Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Getting to the Core: Accountable Talk

The Common Core Standards require students to engage in collaborative discussions, elaborate on the points of others and clearly explain their own ideas. The standards also want students to review key ideas and draw conclusions based on information from discussions. This is called collaborative argumentation or as the Institute of Learning at the University of PIttsburgh calls it, "Accountable Talk."  The Accountable Talk chart pictured below is available on Teachers Pay Teachers in both color and black and white.  The picture it enlarged to 139% on ledger paper and used as a placemat on student's desk during discussions.  
Accountable Talk Chart

Traditional lessons are characterized with a sequence of teacher-initiated questions for student response and teacher evaluation.  These questions simply test students' knowledge.  It constrains the participants from collaborating or building meaning from the text.  Discourse-based lessons focus on the quality of the teacher's questions and talk moves to generate effective reading comprehension lessons.  Accountable Talk consists of three levels of accountability: 
  1. Accountable to the Learning Community - that discussions are on topic
  2. Accountable to the Knowledge - to use accurate information
  3. Accountable to Rigorous Thinking - to think deeply about what is being said.  
Within each level of accountability there are structures that need to be taught individually and then synthesized into an understanding of Accountable Talk.  

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Getting to the Core: Annotating Text

On Thursday and Friday, I presented at the Superintendent’s Conference in Tinley Park, IL on Getting Your Daily Dose of the CCSS.  It was very exciting but I'm glad it's over.  I need to learn how to cut down on the prep time!  Over the next six posts, I will share the key resources from my presentation on the CCSS key shifts for ELA/Literacy instruction. 

The CCSS call for close reading and “reading with a pencil.”  Annotating, or marking up, text will help students develop confidence analyzing text.  This strategy can be applied in all content areas. Model the method with a short passage or article while students are acquiring the skill of annotation. Have students work in groups and gradually increase the text complexity of the texts you present while applying the gradual release of responsibility.  Eventually, students should be able to transfer the process to appropriate, self-selected texts.  To make this a formative assessment, score the annotated text.  

There is no right or wrong way to annotate a book.  Pick up a pencil, a pen or a post-it.  Write directly on the text (if it’s your property or a copy of a selection) or use post-its to mark your pages and thoughts.  Read everything at least twice.  The first time read quickly to get a sense of what the text is about.  Subsequent re-readings should  include close reading and annotating text.   

Begin to annotate:

A.      Circle, underline, or stick on a post-it for important ideas.
B.      Mark repetitions or rhetorical signals.
C.      Circle confusing words or phrases. 
D.      Note passages that seem inconsistent.
E.       Write questions where you made annotations.

Use your margin to decode the text, to help remind yourself what the author is saying 
and mark your thoughts as you read.   Marking in the margins involves the reader in:
  • Writing brief summaries
  • Listing or numbering multiple ideas
  • Sketching pictures and charts to explain difficult concepts
  • Predicting
  • Noting puzzling or confusing ideas that need clarification
  • Defining words to help remember them

    Check out my annotation bookmark on TPT!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Update on "What the heck is a rekenrek?"

On February 8th, I published a post on my experience with rekenreks.  I recently received a response from Jami Smith at the Math Learning Center that I wanted to share with you.  Also, you might want to check out the original post.  

Hi there! I appreciate that you think our rekenrek book is "amazing." :-) I just wanted to let you know that we now sell kits to make your own number racks. All the materials needed to build 10 kits for only 10 dollars.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Increasing Instructional Rigor

Are you interested in increasing the instructional rigor of the lesson you teach and the tasks that students complete?  I just posted a Depth of Knowledge (DOK) Questioning Tool flip book on TPT.  This tool is based on Norman Webb's Depth of Knowledge that aligns with the rigorous expectations of the CCSS.  DOK has four levels: level 1 recall, level 2 skill/concept, level 3 strategic thinking and level 4 extended thinking. This flip book includes the DOK Expectations for Student Performance, the DOK Descriptors or verbs and the DOK question stems.  I really like how Depth of Knowledge aligns beautifully with both the CCSS and the Understanding by Design process.  When you study UbD, you learn that lessons, tasks and assessments are always designed to build understanding.  Acquire, making meaning and transfer are the three levels of understanding in UbD.  The same is very similar in Depth of Knowledge where acquire, use, and extend understanding are the three levels.  Just click on my TPT button and look for Depth of Knowledge (DOK) Questioning Tool.  This tool will be very useful for planning rigorous lessons, tasks and assessments for your students and as a tool for asking higher-level questions in class.  When I model DOK in classrooms, I make a copy of the tool for each group in the classroom to utilize during the lesson that I teach and for future lessons.  

