Common Formative Assessments: Teaching with a Focus on Learning

Common Formative Assessments: Teaching with a Focus on Learning

Common Formative Assessments: Teaching with a Focus on Learning
Written By: Adrianne Blackwelder

You would never serve your family a new recipe for Thanksgiving without first sampling it, and making adjustments as needed. In the same way, educators should never rely on summative assessment data to tell them whether or not their students are learning critical curriculum content.  

Instead, effective teachers use FORMATIVE ASSESSMENTS on a continuous basis. 

Consider some of these common Formative Assessment techniques:

Teacher-Facilitated

Student-Led

Dipstick Checks

Kinesthetic

Conferencing

Think-Pair-Share

Exit Tickets

Four Corners

Student Interviews

Jigsaw

Low-Stakes Quiz

Thumbs Up

3-2-1

Whip Around

One-Minute Essay

Inside/Outside Circle


Formative Assessment is a critical part of the instructional process. 

It is essential that teams develop and implement COMMON Formative Assessments. When we unpack curriculum standards with teachers, one critical component is the CFA tasks that teachers will use to measure proficiency. 

WHY COMMON?

1ENSURE ALIGNMENT TO STANDARD

When teams engage in effective planning – utilizing the UBD Framework – they begin with the end in mind. While unpacking the standard, teams collaboratively determine how they will measure proficiency, while the content is fresh on their minds. Teams discuss how these assessments meet the criteria and conditions outlined in the standard. By preplanning formative assessments, we ensure the rigor matches the standard, not just our instruction. 

2ALLOWS TEACHERS TO IDENTIFY STUDENT NEEDS

When teams develop and implement common formative assessment tasks, proficiency or non-proficiency is equivalent across classrooms. By comparing apples to apples, teachers can identify exactly where groups of students and individual students excelled or struggled with the standard.

3SERVE AS REFLECTIVE TOOLS FOR TEACHERS

By ensuring that students are held to the same rigorous expectations, teachers can have data discussions that spur personal reflection and growth. Teams are able to identify trends in the data. For example, if one teacher’s CFA data for a particular standard was particularly high, teams are able to collaborate around instructional practices and plan for remediation. 

7 Essential Components of a Math Curriculum

7 Essential Components of a Math Curriculum

7 Essential Components of Math Instruction: If you had extra money as a school to invest in teaching math, what would you buy?
Written By: Allison Kiser

A friend and colleague of mine recently asked me a great question: If you had extra money as a school to invest in teaching math, what would you buy? 

Her question forced me to think and reflect about math curriculum and instruction.  What would I buy that would help teachers teach math?  What would give the biggest bang for the buck?

My friend asked for my thoughts about a specific program that a teacher at her school wanted to invest in.  When I investigated the program, I realized that the program used gimmicks and memorization as a key strategy to teach children how to solve computation problems.  It is not an effective way to spend valuable time with students. So I first started thinking about math programs because the teachers at her school were looking into programs. 

When I look for a math program for any grade level, I want to see the following components. Unfortunately, I have not yet come across any program that encompasses everything that I want! 

1) Number Routines/Number Talks- Students develop computation and reasoning skills by generating and discussing their strategies with each other. This brief instructional routine should be implemented everyday to see the greatest gain in number sense. 

2) Word Problems- When the math is put in context, students are able to see the connections between the math skills and develop problem solving and reasoning skills. We need to help students make sense of problems and persevere in solving them (yes, the 1st of the 7 mathematical practices!). I want my students to read a problem and ask themselves questions like: What is the question? What do I need to solve the problem? Does this make sense?  I want them to be able to tackle a problem, look for entry points to the solution, and not be intimidated by the structure of the problem.  So, we need to give students a lot of supported and independent word problem practice. 

3) Inquiry-based Tasks- I love to use a number string or word problem as a jumping off point for students to investigate patterns, develop rules, prove theories, and add to their math strategy boards and math tool boards.  I like my students to feel and play with the math, so I use a lot of different math manipulatives, such as unifix cubes, base ten blocks, cards, dice, write on number lines, fraction tiles, measuring devices, balances, rekenreks, counters,  money, magnetic ten frames, 2d shape tiles, and cuisenaire rods. It is so important that students are constantly making connections between concrete, representational, and abstract math.  My best math lessons are when students are working with concrete manipulatives, representational drawings or number lines, and abstract symbols throughout the entire lesson and making connections between these components to understand the math concepts.  (FREE Math Strategy and Math Tool JamBoard)

4) Skill-Specific Math Games- Math games are key! Students can learn and practice the specific concept in an engaging way.  If the game is at their level and is fun, the students won’t even realize they are learning! You can do a lot with cards and dice (it doesn’t have to be a complicated game)! After every game my students play, I have them reflect & connect on the strategies and tools used to play the game, so that I can help make the learning visible to them. 

