Category Archives: Reading

VTR: Sentence-Phrase-Word to dig deeper into Standards for Mathematical Practice

From Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners:

Sentence-Phrase-Word helps leaners to engage with and make meaning from text with a particular focus on capturing the essence of the test or “what speaks to you.” It fosters enhanced discussion while drawing attention to the power of language. (Ritchhart, Church, Morrison, 207 pag.)

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 7.26.45 PMWhat if we read and learn together, as a team? How might we develop deeper understanding?

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 7.29.46 PMAs a team of learners, we first read Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them independently and highlighted a sentence, phrase, and work that resonated with us.  In round robin fashion, we read aloud our selected sentence so that every member of the team heard what every other member of the team felt was important.  Just the act of hearing another voice read and callout an idea was impactful.

After completing the Sentence-Phrase-Word Visible Thinking Routine for Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them, we asked everyone to take another Standard for Mathematical Practice to read and markup, highlighting a sentence, a phrase, and a word.

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We divided into teams where each of the remaining Standards of Mathematical Practice were represented.  Each learner shared the SMP that they read highlighting a selected sentence, phrase, and word. My notes are shared below. I was amazed at the new ideas I heard from my colleagues when using this routine.

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Seek diversity of thought. Listen to others.  Hear differently. Promote engagement, understanding, and independence for all.


Ritchhart, Ron, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison. “Sentence-Phrase-Word.”Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2011. 207-11. Print.


Positivity ratio – productivity, motivation, flourish

Even the smallest shots of positivity can give someone a serious competitive edge. (Achor, 48 pag.)

Tis the season…Either exams were just completed or the prep for them is beginning. I wonder how we might employ the positivity ratio in our feedback, comments, and marks as exams are scored and returned to learners. Usually exams are considered summative assessment, but at the end of first semester, could they be also be used as informing assessment?

Once positive emotions outnumbered negative emotions by 3 to 1— that is, for every three instances of feeling gratitude, interest, or contentment, they experienced only one instance of anger, guilt, or embarrassment— people generally flourished.  (Pink, 107 pag.)

As we have seen, even the smallest moments of positivity in the workplace can enhance efficiency, motivation, creativity, and productivity. (Achor, 58 pag.)

What if we experiment with influence of the positivity ratio? What if every learner found a note attached to the scored exam that identified details of strengths exhibited on the exam as well as areas for growth in a 3:1 ratio?  How might we enhance motivation and productivity? How might we impact opportunities to flourish?


Achor, Shawn (2010-09-14). The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Pink, Daniel H. (2012-12-31). To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others. Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

E. B. White Book Club evaluation (Round 1) – #LL2LU

How do learners know if they are on the right track? Are the targets clear? Do we offer enough opportunities for formative self-assessment? What if we offer learners the opportunity to self-assess, peer-assess, and ask questions to calibrate their understanding with others?

Kato (@KatoNims) sent me the 4th Grade Team’s E. B. White Book Club evaluation.  Here are some of the children’s responses from the first round of the book club evaluation. (It is my understanding that they will complete this evaluation after each meeting of the book club. I believe they meet to discuss each chapter.)

From SK:

Level 3: I can read all of my assigned reading and complete all book club role requirements.

Level 3: I can have on topic conversations by sharing my role and listening to others share their roles.

Level 1: We can share our roles.

I wish that my group would listen more. Next time I would like my group to listen more.

From BB:

Level 1: I can read some of my assigned reading and complete some of my book club requirements.

Level 2: I can have on topic conversations while I share my role and sometimes fully listen to others share.

Level 3: We can share our roles, have on topic conversations, and listen to the comments of each other.

From AF:

Level 4: I can read all of my assigned reading and include more than what was required for my book club role requirements.

Level 4: I can have on topic conversations by sharing my role, listening to others, and furthering discussion by adding related comments and questions.

Level 2: We can share our roles and listen to each other.

I wish that [CB] didn’t just walk away and say “we are out of time” when I was still presenting, I never got to finish presenting.

