
  • …collaborating on completing a project that requires different skills, teamwork, and lots of time!

Step 5: Check out some resources that may inspire you to think more broadly or simply give you some examples of what rigorous questions can look like!

Supporting Student-Student Dialog in the Humanities

Ah yes, that fatal moment when you tell your students “turn to your partner and…”, and then the whole class blows up in your face. It may be a good time to catch up on student gossip (you can overhear A LOT during those turn and talks!), but ultimately it’s not getting done what you want it to. BUT, this is still a key priority for us this quarter. Ultimately, by the end of this quarter we really want to see what is articulated in Priority 2, and it will be impossible to get there without genuine collaboration in the classroom. Students are “On the hook” for their learning because they are hungry to discuss and engage with rigorous, compelling, and student-focused content.  This is because Teachers are ensuring students continue to collaborate daily, while also providing the rigorous content for students to collaborate around.

Collaborative learning helps your students feel that learning matters, and that it’s not an option (without you being domineering).

Well, here are a few things for ya to get going in this direction. This blog post contains: 1. Reasons why you should keep working on collaborative learning. 2. Some guidelines and principles for collaborative learning. 3. A bucket-load of resources for collaborative learning. Got questions, concerns, or ideas to share related to this blogpost? Email Jacob or comment below! For more on all of this, check out the fantastic Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind by Eric Jensen… a lot of what is featured here was drawn from that book!

 Why does Collaborative Learning matter in the Humanities?

  • The Humanities are about dialog: all too often, our students assume that history happened in the past, that culture is static and easily stereotyped, or that art, music, and dance are only something that famous artists and performers can do. Having students collaborate while tackling our content models for them the way these subject-areas actually work in reality – they are spaces for debate, disagreement, and mutual learning.
  • It will establish a more democratic classroom: it matters for Social Justice and Equity in our classrooms that we do not limit our students’ experiences to those controlled and dictated by a “classroom authority.” We need to be partners in learning.
  • Your students’ thinking will improve: if students feel safe and part of a team, they will be more willing and able to take risks. Better relationships in the classroom allow for more authentic and higher-level rigor, as well as a physically and psychologically safe environment. Plus, students will be owning more of the thinking!
  • Your students will be more confident: if students get a chance to practice with their partner first (and maybe even get your affirmation as you walk around the room), they’ll be more confident in participating.
  • Over time, side-chatter will decrease: while it may take practice, students cannot see talking with one another as ONLY a disruptive act. Students need to see each other as partners in learning.
  • Over time, it will make YOUR life easier: Lisa Ann DeGarcia wrote, in “How to Get Students Talking!” (2009) that “researchers have found that teaching is a ‘complex cognitive activity'” but that this becomes easier for experienced teachers because “they develop specific ‘routines’ for each of these activities, so more cognitive space can be freed up.” Collaborative learning is one of those key routines you can establish!

Classroom life should, to the greatest extent possible, prefigure the kind of democratic and just society we envision and thus contribute to building that society. Together students and teachers can create a “community of conscience.” – “Introduction: Building Classrooms for Equity and Social Justice”, Rethinking Our Classrooms, Vol. 1.

What are some guidelines and principals for collaborative learning?

  1. There are two parts to setting up strong collaborative learning.
    • Students need to have clear structures and ways of engaging with each other and with the content.
    • Students need to be engaging with strong, meaningful content (more on this in a post to follow).
  2. When working in small groups, everyone should…
    • …have a clear responsibility (and not just time-keeping!).
    • …have an opportunity (and accountability) to express their ideas.
    • …know WHY working collaboratively matters for this particular piece of learning.
  3. When working in large or whole-group settings, everyone should…
    • …be exposed to multiple perspectives from their peers.
    • …have a concrete way of following along with the conversation and react to the speaker’s thinking.
    • …be held accountable for expressing ideas about the discussion at the end.

Don’t let your collaborative time go poorly! Make sure everyone is on the same page about why partner work matters.

Do you have any resources for us?

