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Tools of the Trade: Formative Assessment

by Rita Sorrentino
On Tuesday’s Election Ballot in Pennsylvania, voters had an opportunity to decide on a constitutional change to provide property tax relief. Although the choices were simply a YES or a NO, the issue certainly needs conversation for clarification and details for deliverance. For adults, paying taxes is not high on a to-do list. And for students, test taking is an often-dreaded part of the learning process. Interestingly, both of these unpopular activities have their roots in the Latin, assidere, “to sit beside.” Used originally as a function of an assistant-judge whose task it was “to sit with counsel or office” in the context of taxes and fines, it later evolved as the act of judging value. In the early part of the 20th Century, the American university system and the American military were in favor of using assessment as their evaluation/judgment protocol to deal with large numbers of people for whom they needed a way to sort according to intelligence and ability. During World War I, the Army relied on standardized testing to identify who might be suitable for officer training and who would be best suited for the trenches. The “multiple choice” design was deemed objective, scientific and efficient. Over time, our school systems incorporated this type of exam to measure intelligence, knowledge and reading comprehension. The development of technology propelled the practices of “quickly assessing” what students know, and educators used the data to determine who was above or below the established norm and, subsequently, could sort students according to their tested ability. As both a student-taker and teacher-administrator of standardized testing, I can relate to the flaws, overemphasis, and consequences of using only these types of tests. Understanding is more than a multiple choice, Yes/No or T/F response.  Read more

Books on the Blog: Overcoming Hardships and Loss

By Lynne R. Dorfman

TIn Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys four teen’s lives converge in hopes of escape as Russians advancing through East Prussia during 1945. The story brings to life the little known story of the sinking of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff by Russian torpedoes. The historical fiction novel is told in alternating voices of the Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred (the only one who is unlikable as a self-delusional Hitler worshipper and sympathizer). Thrown together, the main characters struggle to survive, hardly trusting one another to even use their real names. Each has secrets that haunt anyone who has lived through war, flight, and deprivation. As the group escapes the brutalities of the Red Army, ultimately some of them will perish.

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Teacher-to-Teacher: Balancing Act By Janice Ewing

In a recent grad class, we were attempting to synthesize knowledge from a variety of texts, including The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller and Readicide by Kelly Gallagher, along with two texts about the core standards and strategies to support and implement them. The use of multiple sources of information, with different viewpoints, is of course a component of the core standards, and is a practice that most of us commonly use to make decisions. So why were we struggling with reconciling the points we were taking from the various texts?


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Informazing Read Alouds

By Linda Hoyt


Informational read alouds ignite imagination, strengthen academic vocabulary, and build strong foundations for inquiry. They’re easy. They’re interesting. But I am concerned becausethey aren’t happening enough!

Unfortunately, evidence continues to suggest that teachers are still leaning heavily toward fiction during read alouds. (Layne, 2015; Scholastic & YouGov, 2014; Duke, 2014) I would argue that it is time for us to take active steps toward ensuring that every learner experiences the power of an informational read aloud, every day.  With help from masters of nonfiction such as Seymour Simon, Nicola Davies, Gail Gibbons, Melvin Berger, Doreen Rappaport and so many more, students will erupt with questions and ignite a sense of wonder that will electrify learning.

Here are a few tips to ensure success with informational read alouds:

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From the Classroom: Using Photography to Experiment with Specific Word Choice

 The “From the Classroom” column is back and with a new—and improved—format! This year, we have a new opportunity for PAWLP Fellows—an open invitation to contribute to the “From the Classroom” column and share all the good work that you’re doing in your classrooms.

Below, PAWLP Fellow Jen Greene shares a lesson she uses with her 2nd graders to teach about specific word choice—and right in time for Halloween! And if you feel inspired after reading Jen’s wonderful post, please consider sharing your own favorite lesson here on the blog! To learn more about contributing, please click here. Read more

Books on the Blog: Books for those who Love Outdoor Adventure

By Linda Walker
​Jean Craighead George books about outdoor adventure are familiar favorites. I just added The Trail by Meiko Hashimoto to that list.

​After his parents’ divorce and a permanent move to live with his grandmother Toby sure needs a friend and he found one in Lucas. Toby and Lucas do everything together, build forts, battle with stick swords and watch tadpoles make the miraculous transformation into deep-throated bullfrogs. Their favorite summer activity is camping behind Toby’s grandmother’s house. Lucas is the risk-taker “chasing adventure wherever it went”. Toby is the follower who believes bad luck pursues him wherever he goes.

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