Using the EQuIP Rubric: Math

Ensure your math resources are Common Core aligned.

The EQuIP Rubric  (Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Product) for mathematics (download here) is a tool developed by state education leaders with support from Achieve to help teachers and principals identify high-quality materials aligned to the Common Core State Standards.

In this webinar, we sat down with Mimi Alkire, a mathematics consultant and collaborator with Achieve, to explore in-depth the components of the EQuIP rubric for Mathematics and how to use the rubric to guide lesson and unit planning.

Download the webinar slides here

Access the full suite of EQuIP resources

 

Want more context? Be sure to check out our Introduction to the EQuIP rubric webinar to get background context on why and how the rubric was developed.

 

Writing Office Hours with Joey Hawkins of Student Achievement Partners and The Vermont Writing Collaborative

Prepare for the Common Core writing standards. Webinar recorded 3/13/14.

Thousands of K-12 educators are working to implement the Common Core writing standards.

To help, we held a Q&A session with Joey Hawkins, one of the founders of the Vermont Writing Collaborative and co-author of Writing For Understanding: Using Backward Design To Help All Students Write Effectively.

A nationally recognized writing expert with more than 35 years teaching experience, Joey works closely with Student Achievement Partners to develop, curate, and review CCSS resources for teachers. With one foot still firmly in the middle school classroom, and as a founder of VWC, Joey has offered courses and school-based professional development in Writing for Understanding in Vermont and throughout the country. Watch the office hours here:

Joey’s suggested resources

  • In Common – check out the In Common protocols, specifically designed for coaches and literacy leaders to use to work with the student writing samples with teachers. In Common provides a range of examples of Common Core-aligned student work, drawn directly from K-12 classrooms across the country. These student writing samples demonstrate how a student’s writing skills can progress as they gain fluency across the three major types of Common Core writing: argument/opinion writing, informative/explanatory writing, and narrative writing. In Common PD activities are in the third section on this page (“Professional Development for In Common”).
  • Exemplar resources on Edmodo – check out the the Basil Alignment Project group and Anthology Alignment Project group.
  • EngageNY – look at the middle school modules in particular- all free.
  • Vermont Writing Collaborative site: check out the teacher made reading/writing instructional sequences, painted essay materials, study guide for the book – all free.
  • Writing for Understanding: Using Backward Design To Help All Students Write Effectively – Check out the book Joey wrote, along with other writing experts, to give teachers a good overall sense of how to design Common Core writing instruction, at all grade levels.
  • Sample Writing Tasks created by Student Achievement Partners: Check out these scaffolded analytical writing tasks. They provide examples for teaching Common Core writing and are designed for use with example lessons from the Basal Alignment Project (BAP).

Since we ran out of time and were unable to answer all the questions from our audience, Joey kindly agreed to share her thoughts on a few more, below:

Additional Questions

1. What are some of the best professional books to study for writing in the classroom?  Writing for children?

Joey: The book by the Vermont Writing Collaborative, Writing for Understanding: Using Backward Design to Help All Students Write Effectively is the book we wrote to give teachers a good overall sense of how to design Common Core writing instruction, at all grade levels. Another book I think is wonderful is Curriculum As Conversation by Applebee (written for college teachers, but deeply relevant to all teachers in the age of the Common Core)

2. Do you have any resources for helping kids elaborate more in their writing?

Joey: Struggling writers tend to be vague…even though we spend so much time with models, better answer formula, etc. The book above, Writing for Understanding, talks about this. As the question notes, models are very important, and so is cuing like  the “better answer” material. In addition, it’s helpful when teachers spend more time with students on making sure they have depth of understanding of what they’re writing – in our experience, the single biggest impediment to thoughtful, elaborated writing is a superficial understanding of the topic. For many / most kids, they also need built-in time for “oral processing” and even what we might call “oral rehearsal” of their thinking before they write. This really means that every student needs to “speak their ideas” before they write – the more challenging the thinking, the greater the need for this. All of this slows down the instruction time, making it take longer – on the other hand, the writing is much more likely to be strong and thoughtful as a result!

