Metaphorically speaking….Assessment is…

So much fun in class today as my undergrad preservice teachers created visuals of assessment metaphors. This is an activity I always look forward to as it’s so cool to watch the groups share ideas and create a final visual. The homework task is for each student to come to class with an assessment metaphor. The groups share their individual metaphors and decide on ONE to use and develop into a visual. Metaphorical thinking is high level thinking. If you can create a metaphor and explain your creation, you have true understanding of a concept. The only requirement for the visual was to include the three types of assessment: diagnostic, formative, and summative. The various design components (traditional, alternative, authentic, structured, unstructured, formal, informal) could be worked into their visuals through their choosing. Since this is a Literacy/Middle School course, I encourage students to engage their future students in visual thinking and in group work. The conversations that result in the final visuals are as important as the conceptual understanding. I’m always amazed at the results.

Here are the visuals. I provide the metaphor labels; you can figure out where diagnostic, formative, and summative are located within each.

IMG_1471 Tools!  Chart paper, and Markers

IMG_1052Assessment is Building a Home

IMG_1051  Assessment is Building a Home (neither group knew the other used this metaphor)

IMG_1480Assessment is a Mountain Climb

IMG_1053Assessment is a Camera (and Lens)

IMG_1478Assessment is Creating a Recipe (Cooking)

Bravo Lit 2’ers!!

…how do we know what we know? (HDWKWWK)

What kinds of information can we have–the “stuff” that primes the pump for a writing piece? How do we know what we know?

Well, we can know “stuff” first-hand…from active involvement through our senses–we can experience it–see it, taste it, touch it, hear it, do it…

We can get the information from others–through someone showing us, telling us…info direct from another person…

Or, we can embark on personal journeys to discover “stuff,” to come to know through investigation.

These are ways we come to “know what we know.”  These are ways we use to know our world enough to want to write about it.

Just random thoughts this morning…have a great day, full of discoveries!

From a distance…collaboration

It began, quite unintentionally, with the picture below. I took it on a road trip Friday and posted it to my facebook page with just one tag line …The orchard sleeps…

My distant writing group friend added two more lines….in winter’s gloom under a crescent moon…And, said, keep it going. The resulting conversation:

me: trees whisper tales of Spring

of blossoms snuggled in a winter wrap

of deep roots tangled in Summer’s dreams

she: one small bird perches at dawn

me: threads her way through forks of trees

through thickets of sticks

weaving her own tales

against the landscape of winter


Writing off of photos is one of my writing invitations on my writer’s notebook page on this blog. Photos inspire. Digital devices and social media allow us to virtually sit beside friends to collaborate visions and words, to create shared works.

Teachers–had the digital world of today existed back when I shared daily existence with sixth graders, you bet I would have encouraged this kind of collaboration.

You see two images here: the first is the photo that started it all; the second is a quickly-sketched notebook entry of the resulting poem.IMG_1007 IMG_1345

Reaching and Teaching Middle Schoolers…

IMG_0971The image on the left was created by me (using Noteography). It sums up what I know and believe from nearly 20 years of teaching middle schoolers. I just call them the characteristics of middle schoolers and it’s one of the first things I share with my undergrad preservice teachers each semester. The sharing of/discussion of what these characteristics mean launch our semester and are revisited many times over throughout our semester-long classes. The image on the right I quickly sketched (using Paper 53). (The image that combines each of these lists was created with Inkflow). These are the “essential” attributes of a middle school education for young adolescents as developed by the National Middle School Association. Never having seen these four essentials prior to generating my list, the similarity serves to confirm what I believe–what I know to be true. So, how do I interpret the NMSA listed essentials?

Developmentally responsive means that you need to know what makes adolescents tick. You need to consider their social, emotional, cognitive growth just as seriously as you would consider developmentally responsive education for the kids in primary grades. Many of the ills of chaotic discipline originate from not understanding that adolescents are very unsure of themselves. They need to find ways to find confidence–to not fail, They need social outlets–all the livelong day. They are social creatures, first and foremost. They are at their best when they feel a creative spirit and can turn loose imaginations. They don’t do well, in fact, they wither and retreat when set in rows and asked to be quiet, work alone, and listen while the teacher lectures for a grueling 50 minutes or more.

Challenging means just that! They love to puzzle something out. Notice how much they love digital games?? It’s the challenge. They want and need project learning where they can start almost from nowhere and with some basic tools and skeletal outline of instructions they can produce amazing things. Reading the textbook and answering the questions is not a challenge–it’s boring and they will have no problem in telling you so.

Empowering means giving them the flexibility to discover. Trust them to be powerful thinkers. Give them the tools with which to build, to author, to fix, to puzzle it out.

Equitable means to really put into practice the jargon-like statement all teachers say–“They all can learn.” Begin with where every learner is and provide them a path within their grasp to follow. Reach and teach them all.

So…when I set my beliefs alongside the beliefs of a national professional organization, I am affirmed and hopeful that through the voice of a powerful organization such as NMSA, these beliefs are out there and hopefully in practice.

(I had another purpose here: to highlight three of my favorite sketch note tools: Noteography, Paper 53, and Inkflow–all tools students would LOVE).