Of course I do! Check them out below:

  • Collaborative Routines Galore! – An awesome list of routines and resources compiled by all your content specialists!
  • Ashley Lamica’s Socratic Seminar Worksheet – A great resource for holding students accountable during whole-group discussions AND guide their analysis of the texts they are discussing.
  • Collaborative Venn Diagrams – An easy-to-use Venn Diagram exercise in which students record their own thinking, their partner’s thinking, and their shared thinking on ANY topic!
  • World Language “Unknowns” – A few examples of what this could look like to pair students up in a World Language classroom, and have them interview each other to get the complete responses they need!

What does a classroom that drives towards expanded student outcomes SOUND and LOOK like?

One of the more challenging and exciting tasks we have (newly!) taken on this year is to drive towards an expanded understanding of what student success will look like. In fact, this year our number one regional priority is:

Cultivating Academically-Accomplished, Culturally Competent, and Critically Conscious Student Leaders : “Mississippi students are mastering rigorous content, building critical consciousness and cultural competence and developing their leaderships skills in and out of their culturally responsive classrooms.”

(Side Note: For more on what these terms mean and their importance to students and ourselves as teachers, check out this CRT Conceptual Map)

In order to drive towards these outcomes, we have explored Culturally Responsive Teaching as a set of dispositions and actions that we as teachers can take to lead our students. CRT is an increasingly popular educational philosophy that challenges all of us to re-consider our own assumptions as we enter a culturally diverse classroom, and to adjust our approach to curriculum, pedagogy, and relationships accordingly.

But as the year goes on, you may be wondering… how the heck do I measure something like “Cultural Competence”? What does it look like when my students are developing “Critical Consciousness”?

Well, as it will always be with genuinely qualitative (but powerful) outcomes like these, it’s not always that easy to find ONE reliable measure. Fortunately, we have a couple of resources for you.

The CRT Field Document (Prototype!!!)

A large collaboration of TFA Mississippi staff who have been committed to learning about and researching CRT, have come together to modify a field doc that was being used in the Philadelphia region. It’s basically a rubric for looking at CRT classrooms, and, specifically, at student outcomes.

Check out the CRT Field Document, and start asking your Content Specialist and TLD Coach to observe your classroom through this lens!

(Note: This is VERY much in draft form still… Let us know what you think so we can make it stronger!)

Want to Get More Specific?

“Easy to Remember” by Lorna Simpson

Again, this is still in draft form, but we found an awesome resource for you!

This Student Questions Grounded in CRT document allows you to interview your students, and find out where they are on a spectrum between a technical and humanitizing education.

The cool part about it? It creates direct connection between the questions being asked and the teacher disposition (or “competency”) linked to the student answer… Need to make a shift in student answers? Start working on that competency! Again, enlist your Content Specialist and TLD Coach to help you collect these responses, and reflect on them.

OK, BUT WHAT SHOULD THIS REALLY LOOK LIKE AT MY GRADE-LEVEL?

Check out the awesome Anti-Bias Frameworks that Teaching Tolerance have put together… This should give you a really good sense of what your goal should be for your students this year!

MORE QUESTIONS ABOUT CRT AND STUDENT OUTCOMES?

Feel free to reach out to me, your TLD Coach, or comment below!

Conferencing With Students

This frog is like “Uhm, yes, that’s me! Both hands raised!”

Last week, I posted about Collecting, Sharing, and Analyzing Student Data. Part of the “sharing” portion of this is actually more complex (but SUUUPER effective) than you might think. So let’s dive in to Conferencing With Students!

First, raise your hand if any of the following is true for you or your students:

  • I haven’t given grades yet on speaking and writing tasks, art projects, music or dance performances, DBQs, or anything where the grade might be subjective.
  • It feels wrong to evaluate students on something creative or expressive.
  • When I have given grades before, students have asked me “what did you give me a ‘C’ for?!?”
  • Some of my students already have low confidence… I’m scared they will just buckle up if I give them a low grade!
  • My students are okay with whatever grade they earn, as long as it’s a passing one.
  • My students don’t use work time on projects and writing effectively. They just finish as quickly as possible, or dilly-dally.
  • My students can say what their grade is, but aren’t clear on how they can improve it, or what their strengths and areas for growth are.

Well, if you are sitting at your computer foolishly raising your hand right now, I have a solution for ya: it’s called student conferences!

Student conferences will help you make progress towards our 2nd Quarter 2 Priority:

Students are invested in their Humanities-content goals because they see their success as critical to their future leadership, and are aware of their progress. This is because Teachers are invested in their end-of-year goals and what they represent for students, and thus measuring and sharing progress towards goals with students and stakeholders.