3. We’re making the shift to mini-research investigation and then writing a response and making a connection to the reading passage (story, novel, etc) we are currently reading.  Can you explain more about what “mini-research” should look like?  How often should this occur? 

Joey: Mini-research can look many ways. At the most fundamental level, kids are given a focusing question about a text or texts, and then guided to search for evidence in that text or texts that help develop the answer to the question. This “evidence hunting and gathering” is at the heart of writing about text – it involves re-reading, focused note-taking, careful selection, conversation  – and then ultimately, explaining that evidence. How often?  All the time. A week should not go by where kids aren’t doing this somewhere – not necessarily in every subject, but somewhere!

Joey: Overall, we find it’s most helpful for teachers to think in terms of “what important understanding do I want kids to get from this text? What could it look like in writing?” Then, try it yourself – what did it take YOU to write what you hope kids will write? Plan backward for that – how will I help kids read this text so they understand this? How will I help them gather evidence? How will I make sure they know how to build /structure the writing?

Important tip here: giving kids “choice” about that they write is sometimes a good idea, BUT when teachers and kids are learning how to do all of this super important work, student choice makes the task (for both teacher and kids) much harder, and makes opportunities for real oral processing (see above) almost impossible. Choose a (relatively short) and rich text that matters, and work with the class.

 

Like what you’ve seen? Check out these other useful resources:

An Introduction to the EQuIP Rubric

Learn how to identify high quality materials aligned to the Common Core – Webinar (3/13/14)

Learn more about the EQuIP (Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Product) Rubric for mathematics and ELA/literacy grades k-2 and 3-12, a tool developed by state education leaders with support from Achieve to help teachers and principals identify high-quality materials aligned to the Common Core State Standards.

LearnZillion’s Director of Professional Learning and Community, Posie Wood, interviewed Alissa Peltzman of Achieve about the development of the rubric, how teachers use it to improve their practice and transition to the Common Core and the resources available to help teachers do this.

Download the webinar slides here

Access the full suite of EQuIP resources

Click below to view an EQuIP rubric tutorial:

Using the ELA Rubric          Using the Math Rubric

         Tues 3/18 5:00-5:45pm EST                  Wed 3/18 8:00-8:45pm EST

  Ensure your ELA lessons are CCSS Aligned        Ensure your math Lessons Are CCSS aligned

Crafting effective text-based writing prompts

This webinar is the third a series of three webinars on “Pathways to close readings”. Check out the first and second webinars in this series on “Text Talks” and “Text-dependent questions“.

The Common Core requires that students express their understanding of complex texts through writing. But creating a meaningful and grade-appropriate task that knits together writing and close reading is no small feat.

In this webinar, we reviewed 7 basic steps to help teachers craft thoughtful and worthwhile writing tasks that are both standards-aligned and allow students to deeply explore the text.

Download the webinar slides here

Here’s a sneak peak:

Step 1: Return to your notes about the key takeaways from the text.

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Step 2: Brainstorm possible products

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Step 3: Draft your writing task

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Step 4: Analyze the standards vertically

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Step 5: Revise your writing task
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Step 6: Write a model student response

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Step 7: Craft a rubric that informs your reteaching

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Continue reading

ELA Essentials: Understanding the structure and transitions of the ELA standards

Prepare for the Common Core – Webinar recording 3/04/14.

Understanding the structure of the Common Core ELA standards, particularly the connections between standards across grade-levels, is essential to crafting great lessons and implementing close reading.

Join us to explore the Common Core ELA standards and understand how to use this structure to focus your lessons, write meaningful teaching objectives, support your students by differentiating, and set them on track to college and career readiness.

Resources

  • Webinar Slides – use this to hold a discussion with colleagues about how the standards relate to their practice.
  • Common Core Navigator – use this visual guide to get a big picture understanding of the standards in your grade, vertical alignment between standards and the LearnZillion resources associated with each standard.
  • Lesson Set (4th grade) – check out this example of how a teacher has crafted a series of lessons based on targeted, standards-based teaching objectives. Find hundreds of additional lesson sets associated with your grade level through our Common Core Navigator.

