Posts Tagged ‘Instructional Practices’

The 5E Model: Does it still relate to cognitive principles for the current classroom?

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

AUTHOR: Cynthia Holcomb, Education Specialist: Elementary Science

The 5E Model, originally designed for science instruction, describes a teaching sequence for specific units and individual lessons. The Biological Science Curriculum Study, a team led by Principal Investigator Roger Bybee, developed an instructional model for constructivism using the terms Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate in 1987.

How can we assure that a model developed almost 30 years ago will be effective for the students we teach today? A recently released report, The Science of Learning summarizes the cognitive science related to how students learn. Let’s look at the principles from that report applied to the components of the 5E Model.

Engage

The first E, Engage, is what we use to “hook” students, to capture their attention, to get them interested in the topic. This is a quick activity and may include an anecdote, a cartoon, a short video clip, a demonstration, or a thought-provoking question. Without citing research, I think we can all agree that getting students interested in learning is a valuable classroom practice.

Explore

But what about Explore? This stage provides students with an chance to build their own understanding. The students have the opportunity to get directly involved with phenomena and materials. They work together in teams, build a set of common experiences which prompts sharing and communicating, and start building background for new content. The teacher acts as a facilitator rather than an instructor at this stage, since the purpose is for STUDENTS to find new connections.

The Science of Learning Report states that “a well-sequenced curriculum is important to ensure that students have the prior knowledge they need to master new ideas.” This means that teachers should provide students with opportunities to build background knowledge needed for understanding new content. In essence, the Explore stage is still a valid and valuable part of instructional sequence.

Explain

Explain is the stage at which learners begin to communicate what they have learned. Communication occurs between peers, with the teacher, and through the reflective process. The teacher now takes on a more active role by helping students make connections and clarifying misconceptions.

The Science of Learning Report explains that, in order to help students focus on the meaning of content, we need to assign tasks that require explanations, determine causes and effects, and require students to meaningfully organize material. In a nutshell, this step reinforces the Explain stage through specific examples of student tasks.

Elaborate

The purpose for the Elaborate stage is to allow students to use their new knowledge and continue to explore its implications. At this stage students expand on the concepts they have learned, make connections to other related concepts, and apply their understandings to the world around them in new ways.

The Science of Learning Report explains that a carefully sequenced curriculum can build student knowledge over the course of a school career, enabling students to solve increasingly complex problems. When students have the opportunity to transfer a set of learned skills or content to a new situation instead of keeping the learned information in isolation, they are able to take on more challenging problems. This building of connections is at the heart of the Elaborate stage, and reinforces the power of giving students opportunities to apply what they have learned rather than just memorize and recall information.

Evaluate

The Evaluate stage is designed for both students and teachers to determine how much learning and understanding has taken place. Evaluation and assessment can occur at all points along the continuum of the instructional process. Some of the tools that assist in this diagnostic process are rubrics, teacher observation, student interviews, portfolios, and project and problem-based learning products.

In Texas, we often think of STAAR as the high-stakes evaluation piece. But in The Science of Learning Report, findings encourage teachers to also use low- or no-stakes quizzes in class to evaluate the learning process. Effective feedback is often essential to acquiring new knowledge and skills, and a low-stakes evaluation can help students see in which areas they need assistance without the pressure of a major exam.

So there you have it — a model from the 1980s reviewed under the lens of a 2015 study. While the 5E Model was developed during the era of shoulder pads, big hair, and New Wave music, its sequence is still a powerful approach for instructional delivery of cognitive principles in the current classroom.

References:

Deans for Impact (2015). The Science of Learning. Austin, TX: Deans for Impact.

 

Future Ready Survival Skills

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

AUTHOR: Leslie Barrett, Education Specialist: Instructional Technology & Library Media Services

Are we meeting the mark when it comes to preparing students for success in their post-graduate lives?

Tony Wagner, Expert In Residence at Harvard University’s Innovation Lab, wondered the same thing. He conducted interviews with leaders in major global businesses, non-profits, and government institutions and discovered that students regularly fall short in seven specific skill areas that are essential for success in today’s innovation-centric economy. As you read through Wagner’s seven “survival” skills below, consider what practices you can implement or enhance in your classroom, campus, or district to help your students become future ready.