Everyone loves stuff that is free.  You can download my first product on TPT for free or download it by clicking here.  It's titled,  DOK (Depth of Knowledge) in the Content Areas.  For each level of DOK and for each content area of English Language Arts, Writing, Math, Social Studies and Science, a variety of performance levels are provided.  For instance, under the Social Studies tab, you would go from...
                                        Level 1 Identify specific information
Level 2 Describe interpret or explain issues or problems 
                                        Level 3 Draw conclusions and cite evidence
                                        Level 4 Analyze and synthesize information from multiple sources
I hope you enjoy this product.  Let me know what you think!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Have a Ball with BLOOM'S Taxonomy!

I'm off school today so I'm trying to catch up on everything.  Consequently, I have posted two BLOOM with higher-level thinking products on TPT today.  The first one is BLOOM with Questioning blooms to hang up on an English Language Arts focus wall for reference.  In the photo below, notice the stems with the key words and the flower pots.  The stems are an editable resource and along with the pots are available free on  If you aren't acquainted with Sparklebox, everything is free.  All you need is lots of white cardstock and access to a colored printer.  It's like free, one-stop shopping!

The second is a two for one product.  In Part 1, students construct a Bloom's Ball as a tool for creating higher-level questions.  I have used the Bloom's Ball many times with kids as I have modeled this activity in classrooms.  Part 2 is a performance task where students customize the 12 panels of the Bloom's Ball in response to reading a literary or non-fiction book.  Directions for this task are included and this performance task can be completed individually or as a group project.  I'd love to hear from you if you try these resources.
Completed Bloom's Ball
Putting the Panels Together

ELA Frameworks K-8

It has been crazy lately trying to get everything done.  I'm sure you feel the same way.  I was busy preparing materials to facilitate a day long institute day on the CCSS and the implementation of the Understanding by Design process and my hard drive crashed for the second time since July.  I love Dell laptops but their service stinks.  I lost all of the English Language Arts templates that I typed up in January.

I originally saw the attached English Language Arts Frameworks from the Georgia Department of Education.  I used their format to design a template for the district where I work.  Imagine how thrilled I was when I realized that these templates were actually based on the PARCC (Partnership for Achieving Readiness for College and Career) Model Content Frameworks!  At this time, the PARCC Frameworks are available on their website for grades 3-12.  Based on the PARCC Frameworks, I have re-typed the ELA templates for grades K-8.  You can download them here. Below is a photo of the grade 4 template for ELA.
The PARCC Frameworks are oriented horizontally on the page but I prefer the vertical orientation which also mimics the orientation of the Common Core Standards as you look vertically down the column for your grade level.  I also like these documents because it clearly depicts the requirements for each module or nine week period during the school year.  These documents also demonstrate how the six shifts for ELA instruction are threaded throughout each nine week period.  Thankfully, no one should be stopping instruction to prepare for THE TEST.  Instead, everyone just needs to do their best teaching everyday and keep the six shifts for ELA in mind every week as you write your lesson plans or as you work on curriculum committees to prepare units of instruction. 

I am schedule to present at the Superintendent's Conference in Tinley Park, IL on March 21-22, 2013.  My presentation is based on a bulletin board that I created titled, Daily Dose of CCSS, which focuses on the six shifts in instruction for ELA.  On page 7 in the introduction to the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts, there is a description of a literate individual. So I decided to create a diploma depicting a literate individual to hand out at the end of my presentation with all of the links that are included in my presentation.    I'm going to roll up the diploma and tie it with red ribbon.  See the picture above and click on the bold print ELA for a hyperlinked copy.  
I'd love to hear your comments.