Saturday, April 7, 2012

Strive for Success


February 27th, 2012 was a teacher training day. These "Waiver Days" provide important training for staff to focus on how to improve our instruction by monitoring what students are learning. What do teachers do on these days?

The question this day was "Change in Practice: What practices can be changed with curriculum, pacing, instruction and/or assessment to address the content-centered problem? What practices related to our strengths can be helpful?"


What follows is my process of improvement to strive for success:


Background information
Our middle school students participate in two reading classes. Mr. Erickson's class focuses reading instruction through our anthology (Language of Literature) and Weekly Reader Connects (print version).  They practice the required reading standards in weekly stories and written responses and discussions for fiction and nonfiction, graph and caption reading, and vocabulary development. Ms. Edwards's class provides time for independent practice of reading standards through books the students choose. Students have ample time to read and respond several times a week using reading stem prompts (questions similar to those on the MSP test). We also read short sections of print to discuss and respond; we respond in comments on blogs by others for real world reading. Always we focus on evidence from the text to support answers.

Still, many students do not respond in ways that earn the "points" needed to score. They write answers that summarize, infer, or generalize without using text-based evidence. If asked follow-up questions, the students usually respond with the text-based response that is "score-able."


Possible Instruction
First, students need strategies for these tests: re-reading, re-reading for question words, understanding the question, and underlining the evidence that supports the chosen answer. Our short paragraph instructional texts work well for this practice to understand the question, find and underline the answer sources.

Second, students need a strategy that helps them write responses with text-based evidence that earns their points. I had recently read Helping Students Motivate Themselves by Larry Ferlazzo. A strategy he taught his kids was the ABC format (Answer the question, Back it up with a quote, and Comment or Connect) (p. 36 of 210 digital version). We discussed, practiced, and learned this strategy using our paragraph section texts with our reading prompt stems.


Results of Instruction and Modifications
While analyzing their responses, I diagnosed patterns: a) some students chose only one detail to quote; b) some students made irrelevant comments or connections. We therefore revised our ABC format: 

A: Answer the question (restate, and be sure to understand the question)
B: Back it up with at least two details (or include more than the question asks)
C: Conclude by connecting the evidence (B) back to your answer (A), much like a concluding sentence in a paragraph.

We practiced in our usual responses and in small groups or with individual feedback as needed.

Finally, another issues arose: answering the right question. We modeled, practiced, and applied how to carefully read the questions. 

Our strategy now includes:

1. Read and understand the question.
2. Find the evidence to answer by re-reading with key words from the question.
A: Answer the question (restate, and be sure to understand the question)
B: Back it up with at least two details (or include more than the question asks)
C: Conclude by connecting the evidence (B) back to your answer (A), much like a concluding sentence in a paragraph.

Assessment
As we daily practiced our responses, students consistently improved their standard scores from 1s and 2s to 3s and 4s. They could see and enjoy their improvement. 

However, on the day of the practice test, when "standardized protocols" were in place, when the directions were read as if it were the "real" test, students did not re-read, did not underline evidence, and did not use their successful "12ABC" format. Those that did: passed the practice test. Those that did not, did not pass the test to demonstrate understanding of the standards. They again reverted to simple "summarize, infer, or generalize without using text-based evidence" responses. In one class (and they are sooooooooooooooooo proud), 84% met standards, and one student just missed by one point.

Furrowed Brow
What evidence do you have?
Our students know the answers. They simply are not demonstrating it in a "test" situation where the teacher is unable to remind them to "remember to re-read" and "remember your 12ABC format." They read the text, read the test question, and write their 'gist' answers without backing them up. There is no 'face' to respond to, no face with a question mark in a furrowed brow that would prompt them to expand on their answers, as they do orally in their story-telling culture, and as they do when "the teacher" queries them to follow the format and write their evidence.

And that's the result of the 2/27/12 Teacher Training: 
  • a revised reading and response strategy
  • continued student success in our daily prompts and work
  • a need for internal motivation to want to continue on the "test" days

I'm proud of my students for listening and practicing so much during this required "Response to Intervention" phase of our teacher training. They know they can succeed, and so do I; it shows in their daily responses.

Keep it up, students! You read and you rock!


Photo Credit:
Found 4/6/12 on Flickr  CC 2.0  Furrowed Brow By ErinTaylorMurphy

This is a school related site so please respect others and comment appropriately. Please contact Ms Edwards if you have any questions or need to report any inappropriate activity. Thank you. Reflect Curiosity and Wonder... Go boldly and scatter seeds of kindness...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please remember this is a family and school related site. Please post and comment appropriately. Please contact Ms Edwards if you have any questions or to report any inappropriate activity. Thank you. sheri at nsdeagles dot org