Why Sort Student Work Samples?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

If you want to go fast, go alone.  

If you want to go far, go together.

-African Proverb

     This year, our focus for building meetings has shifted.  Instead of learning new strategies for lots of random things that are necessary in school, we instead shifted to one strategy that could be used across all subjects.  That strategy is looking at student work.

     More specifically, we are using a loose structure of the Collaborative Analysis of Student Work.  Each week in building meetings, and in some team meetings and the occasional 1 on 1 plan with the literacy coach (me), teachers at Hiawatha are beginning to look at student work with the standards in mind.  We sort the work samples into 1, 2, 3, and 4, with a few simple purposes:

1.  We want to come to common terms about our expectations for student work.
2.  We want to see what our students are getting from our instruction.
3.  We want to be able to plan universal instruction that fits our students' needs.

     The strategy of sorting work is meant to be collaborative.  In having discussions together, we are realizing that we do not all share the same thoughts about work, or process, or expectations.  We also don't have the same lenses to analyze.  By having conversations like this, we start to learn and collaborate from each other about our students and how to best help them.  We put value into our colleagues' thoughts, and in our students' work.

Sorting work is meant to be a strategy done with someone else, either in pairs or as a team.  The strategy could be independently used by teachers, too, but we certainly do not expect you to sort every piece of student work that the children create.  Your purpose for sorting needs to be clear, and beneficial to you, before you choose to sort work on your own.

Back to the building meeting...
     This week, we just said to bring work that had a written response to reading.  It could be a whole group assignment, or work from a small group.

4th Grade worked together to sort main idea pre assessments, done in a Boxes and Bullets format.


First grade met to sort a formative assessment on character.  They call them Brain Blasts.


2nd Grade met to talk about an assessment they gave studying a character (Peter by Ezra Jack Keats) across multiple read alouds.

5th Grade discussed responses in a Reader's Response Notebook, comparing it to the CCSS rubric.


Kindergarten brought a "Book Report" written response.


Third grade brought their Reader's Notebooks, too.  Their responses were about supporting character traits with text evidence.


     As I walked from group to group, I heard a variety of conversations.  Some focussed more on standards, some talked about the qualities that made responses a "2" or a "3", some discussed where their next teaching points need to go, others just talked about if their current teaching point was understood by the class.  In actuality, this is a process that we are just starting.  We don't all have the same vision of what a grade level sample looks like with the Common Core in mind.  It's this type of conversation that needs to happen for us to get to commonality and equity in Standards Based Learning and/or Grading.

To repeat my beginning thought...

If you want to go fast, go alone.  

If you want to go far, go together.

-African Proverb

     I am thrilled that we are at the point where grade level teams can bring samples that they created in their own rooms to talk about next steps and reflect on where their kids are in the learning process. This is a slow process, but I think that if we give ourselves permission to talk to our coworkers about the work the students are actually producing, we will all be more effective teachers because of it.

     Thank you, Hiawatha.

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