The Maine Department of Education is pleased to conclude the 2015-16 “Content Corner” collection with this third release of instructionally-focused articles for Maine educators. The third collection of articles completes this year’s focus on effective practices that support student learning in the content areas.
For students to have adequate opportunity to acquire language and develop proficiency in a language other than English, maximum use of the target language in the classroom by teachers and students is critical. While the research-based recommendation is that target language use represents 90% of teacher and student discourse in the classroom, many teachers struggle to maximize the use of L2 (world language that the student is working to learn during instruction).
How do we know that students understand and are learning what we intend in our classrooms? When do we adjust our instructional sequence or delivery of content to meet student needs? To answer these questions, we first must answer this question: What is the role of formative assessment in our classrooms?
Walk into a circle time in preschool in September and in June when the teacher is “doing calendar.” It’s Wednesday. The teacher asks the children, “If yesterday was Tuesday, today is……?” The cacophony from the children includes the answers, “Saturday,” “Friday,” “Monday,” and pretty much any other day of the week. It doesn’t change whether it is the beginning or end of the year. Why? Preschoolers are not developmentally grounded in past and future. For the most part, they still live in the now. Days of the week do not make sense-no matter how many times the activity is repeated. Yesterday, today and tomorrow are not solid concepts for three, four and five year olds.
Making meaning of a complex text is itself a complex process. When students flex their literacy muscles to read something that is challenging for them, they grow as readers, as thinkers, and as writers. Helping students develop stamina and supporting a productive struggle with challenging texts through routine practices provides the foundation for strong writing skills.
The health education and physical education article focused last month’s Content Corner instructional improvement article on student feedback. This month’s article examines student feedback to the teacher. There are many sources for feedback about a teacher’s instructional practices. Administrators, peers and students can all provide valuable feedback to teachers that benefits all by responding to specific prompts for actionable feedback. Honest feedback from students can help improve teaching effectiveness. Teaching students the principles of constructive feedback is a beneficial lifetime skill and necessary to providing teachers will helpful feedback. Feedback needs to focus on teaching strategies such as class structure, usefulness of activities/assignments/homework and not personal characteristics or qualities. There are a number of online tools available such as the Great Schools Partnership resources found at email@example.com and “Ten Tools to Try” available at http://www.georgebrown.ca/staffdevelopment/Student_Feedback/tentools.html#one. Teachers may also choose to develop their own Google forms for student feedback.
You can’t enter a school in Maine today without hearing conversations about proficiency-based diplomas and standards-based grading. Given this focus, arts educators have an interest in ensuring that they are using standards-based assessments to evaluate a student’s growth and development. The information gathered through assessment should be used to determine whether or not students understand and can apply content, and this process is perhaps the most critical aspect of the learning process for teachers. However, arts teachers nation-wide tend to lean towards assessing non-achievement criteria such as behavior, effort, participation, and attendance.