Like what you see? Check out these additional resources to help you plan for the ELA Common Core standards:

(Post) 4 Tips for Aligning your ELA Lessons to the Common Core

(Webinar) Three part webinar series on close reading, pt 1: “Text Talks”

Writing, aligning, and sequencing text-dependent questions

This webinar, the second in our “Close Reading” series, models a proven strategy for crafting text-dependent questions and follows up on our earlier “Text Talk” webinar and our 6 step guide to crafting great text-dependent questions. Enjoy!

Download the resources referenced in this webinar here, including:

Like what you see?

Sign Up for the next webinar in our series,

“Crafting effective text-based writing prompts”

on Mar 11th 2014 at 4p ET.

Literacy Office Hours with David Liben pt. 2

This is the second of three office hours hosted by David. View the first office hours here.

David Liben, of Student Achievement Partners, shares a wealth of tips and resources to help prepare your students for the Common Core ELA standards.

RESOURCES

Reading Strategies and Close Reading

  • “Rethinking Reading Comprehension Instruction,”  by McKeown, Beck, and Blake, is a study that compared the effects of content instruction (using text-dependent questions) to the effects of strategies instruction, and found that content focused instruction had greater benefits.
  • Cognitive Scientist Daniel Willingham’s Blog,  presents research and describes the danger of excessive focus on comprehension strategies.

Examples of Rich Complex Text

Examples of good questioning technique:

Using Basal Readers

  • This lesson bank offers Common Core-aligned replacement lessons for basals published before the Common Core (pre-2010).
  • To learn more about or join the group that created these lessons, the Basal Alignment Project (BAP), click here.
  • There are lots of new resources that say they’re Common Core-aligned.  Use the Publisher’s Criteria to evaluate whether they are really aligned to the Standards.   If IMET is on atc we could use that as well.

Read Alouds

  • Model Read Aloud lesson for K-2 classrooms, based on the poem, The Wind, available here.
  • K-2, teachers all over the country are also working to create Common Core-aligned Read Aloud lessons, through the Read Aloud Project.  Access the resources they create or join the group through Edmodo, using the group access code: pkx52i

Volume of Reading and Vocabulary

  • Long-term reading success depends on not just close reading, but also on volume of reading.
  • This article by Marilyn Jager Adams in American Educator explains how a series of texts on related topics is the fastest way to grow the vocabulary needed to access complex text.  She also cites research by Thomas Landauer showing the powerful relationship between volume of reading and vocabulary growth.

Guided Reading

Like what you’ve seen? Sign up here for our next Literacy Office Hours on April 9th, 2014.

Also, check out our post on 4 tips for aligning your ELA lessons to the Common Core and 3 tips for approaching close reading.

“Shouldn’t you have known?”, or “How I learned to value formative assessment the hard way”

Posie Wood, former 3rd grade teacher

Posie Wood, former 3rd grade teacher

There’s nothing quite like the heartbreak of administering a test to a group of eight and nine year olds that you have come to love dearly—and knowing instantly that you let them down.

As a first year teacher, it wasn’t that I didn’t believe my students were smart and capable, I did. But I also knew from the moment that I saw page 1 of the test booklet that I hadn’t done enough to prepare them for questions and tasks like the ones I saw on the test. As I circulated through my classroom on that humid April morning, I entered into a state of despair, panic, and most of all, shame that I had so failed my students.

Later that day, looking for sympathy from my father, I sobbed the whole story into the phone while sitting in the school parking lot.

“Hold on,” he said. “I don’t want to be a jerk, but shouldn’t you have known?”

“Known what?”

“That they were going to struggle on the test. Shouldn’t you have understood better than anyone else where your students were?

With those four words (“Shouldn’t you have known?”) my father (who, by the way, is not an educator) shifted my entire orientation as a teacher. Even though he didn’t know the name for it, my father had turned me on to formative assessment and forced me to see, with cruel clarity, just how powerful a tool it is.

