Posts by jserravallo

Upcoming #litlead Chat May 8, 2014

Posted by on May 5, 2014 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Upcoming #litlead Chat May 8, 2014

On May 8 at 8:30PM EST I’m honored to be leading a #litlead Twitter chat to discuss formative assessment. I hope this chat serves as part trouble-shooting, part inspiration, and part practical advice for future planning. Chances are good many of us hear “assessment” and think of mandates that take away from teaching time, and offer us little help with what to do next. It’s a shame, because good assessment is at the heart of effective classroom instruction It helps teachers to create goals for students, give effective feedback, and measure progress over time. In this chat, we’ll attempt to reclaim the word assessment to mean the types of classroom-embedded practices that support instruction and learning. Together, we’ll reconsider what “data” is the most helpful, what assessment practices in the classroom help us teach better, and how to use the information from assessments to set goals with students. I look forward to hearing some of your thoughts on some of the following questions: • What are some examples of assessments you can’t do without – but that nobody is making you give? • How do we keep in-class formative assessment relevant in the time of CCSS? • What practices do you find helpful when evaluating formative assessments? • How do you involve students in self-reflecting on assessments? • How do you use assessments to set individual goals? • How do you manage individual goals and unit goals? I’ll look forward to “meeting” you online...

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Assessment: What’s in a Name?

Posted by on Feb 17, 2014 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Assessment: What’s in a Name?

Assessment: What’s in a Name?

What a joy to participate in a fast-paced, passion-filled Twitter chat hosted by Franki Sibberson (@frankisibberson) and Antero Garcia (@anterobot) on Sunday evening. Educators were on fire! The #nctechat hastag was trending! The topic? Hold onto your seats: formative assessment. (cue: WONH wonh waaaooooonnnhhh). Is it just me or do you feel lately that when you utter the word “assessment” people immediately change the subject? I’ve been puzzling about this trend and here’s why I think this is so: 1. When we hear the word assessment, we think about capital-A Assessment – stuff created by psychomatricians that is being improperly used to evaluate teachers. 2. We think that assessment yields stuff that reduces kids to numbers and letters and winds up on data walls with charts and graphs. 3. We hear the word and think of something that’s a time-suck, something that interferes with teaching. 4. We think of something someone else forces us to do, instead of something we’ve chosen to do ourselves.   What was so inspirational about this chat, rooted in the NCTE position statement about formative assessment (which you can find here) is how all the participants kept the discussion student-focused, goal-oriented, and about how assessment can empower teachers and support students. Yes. That’s what I mean when I use the word. Assessment and powerful teaching are inextricably linked. Being a strong assessor means the difference between teaching lessons from pre-made curriculum and teaching kids. It’s about taking a teacher-as-scientist stance, puzzling over what our students know and what they might be ready to learn next based on what we see and don’t see before us. At one point in last night’s chat, I suggested we change the name that’s bogged down with all kinds of negative connotation. Kristi Mraz (@mrazkristine) suggested “successment” which made me smile. I love it – assessment that leads to success. But then I thought maybe instead of changing the name, it’s time to for us teachers to take back the word, reclaim it as ours. Knowing the word’s history might help. As my colleague Cheryl Tyler reminded me last night, one origin of the word “assess” is from the Latin “assessus” which means, in part, “to sit beside.” I like the image of a teacher sitting beside a student in a conference, working together to arrive at goals and plans based on the student’s work (instead of scan tron bubble sheets and graphs of numerical data). Here’s a video of me doing just that. I’d love to hear your thoughts!  ...

