Week 2: So What Do They Really Know?

Guys! I have to tell you that I love this book. (Okay, if you haven't been following along, I'll tell you -- Cris Tovani's So What Do They Really Know? Assessment That Informs Teaching and Learning)
Go check out Book Journey for more reading awesomeness!
I'm finding a good balance between moments when I think, "Yes! Why haven't I thought of that before? I'm doing that tomorrow!" and "Woot! Tovani and I could be teaching BFF's! I do that all the time!"

Okay, I never promised you a well-structured stuffy book review when I said I wanted to use this for a book study. Suffice it to say, when I'm excited about something, it shows!

Chapter 3
Favorite quote:
Whether learners are struggling, gifted, or in between, they all deserve a year's worth of growth.
I think she may have written this quote just for me. This year I have two classes -- my morning class consists mainly of students that struggle in several areas, receive Special Education services, or are somewhere in the middle of the RTI process. My afternoon class has students that are typically high achieving and/or in the Gifted and Talented program. And of coure I have my kiddos that are sitting right in the middle academically but each have their own set of special gifts and skills.

So. Yeah. I wholeheartedly believe they each deserve every ounce of growth I can help them achieve. I work hard to make sure none of our time or efforts are wasted.

I enjoyed the overview of the workshop model -- I mean, sure, I've seen it before. I believe in its effectiveness. But the truth is, as I get busy with meeting timelines and upcoming tests and the system in which we all must live, I often start to veer off-course. This was a good reminder of why I believe in this mode of instruction: the students do the work! It makes sense that when students are the ones working, they are the ones learning! I need to make sure I give them enough time each day to do the hard work of learning.

The curriculum flow map she shares on page 43 was also helpful to me. Since this is my first year as a departmentalized teacher, I'm really struggling to reign in my schedule and routine! I have less than two hours each day with my guys for reading, writing, and social studies. Although the system she has in place for her high school students won't quite work for me in 4th grade, I do want to try making a special bookshelf or area in the room where I can include supplemental texts for students to read and share in a similar way.

So my first goal is to stay on-track with the time to work that I give my students! I'll report back on how I do this week in my next reflection.

Chapter 4
The first thing that popped out at me in Chapter 4 was the learning targets and assessments table. In my school district, we have to post daily objectives and products. The objective is what we will learn together and the product is how the student will show their learning before they leave class. I like doing this because it keeps us all on track, so it was neat to see it in Tovani's book!

I haven't used the inner voice sheets yet, and honestly, I'm not a big fan of making that many copies. We do have reader's notebooks and my students keep notes about their reading, but I call it our reading palette. Whenever I do a read aloud they keep notes, but it looks a little different from the Figure 4.2 on Annotation in Chapter 4. My class creates a table with 4 boxes. Each box is for a different thing, and sometimes I vary what I have them title the boxes, but normally it looks like this:

  •  Questions
  • Connections
  • Predictions/Thoughts on what is happening
  • Word Love (a place to capture words, phrases, sentences that their writing ear appreciates)
Alternatively, I tell my kiddos to sketch pictures with captions of what they see in their mind as I read. So I guess we are doing something similar to her inner voice sheet! I go back and forth on having them do this during their own reading, because I really want them in "the reading zone" (gotta throw out a little Atwell love, of course). I felt better about this after I read about her work with Raymond, who didn't want to stop and write while he read. She struck a compromise with him and he writes a little during the last five minutes of reading time. This way he gets to stay in the zone, and she can still get an idea of where he is as a reader. Great balance!

The other part that jumped out at me in this chapter was about debriefing. I am guilty about cutting out the debriefing when we are running short on time. In the future, I'm making a note to myself to try partner debriefing! In the beginning of the year my students hadn't experienced much time working cooperatively with other students, so we have worked very hard to get to a place where we can have conversations about our learning. I think we are ready to try debriefing this way! We also have a Twitter Wall for exit tickets, but I think I need to be a little more deliberate in what I ask them to write each day before they leave. I like Tovani's idea to have students write one question they still have before leaving. Another idea to try this week!

And here's my favorite quote, although it may not seem very important to anyone else!
The evidence I collect isn't very fancy.
This seven word sentence says so much! My evidence is not fancy -- I have sticky notes, pictures, audio clips, scribbled bits of conversations, conversation calendars, conferring notes saved in Evernote -- just bits and pieces of our days, held digitally and on paper. But this is real. Real kids, real moments, real work, real learning.

It doesn't have to be fancy for it to matter. Just keep it real!


  1. So I actually posted this week! Thanks for organizing this discussion around the book; I'm really enjoying it. http://agoss.edublogs.org/?p=48

  2. Today really felt like a Monday! And, I was worried about not being as prepared as I would have liked for class. However school ended today with 5th period "debriefing" about what we were learning about sentence patterns, questions we still wanted to figure out, and examples of how students had used their knowledge to change their drafts. It was amazing!! It reminded me of why we like to teach in a workshop classroom even if it feels like more work sometimes! I'm guilty of not making time for this valuable practice, but I know students were learning just as much during that time as any other part of the past two classes.

    On a side note, I'm totally stealing "word love"