Monday, April 24, 2017

Leading your FAME team in learning to provide formative feedback

Whether you are new to the FAME project or you have been involved for a couple of years (or, like me, 9 years!) you have probably lamented on the task of giving feedback to students. Teachers feel it is a daunting task when considering time and energy. And it is. Even one of the gurus of the formative assessment process, Dylan Wiliam, is on record about how difficult it is to get feedback right. You can see from his chart below that based on the four ways students might respond to feedback, whether we give feedback about exceeding a goal or falling short of a goal, we have a 25% chance of getting it right! Yikes! 
Image result for feedback chart dylan wiliam
But rather than making us fearful, let's have it make us diligent in doing it the best way that we can. We know that the first step in making sure our feedback is well-received and well-used is all in the relationship we have with students. So if you aren't where you want to be in building trust in your classroom, work on that too!

Now, FAME coaches, you have been diligently practicing your Cognitive Coaching (SM) skills, I know. I am going to explain to you in this blog post how to adapt one of the activities in your CC training to do with your FAME team. That activity is the Five Forms of Feedback activity that you did on Day 4 of CC. 

I carried out the activity just the way it was done in the training...5 pieces of chart paper and inductive reasoning. Use page 78 of the CC Learning Guide if you want your team members to keep notes on the Five Forms (I didn't.) Then ask them to write examples of feedback that they might give to students or that they have received themselves. Give them a few minutes for this brainstorming. Then have them share while you chart them on the chart paper to which they go. Now, I will tell you that Jane and Carolee make this look easy. Give yourself permission to struggle with this and just do the best you can. Having some items in the wrong columns will not diminish the power of the activity.

After you have charted their examples, see if they can come up with examples AND where they should go. Eventually, you'll want them to try to name the columns, and you can give guidance on this part. At the end, you can give your team members pages 146-147 of the CC guide. (And if you are scared of the inductive activity, you can skip right to this handout.)

Discuss in more detail the Five Forms. There is nothing innately wrong with the first three columns, and there are times we want to "pass judgment" in the form of praise. But when we want to give actionable feedback and when we want to open and deepen students' thinking, we want to use the last two columns in an equation that looks like this:   data + mediative question = formative feedback

From here, with your team, you can look a little deeper into mediative questions. I teach my team members JUST the invitational part of mediative questions from page 64 of the CC guide. Then I also give them a copy of page 67-the mediative questions worksheet. (All page numbers in this blog may be off just a bit depending on the edition that you have.) My teachers LOVE the mediative questions worksheet and most of them post them in their classrooms where they can see them while they teach.

Next, in your meeting, you can spend some time taking those first examples of feedback that the team came up with and work together to craft them into feedback that looks like data + mediative question.

Also, remember that there is a feedback activity in the supplemental guide of the FAME Learning Guide. Some of you may have done this activity at the launch, but it is a great one to come back to. And I think it is even more powerful when looked at again after learning the Five Forms of Feedback.

And then it is crucial that your teachers go back into their classrooms and PRACTICE and then reflect and report back on that practice and reflection. And then, when they stress, and you stress, because this is hard (and it IS hard, let's not kid ourselves!), share this little piece of wisdom with them:
Image result for feedback chart dylan wiliam
Because we need to remember that the students are our partners in this journey and everything we do should be for and about them!

*Note: there is no right or wrong way to lead your meetings. If something I do with my team doesn't work for you, adapt it!
**Note #2: my meetings are two hours long. If yours are shorter, please do not attempt to accomplish all of this in one meeting!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


Back in December, I attended a conference where I learned about the google add-on It has become, easily, my most used google add-on. Flippity works with your google sheets to create an array of tech and learning tools in the classroom. You can create a Jeopardy style game, flashcards, memory games, hangman, spelling lists, random name picker/group creation tool...the list is almost endless. And it is easy! To get you started, here is a video that will show you how to install and begin to use the add-on:

How to install the flippity add-on

I'll follow this up in a couple days with a post showing some of the different ways I've used flippity.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Learning Targets, Learning Progressions, Success Criteria...Making Sense of It All

One of the areas of the formative assessment process that I still need to do much thinking around and work in, is the area of Learning Targets. We know that Learning Targets are crucial in the formative assessment process and they are how we address the question "Where are we going in our learning?" They need to be effectively communicated to students and they need to come from the Standards we have adopted in our states/districts/buildings.

