Tip of the Week
Most of the time I am asked to help in a school, my role is about how to support teachers, who are supporting students with learning obstacles. I have been working with many teachers this winter, discussing ways to
Here are some of the students I'm talking about:
- Very young students who have not yet mastered reading
- Elementary students whose limited vocabulary interferes with understanding
- Learners of all ages whose reading or language difficulties make learning a challenge
- Students with disabilities or differing learning preferences who need more visual or concrete scaffolding than typically provided
- English Language Learners who are trying to navigate both the language demands and content demands of their classwork
- "New Arrivals" who are only just beginning to learn English as a second language
- Adult learners who have had many years of learning struggles
In the video, below, Matthew Peterson from the MIND Research Institute
shares how the Institute's new ST Math Software helps students develop high-level mathematical thinking without using words, at all.
I wanted to share this fun math rap that I saw a teacher use in Grade 6 last week. Students groaned at watching the video (again), but then they bobbed and rapped along with it, and did a bang up job on their classwork afterward. Go figure.
Here is Mr. C, singing the PEMDAS Rap:
[My thanks to Eric Weingarten, Grade 6 teacher at Franklin Mayberry School in East Hartford, for introducing me to the great math videos by "Mr. C!"]
I do a lot of work with schools that have high populations of Second-Language Language Learners, including "newcomers," students who are new arrivals to the United States.
In these classrooms, both elementary and secondary, teachers make great use of hands on activities and visuals, to separate the cognitive demands from the language demands of their instruction.
Here's a visual review of some techniques they've used recently:
1. Labeling: Classroom objects are labeled with their English names. In some classrooms, these signs are labeled in English, Spanish, French, Twi, and whatever other first languages are present in this high school classroom.
2. Visual Dictionary:
A "menu" book is created for school lunch items in an elementary school, with their names in English and in Spanish. Many times, there is not only a language barrier, but a cultural barrier, because the foods are not ones eaten in their culture.
3. Graphic Organizers: Graphic organizers help students see the relationship between pieces of information, even when the words on the page are not understood, making the input more comprehensible. Shown is a sheltered instruction general math class.
4. Visual Technology:
The SmartBoard is not only visually
accessible, but interactive, and students can manipulate maps, words,
numbers and other figures right on the board. Other helpful
technological visual aids include iPads, iPods, student responders, and
5. Student-created Visuals:
Timelines, maps, diagrams and other visual aids have added meaning when students work together to create them. Here, the visual of the timeline and the student-drawn images help make the timeline come to life in high school social studies.
6. Directions in Words and Pictures:
Using pictures to reinforce written words helps to clarify directions.
Directions for routine procedures are posted on large charts, where students can access them independently. Vocabulary in the directions is clear, and high-frequency, Tier 1 vocabulary words ("write", "draw") are used repeatedly.
Here, a high school science teacher in a sheltered English class posts the directions for a vocabulary game that students use to reinforce and practice general science vocabulary.
7. Target Language Goals and Words:
In this high school English classroom, language goals, and their corresponding vocabulary, are posted for a reminder to the teacher, and students, of the skills to be practiced in speaking and listening.
8. Word Walls: In this high school math class, the focus is on Tier 2 vocabulary words that will be used across content areas, and in all math subjects ("position", "round", "fraction"). In addition, high-concept, Tier 1 words are included ("move", "each").
Common phrases or questions are included.
Having the vocabulary in a pocket chart allows students and teachers to manipulate them for activities, or take them to their desks for reference, and allows the teacher the flexibility of rotating through vocabulary words as students master them.
My thanks to the students and teachers at East Hartford High School and Franklin H. Mayberry Elementary School, in East Hartford, for sharing their work on this blog.
We know that there are ways to review quiz results that are less than effective ("Okay, folks, number 4 is x+2... number 5 is 14... number 6 is..."). But we also know that we can't spend a whole class period working through each problem.
Here is a way that one department uses their SmartBoards to create an engaging, effective way for students to review quizzes and assessments.
SmartBoard Item Analysis
Students, especially as they get older, don't like to ask for help or share when they get an answer wrong. But most of us (adults included) don't mind at all when someone asks us which problem we got right.
Several science teachers at East Hartford Middle School
, in East Hartford, Connecticut, have students come up to the SmartBoard and plot a "smiley" (or a star, in another class) next to the number of each problem that they completed correctly.
In this example, the total number of students was 23. Most items had 21 correct responses (91%); the lowest correct response rate was the last item, where 19 students scored correct (83%).
After students plot their responses, the class can talk about items that were particularly problematic, or which stood out from the others. Because of the anonymity of the task, a teacher can ask, "Why might so many students have given an incorrect response to number three?" and students can begin to analyze the problems that occurred in that item, without talking specifically about their own work:
- "It said to 'justify your answer,' and I wasn't sure what 'justify' meant..."
