I love the "Turn and Talk" question "What are some ideas you'd like to try? What's holding you back?" I am curious to hear what the other participants think! I would love to try inquiry-based learning, but I struggle with trying to engage all students while working with individuals or small groups, and how to make sure that all students reach mastery of the standards in time for the AIR test in April.
It is so sad that education has become all about reading mastery of standards by early spring to be proficient on state tests. Why can't the goal be student growth for all students as evidenced through classroom assesssment? I am all for accountability but don't believe that rating teachers, schools, and districts based on one assessment at one point in time has done much in Ohio to create higher student achievement and preparation for success in a 21st century world. If the focus in every classroom shifted to growth for all students EVERY student would be a priority not just one subgroup that could help the school look good on a report card.
I completely agree!! As I read these chapters (specifically Chapter 11), I couldn't help but think about how my teaching has changed (and not for the better) with the advent of the new tests. My scores last year were terrible, so I found myself (and the entire district) being "hijacked by the tests" as Beers and Probst mention. I taught to the test and this past school year, raised my scores 13%. In the eyes of my administration, that is a huge success. I was extremely happy with the huge jump in scores, but I miss the days where so much of my classroom was collaborative work and project based learning :(
Jackie, I agree with you. I agree with accountability and do not believe rating teachers, schools, and districts based on one assessment proves this. In fact I feel the pressure of these ratings is putting so much stress on teachers and districts that instruction is actually at times worse. In some districts the focus has become the test and not meeting individual needs- this is really sad and not best practice.
Tracie, I feel the same way with my AP Lit class. I have had subpar scores the last two years so I've spent my summer stripping some of the projects, texts, and fun out of my class in order to attempt to improve scores. I want students to engage with literature deeply and ask about what that means for them in the world, but that's not on the test, so I'll have to go back to the textbook. It is definitely discouraging.
I really like the idea that when schools focus on student engagement and teaching what we as educators know to be important, students succeed. I really do believe that test scores will improve with passion and engagement. I also believe that the tests can't always measure that. I find the AP Lit test so subjective in many ways, that I had to stop worrying about it, and while I did test prep and review, I kept it fun and low-stakes.
Good luck everyone as we fight lots of external pressure to do what we know is right.
Molly, I think what is holding me back is I feel like I am a rule follower and I am afraid of doing something wrong. I feel like I can manage next practice and sustaining next practices. However, disruptive next practices does not come easy for me. I am willing to try new things but would always run it by administration first. I do believe innovation is what lets us thrive. I have seen classrooms without any desk and students are thriving, I haven seen student thrive over discussions of books without actual test or written assessments, I have seen great success during reading where the students have different stations they can go to while the teacher is meeting with small groups. It's all very exciting and I do love to try new things.
I totally agree with all that is being said here. I am also a rule follower and I am not always willing to try something new even if I think it is an amazing idea. I have approached my administrator and asked if something would work and the answer is usually, "sure go ahead..." but I know that the underlining comment is, "Just make sure they are staying on track" which means 'getting ready for the test.'
I would love to try some new things and use some disruptive next practices with a crew of teachers in my building and see how it benefits the students!
I agree! I think for me a lot of it comes from intimidation of my colleagues sometimes too. Sometimes I feel like some teachers are SO rooted in books, authors, and "best practices" that if I have an idea I want to try the origin and research behind it is immediately questioned. So sometimes I hesitate sharing new ideas/strategies that I try.
I totally agree with with the negative impact state testing has had on developing a "love" of reading. Our district is now adding even more testing. Formative assessments, summarize assessments, map testing 3 times a year and state testing as well. The kids are tested out. I lose 9 days of instructional time just for map testing alone. Trying to cover all the standards and "enjoy" reading is stressing me out
I struggle with this as well. I have always wanted to do more "book club" type reading instruction in my classroom but I always struggle with the management/productivity of everyone reading something different.
I differentiate and use a lot of different resources for our daily activities, but something about the book clubs always intimidates me. I feel like I've only been able to be successful with them a small number of times. Any tips would be so appreciated!
I have tried "clubs" with short texts where I give several short texts for students to choose and then they meet with others who selected the same text. I found this was a way to incorporate more discussion with nonfiction as well. I find that with choice in longer novels means hurdles with multiple copies and sustaining interest over time. Maybe consider articles or short excerpts?
I love doing book clubs and since I co-teach, I have seen it done a couple of different ways. Most often, we choose about 4 novels that have similar themes. I meet with them once a week (twice if my co-teacher does 2 of the books and I do 2 of the books). While meeting with a book club, the other groups are writing about the books or doing research. Sometimes I give the group I'm with a question for them to discuss while I rotate to the other groups. I think starting this with short stories or articles or even picture books is a great way to practice book groups. As for everyone reading a self-pic book, I don't have a ton of success with this -- a new teacher I had this year did, but part of what made it work is that kids got at least 20-30 minutes 3-4 days a week to read. We also conferenced briefly with each kid once a grading period just to do a quick "check in" on their choice books. They didn't do much else with their books except read them, fill out a simple form with the author, title, dates and a rank.
Just as others have shared, starting book clubs with short stories or picture books can help with the mangagement and allow you and your students multiple chances to figure out what works best for you. My book clubs usually run 3 weeks when students are reading a novel (1 week if it is a short story or picture book). My class is a workshop so my students have time to read daily and I meet with groups while the other students are reading. I have found what works through trial and error, but my students are always engaged, excited for the next book club, and I rarely have problems with apathy or students not completing the reading. Some things that have helped me: I preview the books (through book tastings, book talks, book trailers, etc.)and give the students a chance to rank their book choices and almost always students will get their 1st or 2nd choice book. They have to do their thinking in their reader's notebook so that they come to their book club with something to discuss. We practice building conversations and noticing important details to share during interactive read aloud so that they have those skills for book club. I model how to agree, disagree, stay on a topic, add to another reader's thoughts, etc. through read aloud. For supply management I print a blank calendar and meet briefly with each group when we begin to give them meeting dates and final meeting and they manage their reading schedule.
Hope those help~ book clubs are so worth it, but I can understand how they can be intimidating!
I highly encourage you to implement book clubs. I did last year, and when I gave my students an end of the year survey, most noted that the book clubs were one of their favorite structures in class. I also felt like their involvement and engagement with the reading was awesome during book clubs. When reading was assigned for homework, we rarely had a problem with someone not doing assigned reading since they would be letting their club down. Give it a try!
Love these suggestions; I've done small groups with different nonfiction texts relating to similar themes, but haven't used fiction as much!! Thanks!!
In college, I took a reading workshop class. It was centered around Nancie Atwell, so having everyone in their own book was how I started. There is no way to ever read every book your 110 kids are going to read. So the best advice they gave us was just let go. Then the other thing they talked about was reading the shorter pieces as instructional pieces. I like doing that. So their choice book is what they are reading and their instructional reading is what we are doing in the class.
What I would like to try this year is more "student-centered" activities like writing workshop and literature circles. I used to do those activities -- 10 years ago, and I think that last school year, being overwhelmed and a lack of confidence "held me back." You see, I was a school librarian for 8 years and had not taught high school English since 1999. So, when I learned in April 2016 that I was being reassigned - I went into survival mode. That's not to say that I didn't employ student-centered activities, but it wasn't what I really wanted to do with my students.
