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Status of the Heart, Mind, and Pen: Formative Assessments for Lengthy Research Projects

By Mary Buckelew

Looking for ways to support and sustain the momentum and commitment needed to complete lengthy research projects in my secondary and college classes, I adapted Nancie Atwell’s “Status of the Class” method, which she describes in her book In the Middle (3rd Edition 2015). Atwell uses Status of the Class as a way to keep track of independent reading and writing. At the start of an independent reading or writing session, Atwell rapidly asks each student to state her or his plan for the session. She records student intentions in her own shorthand so that she can assist students in achieving their goals. She also wants “kids to hear what other students are writing about. Status-of-the-class responses are important sources of inspiration for new topics and genres” (Atwell, 2015, p.46).

I adapted Atwell’s strategy so that everyone in the classroom becomes involved in the Status of the Class. I use Status of the Class three times during the research process. The dialogic nature of Status of the Class that I’ve incorporated reinforces that we are a collaborative, creative, and supportive Think Tank.

I’ve implemented the following three (3) status of the class assessments throughout major research projects: Status of the Heart, Mind, and Pen.

Each “Status of the Class” occurs at different points in the research process, moving students along and giving me an idea of who may need more assistance – all the while reinforcing that we are a community of researchers.

Prior to each “Status of the Class,” we form a circle and I have my clipboard ready ala Atwell to record each student’s status.

General Protocol
I remind students of the protocol for sharing during Status of the Class:
1. Each student has one minute or less to share.
2. Other students may offer suggestions/answer questions in one minute or less.
3. Students may follow-up with each other after the initial “Status of the Class” is finished. Read more

Sketch and Write

By Gaetan Pappalardo

“Rigor without pleasure is usually a losing proposition; it runs against human nature.”
—Thomas Newkirk

I credit the hours of diagraming sentences to the yellow sweat stains on my catholic boy Oxford. Uncomfortable and sweaty, I trudged through worksheet after worksheet under the iron fist of the nuns. Some students learn to write in this environment.  I didn’t. However, it taught me discipline. Thirteen years of catholic school taught me to persevere through boredom, academic distraught and catholic guilt. And that discipline waited in my subconscious for a long time. It waited for a partner. It waited for love.

Tennis.  Writing.  Guitar. Teaching.

These “loves” came later in life. I loved them so much that I was willing to suffer in order to succeed (That’s called grit –– The new buzz word that teachers are supposed implant in kids. I know, right?).  Discipline collided with love and the end result was/is success.

Here’s my formula–– Discipline + Love = Grit = Success Read more

Embracing New Ideas

I guess you might say I continue to compile a book pile of ideas which I dip in and out of each week according to the needs of my students. In some ways, my professional book pile feels alive and responsive to where this group of students is today.

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Books on the Blog: Everything I Never Told You

by Sharon Williams

everything i never told you.jpgEach year I teach a historical fiction reading unit in the reading workshop format. Students are offered 14 titles to choose from and are paired with other students who pick the same title. When our grade level team of LA teachers first began teaching this unit, we had a limited number of novels from which our students could choose. Past practice found the LA teachers spending time combing through internet searches for historical fiction novels to add to our repertoire.

Last year, upon finishing our unit, I encouraged my students to do a bit of searching on their own to find a historical fiction novel to use for their independent reading and to report back to me any titles they found to be outstanding. I had a few students take me up on this challenge, and I have spent some time reading their recommendations over the past few months. One novel that a student had deemed a worthy read was Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. Read more

Tool of the Trade: Technology as Teacher’s Pet

by Rita Sorrentino

How would you respond to the following poll?imgres.jpg

  • Were you ever considered a teacher’s pet in your K-12 learning years?
  • As a teacher, were you ever criticized for favoring a particular student over others?

Recently, on a late-afternoon ride to center-city Philadelphia via Market-Frankford Line, I overheard two adolescent girls commiserating about their day: a boring class, too much homework, unfair dress codes, and the existence of a teacher’s pet in a certain class. The first three complaints did not surprise me, but I was curious about the latter. With rubrics and standards for assignments, behavior and competencies, I would have thought the term “teacher’s pet” was no longer front and center in a repertoire of these students’ pet peeves.

Undoubtedly, both teachers and students face a plethora of pressures in their daily interactions with curriculum content, expectations, evaluations and communication. For the most part, policies and procedures are in place to support a healthy teaching and learning environment. However, preparation and planning make great demands on teachers’ time. Schoolwork, homework, and extracurricular activities often leave students with little time for relaxation and socialization. Fortunately, in today’s educational landscape, both teachers and students have access to apps and web tools to help make teaching and learning more manageable and meaningful.

Practical Ed Tech

Richard Byrne is one of my favorite go-to persons for all things edtech. In addition to Free Technology for Teachers, he also maintains and  Richard Byrne believes that technology has the power to improve student engagement and achievement. It enables teachers to form powerful, global, professional learning communities. Read more

FOR SALE: An Assessable Writing Process

By Pam DeMartino

In the real estate industry, housing is the sellable commodity. People want a house, or an apartment, or a building within which to operate a dream.  Realtors market these living quarters by highlighting the square footage, updated amenities, and location, location, location. Buyers will also be told when the structure was built, but curiously, not how the structure was built. Documentation of the building process remains buried amidst the title documents because it is the dwelling – the finished construct – that possesses the tradable worth.

As I listened to my colleague’s discourse during one of our department meetings, I realized that we, as secondary educators, are increasingly taking part in this type of real estate market with regard to student writing.  We devote time and attention only to the final pieces of student writing: the polished or publishable draft.  It is that typed and neatly stapled paper that carries the tradable worth in our departments; only the end of the building process garners our assessment. Rubrics and scoring guides separate organization, focus, details and other discrete aspects of the finished paper, failing in all respects to give recognition to the building of the literary publication. Read more