Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Coding Grades

Color coding in class today.

In my A.P. Language and Composition class today, I asked students to read and examine some sample synthesis essays. They read over the 2013 synthesis question about monuments and then I tasked them with color coding two samples (A and B).

Here's how I asked them to mark the samples:

1 Read the sample essay.
2 Re-read and mark it up.
3 Backwards map or outline the writer's moves.
4 Underline the writer's central claim.
5 Use 3 different colors to mark:

    • the writer's point in each paragraph
    • the writer's interpretation or thinking 
    • evidence the writer used
6 Talk in your table group about how the essays differ.
7 Review the synthesis rubric.
8 Come to consensus on a score for each essay.
9 Share out.
10 Repeat steps 2-5 with the essay you wrote last class.

I heard a lot of, "this is interpretation or thinking; it's all set up in this part before the example." As the class color marked I also got a lot of questions about examples and evidence. "Is it evidence if it's not quote?" Hmm... I thought, time to review different ways writers can incorporate evidence (paraphrase, summarize, quote). I've even heard more than one student say something to the effect of "this is so satisfying!" They liked determining the sentence colors -- now to get them to be as satisfied by the sentence' purpose. 

We've done this sort of sample scoring before. It is a familiar lesson to most I imagine. And it's almost Ground Hog's day, so students have developed some confidence by February's start. 

Of course, students wanted to get at the essays they'd written on Monday. Formative essays, the essays will not go in the grade book as an evaluative mark. Still, they were anxious for feedback. 

Until they got their papers. 

“I got a circle. Did you get a circle?”

“No, I got a triangle.”

“That’s probably better than a circle!”

“I doubt it! What'd you get?" classmates quickly compared marks.

I want students to do more thinking, so instead of giving them their mark, I use codes. The codes change all the time. There are an infinite number of codes I could use, right? I make comments, positive and directional, but I don't reveal the "grade" or the score right away. Students have to dig into self-assessment and the rubric in order to begin to figure that out. 

"I got a rectangle, or is that a square? Spillane...!?"
"Well, there's only one triangle and one rectangle, I bet those are good!"

Of course, they try  to game it and guess it before settling in to re-read and examine their own writing. I don't appreciate that they still feel driven to compare within their groups, but I can't control that. What I can do is recognize that they are comfortable with one another and feel safe enough to compare and share their writing and their feedback.

"A rectangle... I think I did okay... maybe good. I totally got my thinking in there. Huh..."

Some of us still have confidence problems (I'm working on that).Whether they scored in the top half or in the middle of the rubric, kids drew apt conclusions about how they organized their ideas and supporting their claims from today's activities.  I loved how the sequence worked-- it was a win. No to banish those shadows and get those Ground Hogs up out of their dens.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Literacy Unbound

Sixteen or so teachers stand in a circle on the carpet in the high school professional development room. English 9, history and world studies PLCs have come together to play to learn. Three of teachers are barefoot already. Several shift their weight from side to side. Some smile the sort of smile one does when waiting. Enter Brian Veprek from Literacy Unbound, a program of The Center for the Professional Education of Teachers based out of Teachers College, Columbia University.

Brian leads us in a shake-it-out, count down from eight warm up of our limbs. Then we leap into rapid prototyping of our super hero selves.

"Create your super hero self with a word that begins with the same letter as your name. Pair that word with an action and perform it. One you show us, the group will perform it. Let me show you."

And that is how we meet Brian the Beserker--who flexes and grrrs and breaks the ice with vigor and verve. I became acquainted with Brian and Literacy Unbound at NCTE in St. Louis. Several teachers from Singapore American School participated in Literacy Unbound's summer institute and they presented their learning and shared the playful methods in a workshop at the conference.

Imagine seeding students' thinking with laughter and movement. Imagine connecting sutdents to one another and text in playfully complex ways. That is what Literacy Unbound does.

We "milled and seethed" walking about the open space smiling in different ways:  "smile to someone you don't like too much" and  "smile to someone you like completely" too. We flowed like gas weaving around the room whispering a secret we wish someone did not know and then whispering a secret we were eager to share. It was low risk movement and performance. I giggled and laughed and tried to stay in character.  Unbeknownst to us, we wiggled and walked in ways that we would encounter in the text to come.

Once we'd been properly milled we played "statues." Partnering up, one person acted as the sculptor and the other clay. The rules: no speaking and no touching. We were directed to "marionette" are clay into a position that illustrates the prompt given.

We made "woman" and "girl."  These were quick iterations. As woman, my partner, Doug, posed me in a standing position, head tilted just so to the right. My gaze aimed upward; my arms reached gently out, palms up.  After each sculpted draft, sculptors walked the sculpture garden. After their gallery walk, they debriefed:  What do you notice? What emotions are evidence in the sculptures? What questions do the poses bring up? What would you title each piece? Once the sculptors spoke, we switched roles for another round. Then the thinking rippled outward as we  joined pairs to make "mother and daughter" and "teacher and student."  Posed as mother and daughter with Doug, our sculptors. at first, had us gazing into each others' eyes. It was so hard not to laugh! I was impressed with the sculptures that could  freeze and stay in character.

Collaborate, create, connect, observe, think, reflect, discuss, wonder, revise,  repeat. These verbs sequenced the on-our-feet play that comprised our pre-reading work. With each round, we practice tone and voice with our bodies. It was an hour before we even saw the text on the page, Jamaica Kincaid's "Girl."

I am still savoring the instructional sequence and how performance and play set us up for a deep reading of the text (all without directing us to analyze). For now, I will leave you at the pre-reading stage of the work. I get to play and learn with Brian again on Friday, but this time we'll work with students around an excerpt pulled from Romeo & Juliet, so stay tuned.

At the session's start, Brian introduced himself and Literacy Unbound. As is my habit, I was sketchnoting as he spoke. I am learning how to sketchnote digitally using Procreate. I'll save that learning for another post, but here's a sneak peek at the page I got down.