When teaching, goals and needs often become blurred due to perspective. Whose goals and needs are the basis for planning, instructing and assessing? When are student voices heard? When are parent voices heard? When does the community have input?
Today’s topic seemed like an easy one:
Balancing Goals and Needs
This morning I had a lengthy conversation with Mya over coffee. Her needs seem simple: food, water, shelter, hugs and kisses, time to play. How many of those do I define? How many of those does she define? I laughed last week as she went nose to nose with an opossum and it was not playing. As Mya barked, the opossum snarled back. Not the quiet, placid Mya who walks among the deer without a sound. Not the quiet Mya who allows Harry the cat to tell her what to do. So I’ve been wondering what are Mya’s needs and what are her goals?
On this foggy Sunday morning Mya has no need to head outside. She’s curled up on the love seat napping. She’s already had her breakfast, her treat, a bit of conversation and she’s now in her own little world.
Are her needs met? Are her goals met?
Conversation with Mya about basic needs is quite simple. If either her food bowl or water bowl are empty, she comes and tells me. Her nose on me is quite telling. No words are needed.
And when she’s ready to play. OMG! YES! She’s bouncing. Or she’s patiently waiting. That stare. Those eyes!
And of course, I’m well trained. When she’s standing, nose against the door, tail wagging, it’s time to open the door for her!
Are her needs met? Are her goals met?
Because we live in the country, Mya has a LOT of unsupervised, unstructured time outside. No pen, no fences, no boundary fencing. I like to think that her time outside gives her the opportunity to be an independent free spirit. (Mya is a Lab and loves recognition for her skills.)
What about balancing my goals and my needs?
My initial draft of this post included a list of goals and a list of needs. As fast as I listed something in either category, I was deleting it and moving it to the other side. And then . . . . there were the list items that HAD to be in BOTH categories! Ay, yi, yi – not productive! Way too much thinking!
Last week I had the pleasure of learning with and from Cassie Erkens (@cerkens) author of Collaborative Common Assessments: Teamwork. Instruction. Results. One important point she made was that we must understand the DNA (Desires, Needs, and Assets) of ALL students.
Do we even “know” that information about our students?
So that long conversation with Mya led me to realize this morning over coffee that it doesn’t really matter whether I can specifically IDENTIFY all my goals and needs. Instead living my life so that I BALANCE my goals and needs in service of being brave and remaining a life-long learner is important.
Family, Comfort, Love, Peace, Fun, Faith, Joy, Reading and Writing
Fun, Learning, Collaborating, Equity, Joy, Reading and Writing
Fun, Family, Reading, Writing, Joy, Faith and Brave Support for a Better World
Can you tell what I am working to “Balance”?
How do you balance your Goals and Needs?
How do you make sure that all voices are included?
Check out the posts at Margaret Simon’s “Reflections on the Teche” for more ideas / thinking about balance!
I’m still reeling from the information on goals in Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris’s post about the 1% of the population that set goals and regularly review them. It’s a short post. Go read it here. The numbers are staggering and the consequences for learning are dire if teachers are NOT setting goals in their classrooms.
Let’s Review: How important are clear learning targets for students?
Hattie, Fisher and Frey say that their effect size is .75 for “Teacher Clarity”. Teacher clarity could easily transfer to deeper student understanding of the desired learning target. Clarity in knowing what the target looks like would make the target easier to meet..
What kind of goals should teachers be setting for writing instruction?
“Teach the writer, not the writing.
Teach strategies for elaboration and development.
Teach for transfer.
Teach for increased student independence.”
What could goal setting look like?
One way it could go is through the use of the goal and technique cards from this post. As a writer I could pull out the techniques that I have already taught for the writing types this year. I could list them in descending order by the frequency with which students are using the techniques. Then I could check the on-demand writing for the new unit and see which techniques are present. This is one example of using data to determine goals.