Critical Thinking & Problem Solving

According to Wagner’s definition, critical thinking is the ability to ask the right questions. Are we asking questions that require little more mental consideration than a Google search on a student’s smart phone? The use of Document Based Questions (DBQs ) in social studies and the Claim Evidence Reasoning (CER) framework in science are two ways to help students develop critical thinking skills in the context of content area instruction. When too many of our questions result in one right answer out of a possible 4 multiple choice options, we are missing opportunities to engage students in rich conversations in which they explain their thinking and justify their reasoning.

Collaboration & Leadership

In seeking solutions to problems, employees in the workforce will rarely work in isolation. They will be expected to collaborate with peers within organizational teams and access the input of a network of professional experts from across the globe. In contrast, the measure of success in our classrooms is based on the performance of the individual working alone. While we can’t always change our testing and grading structure, we can create opportunities for students to work in collaborative groups that are structured so that each member of the group is held accountable for his/her contribution. In addition, we can teach students how to safely access the input of experts using digital connections like social media and virtual conferencing.

Agility & Adaptability

We are living in a fast-paced and quickly changing time. Information, technology, and the problems organizations are working to solve are constantly changing. Employees need to be able to change alongside the demands of the job and adapt easily to new and evolving circumstances. Are we providing flexible learning environments that encourage students to identify and adapt elements that contribute to their maximum productivity? Are we creating opportunities for students to iterate; to observe and improve their own output? How often do we say to students, “Oh, that didn’t work. What other ideas do you have?”

Initiative & Entrepreneurism

An entrepreneurial spirit means harnessing opportunities and capitalizing on strengths to create products and services to fill needs. How often do we give students the freedom to think outside the box and provide innovative and creative ways to demonstrate their understanding of academic concepts? How often do we let them offer solutions to problems that may be occurring in the classroom, the school, the world? If we are always telling them what to do, how will they develop initiative and the ability to meet needs on their own?

Effective Oral & Written Communication

Through his research, Wagner discovered that students entering the workforce are severely deficient in their ability to speak and/or write. The problem is less about grammar and mechanics and more about students being unable to articulate their thinking in a logical manner with a compelling voice and persuasive argumentation. Reliance on the formulaic writing strategies traditionally used in classrooms restricts the critical thinking component that is necessary for effective communication. Do we let students write about topics they are passionate about? Are we giving them opportunities to write frequently in all subject areas? How often do we ask students deep questions and then give them sufficient “wait time” to develop and/or revise their oral responses? How often do we ask them to articulate the thinking behind their answers?

Accessing & Analyzing Information

Wagner says we have moved from a “knowledge economy” to an “innovation era”. When information is readily available 24 hours a day, the knowledge you possess is less valuable than what you are able to do with that knowledge. The true skill is being able to quickly access information and effectively analyze it for accuracy and relevance to the task. How often are we incorporating web-based texts in our instruction? Are we teaching students how to determine the reliability of the information they encounter online? Is research still only something we do during library time, or is it a part of regular instruction in all content areas?

Curiosity & Imagination

Innovation comes from curiosity and imagination. People who can ask the right questions and locate or iterate the answers to their questions are the people who are able to come up with unique products and services for a fast-paced world. How often do we encourage and allow students time to follow their curiosity and employ their imagination? Do we make time for Genius Hour during the school day? Have you thought about creating a Makerspace on campus for students?

By approaching our instructional practices with an awareness of these future ready survival skills we can look for opportunities to complement our traditional activities with new ideas for a new time.

Source

Wagner, T. (2008). Rigor redefined. Educational Leadership, 66 (2). Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/oct08/vol66/num02/Rigor-Redefined.aspx

Mindsets and Math: Ideas for Helping Nurture Growth

Monday, December 7th, 2015

Author: Susan Hemphill, Education Specialist: Secondary Mathematics

Are you good at math? Do you believe you can learn math? These are central questions in ongoing research into how our beliefs shape our learning. Through getting to know what our students currently believe about how they learn and teaching them learning is a continuous process, we can help students understand that achievement in math is not a set ability but something that can be changed over time.

Dweck (2008) categorizes people into two groups: those with growth mindsets and those with fixed mindsets. People with a fixed mindset believe that you are only capable of a certain, set level of knowledge. Once one reaches this level, one can learn no more. If you find your students saying I’m not good at math and no one in my family is either, this may be a sign of a fixed mindset. People with a growth mindset believe that they can learn anything given time and effort. It is no surprise that students with a growth mindset are at an advantage.

So how do we nurture the growth mindset in the classroom?