However, this coming school year, I am determined to employ literature circles with my juniors one quarter and use my modified version of writing workshop. I also want to use some of the reading frameworks that we've been reading about in this group. I am excited to go back to my two "old methods" of teaching (literature circles and writing workshop) as well as teaching the signposts and BHH. I think it took a year back in the classroom to help me regain my footing and shake the rust off. I know that I still have a great deal to learn and a long way to go, but I hope using this disruptive practices will make a difference for my students.
I think a lot of people including myself can be afraid to try new things. Just like the book said, it's ok to fail. Thats the wonderful thing about teaching, if it doesnt work, tweak it for the next class. Youll be glad you put yourself out there.
Lisa- I think that these are awesome ideas. Take some risks- I bet that your students will appreciate doing something that you’ve put together. I’ve noticed that our students especially at least humor me when I mention that I worked really hard on putting together a lesson and they try to complete the activities well. I’ve been thinking about different ways to integrate more reading into my classes- maybe toward the end of each unit I can do content related article sharing or some sort of reading activity... I may come down to pick your brain!
As I listened to this podcast and reflected in my own district and my role in curriculum, I continue to work to disrupt the thinking of both teachers and parents who like the routine of weekly spelling tests. This is a hurdle that I have not yet completely been able to get over with all of the teachers in the district. Just when I think all on board with better ways of teaching, I learn of other ways some are working in weekly spelling tests. How can I get all of my elementary teachers to FINALLY give this up?
My district has gone away from the formal teaching of cursive writing so this disruption was not as much of a challenge to overcome. The challenge is in getting those outside of the classroom to understand that it is not a critical component to student success.
Why do we do what we do in education? Is it for the community? Is it to help students become career and college ready? Is it because this is how we do it?
Disrupting our thinking begs these questions. How many students that went on to college, would say "those spelling tests really helped to prepare me"? Obviously, with good intentions there is a culture embedded in our schools that tie us to practices that we really need to let go of.
Couldn't students have their own personal vocab lists of words that they come up with through their reading that challenge their thinking or disrupt their train of thought?
Wouldn't it be more valuable to them to learn if there is a root to those words in order to broaden their own repertoire? This is what I did when I taught third grade.
I have some valid concerns about handwriting. Neuroscience studies on brain connections for reading and writing have concluded that keyboarding does not fire the neurons like physical handwriting. Without these connections, the brain is not using it's full capacity to comprehend.
I know this is 'absolute' language. I am displaying my bias on this subject area. We have left behind a subgroup of learners with dyslexia and dysgraphia by giving up handwriting.
The questions you pose have me thinking. Why is it that 'we do what we do'? Sometimes I think 'we do what we do' because that is what we know. I'm not saying that is the correct way of thinking, but from some of the anecdotes shared in the opening of Part III, there are many teachers who are passive in discovering why a practice is a 'best practice'.
You asked if college students would say those spelling tests really prepared them for college. If you ask them if spelling tests prepared them for college, they may say no, but if you ask them what would have been a better practice to becoming a 'good speller' in their early school years, they may have trouble answering that. I also think that is why there are parents who question teachers who 'dare' to forgo the weekly spelling test, don't give nightly reading log assignments, or have a practice that isn't in line with their past school experience.
Moira, I agree with your concerns on handwriting and in no way am advocating that we give it up. I think rather the pressure of teaching penmanship and cursive is what I was referring to. By the time students leave 1st handwriting habits have formed that are so hard to break and so I would rather help a student focus on communicating in a comfortable and "legible" way rather than stress on learning one standard style of cursive. Most people adapt and customize cursive anyway. This is why I am a BIG fan of sketchnoting!
Moira, I appreciate your reference to neuroscience and handwriting. As an eighth grade teacher, I cringe each time assignments are submitted because the penmanship is horrific. I'm generalizing, but over the course of my 15 years teaching, I would estimate a complete reversal of the good/bad ratio, and it's currently 20% good and 80% borderline to unacceptable. In math instruction, it leads to issues with computation which then compound in more significant operations and, eventually, algebra. In science instruction, the length of time it takes students to write down information is just as more about their fine motor skills as it is their comprehension. I'm not sure that including cursive writing in the curriculum is the answer, but I definitely believe it can help. My girls (7 & 12) have cursive writing books and love to practice. My son couldn't care less about his penmanship (right, Heidi?!), but I firmly believe it is because fine motor skills are difficult for him. Gross motor, no problem. Academics, no problem. Tying his shoes well or writing is hard, so he prefers to do it as quickly as possible regardless of the quality. If he were forced to practice, he would benefit.
Some will say, "Can students type their notes?" To this I say, "They can; however, hunting and pecking on a keyboard is just as much of an issue as poor penmanship. Just because we rely more heavily on technology and typing doesn't mean kids have an innate ability to type efficiently." Did I enjoy the typing drills I did in my classes at school? Not particularly, but you should see how my students eye balls bulge out when they watch me type! I'm fast, accurate, and I don't look at the keys. They are amazed, and I use it as a lesson in the value of practicing. I had to practice or I wouldn't be able to type this way. This example helps them "get it."
Trying to convince a group of people, especially teachers, has to be challenging. What are the teacher's rationale for continuing the weekly spelling tests? It seems like with all of today's technological tools -- students (and teachers) have many ways of checking to see if they spelled a word correctly (ie.spell check, Google, auto-corrections on some programs like Google Docs, etc.) Could teachers be persuaded to have mini lessons and "proofreading tests" instead? For example, maybe a mini lesson using the correct form of "their, there and they're" and then a proofreading assessment after several days of short activities to learn when to use each word?
Or, would they be willing to try a program like Rebecca Sitton's where the lists are individualized, "recycle," and are embedded in writing activities?
I bet you've already tried these very things, but it's just what came to mind as a former 7th grade ELA teacher who wanted to do away with spelling books and tests when I started at a district that used both.
The spelling lists make me think of vocabulary lists and how they can be used correctly or incorrectly. Like any standard, if it's done just to cross it off the list or because it's easy and pre-made and cyclical, there are going to be downfalls. I've seen where most of a high school English classes scores come from vocabulary, but the students don't really know the words or use them in their writing. I guess I'm pointing this out because it makes me think about how this should be disrupted and how it would impact the flow of a program for students. All of us need our thinking disrupted some of the time.
I'm a firm believer in reading at least one professional book a year. Reading these types of books has taught me more than seven years and 15 additional semester hours has. A textbook tells us what to teach, but the more important part is how to effectively teach the skills rather than the stories, vocabulary, grammar, etc.
We cannot let test scores be the hurdle. If you are willing to try the BHH framework and signposts to support close reading that actually engages your readers, your test scores will improve.
"If the goal is, don't fail," then the result, we fear, is 'don't innovate" page 105.
This quote has been keeping me awake at night.
Is it the community that we need permission from to do what's right by students? Is it the legislators, is it the state department of education? Is it the parents? Is it the students? Or do we need to permit ourselves to embrace the opportunity to do things a little differently as if it were our own personal action research.
Moira, most teachers are "lifelong learners". I know I am. I am enjoying collaboration with other teachers and all we can do is keep trying. If we make it better for students we have accomplished our goal for today. Tomorrow we try again to make it better than the day before.
I love these questions, and it seems to depend on the district and/ or the leadership. I know my test scores could improve, and I know how to play the game to improve them. So, I have this big decision: raise my scores OR prepare them for LIFE. I choose the latter. I realize I am lucky to be able to do this. Teaching sophomores and juniors, I would waste time on the test prep since so many students at our school already earn their points by the end of their freshman year.
