If you build a better mousetrap, you will catch better mice.
It was the first day of summer. I ran a few errands and came home to find my 16-year-old daughter standing on a chair, holding our dog. “There is a big rat in the house! I saw it run across the floor! I tried to call you but didn’t know what to do!” I jumped on the chair next to her and asked, “What?!”
It seemed we had a mouse, not a rat, in the house (the first one in over 20 years). My husband was at work, and I was ready to stay in a hotel room until we could hire someone to get rid of the mouse. But bravely, I came to my senses and realized that I could do this. I could go to the local hardware store and buy a mousetrap. I could read the directions and set it up. Maybe we wouldn’t need to book a hotel quite yet.
One hour and $40 later, I came home with a bag full of mousetraps. I am not a frequent visitor of the local hardware store, but I was able to find the mousetraps rather quickly. I was shocked to see not only one mousetrap but a HUGE variety of mousetraps. I spent a good amount of time looking at all of them. There were traditional wooden traps, poison traps, “Quick Kill Technology” traps, “No Kill” traps, and traps that claimed to be “No See. No Touch. No Mess.” I was very confused so I bought a few of each style, figuring one of them might do the job.
Well, we are likely stocked with mousetraps for the next 20 years, because the first trap I tried did the job. I am still amazed at the choices I had when finding a mousetrap, and how each trap offered features a little different from the others.
This reminds me of my work as a teacher, especially in the summer. I am constantly looking for tools that will meet the needs of my students. I want every strategy possible because I never know which one will meet a child’s needs. The more strategies I have to choose from, the better chance of finding one that will work. It is sometimes overwhelming to think about all of the books there are to read, all of the conferences to attend and all of the strategies other teachers share. But the more of a menu we have, the better able we’ll be to jump into the school year meeting each child’s needs.
I had a specific and immediate need to learn about mousetraps this summer, especially if my daughter and I didn’t want to find ourselves standing on chairs for days on end. For my classroom, I’m “finding the perfect mousetrap” by exploring ways to incorporate more digital mentor texts into our workshops. I love that the global community of teachers is so generous in their sharing. I’m always amazed at how many strategies, possibilities, and inspiring stories are out there every time I identify a teaching need and reach out to communities of educators far and wide. Summer is a great time for digging in and finding fresh possibilities.
This week we consider the value of baseline reading and writing assessments. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Franki Sibberson has worked for 30 years as a teacher at different grade levels and as a school librarian. She is the author of many books and videos, and was recently elected vice president of NCTE. You can keep up with Franki on the popular blog she writes with Mary Lee Hahn, A Year of Reading. Her recent post on coping with racial violence in the news is a powerful read for teachers.
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Katherine Sokolowski explains how she spends her time during the first days of literacy workshops in her fifth-grade classroom surveying students to learn their reading histories:
Shari Frost finds before and after “snapshots” are a wonderful way to get a baseline at the start of the year, as well as celebrate learning and get closure when students are leaving:
From Winston Churchill to Shelley Harwayne, there’s a range of opinions on evaluation and goal setting in this quote collection:
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Melanie Meehan explains why a baseline assessment at the start of any writing unit is well worth the time:
In Beginnings, Middles, and Ends: The Power of Baseline Assessments, Carly Ullmer shares how much her eighth-grade students learn from examining their own growth as writers:
Dana Murphy concludes her series on getting to know writers with an activity on responding to quotes. This activity is a great baseline for gauging attitudes and previous experiences early in the year:
We continue our summer video series on book talks. Christy Rush-Levine introduces The Living to her eighth graders:
That’s all for this week!