What can a student conference accomplish?

Student conferences are awesome for resolving all of these challenges. Here is why:

  • Conferences build student investment in rigor and purpose. It’s a chance for you to personally motivate and ground

    Captain Haddock can’t believe how awesome these outcomes are!

    your students in why this content matters to them as individuals.

  • Conferences help students understand where they stand. They make grades feel important, something worth reflecting on, rather than something evaluative (gets rid of: “I’m a B- in this class”, low confidence)
  • Conferences help build relationships. They celebrate and challenge students individually, genuinely, and academically.
  • Conferences establish teacher-student collaboration and mutual learning. It’s a chance to find out how your student thinks, get some feedback, and ask them how YOU can become a better teacher.
Okay, fine. What do I need to make sure I get done in a student conference?
  1. Build deeper, stronger relationships between student & teacher.
  2. Make sure your student has 1-2 strategies to solve their own problems.
  3. Make sure student has clearer vision of path to achieve goals.
What does a student conference look like?

Here is an example (check out the conference that starts at 4:30)… There is a little too much teacher-talk in this one, but it hits most of the objectives outline above!

Do you have any resources to help me structure and plan one?

Of course!

But Jacob, what about management? How can I possibly do this one-on-one?!?

Fear not! I worked with some teachers last year to come up with some potential solutions and ideas for you.

  • Host conferences outside of class-time with students who are already invested in it and would be willing to come in to do better.
  • Host conferences outside of class-time with students who struggle/act out in a more public setting. As you do this more and you build stronger relationships and increase investment, you’ll have to do this less!
  • Host conferences during independent reading time (or an equivalent)
  • Host conferences during writing.creation/practice time
  • Host conferences during small groupwork time.

Got more questions about conferencing, or some ideas and resources you want to share? Email me or comment below!

Collecting, Analyzing, and Sharing Student Data

Hey friends! It’s time for our second ever Humanities Blog Post! Woop!

One of the biggest challenges we are facing in the Humanities at the moment is the fact that we don’t know where students stand in their Picture1progress towards goals. This is a natural challenge for us since we are the teachers that often see 500+ students a week, often have time with students taken away from us in favor of tested classrooms, AND often have subjective measures (“is this performance any good”) that make collecting data funny business. But this is precisely also why it is DOUBLY important that we do so: we want our students and stakeholders to understand that this is a valuable part of their education as well, and advocate for its expansion!

To help you address all that, in the following post, you will find:

1. Why collecting and sharing data matters.

2. Where we stand in the Humanities data-wise. 

3. Your metrics, rubrics, and trackers (and videos to help you set it all up!)

4. Resources for analyzing, collecting, and sharing data. 

1. Why collecting and sharing data matters.

Before we dig in further, I want to be clear about the BASIC importance of ensuring we have, collect, and share accurate data for our students: ultimately, this is an issue of justice and equity.

If we are withholding data from students and they don’t intimately know where they stand compared to national standards , is that not an injustice? Are we not deceiving them as to their progress if we are not holistically measuring their progress against a high bar of rigor (if an “A” in our class would be an “F” in New York, for example)? Are we not taking away their ability to take action for themselves to change their progress, and instead labeling them as a “B” student at every report card?

Consider the potential: Instead, we can demonstrate that we are on a path to equity by showing that our students ARE progressing against a national bar for rigor!

Plus, I want to be clear that having data can have a BIG positive effect. In fact, based on research, I have articulated that one of our key priorities this quarter is the following:

Priority 3: Students are invested in their Humanities-content goals because they see their success as critical to their future leadership, and are aware of their progress. This is because their teachers are invested in their end-of-year goals and what they represent for students, and thus measuring and sharing progress towards goals with students and stakeholders.”

Alas, not having accurate and complete data basically could mean any/all of the following:

1. Students, parents, and administrators may not have an accurate understanding of where students actually stand.

2. You as a teacher aren’t making data-aligned analysis and taking action accordingly in your classrooms.

3. Your TLD Coach, your Specialist, and your TFA team can’t support you and coach you from an accurate understanding of the outcomes of your classroom.