At the high school level, I am not sure the BHH method will help improve the test scores. The readings on the "big bad tests" are all very dry and BORING...two years ago, almost every single passage was a seminal document. It is hard enough for today's students to understand what the heck is being said, let alone try to answer questions about it.
Tracy, I agree 100%. I do not think that the BHH method will improve test scores for high school students. I have made sure to look at what type of reading the students are doing on the state mandated testing and it is not one that would support BHH (in my opinion). The reading is too advanced and dry (and looooong). I wish it would help, or I wish I felt more confident that it would help.
I do think BHH will make my students be happier readers but I am not convinced it will help on the test.
The passages on the state tests are horrible. Additionally, we feel as if they have texts and authors that are always one grade level above where we teach them. We've seen Emerson or Thoreau on a 10th grade test and we teach those in 11th grade--so they're totally unfamiliar with that style of writing and the literary movement. Very frustrating!
I agree. I think BHH will help with not only test scores but also their writing. I think it's a way the students will be able to organize their thoughts and write summaries or thoughts well too.
My principal would say, "show me the DATA that this framework will support raising test scores"..... :/
Ha- So true! I can hear that in every PLC and other meeting! Sometime when I come prepared with the research, I like to watch the admin squirm. It is one of my perverse pleasures. It's mean, I know!
I totally agree with you. Everything is data driven in the classroom. How do we then show the 'data' to prove that BHH framework will lead to greater test scores. The million dollar question:)
Moira -- I agree with you that the BHH framework and signposts will help increase test scores. But, it's a risk and one I am willing to take often...but I am not as much of a rule follower as other people mentioned above. However, it sometimes worries me also and I find myself making sure to put in practice test prep and specific lessons designed to "make sure they are prepared" on occasion too. Sigh testing.
I agree! When I plan and teach, I have students in mind not the test. If I do my job in effective engagement and instruction and, in turn, encourage them to do their job as students, the test will take care of itself.
I agree 100%. Also, it is not like we are letting go of practices in our classroom that have proven to be successful; we are simply adding this framework to enhance learning. I am sure this will have a positive effect on students, and in turn, their scores.
I enjoyed this more than anything I’ve read so far. This section hits on something that truly has somewhat annoyed me for quite a while. I just finished my thirty-sixth year of teaching. I can’t tell you how often I think back to my beginning days in the 1980s when I had my classes and my material and I taught the content the way I felt was most effective. It wasn't the same in every class and it wasn't the same every year. Well, those days appear to be gone.
I’ve watched this change take place from being able to do what you felt was most effective to doing what needed to be done to produce data positive for yourself and your school district. It’s been somewhat disheartening. It reminds me of those parts of the chapter where Kylene and Bob talk about mass production. The final product is “robots” that pass the test.
Anyhow, personally I sometimes feel a bit disconcerted about some of the things I do. As important as it is, I just can’t get excited about data collection. Going back to the beginning chapters in this book, I’m not a fan of giving a grade everyday just because he/she comes to class and sits there and breathes. What’s more important to me is whether or not the students are learning. Sometimes what you learn takes time and cannot be spit back on a test or response later in the week. So, I still do my thing although it is not always in synch with my colleagues.
Fortunately, my recent administrators haven’t beaten me over the head. Perhaps that’s because, as noted on page 110 of the text I teach electives (with one exception) and these grades don’t count in the school’s profit. As for my colleagues, and there are two of them on this blog, I’m not really certain what kind of pressure they are under. I don't have a sense that our building is under too much pressure, but the kids tell me they are pressed to a point to pass the tests. I’m OK with that as long as it’s balanced with “the freedom to learn”.
The frustrating thing is that all of this conversation seems so logical. It makes so much sense and yet we educators cannot go there because our legislators, who know little to nothing of what we do, won’t let us.
Your post hit the nail directly on the head!! I have only been teaching for 13 years and have seen a major shift in my teaching. I feel the AIR tests simply want "robots" as you mentioned and so my teaching has significantly changed. I used to have projects and creative student work filling my classroom my walls. Now, I have found I push a lot of that off until 4th quarter...after the test :( THEN, I find when I do the "creative stuff," they simply don't produce anything of quality. They have become the robots that know how to take a test and that is it!
Bob, I have been teaching for 15 years and have seen a major shift in teaching too. Teachers use to have more say in how they taught and what they taught. Today it is more robotic. It is sad because the creativity and independence teachers were once thriving in is almost obsolete. I think the pressures of testing is really burning a lot of teachers out.
Bob and Tracy - I agree with the "robot" comment and pushing off more creative things until after the test. It often seems that my admin wants to see the students answering "AIR-type questions" instead of thinking for themselves.
As a teacher who will begin my 7th year of teaching this year, it makes me sad to hear this because the current state of education is all I know as a teacher. So sometimes I get wistful about what I may have been like as a teacher before the pressures of standardized testing.
You are so right- we are mass producing 'robots' who can structure an essay and answer questions but often times stare at us with blank eyes if we ask them their opinion or thought process about something they are reading or writing. They have learned to give the 'right answer' even if they feel like it is wrong based on their interpretation or thinking about the subject. This needs disrupting!
Not trying to be snide, but maybe what also needs disrupting is all-encompassing statements such as "we are mass producing." Maybe some of us are. And maybe some of us produce a few. And maybe some of us produce none.I also want us all to remember that "we" are not the only ones who shape kids. Just listen to a few minutes of just about any radio talk show or listen to the pablum that spills out of every electronic devices 24/7.
Hi Bob! You definitely have seen it all in your career! Personally, I don't feel extreme pressure for students to pass the tests--I just sort of know and have accepted that that is an important expectation in our district. I feel I have some freedom...but within that freedom I need to make sure kids know what they need to do to pass the tests. I try to find balance. As you said, teaching electives allows for more flexibility--something core subjects don't necessarily have as much of. I think our current admin are able to make the expectations known without creating a dictatorship...which I appreciate!
I could write for a long time about the information within these two chapters. SO MUCH of it is relevant within my own classroom and my district. For this post, I guess I really want some advice and feedback about student choice at the high school level. On page 103, Beers and Probst say "that when we give kids a choice in what they read, they are more motivated to read." I completely agree with this. My question is to HOW to go about monitoring this. I have 7 periods a day, with 18-25 students in each section. How do I go about giving them the choice and then making sure they are actually reading it? We do "free read Fridays" for a portion of the school. On those days, I have tried reading logs, book talks, conferencing, etc. I have found that some of the students will read (the avid readers) but many of them have learned by age 16 how to "fake" it. They fake reading logs, they look on-line for information about the book, etc. I obviously can't read every book, so I have no way of knowing for sure!
Give me some advice!! How do I give them choice and hold them accountable!??!
Tracy - I struggle with this as well. I get so tired of kids faking their way through a project on an independent book! I feel that the Internet has enabled this and I'm not sure how to get around it. Would love to hear what others have done!
Tracy & Heather,
I have the same issues with you with "fake readers." This year (Heather and I actually came up with this together - I did it every Wednesday in my resource room) I had about 40 questions written on notecards in a box. I had students pick a card and write the answer out after reading silently. Of course I think some of them faked it BUT I do think it was harder for some to fake because they didn't know what the question would be fore reading.
I am not sure that this is helpful information or not but I found a little success with it!