A simple way to get started is to reflect on how you give your students positive feedback. Dweck recommends focusing on the processes students use in their learning. By focusing on strategies, efforts and choices, we promote the idea that learning is a path that is different for everyone. So while it might seem positive to say, “Wow! Excellent grade on that assignment,” rephrasing it as, “Nice work on that assignment. Your efforts show me you are learning new things every day!” would remind students the learning doesn’t have an end. Grades often provide unintended fixed mindset feedback. The 100% shows all is perfect and there are no mistakes and the student gets a boost in their beliefs about their abilities, but what about when something more challenging comes along? While perfect papers can be celebrated, think about what messages you are giving the students. What if you said, “It looks like I did not challenge you in your learning!” Similarly,,the student who earns a 60 receives feedback that can seemingly indicate that they aren’t able to learn the material that was graded. By getting kids to look at less than perfect work and inspecting their errors, you are encouraging students to understand this is not a final judgement on their abilities and they can still learn and grow.

Boaler (2015) has also researched learning math and mindsets and has found many strategies to help students succeed in math — even if they believe they can’t. Her Youcubed website shares various resources for teachers, parents and students. The website features ideas and information on getting kids to embrace the challenges in math. One of the videos of a classroom shows a poster that says, “Mistakes are expected, respected and inspected!” Boaler also suggests we adjust our classroom norms to promote the growth mindset to build a classroom community of math learners.

References

Boaler, J. (2015). Mathematical mindsets: Unleashing students’ potential through creative math, inspiring messages, and innovative teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass & Pfeiffer Imprints.

Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.

Inspiring Students to Math Success and a Growth Mindset. (n.d.). Retrieved November 11, 2015, from https://www.youcubed.org

What Makes Science Science?

Friday, September 25th, 2015

AUTHOR: Cynthia Holcomb: Education Specialistv – Elementary Science

What does science instruction look like on your elementary campus? Does it occur every day, in every grade level, or is it something that teachers attend to when they have time? Does the entire staff and student body agree on what makes science science?

I once asked a class of third graders at the beginning of the school year to define science. I will never forget the response from Kara, an earnest 8-year old who always thought through her answers carefully. “I guess it’s the opposite of social studies,” she said.

And that’s what some of our students believe. It’s a subject that is addressed when it’s convenient instead of being recognized as a required and important part of our curriculum. School administrators must be advocates for science, especially in the elementary grades, by supporting and monitoring an elementary science program that reflects state standards.

Our science Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills are designed so that students in the primary grades receive concrete, hands-on, tactile experiences. By Grade 3, science content shifts to the abstract. If students don’t receive their initial science instruction as tangible explorations of ideas in grades K-2, they miss building necessary background for understanding more abstract ideas in the later grades.

For students, science is a way of discovering what’s in the world and how things work. Young scientists are motivated to see or figure out something that is new to them. Science helps them make sense of the world. Science is continually refining and expanding our knowledge of our world, and it continually leads to new questions for future investigation.

To encourage students to explore our world, the Texas Education Agency has suggested time for classroom and outdoor investigations as follows:

  • In grades K-1, at least 80% of instructional time.
  • In grades 2-3, at least 60% of instructional time.
  • In grades 4-5, at least 50% of instructional time.
  • In grades 6-8, at least 40% of instructional time.

For all courses that receive science credit in grades 9-12, at least 40% of instructional time.

In addition, the 2010 science TEKS reference three types of investigations for students of grades K-12.

  • Descriptive investigations include questions but no hypothesis. Observations are recorded, but students do not make comparisons or manipulate variables. Examples include finding the mass of a rock, observing and describing animal behavior or weather patterns, and examining an electrical circuit.

 

  • Comparative investigations involve collecting data on different organisms, objects, or events, or collecting data under different conditions to make a comparison. Examples include observing the moon’s appearance throughout the month, recording the changes in plant life during the school year, or comparing different types of leaves.

 

  • Experimental investigations involve designing a fair test. Students identify controlled factors and measure the variables in an effort to gather evidence to support or not support a causal relationship.

(You can view TEA’s entire Laboratory and Field Investigations document: Laboratory and Field Investigations – FAQ, August 2010 )

So what makes science science? It’s providing time each day, in each grade, for students to think like scientists. It’s fostering a sense of curiosity and wonder. It’s providing opportunities to explore the natural world. It’s about students observing, performing experiments, completing investigations, and asking questions. And it’s much more than being just the opposite of social studies.

