Monday, May 01, 2006

Do I Really Have to Teach Reading? Chapters 7 and 8

(Page 92) “We (did) something called a fishbowl in front of the class…we would sit in front of the students, modeling what we wanted them to see, while they watched and then talked about what they saw.”
I loved how Tovani and her colleague acted as if they were in a group working together in front of the students. The students were easily able to pick out what were and were not good practices while working in a group. It was obvious to the students what was expected in group work after a demonstration and discussion of it. It took me a while as a teacher before I figured out just how important modeling is. There were times when I just told students to do the work but never showed them HOW to do the work. Once I figured out I really needed to model to them exactly what to do, their production greatly increased.

(Page 103) “The aim of assessment is primarily to educate and improve student performance, not merely audit it.”
So often we get caught up in the cycle of teaching the material then testing the students on it, but who does that help? (Other than helping us have something to put in the gradebook, of course.) Really, how often do we have to take tests in the day-to-day activities of being an adult? If we spent more time looking at where kids are performing and how we can get to them to the next level, they will be better served. I heard Ellin Keene (Mosaic of Thought) speak in January, and one thing she said that really resonated with me was “Kids who think well test well.” I think if we really concentrated on finding out where our kids are and teaching them how to think (more modeling!) then we wouldn’t have to worry so much about end of course tests and HSAP because they would be good thinkers and do well on those tests without us freaking out about them.


J. Goings said...

Chapter 7:
I enjoyed reading about the ideas to help students become more successful with group work. This tends to be a struggle for some of my lower level students. I tend to get discouraged when something I have planned does not work in my classroom. I am glad to see others struggle with this and to see some helpful guidelines on how to move on and get better at it.
I really like the Highlight and Revisit Activity (Page 95). I like how students can get into groups and relate their thinking to their peers. This is important. Students can see that they are not alone in their thinking. (Page 96) “This activity usually results in students seeing similar points being highlighted by their peers, as well as some unique choices that spark new discussion."

Chapter 8:
Assessment can be something that is a downfall for bother teachers and students. The same type does not work for all students.
I like how at the beginning of the chapter the roles for teacher and student are defined. (Page 102)“I begin by saying that we each have a job to do.” This helps students know what to expect from the teacher and the class. It also helps them understand what the teacher will expect from them as a student.
On page 104 there is a section about goal setting at the beginning of a class. I think that this would be a useful tool with the students I teach. I wish I would have had this book at the beginning of this school year. I could have used this activity with my English I repeaters class. I am going to try this with my RWW class next year. The goals can be simple and vary from student to student. I really like this!
Another tool that I am considering using next year is the Conversation Calendar. I like how Tovani finds it important (page 107) “to touch base with every student every day.” I think that I am going to set my own goal for next year. I plan on trying this activity out with one of my classes in the fall. My goal is to respond to each and every student each and every day. Eventually I will build up to all of my classes.

Andrea Clutts said...

“Writing assignments are always better when group work is done beforehand. Group discussions give students an opportunity to rehearse and construct connections before they sit down to that daunting blank screen or piece of paper.” (93)

I really like this chapter on group work. I only wish that I had read it LAST week instead of this week! I definitely would have used a couple of the strategies in my honors class. We’ve been working with writing, both creative and analytic, a lot in this last quarter. I think if I had let the kids work together to come up with ideas for their creative pieces that they wouldn’t have struggled so much at the beginning of the assignment. They probably would have spent a lot more time writing, rather than staring at the ceiling trying to “think of something…”
I also agree that students must know the importance of working with others from an early age, as they will have to in any job they hold in the future.

“My job is to show you how to think about your reading and writing. Your job is to show me that you are thinking.” (102)

I think that is a really good point. High school teachers seem to assume that the student will understand what you want them to do without actually explaining it. I need to do a better job of showing the students exactly what I want and how to get to that point, instead of assuming that they are in my head and already know.

Kay James said...