Kind of curious about the 40 questions -- do you grade them? How easy or open ended are they? And fake readers suck. I went from high school and middle school down to 5th and 6th -- it's way more prevalent in the older grades. I think asking hard questions without real answers is part of the key -- writing our own questions (not something that can be found on the internet)...also asking for evidence. Comparing texts help also. Doing a class novel as a "mentor text" then book clubs that have a similar theme or conflict or contrasting one allow for some deeper questioning that fake reading can't get around. BHH is also deeper level and can't be "faked". But then some of those same fake readers are the ones who then don't care about their grades.
While every grade level has its challenges to fake reading, in our current educational focus of passing a test, most students have learned by high school to fake read or to read enough to answer the question. I know this doesn't help, but I think this problem is universal and won't be solved if teaching to pass a test is the focus of education.
There may not be one tried and true method to combat this, but for my middle school classroom, I teach using a workshop approach and students independently read and/or wrote every single day. My main source of checking on their progress in their choice reading and writing is conferring (and there is no way I could read all of their books), looking at their writing and writing about reading against a progression to look for growth, and putting some of the ownership back on the students through self assessment using progressions. Students have choice in their reading and writing, but we still have shared texts that we read and that I use as mentor texts in my mini lessons.
Teaching gifted 8th graders, there were awesome at spending more time fake reading than real reading. When I started conferring with reading, total game changer! They can normally fake in a group since someone has normally done the reading or they can just find topics online. But, when they just sit with me and I ask them questions and ask them to show me pages, etc… It really cut down the fake reading. They got super nervous! I also think that reading partners even for indep books help since they do tend to be more accountable to their peers. The other advice I've always remembered was- don't split up the problems but put them together and know you will have to be "heavy" in the support. So, if you have one or two that continue fake reading- then put them together on a book and read that one so that you feel confident to be a part of the conversation. I think you also have to just let it be! After 20+ years, I know that I'm doing the most that I can at that point, some days I just have to drop back and punt. Maybe they fake this book but the next one they figure out you mean business. Don't stop fighting the good fight but let yourself off the hook. I also think about the number of adults who I work with that don't do what they are supposed to! :)
I totally agree. Gifted students especially can "fake" anything in a group setting. I love the individual accountability. It's harder for anyone to hide.
I was labeled as "gifted" when I was a student, but it was painted with a broad brush. While my math aptitude was superior, but reading definitely was not. As a result, I was often accused of "fake reading," even throughout college and grad school. It's not that I faked it, I just never really learned how to comprehend text on a page. When a teacher asked me about something that was in my reading last night, I couldn't answer. I would read pages and not know or remember what I'd read after three, four, or five times through. Conferencing with students might help you determine if students are truly faking it or if they are struggling with the material. Don't get me wrong, I know kids fake it - they do it in my science class because they find geology unimportant!
For me, it helps to know that I am an auditory and visual learner; if someone shows or tells me something once, I'm good to go. As a result, I encourage kids to listen to audio books as they read along with the text because I believe that could have helped me. I also believe use the post-it notes and learning how to annotate well could have saved me a lot of frustration. Even though BHH is a more elementary method, perhaps learning this method early will lead to a natural evolution in student learning and drive their desire to read in the long run.
Jen and Joan,
Thank you for your insights! I am looking for more ways to get my students engaged in their reading and actually read ing and what you both have said makes sense and is what I am going to employ this year when it comes to independent reading. I am also hopeful that I can help my "fake readers" find something that they enjoy reading because I think that my "fake readers" are mostly reluctant readers. Conferring with them might help them find a book they enjoy and actually read. Thank you, both!
I really enjoyed reading chapters 10 and 11. I have found working in special education we often have to use researched based materials that are best practice for the students. By best practice it is what is best for student learning. I loved the way these chapters make you question your definition of best practice and defining researched based material as best practice. I often fine we need to use research based material to support or validate what we are teaching and why we are teaching it. So often as a educator our judgment is called into question and at times court. Without research base materials we are looking at significant lawsuits from parents who children's are not progressing as well as they think. It is often very difficult because some parents have difficulty excepting their child has a learning disability and will often want to know "When will they catch up?' "When will they snap out of this?" "When will they be like all of the other kids?" Having a structured research based program has helped with data collection and supporting our work. I feel it needs to be a balance. A balance of best practices with room for the teacher to be able to apply the next practice, sustaining practices, and disruptive practices.
An instructional practice that was used when I was a child and still used today is spelling test. As a child I would cram for the test, memorize, do well on the test and then never apply the spelling words to my everyday writing. Currently, as an Intervention Specialist I can't stand when the general education classroom has spelling tests. I have had parents tell me they spend up to an hour a night on spelling. I tell them please do not worry about spelling I would much rather have my students read a book for pleasure and get to go play outside then fight with their parents over spelling. I have had students take tests orally, I have shorten lists, I have made up lists that are more appropriate to their reading levels, I have given multiple choice spelling tests where the student just needs to circle the correct spelling. and I have dictated sentences with the spelling words in them.
In chapter 11 I just love the title Reassessing Success. How true is this? There is so much pressure from the state that is put on schools, students, and teachers. Thankfully I work in a very good district with tremendous support from administration. Although I do put a lot of pressure on myself for wanting my students to perform well and it is often through test prep. I do think exposing students to test prep helps with some anxiety because of the familiarity but I agree students need to feel more engaged, have more exposure to collaboration and creativity.
"I think he's got more potential than his test scores show, but I really don't have any evidence for that. He walks in. Slumps into his chair." (pg. 97) I've lost track of how many students have fallen into this category over the course of my career. How can we get them to realize they have that potential?
I loved Bob's statement that at school students are answering questions someone else has asked, and at home they are asking the questions. There needs to be more of this in the classroom!
Something else in this section that really stood out to me was on page 105 - the discussion about how "don't fail" = "don't innovate" I'm trying really, really hard to innovate and try new things, but I teach all 9th grade (by choice!) and that fear of how my students will do on the state tests is always looming. . .
I was also struck by the "don't fail - don't innovate" part of this reading. I am afraid of failure as a teacher (like...am I actually helping these kiddos?) and also failure that my students may have (like...will they actually get this on the test? will administration see the improvements?)
Although the fear of students performing on the state test is always looming in the back of our minds, I think that we need to remember that good teaching is what we are doing every single day. I doubt anybody doing this book teacher isn't using innovative thinking in their classrooms.
I was struck on page 105 when it was, "Fear of failure becomes a reason we avoid venturing into the unknown. New ideas rarely work the first time, so if we are to make changes, we have to accept the probability that our first efforts won't go quite as well as we want them to." - The problem that we have with this as teachers, is that we often don't have time to fail and try to try it again. It seems that there is just so much to cram into our time with the kids that we have to be pretty darn awesome the first time around.
I think my students would get a kick out of the 409 story on 105 as well, "Formula 409 is so named because the first 408 formulas did not work. There were 408 failures that preceded success."
I love this!
Jennie!! YES!!! You are exactly right that we don't have time to fail and try it again. Move on and revamp is what I find myself doing.
You said it perfectly...we don't have time to fail. There are only so many days and most of us are already cramming information, units, chapters, etc--to try something and fail means time is lost. And I agree...the 408/409 story was great, lol!
Fear of failure when there is NO TIME to fail with a packed curriculum and WASTED days due to testing--this might be the most dangerous setback in education right now. We feel we cannot step into the unknown--what if there's a walkthrough? It's so sad and scar and dangerous.
The section about the student asking questions at home, but not at school resonated with me as well. How many students are we not reaching? I believe every single student has so much potential and we cannot let even one slip, even if they are "slumped in a chair". Everyone has value and something to offer. We need to take the time to know our students and what is relevant to them in order to spark the interest.
