Friday, October 24, 2014

Applying Marzano's Scoring Scale Rubric

As a second-year teacher, I struggled with the differences between teaching IB History of the Americas and AP World History. The most challenging part was switching between one essay rubric and the other. It wasn't until the spring semester when I started reading Marzano's Classroom Instruction That Works that I found the scoring scale, which I used to translate any amount of marks into achievement levels.

Scoring Scale
The scoring scale below can be used for almost any assessment. I use it consistently throughout the year and teach it to students so they know how to describe their achievement level when they see their score. It's important to design and use feedback tools that are simple and consistent so it becomes routine.

This is a student-friendly adaptation of Marzano's scoring scale. 

Another thing that helps students is converting their scores into a 100-point scale (below). I got the idea to convert marks into a 100-point scale from an IB history training. The variable that changes is the raw marks. I assign a number of marks that's reasonable for an assessment before determining the correlation between marks and achievement level, which is based on my adaptation of Marzano's scoring scale. In other words, (1) total marks, (2) convert to scoring scale, (3) convert to 100-point scale.


The important thing to remember is that no matter how many marks are possible for an assessment, the marks are always converted to the same scale before converting to the 100-point scale. This provides accuracy through consistency because the scoring scale becomes the constant.

Ideally, we would just stop at the scoring scale, but most students and parents are more familiar with the 100-pt scale. What difference does it make if the determiner is still the same, right?

Accuracy
Let's look at this from another perspective. What's the difference between an 86 and an 88? Can you really identify a difference in achievement? For some kids this difference is more about a week of getting enough sleep, or not. 

Using the scoring scale provides students with meaningful information. It develops a classroom culture of certainty when it comes to interpreting scores as feedback. 

High-Yield Strategies
The table below shows the gains for high yield strategies, according to Marzano Research. It used to be that similarities and differences was on top. Although it's a strategy that my students experience weekly, tracking and scoring scales have surpassed it, according to more current data than what was used for the first edition of Classroom Instruction That Works.

Source: Marzano & Haystead (2009). Meta-Analytic Synthesis of Studies Conducted at Marzano Research Laboratory on Instructional Strategies

Scaffolding the Scale
After using the scale for about three years, I've learned to scaffold the scale by expecting more marks as the months pass. This means starting with an expectation of 5 marks for a 3 on the scale and 7 marks to reach a 4. The second quarter marks will be raised to 7 marks for a 3 and 9 for a 4. After Christmas the marks will be raised to 9 and 13.

A future blog post will include a more in-depth look at how I translate my marking system and the scoring scale into the AP World History essay rubrics.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Cooperative Learning is Not Group Work


The look on his face is still burned into my memory. He's still standing at the board without a word to contribute. I thought he was a safe bet. He always raised his hand to respond to discussion questions. What was different?


That was five years ago, and it's apparent to me, now, that his speaking skills were better than his writing. Throw in the fact that I put him on the spot in front of his peers, and it was a recipe for embarrassment. 

Most unfortunately, making him share without ensuring that he has something to contribute could have led to a loss of confidence. It definitely compromised the trust we built during the first weeks of school, even if for a moment. 

Something to Contribute

Since my choice to place a good participator at the front board wasn't working, I had the class work in smaller groups. That would be better, right? Nope. 

They stared at each other long enough for me to lose half of them right away while the other half of the class poured their pity looks in my direction. This all but discouraged me from trying group work, again. 

I think it was the week before Thanksgiving when I realized that if each student responded to a problem on their own, they would have something to share with the group. This wasn't necessarily cooperative learning, yet, but it was a start. 

We Want to Share

We all want to participate and not ride the coat tails of our peers, right? If you don't believe that, like I do, then you at least agree that we want respect. 
Working individually before working together gives every student the opportunity to bring something to the table. 
The beauty and magic of cooperative learning shows itself when you can see the students become excited that they learned something from how some responses are similar and others are different, even though they might all be plausible.  

Another thing to consider is how well certain students perform alone as opposed to in groups. Susan Cain's TED talk on introverts is a must watch. It got me thinking about how we all have a little introvert in us and that working individually before working together differentiates for introverts, both mild and extreme. 

Not "Group Work" 

Some of us had group work when we were in school. You know – when one kid did the work and we all got a good grade. 

I actually never base grades on cooperative learning, practice, or homework. Grades are always based on individual assessments done in the classroom.

Lastly, cooperative learning does not have to be done in groups of three or four. It can be the whole class doing a choral response, think-pair-share, line-up games, carousels, gallery walks, or synthesis writing (writing one part before passing the paper). It's about thinking beyond what a group produces and focusing on what individuals are learning with others. 



Thursday, October 2, 2014

5 More Literacy Activities that Work

This a second post of my favorite literacy activities. Think beyond English language arts and social studies. Try some of these in math or science. 

