Tag Archives: All Humanities

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!

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!

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!

Some content on this page was disabled on November 7, 2016 as a result of a DMCA takedown notice from The DBQ Project. You can learn more about the DMCA here:

https://en.support.wordpress.com/copyright-and-the-dmca/

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!

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%

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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!

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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!

Our Mississippi Humanities Community

Welcome!

If you have found this page, it means you are a part of TFA Mississippi’s Humanities Community!

As we continue to collectively contribute to this website, you will find all the information and resources you need – from articles to inform your vision to sample lesson plans – to ensure that you and your fellow Humanities teachers are dropping some knowledge in the classroom.

You can start by diving into your content pages listed in the menus above! Our main features right now will help you prepare  and plan your First 9 Weeks back in the classroom.

Here is a quote that should stick with us all as we consider the importance of what we do as Humanities teachers:

Children … come into the world … mindless. I know that must sound a bit strange to you. They do not come in without brains. Brains are biological; minds are cultural. Minds are a form of cultural achievement. And the kinds of minds children come to own is in the large measure influenced by the kinds of opportunities they have in their lives. And the kind of opportunities … is largely influenced by the kinds of programs and options that are made available to them in the course of their childhood. 

– Elliot Eisner, Professor of Art and Education at Stanford University

Also, since many of us communicate in different ways, here is where you can find updates on and reach out to our Humanities Community:

Our Facebook Group

Twitter

And, as always, feel free to reach out to your Director of Humanities, Jacob Carroll, by email or phone!

Much love,

Jacob