Five lessons from a formative assessment failure

Here are the lessons I have since learned about formative assessment—while intellectually, many of these are things that I had known before I stepped into the classroom, it took a year of teaching to really recognize them:

1.  Formative assessment needs to be constant—and it’s more than paper-and-pencil

Formative assessment is more than an exit ticket at the close of a lesson or a set of “check in questions” at the end of the week. It’s really an action and a habit that should be occurring consistently in the classroom. Formative assessment takes many shapes and comes in many sizes: yes, my exit tickets and weekly question sets, were a type of formative assessment, but formative assessment can also be well-timed questions, monitoring of student discussion, observation checklists, interviews, notes pages, one-on-one check-ins, and more. Like learning how to balance on a surfboard, it requires time and practice to build up a teacher’s formative assessment muscle and make it a routine part of daily practice. By thinking about formative assessment as paper-and-pencil strategies only, I’d limited myself to examining only a tiny fraction of the actionable data coming from my students and therefore lost valuable opportunities to fill learning gaps.

2. Formative assessment demands follow up

Formative assessment by definition is meant to inform instructional choices and next steps. Formative assessment without follow-up therefore is not really formative assessment. All those well-meaning exit tickets I’d painstakingly prepared (but rarely had time to review) my first year teaching? All those thoughtful questions I added into my lesson plans? (but never strategically listened to student answers)?  I thought I was formatively assessing, but without the expertise that comes with experience (not to mention the time as a first year teacher) to examine my student work, bucket my class into groups based on their demonstrated understanding, and meet each student in the right place, providing the just-right interventions, redirection, questioning, and prompting—I was asking questions, but not following up. I was only doing half the battle.

3. Formative assessment takes planning, coordination, and pedagogical content knowledge

Great formative assessment is planned and backmapped from a larger learning goal. It’s not enough to just ask questions and redirect or reteach when necessary, great formative assessment drives towards an end understanding or challenge (such as adding fractions with like denominators) and provides insight into where understanding breaks down at critical moments, allowing you to adjust course as necessary. When I reviewed the questions and exit slips from my first year, I realized in horror that they were scattered, often uncoordinated with my lesson objective, my modeling, and my targeted state standard. Even when I did have time to review student work, because my formative probing wasn’t always thoughtfully aligned with my instruction or designed to unveil misunderstandings, it did me little good.

4. Formative assessment is an art—but we don’t like to think about it that way.

Looking back on my experience that first year, I realize that something else was at work as well. In both my training prior to entering the classroom and the ongoing professional development I received through my school, as well as classes I sought out on my own, formative assessment was treated as an afterthought, a secondary or supporting character that was constantly upstaged by the star of the show: the state test. In third grade, the first official testing year, this was especially true.

When formative assessment was mentioned at all, it was as an aside—a given, something that everyone MUST be doing, and something so elementary that it did not merit discussion or elaboration. The message that this sent to me as a new teacher was: “Formative assessment is easy, something you should just ‘know’ how to do, it shouldn’t take too much of your time, effort, or thought.” It took the state test, like a bucket of icy water, to wake me up.

The truth is that formative assessment is an art. To be done well, a teacher must exercise the pedagogical content knowledge to craft questions that will reveal and anticipate particular student misunderstandings, quickly interpret student work, responses, and data, rapidly take action—whether that be a follow up question or prompt, regrouping students, or re-teaching a particular concept with a different approach—and juggle all this with the time allotted for instruction and classroom management concerns. As a first year teacher, I was struggling to keep my head above water and blissfully ignorant of delicate balancing act that is formative assessment.

5. Formative assessment gets easier with practice—and support

Building up an approach to formative assessment that is reflexive, one that a teacher can instinctively fire at critical moments with the right questions, prompts, and follow-through takes time and practice. It also takes advice and modeling from veteran teachers, support and feedback from administrators, guidance and examples from curricular tools, and professional development that builds pedagogical content knowledge. This kind of support is made all the more important with the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, which raise the bar and require students to flexibly attack challenging, real-life math tasks and deeply understand complex text. Without routine and thoughtful formative assessment that is anchored by strategic follow-up, students will struggle. Without these supports as a first year teacher, I grappled daily (even though I wasn’t fully aware of that until it was too late).