But for me, creating those learning targets is still a muddy work in progress. And when I add in all the information from various formative assessment gurus (Dylan Wiliam, Susan Brookhart, Connie Moss, Rick Stiggins, etc.) I often find myself more confused than when I began. How do Learning Progressions differ from Learning Targets? Should Learning Targets be specific to one lesson, one day, one unit? And where does Success Criteria come into the equation? Do I set Success Criteria for every Learning Target? This seems so exhausting, especially when I consider that I often find my Learning Targets need revision depending on the needs of my students.

In February of 2016, I attended a conference about Learning Targets led by Susan Brookhart. So this post, and my thinking around Learning Targets, Progressions, and Success Criteria are highly influenced by her work. I created the following graphic to represent my understanding. (Susan Brookhart has a graphic that is nearly the same as mine and I would have used hers with credit, but can't find it in a shareable format.)

What This Looks Like In Practice

I teach two classes of Reading Intervention, one of 12 sixth graders, and one of 9 seventh and eighth graders. Because their testing showed they were all close to each other in skill levels, I chose to work with just a couple of Common Core Informational Reading Standards.

Standard 1 is a foundational Standard that says students should be able to "Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text."

To make this Standard accessible to my students, I created Learning Targets, which in my mind are also Learning Progressions in that the targets are progressively higher order thinking skills. So my Learning Targets for this Informational Reading Standard 1 are:
1.1 I can annotate text to show close reading.
1.2 I can find answers explicitly in text.
1.3 I can make logical inferences from the text to answer questions.
1.4 I can draw conclusions from the text.
1.5 I can cite evidence to support my conclusions.

So, in the graphic above, I have completed the top right quadrant. As I think about each individual Learning Target, I think about what will be the Performance of Understanding (bottom left quadrant) for each of those targets, and then for each of those Performances of Understanding, I create Success Criteria or Student Look-Fors (top left quadrant.)

So, for Learning Target 1.1: I can annotate text to show close reading, the Performance of Understanding would be an article that the student has annotated. That means I need to have Success Criteria for annotation. This actually became quite detailed and is aligned to many of our Learning Targets in the class. Here is my Success Criteria for Close Reading and Annotation:

I have since changed the title of each page to First Level Reading, Second Level Reading, and Third Level Reading. This is because my struggling readers often need several readings just to comprehend. So most of them aren't ready for the Success Criteria of a second reading until they have read the article at least twice. Calling it the Levels of reading has made a lot of sense to them. (For some reason, the second and third pages of the document don't seem to show up. If that is the case, and if you want the other pages, here is the Link to Annotation Success Criteria Document.)

Much of my Curriculum for these two classes revolves around Close Reading. Annotating is the Performance of Understanding that makes their thinking visible, so the Success Criteria aligned to the Annotation makes sense to the students and to me. And the cross reference of the Success Criteria to the Learning Targets makes it easy for student to understand why they are engaging in the specific annotation activities.

In addition to having the Success Criteria in their binders to refer to, I also have these anchor charts created and laminated for students to use at their desks. These anchor charts are about the size of a baseball card.
 Image result for close reading     Image result for close reading anchor chart gist
So that is some of my thinking and work around Learning Targets and Success Criteria. My formative assessment team has done a lot of talking about this topic. We try to do this work together and to help each other out. We are finding that creating Success Criteria for math seems to be especially challenging. We'd love to have bigger conversations around this. If you would like to share how you develop Learning Targets and Success Criteria in other content areas or if you have any thoughts, ideas, or questions, leave a comment!