Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mile Marker #1

This year's research project has been unique in that I am not in the early stages of a new research path, but instead deeply into the journey I am on. I spent the entire spring semester researching writing to learn in a way that could make sense to the uninitiated, but what kept coming up was a point of my own struggle. I could not escape the nagging little voice that kept pointing out that in my own teaching my view of assessment was deeply misaligned with my instruction.

What the summer institute has afforded me is not a chance to dig in to research in the traditional sense, though I do want to spend some time in the NWP resources reading up on alternative assessments and portfolios as a way of developing some strategies, but instead has offered the time and place to work on the implementation of new strategies.

Perhaps the most important idea guiding this came from James, who challenged himself to find his nonnegotiables, the outside of the curriculum heart of what successful learning in his class looks like. I took an opportunity to do this for myself, and was able to identify specific student goals in the following four areas:

  • Reading: 
    • choosing, reading, and recording a large number of books, most self-chosen, though some books will be shared and assigned
    • talking about reading through book talks and book clubs
    • writing about reading through weekly responses that incorporate targeted skills, book reviews, and text analysis work
  • Writing:
    • writing a huge number of pieces (12-15 completed pieces by the end of the year) for a variety of purposes- making sure I support all three text types each quarter
    • freewriting as a daily practice
    • talking about our own writing through writers groups
    • focusing on thoughtful, meaningful revision practices.
  • Language Use
    • Expanding vocabulary by working with SAT level words even though it is only 7th grade
    • Working towards mastery on a series of tiered grammar concepts (like the one Kelly Gallagher presents in Teaching Adolescent Writers)
    • Applying vocabulary and grammar lessons to writing 
  • Class Participation
    • attending class consistently and being prepared for any meetings or events 
    • being willing to try new things and make an effort even when things are difficult (no shutting down, no checking out)
    • listening and speaking during class or small group discussions
    • being respectful and generous to everyone and everything in the room (classmates, teachers, teaching assistants, visitors, supplies, furniture, etc.) 
From here I feel confident that I can move on to the next steps of creating the templates needed for weekly recording of grades and reflection on learning, hammering out and creating/revising materials to meet my new grammar and vocabulary plans, and outlining an approach to work with students on creating a rubric that matches these four skill areas.

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