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Let’s (Tweet) Chat about IRA: Fiction and Nonfiction

Posted by on Dec 2, 2013 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Let’s (Tweet) Chat about IRA: Fiction and Nonfiction

Let’s (Tweet) Chat about IRA: Fiction and Nonfiction

On December 12th at 8PM EST I’ll be hosting a tweet chat about independent reading, text complexity, differentiated instruction, comprehension, assessment of students’ reading of whole books…in essence, I’ll be talking about my Independent Reading Assessment  for fiction and nonfiction. If you’d like to join in, you can follow along using the hashtag #ScholasticExperts. I hope you lurk, RT, and/or join in the conversation. If you don’t currently have the Independent Reading Assessment for your school, but you’d like to give it a try, you can download the forms you’ll need  here. At that same link you’ll also find rubrics and other materials to learn more about it. When you’re ready to give it a try, here are a few tips: Whether or not students get to choose what they read is an important factor in how well they comprehend a text. The IRA:Fiction kits include a choice of 26 authentic trade books ranging from F&P levels K-W. There are funny books like Time Warp Trio, character-driven books such as Amber Brown, award winners like Home of the Brave, and classics like Fourth Grade Rats. The IRA:Nonfiction kits include a choice of 28 authentic informational texts ranging from F&P levels J-W on a wide variety of topics – from sharks to slavery, inventors to the industrial revolution, forensic science to frogs. That said, to give you a sample I’ve included the forms for only two of the books – Because of Winn Dixie and Moon Power. You’ll want to print out the Student Response Form and locate a copy of the books. If you have the sampler, they are included. If you don’t, hopefully there’s a copy of at least BWD somewhere in your school. You’ll need to mark the dozen pages where the questions appear with a sticky note to flag the student to stop and answer the questions when he or she gets to that page. (look at the student response form to see the page numbers where students will answer each question). The IRA kits come with sticky notes with the questions pre-printed, but in the pilot study I found children did fine even when the book is marked with a blank post-it. As you do this, just make sure you’re using a Scholastic edition or else the pagination might be off! Overall, users of this resource tend to find that the assessment reveals the most when students read a couple of levels below wherever they place when reading a running record. This isn’t always the case, but often it seems kids can do well on a running record which asks them to read fluently and accurately and only scratches the surface when it looks at their comprehension. This assessment looks at how well kids understand whole chapter books, and requires that readers synthesize and accumulate text. So, when you offer the books to a reader, you might give Because of Winn Dixie, a text leveled at “R” to a student who has done well on a running record at S/T/U. Moon Power is leveled at “P” and that might be best for a child whose running record placed him or her at Q/R/S. When you’ve found a student who’d like to take the assessment, tell the student that the assessment is to help you learn more about him/her as a reader – it’s not a “test” and there is nothing to “pass”. He or she should complete all answers independently.  Reading BWD or MP will replace his or her independent reading for as long as it takes to complete it. When the student comes upon...

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A Close Reading of Kids: Teaching Reading Like a Scientist

Posted by on Oct 10, 2013 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Close Reading of Kids: Teaching Reading Like a Scientist

A Close Reading of Kids: Teaching Reading Like a Scientist

Some of you might not know this about me, but I grew up in a science family. I’m the daughter of an analytical chemist. As kids, we spent weekends playing with toy microscopes and doing science experiments. A hike was not complete without a lecture on the role of moss in the forest ecosystem and when my dad wanted the salt passed to him at the dinner table, he’d say, “please pass the sodium chloride?” So it seems an interest in science was inevitable. It clearly rubbed off on my sister, whose chosen career is in medicine, but my path to teaching may be, at first glance, less obviously connected to science. A teacher? Of reading? Have you seen this quote? “Teaching reading is rocket science.” The teaching of reading, to me, is about the kids. Kids are complicated and complex, they’re nuanced, they’re as unique as snowflakes. And when we want to teach them, really teach them, we have to study them closely. Do a close reading, if you will. Approach them like scientists. If you’ve seen me teach children or staff develop teachers, or even read one of my books, you’ll notice this reading-teacher-as scientist quality. I approach my teaching with a spirit of wonder and amazement. I ask questions that guide studies of inquiry about students specifically and about reading skills and processes in general. I collect data, and puzzle over it, rearrange it, analyze it and draw conclusions from it. And just when it might seem I’m done, I start the whole thing all over again — there is always more to think about, question, and learn. Below are four tips for bringing a scientist’s mindset to closely read your students as you strive to teach them to be readers: Be Curious Collect Data Identify Variables Expect Revision Be Curious. The poet Nancy Willard once said, “Sometimes questions are more important than answers.” I just love curiosity in a teacher and in a student. I love the attitude of “I don’t know” and “I wonder why” and “Let’s figure this out.” Every time I look at a child, I think “What’s going on here?” and “what can I do to help him understand what I’m saying?” When some kids “get it” I think, “What did I do there? What worked?” A curious teacher isn’t one who is just going through the moves of a Reading Workshop – minilesson to independent reading to conferring to share. She’s a teacher who is really interested in the work the students are doing. She’s the one who is trying to figure out how to make things go deeper. She’s trying to figure out what it’s going to take to really move each and every child. She’s going to seek out professional reading, hop on Twitter for chats, and go to conferences on weekends. Collect Data. We’re data-crazed lately, I know. So for me to suggest you collect data may feel ridiculous. But let me be more specific. What I really mean is that I hope that you are actually using opportunities for data collection –trying to record nuance and not just regard their assessments as “tests”. Ask yourself: Does the assessment I give match what I want kids to be doing every day? If you want kids reading whole just right books each day, you need a tool to assess how well they handle whole books. Placing post-its in the book and asking kids to respond in writing allows you to see their comprehension in the midst of reading. When I give a running record, do I analyze it?...