5) Spiral Review- Students need continuous practice of learned concepts. As they gain new learning and understanding throughout the year, students will make connections with old learning. I also want to make sure my students retain their knowledge to build on new concepts. This may look like 5 questions each day of math concepts they have already learned, either as a warm-up, a center, or homework. 

6) Math projects- Math projects are fun and put math in context. It’s important for students to apply their knowledge, reasoning, and make connections between interwoven math concepts. Projects can also help students see the answer to the question, “when will we use this in real life?”

7) Formative Assessments- I need data! I make a lot of observational notes about my students’ thinking during my math lessons, but I also use exit cards and end of unit quizzes. I need to know where the students are in their continuum of understanding of the math concepts at all times. The exit card can simply be 1 question where the student must solve the problem and justify their thinking.

After thinking about these key components of a math program, I returned to my friend’s question: If you had extra money as a school to invest in teaching math, what would you buy? 

I thought about another friend and colleague of mine, Janna Sells, who says “invest in people over programs.”  The most important component of math curriculum and instruction is the teacher! So by the end of the conversation, my friend and I were discussing giving the teachers collaborative time to dig into these 7 components and discuss and determine how they fit into their math classrooms.  We discussed giving specific math training to teachers on implementing one of these components that they felt they needed more information for better implementation.  Let’s invest in our teachers and not just quickly buy a math program.

So if you have extra money as a school to invest in teaching math this year, what will you buy? 

Do you need support in implementing strong math PLCs in your school?  Call us or send us a message.  We’ll equip you with the tools you need to have strong math teachers without spending a fortune on subpar math curriculums.

Classroom WalkThrough Tools | Does your Leadership Team do their Job?

Classroom WalkThrough Tools | Does your Leadership Team do their Job?

Know thy Impact | Using a Classroom Walkthrough Tool as formative assessment to determine the effectiveness of your Leadership Team
Written By: Shannan Church

To reach total school improvement you want all arrows moving in the same direction. As instructional leaders in the building, it is our responsibility to set our building up for success.  How do we do that?  How do we intentionally and strategically align school improvement?  After we get them aligned, how do we explicitly communicate the alignment with our staff?

School improvement starts and ends with data.  We begin by analyzing universal screening data to write Tier 1 Core Improvement Plans. Then we use those plans to draft our school improvement plans.  These school improvement plans should outline the PD needed in order for the teachers to carry them out to fidelity.  We provide PD teachers need then we use our classroom walkthrough tool (CWT) to formatively assess and provide growth feedback that helps us determine the effectiveness of our Leadership Team’s support.  Check out this easy to read graphic that summarizes these alignments.

Questions Playmaker Leaders ask:

Are the Professional Development trainings provided making impact?  Do our PLCs produce highly effective teachers using high yield strategies in their classroom that in turn positively impact our data and student achievement/growth? 

Easy as 1 – 2 – 3 | Steps Strong Leaders Model

  1. Deep Data Analysis | Use this data to drive tier 1 core improvement plans.
  2. SIP Alignment | Use Tier 1 Plans to write SIP goals (look for trends).  Determine PD needed to carry out your plans.
  3. Plan to Action | Provide the PD that is needed over an appropriate period.  Use a CWT to measure what your teachers are implementing and where they still need support.

Indicator Categories to Consider:

These are several indicators that we know yield high growth.  Please note- only indicators that teachers have received PD on should be on your CWT.  This list is not exhaustive.

  • Learning targets, posted, and communicated (Do students know their goals and success criteria?)
  • Instruction is aligned with standards (Did the PLC collaboratively unpack their content?)
  • Data Representation (Grade, Class, Individual Data Notebooks)
  • Differentiated Instruction (Scaffolded, Flex Groups, Data Driven, Collaborative Groups)
  • Instructional Routines (Literacy and Math)
  • Active Student Engagement (Active or Passive learning)

What does a CWT look like, sound like, feel like?

