We aren’t in an information age, we are in an entertainment age.
I visited Franki Sibberson’s third-grade class in late September. It’s one of my favorite times to visit, early in the process of setting routines and building communities. I stayed for about 90 minutes, observing a read aloud, whole-class discussions, and individual conferences. I made plans to meet Franki after school, then quietly moved on to another classroom down the hall.
Franki was laughing that night at dinner, when she described how indignant one of her students was after I departed. He said, “She left already?! But she didn’t even read to us.” That’s the sad truth – when I visit classrooms I don’t read, or belly dance, or even perform card tricks. Franki explained to the offended child, “Brenda wasn’t here to read to you or teach you, she was here to observe you. You are doing interesting things while you learn, and she likes to watch you read, write, and talk.”
We chuckled over this exchange, and Franki realized she needs to explain the role of visitors in the classroom. It was still early in the year, so they hadn’t experienced a steady stream of visitors yet.The children would need to understand why people were interested in coming in just to watch. “It’s a funny thing though – the more high level the visitors, the more the quality of the conversation and learning gets bumped up in the days and weeks after the visit,” Franki explained. “When you’ve brought a whole video crew into the classroom in the past, the bump is amazing. Kids realize what they are doing is important. Knowing that others see value in what they are doing, they bump up the work themselves.”
I remember years ago working as a researcher in first-grade classrooms, where children would become accustomed to my presence over days and weeks. Sometimes a child would come up to me with their writing from the morning and hand it to me, saying, “This is very good. You’re going to want a copy of it.”
After I went home, I wrote a letter to Franki’s students explaining my role, and why the work they are doing is worthy of observation. Franki’s biggest goal early in the year is to get her students thinking hard about their reading and writing, and talking about how that work fits into the community around them. No matter the age of the learner, the willingness to do hard work increases when you know the work is valued. The disappointed boy who experienced firsthand my low entertainment skills reminded me of this important lesson.
This week we look at formative assessments. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Founder, Choice Literacy
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Cathy Mere shares a formative template in Assessment Beyond Levels: The Reading Grid:
Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan consider what is learned from reading “errors” in What is Right About What is Wrong? at their Assessment in Perspective blog:
Here is the letter Brenda Power wrote to Franki Sibberson’s students about why adults observe children, if you’re looking for ways to explain the presence of adult visitors in classrooms:
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Katherine Sokolowski finds grading student work in her fifth-grade classroom becomes far more interesting when students take responsibility for choosing what will be graded:
In this week’s video, Bitsy Parks explains her procedures for completing running records in her first-grade classroom. This is the first installment in a video series on running records:
When we allow students to assess what reading matters most to them, we can learn a remarkable amount. Franki Sibberson recounts the experience in Shallow Books? Learning from a Reading Celebration:
Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan share wise advice in Reading Workshop in Kindergarten: When and How to Launch:
Max Brand brings a mother into the assessment process in Learning to Observe: Inviting a Parent to a Tutoring Session:
That’s all for this week!