 

Supporting the Young English Language Learner

Friday, September 25th, 2015

AUTHOR: Aliza Rivera, Education Specialist – School Ready

As a former pre-K teacher I often struggled with meeting the needs of my English Language Learners (ELLs), mainly because I didn’t completely understand the resources provided to me. Over time, I came to the realization that while the curriculum and lesson planning that were provided offered guidance on what to teach and when to teach it, they very rarely offered practical methods for how to teach it, which is exactly what the job of curriculum/ lesson mapping and planning is supposed to do. More specifically, I wanted to teach in a way that allowed me to maximize instructional time to meet the needs of my students’ oral language development in their native language as well as provide relevant and purposeful learning opportunities that supported and fostered my students’ English language development. I decided that I would go back to basics and build upon the relationships already being successfully formed in our classroom community.  

As I reflected, I began to understand that planning the act of having conversations with students was going to be the successful foundation that both the student and I would need to establish risk taking behaviors.  By being very deliberate in my planning I could create a love of learning that would be experienced all year long in both their native language as well as their new language of English as well.

So with the end of school year goals in mind, I began to intentionally plan backward to find ways that would support my students’ oral language development and allow for students to express and communicate their own personal experiences in multiple of ways that included listening, speaking, reading, and writing.  Research has shown that students who are supported in both their native home languages (L1) and English (L2) have demonstrated increased cognitive, linguistic, and social emotional advantages (Bialystock 2008; Kuhl 2009)

Planning support for the young ELL should include:

  • Variety – I learned that students were more interested in learning a new language when the conversations occurred in different parts of the classroom, not always limiting those dialogues to one area of the classroom. By utilizing a variety of literature in different parts of the classroom like songs, chants and rhymes, students enthusiastically learn and remember new vocabulary words, classroom expectations and concepts.
  • Visual reinforcements – By adding additional environmental supports like photos and rubrics, students receive a message of which behaviors, appropriate conversations and interactions were expected of them.
  • Let them know why – When I planned for engaging in intentional and purposeful play with my students during center time, students were more likely to use new vocabulary words, phrases and sentence stems because they understood the purposes of instructional materials placed in centers.
  • Peer-to-peer learning – Actively encouraging cooperative play and planning instructional work for students to complete in pairs or triads makes students feel more comfortable with taking risks and practicing their listening and speaking skills with one another. They also learn that their classmates are another resource in helping them to learn material being taught as well as a source of problem solving support.
  • Integrate the home culture – By adding labeling and environmental print to the classroom environment, I was able to communicate to parents and students that I was honoring not only their home language but the idea that one day they were going to be bicultural, bilingual and most importantly bi-literate—able to successfully read, speak and write in both languages.

References

Bialystok, E. (2008). Cognitive Effects of Bilingualism Across the Lifespan. In H. Chan, H. Jacob, & E. Kapia (Eds.), BUCLD 32: Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development. Boston, MA: Cascadilla Press.

Magruder, E., Hayslip, W., Espinosa, L., & Matera, C. (2013, March 1). Many Languages, One Teacher: Supporting Language and Literacy Development for Dual Language Learners. Young Children, 8-12.

Kuhl, P. (2009). Early Language Acquisition: Neural Substrates and Theoretical Models. In The Cognitive Neurosciences (4th ed., pp. 837-854). Cambridge, MA: M.S. Gazzaniga.

 

Maintaining Student Engagement in Math

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Authors: Virginia Keasler and Mary Headley, Education Specialists: Mathematics

The STAAR test is over, the students are trying to shut down, and field trips and awards ceremonies are on the horizon. How do I engage my students so that learning continues?

What do students really say about what engages them? A recent article published in Edutopia in February of 2015, “Kids Speak Out on Student Engagement,” addressed this question.  220 students were asked, “What engages students?” The responses received seemed to fall under ten categories representing recurring themes.

  • Working with peers
  • Working with technology
  • Connecting the real world to the work we do/project-based learning
  • Teachers should clearly love what they do
  • Get me out of my seat
  • Bring in visuals
  • Student choice
  • Understand your clients – the kids
  • Mix it up!
  • Teachers should show their human side

Mathematics can be an intimidating subject for students; however, with the right math teaching strategies, educators can engage students in the subject matter and help them to better understand complicated concepts.

Now is the time to try a few new strategies pertaining to the students’ list above.

Working with peers has the potential to create students who are highly motivated and have higher levels of participation. The following short video from the Teaching Channel showcases an example of peer teaching: https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/student-peer-teaching

While the use of concrete manipulatives is a critical component of math instruction, virtual manipulatives add to the learning experience. One technology resource for the math classroom is the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives (NLVM). Virtual manipulatives give students prompts, feedback, and answers to problems while working on problems lets the students incorporate more self-exploration. As always, you will want lead with the TEKS as you select manipulatives with which students will master content.

