4th graders started our new school year right away with a novel we are reading together. (For more info see “The why behind the what…”) I set up a lofty set of expectations for our study of this novel with the intention of gradually building them to a high quality level. The bar is high, but I do not expect everyone to be at the top already…
First and foremost, I have minimum expectations because I recognize that not everyone will enjoy the reading. I get that and I do not want to completely turn a child off by forcing him/her to do every task. My hope is to inspire the highest level of participation possible. Here’s what you need to know about how I am gradually building what I expect to see.
- Week 1, chapters 1-3 (Sept 1) was about getting adjusted to this big routine. I was looking for each child to do the following: read the chapters and show effort in annotating. That is all I focused on when I “checked” work. The primary goal was establishing that we need to come to class prepared with materials and prepared engage in a discussion with peers. I gave students the Thursday before our “due date” to explore the options of a digital form with higher level prompts and a digital discussion of select text parts. The hope was that they would try this on their own later because they enjoyed it. After a 20 minute or so discussion (which was recorded for the routine establishment) in class on Friday, students got onto their Chromebooks to answer the “exit ticket” question. They only got 20 minutes to respond because I am focusing on building stamina and fluency with these types of responses. I did not expect any child to write a full well-developed response at this time. It is about building this skill over time with repetition and practice. I have told the children that their skill here should be improving gradually as their “typing” becomes more automatic as well. No stress in this…because we will learn over time. In fact, I tell each child to put “NF” before submitting so that they let me know they felt they had more to say but ran out of time. Not doing this tells me that a child felt they did “their best” and I should grade it with full expectations of it being a top quality response. Honestly, no child should be at the “I think I’m done” level yet because I encourage them to use every minute possible to strengthen their response.
- Week 2, chapters 4-6 (Sept 8) I checked again to see if each child brought his/her book because coming prepared for anything in life is important. Taking ownership for knowing what you need, when you need it is important. I also took photos of annotations made to examine for “quality”. That is the next step. Since students get a task guide with prompts for discussion, I am looking for effort to attend to these prompts to be made. I will be following up through individual ‘conferences’ on the “quality” level. Again students discussed for 20 minutes and completed a typed “exit ticket” response, but I’ll revisit those later as we examine ways we can improve. I also reinforced how personal responsibility can be taken when getting the “extras” they might need. For example, I referred to a “basic motifs in traditional literature” chart on their task guide. While I was late linking this in our Google classroom, I was surprised at the number of children who did not even bother to try to access it OR ask me in class about it prior to the discussion. I told the children that if they couldn’t access the HyperDoc because they do not get time or their parents have rules/guidelines about access at home (which I fully support), then they can always ask me for a copy of helpful items. I will not make mass copies to be left behind or lost but am always willing when asked. Therefore this week focused on “owning what we are responsible for having prepared and for bringing it to class”.
- Week 3, chapters 7-9 (Sept 15) will be about reinforcing what is conferenced about in regards to “quality” in annotating. Again I will take photos of notes to hold students now accountable for doing what we discussed together. I will also “grade” the exit tickets for the first time to give students an idea of what they are doing well and so that they can start setting goals for improving. We are learning a “RACES” format, building on what I taught last year with Answer-Cite evidence-Explain how evidence ‘proves’ or supports answer. R is about restating the question (or using words from the question in a well written answer) and S is about self-checking. Here’s the rubric I use (note NO student is expected to get full points now!)
- Week 4, chapters 10-12 (Sept 22) all previous expectations will be reinforced and I will now start turning my attention to ‘quality’ in discussion. This means I will need to listen to 8 separate groups of recorded discussions at 20 minutes each. As 3rd graders, we spent a great deal of time modeling how to communicate effectively and to follow these “rules for discourse”. I can listen closely to the level of participation each student engages in as well. I will conference with students individually the week after to set goals based on my observations.
- Week 5, chapters 13-15 (Sept 29) we will look at the “full package” as this marks the end of the “interim grading period”. That is, what level are they consistently working towards. This is where I will start pointing out whether just the “minimum” is being done or extra effort is being put in. (I track who is doing the “extra” all along). While I will encourage students to “do more” on their own, at this point students who have not taken any of the extra options will start doing select ones in class so that I can make sure learning goals are met.
- Week 6, chapters 16-18 (Oct 6) while expectations established continue, I plan to have students use reading to start planning their first response letters as 4th graders. I will be helping students plan and work on these letters in class. Class discussions will most likely be impacted by the LES walk-a-thon and may not take place at all.
- Week 7, chapters 19-21 (Oct 13) students will be “juggling” reading expectations along with response letters. This week will give students a chance to feel some pressure with having the extra responsibilities so while I will tell them I am not “letting up”, I secretly will be anticipating some “I didn’t get time to…” comments.
- (Ella takes a break due to early release on Oct. 20th and to let students focus on catching up with any comprehension lessons as well as doing independent response letters; I anticipate week 7 will push them hard!)
- Week 8, chapters 22-24 (Oct 27) after having the week “off” students should return to full expectations (my hope is that they learned some lessons from managing adding letters to the novel expectations; more than likely a few will learn about “procrastination”!)
- Week 9, chapters 25-27 (Nov 4) full expectations with emphasis on “pushing yourself” to do the extra options. We will be examining our progress with “exit ticket” responses to see the progress we have made over time.
- Wrapping up, chapters 28-epilogue: we will be doing some special activities with the entire book for the rest of Nov. and into Dec. More info will come on this as I evaluate needs and learning goals. The next novel will be given to students prior to winter break with those expectations starting when we return in January.