Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Slice of Life - Meaningful, authentic, assessment.

3:15pm today -
This is meaningful, authentic, and an assessment.  

Prelude - My kindergarten students have been studying and learning about traditions.  Our learning targets can be summarized with these two statements;  I can share my family customs, traditions, and celebrations.  I can talk about family celebrations and why they are important.  I began our work with ideas from my friend Katie and her post titled traditions.  I collaborated with my art teacher and together we helped the children create a tradition symbol using embossing on heavy gauge foil, an idea Katie shared in her post.  

This afternoon as my students and I were retracing our symbol designs on to heavy gauge foil, coloring the raised image using colored sharpies there was a spirit in the air.  A spirit filled with happiness.  Happiness for creating and making something for our families.  I've never guided students with embossing on heavy gauge foil and I don't always make projects for families.  I let time, cute vs necessary debate in my mind, and relevance lead the way to making nothing for our families.   However, when my own daughters have brought things home over the years for me, my husband, or us together I always vow to help my students make something for their families for various reasons during the year.  There is a sense of pride all children need to feel when they can make something and give to others.  Katie's post had my interest peaked because it was relevant to our lives and related to our learning.  After the students had a parent volunteer use a glue gun to mount their tradition embossing to chipboard, they came to me for labeling and packing up.  As I listened to student after student share a family tradition orally and through visual representation, I realized this is an assessment.  They are sharing and talking about family traditions.  I loved it was authentic, child created art. It wasn't a worksheet, there was no fill in the blank or multiple choice questions, and there were no i can statements at the top of the page.  

Epilogue - I am happiest when we are creating and students are sharing their own ideas.  I began to wonder how could I document it.  It's not something to assign a number or a rubric to.  It's not something to it put on a ten point scale in a grade book.  I could check it off on a checklist but that doesn't make learning visible or show my student's thinking.  I get to do this again on Thursday.  I think the answer to document our product as an assessment is to take a picture of each final project and store them in an Evernote social studies note for each student.  If you have any ideas, let me know.  I will try to share photos later in the week here.

Thanks Tara at Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life this week.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Slice of Life - My stomach doesn't hurt

I'm about a third of the way through Jennifer Serravallo's book, Teaching Reading in Small Groups and pondering reading a lot.  Winter break is approaching quickly and I want to revamp some things in my room. Over the weekend I decided I need to redo all of their reading assessments. I made a plan; four days with each class, 6 reading assessments a day, equals information to celebrate and reflect on.  I started yesterday with class one and got 4 done, just a little set back.  Today I spread them out a bit more and met my goal of 6 with class two.

We have lots to celebrate!  I'm seeing the work we have done as a class during mini lessons of reading workshop in each child.  My insides are bubbling with joy as I sit next to each child and watch them be independent readers.  It is satisfying and rewarding to watch the "I do" of gradual release.  

My tenth reading assessment today was with a little boy declared over and over when school started he couldn't read.  He takes ownership for his actions, he often thinks about himself, he speaks what is on his mind often without any filters, he gets tired, he tries hard, his loves facts, he loves bugs and today he was a reader.  When I was assessing his reading engagement to start our work together I asked him who reads with him at home.  He said no one, he doesn't read but he does do sight words.  His favorite book is No, David.  A perfect book for him in so many ways.  After reading four reading levels, I named several reading strategies I observed.  He just beamed.  I asked him if I could give him a hug to celebrate and I wasn't sure which way that would go.  He was about to walk away and turned around and gave me the biggest bear hug with gentleness.  A sign, we are learning and my students are growing.

My district gives kindergarten teachers til the end of the second quarter to do our initial reading assessment. This makes sense with our attendance schedule.  As of today, my students have been to school for 38 days. For the past two years I've held off a bit to truly get accurate information about my student's as readers.  This year I did it earlier, at the end of the first month of school.  I knew the data I would get but I was feeling pressure.  I was feeling pressure to show more student growth.  I was feeling pressure because my teammates are both pregnant and on maternity leave half of the year and wanted to start guided reading earlier.  I got the data I expected at the end of the first month.  Four students could read a beginning leveled book, 43 students were below a level A.  My stomach hurt back then.  The data I got showed me the same information for all students.  They needed reading instruction and guidance.  They needed to learn what being a reader looked like and felt like.  They needed to learn good reading strategies all readers use.  

My stomach doesn't hurt anymore.  My heart is full and hopeful, as I work on completing my assessment plan.  Maybe the celebration is better because I have documentation from September to show they weren't using reading strategies and now with the same tool I can show growth.  I know it feels frustrating to take the time to do an assessment when you can predict the results.  I still feel like doing the reading assessment in September didn't really change anything for our learning.  I'm not sure what I will do next year.  It appears I will be wrestling with the timing of reading assessments for a while.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Slice of Life - Caterpillars

Journeys create stories.  Journeys can have surprises.  Parenting is a journey with twists and bends I never expected.  These twists and bends are creating stories I never expected.  I love when a story makes me laugh right out loud.  There is therapy in laughter and we all need a little bit more laughter in life.  I would imagine this is a story only a daughter would let me capture.

"Mom, can I get bangs at my Christmas haircut?"

"You know the ones that go straight across and I can then get rid of the layers and straighten my hair every day with the straightener I am getting for Christmas."

"I am getting a straightener for Christmas, right?"

"Well, you know the bangs will cover up my eyebrows."

Me - "Why do you want to cover up your eyebrows?"

"They are caterpillars! This one is fuzzy and this one is furry!"

In reflection, I am glad we aren't discussing uni-brows and I imagine there is a conversation coming about plucking eyebrows.  At least she is giving me clues this conversation is on the horizon.

Thank you  Tara at Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life this week.