Asset-Building Assessment: From Degrading Rubrics to Actionable Feedback Guides

When I was a junior in college, I did some part time work tutoring students in writing through my university’s literacy center. I was working with a ninth grade student, Allan, and he was concerned about how his writing ability was affecting his grade. As we we were getting to know one another, many of my questions focused on what his teacher expected from Allan and his classmates when it came to writing.

Me: So, your classmates are getting high marks, but you’re struggling. Does your teacher go over what he expects on your papers?

Allan: Well, he goes over the rubric and . . .

Me: Hang on. Rubric? What’s that?

Allan: It’s like, a thing… a paper my teacher gives us to tell us how we’re doing with our writing, what he expects, you know?

Me: . . .

That’s right, as a junior in college, this was the first time I was becoming aware of this measuring tool. Now, to be fair to my teachers up until that time, they were using clear assessment tools to evaluate my writing and give me feedback–I remember checklists full of writing features that my teachers would tick off as they each on in my papers, and at the end I would get a certain amount of points based on my performance. But this was the first time I had to pay attention because my student’s grade depended to what extent he could calibrate his writing to the rubric.

I helped Allan work his way to receiving top marks in his class according to the scoring guide his teacher gave the class. It was very satisfying to watch him succeed because of our collaboration, and one of the many formative experiences that lead me to pursuing a career in teaching ELA at the high school level. But, soon after I started teaching, assessing student writing according to rubrics nearly caused me to leave the profession.

Continue reading “Asset-Building Assessment: From Degrading Rubrics to Actionable Feedback Guides”

Fear of Being Wrong: A Candid Conversation About Calling Out Students

It’s been a while since my last blog post. Welcoming our fourth child into our home has disrupted more than a few of our routines. But I am excited to share this post because you get the chance to listen in on a conversation about what students experience when sitting in our classrooms, waiting to see if the teacher will call on them.

At the opening of spring semester, one of my sophomores wrote an entry in her Writer’s Notebook titled, “The Fear of Being ‘Wrong’.” Shay’s brief 150+ word depiction of what goes through her mind when she shares a wrong answer in a classroom setting was captivating! Shortly after reading it, I asked her if she would let me post it here at Make Them Master It. Not only did she allow me to publish her entry, she also was willing to sit down with me and record a conversation about it. Continue reading “Fear of Being Wrong: A Candid Conversation About Calling Out Students”

Blending Argument into Classroom Culture

In my most recent post, I made the case against finding balance in life, but instead working to bring the ingredients of life together through blending. At the same time as the writing of that post, I found myself in chapter four of Dave Stuart Jr’s These 6 Things: How to Focus Your Teaching on What Matters Most.

As I was reading the book a little here, and writing that post a little there, a realization dawned on me: These 6 Things is a blessed picture of blending in the classroom. I think it was a mix of the timing of my post, all my prior experience with argument, but mostly that Dave Stuart Jr. just makes so much stinking sense (seriously, you should get the book), but I will now be using These 6 Things as a lens for how to make it all blend in my classroom. Continue reading “Blending Argument into Classroom Culture”

I Teach Revision on Day 2

When I was setting up my classroom for the 2018-2019 school year, I tweeted a picture of the only decoration I had up at the moment (see the featured image above). Moments later, Melissa-Ann Pero (@bshsmspero) thanks me for posting it, and says she’s going to make herself one.

A bit later on, she tweeted her creation, giving credit to Kelly Gallagher (@KellyGToGo) for RADaR and mentioning me in the process. And in my small Twitter world, the tweet caught fire. At the time of this writing, the post has been liked 305 times and retweeted 118 times!

See here:

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So You Want to Start a Teacher Blog?

It’s the start of another school year. And for those highly engaged teachers who are out there connecting on social media, building your PLNs, some of you are thinking that it’s time to start (maybe restart) a teacher blog. If that’s you, or someone you know, great! I’m all for it! (Feel free to send me a link to your blog post too).

You have a head full of thoughts and a heart full of teacher gold, and you’re ready to conquer the blogosphere! But before you do, I have a few things I want you to consider, because I have read some–to put it generously–less-than-stellar posts. Some were so bad, I decided that I would never return (….but then I felt bad about thinking that, because we all need to start somewhere, so I opted to take a long break instead). Continue reading “So You Want to Start a Teacher Blog?”

Get Your Students to Write OVER 20,000 Words This Year!

This year, I’m going to get my students to write over 20,000 words! And I’m not even counting the essays they are going to type.

At the start of the year, my students will begin building a Writer’s Notebook. This is a place the will house low-stakes, pressure-free writing, lessons on sentence craft, and a place where they will practice thinking through revision.

Here’s the English teacher math that came up with 20,000+ words:

  • 150 words per page
  • 5 pages of writing a week
  • 15 weeks of writing per semester

Continue reading “Get Your Students to Write OVER 20,000 Words This Year!”

My FREE Online Course: Why You Should Sign Up Today!

ELA teachers, when it comes to writing instruction, I have found no other method, tool, or program that has as much impact as The Writer’s Notebook. Yes, there are great strategies around every corner, many of which you and I are currently using in your classroom. But how would you like to amplify their effect, taking them further than you thought possible?

Here were my top pain points as a writing teacher:

  • Students would learn a writing lesson, but they were not applying it in their writing
  • Students were not transferring writing lessons from one assignment to the next
  • Students didn’t keep their learning organized, which made recall a challenge
  • I never felt like they were writing enough

==> I’M SURE YOUR STORY’S GREAT, BUT I WANT TO SIGN UP FOR THE COURSE RIGHT NOW!! <==

Before I really figured how to use The Writer’s Notebook with my students, my students weren’t retaining my writing lessons at a level that I found satisfying as a teacher. I worked really hard to create engaging lessons that held their interest, assuming that this method would have lasting impact on their writing habits. Although I did find there was incremental improvement in my impact on student achievement, I was still left unsatisfied.  Continue reading “My FREE Online Course: Why You Should Sign Up Today!”