Teacher Talk with Kelly & Randi

September 2018 Newsletter

Dear Educator,

Thank you for your continued readership and commitment to teaching our future! This month we are bringing you easy-to-implement ideas that will help your students to read and write in every content area. We are also kicking off our virtual learning seminars this month and would love for you to join us! Have a great start to your year.

Happy Teaching,

Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson

Math Quick Writes

Writing in mathematics is a critical component for developing deep conceptual understanding. Math quick writes are a great way to get students thinking and explaining math concepts and relationships. A quick write is an opportunity for students to think about a specific topic or respond to a math-related question. The goal is to activate prior knowledge, make connections, and explore ideas. Any question or task that requires comprehension or analysis can be turned into a quick write.

Tell students to write "as much as you can, as fast as you can, as good as you can".

Quick writes range from one to five minutes. For primary grades, these can be turned into quick sketch, also called "driting," drawing and writing.

Quick Write Stems

Here are some quick write stems to kick off or end your math block.

  • What do you know about (concept)?
  • How do you feel about math? Why?
  • Explain what "10" means. Why is "10" an important number?
  • Which strategy do you think is the best one to use when solving a problem like this?
  • When have you solved a problem this week and how?
  • How will you use (strategy) in the future?

Quick Writes Using Pictures

Show students a picture and have them do a quick write on what they see, or challenge students to write their own word problem using the picture. See a few example pictures below.

Word Problems

Present students with a word problem. Before asking students to solve the problem, have them do a quick write (or draw) about what is happening in the problem. Scaffold students using the strategy who, what, when, and why? They could also make a list of what is known and what is unknown.

Be sure to revisit the quick writes to revise as students develop new schema or identify prior misconceptions. These make great formative assessment checks for both the teacher and the learners.

For more math ideas, join us for our virtual seminar Number Talks & Strategies to Get Students Listening, Speaking, & Writing in Math this October!

Pictures to Use for Math Quick Writes

Grammar Scavenger Hunts

Grammar and conventions can be boring tasks to teach, but they don't have to be! Turn the learning into a game where students can engage and internalize the rules.

A scavenger hunt is one game that can have a huge impact on the transfer of correct grammar and convention usage. Research tell us that the brain must see and analyze grammar rules used correctly first in order to effectively apply the rule to our own practices. Start by engaging the students visually with each grammar rule during an explicit focus lesson (5 mins or less). Follow the focus lesson with a scavenger hunt through books, poems, and articles to find examples in context. Give points for each "find" and another point for each explanation of how the rule is impacting the reader's understanding.Consider giving "extra" points for finding errors and explaining which rule is being broken and how to fix it.

For example, when teaching commas in a compound sentence, create an anchor chart with students about why and how commas in a compound sentence are used. Then, show students an example of a compound sentence with a comma used correctly. In my class, we called this our "guiding sentence" of the week. Students need to have time to discuss what they noticed about the use of the comma, including how it helps the reader understand the message of the sentence.

The next step is a scavenger hunt through children's books in the library (or classroom library). Challenge students to locate an example of where an author used a comma in a compound sentence correctly. Give students opportunities to share the examples they find with the class or a partner. It is also a great idea to take a picture of the page in the book where the grammar rule was located and keep the pictures for students to use as a reference.

For more writing teaching tips like this one, attend our 3 hour virtual seminar coming up called Editing & Revising Are Not Boring! Teaching Conventions in Authentic & Engaging Ways on December 8th, 2018.

Reader's Theater Boosts Fluency & Comprehension

Reader's Theater is a fabulous instructional tool for building fluency and comprehension! It's the secret ingredient for helping students become proficient, strategic readers.

The beginning of the school year is a perfect time to introduce reader's theater (RT) as a regular routine or practice during the ELAR block. Start with teaching the elements of drama (genre). Then model for your students what a RT looks like. Finally, have students participate in class RT to practice with their peers.

Here are some great FREE scripts to do as a class to kick start RT in your classroom!

I Like Myself! (18 roles)

Worry Warts (15 roles)

And the Dish Ran Away With the Spoon (20 Roles)

For more information & resources for kicking off RT and Literacy Centers, join us for our 3 hour learning seminar all about getting kids engaged in Literacy Centers + RT.

Learning Targets and Success Criteria

There are two questions that kick off most professional learning community (PLC) meetings.