Chapter 7 – Before I began the process of NBPTS, I really had a hard time with small groups. The best course for dealing with small groups was a district-wide course called “Only the Best.” In this course we learned from a wonderful expert how to work with small groups. I have found for small groups to work, I must plan strategies for organizing group members and designing group content. The student benefits from small group work because studies show that students remember 90% of what they teach others. Also, students are doing visual, aural, and kinesthetic learning. Stronger students can help weaker students and all benefit by talking with each other. Each student should have a position in the group he/she is responsible for. For example, Student One may work with quotations to cite on significant points on a writing strip, Student Two can be working with a scanned picture, Student Three can use a small whiteboard to answer questions for review. Student Four can be monitor of the group. All students need to know the short and long-term goals of activities.

Chapter 8 – Having taken the Assessment course at USC under the chair of the department, I learned that there are many more ways to assess learning than by giving tests. Each of my students starts off each quarter by being given a 100 on a classwork/homework grade. This motivates students to know they have a chance to pass since this is 20% of our grade. A minus 5 points comes off this grade if students do not cooperate by doing classwork of homework. Of course situations come up, so they can get points back with extra credit provided. This encourages listening skills as well as teaching responsibility. Another way I give grades is through a 10-page writing journal. Studies have shown that the more students write, the better quality they have. Students are given a handout on how this works. Oral and visual presentations are also graded. Kay James

Stephanie Bailey said...

Chapter 7:
I also really liked the idea of modeling group work. In science class, group work is essential, particularly in lab. So often, though, one or two end up doing the activity while the other(s) sit back and watch (or don’t). Just as Tovani said that better writing comes following group work, better lab analysis (report writing) would come if all actively participate in the lab.

Chapter 8:
So many great suggestions! I like the conversation calendars! I’m so glad she wrote that she doesn’t do them EVERY week; I was getting overwhelmed just thinking about it. I think that would be a great thing for Freshman Academy to implement and to rotate which class uses it as she suggested. I like the goal setting idea, each student sets a goal for the quarter to achieve, I think that’s something I’d like to incorporate. I also like the file folder, we’ve talked about doing portfolios of student work for next year. I just don’t want to get caught in the trap of keeping all kinds of “stuff” and it not be meaningful.

Pam Lorentz said...

Chapter 7 - p. 103 "This means I give students multiple opportunities to demonstrate thinking. I don't want a student's final attempt at a task to be a failure. Rarely do I give students a poor grade if they are willing to try again. I want kids to take risks and try again, because that's the only way they are going to get better at reading and writing." I think this quote really applies to my students in Academic Support. They need teachers who will develop different types of assessments or will give them a choice in their assessment. So many of them, because of their disabilities, don't perform well on multiple choice type tests, but given the chance to display their knowledge in what might be considered an unconventional format, they just amaze us. My students are currently working on posters advertising their top 5 books read during independent reading this year, and they have done a wonderful job!

Chapter 8 - p. 106 - Conversation Calendars - I actually read this book last year, so I am rereading to participate in the blog. I did the conversation calendars with my eighth graders at Fulmer last year during the last nine weeks in lieu of a writing journal. I liked them, but I will say that I have gotten to know my kids better this year with 10 lines of writing. I know it's easier for me with smaller classes, but you might want to think about rotating classes through a regular writing journal and the conversation calendar. I agree, though, with all of the comments about getting to interact everyday with your students. I really enjoy the conversations I have with my students through their writing journals. I get to know the whole kid!!!

jspires90 said...

Chapter 7- I think Tovani’s point (p.104) that ‘meaning is constructed over a period of time’ is something that teachers sometimes forget especially when looking at group work when they haven’t been given the opportunity to read prior to group work. I think Tovani is also correct when she points out one of the greatest values of (p. 98) group work is that students who are given the opportunity to participate in small groups express themselves in ways they can’t express themselves in whole group learning/discussions. Often the small groups also give you an opportunity to truly assess the students’ mastery on a certain topic as well.

