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The View from Saturday #8


Number 8? And I skipped the first week. So nine weeks I’ve been working on Reading and Writing Workshop.

I really just want to reflect on two things today. Oh, and my class finally drove me to tears yesterday. But not in front of them! Just in front of my wife…I’m better now.

First, I’ve been thinking a lot about assessment. Conferences are coming up, and I’m not really sure what to do for a Reading grade. What do others do? With our old curriculum, Open Court, the Reading grade is easy. Read some stories, do some worksheets, take some quizzes and tests, and violà!, Reading grade. This Reading and Writing Workshop thing is a bit trickier. A lot better, but a bit trickier. So, can I get your help on this one? I have tons of notes from Readers’ Notebook letters, some notes from admittedly inadequate one-on-one conferences. How do I turn this into a grade that the students and their parents can understand? It doesn’t help that my school is also in transition from ABCDF to standards-based grading, so there is nothing in place. Open Court works pretty well with ABCDF. RWW works pretty well with standards-based. But neither of them work very well with “transitional period.” Anyway, I would love your thoughts and advice, if you have any.

Second, I have finally agreed with those around me, that I am working too hard, and my students are not working hard enough. So I made a deal with them. I told them about my dissatisfaction with the number of reading conferences I was able to do each week. We discussed reasons why: Time wasting during minilessons leads to less independent reading time; too many off task during reading time leads to me needing to manage. I told them I want to be able to do 20 conferences a week.

So here’s the deal: If I can do 20 conferences per week, then they can have a choice rotation for their reading responses. The Readers’ Notebook letter is difficult for my students. Prior to this year, all they had to do with the book they were reading was take an AR test. Now they have to actually think about their book? Gah! I know it is a struggle, and I have given and demonstrated many, many strategies, to little success. So I knew my offer would be well-received. Provided we tighten things up so I can do some significant conferencing, they will only need to write a letter every three weeks. On the other two, they can choose between a drawing+explanation/reasons, a story mountain, a book review, and maybe other things as we move forward (Thanks to my admired and trusted Twitter friend Katherine Sokolowski for thoughts on those options). It is a trade off–when I’m not able to conference much, the letters provide much of my formative data; if I can conference more, I can get that “letter-data” from one-on-one conversations, instead.

It was well-received. One student asked if she could still write a letter every week (“Of course you can, you perfect child!). Another asked if he could write a letter never (Sorry, but no). We will see how many conferences I get done this week. I made a first-week goal of 15 conferences, three per day. The next week I will be looking for a four-per-day average. And then parent-student-teacher conference week and Thanksgiving blows everything up.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

I’m glad you’re with me.


1 Comment

  1. Sally says:

    My district (Fairfax County Public Schools in VA) ended the quarter yesterday and we have two days to hold parent conferences on Mon and Tue. Then 2nd quarter begins on Wed. So I am spending this weekend doing report card. We are in our 2nd year of using a standards based progress report card so no A, B, Cs but 1- required considerable support, 2- requires moderate support, 3 – requires limited support and 4 – requires no support when demonstrating understanding.

    I too have been stressed about giving grades but a few things are helping. The LA standards listed on my report card are:
    1. listens and speaks for specific purposes (I am reflecting on their partner talk and thoughts shared in a conference and their responses to DRA2 and TCRWP assessments to score this)
    2. Reads with accuracy and fluency (I am using the data from when I assessed them using the DRA2 (done last week) and the TCRWP leveled reading assessment- done the 2nd wk of school)
    3. Reads with understanding – I used a rubric once to score the work shown in their reading notebook (their stop and jots) and I had them make an end of fiction unit bookmark to share their thinking about how a character changes and scored this using a rubric. These 2 things will inform this grade.
    4. Writes with purpose, clarity and expression – I will look at their on-demands, their 1st published personal narrative and their 2nd personal narrative.
    5. Edits for usage and mechanics – I will again look at their writing to info this grade.
    Reading Effort – Writing Effort –
    Both of these I will HONESTLY score…I have MANY who are not being respectful during a mini-lesson. It is one voice at a time and at that time, I am the ONE VOICE! I hope during 2nd quarter, we will start to all understand what reading and writing workshop needs to sound like. We all have jobs. My teammates in 5th grade spent time showing a video of Carl Anderson having a conference. (The TCRWP also have conference videos you could use) Then had the class reflect on what Carl was doing, what the student was doing and what ALL the other students were doing. The students not in a conference were NOT talking, asking the teacher a question, moving around the room…they were writing (or if reading workshop, they were reading). As a new quarter begins, I plan to spend a few minilessons on reminding all of our jobs. We have work to do. Mine is to plan and deliver a 10 minute minilesson – I actually time myself and push to keep it close to 10 min so I have enough time for conferences. The same goes for independent reading and writing time…not all are putting forth their best effort.

    I also got some great ideas at the Sat Reunion for using Reading Notebooks from a 5th grade teacher – Jessica and from Mary E, staff Developer. The ideas are on my blog:
    under the title – TCRWP Reunion Sat

    Hang in there. I am feeling excited about having a NEW quarter to start fresh. I am not doing to let these kids get me down. I have cried every week over the last 9 weeks because this job is very hard. (as I reflected on yesterday in my other blog! (http://teachingreadingandwriitngworkshop.blogspot.com/

    But it is also a very important job. I have 3 more quarters to help these 4th graders grow as readers and writers (and mathematicians, artist, scientists and historians) and I am going to do the best I can!! I know you will be doing the same which gives me strength – none of us are alone in this important work!!

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