Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Special Note About Calkins' Assessments

In preparation for the November visit, teachers were asked to administer the post writing assessment to their students at the end of the narrative unit.  We observed a pattern we would like to share.  

Across great levels, students' work in class appeared better than the work on their assessment piece of writing.  While we recognized the element of time prevented students from going back and revisiting pieces, we came to several conclusions.  Blake Reidy, 3rd grade teacher, was instrumental in helping us with the discussion around assessment.

  1.  How the writing assessment is presented to students is key.  While teachers want to make students aware they are being assessed, they should be cautious about putting too much emphasis on the assessment, so it is not viewed as a test. 
  2. Students' work should be considered when grading them for proficiency - not the assessment alone.  Student journals are a great source for checking to see if the student is carrying over what they have learned and applying it to their every day writing.
  3. Some of the instruction presented during the units of study, may not be "learned" to the level of proficiency during the unit.  Students' level of owning and generalizing what they learn to different writing tasks takes time.  To stop and focus all instruction on forms of punctuation would be to derail the writing process.  Students will acquire writing strategies as you guide them through the different genres.
There is a parallel between students' reading and writing acquisition.  In reading, students build a self -extending system, early on.  This is like a skeletal framework of the basic process.  As the teacher guides them through different types and levels of reading, students learn how to apply their understandings to the changing texts.  Writing is similar, in that students build the framework and then are guided by teachers through the types and levels of writing.  In both instances, basic strategies and understanding must be revisited and revised in order to meet the challenges presented by each new text - written or read.  The cursive nature of both processes means we will often revisit - for example - the use of a period, the choice of a word, the amount of type of details.  Consequently, we will need to follow the student, based on teacher observation.  This is not a linear process and challenges to reflect often on each learner. 

Thank you one and all for your hard work.  Your students are lucky to have such a dedicated staff.   

November Visit - 14-16 ! Following is a photo journal of classroom visits! Serious learning is already happening in all of the classrooms.

This was my fourth visit to Vinalhaven this year.  The focus this time was on Calkins' writing workshop.   The quality of teaching I have observed was excellent.  Classroom routines have been created and students are developing longer attention spans, which leads to longer time on task. During this visit the staff and coaches were able to focus on problem solving.  Their open door policy allows for a high level of collaboration that impacts individual student learning.  Kudos to all.

Mrs. Conway's K

Kindergarten students are beginning Calkins' Writers' Workshop.  Mrs. Conway introduced a format for informational writing by modeling the process with class participation.  Two of the key elements for her students were: 1.  modeling the actual composition/thinking process and 2.  encouraging students to share their ideas with one another.  Students are beginning to make the connection that print is thinking written down - a key concept many kindergarteners do not develop early on...leading to confusion later.  Great job, Mrs. Conway's class.   

  Ms.  Block's First Grade 

Ms. Block is working with her first graders on sustained writing.  This is the first year Vinalhaven has had the Calkins Writing Workshop and an extended block of time for writing.  This presents challenges to students and teachers alike.  A crucial first step for all writers is the ability to write for an extended time. In writing fluency must be established before craft can be applied.  Students must be able to compose and write automatically, developing stamina in both thought and action. Ms. Block realizes the importance of this and has employed several steps in the classroom to assure students develop in this area.  These steps are posted in the photo above.  Kudos to Ms. Block for recognizing this need and addressing it in a pro-active manner.   What lucky first graders to have a responsive teacher.   

Ms. Block's first graders being observed by Literacy Coach, Cherie Doughty, incorporates writing during a guided reading lesson.  Bravo!  Writing across the curriculum!

 Mrs. Andrews' Second Grade 

Mrs. Andrews' second grade has developed a level of fluency.  She continues to give students opportunities to practice fluency, with the understanding they are ready for working on their craft.  An important element of craft, is audience.  Mrs. Andrews has instructed and modeled conferencing extensively.  From students' writing as well as Mrs. Andrews' classroom observations, students are applying conferencing strategies to others' work as well as to their own!  Teacher and peer conferencing is frequent and on task! 

Mrs.  Andrews embeds ELA standards during a Social Studies lesson.  Student practice close reading, engage in rich conversations, develop vocabulary, and synthesize this process in their writing!   Kudos to all of the second graders!  Great nonfiction strategies!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

November Visit 14-16

Good Morning, Everyone,
I hope you are enjoying this lovely fall winter.
I am writing to remind you I will be coming out for my next visit on November 14-16.

I will arrive on November 14 on the first boat.

November 14: 

Cherie, Meagan, and have planned on meeting individually with ELA teachers K-5.  Cherie is arranging a roving sub for the day so teachers can meet with us and go over their spread sheets based on their first Calkins unit.  This was sent to you early and you were asked to have the data entered by this visit.  Teachers should come to the meeting prepared to discuss this with the coaches.

November 15-16:  

Cherie, Meagan and I will make classroom visits to observe writing being taught.  De-briefing sessions will be arranged, so the coaches and consultant can provide feedback to  classroom teachers to guide instruction.
The coaches and the consultant will also continue to review the course of the implementation and pertinent strands of the implementation.  

I am planning on leaving on Wednesday - the 2:45 if possible.  

Teachers - please feel free to contact me and arrange special time to see me while I am on site.  I will be available after school or before school if that works for you.

See you soon,