Finally, according to TONS of research, giving students consistent feedback (including student conferences – wait for next week’s blog post for that one!) has awesome results. Check out just this small tid-bit below:

Black and Wiliam’s (1998a) cited 250 studies in their review of the effects of sharing assessment feedback  on learning.  They found that effective use of feedback yielded high levels of student achievement (effect sizes ranged from between 0.4 to 0.7 of a standard deviation). Nyquist (2003) found effect sizes for feedback ranging from 0.3 to 0.5 of a standard deviation.

According to Black and Wiliam (2004a), the effectiveness of  on student learning comes from the feedback provided by the teacher, not from the kind of assessment used. The teacher must have evidence of learning that can be used to provide students with  feedback.

2. Where we stand in the Humanities data-wise.

To give you a sense of where we stand, I’ll share this little report that was just shared with me – “yes” indicates classrooms in which we know where students stand (in part, because it was communicated with TLD coaches), and “no” indicates that we don’t yet have that crucial information. Unfortunately, we, as a region, are in kind of a rough spot (only 37% “yes” total), so let’s make an initiative to switch things up in the Humanities! The more information we have, the more we can collectively and collaboratively problem-solve about how to push our students forward!

As you look at the following data, consider:

How can we learn from each other and the way that we are collecting and sharing data in our classrooms? Who are the others in our team who can support us in this? What is your role in the successes we see? What can we collectively celebrate in the Humanities? Where do you know that the areas in which we need to grow are reflective of your own areas for growth?

Group YES – we know where students stand in relation to their goals. NO – incomplete or missing student achievement information.
Art 43% 57%
Music/Dance 25% 75%
Social Studies 38% 62%
World Language 29% 71%
Grand Total 33% 67%

Pic 1

Before we move on, I want to give some shout outs here to some individuals that are doing an AWESOME job with this (there are many more, but these are some highlights that come to mind):

  • Richard Pettey – For having simple, clear, and exciting bar graphs displayed in his classroom to show student mastery by period, and get students invested in some friendly competition!
  • Gabriella Sharpe – For working to create a small network between me, Camille Loomis, and her TLD Coach so we can all norm on the performance rubrics while looking at videos of her classroom!
  • Amanda Welch – For making a personal commitment this year to share data in her classroom more consistently, and in MANY different ways! She is sharing behavior AND mastery data with students!
  • Catherine Serenac – For implementing regular and consistent data reflection after each test… I got to see its effects on students’ thinking when I observed her a couple months ago!
  • Salma Akhtar – For pro-actively seeking support to help problem-solve about how to make the creation rubric work within her school context!

3. Your metrics, rubrics, and trackers (and videos to help you set it all up!)Picture2

  • Want to know WHAT you are measuring and collecting data around? Check out your metrics here.
  • Have questions about those or want to know WHY they matter? Email Jacob, or call him!
  • Where do I find these Rubrics and Trackers? In this easy folder, or on your content-specific page!
  • How do I set these trackers up? Check out this video (for World Languages and Social Studies) and/or this video (for the Visual and Performing Arts)

4. Resources for analyzing, collecting, and sharing data.

  • Some tips for analyzing data:
    • Organize your assessments! (by skill, objective, or topic!)
    • When analyzing data, do it “test-in-hand” (it will help you notice trends by question!)
    • Search for separators. (What questions were particularly tough for some students, but easy for others?)
    • Scan by student and by period. (Who surprised you?)
    • Some good questions to ask yourself:
      • How did the class do as a whole?
      • What are the strengths and weaknesses by standard?
      • How were the results different in different question types?
      • Did any results in one standard influence results in others (i.e. if students got one question wrong, they also got the next one wrong)?
  • Check out these awesome, quick videos on “Sharing Assessment Data with Students” and “Working With Students to Develop Their Next Steps” and “Developing Students’ Ownership of their Learning
  • Examples of easily track-able assessments:
  • Sharing data with students and parents:
  • A gallery of classroom applications (more to come!)!

Supporting Your Students in Reading

Hey all!

IMG_0690

An example of effective chunking of a text in Nels Akerson’s Spanish class!

Welcome to the first of many (hopefully weekly!) blog posts on the Humanities website! My hope is that these will be a venue for us to share some initial resources and ideas, and get a conversation going around some of the key topics with which we are concerned as a Humanities Team. Feel free to comment below, and add to the discussion!

