Teacher Talk

February 2020 Newsletter / Kelly Harmon & Associates

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Dear Friends,

Happy February! We know how crazy this month can be, so we want to bring you ideas for celebrating Black History Month, developing assessment capable students, and fun practice ideas for reading!

We also have several seminars coming up this spring! Thank you for your continued readership and support. We are thankful to have you along for this learning journey.

- Kelly Harmon, Randi Anderson & Ashley Taplin

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Black History Month Read Alouds

February is Black History month. During this month, we celebrate the achievements of African American men and women. Here are some read aloud texts for your students!

Assessment Capable Learners

By Ashley Taplin

In the fall, I had the opportunity to attend a Visible Learning Institute in which John Hattie and Peter DeWitt dove into the topic of assessment capable learners. They explained that students need to be able to answer three questions: where am I going, how am I doing, and where to next? (download this classroom poster I created here). Furthermore, there are 6 key characteristics of assessment capable learners:

1. Knows their current level of understanding

2. Understands where they are going and have confidence to take on a challenge

3. Selects tools to guide their learning

4. Seeks feedback and recognizes errors are opportunities to learn

5. Monitors progress and adjusts their learning

6. Recognizes their learning and teaches others

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Learning Target & Success Criteria Check Box

A few weeks ago, I co-taught a Desmos lesson in which we wanted to ensure students had clarity and confidence in knowing their current level of understanding. We added two slides into the Desmos activity where students read the learning target and checked off their knowledge of the success criteria before and after a lesson. Most students were able to check off 1 or 2 success criteria as they were prerequisite targets from previous lessons, but did not know the remaining three. When students started to check off their level of understanding after completing the lesson, every student was able to check off the majority, if not all, of the success criteria. As they were doing so, I heard one student shout out, “I now know everything!” as she and her friend jumped up and high-fived. What an incredible moment of clarity for the teacher and the student! Consider how you can provide an intentional target with success criteria and help students return to it after the learning.
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Favorite No

I love doing “Favorite No” as a warm up to help students recognize errors and build understanding that mistakes are all a part of growth. I often did this on Fridays and called it “Favorite No Fridays.” See below for 3 ways to incorporate it in your classroom:

  • Pose a problem on the board and ask students to write a wrong answer. Then have students turn and talk about their answer and why it is wrong. Ask a few pairs to share out in a class discussion.

  • Ask students to anonymously submit an answer to a problem you pose on a notecard. Then, pick one answer from the stack with an error in it, write it on the board, and discuss together why it is incorrect.

  • Use a test or homework problem you notice has consistently been answered wrong. Put the question and most common wrong answer on the board and have students explain why it is wrong.

Test Corrections & Extensions

Another way to develop assessment capable learners is to regularly ask students to reflect on their learning. I created these task cards to do in class after an assessment is graded and handed back. The yellow task card helps students think through their mistake, correct it, and make plans for how to avoid it next time. The green task card is meant for extension if students were proficient on a problem. Students can either create a new, but similar, problem or record a video on Flipgrid explaining their problem solving process with the test question. As these are completed, students working on the yellow task cards can then use these to see correct examples and understand the problem better from their peers.
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Reading Assessment Practice Ideas

By Randi Anderson

Assessment season is right around the corner and we know you are working tirelessly, preparing lessons that pack lots of punch (instruction wise). It is important to remember that we must model the types of thinking processes that are essential for proficient reading and writing, as well as provide time for students to repeatedly practice those thinking processes for the majority of our classroom time. Here are few ideas to use in your classrooms.

Analysis Circles

Good readers should always go in and out of comprehension and analysis thinking. Proficient readers must draw conclusions and evaluate the author's purpose in order to get beyond surface-level comprehension. Analysis thinking involves readers making inferences, drawing conclusions, developing arguments, and using reasoning skills to determine author's purpose and how to apply the content.

Analysis circles are one way to keep students thinking at the analysis level. Just like a discussion circle, students form heterogeneous groups of 4-6 students.

After students read the text at least one time, the teacher or students share a claim or question about the text with the group. Students share their thinking and provide reasons and evidence from the text. Each student will need to have a copy of the text during the discussion to help locate evidence/support for their reasoning or argument. Get our free Analysis Circle Student Response Sheet!

Analysis Circle Student Response Sheet

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After the analysis circle, have students reflect on their new level of text understanding. What did you learn from the discussion? How has your thinking changed as a result of the reading, writing, and discussion of the text? What are your next steps for learning?

For students to be assessment capable learner, they must be able to reflect and self-evaluate.

Analysis circles help students deepen their understanding of a text. This is a perfect collaborative learning opportunity that can be used to learn content in science, social studies or even math.

Informational Book-A-Day


Genre is important! Students must use knowledge of the genre they are reading as they process through a text. Historically, most students struggle with informational texts due to unfamiliar content and text structures. Maybe it is because we spend majority of our read aloud time reading mostly fiction texts. What if we intentionally read at least one informational text (or part of a text) to our students everyday?

Reading informational texts helps students build background knowledge. Marinate your students in informational texts, including literary nonfiction, procedural, persuasive and expository. While we are reading aloud ,we should also take the time to think aloud, as well. This shows students what proficient readers sound like in their head while reading.

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Reader's Theater

There is no better way to get students practicing the art of reading than in a group setting like the one Reader's Theater provides. Give students 10-12 minutes per day to get into Reader's Theater groups to practice reading their selected scripts and parts. Students will be practicing reading (fluency) each day with their peers. The more times the students read their scripts, the better their understanding of the text and elements they will have. For more information on Reader's Theater, visit our blog post.

Reading Between the Lines: Making Inferences, Synthesizing, & Analyzing the Text

March 2nd, 2020

8:30am to 3:30pm

San Antonio, TX

March 5th, 2020

8:30am to 3:30pm

Dallas, TX

In this interactive training, educators will learn ways to get students engaged in critical thinking. Focus on strategies to get the students doing the thinking, which will result in the students doing the learning. Hear information on synthesizing, thinking of the author, and their use of structure, literary elements, and much more! Empower your students to be in productive discussions with peers and take in new, or different, perspectives. Challenge your students to write short answer responses that include elements from their favorite authors. Inspire students to read and write using favored authors!

Did You Miss Our Countdown to Reading STAAR Virtual?

You can purchase the video! The 2 Hour virtual seminar includes all the resources from the training. Broadcast the video for your campus today! Visit our flyer for more information on the content of the seminar. Contact us for more information about purchasing for your school.

Struggling Readers Conference 2020

March 16-17, 2020

Long Island, NY

March 18-19, 2020

Chicago, IL

Grades K-6

Helping your struggling readers with strategies that work! Hear from three experts over two days in the area of reading on topics of vocabulary strategies, RTI, growth mindset, literacy centers, comprehension, teaching walls, and much more!

Bring a Training to Your Campus!

We provide onsite seminars, instructional coaching, and curriculum assistance to school districts. Contact us today for more information!