Aaaarrgghh! Spider!: A CCSS Anchor Standard 3 Ladder Activity (Part 1)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

     October is here, and that means that I am reaching for one of my favorite books, Aaaarrgghh! Spider! by Lydia Monks.  It is the season for all things creepy and crawly, and a fun book about spiders fits that description nicely.

     Our staff has been working hard at looking at student work to start driving our instruction.  For the past few weeks, we have been using our building meetings to do gallery walks of student work across grade levels, led by our core leaders +Jane DeCaire  and +Christina Betz.  We have simply been looking at work samples (K-5) and noticing commonalities and differences through conversation with each other. Next week, we are going to be looking at reading work, but we wanted to start examining the work at our own grade level more closely to help us make some decisions about where our instruction needs to go.  Time for some formative assessment analysis!

Step 1: Pick a Text

     Formative assessment is really anything that you do with students that you can analyze and use to move your students to the next step in their development.  In order to do a whole staff PD about a possible way to analyze a formative assessment, I decided to create assessments that would walk up the Common Core ladder of expectations for Standard 3.  But what character to study?!?!?


     I love Aaaarrgghh! Spider!  But is my love enough to read it to all 6 grade levels in my building?  Here's why it is:
Kindergarten: Next week, they are reading the Itsy, Bitsy Spider in their nursery rhyme unit.  They 
     also have the word spider up on their October word wall.
First Grade: I had talked to one of our first grade teachers about using this book to help with her 
     Small Moment shared experience story about a bug they found in their classroom.  It can be used 
     to see how some small moments are put together to make a story.
Second Grade:  Our second grade is currently working on adding onomatopoeia and dialogue to 
     their small moment stories.  "Aaaarrgghh!" and "Off you go!" fit perfectly into those lessons.
Third Grade:  Our third grade is currently reading Charlotte's Web.  What better spider to compare 
     than Charlotte?  They even call Spider clever for making her webs, just like Charlotte!!!
Fourth Grade:  They are currently reading Tales of Despereaux, which is about a mouse who doesn't 
     have a family that supports him.  Guess who also doesn't have a family?  Spider!  
Fifth Grade:  They also just wrote a shared experience small moment story about Haunted 
     Hiawatha. Their writing samples were filled with onomatopoeia, and filled with fear (even if the  
     fear in Aaaarrgghh! Spider! is on a much friendlier level...)

Step 2: Create the Assessments

     Once I had a book in mind, I opened the Common Core rubrics I made for Standard 3 across grade levels and really thought about what would be expected of our students to do with the book based on the CCSS.  I then opened a blank Pages document and got to work.  The assessments I made focus on key components of the grade level standards, but are certainly not complete and can be measured in other ways as well.  But, for the purpose of my assessments, they reflect the work of the CCSS standards across each grade.

     Here are the assessments.

Step 3: Go into the Classrooms!

     I then went into one classroom as each grade level in my building.  Thanks, +Kara Wesolowski+Jodi Meyer+Margaret Daly+Christine Flowers+Lori Horne, and +Katie Cardelli for letting me come in to read to your class!  

     I started by walking them through the character assessment, using a character that they have been following in their read alouds.  Using No, David, Arthur, Charlotte, Desperaux, and Rob from Tiger Rising, we had a brief conversation touching on the kinds of character analysis that their standards expects by the end of the year.  I used a familiar character to set up the expectation, and then told them that they were going to do the same work using a new character.  Enter Spider!

    Once the kids were working independently on the assessment, I did leave them alone to work and their teacher and I took some time to talk about the questions I used on the assessment, and to start to look at the early responses as they came in.  This gave me some time to talk through my rationale for the assessment so that the teacher could lead the sorting for their grade level at our building meeting. I also didn't want to offer the kids too much support, because we are going to sort it into categories to help us guide our instruction.  If I provided a lot of support, it might skew the sorting and cause a child not to get the feedback or support they need.

     Here is a video of me reading the book.
(I made the video so that the staff who didn't hear me read it would be able to listen to the book before our meeting.  My kids helped me out, and the mic went in and out, so it is not Grade A quality, but it is helping me flip our meeting a bit.)

Step 4: Sorting the Work

     The whole point of doing this was to collect samples that the teams could sort.  That will be covered in Part 2, sometime after our building meeting next week!

     Stay tuned for completed work samples and thoughts about sorting student work into categories in grade level teams.  Until then, here are some pictures of our cute Hiawatha kindergartners showing us the emotions felt by Spider at three points in the book.  


Feedback is...

Friday, October 24, 2014

     We keep hearing that word... Feedback.  But what is feedback?  Is it a "Great job!" or a high five after a job well done?  While we all want positive compliments and praise, feedback is a little more that that.  I have been collecting ideas from Twitter posts and blog entries that I have read, and decided to compile them into a quick list to help me better define what good feedback can be, both to students and staff members.

Feedback is...

  • timely, relevant, and action oriented (John Hattie)
  • personal and fast!
  • not about the person (as a person)
  • given during lessons, or very soon after
  • practical
  • a resource that allows students to take active steps to advance their own learning (Margaret Heritage)
  • non-evaluative
  • related to learning goals
  • an opportunity to revise work and deepen understanding
  • a teaching opportunity
  • collaboration, not correction
  • a formative assessment
  • not advice
  • information that includes what works and why
  • not praise
  • not about right or wrong
  • feedback towards the summative assessment (Wiggins)
  • based on student strengths
What am I missing?  Leave me a comment and let me know!
RISE Model by Emily Wray

Anchor Chart Walks

Sunday, October 19, 2014

     Every other Friday, I like to take a walk around my building and snap pictures of all the new anchor charts up in the classrooms.  I start in kindergarten, and make my way to 5th grade.  I take pictures of reading and writing charts, as well as math charts.  I then upload them all to Google and put them in a gallery that I share with my staff.  I have 2 goals in doing this every other week.

