Making Connections

December 1, 2009, 6:32 pm
Filed under: assessments

Hello Colleagues:

With our second six-week grading period behind us and the holiday season upon us, we have our work cut out for us.  We need to continue our efforts to keep the students engaged in their learning, avoiding any temptation to “take it easy.”  (Here is a great way to play games in class though with a focus on learning:   ( Find Jeopardy, Millionaire, Wheel of Fortune, Smarter than a Fifth grader templates.)

I see that everyone is posting objectives daily – a big task but it will be worth it especially if students know where to look and there is a routine for pointing out/repeating the objectives.   Our last coach workshop emphasized that the district will refer to these objectives as LEARNING TARGETS and our leaders are encouraging us to try combining language objectives with content objectives to help students see how they are interdependent.  In Marzano’s Classroom Instruction that Works for English Language Learners,  Brinton, Snow, and Wesche (1989) point out four reasons to do this:

  • Language forms and vocabulary will develop as students study areas of interest. You can’t study an area of interest without learning the vocabulary i.e., any game or sport comes with specific vocabulary.   If you like to eat you might want to be able to read and understand the labels on the foods you buy and, of course, you will want to read and understand recipes.
  • Motivation plays a role in learning complex language structures. Teaching a structure by itself will probably not stick; there must be a purpose for learning the structure i.e., a required format for a science lab will call for certain language structures and vocabulary.
  • Teachers can activate and build on students’ prior knowledge in the content area.  ELLs may not have studied the American Revolution in their native country, but they have probably experienced conflict or even war in their homeland.
  • Language structure and form should be learned in authentic contexts rather than through contrived drills in language workbooks.  You could emphasize different structures such as “if….then.”  For example, “If you had to wear a uniform to school, how would you maintain your individuality?”  “If I had to wear a uniform…then I would….”

A combined objective for the above could be “I can read (literacy objective) about students living in Japan and use “if…then” statements (language objective) in order to show how student life in Japan is different from your own (content objective).  All of these objectives together make up the learning targets for our students – reading for a purpose, using a language structure, showing comprehension through comparison (probably written or spoken – could be through a visual).  (See the SKSD Assessment for Learning Newsletter Oct 2009 article by Robert Marzano.)

Now that you have your learning targets in place, you will want to monitor or assess learning throughout the class period.  In the SKSD Assessment for Learning Newsletter Nov 2009 excerpt from Marzano, providing feedback throughout the lesson is emphasized.  He points to four generalizations that improve student learning:

  • Feedback should be corrective in nature.  Let students see or hear the right way in order to see what is wrong with a response and make an immediate correction.
  • Feedback should be timely.  ELLs need immediate correction for pronunciation.  No need to say, “No, that’s wrong.”  Just pronounce the word or phrase or repeat the sentence correctly.  It is said that 24 hours should be the maximum time between assessment and feedback.
  • Feedback should be criterion-referenced.  Research shows that students learn more if they know how they are progressing along a continuum or rubric of some type rather than just how many correct answers they received out of the total.  The district has a website with CIM rubrics at but if you would like to make your own or borrow from other teachers go to
  • Students can effectively provide some of their own feedback through self-evaluation. The simplest way to help students correct their writing is to require them to read it aloud to someone.  They will catch the majority of their errors by hearing their own work and being cognizant because they have an audience.  Use standard correction symbols that are easy to understand and  to use.

              Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

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