Today, I wanted to bring to light some resources on a recurring concern that will be addressed, in part, during our “Analyzing Artifacts, Texts, and Images” session, but which you may miss if you aren’t signed up for it yet.

This post contains:

  • Staying Committed to Students Who Struggle
  • Guidelines to Supporting Reading
  • Resources and Strategies for Supporting Reading

So, to the point – the first of our three priorities this quarter is:

PRIORITY 1:

Students are engaged in the content because it is rigorous, compelling, and focused around essential questions that bring to light social justice issues, because Teachers are planning units and lessons that have strong visions of mastery, and that are propelled by essential questions and meaningful texts. 

As we have been engaging in PD thus far, however, a recurring question has come up: “even if I DO get those planning pieces in place, and start to bring EQs and meaningful texts into the classroom, what do I do to support my students who just can’t read at that level?”

Since this question is CRITICAL to all our classrooms – which Humanities classroom is NOT concerned with literacy? – and also to the transition to Common Core, I thought it would make for a significant first post.

Staying Committed

First of all, I want to commend you for thinking of those students. In moments like these, I am reminded of one of my favorite studies by Jeff Duncan-Andrade (check it out here), in which he finds the following:

The first question I usually ask teachers that I am working with is: ‘Why do you teach?’ Most teachers respond in one of two ways: (1) I teach because I love kids, or (2) I teach because I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. In separate interviews, these four teachers all responded to this question differently than most teachers, yet their answers were remarkably similar to each other. They said that they teach because they believe their students, specifically low-income children of color, are the group most likely to change the world. They explained this belief by saying that the children most disenfranchised from society are the ones with the least to lose, and thus are the most likely to be willing to take the risks necessary to change a society. This belief that they are teaching young people destined to change the world is vital to the level of seriousness with which they approach their jobs.

I hope that this thinking sticks with you as you act with resourcefulness and tireless energy to catch your students up to the reading and critical thinking levels at which they should be!

Some Guidelines To Keep In Mind
  • Support in any way you can: what we care more about are that students become INVESTED in reading, and that they can do the critical THINKING that comes with it, rather than insisting that they read it ALL and they do it TODAY. If we can get students confident and hooked on reading, the rest of the skills will come. The critical piece is motivation.
    1. Pair low reading level students up with a confident reader, and have them be in charge of collecting evidence from the text.
    2. Always provide guiding questions to focus student reading on the aspect(s) of the text that matters most.
    3. “Chunk” the text (see more below)
    4. Provide a glossary of terms attached to the text so that definitions can be found on-hand.
    5. Create reading routines in which students learn to “code” the text in different ways – questions they have, unknown words, etc.
    6. Remember, support and help practice! This won’t happen overnight!
  • Allow students to “read” different media: in the same spirit as the point above, allow your students to become invested in the kind of critical thinking that reading requires, and show them that they CAN do that, even if reading is a struggle. Images are awesome for this, but graphs, music, and more are great ways to help students observe, analyze, and draw conclusions.
    1. Pair partners up and ask them to “read” to different texts, an image and a reading, both accompanied by the same guiding questions.
    2. Provide supporting structures for analysis (see some of the resources below)
  • Build confidence with your questioning: make sure your questions aren’t just comprehension questions, but opinion questions too! Again, this will show students that this is not about right or wrong, but rather about the excitement of building opinions that can be supported from the text. Praise all your students for their awesome ideas, and get them invested in the THINKING they get to do in your classroom.
    1. Model analyzing a text with the whole classroom, and make sure to ask targeted questions to individual students, but also to ask the whole class “What else?” so it’s clear there are multiple possible answers.
    2. Make sure you are helping students see the purpose of reading by explaining how the text will relate to the unit’s essential questions, and finding some answers to them.
Some resources that can help:

Strategies for helping with reading

BONUS: Great Places to find Meaningful Texts:

What solutions, guidelines, and routines have YOU found to be effective in your classroom when it comes to supporting students in reading texts? Please share below!

Trackers for 2016-2017 Now Available

Please visit this page to copy your tracker into your google drive.  Don’t forget to share this information with both your coach and content specialist, Lauren.

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