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Confessions of a Struggling (E-) Reader

Posted by on Sep 30, 2013 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Confessions of a Struggling (E-) Reader

My Kindle is so old that it has a keyboard on the bottom and the screen doesn’t light up. When I first got it, it was love at first read. Dozens of books all at my fingertips? Great for long trips. Super lightweight? I can read in bed without my arms getting tired. Hover my cursor over a word? Get the definition instantly. So many benefits. I’ve read dozens and dozens of all kinds of books on my Kindle, and have been telling anyone who will listen how great Kindle reading is. Until And the Mountains Echoed. I bought the Kindle version of Khaled Hosseini’s new book months ago when it first came out. I read the first chapter and part of the second and left it, turning to some other nonfiction book for a while. Then I picked it up again, forgot where I was and re-read it from the start. I was lost again, and got distracted with another book in my e-pile. Then my local bookstore announced Hosseini was coming to do a talk, and only those who purchased the hardcover book at the store could gain admission. So I bought another copy – a paper copy. I started reading it from the start again. But this time, I couldn’t put it down. Simultaneous to my Hosseini experience, I’ve been working closely with a group of teachers in a district in CT on conferring with readers. In this district, many parents have purchased e-readers for their kids, and the kids are loading them up with books at home and bringing them in to school. More than once, I’ve been asked to model conferring with a child reading an e-book. And more than once, I’ve found myself struggle. These two experiences with e-readers – as a reader and as a teacher of reading – have led me to do some thinking and reflecting about challenges inherent to reading on devices that make me at times prefer paper, and tricks I use to teach when students are reading on a device. These thoughts are just the beginning, and I would love to hear what you’re thinking, too. When paper beats device: When a book is filled with characters and/or when the plot is nonlinear, I prefer to read on paper. Flipping back and forth is just too hard on an e-reader. For kids who are reading a book at the upper reaches of their independent level, paper books are probably best. And the Mountains Echoed is both filled with character (with names unfamiliar to me) and the plot is woven together like an intricate braid. Needless to say, I was more engaged when I could flip. When I want to do in-the-moment writing about reading, paper is probably better. For many students, jotting sticky notes as they read helps them to hold onto the story, pause to reflect, or prepare for conversation. When I’ve asked students to show me their thinking, they have to toggle to a new comments page on their e-reader, and then navigate back to the page on which they had the thought. To me, it’s too clumsy. If a student is going to read on an e-reader, I ask that the student keeps running thoughts externally, like in a reading notebook, and indicate the location of the idea from the e-book. I also recommend that the student highlight the text on the e-reader to correspond to the jot on paper. When I’m getting ready for a book talk (club, partnership) I prefer paper. Again, paper makes it easier to flag pages and thumb through...

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