There are many ways to get students out of their seats. One of the strategies you may not have heard of is called Brain Breaks. Brain Breaks are a great way to re-energize your students to get their blood pumping and their brains re-charged for learning. The following websites have information and/or brain breaks in action:

http://www.pgsd.org/cms/lib07/PA01916597/Centricity/Domain/43/Brain%20Breaks.pdf https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/brain-break-classroom-transition-nea http://teachtrainlove.com/20-brain-break-clips-fight-the-fidgeting/

Allowing students to make choices for their learning is important in a math classroom. Choice boards allow for student engagement and are great for differentiation. A choice board is a tool that ensures students incorporate a range of multiple intelligences, and/or learning preferences.

Some of the benefits of choice boards include:

  • Allowing students more freedom with a choice of activities
  • Allowing students to work at their own pace
  • Promoting independence and responsibility
  • Promoting a more positive behavior

To explore choice boards visit: http://www.alexiscullerton.com/uploads/2/4/7/2/24729748/choice_boards_packet.pdf

It is important to keep students engaged in their learning process. Hopefully, these strategies will help you maintain student engagement after the STAAR test and give you several ideas to take forward into the new school year.

 

Reference

Heather Wolpert-Gawron. (n.d.). Retrieved April 1, 2015, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/student-engagement-stories-heather-wolpert-gawron

Their World, Their Classroom: Innovating to Reach Digital Natives

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Author: Leslie Barrett, Education Specialist: Technology & Library Media Services

In Issue 15 of Insight, Cynthia Holcomb reflected on an article from the Washington Post in which a teacher spent two lethargic and inactive days experiencing school from a student’s perspective. Both articles present a simple but powerful idea that could have a significant impact on the effectiveness of our classroom practices: consider the student’s perspective. Marc Prensky did just that for his book Teaching Digital Natives. Prensky (2010) suggests we can impact the level of student engagement and attention span by delivering “what students need in the ways they need it” (p. 2). To help us out, he interviewed students from various backgrounds around the globe with the goal of finding out what today’s students want from their classroom learning environments. Surprisingly, or maybe not, he found students want the same things regardless of their socioeconomic status or global location.

Consider the list below of the nine things Prenksy (2010) found that today’s digital natives want from their learning environments. Our challenge as educators is to listen to what our students are asking from us and think about new ways we might approach our classroom practices in response.

 

They do not want to be lectured to.

Can we reframe student learning objectives in the form of rich questions and allow students to use their digital devices or other resources to discover the answers (with varying levels of support depending on age and ability levels)? Can we pre-curate appropriate resources that will help students independently explore the content with a higher likelihood that they will encounter reliable answers to our guiding questions?

 

They want to be respected, to be trusted, and to have their opinions valued and count.

Granted, respect and trust have to be earned, but are we giving them enough opportunities to earn it? How often do we allow students to weigh in and offer their opinions on classroom discussion and decisions? Tech tools like Tricider, Today’s Meet, Padlet, Edmodo, and Google Classroom allow each student to have a voice, and, along the way, pave the road for formative assessment as well as teaching digital citizenship and quality commenting.

 

They want to follow their own interests and passions.

How can we uncover students’ interests and incorporate those interests into instructional activities? This practice not only helps teachers build strong relationships with students, but also helps make learning relevant to them. Could we explore the power of social media to learn more about our students? Can we help them see the natural connections between the topics that interest them and standards we are teaching?

 

They want to create using the tools of their time.

Technology is a significant part of students’ personal lives and it is showing up more frequently in our classrooms as well. This can be intimidating to teachers who are not yet confident in their own technology skills. The good news is you don’t have to be the technology expert! Could you occasionally allow students to showcase their own tech knowledge by giving them some freedom of choice in how they demonstrate mastery of academic objectives? You provide the academic guidelines, they provide the tool; they feel respected and valued, you learn something new. Everyone wins!

 

They want to work with their peers on group work and projects (and prevent slackers from getting a free ride).

Let’s face it: students like to learn with each other and from each other. How can we create more opportunities for group work but still monitor students for understanding and provide academic support? How do we set guidelines for group work to help all students do their fair share? Consider asking students what THEY think is the best method of achieving this goal and how they suggest “slacking” should be handled. This is another way to give students a voice and show that you respect their ideas and input.

 

They want to make decisions and share control.

