Saturday, August 31, 2013

Just Released Test Items from PARCC, Grit Keeps Coming Up, and More

Many interesting Common Core news items this week to choose from, but PARCC's release of sample test items heads the list. I've included links for both ELA and Math and am looking at them very closely. There are links to some pretty awesome resource sites under my Common Core tab. 

PARCC's Release of New Sample Items

Late last week the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers ( PARCC ) released new sample items for summative (end of the year) assessments in grades 3 - 10. To make things super easy for you I have linked them here for both English Language Arts and Math. Hope you have a chance to check out what's pertinent to you. Grades 4, 8, 9, 11 ELA will be released later in the fall. Once the link takes you to the website, click on "friendly print version" or PDF to view. I would love for you to leave a comment  after looking. In studying the ELA assessments, I was struck by how much technology the kids are going to need in order to complete these types of tests. Hmmm. Check it out!

English Language Arts      


Finally, I found time to play around in the Wonderopolis website. I had read a few months back about a teacher who used this website as part of her bell work each morning. Because I am nonfiction junkie and am completely obsessed with the idea that kids need to generate their own questions I made a mental bookmark for this one. I was not at all disappointed when I viewed it the other evening. With the push for nonfiction, technology, and relevancy this site hits them all. If you haven't already, you have to see what Wonderopolis has to offer. There are so many possibilities for the classroom.

. . .And the Grit Goes On

Some might call it synchronicity when you suddenly start to see things that you never noticed before. I thought it was called something different, but this whole idea of grit has popped up on my radar everywhere this past week. Great stuff! My favorite message was from a former college student letting me know her entire school staff was focusing on grit this entire year! My video fav, which I have linked, but you may have to go to Teacher Tube and sign up before viewing, shows Leah Alcala's Teaching Channel video My Favorite No: Learning From Mistakes  In her bell work, she demonstrates to the class that wrong answers should be welcomed because of what they can teach us. Teachers, isn't this the truth with our lessons that fall flat. These failures are where I have done my very best teacher learning and have rallied with some of my most creative lessons for a reteach. Failure prompts the need to succeed! (And it can be taught!!)

Just For Funsies

 If you do PD or just need a no-snoozer way to bring kids back together you will love the NoYell Bell. Seriously, I was using it in a classroom last year and the teacher ended up buying three!! Speaking of three, enjoy your 3-day weekend. Until next Saturday...

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Failure is a Good Thing

Bringing it Back to CCSS

What does it take for 21st century students to succeed in a rigorous, Common Core aligned classroom? A 2013 Report (Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance) from the US Dept of Education expressed concern for students “who are learning to do school but are not developing the life skills to persevere in the face of challenges they will face in the real world” (p. 18). The report urges all stakeholders to give priority to “grit, tenacity, and perseverance in curriculum.”

The theory of grit suggests people, (for our purposes—students) cannot be shielded from frustration and failure because the ability to manage both unpleasant experiences and painful setbacks is a necessary life skill. The theory behind grit (yes, taken from the John Wayne movie by Ed researcher, Diane Duckworth) strongly suggests that failure is both helpful and necessary for people to develop an unwavering tenacity, a productive persistence, and the resilience to carry on despite failures. The research on grit from Duckworth segueing with the research on mindset by Carol Dweck is compelling. Research has proven character traits such as perseverance, tenacity, and grit can be taught! This is timely, offering infinite potential for students’ success and our classroom teaching of CCSS and beyond. 

How does this translate into our classrooms? First, consider your everyday conversations with students. Rather than praising a student, “Wow! You are so smart!” use more productive praise “You really paid attention and tried your hardest,” or, “Tell me about the effort you put into this assignment?” Changing our conversations with students is relatively easy and the payoff is enormous, resulting in a shift of students realizing they are the gate keepers to their own learning. They will understand luck and intelligence exists, but hard work and effort gets the job done. 

Teachers, arrange for an occasional student failure. What? This is heretical to teacher training during these last “feel good” decades. It has been suggested that teachers regularly schedule “grit” days where students are placed in a position to struggle (for a very short period of time) in order to learn tenacity, exhibit resilience, and then reflect on their experience. Beware! This will never fly if we have not developed strong student-teacher relationships based upon mutual trust and respect. It is also highly suggested that we share our rationale and goals for growing grit with parents in an effort to bring them on board. 

Be proactive and share personal stories (careful with this one) of moments in your life that were challenging and times when you had to suck up and hang tough. Bio books are perfect vehicles for sharing stories of frustration and failed attempts. Look at students’ role models for inspiration. Michael Jordan’s story is a prime example of repeated failures before his rise to stardom. Let your students know roughly 10,000 hours is the amount of time it takes someone to master a complex skill and within that extended time frame there would be untold frustrations with the learner wanting to throw in the towel and walk away.

In order to succeed with the rigorous demands of CCSS (and more importantly life) it is essential teachers build students’ backbones, supported by classroom structures and routines and healthy relationships, to foster a “don’t give up” mindset. The rigorous demands placed on our students provide endless opportunities for our students’ successes… and failures—a perfect recipe to grow some true grit. We need to recognize CCSS as the game changer. 

So I can’t leave without asking, how gritty are you? Duckworth created both a student grit scale and an adult grit scale to measure grit. No doubt the results will prove teachers and students both need to grow some grit, but I will never tell.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Common Core Curriculum and Teacher Evaluation Support System!

A Tidal Wave! Common Core curriculum, college bound and career ready, student assessments, teacher evaluations, close reading, critical thinking, new Science Standards, informational text, rich opportunities for writing, always new rules, and the list goes on. The 2013-14 new school year has officially begun. How quickly school has rolled back in, like an ocean swell, sucking us back into the teacher world…our other life. Our bipolar life!

This past week, I have already received emails, phone calls, each laden with shades of stress and minor disappointments. “I didn’t get done what I planned,” is the teachers’ end-of-summer mantra. Amidst this weighted undertow of panic, stress, and minor disappointments there is a bright light. It is indeed what keeps us coming back. Thoughts of new faces, new promises, new challenges, and of course a new beginning shines both over us and through us. Each school year gifts teachers with the ultimate in New Year’s celebrations. Better than champagne, confetti, and noise makers there is a pristine, perfectly pure fresh start…the chance to finally be the teacher to whom you aspire. There is nothing better than the first day of each school year because every moment is punctuated with promise. The challenge is to maintain this promise each and every day of the school year.

Meanwhile the floors shiny (and never again this clean), still smelling of wax, let us all take one very deep breath, sigh a relief for a moment or two knowing that we are as ready as we are ever going to be, and indulge ourselves in a Debbie Miller moment. (Sit back and revel—because you deserve it.) Pencils are sharpened, book baskets thoughtfully filled, the world’s cutest writing journals await eager and hungry minds, and our lesson plan is completed, proudly sitting next to the carefully selected books for Monday morning.

As for me, I am newly retired. This is my first blog ever. I really mean EVER. I won’t apologize for what I have or have not included today. I will publicly say, my first formal FYI, perhaps starting a TPT store and blog simultaneously was not the most strategic decision. Oh well. My plan to scour every Common Core website and offer you the most important, hot off the press news for K-12 will have to wait. Next time!

Today my offerings to you are some very simple but powerful words of wisdom on writing. Have the students do more writing this year. Although, the hefty burden of grading writing assignments weigh us down, our students often are not receiving timely feedback. Think shorter and more concise assignments. Have students practice only one skill or trait at a time. Regularly and often, have students write mini-shorts where they can explain just one point or argument in two tightly written paragraphs. Happy New Year. I am hoping it is your best year ever.