October 20, 2013

Looking, and Finding, the Answer to Conceptual Grading

About 3 weeks ago, we had an inservice at our school that answered my question, finally!  Or, at least in my mind, it did!  I’ve been having this ongoing conversation about what conceptual grading looks like and acts like, with many questions still lingering. One of the lingering questions was, “How does this look for each skill?”  I mean, I had examined my practice and figured out what I was doing, but I couldn’t pin it down for EACH SKILL!  Then, bam, the inservice hit!

So, here’s what went down!  Our district is still looking at training intermediate teachers in Common Core.  This particular inservice dealt with how to determine the success of a student based on learning ladders and continuums.  At first, I was skeptical.  I had never heard of either, and I’m out there a lot!  I pin, I read blogs, I follow multiple teachers on Facebook, I’m out there!  We discussed the rigor and the purpose, and that’s when I began to believe.  The purpose behind a ladder or continuum is to:

1.     Establish the clear and concise expectations for a skill.  During our inservice, it was support for the text. 
2.     To provide a clear and concise example of the expectation to the students. 
3.     And, if determined ahead, to provide a starting point for evaluating a student on the skill to be taught over a period of time. 

It was like hitting the mother load!   I started to see the realities of what could be done with a tool like this!  I saw the connection between these tools and Marzano’s Rubric for Learning.  This is what I’ve been searching for!  Can you tell I’m excited!!??

            How would this look in a classroom setting was my next thought-bam, answer provided!  There was a cool video about how to work with them.  The teacher had a small group of students with her and they had provided answers to a question she had asked in class on a post-it.  The kids then shared their answers and worked with one another on the continuum.  They had to agree on the placement with each other before the post-it could go on the continuum.  My thought, “I could TOTALLY do this!”  I completely believe that if you are going to teach a child how to do something, they need to know how to self-evaluate to be successful.  Many children do not go through elementary being able to do this very thing.  They have only been shown what teachers think of their work, and that is how they answer questions-to provide what the teacher wants.  Many of the open-ended questions we ask have multiple answers with none of them being wrong.  We need to be sure we begin to support our students in the skill of self-evaluation!  It is, after all, a life skill. 

            Now, to get to the transition from inservice, to classroom use.  During the inservice, I had already targeted a skill-author’s purpose.  My teaching partner and I had determined through assessments that students really only “got” author’s purpose on the very basic level- to entertain, inform, or persuade.  They did not, and, as the case is, many cannot get it on a conceptual level.  From this need of conceptual understanding, I developed a power point about Roald Dahl.  Here is a page from it.

Through this power point, we targeted Author’s Perception, the deeper part of author’s purpose.  As you research this, you will discover that the two are very separate, but are placed under the title of author’s purpose.  Our goal with the power point was to show them how important an author’s life and understandings are to the text.  Here is another example:

Roald Dahl was Charlie in so many ways, and that’s what this slide represents.  Imagine having the President of Cadbury bring you chocolates to try!  How would that torture you through your entire life!  How did Charlie feel about chocolate?  That’s a pretty good example of the perspective Roald Dahl brings to the text, isn’t it!
The kids were really getting it!  They could see, with their own background knowledge of the text from the movie, that this was important stuff! 

            Next, to bring a deeper thought development to the process, we assigned a thinking map!  Thinking maps are used to help kids use their own thought processes to develop understanding.  By not giving too much information or requirements, you can begin to see the child’s understanding emerge, or not. Each time they read, they can add to their understanding.  The more they share, again, the more understanding, or lack of it, comes forth. To be honest, I have some struggling readers making some deep insight into author’s purpose because of this.  I have some stronger readers with fewer insights.  It is my plan to go back to these and really examine them to determine who needs additional practice and who may, simply, need to learn how to transfer their thinking to question format. 

            After starting this process, I introduced the Author’s Purpose continuum. 

This is in kid friendly language.  I shared what each level looked and sounded like.  Then I let the kids get to work using one of the characters from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Then I let them work with their team to decide what level of author’s purpose they were on.  I was amazed to see them bring points out about each entry and how they felt each other did.  It showed up in two ways- in their oral discussion and in their reading journal entries. 

For the entry, I had them put their post-it in their journal, record what their team said, and, then, I responded with what I thought.  Most were right on!  The next step is to do this activity. 

The students will write in their reading journal “how” to get to a higher level on the continuum.  From this experience I discovered that most kids want to write about the “who” of a character.  Who they are, what they do, etc.   Author’s purpose is really more about they “why”-why the author included them, why the author made them behave a certain way, why did the outcome occur. This is where the impact is. 

I am really excited to see where we go with this study.  I will share more as we go.  If you have any great ideas for author’s purpose, I’d love to hear about them.  Feel free to leave me a comment or a website that you have had success with!


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