From [CB]

Level 3: I can read all of my assigned reading and complete all book club role requirements.

Level 3: I can have on topic conversations by sharing my role and listening to others share their roles.

Level 4: We can share our roles while also having meaningful on topic conversations so we learn new things from each other.

I wish that [FA] would shorten his questions.

I want to share more of their feedback.  I have been underestimating what these young learners can do.

I wish we had a book club check-in to make sure we are on the way to completing what we need to.  Also so everyone is doing the right chapters because from experience it is very annoying when someone forget to do a chapter and then the rest of the book club does not get all the information about the book that they need.

Awesome. Feedback that is actionable.  Let’s check with our members. Are we all reading and studying the same chapter? Has everyone completed the chapter prior to the book club date?

I wish that we will have another great book club. I liked that [CB] aways listened to me. I wonder if next time when we all have different jobs if we will do better or worse. Next time I would like if [AF] listened a bit more to me.

I love that they are using “I wish…,” I liked…,”I wonder…,” and “Next time…,” as their prompts for feedback.

Will we see improvement in book club participation and structure? Kato says she’s already had the opportunity to talk with individual students about their participation, their feedback for others, and how the level needs to match the feedback.

Just completing the form will help learners think about their work and the work of others.  The face-to-face conversations to clarify expectations, ask questions, and encourage honest leveling offer additional layers to the formative feedback.

What if we help our learners understand group dynamics, working in a team, advocacy, persistence, meeting expectations and more? What if we practice self-assessment, peer-assessment, and feedback for learning?

PD in Action: #LL2LU Faculty Forum Oct. 30

PD causes action.  On Wednesday, October 30, we offered a session of Leading Learners to Level Up.  The next day, Kato Nims (@KatoNims129) sent us a message that her 4th graders are asking for levels? We are creating feedback monsters! Awesome.

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While Kato and Arleen Honick wrote a math learning progression during Wednesday’s workshop, they quickly transferred their learning to a brainstorm for the 4th Grade Book Club evaluation. After calibrating the learning progression with the rest of the 4th grade team, Kato sent me an update to their E. B. White Book Club evaluation.

Today, Kathy Bruyn (@KathyEE96) sent the following action feedback about her learning from last Wednesday as well.  Notice that the children love challenging themselves and their questions were focused.  

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I love that Kathy and Kato know and embrace that they are experimenting.  They are prototyping learning progressions, formative assessment, and communication strategies.  How often do our young learners see and hear their teachers learning? Kato and Kathy are discussing and showing our children what they are working to learn.  They model lifelong learning.

How might we improve the quality of communication in our classes? What if we take the time to write learning progressions that offer learners language to ask targeted, specific questions? What if we focus on growth – how to level up? How might we learn and grow together?

How might we impact confidence, advocacy, and success?

The English Connection – #LL2LU with #WALearns & @lottascales – Feedback

Yesterday, Shelley (@lottascales) and I facilitated a day-long learning session for Woodward Academy’s English Connection on Leading Learners to Level Up.  While we did accomplish everything on our lesson plan, we used the questions of these 20 learners to chart a path that was slightly different from our intended path. I love when this happens.  I always want to be responsive to the learners way of thinking to lead by following.  Almost always we accomplish the same tasks but in an order that makes sense to the learner rather than the teacher.

After introductions and the 4-minute overview of Leading Learners to Level Up, we offered an experience with leveled assessment using fractions.

I really expected to have tomatoes thrown at me, but that did not happen.  There was some anxiety, but that is normal. Our students experience this everyday, right?  When everyone had completed the assessment, I asked if they could tell me what they could do? Yes. I asked if they knew how to ask for help using specific language? Yes.  That is the point, right?

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At the break, the magic of this type of communication happened.  Before going to break, several learners collaborated to continue to work on the fractions assessment.  It was awesome!

How might we bright spot or highlight what learners know rather than what they do not know? What if we design learning progressions that help our learners understand what they can do and know how to ask for help to move to the next level?