I feel like these two chapters are a 'call to arms' in the sense that they are challenging my thinking and reflecting on my own teaching practices. What 'best practices' have I used or are using without having a true understanding of how it is best for my students? In what ways am I disrupting 'best practice' that could be improved?
If nothing else, these chapters affirm my belief that I must always understand my students and teach in a way that I know is best for them to becoming lifelong learners and independent thinkers. I do not want to 'mass produce' students who can't think for themselves, don't feel empowered to take risks, who don't see themselves as readers because a test told them that, or who think reading is a task that is completed once they have answered the questions provided for them.
I agree! These chapters make me feel good about myself as a teacher! I was able to really kind of appreciate that although I may not be perfect 100% of the time, I am doing what is best for my students the best that I know how.
A call to arms over testing is an easy stance to take, maybe too easy for the authors to take in this text? Are your schools still making testing the number one task to accomplish? My school has taken the opposite approach once they realized test makers are not the educational leaders, the school is for students. It takes concentrated effort not to worry about testing or discuss testing but once we started every conversation on how do we help students learn it became easier. We are now of the mind frame that we have to much to do, teach, and learn in a school year there isn't time for worrying about testing. It is kinda relief to think that I don't have time for testing just time for my students to learn.
Amy, I am so intrigued by your comment. How did you convince Admin. to change their thinking? I feel empowered by these chapters and would love to be able to advocate for change in my school. I teach all of the the 3rd and 4th grade students who are at-risk of failing the test but do not receive special education. I feel like my entire existence is based on whether my 8 3rd graders and 11 4th graders pass the state test. We implemented WOUS last year and did see tremendous growth. This year we are moving onto the RUOS. I'm hoping to find a few other teachers that are ready to take the jump with me and flip our thinking about testing!
One of the most memorable lines in this section to me is "Focusing on the essentials in education, rather than on test scores, seems to result in higher test scores" (p. 110).
I think this expresses my philosophy of state testing pretty effectively. I have always taught in the environment of testing "pressure." Starting my 7th year of teaching only makes this idea stand out even more. I have always felt that if teachers are focusing on engaging their students and teaching good reading strategies and skills then the students will grow on the tests. I just don't think it's realistic to teach kids how to do well on a test and expect them to be skillful, responsive readers in their everyday life. So, like Beers & Probst point out I will continue trying to teach engaged, responsive readers rather than readers who can just pick and choose correct "evidence."
I'd add that "Focusing on the essentials in education and the standards that students are expected to meet, rather than the test scores, seems to result in higher test scores." If it weren't for the expectation that students read and be able to dissect seminal documents we would read more texts that inspire students to enjoy reading. Instead, I pump more literature that students (and me, if I'm being honest) think is boring in order to prepare them for that type of literature. I still teach strong reading strategies and skills to attack a text, but I have to put that kind of literature in front of them or I'm not preparing them well.
Your concerns and those of your administrator in this high stakes accountability world are valid. I know that our new State Superintendent is listening to our cries that we have too much testing. As a result, we now have legislation that has eliminated the elementary and middle school Social Studies test. Locals will be replacing these with formative and/ summative assessments. Guidance is coming. My best advise is to allow your passion for reading to come through. Allow yourself to try the BHH framework and use the signposts to open the conversations and have dialogue that allows readers to really talk.
So, I have mixed feelings as I read these chapters. My own BHH would be all messed up :) I agree, in theory, with the idea that our educational system is too focused on test scores, etc… But, the reality of a being a teacher in Ohio is that the scores do count- they count towards your rating and every refusal to "care" about the scores can possibly place teachers on a slippery slope when it comes to evaluation, etc…
My other point is that sometimes I think we think as educators that the "real world of work" is different than we think it is. There are so many fields of work that require a standardized test for certification: nursing, law, medicine, electrical, program/project management, etc… So to say that tests aren't real-world can also be damaging. Sometimes, we fail students by telling them that just trying hard is enough- it isn't. There are bars and our job is to work like crazy to get our kids to that bar. I want to send kids out that are creative problem-solvers but they also need some basics in place to be ready for the next steps in that work.
I know that Beers and Probst aren't saying that- I just worry sometimes that we swing so far each time on the pendulum that we lose sight of the overall goal- a well-rounded, literate citizen. This means some test-prep, traditional study skills that allow students to continue to grow and develop as they mature.
As a gifted specialist, I also had some issues with these chapters that seemed to suggest that gifted kids are getting all of this support and high-level work. Numerous studies in the last 10 years suggest that gifted and talented students are actually the most underserved population in American schools. There is no state mandate for gifted services so before the gifted indicator, many schools ignored these students since they got more "value added" and "performance index" weights for the lower levels of achievement. I am a measured proponent of the gifted indicator because I do believe it has forced districts and schools to care about all children. I would never condone ignoring a year's worth of growth for a special education student so we should not do that for gifted either. The idea that "they will be okay" is not okay. As an educational community we have to be clear that we are all individuals and have strengths and weaknesses so working to help students improve and refine their strengths and weaknesses should be our goal ALL the time now just with some.
The other issue is that although research says that "good teaching" raises test scores- that hasn't been our experience in our schools and was echoed on this board above. Some of the best teachers I work with did not have high test scores. More traditional, teach-to-the-test teachers had fabulous scores. As a suburban district, our admin is fine to say that the test score doesn't define us but parents and community members care about grades and scores since they affect property taxes and community perceptions. This is a very tangled web to discuss.
I would prefer to see teachers use these types of frameworks and thought processes for the majority of time but we can't ignore that testing does matter. The majority of academic scholarships are still dependent on an ACT/SAT score so I can't, in good conscience, tell kids that test scores aren't important. I do believe that districts should conduct more in-house reviews of the assessments they are using, what info/data they are getting from them, and what can/should be eliminated.
End of my soap-box! :)
Joan, as a gifted specialist I too raised my eyebrows in this chapter. I think Beers and Probst were referring to how the more 'higher level' thinking opportunities tend to be given to the gifted and struggling students often get more of the lower levels on the taxonomy. Gifted students still need instruction and often too many teachers assume that 'because they are smart, they will get it'. This is one of the biggest misconceptions I deal with. I find that gifted learners need less repetition and pick things up in less time than non-gifted peers. All learners need access to all levels of the taxonomy, and I think that is what perhaps was the point in the references?
Heidi- I'm sure that they weren't advocating anything negative towards gifted students. One gifted specialist to another, you know how easily some of us act like momma bears when we perceive misconceptions about how gifted students learn. I also think that nationally perhaps some states still focus as deeply on gifted students as special ed, etc… but unfortunately, Ohio isn't one of them. I totally agree that all students need this framework. I really think they were trying to discuss what unfortunately happens in some places with a focus on phonetics and direct instruction and not actual reading and thinking.
I'm a regular education English teacher and am constantly frustrated by the intense, single minded focus on special education. I understand all of the logistics and state mandates--however, I have always said that the focus is on the small portion of student who need extra help....but what about the other end of the spectrum--the small portion who need extra attention in gifted areas. This is a legitimate concern and one that hopefully one day will be fully addressed!!
Megan- You are not alone. I work in a large suburban district and all the teachers I work with feel the same. They don't discount the special education students needs and the extra resources and time they need but that shouldn't be at the expense of others. I have hope since you and so many others I work with have recognized the disparity and are working hard to guarantee learning for all. Our kids are okay with teachers like us!