Now that you understand the critical components and compelling why of CWTs you may be asking how do I actually complete these?  Here are some rules our team lives by.

  1. Walk with a purpose.  Are you observing instruction or behavior?  Figure out who is completing the CWTs.  If you are completing behavior walks, this should be completed/done by the administration and counselors in your school.  If you are completing instructional walks, this should be completed/done by the administration and coaches in your building.
  2. Inter-rater reliability matters. At the beginning of each you review your indicators as a leadership team.  Discuss quality measures and non-examples.  It’s a great idea to complete paired walks the first couple weeks.  This will create unbiased, equitable marks and feedback throughout the building.
  3. Frequency over duration.  Each member of your leadership team should complete a minimum of 5 walks per week.  These are quick shots.  Create a schedule for who is walking where each week.  Only stay in the classroom 3-5 minutes per walk.
  4. Feedback feeds back.  Teachers crave positive feedback and constructive feedback.  Create a system for yourself.  Every time you complete a walk pick out something positive and then grow your teacher with a “have you thought about” idea.  Check out the tear off notepads we use to leave our teachers love notes when we walk into their classrooms.
  5. PLCs are the lifeblood.  Leadership Teams should make a standing agenda item to discuss/review the classroom walk data during their weekly leadership PLC and collaboratively design PLC agendas that support and grow teachers based on CWT data.

Do you need help aligning school improvement at your school?  We are here to help – send us your needs info@i-leadr.com.

Do you need help designing your own classroom walkthrough tool on a limited budget?  We’ll help you make one for free that will collect your data and represent it in easy to use charts for your leadership PLCs and teacher PLCs.  Reach out to us at info@i-leadr.com.

Math Diagnostic Interview

Math Diagnostic Interview

Math Diagnostic: Interview Students to Uncover Their Needs

Written by: Allison Kiser

Teachers have lost a lot of time with students because of the pandemic.  How can teachers really see where their students’ understanding of math content is?  How can teachers figure out how strong their students’ number sense is?

The answer to both questions lies in two simple words: diagnostic assessment.

A diagnostic assessment is a type of a pre-assessment that teachers can give their students to evaluate their students’ strengths, weaknesses, knowledge and skills.  A diagnosis itself is defined as the identification of the nature of an illness by an exam of the symptoms.  Diagnosing is exactly what teachers need to do with their students and their number sense.

Some diagnostic assessments are more effective as screening tools, but they are not effective as diagnostic tools.

My daughter’s first-grade teacher administered what they called a math diagnostic assessment last month with the goal of showing the teacher what students knew and didn’t know. At one point, the computerized assessment asked my daughter to solve 25 + 28.  I sat beside her to watch her work because I was curious about her number sense due to how the pandemic affected her kindergarten year.  And I am also a math nerd and love to listen to how children think about the math!  She solved the problem and clicked on the correct answer.

Yes, she got the correct answer to a double-digit addition problem.  She actually got every double-digit addition and subtraction problem correct. The online assessment collected this data.

Sitting next to Brielle, here is what I observed as she solved 25 + 28: She clicked on the hundreds chart tool that she was allowed to use.  She started at the first number, 25, and then she pointed to the hundreds chart on her screen as she counted 28 more numbers one-by-one to arrive at her answer of 53.  Watch the video of my daughter showing how she solved 25 + 28 like she did on her assessment.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orldwFyrzPE 

What would a teacher learn about my daughter’s understanding of double-digit addition from seeing the first set of data?  Would the teacher be able to diagnose anything? No, they would only see that she obtained the correct answer.  Since my daughter got all of the double-digit addition and subtraction problems correct, the data may show the teacher that she is proficient with this math skill. But is she?

What would a teacher learn about my daughter’s understanding of double-digit addition from seeing the second set of data? By sitting next to my daughter, the teacher would have seen that she used the hundreds chart tool precisely and proficiently for every double-digit addition and subtraction problem. She used the counting on and counting back strategy for every one of these problems.  She perseveres and is confident in her approach.  Her addition fluency is accurate but not efficient or flexible.  Her strategy works for her to get the correct answer but is a lower-level strategy because she is counting one-by-one, which will not be efficient as she gets to larger numbers.  The teacher will want to expand her strategies to using friendly numbers or decomposing numbers and for her to expand her understanding of place value and learn that she can add or subtract in groups and not just one-by-one.

