Re-teaching a lesson on drawing conclusions
Today I re-taught a lesson that dealt with the concept of drawing conclusions when you’re reading. And I reviewed whole group first just to give everyone a little bit of a review. And then I went into a small group with some students who needed re‑teaching based on an assessment I had given previously. And when we were in the small group, we did a couple of questions together and then they did two on their own so that I could see whether or not they got the concept after the re-teaching.
I chose drawing conclusions as something to go back and re‑teach because we looked at data from our quarterly assessment which has questions from a variety of different areas, and it seemed like drawing conclusions was an area of weakness for a lot of our students. And so I took those names from the students who had trouble with drawing conclusions and I pulled them into a small group for some re‑teaching.
Why drawing conclusions is hard for ELLs
I think drawing conclusions is a really difficult concept because it’s not — the answer is not explicitly in the text. It has to come from them thinking more deeply about the passage or about the story. So, I think it’s inherently difficult, but especially for English language learners I think that not having as much background knowledge possibly or dealing with different vocabulary than they’re used to, that can all affect their comprehension, which then can affect their ability to draw a conclusion.
A great thing about having the Spanish and the English sides at Claremont is that the students have the opportunity to reinforce a concept in both languages. So, if we’re working on drawing conclusions in English reading, the Spanish Language Arts lesson will also have to do with drawing conclusions. And it’s great when the kids can come up to you and say, "We’re doing something exactly like that in Miss Moppett’s class." And I’ll say, “Hmm, what a coincidence.”
Having trouble with the way questions are worded
Well, I know when answering questions on an assessment, the students sometimes have trouble with the way the questions are worded. And again, it’s just exposure to vocabulary, and I think they need to be exposed to all different kinds. So, I don’t ask a question the same way every time. I will add in most likely. For example, which of these is most likely the reason the character felt that way instead of just asking why did the character feel that way because it’s a different way of them seeing it.
Quick ways to check understanding
I use formative assessments throughout my lessons. Today I used a couple of very informal strategies such as thumbs up, thumbs down, or thumb in the middle based on what they thought about a question. But you could also do that for if they feel like they understand something, thumb up, thumb down, thumb in the middle if they kind of get it. The same thing with the counting to five, the fist to five I call it. They could have zero fingers up if they didn’t understand at all, two or three if they kind of got it, and then four or five if they really feel like they understood the concept.
And that not only helps me know what they learned, but it also really helps them reflect and think about whether or not they feel like they learned the concept.
Differentiating assignments in a Social Studies lesson
In Social Studies today I was reviewing the concept of different types of economic resources, natural, capital, and human. And this is a concept that they have been over in second grade and that we reviewed again in third grade. But I wanted them to decide for themselves how confident they were with the understanding of the topic. So, after a quick review they got to choose their assignment.
And they could choose, if they were feeling very confident about what they had learned, they could choose to generate their own list of ideas. And if they weren’t feeling as sure about it or they thought that they might need to be given some ideas and then to interact with those, they could choose a sort where they cut out pieces of paper that were different examples of types of resources and then they just match them with the correct heading.
How assessments vary among subject areas
Assessments are different for a subject such as reading in which you really are measuring their ability to read the language and comprehend it and then something such as Social Studies where I want to measure the Social Studies content knowledge. For Social Studies I will read aloud an assessment or clarify a vocabulary word for a student if I think that that will show me whether or not they get the whole concept.
In reading, the assessments could be differentiated based on reading level. If I want to know whether they’ve understood the idea of making predictions, for example, I could give them differentiated levels of text to assess the skill, not their reading level.
Using technology to differentiate in the classroom
We are very fortunate to have a wealth of technology resources at Claremont. I have a smart board in my room that I use daily. And third grade this year has been participating in an iPad pilot program, a one-to-one initiative where each student has their own device. And that has been phenomenal for helping with differentiation, for example. We can have texts at the student’s level on that student’s iPad ready for them to read and then respond to in a way that was not quite as easy without that technology.
They could write the answer on their iPad and hold it up. There are different apps that you can use to have questions already entered and then the students can choose and answer and they can see it come up on the screen, which they love. Or even if you don’t have that technology available, you can do those kinds of things with a whiteboard or with even a piece of paper, just something to get every student engaged.
Assessment can take a variety of forms
Sometimes in education we think of assessments as being a 40-question multiple choice really tough test. And it can be that, but it also can be so many other informal things in the classroom. For example, having students turn and talk to a partner, that can be your way of assessing whether they can explain the concept to someone else or you can have them write a quick exit ticket on a piece of paper answering one or two questions about the lesson or writing their takeaway main idea and also one more question that they have or something they’re not sure about. So, I think assessment can take a variety of forms in the classroom, and it is very helpful in terms of seeing then where you need to go.
Doing all of this assessment I know can seem really daunting. It takes a lot of time and sometimes it feels like instead of assessing for these skills, I should be teaching them, but I think when you picture assessment in a different way as not just a test at the end of a unit but all of those little things that you can put in throughout the day, it’s really worth it because then you know where the students are and where they need to go.
Using a team approach
Here at Claremont we definitely use a whole-team approach. I could not do any of the work that I do without the other members of the team. And each week we meet as a grade level along with all of the specialists, ESOL/HILT, gifted services, special ed, and some others who are available. And we meet for about 90 minutes to plan and to see what’s coming up and to see how we can support each other. Then I’ll also meet in a smaller group with the other English side teachers and the reading specialist and the ESOL/HILT specialist to really focus on the reading concepts that we need to re-teach or pre‑teach for the students.
Support and ideas from colleagues
I think that the way that I learned how to do some of these things came from the other teachers around me in the school. I work with a fantastic group. And we do professional development and we support each other. And we can ask questions if we’re not sure how to do something. And I think that I learned bit by bit by doing all of those things.
And if I ever do have a question about how to get through to a student about a particular concept or “I’ve taught this three ways, what other way can I teach it?” I go and ask someone.
When a student is struggling
Sometimes even when we give a pre-assessment and then teach the concept and then a post-assessment and then maybe even some re-teaching, a student still doesn’t get a concept. And I think that’s when it’s really important to take a step back and look at the big picture. Does the student like coming to class each day? Do they love coming to the center for reading?
And when I’m feeling overwhelmed by the tests and whether or not a student has scored a certain number, I think of the smaller moments of them coming up to me and saying, “I found this book that I really like,” or “Miss Kirch, I just love coming to your center and reading.” And for me that’s the most important thing.
A lifetime love of teaching
I became a teacher because as I was growing up, all of the experiences I had with younger children, whether it was my younger sister or babysitting or then volunteering in an elementary school, I absolutely loved the moment where I could help them with something or show them something new. And that still holds true today. When I can finally help a student read a page or understand this idea, it makes it all worth it.