And instead of providing those students additional enrichment opportunities, we just put our best students in more study halls! There are so many great internships and volunteer positions out there that our students aren't accessing.
Joan -- I am also a gifted intervention specialist. I agree with so much of what you said. Thanks for getting on that soap box.
After reading your reflection which matched my own thoughts I realized maybe part of the authors’ point was to be vague so we could fill in our own solutions? What a better way to disrupt our thinking than leaving us with only our thinking to fill in the gaps. Maybe all the fluff filled examples are to spark thinking instead of sharing an author conclusion? I do agree that the strongly polarizing opinions shared in the book as starting points does get old after a while.
I can agree with some of your points here. I always have conversations with students that say they don't care about their tests. I politely let them know the number of tests I had to pass to be a teacher. Then I let them know that whatever profession they are striving for, tests, reading and writing are inevitable. I think it is important to continue to make students aware. However, I feel that the tests that I took as an adult, I was ready for. All of my schooling and life experiences prepared me for them. I do not feel that our students, especially 3rd graders are ready for the immense weight of the TGRG. So while I do feel that they do need testing, the and that they will continue to be tested throughout their lifetime, there needs to be a better way to achieve that goal.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts!
I feel like the field of education often seems to operate on a pendulum-like system. We try one extreme, then the opposite extreme...back-and-forth!
I agree with you, tests are necessary. Tests provide valuable information and there are several fields that require tests.
The biggest complaints that I hear about testing now is the amount of days that our students are required to test, and test scores being tied to teacher evaluations.
We will see what happens. I hope that we do not swing our pendulum so far that we eliminate tests completely, but I do think we need to get somewhere back towards the middle!
Teaching innovatively, with a focus on developing well-rounded literate citizens, should be the goal!
Chapter 10 was awesome! The discussion about best practices has to resonate with every teacher no matter the subject or grade level. Teachers (myself included) continue to think we are teaching in the best way--best practice...when odds are, we aren't : ). Change is scary...but the numerous analogies presented in chapter 10 make perfect sense. We must change some aspects to get better. "Next practices" don't mean we need to reinvent the wheel...but we can make better what we already do. After 13 years I've seen various trends and what our PD presenters consider best practices...And many probably work. I'm not opposed to trying something innovative and new...but I won't do it just because it's the "next best thing."
The biggest connection I made to these chapters was a flow of thoughts on the professional vocabulary we are using regarding teaching methods. I believe that disruptive practices is really evidence based strategies we are already using but where the evidence is what you have found in your own classroom. No lengthy reading, just gut feeling and instinct on what your students need to learn; how to learn. This leads to evidence based practices really just being agreed upon effectiveness in the teaching community. The best study I have read was Hattie's study Visibly Learning where over 800 educational research articles were correlated for effect size. To find out what is considered effective practices Google, Hattie Table Visible Learning. There you will find homework isn't very effective and feedback is most effective. BHH is correlated strongly with a solid feedback model that allows peer tutoring naturally showing support for this method.
Megan, I totally agree! I love that they said we didn't need to do something totally new, we need to just make our current teaching better. This will be my 13th year, and it's amazing all of the things I've heard as "best practices." I agree that we shouldn't teach just to do the next best thing; we need to really look at our students and their needs and go from there!
I was not overly motivated by the "From Now to Next" chapter 10. I get it -- take risks in teaching. But, I did like the Turn and Talk questions. So...What instruction or procedural practice do you still use (from your first years as a teacher or) as a student? For me, a LOT has changed. Granted I'm 47 years old so I'm not best at remembering and a lot changes in that many years. What is similar...I had SOME teachers that stressed writing and some that assigned challenging books but I don't think there was much BHH nor citing evidence from the text. After really thinking about it, it seems that most things have changed.
The tried and true would be 'centers'. Sometimes referred to as 'stations' or 'workshop'. Providing students with choice and being able to differentiate for every student is best practice. The disruption would be to project based, student centered with teacher as coach rather than teacher planning out every step.
When I was a student, I remember sitting in a room and taking turns reading out loud from a textbook (BORING!). It's funny; while tons of research says that this is not the best way to teach, I still see teachers using this method. It is definitely one that needs to be tossed aside! However, in my own teaching, I have seen several things cycle. When I started, we had a reading basal that we read from. Then there was a time with no reading program at all where I just did guided reading and came up with my own content. Then, we got a district-initiated basal again. Now we are moving back toward small group reading. It's funny how things cycle through, though there are certainly practices we should never go back to!
The thing that stuck with me was "Round Robin" reading. I know it's not the best, but sometimes it's the best to get it done :)
SAMR Model- Heidi, you are doing a great job of modeling the SAMR model.
This technology integration would be an adaption, right?
Adaptation or perhaps modification depending on how you look at it! I always have trouble fitting into those categories, but rather focus on using the tool that best fits my intended learning goals.
These two chapters really split my thinking about the text we are reading.
On one side this text really is insightful on how to push change for reading. This text make shifting reading from a task students must do and become better at every year to a life long skill that helps students navigate the world a real possibility. As described in the text it is probably the norm that most students think reading is only for a grade with no personal point. I also believe the book makes a solid argument that students do read outside of school though they don't see it as reading since it involves their personal interest not a test. The goal of having students answer their own questions with BHH really help to clarify the emotional side of the framework and to why the authors found success with the BHH since it is really about creating questions not answering them.
On the other side this text takes a lot of time bringing in random examples like four different technology metaphors to create a weak point. Of course metaphors can be used to describe something abstract or to clarify a point but where are the concrete steps to support the action step claimed by the text? When they talked about disruptive practices they made a great point that sustainability would be a key challenge in creating new best practices. In those two paragraphs they talked about an older song, cell phones, icebox, televisions, kitchen sponge, and mousetraps but no action steps on how to sustain change. I was looking steps like tell a colleague about your disruptive practice to create accountability, set a timetable so you can check in on your progress, or create a thought map to support your practices when you lose faith/way. They may not like the hamburger writing method but where's the meat to their ideas?
I can understand your need for concrete steps. For me, I am glad I have read both Notice & Note books and taught others about the signposts before reading Disruptive Thinking.
Moira, thanks for your insight. I have not yet read Notice and Note, and I feel a little lost sometimes without having that background knowledge. I'm very interested in doing more research about the signposts, as I think it could be a beneficial tool for helping students examine texts and their thinking about texts (BHH, of course!).
The topic of best practices hit me during this section. I have always taught vocabulary using a prescribed book. Lots of routines, lots of "pump and dump" for the students. Not best practice and it took up a lot of class time. This year I'm going to focus on teaching skills. For example, I'm teaching root words and I'm hoping that giving students skills to decode words they don't know will help improve test scores. I have no data to support that this is best practice, but I believe in my heart that it is a step in the right direction.
Sometimes what is most effective for students is what hasn't been "researched" yet. I'm with you...you are taking a step in the right direction!
In these chapters, one section that stood out to me stated, "Differentiation must be grounded in equity, in access, in agency. Differentiation that results in a diminished educational experience for those kids is not only wrong, it is shameful. It is a form of segregation that must be examined, exposed, and rejected. All students deserve an education that engages and motivates, that inspired lifelong curiosity." What a challenge to all of us! Knowing that I will most likely have a fully inclusive classroom this year (with an intervention specialist as a co-teacher), I am inspired to really make the atmosphere on in which all students are excited to learn and given opportunities to flourish! When I taught special education for six years, one thing I always hated was when I had to take my students out of "fun" activities to work with me. I never wanted it to be a punishment to have the extra support, and I feel that this section really hit the nail on the head. Too often, the very students who need the most motivation end up being the ones who are most disengaged because of the way we approach their education in the name of testing.
