28 June 2012

Buck Institute Day 2: Assessment reflection

If teachers are safecrackers, each assessment is a number in the combination that helps us unlock the treasure. 

Assessments are not whole combinations unto themselves, if done correctly. We should have to listen carefully, find the right tools to detect when we hit the number we need next. If the whole combo's just handed to us on a single piece of paper, then the vault we open is probably empty already (think the vocab list memorized just long enough to pass). If someone hands over a combination that easy, you can bet they don't value what you'll find if you use it.

WHO should assess?
  • The student him/herself (25%)
  • Collaborating peers (25%)
  • Teacher (50%)

WHAT needs to be assessed?
  • Content Knowledge  (60%)
  • Critical Thinking (20%)
  • Collaboration (10%)
  • Communication (10%)
WHEN should it be assessed?
  • ALL.
  • THE.
  • TIME.

    The best analogy I've heard was the swim team that was actually laughing and enjoying swim meets, the coach too! "Why aren't you yelling at them? Pushing them?" other coaches and swimmers would ask. "We did all that during practice--our work is done!"

    Our presenter, Sr. Eisberg  (also the aforementioned swim coach), said, "The summative is celebration of content knowledge."

    This means:
  • Always let students re-do formative assessments to improve, so their final product can be its best.
  • Assess research collection the first week--everything else should build on it and add to it.
  • Use the "Need to know" list, checking off the questions that are answered, but also adding questions that come up. These "Need to knows" are also assessments to indicate to you where direct instruction (IE old lessons that worked well) or perhaps some small-group pull-out sessions can actually be useful.
  • Assess content knowledge  in pieces, one aspect at a time, one "need to know" at a time, ensuring mastery of each before beginning the "celebration."

HOW does it need to be assessed?
  • Rubrics, not checklists. I will never forget the example of the "Kitty Karrier" project where one picture was a neat, creative design, but one was a cat stuffed in a box, but it still met as many of the criteria as the fancy one.
  • Asessment should be done considerately, respectfully, according to critical friends protocols. Instead of accusations and insults, peers and teachers should couch their suggestions in "I wonder" statements and sandwich them between "I like" statements. Maybe "me gusta" and "quiero saber" on student blogs? (NCNSP taught us to use "I noticed" rather than "I like," but I'd say praise has more worth to a student being assessed than pure "objectivity").
  • Assessment should be re-doable. Maybe not the summative (after all, when the swim meet is over, it is over), but the formatives along the way should be things students can re-do until they get it--but perhaps for partial credit the second time around.

    (Interesting but relevant fact: it appears my new district REQUIRES that students be allowed to re-do anything with an 85 or below. Me, I think it's cool that they've thought about this enough to have a policy on it.)
  • Assessment's should be doled out step by step, one thing to fix at a time, and if possible, delivered by peers. See how Ron Berger explain's Austin's Butterfly:

  • Like Austin, students should have something to aim for, something to which their work can be compared. They can't all be photograph-drawing comparisons, of course, but rubrics should be descriptive enough that they can be used like Austin used the drawing. If the rubric is not as clear to the students as the butterfly picture, well, you have some "Need to knows" to address, don't you? As another presenter, Erika, said, "Students can only hit targets they can see."
  • Self-assessment should be submitted up to half an hour before class is over so you can go back and challenge any responses that seem too hasty or do not match what you saw. BUT always approach it as if you missed something, so they 1) do not feel cornered and 2) feel free to get you up to speed and learn to elaborate on their own contributions.
  • Assess collaboration individually still, but instead of "how the group worked together," reflect on "how YOU worked with everyone else" and "what YOU are doing to solve the problems."
  • A few lower-order-thinking online assessments along the way provide quick checks of comprehension, and--with the right programs--immediate feedback so the information is ingrained accurately.

25 June 2012

Buck Institute: Day 1 Deliverable

I'm getting some Problem-based learning (PBL) training straight from the Buck Institute less than 2 miles from my house! Free bonus: a longtime #langchat buddy is helping deliver the instruction!

