Making Connections


Hello world!
October 9, 2009, 5:46 pm
Filed under: objectives

Hello Colleagues,

On Statewide Inservice Day, I learned about a new blog site.    You can learn about it, too, at www.wordpress.com.

I want to thank everyone for welcoming me into your classrooms.  You are all amazing educators – creative, fair, firm, patient, prepared, positive, supportive and hard working – always working – to help your students achieve their potential.  

I plan to continue my habit of writing on my blog.  You will see that I have added a link to last year’s blog –  www.turtletalesfortitans.blogspot.com –  just in case you want to check out the side bar called Links for Educators.  It has some of the best websites I have found for graphic organizers, web timers, how-tos, class management, grouping, differentiation, etc.

 For this first entry on Making Connections, I am focusing on writing objectives, not only because the district has chosen that objective for the first marking period, but because setting goals and objectives is definitely the best place to start any new endeavor.  So here is mine:

Objective:  I will support teachers by visiting every ESL/sheltered content classroom on a regular basis (I have you calendared weekly into my schedule) and debrief via email or face to face.  I will  help you meet your PLC goals through observations/feedback coaching, assist you in accessing resources including other teachers, share best practices I see, model literacy strategies I learn at workshops and monitor the progress of your ELs.   This is going to be a long trip and I don’t plan on arriving at my destination for some time, but I will always keep it in view and I will enjoy my journey along the way.

Happily, I am seeing objectives written in every classroom.  Below are a few of the variations: 

 In a math classroom, the language and content objectives are posted on the board using two 8X11 sheets of paper for each.  Language Objective and Content Objective are permanently fixed at the top of the board on two distinct sheets of white paper.  Below each, attached with magnets are the daily objectives, short enough to fit on a second sheet of paper – the 60 font bold print landscape format allows it to be viewed from the back of the room.  

Next a sentence frame which supports the language objective is written at the top of the warmup problems and/or new problems projected via doc cam.  Students practice using the sentence frame(s) in order to correctly verbalize the math processes presented during the class period.  Sometimes the students do choral reading.  Everyone has a chance to practice that way.  Later, those sentence frames find their place tacked to the wall above the whiteboard, printed in 60+ font on 8X11 sheets.  The teacher can refer to them if students need help expressing a certain math process previously covered.

In a 20th century studies class, a teacher has many objectives written on the board separated into content objectives and language objectives.  They are always expressed with a variety  of academic words such as:  retell, define, summarize (orally or in writing = language objectives) with explain, interpret, analyze (ability to do these reveal understanding of the content) used as strong verbs for the content objective.  In one particular classroom, these objectives are referred to repeatedly during the lesson.  Students show their understanding of each academic action word by giving synonyms, examples, or other brief explanations to indicate that they know what the task will be. What a great way to further “unwrap” the language objectives for assessing student  comprehensive of the task at hand.

In many classrooms, the objectives are displayed prominently on an easel whiteboard.  This assures that the students will always know where to find the NEW concept(s) (uncluttered by other boardwork) that they will be expected to know by the end of the class period. 

Another important requirement of a good objective is that it is measurable and observable.  Will students be defending a stance on a current issue in their journals, comparing/contrasting the characteristics of plants,  discussing the literary elements of a favorite song, creating and presenting a skit in order to use the vocabulary of negotiation (function=content) , writing to a prompt based on a Channel One news story, defining key words that they will meet in reading,  identifying a substance, using the area model to determine a product ,  or graphing a function, etc?  After one has determined the content objective, he must determine what new language  – vocabulary or constructions – students will need to know in order to meet the content objective.   Yes, you could think of the content objective as the destination and the language objective as vehicle for taking us there.

 Note how one example – presenting a skit in order to use the vocabulary of negotiation – actually holds both a language objective and a content objective.  Negotiating is a function which equals the content in an ELD class.  Presenting a skit equals speaking as well as using the vocabulary, a combination of a content objective and a language objective.  Whether or not you write your objective(s) in one sentence or two, or more, just remember that in order to improve the literacy of our students, you always need a language objective, which generally involves writing or speaking, to indicate that comprehension through reading and listening is taking place. 

Research shows that pointing out the objectives at the beginning of the lesson – and having students repeat them (“Tell your shoulder partner our objective for today!”) – helps them focus on the learning during the class period.   Stating the objectives at the end of the class period helps both student and teacher ascertain that the objective was met during the class period; if it wasn’t, more work will be needed during the next class period.   Sometimes if the class period is too short to arrive at the destination,  the same objective will be posted for as long as needed to accomplish it.  It is up to the teacher to decide the most beneficial way to use posted objectives.  Just keep in mind that it is best to know where we are headed when we start out on any journey.

 One of the best ways to know if students have met the learning goal is through an exit slip of some type.  If a journal is used, it will give teachers and students alike a story of their progress during the school year.  At the Oregon Writing Project PD called Write On!, the value of  journaling in every class across the curriculum was modeled.  For example, in PE students would record their their progress and shortcomings in a particular sport and fitness program;  in art they might compare and contrast different works of art or note certain artists they admired;  in foods they could keep a running record of successful recipes, changes they might make for improvement, etc. 

My objective for attending Statewide Inservice Day was to try something I learned there right away.  Objective met!   I plan to continue to use this new tool so that we constantly make connections with each other, with our students and with our important work – guiding our students to become independent learners on the road to their future  – and ours. 

Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

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