My colleague, Janna, and I decided to create a math diagnostic assessment to help teachers identify students’ strengths and weaknesses in their mathematical understanding.  We quickly realized that in order to truly assess a student, we need to sit beside them and observe them.  We need to watch them solve math problems or we will miss out on how they are thinking about the math. Whereas we initially called our tool a math diagnostic assessment, we decided to rename it because it’s actually an interview. So, it’s now called a Math Diagnostic Interview, and you can buy it from our shop!

The Math Diagnostic Interview was created by educators dedicated to ​identifying students’ strengths and weaknesses​ in their mathematical understanding. The interview is ​not a universal screener​ to be administered to all students. However, it is intended to serve as a ​1:1 diagnostic interview​ with students to learn more about their level of understanding in ​foundational skills that are critical for conceptual understanding of mathematics​. A research-based universal screener should be used to first identify students who are at risk for difficulties in mathematics. Once students are identified, the Math ​Diagnostic Interview​ can be used to determine deficits​ and ​target instruction​ based on need.

We cannot assume anything about students’ understanding. We should work to discover what students know so that we can teach them what they need to learn.

Looking for your own copy of the diagnostic?  You can purchase and download here!

Want to purchase a site license?  Please email info@i-leadr.com for your personalized invoice.

Virtual Learning Playbook

Virtual Learning Playbook

Your Classroom is Your Classroom
Written By: Brie Beane

The 5 Big Plays to Maximize Success in a Virtual, Remote or Hybrid Model

Your classroom is your classroom! 

It is our responsibility as educators to reach and teach ALL children we serve, but how do we effectively do that now that we are serving in a virtual, remote and/or hybrid model? 

This is the #1 question we have received from educators all over the country. District administrators, building administrators, support specialists, instructional coaches, counselors, and teachers are worried, fearful, frustrated and discouraged on a daily basis.  The struggle is REAL ya’ll, but there is an answer.  Follow these 5 Big Plays in order to Maximize Success regardless of how you are required to deliver instruction.

The 5 Big Plays

Play 1 | The Pre-Game

Social Emotional Well-Being

“You can’t pour from an empty cup.  You have to look after yourself in order to have something to offer others” – Tarynne West.  Educators all over the county are worried about the social emotional well-being of the students who are not showing up to the schoolhouse, not attending virtual sessions, not submitting work, and not relying to communication attempts from the school or the teacher(s), but in order to give the best of us to our students, we must first reach our best self. Identifying your stressors, establishing consistent routines, developing a self-care plan and staying accountable to that plan will set you up for success. 

Play 2 | The Rulebook

Building Processes, Procedures, Routines and Relationships

Identifying and teaching your expectations for virtual instruction; identify, communicate and teach your procedural routines; and establishing and building positive and lasting relationships are essential in order to maximize success. 

“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel” – Carl W. Buechner.  Teacher-student relationships are one of the most important factors in determining overall positive outcomes for students.  John Hattie’s research indicates that building positive teacher-student relationships yields over one year of growth impact on a child prior to even delivering instruction.  I cannot stress this play enough, Relationships Matter!!  Rita Pearson said it best when she said, “Children don’t learn from people they don’t like.”

 Play 3 | The Huddle

Virtual Professional Learning Community

“Professional learning communities are the lifeblood of school improvement” – Janna Sells. PLCs should never take a back seat to our necessary daily routines as an educational organization.  Whether you meet face-to-face or in a virtual professional learning community, you should maintain a consistent meeting agenda, engage in regularly scheduled rotations, and collaboratively plan and align virtual instruction with your colleagues to ensure equitable delivery of instruction.

Play 4 | Game Time

Virtual Engagement

Best practice doesn’t change because your classroom design changed.  We do not have to go out and learn how to teach in a completely different way, but instead take what we know how to do and tweak it to successfully deliver that same best practice in a virtual, remote, or hybrid setting.  Imagine you are switching cars for a short time.  It still gets you where you’re going, it just looks and feels different.  Maintaining familiar practices – such as taking attendance, student discourse, and eliciting student response are essential best practice strategies that should be continued.  Consistently embedding active participation strategies, to include verbal, written and action responses into your instructional delivery will keep students engaged and participating.  “The people doing the talking, are the people doing the learning” – Dr. Anita Archer.