“In order to engage in high-quality assessment, teachers need to first identify specific learning targets and then to know whether the targets are asking students to demonstrate their knowledge, reasoning skills, performance skills, or ability to create a quality product. The teacher must also understand what it will take for students to become masters of the learning targets.   It is not enough that the teacher knows where students are headed; the students must also know where they are headed, and both the teacher and the students must be moving in the same direction.” (Conzemius, O’Neill,  66 pag.)

We embrace doing the work in the workshop, so we set about writing prototypes of learning progressions.  We asked each teacher-learner to take about 15 minutes to draft a learning progression for his or her classroom. At the end of approximately 15 minutes, we invited someone to be interviewed for the fishbowl exercise.  Carrie Edmison (@Edmison3rdGrade) volunteered to discuss her draft with me for some questions and coaching. Carrie had lots of questions as did I. We discussed her thinking and discovered that she needed two Level 2 items to guide learners to Level 3.  Carrie indicated that she could go from there to write a second draft.  Linda Freeman stepped up for the second round of the fishbowl.  As Linda shared her learning progression out loud with me, she immediately redrafted.  It was awesome! Isn’t it interesting how hearing someone else’s thinking and then literally hearing yourself can help refine your work?

Now that two rounds of the fishbowl were complete, we transitioned to working in pairs to learn from and with each other.  We shared our learning progressions and asked questions to help clarify thinking.

After lunch, we broadened our opportunity for feedback by completing a gallery walk.  Each teacher-learner read every learning progression and left feedback using Post-it Notes.  We used the prompts I like…, I wish, I wonder/What if…  to offer positive, constructive, and directed feedback.

The two  comments that standout for me after the gallery walk was how helpful the I wonder… Post-its were and how valuable the feedback was in helping refine the learning progressions again.  I heard I like how this is written; I’m going to change mine to be more like this.  Shelley reminded us that constructive and directed feedback will help improve our learning progressions.  After sorting her feedback, Rhonda Nichols (@Dimes_2) commented that the three Post-it notes that resonated with her the most started with I wonder. We help each other learn and grow when we offer positive, constructive, and directed feedback.

After this revision, we took the time to digitize our learning progression drafts in a common Google doc so that our work was shared with everyone.

During our final hour together, we brainstormed ways of calibrating and collecting artifacts that could serve as examples for each level in a learning progression.  We discussed next steps and plan to meet again in two weeks.

Here’s a sample of the comments from the collected feedback:

Even though this process seems overwhelming, I am so excited to be involved with this very important process!  The whole concept of Leading Learners will benefit the teachers as well as the students.  It is a win/win situation that will empower me as a facilitator in the classroom.  Thank you!

I like the practical. I am already revising my rubrics so they are more “student” friendly with the language – and not so judgmental. I love that we started with that and then ended with practical. I am writing my lesson plans for next week to begin this process.

I wish that I understood better how this will work with the faculty in my building.

I want to know more about what the children are doing at each level, what kinds of knowledge they are coming in with, and how I can support their learning at the next level.

I can hardly wait until we meet again.  I agree that this will get easier each time we practice.


Conzemius, Anne; O’Neill, Jan. The Power of SMART Goals: Using Goals to Improve Student Learning. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree, 2006. Print.

The English Connection – #LL2LU with #WALearns & @lottascales

How might we mashup leveled assessment, clarity of expectations, and alignment of curriculum? There is so much to do that we need our work to serve multiple purposes.  What if we meet together as a team to discuss, describe, and build prototypes of learning progressions in student friendly language?

I had the privilege of working with Woodward Academy’s English Connection to investigate these ideas.  Shelley Paul, Woodward’s Director of Learning Design, a.k.a @lottascales, and I facilitated a day-long professional development opportunity for 20 Woodward faculty-learners to experiment and learn.

Our learning plan for the day:

I like the learning plan.  It mirrors the original plan for Leading Learners to Level Up with much richer detail and use of technology way to communicate and collaborate.

