Thursday, December 30, 2010

CFU chapter 2

Well, it's holiday break... actually it's almost over. I've spent some great time with family and friends celebrating Christmas! I've also spent some time reflecting on school things, where to go next, etc. I've also read the 2nd chapter of Fisher and Frey's Checking for Understanding. So, let's dive into chapter 2 and see where we end up!

The title of chapter 2 is: "Using Oral Language to Check for Understanding" Fisher and Frey dive into defining oral language and also discussing the development of oral language. They show a lot of research (I've learned writers have to do that...) They also discuss some misconceptions of oral vs written language in poverty and gender. The discussion also flows into perceived skill vs actual skills. This specific portion was interesting to me, especially the part on the bottom of page 21,

"the amount of teacher versus student talk in a classroom varies by demographics of the students. In addition, students who live in poverty, are English language learners, have disabilities, or are otherwise at risk in school spend more of their time on basic skills and less time engaged in activities, lessons, or inquiry that fosters creative and critical thinking."

Wow! But if you think about how we teach students with disabilities, their time is spent with teacher talking, or working on worksheets. Their practice and learning is on rote memorization, not synthesizing thinking.

Next, Fisher and Frey discuss different methods of checking for understanding using oral language strategies. These include: Accountable Talk, Nonverbal Cues, Value Lineups, Retellings, Think-Pair-Share, Misconception Analysis, and Whip Around. To be honest, I had heard of about 3 of those. What I noticed about all of the methods was that they all included changing instruction based upon what students know. Ahah!! That's the key to any sort of assessment. If instruction and learning changes because of what data was collected, it's formative assessment. 

Some thinking on learning

@greatestquotes tweeted this today: "Persistent questioning and healthy inquisitiveness are the first requisite for acquiring learning of any kind." - Gandhi

This got me thinking about the learning that is going on in schools today. How much of our learning is rote memorization... What's the capital of Minnesota?... Where is the Tropic of Cancer? What did Tom Sawyer say on page 35? 

These are all Googlable things. I can type them into a search engine and find the answer. Instead shouldn't we be asking deeper questions? Questions that make students think, not recite? Explain, not regurgitate? 

When are schools, administrators, and teachers going to stop the memorization game and start the learning?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Isn't tech engaging?

My daughter is 4, almost 5 years old. She is in pre-school and loves it! She has a wonderful teacher and was lucky to have a great student teacher in the classroom as well this fall. The purpose of this post is not to brag about my daughter's school or tell you how smart she is..

However, the purpose is to talk about technology.. My daughter enjoys using my Ipad to pop bubbles or listen to Toy Story. She has a Leapster with many games and also has a Tag reading system. We haven't gone the Nintendo DS way yet... The reason is she would rather sit and read, or write, or color than play with a techy toy. She is extremely excited to show my wife and I the new pictures she draws with crayons. She loves to share her words she writes with colored pencils. She would rather read books to her audience of dolls.

My question is why isn't she engaged in technology? Why would she rather write and draw and read than play a Dora video game?

Monday, December 13, 2010

CFU chapter 1

Well, this finally happening. I'm reflecting on the first chapter of Checking for Understanding by Fisher and Frey.

The title of the chapter is "Why Check for Understanding?" Fisher and Frey spend time convincing readers how CFU fits into other reform programs. First, they define Checking for Understanding and also divulge what it isn't. They key difference is what is done with the feedback. If feedback is used to inform instruction, it's formative assessment. However, if feedback is used to show student performance after instruction, it's summative assessment.

Fisher and Frey also discuss how Checking for Understanding fits in with Wiggins and McTighe's Understanding by Design. They contest the CFU is a key component of UBD. Next, the authors connect Differentiated Instruction and Checking for Understanding. Carol Ann Tomlinson's DI is a buzz in the education world. Providing instruction to meet the needs of students is an essential part of school reform. CFU is a key part of Differentiated Instruction. It is what allows teachers to strategize what students or group of students are meeting standards at different levels.

The final framework that Fisher and Frey connect to is Breakthrough from Fullan, Hill and Crevola. I'll be honest, I am unfamiliar with this. I'm not sure if it is not as popular or I'm just out of that loop, but I may have some more reading to do over the winter break....

Well, that's the overview of Chapter 1. I'm now going to dive into Chapter 2. I hope to have an update in the next couple of days!!