- "Maybe they weren't sure which were the dependent and independent variables, because it wasn't given..."
- "If they didn't draw their line graph well, they couldn't really find out the intercept..."
- "Maybe they didn't understand what the question was asking..."
At Seymour High School
, a physics teacher has students use their cell phones as "responders," taking a common formative assessment that collects the answers in a shared spreadsheet on Google Docs
. The teacher can tell what time a student takes his quiz, and from where. He closes the "window" at a certain time -- anyone who hasn't logged in by that time is locked out of the quiz. Then he creates a graph of the responses for each item, that he posts on his SmartBoard, for the students to review. He can highlight the correct answer, and focus on incorrect responses that seemed to trip up a chunk of students.
Of course, if you are fortunate, you can purchase student responders to use with your SmartBoard, like the Connecticut Technical High School System
has. Practice tests and quiz review were never so much fun as when you can see the responses real-time, like a game show.
For more articles on technology and feedback in the classroom, see below:
In other news...
Here are the other interesting tidbits that have passed over my desk this week:
Last week I posted some information on data teams, including some links to other schools' websites, with forms, schedules and videos. The Connecticut State Department of Education has posted videos that Connecticut educators can access using your educator identification number (on your State Teaching Certificate). See the CALI (Connecticut Accountability for Learning Initiative) page
, sign in using your email and password, then click the "Media" tab.
If you loved Classroom Instruction that Works
and The Art and Science of Teaching,
then you will really love Visible Learning for Teachers
, by John Hattie. A group of teachers and consultants pored through this book as part of a Data Teams training recently, and we were astonished about the true impact (or lack of...) of some of our tried and true strategies. I won't spoil the surprise. Definitely one for the adminstrator bookshelf.
We Give Books
is a website where students can read children's books online, for free. Books read by online readers are matched with donations of books to one of several charitable causes aimed at putting books in the hands of children around the world. Bookmark the website for your computer center.
Mid-year finds teachers everywhere administering all kinds of assessments of student learning progress. Many of you ask what teachers use as ongoing monitoring measurements, when it is not time for a benchmark assessment but you want to know more about how a student is progressing. Here is a short list of published assessments that my current schools are using -- the list is, of course, subject to change. This is not meant to be exhaustive, but an indication of programs that multiple institutions have selected.
Formative Assessment Tools
All of the following are quick to administer (under 15 minutes), quick to score (all but the first are scored automatically by computer), and quick to analyze (the web-based items provide multiple reporting options, and most suggest follow-up activities, or include mini-lessons to address targeted skills as identified on the assessment).
- Uncovering Student Ideas Series (science, math formative assessments), grades K-12 (Page Keeley). Collections of formative assessments - book and electronic forms available for purchase, with many free, downloadable samples for preview and use. Assessments can be used at all grade levels. Can be administered as one-page paper and pencil assessments, as demonstrations with follow-up written assessment, or as performance tasks.
- Easy CBM - Web-based, curriculum-based formative assessments for reading and math, grades K-8. Free individual subscription, site purchases with online monitoring tools available for schools.
- Fraction Nation (Scholastic) - Web-based instruction on fractions in 15 minute mini-lessons, for grades 4-8. Adaptive online assessments - individual and group reporting options. Site licenses available for purchase.
- Fastt Math (Scholastic) - Web-based instruction on basic math facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division), in 10 minute mini-lessons, for grades 2 and up. Spanish language instruction available as an option. Adaptive online assessments - individual and group reporting options. Site licenses available for purchase.
- Scholastic Reading Inventory (Scholastic) - Web-based reading assessments for K-12. Useful for universal screen, progress monitoring, placement and benchmark reading levels. Multiple reporting options. Site licenses available for purchase.
- Scholastic Reading Counts (Scholastic) - Web-based reading assessments for K-12. Students select comprehension quizzes for the books they have read independently. Multiple reporting options. Site licenses available for purchase.
- Scholastic Phonics Inventory (Scholastic) - Web-based decoding and sight word assessments for grades 2-12. 10-minute assessments useful for universal screen, progress monitoring, placement and benchmark reading levels. Multiple reporting options. Site licenses available for purchase.
- Accelerated Reader (Renaissance Learning) - Web-based reading assessments for grades K-12. Students select comprehension quizzes for the books they have read independently. Multiple reporting options. Site licenses available for purchase.
- Star Math (Renaissance Learning) - Web-based math assessments for grades K-12. Multiple reporting options. Site licenses available for purchase.
Intervention Programs That Monitor Progress
In addition, the following intervention programs include their own monitoring and reporting tools.
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