Speaking of delivery, we're to come away from each of the 3 sessions with a "deliverable," or a demonstration that we can sort of submit to show what we've learned. Today's was a gallery walk of potential projects we came up with.

Some suggested sources of inspiration for these projects were...
  • community
  • current events
  • real-world problems
  • content standards
I'm not sure which I'd say I really started with. Liliana (@senoralopez) suggested starting with a personal forte, mentioning technology. I had been thinking of coming up with a unit so I could teach students to use my favorite Web 2.0 tools, so I took it a step further, tying in a little community and real-world problems, bringing in the local middle school ESL class and the need to expose middle schoolers to valuable online tools. Plus learning a few memorized commands like haz clic and mira arriba and the like fit in with common core standards for novices.

Types of projects suggested include...
  • exploration of philosophical question
  • investigation of a historical event/time period, or a natural phenomenon
  • problem-solving situation
  • examination of controversial issues
  • challenge to design, plan, produce or create something
And then, we created TUBRICS! (little tube devices to help us form driving questions--make your own!)

And so, I present my first day deliverable displayed for today's gallery walk:

Project title: La red es tu amigo

Project idea: Spanish I (and II?) students choose their favorite Web 2.0 tool (from my amazing colleague-to-be, @EngTeachChick's list, most likely) to teach to ESL middle schoolers

Driving question: How can we, as successful students, plan a small-group presentation to prepare middle schoolers to use Web 2.0 tools to enhance their learning?

Connections to Language & Literacy
NL.CLL.1.1 Use single words and simple, memorized phrases to express needs, preferences, and feelings.
NL.CLL.1.3 Use a variety of verbal and non-verbal communication strategies to ask memorized questions and express ideas or thoughts with prompting and modeling.
NL.CLL.2.1 Understand the meaning of simple, spoken greetings, words, and phrases, when accompanied by visual clues and/or prompts, as needed.
NL.CLL.2.2 Understand the meanings of spoken words that are similar to those in the students’ language.
NL.CLL.2.3 Identify written words and phrases that are similar to words and phrases in the students’ language.
NL.CLL.2.4 Interpret phrases, commands, simple questions and descriptions that are presented with accompanying gestures, intonations, and other visual and auditory clues
NL.CLL.2.5 Recognize vocabulary and syntax of single words and simple memorized phrases in the target language.
NL.CLL.3.1 Use single words and simple, memorized phrases in presentations to identify the names of people, places, and things.
NL.CLL. 3.3Use appropriate pronunciation to present memorized phrases.
NL.CLL.4.3 Recognize examples of cognates and loan words.

Connections to Other Disciplines
NL.COD.1.1 Carry out simple exchanges of information using memorized content vocabulary.
NL.COD.1.2 Use single words and simple, memorized phrases to express classroom needs, preferences, and feelings.
NL.COD.2.1 Understand how to respond to simple, memorized questions in the target language that focus on key concepts in classroom activities and different content areas.
NL.COD.2.2 Compare the vocabulary of the target and students’language in different content areas.
NL.COD.2.3 Recognize words in groups from other disciplines.
NL.COD.3.1 Use single words and simple, memorized phrases...to present to an audience
NL.COD.3.2 Use single words and simple, memorized phrases to name common objects and actions related to other disciplines.
NL.COD.3.3 Use readily available technology tools and digital literacy skills to present in the target language.
NL.COD.4.2 Recognize examples of cognates and loan words from the target language in other disciplines.

NL.CMT.1.1 Use single words and simple, memorized phrases to carry out simple interactions with people from the target culture...
NL.CMT.2.1 Recognize single words and simple, memorized phrases from media in the language community.

Major student projects: 
  • Wiki of useful technology vocab
  • How-to steps
  • Screen shots for guide
  • Video guide
  • Glog instructions
  • Partnered practice lesson
  • Small-group presentation

20 June 2012

In my last days at this school, my students gave to me...

8 friends requesting
Since our district's policy strongly discourages friending current students, graduation is a time of adding teachers--strangely only 1 that I taught this year.

