March 2008 Archives

Turns out there’s a name for all that weird stuff I make my students do like creating games about the Odyssey or reviewing their writers’ notebooks to make observations about their own learning. It’s called formative assessment. This is not to be confused with summative assessment, which, like a summary, occurs at the end. The very end, as in, after all the learning has taken place. It tends to look like a standardized test. There are right and wrong answers, and it is meticulously scored. Bubble tests may, in some cases, measure learning. But they certainly don’t ...

You know that amazing feeling of sitting at a picnic table on a riverbank with a light spring breeze, a cup of coffee beside your open marble comp book, and letting it all flow out through your pen onto the riffling pages? Or even being transported to the same sort of zone but under fluorescent lights and acoustic tiles in a standard classroom? Your students don't. At least, it's highly unlikely that their "peak writing moments" occur anywhere except in front of a qwerty keyboard, I've concluded, after doing a writer's notebook assessment recently with my ninth graders. The process ...

I confess I’m tapped out at this point with writing about the Boards. My recent Post article was cathartic and now I want to move on. For example, a good topic today would be the six-figure teacher. Imagine that. A charter school in New York that gets rid of all the administrators so it can pay teachers closer to what they’re worth, at the same time paring things down to the basics: 3 R’s plus Latin and music. Beautiful. I hope it succeeds with flying colors. But I will drag myself away from this attractive shop window, ...

Readers of a certain age will remember a catchy Paul Simon tune with the chorus, “Well, I'm on my way, I don't know where I'm goin' / I'm on my way, I'm takin' my time, but I don't know where… “. I’m not sure why Simon’s carefree narrator is so desperate to say goodbye to Rosie, the Queen of Corona, or even exactly what he Julio are doing down by the schoolyard. But I do know the hook captures something essential—and increasingly rare in schools today— with its refrain about aimless wandering and the openness to discovery that comes ...


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