Another way it could go would be to set up an inquiry study. Students could have the technique cards and could self-assess their use and / or understanding of the writing techniques. Then these students could use the goal cards to set some writing goals for themselves. Maybe the goals will be about structure, development OR transfer! Maybe students can begin to be “better than the 1%” if they have:
to practice using the techniques
and goal-setting to improve writing across the text types.
Win/Win in Student Goal-Setting and Teacher Clarity!
Are goals for the day, month, or year?
Won’t there be a variety of goals and time lines? Perhaps there will be an over arching goal that all students will love to write that will have its own steps or mini-goals. Perhaps it will be to improve the quality of the students’ narrative writing during this unit. Perhaps it will be the goals for this week. But without clear goals . . . what learning path are you on?
How could you use the techniques cards, goal cards and teacher clarity of work to improve your own writing and/or student writing?
Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Lisa, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.
Disclaimer: The ideas in this blog are not novel. They are not original. They are appropriately “sourced” where credit can be applied. What is new / different / novel is perhaps the thinking that connects the ideas. Research-based.ideas! Student-centered.ideas! Many folks KNOW this. But do the teaching practices match the teacher beliefs?
Students need to read more in order to be better readers. Volume matters. (Richard Allington)
How can students read more?
A. Donalyn Miller – 40 book challenge
B. Book logs that keep track of books read. Compare lists over time.
C. Book lists kept by students that rate the books (scale of 1-5) and list genre.
D. Independent reading during class time followed up with time to talk about what was read.
Which ones of these have you tried and abandoned?
Did they work for awhile but then student interest seemed to wane and it seemed like students were “cheating” and recording books that they really hadn’t read? Or perhaps books that students began to read but when the going got tough, the books were abandoned?
Did you REALLY understand the goal / purpose behind that undertaking? Did you read the book behind the practice pushed into the classroom? Participate in a book study? Or did you find the pages on Pinterest or TPT and “try it” as a pilot with a high degree of skepticism.
If you went to the link above for Donalyn Miller’s 40 book challenge and read and even digested that post, you read these two paragraphs.
“The 40 Book Challenge isn’t an assignment you can simply add to outdated, ineffective teaching practices. The Book Challenge rests on the foundation of a classroom reading community built on research-based practices for engaging children with reading. Assigning a 40 Book Challenge as a way to generate grades or push children into reading in order to compete with their classmates corrupts everything I have written and said about reading. The 40 Book Challenge is meant to expand students’ reading lives, not limit or define it.
The 40 Book Challenge is a personal challenge for each student, not a contest or competition between students or classes. In every competition or contest there are winners and losers. Why would we communicate to our students that they are reading losers? For some students, reading 40 books is an impossible leap from where they start as readers, and for others, it’s not a challenge at all.”
This is just a small piece of Donalyn’s 40 book challenge. Reading one blog, one tweet, or attending one hour long session at a conference is not enough for deep learning. But it is enough to whet your appetite. Your appetite for life-long learning as well as your yearning for a solution that makes sense to you, your students, and your community will grow. Your appetite may lead to a mini action research cycle as you implement a research-based strategy in your classroom.
A week ago a friend of mine asked on Twitter: “Does anyone have a genre chart they can share to encourage strong readers’ growth?” And Dayna had several results immediately.
Steve shared this:
and Julieanne shared this:
I immediately drooled over both and wondered about combining them and adding
- Quarter 1 Goal ________________
- Quarter 2 Goal ________________
- Quarter 3 Goal ________________
- Quarter 4 Goal ________________
and then Steve added that his students also do this quarterly in google slides:
Why is this important?
Dayna Wells (@daywells) a principal in California asked the question. Two 5th grade teachers replied. Steve Peterson (@inside the dog) from Iowa and Julieanne Harmatz (@jarhartz) from California. Teachers collaborating online to share their practices. (And of course commercial #107 for WHY you really should have a professional Twitter account! ) Because if you followed them on Twitter, you would also know that they all three blog as well and you would have access to additional resources about / from each of them! (Commercial #108 for Twitter)
Relevance? What do you measure?
