What are the most effective uses of Readers’ Notebooks?
One of my pleasurable tasks this school year will be to work with a veteran group of teachers who will be implementing the new Units of Study in Writing. A secondary goal with that group will be to explore the use of Readers’ Notebooks as a tool that can:
- Assess the students’ ever-increasing levels of comprehension;
- Assist in student and teacher goal setting during individual reading conferences; and
- Provide structure for planning instruction.
I am excited about the possibilities for Readers’ Notebooks that I am hearing this week at the Teachers College Reading Institute, Columbia University, New York City(#tcrwp). (You all definitely should plan to attend next year!) This post contains several possibilities that I am considering. Please consider whether these match or extend your current thinking!
Setting the context:
In Readers’ Workshop, students will be reading for at least 30 minutes each day out of the ideal 60 minute block. There will also be an expectation that students will write for approximately 5 minutes (this is not writing workshop and does not replace that designated writing time) in order to show their level of understanding of the text that was read. This opportunity for writing will allow the students to develop their own thinking as well as provide evidence of application or transfer of a skill taught during a whole group mini-lesson.
1. How can teachers use Readers’ Notebooks as a Performance Assessment for Comprehension?
Example – Character Development in Book Being Read:
Just a quick reminder that I am making an assumption here that previous literacy work has included a Read Aloud where the teacher modeled some thinking about the character development in a text, a mini-lesson with explicit instruction in character development (or multiple mini-lessons depending on the grade level), and now conferencing and goal-setting with an individual student.
All students are jotting down evidence from the texts they are reading about character development on post-its in their reading notebooks. They have practiced jotting multiple times in whole and small group settings. The teacher may have already pulled the post-its and placed them into categories along a continuum of expected features for character development to create a rubric (or the teacher may be using information from #tcrwp as I am).
The teacher has then developed a chart for the classroom using examples from student post-its to fill in the third column in the chart below that uses student friendly language/phrasing. Students may also have a smaller version of this checklist (the same chart below minus the example column) in their notebook that they can refer to while jotting notes.
2. How can Readers’ Notebooks assist in student and teacher goal setting during individual reading conferences?
A Quick Peek into a Reading Conference in Progress:
For this example, I am having a conference with Joey (a fictitious student). I will look at the post-its on character development in Joey’s notebook during our reading conference. Joey will explain what “star rating” he believes his post-it is and “WHY” he believes so. We will use the examples on the chart to talk about the accuracy of Joey’s rating. Joey puts the corresponding number of stars on his notebook entry so he can literally “see” the rating. Then Joey and I set a goal.
How does this happen? If Joey’s post-it reflected a “1 star,” I will use a teaching point and teach Joey (using the chart with example) what he needs to do in order to have a “2 star” response the next time (goal). Similarly if Joey has a “3 star” response, I will use a teaching point and teach Joey what he needs to do in order to have a “4 star” response the next time (goal). Joey now has a clear learning target and is much more likely to meet his goal because he knows his current status and what he has to do to move on the continuum.
Joey knows what his target is and specifically what he needs to do to move up to gain another star. He will be able to meet that goal because he has seen and heard what that goal looks like from peer examples, and Joey can also consult the chart hanging in the classroom.
3. How can Readers’ Notebooks provide structure for planning instruction?
After a round of conferences I, the teacher, will have class data, (see example below), that I can use for small group instruction. Note that alphabet letters in the third column are codes for individual students. I could also decide to set up “partner groups” for accountable talk around character development by deliberately pairing two students with differing star levels in this skill area.
Performance Assessment: Star ratings based on student jottings on post-its on a continuum for a comprehension skill; character development is the skill in this blog post.
Student Self Assessment: Use of checklist to determine “star level” and explanation of “WHY” that rating
Goal Setting: Use of checklist to determine the next step to meeting the goal of higher comprehension in this skill
Informing Instruction: Class Status record allows teacher to see the current levels of understanding of all students in the class and make decisions about next steps in instruction.
College and Career Ready Anchor Standard RL.3
Is this new thinking for you? Are you using Readers’ Notebooks in these ways?
Thanks, in advance, for your comments!
(Sources of information: Reflection on large and small group sessions at July #TCRWP Reading Institute 2013 with Kathleen Tolan and Bianca Lavey and closing session with Mary Ehrenworth.)
I was totally fascinated by Mary Ehrenworth’s closing, “The Common Core Asks Us to Teach Higher Level Comprehension: Performance Assessments and Learning Progressions” on Monday, July 1 on the first day of the Reading Institute.
We began with talking with a partner about assessments that were currently in use in our districts and then Mary began her presentation that was filled with student examples containing both writing and video evidence of reading comprehension.
Mary did caution us to not make running records be the “know all, be all” for every kind of assessment. They are perfect for matching students to books but perhaps not the tool that should be used for measuring growth in comprehension. And especially not to measure growth in comprehension that would be aligned with the Common Core.
In a nutshell, here is the framework Mary proposed:
“Reading Performance Assessments
1. Formal, grade and school wide Information and Argument writing (K-10)
2. Use checklists to set goals and raise levels
3. Reading notebooks
4. Calibrate expectations across grade level and try making a checklist”
Mary wrote this list during the presentation on a piece of paper under the document camera complete with subheadings (no power point here) so errors in reporting would be mine.
A specific reference to Hattie, his book Visible Learning, and the power of specific feedback had me revisiting my notes from our #educoach book study in the summer of 2012. How do students get that feedback? I now know that in writing, the learning progressions authored by Lucy Calkins and the TCWRP staff will provide just that feedback in the form of the checklists available.
Two more gems from Mary:
“Rubrics are for teachers; checklists are for students.”
“If you can say it on a checklist, kids can do it. If you can’t say it on a checklist, kids cannot do it!”
The use of a Reader’s Notebook as a performance assessment was new to me. Having specific goals in terms of checklists or a learning progression would enable both the teacher and the student to “see” progress in deepening comprehension. Having targets would also ensure the likelihood of student success. The premise is both exciting and exhilarating in the forward march to meet the increased demands under the Common Core.
Are you using a Reader’s Notebook as a performance assessment? How might that be used to document increased student comprehension? (grades 3 and above)
Your thoughts are greatly appreciated!