At the beginning of the year I was curious what problems or dilemmas people were facing this year. @lintperez commented her current challenge is “trying to get ready for standards-based grading and everything that comes with it!”
What standard are you using for your lesson planning and assessment? Here are some “standards” I have used or seen used in lesson planning and assessment:
- How can I use the newest technology fad?
- What handmade project will take my students hours to complete so they and their parents will really feel like they’ve accomplished something?
- What’s something they can do on their own that involves the least planning or guidance on my part?
- What’s the next chapter in the textbook?
A few years ago at my school we made the leap to real standards-based planning and assessment, and we have seen a significant increase in the number of students coming out of our program with useful levels of proficiency. Going from a program that doesn’t know what the standards are to a program that evaluates every activity against the standards is quite an involved process, but it takes place one step at a time. If you haven’t really embraced standards-based teaching and you’re wanting to get your feet wet, good! Here are some baby steps you can take:
- Find a good set of standards. Examine the ACTFL standards, find the ones your state uses, or look at another state’s, like Kentucky or Georgia.
- Look at standards specific to the level you teach.
- About a particular standard that looks interesting to you, ask yourself, For my students to meet this standard, what should they be able to do?
- Think: What real-world activity can my students do to show me they can meet this standard? This is part of what is known as backward design, planning lessons and activities by first determining the outcome goal and then planning what activities will get students there.
- Now complete the backward design process: what activities can you incorporate in your lessons to prepare your students for success at this standard?
Once students have done the assessment you’ve planned, of course you’ll have to grade it. Grading standards-based proficiency assessments can be a bit of a mess. After all, there’s no right or wrong answer. I use the same proficiency assessment rubric to grade all the standards-based performance assessments in my class (four per unit: presentational writing, interpersonal writing, interpersonal speaking, and presentational speaking). I don’t actually put a grade on the rubric. I just mark whether my students are approaching, meeting, or exceeding my expectations for their current proficiency, and in the gradebook these categories translate to C, B, and A (unsatisfactory is an F and must be redone).
So, how about an example?
Here’s Novice High standard for presentational writing on our Kentucky standards document:
3.NH.PW.1 I can describe aspects of my daily life.
which, according to the sample learning targets, includes describing myself and people. In the spirit of backward design, here is the assessment I come up with:
Our collaborating school in Honduras wants a short biography of you and your best friend for their school newspaper. You tossed a coin and you lost, so now you have to write it. Describe yourself and your friend, including physical characteristics, personality, and things you like and don’t like.
Now, what do I need to do to get my students there? A number of things come up:
- vocabulary of adjectives
- using es and soy
- phrases for talking about likes
So what activities can I plan to help them out? First, we can develop our own vocabulary of adjectives by finding out what adjectives we’d use to describe each other. How? By describing each other – meaningful vocabulary is what students actually need, not what we think they need.
Next, I can think about how to integrate various modes of communication into my activities. I don’t just want them to be able to describe themselves and others – I want them to be able to understand it when someone else does, whether in writing or speaking. So I may have them looking at missing persons reports from Mexico (which integrates authentic materials and meets Novice High reading standard 1.NH.R.5). I’ll have them listen to Sandra introduce herself and her family, and to Edinson describe himself and his personality and his likes. I’ll have them describe a student to a blindfolded or turned-around student to see if he/she can guess who it is. I’ll use songs like Corazón sin cara and Boricua en la Habana to listen to and talk more about description, and Me gustas tú to talk about likes.
Then, finally, we’ll do the assessment.
Take a baby step: what one proficiency-based, standards-based assessment can you add to your next unit? How will it change the way you teach?