Championships are won in practice.
The same could be said for student achievement. Often as teachers, we get excited about the journey we take with our students and we put off the idea of standardized testing because its overwhelming in so many ways: for us, and the kids. There’s a lot of pressure to perform and when taken in one big bite, its a professional tsunami. I get it. I’ve been there…and I’m going back to a tested grade level because I want to contribute. I want to have the moment above with my students. I’ve honestly missed that about teaching intermediate. So, with this in mind, I’m going to lay out a few ideas for ensuring student achievement.
I lead my lessons with the standards. I have a system where I actively engage my students in breaking them down and explaining what they know from what they do not know. This worked with my first grade students last year with tremendous results! I can not wait to try it out with my learners next year in third. Click HERE for the post that I did on breaking down the standards with my primary learners! 🙂 More to come on this topic as I apply it to my thirds!
Once your students know ‘what they know’ about their learning…it’s important that they be able to communicate that with stakeholders who are tangential to their success. Gone are the days when I have parent conferences without my students. They are there to lead and guide the discussion these days! I’m just facilitating it! 🙂 As we move through the different subject areas, I can speak with parents about how to help their children with specific areas that they are struggling with. This helps guide the conference in a fully productive way that keeps both the student and the parent engaged in all facets of the discussion.
When our students are given independent work, we need them to be having the RIGHT discussions about solving problems and addressing content in the text that they come across. There are a variety of ways that this can be achieved. In order to get the kids talking about the topic in the way that you really want them to…
1.) Build background first! Make sure they have had some kind of exposure to the topic to ensure the flow of the conversation.
2.) Coral the talkers. The kids who like to talk may drown out the ones who are a bit more reserved and require wait time to process. Make sure you build in training on how to take turns and facilitate discussion.
3.) Encourage the shy students. Sometimes the kids who are most reserved will make the BEST leaders because they are able to stay on task better.
4.) Model, Model, MODEL!! Make sure that before you release them to work independently, they have seen what you expect!
I have some rubrics that I’m using to track my students progress with accountable talk. I’ll be putting it into their data notebooks this year. One version has a spot where I will be teaching the students how to average their scores. The other one is just plain–no average spot at the bottom. If you’d like them, please feel free to download them for free HERE.
Once you’ve decided on your overarching goals for the students…break it down into smaller goals. Then you can assess them on the smaller parts of the whole. I’ve found that when I do things in this way, the students get ‘more reps’ on things and have more chances to articulate their academic needs as we are going through units.
I had a principal tell me once that 70% is mastery. When I look at my data…even today…that’s what I’m looking for. When I take grades…did at least 70% of my kids pass? When I am looking at student data…are at least 70% of my students able to achieve the goal at an on grade level percentage? I am all for making gains and getting excited. Growth is good. What’s NOT good is when we sit there and look at the growth and become satisfied over time with growth that never truly gets to mastery. This is particularly tough depending on the construct of the class that you have. I’ve found in other years that I was more passive in my approach and the students learned…but didn’t have those really high growth marks that lead to overall mastery. Make sure that you tell them your expectations and that they stay in communication with you as to where they think you are. When you adapt your teaching over time and really grasp these points…your confidence will grow…and so will your scores.