This is a second post for #cyberPD, which is exploring DIY Literacy: Teaching Tools for Differentiation, Rigor, and Independence by Kate Robers and Maggie Beattie Roberts. In the first post, I focused on how we need to establish the student learning need before we can turn to the tools that might support student achievement and how we can better determine that student learning via teacher collaboration. This conversation is where I live; it’s what I want to focus on all the time.
Why am I doing this learning?
In my classroom, this question has a permanent home, and periodically, I ask students to write down what they are doing and why they are doing it and post their thinking. It’s hard for them to think about why they are doing what they’re doing. Sure we have learning goals and success criteria. Yes, we often co-construct both. Nonetheless, seeing the learning and connecting this discrete skill with the next one and the next one, so that eventually they can
- engage in the research process;
- write a blog post;
- synthesize their reading into an infographic;
- participate in an online literary discussion;
- read increasingly complex text and make meaning with those texts;
is hard to hang on to.
Kate and Maggie offer us a series of four tools that can make the learning visible, and thus make it stick:
- Teaching charts
- Demonstration Notebooks
- Micro-progressions of skills
I already use both teaching charts and bookmarks regularly, and many students do access them when they need to recall earlier learning or to remind them about what questions they need to consider. For example, together we will construct a teaching chart of what the research process entails and then we will unpack each step thereby creating a series of explicit teaching charts. Here is one showing how an information paragraph with integrated evidence is constructed:
However, not all students turn to these tools for support despite not yet being independent in that skill. Maybe the model of how one paragraph (in this case) is not enough. Micro-progressions may be the right tool for some of these students.
Micro-progressions show the way toward higher levels of work. by providing actual examples of work that’s improving, as well as listing the qualities that make up each “level” of work, micro-progressions allow for both self-assessment and self-assignment (17).
The first challenge I faced in tackling the creation of a micro-progression was that for every skill (including the one above) there were sub-skills that needed their own micro-progression. To write a good information paragraph with different types of evidence integrated with the writer’s own thinking, students need to be able to know how to integrate evidence using a variety of signal phrases. They need to know how to paraphrase. They need to know how to locate, read, and cull information from those sources that may be relevant to their topic. And this is what Kate and Maggie mean when they note “we encounter trouble when we teach too much to hold onto, too much to remember” (46).
Where to start?
I decided to start with an essential skill that students should be using throughout their academic career: the research note. The student note-making samples used in this strategy are all submissions from my students.
But notice how the note with the most breadth and depth is the one that includes the student’s own thinking. Well, that got me thinking about another essential skill: making connections. The models used in this strategy all come from student work.
I am keen to integrate the use of micro-progressions into the teaching – learning process and to get feedback from the students. I am hoping this strategy can provide clarity of purpose because they can see where they need to go next and independence in the self-assessment process that we began this past year (which I haven’t yet blogged about).
And as we co-create more micro-progressions, we may even innovate on the model, and add in an answer to the question: Why should we learn this?