Tuesday, October 8, 2013

I'll Show You Mine

Adopted as part of our new teacher evaluation system, the "common board" or common board configuration (CBC)  tells students what their learning goal is and the activities the teacher has planned to help them meet it. Each CBC includes the following headings: standards, learning goal, we are learning this by, bell work, and formative assessment or summary. There is a large gap in the design between bell work, that initial into class and get working activity and the formative assessment or summary of the day's learning. I fill that gap with a "do" section that lists our learning activities in order--perhaps we were originally trained to do just that, I've since forgotten if we were. We used to have to note vocabulary in the "we are learning this by..." section, but that was dropped from the CBC as was the essential question that originally made an appearance near the learning goal and standards.

I believe in posting the goals of a class, a unit, a workshop, a training session, a meeting. You name it. If you are leading people, they need to know where you're going and how they can expect to get there.  Participants, be they children, teenagers or adults, benefit from the seeing what is planned. It helps learners anticipate and reflect. As a learner, I value knowing the end goal and get frustrated when instruction does not point me in the advertised direction.

I am still working out the best way to communicate the end goal to students. I like the "I can" statements of Stiggins, Bill Ferriter described several years ago; we are limited though in our language choices.  Our teachers must write "students will be able to" or "students will understand" goal statements--which proved challenging on the day of a school-wide or grade-level assessment.

Here's my CBC on the day of our one-grade, one- book assessment:

I finagled the "accepted" wording so that it fit my instructional purpose.

Like many English teachers, I recognize that we integrate the language arts: reading, writing, speaking, listening and language. In my classroom we are rarely just reading or writing or speaking or listening or using language. We may be speaking by sharing snippets from books we are reading for pleasure. We may be listening to a peer read from his or her own writing. We may read a written draft for specific language concepts in order to revise or edit our work. These processes work together in an English class. I find writing a "students will be able to" statement is not as clean as I imagine it could be. Here is Tuesday's CBC which shows a bit more of that integration. 

Such togetherness, such routine and authentic integration makes writing a clear daily learning goal tricky. I wonder what James Moffett would make of lean learning goals?

 I tend to stack goals which may or may not benefit students. Am I trying to communicate too much at once? Do students understand how we may be practicing speaking goals while sharing our writing which is about theme, one of our literature goals? Can they make connections between learning to read closely for main idea, learning to ask and respond to questions to propel conversations and learning to write informative or expository analysis? Can students see the big picture? Can they articulate it? Because knowing what you are learning to do is different from just doing it. Articulating the processes and concepts of the goal requires meta-cognitive thinking. Just as students need the work to get them to the standards' goals, they also need the reflective practice in talking and writing about their own learning.

Lately, I've been typing up my learning goals and scales, shrinking them on the copier and giving them to students to paste into their academic journals. This caused a bit of an issue during a recent informal evaluation. The scale, or a scale, wasn't immediately visible. I appreciate that the administrator came back to my classroom in between classes to ask me about it. A short conversation over the current scale we're using cleared up the issues.

Here is an example* we're using to guide our thinking and writing about themes in literary works:

The shrunken goals and scales which are pasted into students' journals may become an anchor for a process, an activity over time (such as weekly Socratic Circle discussions) or a unit of instruction. I'm not seeing students refer to them without prompting yet. Though they have adopted the bird metaphor to describe their progress. Though I have heard students marvel over the notebooks they are creating. The goals and scales are not their guide, I am.

Students are on the trail with me and we're hiking up the mountain but I'm leading the group and it's up to me to point out sights, pack provisions and make sure none are lost along the way.

If your district or school is knee-deep in learning goals and scales I'd love to hear lessons you're learning or questions you're wrangling as you implement them in comments.

*The scoring notes have to do with the tenth grade teachers' common assessment of theme and central ideas. We gave students the same fiction and nonfiction passages. We met to discuss how to score them and what each rubric point likely meant in terms of a students' written performance. I'll save that for another post as I'm still thinking about what I learned from the experience.

1 comment:

  1. All this work is exhausting! Keep thinking, questioning, and pushing through! In the end, these must make sense to the kids otherwise they are only there for the adults. There are other questions linger in my head not fit to post here, but in perhaps a slice will do