Scaling our impact

At LearnZillion, the academic team spends a lot of time thinking and talking about formative assessment. Sometimes, I leave these conversations wanting to go back in time to shake my first year teacher self into an earlier realization of the role that formative assessment should have been playing in my classroom all along. More often though, I leave with a sense of respect and awe of teachers and colleagues who have mastered this delicate art—and a desire to take their best practices, habits, and content knowledge and share it with others so that come spring time, there aren’t other first year teachers facing the question, “Shouldn’t you have known?”

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Editor’s note: For more on how to leverage some of the techniques Posie mentions in this post, check out:

For Math: http://blog.learnzillion.com/2014/01/16/backwards-mapping-from-parcc-and-sbac-math-items-to-formative-assessments-2/

For ELA: http://blog.learnzillion.com/2014/01/31/text-talks-a-first-step-in-planning-for-close-reading-2/

Google

3 Tips for Approaching Close Reading

This post was written by Posie Wood, LearnZillion’s Director of Professional Learning and Community.

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Use these tips to help you analyze texts in preparation for close reading with students.

As teachers, we know that leading effective close reading with complex texts starts long before you’re standing in front of students. In order to guide students toward a deep understanding of a text, we first need to understand that text deeply ourselves. However, text analysis is a muscle that many of us haven’t flexed since our college or high school literature classes. Use these three tips to help you get started:

1. Take off your “teacher hat”: Read as an adult

Once you’ve selected the text for your close read (see these excellent resources on text complexity and selection from Student Achievement Partners and CCSSO), your first step is to read the text multiple times. We always encourage our teachers to start by “taking off their teacher hat” and enjoying the text and its offerings as an adult reader.

As you read, ask yourself:

  • What sections or moments of the text speak to me?
  • What choices did the author make about introducing information or telling the story?
  • Are there parts where I need to slow down or reread? What caused me to do this?
  • Why did the author write this text in this way?

Annotate the text as you go, noting significant craft moves, the message of the author, the impact of characters, setting, symbols, words, key ideas, the relationships between ideas, and the way in which the author shared information.

(Check out these examples of how our Dream Team teachers annotated their texts: The Tell Tale Heart, We Grow Accustomed to the Night, Play Ball!, and My Name is Alex)

2. Put the hat back on: Read with your students in mind

Now that you’ve had a chance to process the reading on a personal level, it’s time to see the text through the lens of your students and the Common Core ELA standards.

Reread the text, this time, asking yourself:

  • What is the big takeaway you would want a student to understand after studying this text?
  • Which parts of the text are most challenging? Where will students struggle the most? Why?
  • What moments or ideas in the text are worthy of further exploration? Why?
  • What is left unsaid in the text? Are there voices that are missing?
  • Are there opportunities to teach academic vocabulary? Are there domain-specific terms critical to understanding the text?
  • How does the author’s word choice impact the tone and meaning of the text?
  • What choices did the author make about how to convey information or tell the story? What is the effect of these choices?
  • What does the text simply “scream” for you to teach?
  • What Common Core ELA standards seem particularly well suited to teach using this text?

3. Two heads (or more!) are better than one: Do a “Text Talk” with your colleagues

Understanding text is hard work and, as you’ll remember from high school and college-level English classes, discussion and exchange is a critical part of making meaning of text. “Text Talks” with colleagues are a fantastic way to kick off your close reading planning process. Reflecting on the questions above as a group will spark conversation, debate, and allow you to see new perspectives, which will set you up for leading a nuanced close reading with your students.

And there you have it: our 3 top tips for approaching close reading. Wondering what next? Now that you’ve marinated in your text, your next step is to develop a list of text-dependent questions worthy of exploring with your students – more on that in our earlier post on creating great text dependent questions.

