Looking at Student Writing

Tomorrow is the first of our grade-level team meetings to look at student writing.  During the first couple of weeks of school, the teachers collected a baseline writing sample from each student.  There was no prompt.  Students in grades K-8 were given time to do their “best writing.”  We will gather tomorrow to carefully look through the writing samples.

We will use the “Protocol for Analyzing Student Work” from Diane Sweeney’s book, Student-Centered Coaching: A Guide for K-8 Coaches and Principals.

The protocol is as follows:

1.  The facilitator frames the purpose for the conversation and introduces the student work that will be used.  
As facilitator, I will not need to introduce the student work.  However, I will frame the purpose for our conversation, which is to develop 1-2 specific instructional goals for the next few weeks of writing workshop.

2.  In pairs, the group examines the data/student work with the following questions in mind: “What can we learn from the student work? What evidence can we tease out that indicates successes or breakdowns in student learning?”  
Immediately prior to this step, teachers will individually do a quick sort of their students’ work, separating it into high, medium, and low piles.  Then, I will present the two guiding questions, which will also be written on a small chart.

3.  Each of the pairs shares in a whip-around, and they are as specific as possible.  During this process, the facilitator charts the information that is shared.
I will create a Google Doc to chart the information.  I will record their findings on a T-Chart within the Google Doc, with one side labeled “Noticings” and the other side labeled “Evidence.”

4.  The whole group discusses the implications for the teaching and learning based on what was noticed in the student work.  Participants share in a whip-around, and at the end of the round the facilitator synthesizes new thinking. 
I will record the implications on the same Google Doc while they share.  This way, the teachers can refer back to the Google Doc as needed after returning to their classrooms.  Also, we can return to the Google Doc at our next grade-level meeting.

5.  Individually, each group member reflects in writing to name their next steps for instruction.  The whole group shares their next steps, and the facilitator takes notes for follow-up.
The teachers will record their next steps using pen and paper.  I believe there is something about handwriting a note which helps cement it in memory.  They will also get to keep their own papers.  I will encourage them to share their next steps with our principal by the end of the week.

I will post the Google Doc here by Thursday as an example.
Update:  Click here to see the notes from our meeting.


Setting Norms

Once each month, we hold a literacy coach meeting to bring together the four literacy coaches in our district.  We are each building-based, so this is often our only time to collaborate, talk, and vent.  This year, we decided to formalize our meetings by developing norms.  We developed these norms at our first meeting of the year.

1.  Honor the agenda and time limits.

This norm was developed because we have a tendency to get stuck on a topic.  Our meetings last for about an hour and a half, and in the past we often ran out of time.  We build the agenda together prior to the meeting using Google Docs, so now we are adding time limits to each topic.    Here is our most recent agenda, with time limits:

Sample Agenda

2.  Keep a positive tone.  Discuss ideas and topics, not people.

This norm was developed because, at times, our meetings turned into venting and complaining sessions.  Also, we sometimes tended to use over-generalizations such as, “The teachers won’t want to do that” or “The third-grade teachers aren’t…”.  This norm reminds us to hold the teachers in a positive light and to look for the bigger coaching ideas behind our interactions with specific people.

3.  Use a protocol when applicable.

This norm was developed mainly to help focus our discussions.  Two protocols we might use are Peeling the Onion (when we have a problem or issue to discuss) and Save the Last Word for Me (when we have a professional reading to discuss).

4.  Make sure everybody’s voice is heard.

I added this norm to the list because…well,  let’s just say I’m not shy.  I have a tendency to be the first one to speak up, and I also assume the role of leader (when I am an equal).  This norm will help ensure that all of our voices are heard.  We discussed how we could meet this norm by directly  asking any silent participants, “What do you think,?”.

5.  Set aside time to reflect at the end of each meeting.

This norm was added because there were times we all left a meeting feeling beaten down under the minutia of decision-making.  We discussed and agreed and disagreed and discussed and revised and agreed and questioned… and then asked, “Wait, what did we decide?”  This norm helps us to reflect back on the meeting and restate what we accomplished during our time together.

Here is the poster we will refer to at each meeting:



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