If you have the time, and haven't done so already, you should listen to an NPR segment from January titled "How the Systemic Segregation of Schools is Maintained by Individual Choice." You can listen to it here: http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/01/16/509325266/how-the-systemic-segregation-of-schools-is-maintained-by-individual-choices
Although the segment is more about segregation than differentiation, It is the first thing that jumped into my head when I read the quote about equity, access, and agency. I have a lot of hope for the future, but I often wish that our educational system functioned differently.
My favorite line from this week's reading was on page 112. "All students deserve an education that engages and motivates, that inspires lifelong curiosity" I work with students who are identified as 'at-risk' to fail 'the test.' These kids have been 'interventioned' to death. and the majority of the interventions have taken place during their ELA instruction time. I am so excited begin using the RUOS in our school district this year and see the kiddos engaged and motivated during workshop time. I hate teaching to the test. i remember years ago in MD, we stopped teaching social studies and science in December in order to focus on test prep. What a crime!
I hope to be able to gather a few teacher advocates to persuade my admin to also allow us the flexibility to use frameworks like BHH with our students.
I completely agree and find that all students-including gifted and including intervention, need a challenging and engaging education.
May we all just get to focus on teaching well, not teaching to the test :)
I was just talking to a teacher last week in the lower grades about their schedule and what they were doing with science and social studies and her response was "Well, we really don't do that in our grade, we just continue with our reading and writing." While I get that reading is so important at this level, students are missing out on reading and learning about other subjects. BHH could totally be utilized in those subject areas through read aloud and discussion!
I don't know the teacher you are referring to, but I would not be a bit surprised if when that teacher says "We really do don't do that" actually means "I don't do that." Easier to explain away something if it is "we" and not "I." That teacher might also be in school in which change comes with difficulty if at all.
Tracy, I absolutely agree That BHH may be used in multiple subject areas and it's a great interdisciplinary strategy for reading text. As a science teacher I also think it important that we model similar ways of supporting claims with evidence and data in a similar manner to what students use in their English classes. This way students can witness the interconnectedness of skills and content going through their school day and may be able to glean some of the relevance that they long to connect with.
I loved these two chapters! While it's difficult to choose just two quotes, I have identified these: "Innovation is the lifeblood of progress It is nursed and nurtured in the arms of failure..." (p106) and "Differentiation that results in a diminished educational experience for those kids is not only wrong, it is shameful (p112)."
I am going to post the first quote in my classroom this fall, perhaps even on my door. I want kids to fail forward because they will learn more from that than they will from a three hour cramming session prior to a test. Students, I think, are totally on board with that concept. Parents, on the other hand, are not. There is an increased focus on the grade as opposed to the learning, and it drives me absolutely bonkers. I want to know parents are on the side of the teacher and the student; I want the triad to unite to help pick up the pieces after a botched test or project in order to move forward and do better the next time. I want to be empowered to take on that challenge. With a new and extremely enthusiastic administrator in our building, I hope he will back me in this endeavor!
The second quote resounds with me because I was told, "kids in your classes this fall will be middle of the road." Not only was I told that, but parents who requested their children be in my classes based on their older siblings' experiences were also told. At least two people were told, "your child is accelerated, her kids will be middle of the road." It makes my stomach turn. What a shame it is to lump kids into a group called "middle of the road;" it is truly disgusting to scheduling students this way! As stated on page 12, it is "under the guise of "differentiation," students are given less." I refuse to let that be the case in my classroom. I don't care who is in my room because my job is to educate kids. I will set high expectations they are expected to meet and exceed, I will provide them with resources and tools to be successful, and I will not EVER make any of them feel like they are "middle of the road."
Jenn, I couldn't agree with you more about "failure"! I get very frustrated when parents complain that their child didn't get a "perfect" score (I use many rubrics) and I have to explain that if they were doing everything I set as a goal for them right away then I would need to find more challenging goals. We have to nurture "failure" as a pathway to learning.
I am sorry that you were told that. In some ways I feel that I am told that I have the "easy" kids and that too is wrong. Each child is different and unique and we should set high expectations regardless. The challenge is to find out each child's unique strengths and needs so that we can help him/her achieve. If standards are not high, there is no incentive to challenge and grow in my opinion. I know you will set high standards regardless of what "level" you are "told" your students are at.
As a teacher in an urban school I am so tired of hearing certain schools described as "failing." Why is it that as a society we are willing to tolerate such extremes of income, a dearth of meaningful work, and underfunded schools, and then describe the schools in those neighborhoods as failing. I use the term "failed school," as it is not the school that is failing, but those kids through no fault of their own are in those situations.
My favorite quote from chapter 10 "ties in" with one of the Turn and Talk questions, too. The quote is "Innovation is The lifeblood of progress. It is nursed and nurtured in the arms of failure; in collaboration; in creativity; in curiosity; in passion; in tenacity and grit and optimism. It does not let us merely survive; innovation is what lets us thrive. And innovators are what we need." (106 - 107) This quote connects with the question, "What's an instructional practice you remember from when you were a student that teachers still use today?" The practice that I remember was innovative for my classmates and myself. (I am 46 and went to two very traditional Catholic schools.) Our 9th grade English teacher would challenge us with a writing prompt each Monday. She challenged us to write our best and most original work. Then, on Fridays, we would bring our rough drafts -- and she would put us in trios to peer edit each other's work. We would revise based on our peers' suggestions. After she graded our writing, she would select two or three original works and read them aloud to the whole class. These practices are still used today, and I think are very worthwhile. When students realize the satisfaction of having their work read aloud as an original or excellent work, it motivates some students to do their best the next time. Peer editing can be worthwhile -- when guidelines and checklists are used. And, I think the topic challenge is worthwhile to get students thinking divergently. As a student, these practices made English 9 my favorite all-time class. I have used these practices with my students and found them mostly beneficial. (I still struggle with making the peer editing meaningful & successful...)
What a great question you pose. I love innovation and I always remember when we studied Westward Expansion in 4th grade, we got to do our own "Oklahoma Landrush" on the field next to the playground.
I covered my little red wagon with wire and cloth fabric, I dressed up in my Williamsburg bonnet and I was assigned team members to become my "westward family." The writing, research and actual live day of the event are still vivid in my mind, and that experience would definitely have made me a great test-taker in regards to the quality and passion of my writing and knowledge on those subjects. Go innovation!
Hello Lisa! I LOVE that quote. The first time I read it, it made me question my personal level of innovation. How much time to I spend as a teacher being innovative? How does innovation drive my personal life?
However, reading it through a second time, made me think about how I encourage my student to be innovative.
I frequently use inquiry learning in my biology class. I think that the inquiry process forces students to be more innovative. I also believe that, if done correctly, inquiry will make them better future scientists, and potentially better test takers. I'm going to continue to believe that, because I refuse to go back to the old "best practices" in science which included more memorization and cookbook labs.
I like that the authors pointed out that innovation and failure go hand-in-hand. I think that is true in so many different fields. It definitely applies to science!
Yay for Innovation! I find these chapters fascinating as they started with many nonfiction examples from history of innovation. Were Beers & Probst trying to prove to us as teachers that this idea of innovation really is crucial -not just in the field of education -but in all fields?
I am curious (using the BHH framework on the book chapters) as to why they started with those examples before moving into classic examples from educational figures, and I think that overall the authors' goal is to champion innovation and engagement over test scores.