  1. What do we expect students to learn? What are the focus standards? What are the daily learning targets?
  2. How will we know if they have learned? What are the success criteria for demonstrating the learning?

While learning targets of some type are found on the boards in most classrooms these days, success criteria is often not seen. The learning target alone will not be enough for many students to hit the target. Without knowing what hitting the target looks and sounds like, many students will fall short of the goal.

Learning targets come from standards. We unpack the standard into lesson-size chunks called learning targets that will scaffold students up the standard. These statements tell students what the learning intention is for the lesson. They should reflect the intent, or part of the intent, of the standard. They include a verb plus an action statement. We can word them using a sentence stem like "I can..." or "We will..." We want students see themselves in the target. The verb and action statement in the target statement should help students know the level of mental processing (retrieval, comprehension, analysis, or knowledge utilization) needed to achieve the target. Learning targets should never include a specific task or product, such as "graphic organizer" unless it is explicitly stated in the state standard.

Success criteria are the thought processes that need to be used to successfully demonstrate the thinking demanded by the learning target. The criteria for learning guides the students' thinking as they work on questions, products, or performances. It helps them to determine what success looks and sounds like, so they can gauge their own learning progress.

For example, the success criteria for an expository text summary is:

  1. Includes main ideas and key details from each paragraph or text section
  2. Does not repeat ideas
  3. Free of the reader's opinion or prior knowledge

The learner should be able to use the success criteria to evaluate their summary. They should be able to defend the ideas they included and determine if extraneous information is present.

Notice these reflect thought processes needed to produce a summary. The thinking for this learning target is at the comprehension level as a summary should represent the author's ideas. Also, there aren't any specific demands on how long the summary should be or the format it should take. If this information were included, it would be a rubric for scoring a specific product. Success criteria should be able to be used to complete any product that requires a summary.

Sometimes it helps to think of these thought processes as questions one might ask to ensure they are thinking successfully. For example, if the learning target is "I can write a friendly letter" I might want to think like a successful writer and begin by generating questions I would ask myself throughout the writing process.

  1. What is my message to the reader?
  2. Who is my audience?
  3. What words can I use to express my message?
  4. How will I begin my letter?
  5. What ideas will I include in the body of the letter?
  6. How will I end my letter?

These questions can be used as success criteria for any writing task.

I avoid being product specific by saying "What words can I use to express friendship?" Not all letters will have this message.

Once I have questions to ask myself, I can then turn them into statements for the success criteria.

  • Establish the purpose for the letter.
  • Identify what the audience already knows and needs to know.
  • Use specific words to express my message.
  • Include the all parts of a friendly letter.
  • Use correct letter format punctuation.

The only way to know if the success criteria is correct, is for students to be able to use it to guide and evaluate their work. It should help them think about their thinking. It will tell them how they will demonstrate the learning target, without telling them how to create a specific product or performance.

Remember, there is a fine line between the success criteria and the task or question. The success criteria gives students the procedural knowledge (mental process) to use as they answer the question or complete the task. You can't hit the target if you can't see or hear it clearly. Don't forget the success criteria!

Examples of Learning Targets and Success Criteria

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The Essentials Flip Book for Achieving Rigor

The Essentials for Achieving Rigor series details essential classroom strategies to support the complex shifts in teaching that are necessary for an environment where academic rigor is a requirement for all students. Edited by Amy Dujon and Robert Marzano with the support of more than a dozen experts, the Essentials model draws on instructional strategies grounded in research documented in Marzano’s The Art and Science of Teaching (2007) and Learning Sciences International’s own research and pilot projects, conducted in districts across the United States.

This guide is designed to provide classroom teachers with an overview of the key criteria for the Essentials model—complete with multiple sample techniques for each element and practical advice for their implementation. Educators who have begun the process of implementing standards-based learning in their classrooms will find that this is the essential flipbook for achieving rigor. Click here to order!

Virtual Seminars (3 Hour)

On Site Seminars (6 Hours)

Guided Math Conference

Nov. 5-6, 2018 Houston, Texas

Nov. 7-8, 2018 Phoenix, AZ

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Kelly Harmon & Associates provide on-site trainings for districts. Choose a seminar from our lineup or have a custom training created just for your staff. Contact us for more information!