Play 5 | Post Game Analysis

Feedback, Assessments and Grading

How do you ensure that your students are learning what you are teaching them?  Data!  The data we collect tells us most of what we need to know.  Assessments should be used to measure the learning of our students, not simply for obtaining grades.  In addition to assessments, virtual conferences, written or oral feedback on student work, and virtual student data notebooks are vital components to ensure we are continuously relying on our data to drive our decision making on a daily basis.

Our students need us more than we may ever know.  We are their structure, their security, their teachers.  Following the 5 Big Plays above will help you to Maximize Success in a Virtual Setting.

Check out our Virtual Learning Playbook for downloadable access to templates and a step-by-step guide to these Big Plays.

 

Stop the Stigma of Labeling Students

Stop the Stigma of Labeling Students

By: Drew Polly
Labels and categories are everywhere in America. The fad has spilled over into education with the labels “low”, “medium”, and “high” or other common labels as we talk about data, student performance, and differentiating instruction. Some may wonder, “why does it matter how I talk about or refer to my students in PLCs or planning?” or they may comment, “I am referring to their data not themselves as people.” Regardless labels and categories are crippling to even talk about and there is a need to change the way we talk (and think) about our students. Students sense their academic ability compared to their peers and we need to avoid any potential stigmas based on academic performance. 

Suzette (pseudonym) was a fourth grader in my class during my second year of teaching 20 years ago. She was curious about all things related to make up, fashion, culture, and shopping. She would fight for equity, fairness, and was loyal to all of her classmates. Suzette, though, was currently working on first grade reading concepts and first and second grade mathematics concepts. Through the processes and systems of social promotion, whole group balanced literacy, and district commitments to whole class mathematics teaching Suzette was not yet able to do things that her peers and classmates could. I knew from Day 1 of the year that Suzette needed more than the typical “core” teaching that my district was focused on. The concepts of MTSS and RTI were foreign to me, but I knew in my heart that there was a need for me to break the mold and do something different. So I did.

To my entire class in math, I posed more open-ended tasks. Everyone had access to manipulatives, graph paper, and lined paper and was graded by how they represented and set up problems, wrote equations, and their answer. Students solved tasks and showed their work in ways that made sense to them. For those students like Suzette who were still working on concepts from previous grade levels there was no stigma of being pulled with similar ability students or being the only students using certain manipulatives or doing certain activities. When I posed tasks whole group students worked in mixed ability pairs and groups of three. When I pulled small groups students the groupings were not ability grouped but represented a range of learners. 

When I was teaching with division with remainders students explored this task, “There are 82 students in 4th grade. They are put in groups of 6 on the field trip. The remaining students are added one at a time to different groups. How many groups have 7 students?” Students used base ten blocks and pictures to set the problem up. Eventually students wrote an equation and found the answer to the task. Suzette worked with a partner to make the set of 82 using base ten blocks and start to divided the blocks into 6 equal groups. She could access the task and contributed to the partnership. 

For students like Suzette there was still a need to support her learning with concepts from previous grade levels. In addition to exploring grade level content, there was also time during the core math block for her to work with peers, an instructional assistant or myself on math games and activities to support her learning. During this time, all students were playing math games and activities in groups. Again, there was no stigma that she and her peers were doing “different” activities. Suzette’s academic needs were being met without the label or the stigma that she was different. 

Strategies to help avoid the stigma: 

  1. Whole class math tasks should be low-floor, high-ceiling tasks that allow all learners to have access to them. For more information check out this article and tasks here from YouCubed.
  2. When teaching small groups look for opportunities and ways to avoid grouping by performance and instead teach a range of learners. While at times it is appropriate to work with specific students on their specific needs there are plenty of opportunities for learners with differing data to participate in the same small group. This includes small group lessons on new content.
  3. Plan for opportunities and reflect on opportunities for ALL students to engage in mathematics. Check out this blog post from my friend Kaneka Turner about this idea.

    Look for ways to get more time into your math block for problem solving and exploration. Here is a lesson framework to consider.

Contact Drew: @drewpolly on twitter