The Book Fort

Instructional Ideas for Immediate Implementation

Welcome to The Book Fort! Vol. 1 Issue 14

In an effort to systematically study relevant research and stay connected to the teachers I greatly respect and with whom I have worked for years to successfully implement independent reading, this newsletter came about. It will offer research and practical ideas for quick implementation and may prompt further discussion or study with your colleagues. I hope you'll find it useful and thought-provoking; I also hope you will stay in touch if you implement any of the ideas with your students. They are, after all, why I do what I do!

Missed previous issues? Find them below:

Issue 1 Issue 2 Issue 3 Issue 4 Issue 5 Issue 6 Issue 7 Issue 8 Issue 9 Issue 10 Issue 11

Issue 12 Issue 13

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Week Fourteen: Assessing Higher-Order Thinking

Since I am off to #NCTE17 in St. Louis this week to spread some #wonder with my fellow Wonderopolis Ambassadors, I can’t help but think about the importance of creativity and innovation in education. I was reminded that we are responsible for teaching the whole child, not just the parts that bubble in answers or write to address prompts. The first principal once told me that parents send the best they’ve got to us everyday and it is our jobs to pick up the slack if needed, to treat their “best” with love and respect.

That message is mirrored in Susan M. Brookhart’s How to Assess Higher-Order Thinking Skills in Your Classroom (2010). Another essential professional text published by ASCD, this short book outlines practical ways to assess some of the skills that do not explicitly show up on standardized tests, but rather skills that students needs to be successful in post-secondary endeavors as human beings. This includes multi-step projects, problem-solving, critical thinking, analysis, and evaluation, all things students do in well-designed project or problem-based learning, which is showing up more and more in schools. I hope you’ll find my review useful.

Brookhart, S.M. (2010). How to assess higher-order thinking skills in your classroom. Alexandria, VA, ASCD.

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Practical Applications

Reading Strategy: Assessing Multiple Levels of Thinking

In Chapter 1, Brookhart reminds us that we should never, ever shortchange students, particularly those at the lowest and highest ends of achievement and demonstrated ability, by only giving them questions that challenge them to think at one level. To truly know what students can do and how they think, we must design a variety of tasks and questions. I say this in every Advanced Placement training I do: if we never ask students to think critically, to do things that they feel are difficult and challenging, how will we know if they can do them? This most certainly applies to reading assessment. Keep in mind that you wouldn’t necessarily give students all three types in one sitting, but rather expose them to all three at various points in the unit or series of lessons.

Brookhart includes a sample assessment that demands various levels of thinking from students (28), but allows them to express this in different ways. Each demands, then, different assessment criteria from the teacher as well. An adapted version is shown below.

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Writing Strategy: Assessing Analysis in Argument Writing

One of the best reminders I return to, both as a teacher and facilitator, is we must be clear from the beginning about what we expect to see in a student’s writing, and we don’t have to assess the whole piece of writing every, single time we read an essay. This is echoed in Chapter 2 when Brookhart speaks to the assessment of analytical thinking through writing. She reminds us that students must first assess the analytical writing of others themselves using the criteria they will be assessed on in their own writing later; then, they must do the analysis themselves. That is how we will know if they’ve demonstrated the skill. We cannot stop at multiple choice, folks, we just can’t.

Brookhart gives a short list of questions (47) students should use to assess analytical arguments of others, which ultimately become their own assessment questions. An adapted version is reproduced below.

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Caution: Don't Miss the Point

Assessment of Creativity

As educators and possibly parents, we know that creative thinking can catapult a student from the ordinary to the extraordinary. We know that employers desire candidates who can recognize problems and solve them in divergent and convergent ways. The complicated part for teachers seems to be how to encourage this type of thinking and assess it without destroying the whole spirit of creativity in the process by awarding meaningless points that seem like a consolation prize. A graphic of ways students demonstrate creativity is included below.

In the final chapter, Brookhart recommends the following when assessing creativity:

  • Construct an on-going list of indicators of creativity as it is demonstrated in your class (132-133)
  • Revise grading schemes and rubrics that trivialize creativity (138-139) by providing specific indicators for the demonstration of it (i.e. "colorful and appealing to the eye" instead of "creative").
  • Define creativity for each unique assessment as it relates to the project or assignment as a whole (139); explain what creativity might look and sound like so students understand how they might demonstrate it.

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Classroom Tool of the Week


According to Latonya Taylor-Rowe of Highland Elementary School in Kentucky, Seesaw is a must have tech tool. She says, "There are many ways it can be utilized inside and outside the classroom. Students can view peer work and leave comments, view lessons and access a variety of other content. I use it to take video and pictures, journal, and post assignments. Parents can view student work and progress. It is a great tool!" Check Seesaw out today! Follow Seesaw on Twitter @Seesaw for new instructional ideas.
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Cult of Pedagogy

Check out this resource! There is a blog with amazing ideas for "fine tuning" your instructional practices, a podcast, social media posts, videos, and even a store if you need some merchandise to satiate your inner nerd. Follow @Cultofpedagogy on Twitter for great tidbits that will make you think about your practice and might just give you some new ideas.
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What Kids are Reading

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