Monday, July 20, 2015

nonfiction resources for science and math

There is so much talk about nonfiction lately, especially as a response to the Common Core State Standards. There are some misconceptions (like that English teachers can't teach fiction any more in order to meet the nonfiction percentage of text required by the CCSS), but as the linked article states, "The Common Core does not say to get rid of literature and only read non-fiction. It says that 50% of what elementary, 60% of what middle school and 70% of what secondary students read should be non-fiction. The key here is throughout the entire day." This means that all teachers should be include and teaching nonfiction texts throughout the school day across content areas.

For science and math teachers, finding high-quality resources can sometimes be a challenge. But the great news is that there are lots of organizations out there to help you find the best sources for your students.

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) publishes a list every year of the outstanding science trade books published for K-12 students. I look forward to the list every year to use to add to my classroom library.

Nonfiction Detectives is an awesome blog reviewing new nonfiction books. Here's their "Best of" list from 2014, which includes a science section. The 2012 list includes some math books too.

Sometimes, though, books are more text than you're looking for. The Electronic Library for MN (ELM) is an amazing resource for teachers. Not only can you search for nonfiction articles to supplement your own learning about new topics, the databases have been culled to provide the best nonfiction resources for your students too. Check it out - it's free!

Where do you find the best nonfiction resources for science and math?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

effective feedback

In my graduate course on assessment, teachers spend time observing other teachers teaching for their uses of praise and formative feedback during lessons. It is one of the activities that teachers in the course find most valuable. Not only do they learn new ideas for providing feedback to students (or, sometimes, what not to do), but the act of observing also encourages reflection on their own practices. The right kind of feedback is essential for effective teaching and learning, and several recent reviews of literature on feedback indicate that there is some good consensus on what works and what doesn't work when it comes to feedback.

It can be hard, if not impossible, to carve out time to observe colleagues during the school year, but the summer might provide a perfect opportunity to do this reflective work. You might not have access to summer school classrooms, but if you've got an internet connection, you can do this activity at home.

Review the chart of effective (and ineffective) feedback practices (McMillan, 2014). Then, find a teacher to observe. This can be in a summer school classroom or online. Teacher Tube and Annenburg Learner are great resources for finding videos of teaching. Observe the teaching, and make note of examples of the effective and effective practices you observe.

Use challenging yet attainable goals Use goals that are too high or too low
Emphasize mastery goal orientation Emphasize performance goal orientation
Ensure that feedback is clear, transparent, and easily understood Use feedback that is unclear and/or difficult to understand
Compare student performance to standards, criteria, cognitive strategies and precious performance Compare student performance to the performance of other students or emphasize the person rather than the task
Use a moderate amount of specific, individualized, and descriptive feedback Use general or vague feedback
Give feedback as soon as possible especially for simple cognitive tasks, tests , and other assignments Give delayed feedback, except for slightly delayed feedback for cognitively complex tasks, especially for high achievers
Use both verification and elaboration feedback Use only verification feedback
Match feedback to student ability Use the same feedback for all students
Focus on key errors and misunderstandings Ignore key errors
Emphasize effort attributions Emphasize external attributions
Give feedback as students learn Give feedback only after performance
Anticipate probable feedback messages Rely on unplanned or unanticipated feedback

If you're watching videos, you are highly encouraged to do this work on a porch, with a refreshing drink, while the sun is shining :)

After completing this activity, make sure to reflect on your own practices as they relate to praise and formative feedback. What are two things you could make a plan to do next year that will help your students move forward in their learning through your use of formative feedback and praise? Write them down in that notebook of great ideas you keep all summer (you have one of those right? to keep track of the brilliant brainstorms you have while you're on the boat, driving the kids to soccer, or standing over the grill but are sure to forget once back-to-school workshops start? yeah, that one!). Return to these ideas in the weeks leading up to school and throughout September to keep a focus on effective praise and feedback.

reference: McMillan, J. H. (2014). Classroom assessment: Principles and practice for effective standards-based instruction (6th ed,). Boston, MA: Pearson.