Matt Renwick (@ReadByExample), a public school administrator in Wisconsin, believes that “volume” is not enough for reading goals in his January 1, 2017 post “I didn’t meet my reading goal (and is that okay?)”. Goodreads said, “Better luck in 2017.” But his reading was rich. And look at all the qualities that Goodreads did include in their report as compiled by Kendra Grant:
If you go back to answer choices A, B, C, and D above, how do those match up with the goodreads list. I think 5 of the 7 data points are easily covered. Do you NEED 5 data points? Maybe. Maybe not. Do you need ALL 7 data points? Maybe. Maybe not. It all depends upon the ultimate goal of your independent reading.
Who our students are?
Who our students might become as readers?
What’s the ultimate goal?
Is the purpose for a reading goal . . . to hold a student accountable for what they read? Or provide proof that they read and understood and (gasp) remembered a boatload of details to answer a quiz?
Or is the purpose of the reading goal to provide an opportunity to NURTURE a love for reading? And to encourage / nudge EVERY student to become an avid reader? See “Let’s Not Kill the Love of Reading” by Dr. Tony Sinanis (@TonySinanis).
Is the purpose to make sure that the teacher is helping all students to “BECOME a reader” (Thank you, Dr. Mary Howard – @DrMaryHoward) ?
What data do you need?
The data needs to match your ultimate goal AND the needs of the students. Are you thinking, “OK, I can keep doing what I have been doing?”
2. “Students do not need:
Programs / contests that provide extrinsic reward
Packets of activities”
Why are they missing?
Section 2 of the table of contents is included so you can see the practices that support increased student achievement.
“SECTION 2: WHY NOT? WHAT WORKS?
Why Independent Reading Matters and the Best Practices to Support It, Barbara Moss
- Does Independent Reading Influence Student Achievement?
- If We Know Independent Reading Is Effective, Why Don’t We Do It?
- A New Reason for Independent Reading: The Common Core State Standards
- What Practices Are Critical for Effective Independent Reading?
- Why Independent Reading Matters Most for Striving Readers and English Learners
- The Last Word: An Overview of Independent Reading Implementation by Teachers
Need more evidence? Check out “Three Keys to Creating Successful Reading Experiences” by Pernille Ripp (1/4/2017) and “Revisiting My One Classroom Non-Negotiable” by Christina Nosek.
YOU MUST . . .
- stop wasting students’ time,
- stop assigning “activities” in the name of accountability,
- make sure that anything you
askrequire students to do is that which YOU are willing to do as well in your own independent reading life.
DO YOU . . .
- keep a log?
- set goals?
- reflect on your goals?
- meet your goals?
- discuss how you feel about your reading?
- review the text complexity of your own reading?
Do your personal practices match your instructional practices?
You MUST utilize some “lens” or filter to sort out resources.
These are NOT all equal. A single number is NOT a goal!
How does your goal match your purpose? What are you REALLY measuring?
Process Goal for this Post:
Combine tweets; google docs, drawings, and slides; blog posts, books and Voxer conversations for a blog post with at least eight links for the reader to peruse and consider as they reflect upon whether their current teaching practices SUPPORT increased student reading! (And thanks to Dayna, Steve, Julieanne, Mary, Christina, Matt, Tony, Donalyn, Debbie and Barbara for the wonderful way that their work supports each other!)
Kylene Beers facebook post about lifetime readers!
Depending on your geographic location,
- you could have been in school already for over two weeks – Allison in Arizona,
- have completed one week with students – Justin in Kentucky and Kathryn in Minnesota,
- have students returning today – Julieanne in California or
- even have students waiting for floodwaters to recede like Margaret in Louisiana.
Whereever you live, the calendar is marching on, and school will soon begin.