1. List, Group, Label

Students write a list of words from memory that are related to a particular topic or problem. It's important to give students the opportunity to share their knowledge with others and add to their list based on what they learn from their peers. Then, students group the words according to concepts and themes. When it comes to labeling the categories, they should be interesting and not too broad or too narrow. I provide my students with a list of themes and challenge them to customize the label based on theme and the commonalities of the grouping. This is great to prepare students for thesis statement writing.

2. Diamante Poem

This poem starts with a single-word topic, followed by five lines, each with specific criteria for the type word and amount. The fourth line is a summary of the topic.

critical thinking, writing practice, creativity

3. Stream of Consciousness 

Write for 7 minutes, non-stop, to combine fact dumping and writing fluency. Underline pertinent details. Circle major ideas. Use one idea to write a one-sentence summary in response to the prompt that guided the stream of consciousness. Share with class on the board, sticky, notes in a basket, or, my favorite, on the tack board.

4. Synthesis poem

Students make a bubble map with at least three levels of details. Start with a concept or topic in the middle, write three details, and three more details for each first level of details. The fun part is when students pass their paper in a rotation every 15 seconds, or so. They get to make something together and share ideas in a sort of game setting. Lastly, students write a poem with the  implored bubble map. 

5. Analyzing Political Cartoons

Using cartoons to learn about symbols, audience, and voice is fun for students, especially if it's used to change things up in a non-social studies class. Also, think of it as a conceptual excercise that can be applied to a text or more sunstantial piece. Math and science cartoons can be, as well. 

Thanks for reading. Write comments about ideas, variations, or stories. I like stories. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

5 Social Studies Games

Making time for games and fun practice activities are a great way to get kids up and moving and learning. As we use Google to find information in our daily lives, remember that developing memory skills are still essential to nurturing the youth. 

Line Up
Give each student a card with content and ...
  • Order geographic locations in order from East to West. Students can get creative and move forward or back to establish relative North or South. 
  • Place events in chronological order.
  • Make a cause-effect chain. This could also work for similarities and differences, especially if students have to work from a mid-point outward by placing the characteristics by theme (see below). 
  • Place leaders or governments on a continuum, like communism to capitalism.
learning game, analysis, similarities and differences

Memory-Go-Round
The first exercise is a warm up that works on general memory. Try not to underestimate the importance of warm ups like this one that do not contain specific lesson content.
  • Knees-knees-clap-clap as a group of ten or so, each student is numbered, say 1-1-3-3 and so on until someone makes a mistake. The goal is to remember who is out and who is not while those who are out continue clapping as to not signal their status.
  • Sit in a circle of five or seven and say a vocabulary term, make a current event analogy, and finish with a personal analogy.Provide five minutes to research before the game so everyone knows their term and analogies. Each student says theirs and the previous students' back to the first, who says all of them at the end. Students can help each other upon request. Fun way to practice creating analogies and repeated review. 
  • Students are given a theme and have to say one continuity and one change before reciting the continuities and changes of previous students, Groups of five work well. This can be followed up by a note-taking and summarizing activity (expected accuracy of three themes with one continuity and one change each).
Drawing Conclusions
This activity addresses teamwork and clarity. Students have to be specific and accurate from one perspective and use clarifying statements from the other. 
  • Project a simple arrangement of shapes and symbols all in black outline on white background (see image below). One student faces the screen and tells the student facing away how to draw what is on the screen. Debrief about what was accurate or not and why. This one is from Jacob Clifford. Check out his AP Boot Camp. http://www.apbootcamp.com/development/Jacob_Clifford/Jacob_Clifford.html
  • Describe a painting or photo and student facing away has to make notes and ask clarifying statements. If you time the students, they can practice identifying important details quicker.But make sure they can do the activity well before you add a time limit. 
  • This sort of activity can be done as a vocabulary game with about five words, increasing in difficulty. The student facing the screen can use any words except the five in the screen to help the student facing away guess. 

Global Connections 
Students have a theme and say a specific example. Another student thinks of an example that fits with both the previous theme and their own theme before coming up with a new example for the next student to make a connection. Groups of five work well. The first group to connect all five examples wins. If no connection is made, students need to start over. Each student needs to make a connection but they don't have to follow an order like clockwise, for example.

30-Second Story 
Give students an event, person, or concept to prepare a thirty-second story that includes five facts and the significance to a particular turning point or theme for the unit if study. Make two equal lines and have students face one another. This can be done with groups of ten, five in each line. After each student shares their 30-second story, the last person in one line rotates to the beginning and everyone shifts to meet a new partner before repeating the storytelling. The debrief is supposed to require students to be back in their seats while the "specialists" of each event, person, or concept stand together and contribute one detail at a time until a strong story is compiled. Seated students make notes, which will be easier after hearing the 30-second version.

These are review and practice games that I don't hesitate to use during a lesson cycle as opposed to waiting to until the end. 

Please comment and add a description or link to your favorite game.