Sunday, March 29, 2015

Green Lights Ahead

This is 29 of 31 posts for the March Slice of Life Story Challenge. Hard to believe the month is coming to a close!
Thank you to the team at Two Writing Teachers for the link ups and encouragement. 

Teachers at my high school are working in curriculum-alike groups to revise course scope and sequences to reflect Common Core Standards. It seems a process we create a new each year as each year we have different students who come to us with different skill sets. Tomorrow we return to school from spring break, so of course I've been thinking about lesson plans and the like.

Our curriculum-alike groups are our school-based Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). I know that the Slice of Life Community acts as a PLC for me as does Twitter and the English Companion Ning. I learn in community. At school, we meet in our PLC groups for thirty minutes to an hour after school the second and forth Wednesday of each month. PLC groups that have common planning time also meet weekly.  During that time (and often via email or during casual, ad hoc gatherings), we are working on a common standards focus that makes sense for what our current students know and need and common assessments to inform our instruction.

Common is a word that gets some English teachers' hackles up. One-size never fits all, but common assessment does not mean that teachers in my group are teaching from the same texts, keeping the same pace or going in the same exact instructional order.

I've had several ah-has as I scored common assessments this year. Here are a few of them:

1- Stay focused. Don’t try to do too much. Having two sides to a page, including fiction and nonfiction when assessing as standard, slows down assessing and thinking. Keep written formative assessments sharp and short so that we can teach from our discoveries the very next day.

2- Do this sort of assessment many times over the course of a unit and keep track of students’ scores on one roster sheet to see growth over time for just this learning goal— make time for students to show improvement.

3- Keep a list of “what to teach next.” As I read students' work, I realized my students need another review of __ (theme or main idea or author's purpose, etc.). Students confused theme and topic and tone and mood--notice the confusions and note them in order to address them.

4- Work all the strands. Integrate reading/writing and speaking/listening and language as much as we can and as authentically as we can. There is a time and a place for multiple choice practice but rich and varied reading, writing, speaking and listening over time will always be in students' best interests.

I'm excited to get back to school and the work ahead. We are three-quarters of the way through the year. Students are secure in our routines. The fourth quarter is like sailing through down town when all the lights are green.

Clouds and green from the intersection of Colonial Drive and 419.


  1. These are great tips, Lee Ann. I'm also glad to hear that you also feel that curriculum revision is an ongoing process. We've had some frustration about being "done." I feel that in order to meet the needs of our current students, we will always be making changes. Good luck with your work!

  2. Thanks for the tips. Would love to see what y'all come up with for a scope and sequence that reflect the standards. It seems like every district in my area does it differently, and they all want my input. So I'm looking for formats, thinking, processes, etc right now to help people out as they plan for next year. Thanks!