In 2015 this back to school blog post focused on relationships and learning priorities while the 2014 post here included blogs and quotes and Lucy Calkins’ challenge to “outgrow ourselves as readers”. And more recently, this #DigiLit Sunday post was also about planning for the new school year.
Are you prepared? And what does that mean for you?
Is your room ready?
Have you added some alternative seating? Additional partner seating? How do you allow the students to have some say and choice in the room arrangement? What does your library look like? Are students able to easily access books in the classroom library?
Are your first instructional days planned?
How will you greet your students? What is your first Read Aloud going to be? Your first mini lesson for reading workshop? Writing workshop? Your own first demonstration writing piece? And what about that first poem?
“The First Day of School
I wonder if my drawing will be as good as theirs
I wonder if they’ll like me, or just be full of stares
I wonder if my teacher will look like mom or gram
And I wonder if my puppy will wonder where I am.
Have you set your goals for the year?
My wish is that every child will have joyful learning every day of school that will allow him or her to grow beyond belief in reading, writing, speaking, listening, thinking, math and research (science and social studies). Each classroom will have a skilled, enthusiastic and passionate teacher who focuses on meeting the needs of the whole child!
Are you REALLY ready?
What are your planning priorities right now?
And what about personal priorities for your very own children? Are they starting a new school year as well? As a student? As a teacher? As a parent?
What rituals do you share with them?
My son and I had a first day “back to school tradition” of dinner out. Dinner out at a fancy schmantzy restaurant where we could talk about the first day of school and everything that happened away from the rush of meal prep or the stack of ever-present work. A joyful celebration of new beginnings!
Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Lisa, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.
I began this blog in October of 2012 because I believed that I needed to write publicly both to improve my own writing and because I encourage teachers to write for purposeful reasons. That fits with Betsy’s quote for today:
“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.
~E. L. Doctorow”
How am I doing with my goals? Wordpress conveniently compiles a lot of data about blog posts. Here are the most viewed posts from this site during 2015. The numbered titles are linked to the original post and a picture is included below the link for a reminder. (Four of these were a surprise as they were NOT written during 2015! See if you can guess which four!)
- Lexile Level is NOT text complexity CCSS.R.10
“@amandalah: Careful of lexile: Harry potter, old man & the sea &Alexander & the horrible no good very bad day. All similar lexile. #TCRWP”
What are your top 10 learnings for 2015?
What data do you consider?
What are your goals?
How are you reflecting on 2015?
Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Thank you, Anna, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Stacey, and Tara. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.
Most commented blog posts from 2015 (in 1-10 order)
One post that is on both top 10 lists! #SOL15 posts were seven of the 10 most commented on posts! YAY, Slicers!
Answer to which years were the most read blogs posted:
6 of the blog posts were originally published in 2015. Two were published in 2014 and two were published in 2013.
- 5-10 = 2015
- 2 and 4 = 2014
- 1 and 3 = 2013
How can we measure writing so students, parents, the community, and the teachers know that students are improving?
If this is our definition of assessment, we have many options for measurement.
If I am a student, I can use rubrics, checklists, my personal goals and feedback from peers, teachers, and those I communicate with through blogging, etc. to talk about what qualities are present in my writing now that were not there earlier in the year. This could be in the form of a summative reflection that is posted with two or three papers/writings that I believe demonstrate my growth and that I would have annotated with those specific qualities for a quarter or semester or across the entire year.
But what keeps a student writing on a daily basis? How does a student know that this week’s writing piece is better than the last piece? Or that this piece really was the perfect match for the audience and purpose? I believe that students need feedback to not only be able to “improve” their writing but also to have the language to explain what they are doing to others. Excitement about a topic can carry a student for several days, but at some point the enthusiasm may wane as the task of rewriting or revising becomes laborious.
