Aaaarrgghh! Spider!: A CCSS Anchor Standard 3 Ladder Activity (Part 2)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

     This is part 2 of a blog post, written to describe a series of building meeting my staff and I had in the attempt at unpacking what Standard 3 looks like in our classrooms.  The original post can be found here.

     I started the building meeting reading the story, Aaaarrgghh, Spider! to the teachers.  It is short, and they really couldn't analyze the quality of the students' work if they weren't all familiar with the text.  

     After they read the story, I went through a brief PD on open and closed sorts.   I then asked the teachers to do an open sort of the work done by students in their grade levels.  They could sort the work into any categories that they wanted.  The work began!

     After about 7-8 minutes, we came back together as a group and talked about the process.  I had walked around and listened to the groups as they sorted, and every single grade level chose different categories to sort the work into.  Some did it based on completion of work, others based on if they used text evidence or not, some on overall quality, etc.  Not one team mentioned the work common core standard.  Many of the teams disagreed on what they wanted to sort them as, and therefore didn't have categories in place at the end of the time period.

     I then passed out a rubric that I had made last year about Standard 3 and character development across the grades.  For the second sort, I asked them to use a closed sort, with the four categories below, approaching, meeting, and exceeding the grade level standard of CCSS #3.  They were to use the rubric and the work samples to categorize them.  They got to work, again!

     This time, they all had categories in place and got to sorting the work.  Some chose to sort the sample to reflect the entire page of work, and others chose a single question to focus on while sorting.   I don't think any grade level finished sorting all the samples, and I think it is fair to say that there was still some disagreement about what samples fell into below, approaching, meeting and exceeding.

     So, why do all this?  We spent 30 minutes sorting one written response to a read aloud.  It wasn't even really the best activity to sort in the first place.  Why on earth would we do that?  Well, I think the conversations showed that we do not all have the same "bar" in our minds when we talk about what is expected of the students in our classes.  To be be fair, that "bar" has changed significantly in the past few years.  It is hard for any of us to know for sure what a 2nd grader or a 4th grader should be able to do anymore.  That is why we need to talk about it.  We need to collaborate with each other, and learn these new standards together.  That is the only way that we can ensure that all the students in our building are getting the same education, no matter the room they are placed into.

     I feel like teacher time is extremely precious and limited.  I want to maximize the time we spend together so that it makes the most impact it can on student learning.  The reason I had them do the open sort first, and then the closed sort with the Common Core standard focus, is because I wanted them to see how much more we can accomplish with a clear lens in our mind.  When we collaborate with others, we all bring our own ideas to that conversation.  If we don't focus the conversation in the first place, we might spend a lot of time talking and not a lot of time getting anything done.  The standards can give us a focus that can preserve our precious time.

     Are you curious what we found to be "meeting" in the grades?  Here are some samples.
1st Grade

2nd Grade

3rd Grade
4th Grade
5th Grade
     This is clearly just a beginning for our building to start to use the students' work to drive our instruction.  We have a clear shorthand in place, though, for common understanding at looking at our student work samples in a range of abilities.  In fact, in the weeks following our building meeting, our ELA plan times began to fill will conversations about the quality of student work along this continuum.  We are beginning to see where they are, and allowing that to help us move to the next step.

Yeah, Hiawatha!!!

1: Below
2: Approaching the standard
3: Meeting the standard
4: Exceeding

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