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.