Day 18 – “It’s Not Fair”

Here’s a summary of what we did in preparation for and on Thursday (10/20):

-Remember those assessment readings some of us did early? Those were back! They included NCTE Beliefs on Assessment, selections from Bridging English about assessment on Blackboard, and formative assessment examples (also on Blackboard).

-Because it had been awhile since some of us had read these documents, we spent ten minutes reviewing them on our own, especially the NCTE reading.

-We then divided into groups – Benji/Emily/Cassie, Brittany/Alyssa/Beth, and Liv/Kayla/Rachel (me!). Each group took a set of standards to discuss, and then came back as a large group to share how we’d interpreted them. Benko explained then that she sees the NCTE reading as pillars, as justifications for best practices in assessment.

-STANDARD 1: not rewarding or punishing system, everyone trying to improve somehow; assessment should not harm a student, getting meaningful information that will actually help students (don’t NOT give students a reason for assessment, also make sure to give people feedback — what does a B mean otherwise?, meaningful information to go with grade)

-STANDARD 2: teacher’s the most important agent —> agent implies action and engagement, collecting data in order to change teaching, notion of putting own spin on midterm is this standard —> teacher knows their students best and knows what will push them/etc., don’t just take data from standardized tests

-STANDARD 3: formative (even summative needs to be formative) —> assessment is not to prove teaching and learning have happened, but to improve both teaching and learning

-STANDARD 4: doing things with the information you get, letting the assessment change your teaching, curriculum — don’t boil down one subject to something too small, complexity of literacy, assess what’s hard to assess not just what’s easy to assess (quality of writing, e.g., realistic dialogue, vs. black-and-white grammar — this is not always black and white). A key quote from this standard was the following: “Furthermore, even when the standards come closer to representing these features of complex
literacy, high-stakes assessments rarely address the difficult-to-measure standards, opting
instead to focus on content that is easier and more expedient to assess using inexpensive test

-STANDARD 5: recognize lives of students, what’s important to them — think about culture; related a lot to standard 6; must recognize what students KNOW (issue with nationalized, norm assessments — what if they don’t know the thing? e.g., Benko’s barter system example); one-shot assessments are not representative of real, physical kids; test is only representative of that one day

-STANDARD 6: test biases —> must be multicultural (cultural background, languages, but also SES, etc.), fair AND equitable (Emily’s example — fair by teacher standard, but others didn’t perceive it was fair; Brittany’s daughter held at equal standard even though she’s made tons of growth)

-With Standard 6, Emily gave an example about her sister, how parents told her mom that “It [wasn’t] fair” that she got shorter books for book talks.

-Standard 7 was one we should come back to at a later date!

-STANDARD 8: if you vary your assessment and assess often, you’ll get a better picture of the student

-When Benko said she felt separate from us because she was plugged in, when we started with Standard 8, Benji said that’s what technology does.

-We also talked a lot about AR (don’t get Benko started on it) and how that fits in with assessment.

-We then shifted gears to talk about the formative assessment documents and the Bridging English piece, and that the one of the differences between the final and midterm is including formative assessment. Here‘s an additional page about other examples of formative assessment that you might include in your final! Remember that when we use formative assessment, it’s not just collecting information from students, it’s using that information to make a choice about your teaching (e.g., Benko having us hold up fingers at the beginning of class so she can see how to change her instruction).

-What Benko thinks is most interesting in Bridging English starts on pg. 421 — poles of grading.

-What is also helpful for us is pg. 423 — the difference between formative and summative — not only for final, but for final reflection (this BE piece might be useful for justification).

-Benko also talked about Catherine for awhile and it was SO CUTE.

Thinking ahead:

-Julie is coming on Tuesday, so start thinking about your Northside work!

-Midterms are due then, too!







Day 2 — Twitter, Territories, and Beliefs, Oh My!

Hello, all! I see you Tweeting already, and it just warms my heart. Keep up the good work!

Here’s a summary of what we did in preparation for and on Thursday (08/25/16):

-In preparation for class, we read chapter 1 of Smagorinsky as well as NCTE Beliefs about Teaching Writing (now referred to as “Professional Knowledge for the Teaching of Writing”).
-We started class with reminders about Twitter and a breakdown of how to use Twitter (using formative assessment to determine everyone’s comfort levels with Twitter). If Twitter isn’t your preferred social media and you can’t remember what we went over, here’s a a recap video about some of its features:

-After our Twitter recap, we dove into writing about our writing territories (taken from Nancie Atwell’s book In the Middle). Our writing territories were divided into three: topics we’d like to write about, genres we’d like to try, and audiences we’d like to write for. Dr. Benko showed us her own lists, and we got to work on our own, afterwards discussing that this activity is absolutely something we can do with our future students. These kinds of lists give students ownership over and choice in their writing. We can let them be the experts in this way, but it’s also important to remember that even we got stuck writing these lists – our students will too, and we can tell them this and give them strategies for how to keep writing (e.g., some of us reread what we had written, some of us went back to old ideas, etc.).
-We then broke up into groups to go over our readings for the day. Each group was to summarize two scenarios from Smag., identify which tensions were present in each scenario (e.g., freedom vs. control, etc.), and identify which of the NCTE beliefs were present in each scenario. The notes from this group work can be found on the Google Doc! If you didn’t understand a particular scenario, see how another group summarized it on the document.
-In our groups, it was pretty clear to all of us that some of these scenarios seemed more preferable than others – beginning with a writing activity sounds way more exciting than studying the sentence, right? What Smag. and the other authors are not telling us about these scenarios, though, is that these are just mini-cases; the teachers described don’t only teach in this way, and neither will we in our own classrooms!
-The last idea from class that we discussed was a question that was brought up – when showing our own writing to students, what do we do if a kid says that they can’t write like that? The answer? Show our first drafts. Show our crappy work! Let our kids see what we can write in a specific amount of time (Emily mentioned doing this with Dr. Jones and the Indiana Writers Center). Let’s write with our students and be honest about our own ability levels, because let’s face it – words are hard, even for us as educators.

Thinking ahead:

Our five (5) weekly tweets start this week, so don’t forget to tweet as you’re reading/tweet in-class comments/etc. Use #BSU350 or it will be much more difficult to find them!
-Think about the beliefs, scenarios, and tensions we talked about – how do we find balance between these, how can we work towards these?
-Readings you’ll need to have done for Tuesday are Dean’s “Study of Models,” Marchetti and O’Dell’s “Writing with Mentors,” and these three TIB essays (1, 2, 3).
-Dr. Benko didn’t mention this at the end of class, but Thursday’s lesson plan asks for us to continue to free write about our beliefs (the exact prompts can be found on the LP). Last fall, this writing was helpful for me both to get me working as a writer and to get me used to self-reflection, which will be key for this course.
Dr. Benko also hinted that we might have a quiz on Tuesday, so make sure you’ve done the readings!


Day 2 – Writing Beliefs

Hey team! Here is what we did for 1/14/2016.

Before I go into detail, here are a few quick reminders.

  • Don’t forget to follow @slbenko on twitter.
  • Also, my twitter is @heyemmateach and not my full name. Don’t be freaked out if you don’t recognize the name/photo if I reply or tweet.
  • We are looking for help with the blog. Do you have an idea for the title? Or how we can make posts more connected and reflective? We look forward to hearing your ideas 🙂

For today’s class, we read Smagorinsky’s first chapter and the NCTE Beliefs about Teaching Writing. Our focus today was on writing territories and writing beliefs.

Writing territories are topics, genres, or areas of writing. As Benko explained, sometimes the scariest part of writing is the beginning. If students are able to list or think about their own writing territories, they feel confident and capable. (If you want to look into more about Writing Territories, you can check out the twowritingteachers blog post “Give Heart Maps a Rest! Try Writing Territory Maps” or Nancie Atwell’s book In the Middle: A Lifetime of Learning about Writing, Reading, and Adolescents).  

To understand this, there was a quick write about topics you write, genres you want to write, and audiences you want to write for. Before the quick write, though, Benko did some really important things. First, she modeled her own answers. Modeling is something you are going to hear a lot about in this class (because it is super important!). Second, she showed that she is a writer. Teachers need to write, too. Why do you think it is important to model both writing and being a writer?  

Looking back at the quick write, I think we noticed that we all have a lot of things we are comfortable or interested in writing about. Benko told us that kids have great ideas and lot to say, but they may not be able to. Students need space to write (hey, that could be your classroom!). The quick write proved that all students have writing potential. 

After that, we broke into groups to look at the scenarios in Smagorinsky’s text. It seems like each scenario had good and bad. I heard lots of great thoughts like –

  • Who determines what great writing is?
  • How important is grammar?
  • How do we represent ourselves and our community in writing?
  • Should writing be focused on process or product?
  • How do we let students have control and choice over their writing (while still being educational)?

I think these questions will be answered as the semester goes on, but this shows some great thinking. I’m glad you are asking the tough questions.

Here are our boards which describe the scenario, list the tension, and then connect to the NCTE beliefs.

Thinking ahead, I recommend bookmarking the NCTE Beliefs. These had a big impact on my ideas and plans for the projects. The beliefs made me ask myself, “How can I achieve these in my teaching?” I know at some tables that the idea of accomplishing these beliefs felt overwhelming or confusing. One concern was connecting students to real-world audience writing projects. I think this is can be tough (especially if you don’t have the resources or connections), but I found some resources/great examples. 

Here is a link to the Indiana Writers Center. Their outreach programs are good examples of how students can connect with their community through writing. 

And here is a link to the National Writing Project. This site has a good list of projects that can inspire you.

 You’ll be introduced to more models and examples in the class about all the beliefs, but these links might be a good source to come back to when you work on your projects.