3 Steps to Understanding Your Common Core ELA Standards

Here at LearnZillion we’ve spent a lot of time with our Dream Team teachers digging into the Common Core ELA standards, and we hope this post can serve as a useful guide to you. Our three steps are:

Common Core Lesson Plans, ELA, English, Common Core Standards

Step 1. Do a vertical analysis of the standards

The ELA standards were written in a continuum, backwards mapped from anchor “College and Career Ready Standards.” In order to understand their expectations, you need to look vertically across that continuum to understand not only the foundational knowledge assumed from previous grades, but also the skills and understandings you’re setting students up for tackling in the future. It’s important to spend time both examining a your grade band (the grades immediately above and below your own) as well as a larger grade span (for example, kindergarten through fifth grade) so that you can really see how the standards spiral together. We like this version of the standards because it allows you to read the standards across three grades at a time.

Step 2. Notice shifts in key nouns and verbs

It’s important to look beyond just “what’s new” in your grade level to notice the language used in the standards themselves. Pay close attention to shifts in the nouns and verbs, as we’ve noticed that even seemingly subtle distinctions between grade-levels can reveal major changes in expected student outcomes. The language of the standards also provides a framework for the vocabulary you will use as you write objectives, lessons, and model for your students.

Here, for example, is an analysis that looks at Reading Informational text Standard Three in grades three through five. We’ve highlighted some of the key differences in each grade so you can see this for yourself.

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Learn how to analyze standards across grades and more in this post

Notice that third grade students must describe certain types of relationships using time, sequence, and cause/effect language. Whereas in grade four, students move from describing to explaining (including what, how, and why) key procedures, ideas, or concepts drawing specifically on what the text says. Meanwhile, in fifth grade students are expected to use all of those third and fourth grade skills to explain multiple relationships or interactions using specific information from the text.

The following questions can help guide you as do this for yourself around other standards:

  • What are the verbs and nouns in the standard?
  • How do they change?
  • What does that shift mean for teaching the standard in a particular grade?
  • What is the expected student outcome teachers will be held accountable for at that grade?
  • How might students demonstrate mastery of this outcome?

Step 3. Analyze examples of the standards in action

The goal of this step is to build an understanding of what the standard really “looks” like. It’s one thing to see a list of expectations on paper, but quite another to turn that into meaningful lessons, exemplar student work, and thoughtful formative and summative assessment tools. Luckily, you’re not on your own! Below is a list of some of our favorite places to find high quality examples of the Common Core English Language Arts Standards in action:

  • LearnZillion video lessons – LearnZillion’s reading and writing video lessons model how to approach close reading and crafting evidence-based written responses. For example, check out this series of 10th grade videos on The Tempest by Mark Anderson, watch Leigh Pourciau model analyzing a nonfiction article for 8th graders here, or see how Jennifer Reynolds leads a third grade close reading of The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
  • Student Achievement Partners’ ELA/literacy lesson bank—Founded by many of the authors of the Common Core, Student Achievement Partners has worked with teachers around the country to develop high quality ELA lessons and resources.
  • Examples of student work—Find annotated examples of student writing in all grade levels and genres in Common Core Appendix C and Student Achievement Partners’ student writing sample collection. You can use student work for your own study of the grade-level application of the standards as well as for an example to use to model with your students.
  • Literacy Design Collaborative’s template task collections— In order to accurately assess our students’ writing and understanding of text, it is imperative to craft assignments that offer students the opportunity to practice the skills you’ve taught. Use these collections of text-based prompts (which you can modify and adapt to suit your needs) to better understand how to craft creative and meaningful writing assignments that are anchored by text(s).

Shifting to the Common Core English Language Arts Standards will take time and practice. Use the three steps above to help you begin your journey or as a refresher before planning your next unit. And don’t forget another critical element for success: collaboration with your colleagues. Make your vertical analysis of the standards a group discussion—you and your colleagues will benefit by sharing your understandings, experience, and expertise.