7 grades surprising
Of course there's the one who needed a good project and to make up time. One needed an A to pass his second round of Spanish 2--and by golly, he and his partner had the best presentation in the lot! Another needed a miracle--and by golly, his blogs were just not showing up on Blogger for some reason! Two got Level III's on their EOC tests, thus rounding them up to passing. Two needed solid projects and spoke more Spanish than they had spoken in the previous three years of Spanish combined.

6 students trying
Two were required by state-policy to re-take their English EOC, and they did fine. Two just re-took the Spanish I exam to get a passing grade on the final, even though they were already guaranteed to pass the class given their quarter grades. Two were long-shots for passing the course, but they came in when they didn't have to, and I applaud them for taking the time to prepare and taking a risk.

Between Spanish 2 and Spanish 3 presentations, there were about 5 total hours of my students speaking (almost) nothing but Spanish. Sure, some had previously recorded Voicethreads do the legwork for them, and a little English slipped in here and there. But there were kids talking for 20 minutes without flinching! There were kids stringing together sentences, grasping questions--kids that acted like they would never be able to do either!

4 photo tags
Me playing cello with "the band" for Pomp & Circumstance.
A tearful hug when I presented an all-time favorite, brilliant student with her book (and after graduation--again with cello--after all, she used to be in "the band" too when it wasn't her graduation).
And my graduating salutatorian debater getting her book from me, with this caption:
I held back my tears until this moment.What will my life be without debate and this wonderful lady? 

I gotta confess, I held back the tears until she mentioned their first 9th grade orientation--my first at this school. I could hardly remember seeing any of them there, but I remembered the same feelings she described as I came to the school.

3 "thanks" texts
"Thanks mrs S. See you around." from the kid who did a bang-up job on his final project and so bargained with his truck and classroom moving abilities for a chance at enough "seat time" (after many an unfortunately scheduled orthodontist appointment and illness) to officially pass the class.

"Lilly and i would like to say thank you for teaching us spanish so well. Our fellow employees are all hispanic and some speak limited english. Our boss was really impressed with our knowledge ability to communicate with native speakers. :)"

"Thanks For Everything You Have  Been Doing It Really Means A Lot To Me." Remember "Jenny"? Once again, I was glad she had my number when her parent succumbed to the illness, and Jenny just needed someone to visit or something to eat. Nothing I could do could be enough, but for this hard-as-nails girl to text that...there are no words.

2 special gifts
I hadn't taught her since her sophomore year, and apparently she did it for all of the teachers she'd had. She gave each of us a pen engraved with our names and a character award from our school's standard list. Mine says "Gary Phillips," which our school officially defines as follows:
Named after the noted Psychologist who blessed our school in its first year as a “healing place” for kids, this award recognizes students who have reached deep into their own souls to find who they are and have responded to school support with positive personal changes in their role as students. These are students who have looked in the mirror and found the truth about themselves, and in finding that truth have grown in wisdom and understanding.
The second special gift? Was the letter explaining why she chose this award--and zebra stripes--for me:

The coolest parts are when she says...
But instead of getting frustrated at us, you instead replied with, "How can I do it differently?" I will never forget the effort you put into our learning, and that's why I chose to give you the Gary Phillips Award.[...]one thing I completely agree with that my pastor taught me was to never pray for God to change someone else before you pray for him to change you first. I feel like that is what you have always done with yourself. You have never stopped looking inside yourself to figure out what can be changed in you before trying to change it in someone else.
[...]I know that while I continue growing, you will, too. And I know that just like me, you'll never stop, either. 

And a hug from the kid who didn't fail
He tried to call his parents after his final presentation, which, admittedly wasn't awesome, to tell them he wasn't graduating. Fortunately, he had actually engaged the last quarter (got really into the Afrolatinos unit discussions), so with his fourth quarter grade, all he had to do was enough to pass. And that he did. Aside from the during-ceremony hugs during book presentations, he was the only kid to seek me out for a hug. This metalhead who frequently traded jibes with me about how little he liked my class and how little work he did. He was genuinely happy. And he genuinely earned it.