I will take away that message, and think about that I want to model for my own students and children the necessity of innovation both in education as well as in all aspects of life.
I LOVE THIS FRAMEWORK!
I loved the historical examples and then remembered going through most all of the education examples from the 80s given. It really helped recognize how far we have come in society and how those disruptions were for the better!
I can't say there was anything very earth-shattering in this section, but nevertheless it spoke to me. I felt the teacher on page 108 who approached them after their presentation hit the nail on the head. We are so driven to get test scores up, not necessarily worried about engagement. In my building we have "Data Days" about once a month (more often in winter/spring) where we spend time looking at how to get our struggling or close students to a certain, proficient level and what were the intervention we have used or will try next. And if those interventions aren't "best" practice or "research based" then forget it. It is so frustrating that we are often not able to teach the way we know is best.
I like your comment about not seeing anything very "earth shattering." I think that is why I like this book. Good point are brought up and relatively logical solutions are provided. For the most part, Beers and Probst don't try to completely alter strategies--they tend to just shift our focus. There's nothing worse than PD that attempts to completely reinvent the wheel. Educators look down on that the most. This book keeps the concepts simple which is why I'm not over the top impressed with any particular chapter--yet still very connected and interested in the text!
I loved these chapters as they really delved into disrupting our thinking. All too often, we fall into the trap of read, answer questions, get a grade. "But we ask really good level 4 questions!" we tell ourselves. Even so, where is the relevance? Where is the intuitive enjoyment of reading when we ask questions and wave a carrot at the students in the form of a grade? I can't wait to implement the BHH strategy this year and delve into meaningful reading with my classes.
I really liked this part we read. I think we as educators fear to be innovative even though we know it's best for kids because we could possible fail. This year I am trying standards based grading and I am scared. I know there is a lot of parents that push back with this type of set up because it is unfamiliar. I know that the only way to do something is to be innovative and dive in head and hands first. Im excited to start this new year with next practices. My coteacher is going with me. We both are excited for new practices and if it fails, I think in the end, we will be better.
Innovation and the possibility of failure always go together. as a much younger teacher any years ago I worried about the failure more. More accurately I probably didn't worry about failure as much as I worried about somebody finding out about it, whatever that even might mean. But I think at this point in my teaching life I am less judgmental of my efforts and certainly less judgmental of my colleagues, especially the younger ones who i think have come into teaching in a time in which it is hard not to think that a teacher is being judged no matter what he/she does.
Good luck with standards based grading! In theory, I think that it is the best way to judge mastery of standards, but there is so much that people (whether collegues, admin, parents, or community members) don’t understand that it definitely can be hard to implement. Stay strong when you experience push-back! And come comment later to let us know how it’s going.
I often wonder about best practices. If they are the best, it makes me think that they shouldn't change every two years!
I think that the authors nicely outlined some of the best practices in reading on page 103. Giving students a choice, increasing the amount of reading, having students listen to text being read, providing strategies, modeling thought processes and encouraging discussions all have the potential to greatly benefit students.
My favorite part of this section was when the authors said that "innovation is what lets us thrive" (p. 107). I have never been afraid to try new methods in my science classes. Although I think that this has allowed for a lot of progress, I also acknowledge that there is additional risk. When trying something new, I know that it is the potential to fail. I tend to take the risk!
I do not want to become to negative, but I would also agree that testing has negatively impacted classroom teaching methodology. This past year, I spent a lot of time preparing my students for the state test. While reflecting at the end of the year, I realized that my students were more prepared for the test, but less prepared to "do" science in the real world! They earned high test scores, but there was less collaboration and less fun. It is a fine balance! I am adding more inquiry activities back in and I will trust that, if done right, my students will be just as prepared!
Like many students I suppose I always thought a "best practice" from when I was in school was whatever i was best at and comfortable with. Not surprisingly, as a teacher I am a talker, and I don't remember ever not being a talker. Discussion, debate, just listening to my voice, I always love(d) that. And I think it is incredibly important today. I cannot think of a job, profession, hobby, etc, in which oral skills are not needed. Over the years (30) of teaching I am surprised every year at the numbers of kids who have an absolute dread of speaking in class. Sometimes this means they dread speaking in front of a class, although they may (and often are) quick to verbally opine from the comparative safety of their seat, and other times it means literally NOT speaking. I try, gently, to encourage them to speak, laying out all the strategies to make it easier, standing next to them in support while they speak, have them present only to me and maybe a few classmates with whom they are friends... sometimes it helps, often times it does not. But I still believe in the usefulness of developing this skill, and not just because it came more easily to me than to many of my students.
When reading the intro to Part III, one thing I noticed was that Eric is the poster child for individualized instruction. He may find more motivation to try to read and interact with text within the framework of his interests. We all agree that this is the case for all students, but we know those students who will succeed with almost any task when directed to complete it and those students for whom a disinteresting text means that the work won’t be completed. How is that a measure of their capabilities? Also, it would be nearly impossible to do so for a class of 38 students regularly (but maybe that’s an opportunity for student ownership of learning, if the student was responsible for finding a text they would like to explore?).
Reading the chapters, I found humor when “best practices” were addressed, as it’s a buzzword/phrase, but that everyone has a different mental image of what it is, as this is true across the board in every platform of education. The quote that stands out (and is actually highlighted in the book) of, “ If the goal is “don’t fail,” then the result, we fear, is don’t innovate.” and that the development of the cell phone was a great example of that progression. In education, I can see how some of our special education practices have developed from this; how it took one, or a few, to change expectations little by little overtime, leading to our inclusion classes and other practices. I think the distinction between next practices and disruptive practices is also an interesting one. Many of the initiatives that we undertake year after year I believe are next practices; they aren’t necessarily stopping what has been done before and taking an innovative approach but look at “what have we been doing?” and “how can we be more efficient or effective?”.
As this school year is starting, we just sat through a presentation about grading for learning, and that’s what I associate with chapter 11, reassessing success. One of the issues we saw and discussed yesterday was that the way we may grade now is more based on the average or mean and less on the mode, so a couple dismal scores at the beginning of a unit or concept could really hinder student grades, even if they demonstrated immense growth and understanding as the unit progressed. And that we shouldn’t grade the behavior- there should be other consequences for poor behavior habits (like performing really well on assessments but still holding a C or worse because they never turn in homework or have less than stellar attendance). These are things that really make me think about best practices in my classroom.
As I read this section, all I could think of (and get upset about) is how we know what practices work in education--teaching grammar through writing, for example, yet schools do not invest in teachers by way of professional development to teach them HOW to teach this way and to follow up. Of course wealthy districts often do, but most do not. And it's frustrating to watch. Many schools cut professional development when they are needing to save money, and it has to stop. Teachers are very giving and want to do what's best: they buy classroom supplies, books, and their own professional development. Until teachers are seen as an investment, I don't think enough next practices as discussed on page 104 are going to happen. Book studies like this is a huge step in the right direction, but, of course, I had to purchase my own book. The next step would be to have district-wide book studies chosen by teachers and there should be choice among those books. Then dialogue. Then practice. Then follow-up. We need that follow-up so that we innovate and reflect and improve.
This quote hit home: "We talk of reforming schools, but that usually means writing new standards; it rarely means truly re-forming schools" (107). I could not agree more! There's talk, but not action. Therefore, we have to build our own professional libraries, teach ourselves, and seek out like minds.
Ohio Council of Teachers of English Language Arts