John Hattie believes that feedback needs to include these factors:
“• focus on the learning intention of the task
• occur as the students are doing the learning
• provide information on how and why the student understands and misunderstands
• provides strategies to help the student to improve
• assist the student to understand the goals of the learning” Source
So a learner would need to know the task/goal, be able to explain what he or she is learning and have some strategies that enhance his/her understanding of the work. The checklists in the new Units of Study in Writing, from Lucy Calkins and the many, many talented folks at Teachers College Reading and Writing, would help meet those criteria especially if the students are involved in daily writing workshops that allow them to continually stretch and grow and there is a safety net provided by the teacher and peers.
Is this the only writing format that meets these criteria? No, other rubrics such as 6 Traits + 1 within a writing workshop model could also set up this learning and feedback environment for students. These environments would include clear writing targets, models and strategies for students to continually plan, reflect and self-assess. When working well, these classrooms are better than well-oiled machines; when not working well students might be saying, “I don’t know what to write.” or “What do YOU want me to write?”
How does that all fit in a writing workshop? Very, very carefully as a teacher combines both student-led and teacher-led activities to increase student independence! At the end of the mini-lesson, the teacher may ask the students to go ahead and begin an example of the task/work at hand before they even leave that comfort of the writing circle. A few students may stay for a quick conference and/or a more specific “check-in” with the teacher. A student may have put a post it up on a strategy chart to mark the specific work that is his/her goal for today that will improve the narrative (adding action, adding dialogue, or adding thoughts). The teacher will circulate and may have a “mid-workshop” interruption where student work that is “on target” is quickly celebrated and shared. Students may quickly meet with writing partners to see if they are “still on course to meet their goals.”
This is an example of “knowing specifically what a student needs to do” to meet the learning target in kindergarten – first grade writing.
The student will have a “collection” of writings in a folder that will be evidence of learning.
What will the parents and community members see? They will see examples of early writing in a unit and later writing. They will see “student revision” in work and evidence of student thinking. Parents and community members will not see traditional “percentages” for grades. They will see comments that delineate what the student CAN do. The students will be able to tell their families what they have been working on and how that has helped them be more powerful writers.
And the teachers . . . How will they know that “students are improving”? Teachers may have to take a step back because the “day to day work” may cloud their view when they think of overall growth for all students. But student growth, when students are writing every day in writing workship for 45 minutes to an hour, can be seen after three weeks (Lucy Calkins, June 2013 TCRWP Writing Institute). Will it be easy? Heck, no! But will easy provide results that will help your students meet the demands of opinion, informational and narrative writing?
What are you waiting for? February is the month to “Fire Up” student writing in your classroom. Your students will love writing with you!
What questions do you have? What do you need in order to get started?
My plan is “learning.”
For the Wednesday Twitter chat for #educoach, I was thinking about my learning goals for 2013. I began with a variety of words including some that had been included in previous posts. I stopped with “patience, listen carefully, and use questions to help others and myself reflect.”
After reading Arizona MS principal Jeff Delp’s December 31st blog about “today” (http://www.jeffdelp.com/2012/12/31/today-i-will/ ), I decided to change my goal to “learning” – one word. I believe that I will be able to have “evidence” of my learning if I use patience and wait to hear what others are saying. Then when I listen carefully as I listen with my mouth closed, I will also be able to “learn.” And finally, as I use thoughtful questions to help others and myself reflect, I will have additional evidence of my own learning. (In order to help improve student learning, I am a firm believer that I must also be a learner. That means I will be modeling learning behavior as well!)
Last night, on the #educoach chat, participants were sharing their “Edu-lutions” for 2013. The archived chat is available at http://t.co/duEUIfKA if you would like to see what some very talented individuals are planning for 2013.
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Still thinking about one word to describe 2013 or your goal for 2013? Here are two more ideas.
1) Check out Principal Mindy Higgin’s blog from August about promoting reading at
2) Check out @principalj (Jessica Johnson’s) December 31st blog with her own reading resolutions available at
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Are you interested in making a “one-word poster?” Here’s a link that will assist you in that endeavor.
What is your plan, resolution, or edu-lution for 2013?