When we allow students to make decisions and share control we are demonstrating that we respect them, trust them, and value their opinions. This sets the stage for students to take control of their own learning. Can we find more opportunities in our instructional day to give students choices in how they learn new material and demonstrate mastery of knowledge and skills?

 

They want to connect with their peers and share their opinions, in class and around the world.

Allowing students to share their work with a public audience is a powerful motivator for driving quality. How can we harness the power of technology to make a wider audience possible? Could we facilitate the digital distribution of student work through a classroom blog, website, or Twitter account in order to model appropriate digital citizenship? Could we set up a Skype session or Google Hangout with an author or an expert in a particular field and have students pose questions or showcase final projects?

 

They want to cooperate and compete with each other.

Some students like to learn cooperatively. Some students prefer competition. Some like both. Some like neither. How can we get to know our students’ preferences and make sure we are creating a balanced variety of learning activities? Or, even better, can we create more opportunities for students to choose activities that support the same learning goal but utilize different methods?

 

They want an education this is not just relevant, but real.

“When are we ever going to use this?” It’s a question students have been asking for generations, and, frankly, it’s a valid one. In an age where students are developing pancreatic cancer screeners, publishing novels, and creating apps to help fellow students, are we creating enough opportunities for students to see how their classroom learning connects to their real world? Are we staying current ourselves with the knowledge and skills students need to be successful in today’s world? Where do we even start with that?

 

We start by asking our students and genuinely considering their perspectives.

 

References

Holcomb, C. (2015). Instruction from the student point of view. Insight: A newsletter for curriculum, instruction and assessment. Retrieved from http://www5.esc13.net/thescoop/insight/2015/02/instruction-from-the-student-point-of-view/

Prensky, M. (2010). Teaching digital natives: Partnering for real learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Strauss, V. (2014). Teacher spends two days as a student and is shocked at what she learns. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/10/24/teacher-spends-two-days-as-a-student-and-is-shocked-at-what-she-learned/

Score Point 2: The “Evolution” from Somewhat Effective to Basic

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Author: Susan Diaz, Secondary Literacy Education Specialist

This past week, I presented a workshop on expository writing in which I used the scoring guides released by T.E.A. to do anchoring and range-finding with participants.  After combing through several of the score point 2 essays, one of my participants had an epiphany:  “These 2’s aren’t very good!  Why are they scoring so high?!”  Another participant pointed out to her that on the STAAR a 2 is considered a “Basic” writing performance, so her observation was quite accurate: while a 2 on TAKS was deemed “Somewhat Effective” and passing, a 2 on STAAR is something completely different. There is no gate-keeper essay on STAAR, meaning scoring a 1 or 2 doesn’t mean the student will automatically fail, but considering the weight of writing on the test (52% of the overall score), and if the goal is to truly make students college and career ready, a 2 isn’t what we should aim for.

 

Let’s look at an excerpt of the Score Point 2 STAAR EOC Rubric for English I Expository Writing, under “Development of Ideas.”The essay reflects little or no thoughtfulness. The writer’s response to the prompt is sometimes formulaic. The writer develops the essay in a manner that demonstrates only a limited understanding of the expository writing task.The rubric highlights two important issues to consider for STAAR expository writing: thoughtfulness and formulas.  In Elizabeth Rorschach’s article “The Five-Paragraph Theme Redux,” she argues that “standardized writing exams encourage teachers to focus on format and correctness, with little concern for content.”  I whole-heartedly agree with her!  Down with the test!  It’s ruining writing!  Down with the, WAIT!  What did that rubric say?  Thoughtfulness (i.e., “content”) = good.  Formula (i.e., “format”) = bad.  After repeatedly looking at the released essays from this past year’s English I EOC, I realized that kids were being rewarded for original ideas and for creative yet appropriate organizational structures.  Often when we are confronted with high-stakes writing tests, we fall back on formulas as tried and true ways of assisting our struggling students.  As Rorschach states, when we focus first on prefabricated text structures (formulas), we limit our students’ thinking.  Instead of finding text structures that fit their ideas, students force ideas to fit within the structures.  Most importantly, Rorschach warns us, “When teachers’ attention is focused on structure…they cease to be real readers who need to be engaged by interesting ideas.”  So, first, let us value our students’ ideas by becoming real readers or real listeners.  And, then, let us assist our students in finding their own ways to organize their fresh ideas into original packages.

 

Source

“The Five-Paragraph Theme Redux,” Elizabeth Rorschach, accessed October 1, 2012, http://www.nwp.org/cs/public/print/resource/1287.