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

Parent Resources: 4 Ways to Support Your Child’s Learning with Instructional Videos

Parents: Are you eager to help support your child’s learning at home? Could you use a refresher on a few concepts yourself? Take heart! LearnZillion’s free video lessons for students in grades 2-12 are here for you. Here are just a few ways our high-quality lesson content can help you at home:

Supporting Learning at Home


1. Create a consistent instructional environment for your child

Use teacher-assigned video lessons to help your child receive regular support and reinforcement from all the adults they know. Kids really benefit from consistent messaging and multiple exposures to new concepts (eg: multiplication).


2. Refresh your own understanding of difficult concepts

Refer to LearnZillion videos to help your child understand difficult concepts, such as dividing fractions, identifying equivalent ratios, or analyzing an author’s use of rhetoric. The two-to-five minute lesson videos break down tricky concepts step-by-step. If you decide to watch along with your child, pause or re-watch the video at key moments so that your child can develop his or her own solution before seeing the answer modeled.


3. Get a deeper understanding of your child’s curriculum

Get a window into the concepts your child is tackling in the classroom. LearnZillion video lessons provide transparency around the Common Core for teachers and parents alike. Lesson sets describe one teacher’s interpretation of an entire standard, and each lesson video gives an up-close view of a specific concept within a standard. (Tip: Have the Common Core Standards laid out for you by looking at the Common Core Navigator.)


4. Supplement as practice work

Is your child ahead of the school curriculum? Our videos help both struggling learners, and those who are ready for more, build their knowledge and understanding of new concepts. Our lesson sets allow you to see how a concept progresses in complexity within a standard, and by exploring lessons from other grade levels, you can provide  your child with a rigorous and exciting learning environment at home.

Have other ideas you’d like to share? Let us know by commenting below.

To learn more about other creative ways that teachers are using our instructional videos, check out 9 Ways to use LearnZillion With Students.


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.

Common Core Lesson Plans: Crafting Great Text-Dependent Questions for your students

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

Common Core Lesson Plans, Text Dependent Questions, Common Core

This blog post outlines steps you can take to write powerful text-dependent questions.

Text-dependent questions are one of the cornerstones of close reading. You can see them in action in our close reading lessons, each of which model asking and answering a text-dependent question. But crafting questions that are text-specific, that help your students understand the text more deeply, and that create opportunities for them to master the Common Core ELA standards is challenging and takes practice.

But first things first. What are text-dependent questions?

Text-dependent questions are questions that can only be answered by referring to the text itself. They do not necessitate outside experiences or background knowledge to be answered but they do require students to use evidence from the text to support their answers. But more than that, text-dependent questions are written in carefully sequenced sets with the goal of shepherding students towards a deep understanding of the text. Along the way, text-dependent questions should focus students’ attention on the challenging sections of the text, ideas or moments that warrant more time and exploration, major craft moves, and critical vocabulary words. For more on text-dependent questions, check out Student Achievement Partners’ text-dependent questions guide.

Here are a 6 steps you can take to craft text-dependent questions on your own:

1. Understand your text

Before you dive into writing questions, your first step is to make sure that you understand the major ideas or themes in your selected text. We’ve found it’s important to actually put this into writing to help crystalize the big takeaways that you want to make sure students get from the text. You should also identify key vocabulary words, significant craft moves, and sections of the text that are challenging or worthy of further study. Check out this post on how to analyze and understand your text in preparation for close reading.

2. List your questions (all of them)

By now, you’ve spent a lot of time with the text and are ready to start writing questions. We like to start by simply generating a long list of questions. Initially don’t worry too much about getting the exact wording or perfect number of questions. Rather, focus on capturing your ideas.

3. Answer your questions

Crafting a text-dependent question alone is not enough. Knowing what constitutes high quality response to that question is equally important, but too often, we see teachers skip this critical step. Why does it matter? Frequently, answering your own question will unveil additional layers of meaning in the text or new levels of purpose behind the author’s craft. And forcing yourself to write the answer may reveal that the ideas you really want students to explore are in fact different from, or not addressed by, the original question you wrote. As you answer your questions and get more clarity around what you actually want to ask, you should begin to revise and refine your questions.

Answering your text-dependent questions is also important because it allows you to fully experience responding to the question and will give you a window into what you’ll need to teach. As you write your answer to the question, track your own metacognition by asking yourself, “What are my students going to have to know and be able to do in order to answer this?”

4. Align and revise your questions to the ELA Common Core Standards

Next, it’s time to compare your questions and responses to the Common Core Standards for ELA to determine which standard(s) they address. See our earlier blog post on analyzing the Common Core ELA standards here. As you complete this alignment, you may see that certain questions need to be tweaked in order to really meet the standards for your grade level. You might also notice that some of your questions are too sophisticated or too simple for your grade. That’s okay. While these questions may not make the final cut, you’ll want to hold onto them in order to provide extension and scaffolding to students in the future. Make sure that your list of questions covers a range of standards and includes questions that both focus on specific parts of the text as well as consider the text as a whole.

5. Sequence and narrow your list of text-dependent questions

Great text-dependent questions come in thoughtfully sequenced sets that guide a student through the text and build from simple to complex. The best way to start sequencing your questions is to identify the one or two questions that unlock the text’s big ideas, themes, or takeaways. These should address the culminating understandings you want to make sure students come away with. Next, backwards map your questions from these ending points, cutting a clear pathway of understanding from basic levels of meaning to the abstract subtleties of the text.

6. Evaluate your text-dependent questions 

Once you have your sequenced list of questions, it’s time to do a final review to make sure your questions are text-dependent and high-quality. We use Student Achievement Partners’ Checklist of Evaluating Question Quality for this step. While it’s great practice to review your own questions, it’s even better if you can swap with a colleague to get an extra set of eyes and additional feedback on your work.

Though challenging, writing worthwhile text-dependent questions is a lot of fun and, once you start using them to help your students access complex texts hugely rewarding. To see interlocking text-specific questions in action, check out LearnZillion’s close reading lesson built from the Common Core standards in your grade.