Chapter 8- I agree with Andrea and Tovani that it is the student’s job to show teachers what they are thinking and I loved the conversation calendars. There are so many times that teachers disseminate information and aren’t given the opportunity to really know their students and this is a perfect opportunity in their journals to communicate things for which the 90 minute block doesn’t allow. Another thing that is beneficial is collecting the students’ work over the course of the semester for the students to examine for themselves their own growth over time which is an assessment of the truest kind.

Heather said...

I really like the fish bowl discussions. We did this in one of my graduate classes. Everyone had to choose from one of five topics and write a research paper. Instead of each person standing up on the last class and telling about their research, we had a fish bowl exam. It was great. Everyone that wrote on the same topic was in the fish bowl and there was one empty seat. A discussion was started among the people in the fishbowl and as the discussion progressed someone outside of the fish bowl would come and sit in the fish bowl and ask a question or make a comment. Everyone had to visit the fish bowl at least once. Everyone got to talk and ask questions and best of all we didn’t have to listen to the same thing over and over! I also like the conversation calendars from chapter 8. I want to try to think of a way to incorporate that into my science classroom. In doing this I think I will have a better understanding of how to proceed in instructing my students. It might also help me get to know someone I might otherwise not have any conversation with. I am learning through my graduate program that students will do work for a teacher even if they don’t like the content as long as they know the teacher cares about them personally.

Christy Wingard said...

Chapter 7: As Tovani said, small groups do not always work. I love the idea of fishbowling. Of course, debriefing is almost as important as the actual exercise. I was glad to read that others struggle with groups and I was happy to have more strategies to employ. Students ownership of groups is also something important that I tend to overlook, mostly by mistake. I am in such a hurry to get an activity done that I forget to make the students accountable by having "norms".

Chapter 8- I love the conversation calendars. Like Stephanie said, I too was overwhelmed at the thought of using them EVERY week so I was glad to read that weren't used as often. I really like the idea of getting to know my students on another level and get the to write and think on paper. Tovani also gave me some food for thought on the reading response logs. I use something similar to this for newspaper reading and responses but I may incorporate some of her ideas to improve the concept and stream line my work!

Kelly Weber said...

Chapter 7 - page 92 “I will model how the group is supposed to do something. I will also observe groups and share what went well and what isn’t working, in order to help the groups run smoothly. I will be available whenever possible to answer questions.”

Cris has mentioned modeling and sharing examples throughout the entire book. As a first year teacher I have come to the realization of how true this simple statement is. This strategy can be used not only when students are doing group work but for many things that are done in the classroom. I am sometimes baffled at how much my Academic Support students struggle if I don’t model something before they begin. After they try it on their own or in a group I will have them share with the class so we can talk about good examples or how to add more depth to their answers.

Chapter 8 – page 103 “Many unsuccessful high schoolers come to ninth grade with multiple Fs from middle school. They just didn’t do the work. Many times they didn’t do the work because they didn’t know how. Any teenager would rather be perceived as lazy than stupid.”

This statement is sad but true; I see it a lot with my students. I truly wonder sometimes why they won’t allow us to help them if they don’t understand. I know that I am still learning how to do this “teacher thing” but so many of my students don’t seem to care (perceived laziness) but yet do not take advantage of help when it is offered. They give excuses or like Tovani says act lazy – but I want to help them and it is so hard for me to do this if they won’t open up and let me. Another problem I have is that I think some of them are actually just being lazy because in one way or another they have proven to me that they have the ability if they put forth the effort needed. How do I tell the difference and what can I do to reach both types of students? (I am open for suggestions on this subject)

Jeanette Miles said...

Page 103
"It's important that my assessments be ongoing and purposeful, useful to students as well as to me."
Portfolio equals one project six components, several rubrics, and each student shines in his or her best talent. I have found that letting students select at least one of their favorites shows me what they take away from all the reading or avoidance of reading.