1.  The teachers in my building get to show off their charts, and give ideas to us all.  It is like going to Pinterest, but all the charts are Hiawatha's own.

2.  My primary reason is to give the classroom teachers a glimpse into the instruction of the other classrooms in our building.  It takes a village to educate a child, but we don't often get to see what everyone else is working on.  This gives them a glimpse into the learning going on down the hall.

This week, I wanted to give some shout outs to some things I was extremely excited about.

Character Traits with Mentor Texts!

     I was really excited to see that many of the anchor charts that involved character traits/ feelings included real characters!  Last year, we made a lot of charts with lots and lots of traits listed.  The kids, however, didn't really know what they meant.  Their limited vocabulary left them confused at what some of those traits really meant.  This year, by introducing the traits through characters, the traits they used will be a lot easier to transfer because they have a reference to compare it to!  Some of the charts were from novels the class was reading, and some were just from a read aloud from the week, but all are specific to real characters in real books!  

Experience Charts!

     Many of our students lack the life experiences they would need to really use a wide vocabulary when writing.  Our first grade classrooms solved that with doing their pumpkin writing after taking a trip the the pumpkin farm.  Not only did they go on the trip and take pictures of their adventures, but they also carved a real pumpkin to generate adjectives to use when writing.  The first graders generated those words all on their own, with a little help from a real pumpkin and some great teachers!  I can't wait to read their writing samples!

Learning Targets!

     OK, this one might be cheating.  But, boy was I excited when I saw this.  It isn't really an anchor chart, but I will throw it in anyway.  This first year teacher (yep, first year!) writes her Learning Targets each day and the class reads them at Morning Meeting.  Not only does this help those little first graders prepare for the day, but I am sure it helps Ms. LaFleur remember exactly why she is teaching what she is teaching every day.  That little bit of thought about targets can really make learning purposeful.  

Craft and Structure Examples!

     Our students have traditionally struggled with the craft and structure Common Core Standards (4-6) when given the F&P test, as well as in reading and writing workshop.  This anchor chart in Ms. Cardelli's 5th grade not only gives students some real examples of how to show, not tell when writing, but it also gives them a little checklist for students to look at when they are drafting.  Perhaps the examples will also help them pull out language from the books they read independently as additional examples, too!  

Check out the rest of of fabulous charts here!

I am a Fictional Character

Friday, October 10, 2014

Wow.  I just posted a selfie on my blog.  I must feel really passionate about character...

     I just got home from IRC this weekend, and I just couldn't wait to wear my new shirt from Anderson's.  Yep, I am a "fictional character," and proud of it!

     Last year, after a few of our grades finished teaching the character Unit of Study, I realized that we hadn't really thought about why we teach a whole unit on character.  I think in the classrooms of the past, we used to quickly "list" the characters as one part of completing a story map.  Perhaps we had a conversation about what they did, or predicted what they might do in the story.  In the classrooms of today, we spend at least a month on characters, because Lucy Calkins tells us to.  Plus, it is Standard 3.  Right?

     It was in the middle of the unit, though, that I really began to think about the purpose for teaching our students to walk both in the character's shoes, as well as outside of them.  I began to realize that our students do that all the time on the playground, and in the lunchroom, and in the halls.  They are constantly aware of others and how they feel and what their motivations are.  As a recess supervisor, I can tell you that they know exactly why little Bobby pushed them, or why little Suzie is crying.  (Or, at least they think they do...)  They notice when their best friend goes from their best friend to their worst enemy.  They see the changes in their behavior.  So, why it is that they don't notice these things in books?  Is it because these concepts are too hard?  Should we not expect them to notice traits, and patterns of behavior, in book characters?  Is this just another example of the Common Core expecting too much?

     If our kids can apply the standard to real people on the playground and in their life, then they can do it with books.  They just need to care about the characters in their books a little bit more.  And they need us to model it.

     Real people are characters, just like their fictional counterparts.  They just matter more to us because they are real and in our world.  Perhaps if we can get our students to see book characters as "people," we can teach them to become better people themselves.  If we can get children to see book characters, and think about their traits and their behaviors, and even consider their motivations for doing what they do, then perhaps they will learn a little about the world around us and it will change them for the better.

Wilbur taught me that friendship means everything.

Rocky Balboa taught me that being determined to succeed will help me succeed.

Harry Potter taught me that even when horrible things happen, my actions can do good and help others.  

Gerald teaches me that even when we are frustrated and nervous, friends will get me through it despite my own attitude.

David taught me that being impulsive and silly can cause some problems, but that people will forgive me if I apologize.

     The truth is, these book characters taught me lessons that I can use in my own life.  The book might have been about them, but the character traits, big ideas and themes could have been written for me.  We are just like those characters in the books we read.  Perhaps, if we learn lessons from them, it can help us from making mistakes in our own world.

     I think I learned those lessons from the characters above not only because of their actions, but also from how other characters responded to them.  Our children struggle with that.  They tend to see things only from their own perspective.  Perhaps "walking in their shoes" a little more will help them see things in a different way.  Right now, they can only be the character if the character becomes them.  With practice and modeling, perhaps they will really be able to see what it would be like to live the life of another person (at least long enough to have some empathy and understanding).

     I am Leah O'Donnell, and I am a fictional character.  I have traits that change over the course of my life, both internal traits and just plain emotions.  Those traits do determine how I respond to things, and sometimes I act out of character and really struggle.  I am motivated by many things, and sometimes it is hard for me to see that.  I am living proof that Standard 3 matters.

(...and I am not talking about the "do go on the PARCC, multiple choice" Standard 3 that matters)