I wonder if our plan will help Woodward’s teacher-learners engage in the process and feel confident as they begin the important process to align curriculum both vertically and horizontally.

I want to know more about teaching reading and writing and how it progresses as a young learner grows through our school from Kindergarten through their senior year.

Shelley and I have done some homework.  We have practiced this process with Dee Koscik (@koscikd) and with Peggy McNash (@pmcnash). We also met with the English Connection core committee members to discuss and overview the process.

In my next post, I will share our experience during the session and the feedback from the teacher-learners.  Stay tuned…

PD: Reading and Assessment – Learning Together – feedback progress

We met yesterday to discuss next steps in our work and learning on reporting progress, learning, and growth.  Our lesson plan (agenda) had to differentiated for different groups of faculty.

I am working to be better at differentiation for the 90+ faculty.  I was more successful yesterday, but I still have lots of room for growth.  The plan differentiated for our teachers of 3s and Pre-K, teachers of K-4th grade, teachers of Specials, and teachers of 5th-6th grade.  I failed to have a formal differentiated plan for our Learning Team and our Media Team.  Fortunately, the Learning Team was proactive and submitted a lesson plan for themselves. <awesome!>

At 12:30, Dawn Pile (@DawnPile), our Early Elementary Division Head of School, reminded us that progress report for our youngest learner was revamped just a couple of years ago. These teacher-learners used the rest of the meeting to learn more together about supporting and building e-portfolios for our 3s and Pre-K children.  Rhonda Mitchell (@rgmteach), our Personalized Learning Specialist, highlighted work already being done and outlined a workflow strategy to record this work into the children’s MyLearning portfolios. It was awesome!  A real mashup of PD, sharing ideas, and strategies.  The questions were immediate and specific.  How do I… What app should I use… Will you help me… It could not have been better for these teachers. The feedback was great.  Here are a few comments that stood out for me:

Rhonda helped me to understand the many different ways I can use Evernote besides posting pictures and videos previously taken. Very useful!!

Rhonda generated ideas to get us moving on the My Learning notebooks. she also helped us with ways to move photos and videos into notebooks.

I have never used Evernote and need all the information I can get.  Also, the timing of this meeting was perfect.  It will jumpstart us to begin document our students progress.

At 3:30, Maryellen Berry (@fastwalker10), our Upper Elementary Division Head of School, Dawn, and I reviewed the work and ideation from last year and discussed the results from the latest faculty feedback.  We talked about the request from faculty to have a mashup of the ideas from our ideation.  Since the group was so big and so diverse, we then transitioned into three small groups.  Maryellen and Dawn met with Specials teachers; Rhonda facilitated the K-4th grade session, and I worked with the 5th and 6th grade teams.  I was very encouraged at our progress as the meetings concluded, but what would the feedback say?

I liked that it felt like our feedback and suggestions were listened to and acted upon. (This is a really bad sentence but I don’t know how to word it better.) I liked having a discussion of what it might look like.

I was able to see the different perspectives of progress reports and assessments from my fellow colleagues, which I really enjoyed!  We are all different and have different, unique, and important ways to see our children and communicate with families.

Honestly– I thought that it was a little silly for us to write about a student today.  BUT….. I CHANGED MY MIND COMPLETELY!!!  It was so useful to hash out the sticky parts of this BEFORE we are sitting at our computers actually writing them in October.

This applies directly to our work every day and then in progress report writing however, we would have liked to have Dawn in here to discuss with us and to clarify.  We would like to have an EED meeting with K and 1st to show examples.  We are eager to move forward with this new format and just want to make sure we are all on the same page!

As a community, we have grown in our ability and willingness to offer feedback.  I am encouraged and grateful to have every sentence of feedback that offers support, asks questions, and expresses concerns.

As is my practice, the entire set of comments and feedback was shared with our community via email.  It is shown below. Is there a particular comment that resonates with you?