Knowing the Standards

It’s probably a pretty obvious statement, but knowing what’s expected of you helps you make sure you do that expected thing, right?  Sure, of course.  So why don’t I spend more time chewing on rubrics with my students?  Why do they sometimes feel like the expectation for the end of the unit is a surprise to them? Well, the simple answer is that we should spend more time looking at rubrics.  Together.  Often.  Before, during and after learning happens.  And it’s my goal (but not my resolution!) to make that happen more this semester.

So fast forward to last week and the beginning of our focus on summarizing and main idea in Readers’ Workshop.  We started by checking out the rubric together.  I gave kiddos a copy of the rubric to chew on in pairs.  Along with the expectations, I also asked some questions, and had them look for certain things in the standards that would help them make sure they were doing what was expected.  Together we read, discussed and highlighted.  Our board (and their papers) looked like this when we were finished:

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 11.27.12 AM

I think it was important work that happened here.  I kept asking the what and why questions as we chatted.  I had them repeat the verbs.  We talked about the fact that these are understandings they need to demonstrate more than once.  And we focused on the reason behind why you need to know how to do this: to help you better comprehend your text, not because your teacher says you should.

Now we talk about this almost every day.  Before we begin anything reading, we review the words in this rubric.  We use the words.  We reflect on whether we’re identifying, distinguishing, supporting, referring and demonstrating.  And this image will hang in our room to help us remember what to do–and for a visual person like me, that’s an important step.  So many times things are out of sight, out of mind.  This way they will not be.

And so after this work in reading, we did the same thing in math with the beginning of our decimal unit.  And during that conversation I had another (saddening) aha moment.  As I handed each kiddo at my table the rubric book that is usually reserved for parents and teachers, I wondered why I didn’t give one to each STUDENT to have.  To read.  To digest. To reference and keep at the front of their minds (and binders!).  Why had it never occurred to me–in all of these years of teaching–that my STUDENTS are probably the ones that most need that book??  They are the ones, after all, that are responsible for making those things happen, right?  Man.  Humbling thought right there.

Moving forward I pledge to do more to make my students aware of their learning.  Don’t get me wrong–we talk about these things and I believe I am making them aware of our goals, but there is much I can do to make it more visible for them, so that they can take more of an initiative in their own learning.  Nothing here should be a mystery, and the outcome should not be a surprise.  And I’m vowing to take steps to unveil some of these things for my kiddos.  I only wish I would have done it a long time ago…

What do you do in your classroom to make your students aware of standards and expectations?  How do you involve them in the process?  What “aha”s have you had regarding these things? I’d love to hear from you!

3 thoughts on “Knowing the Standards

  1. Using rubrics for learning is perhaps the #1 best thing I learned more about in my master’s program that I didn’t really pick up in undergrad or my previous teaching experience.

    If I used them at all in my first 3 years of teaching (or as a high school student) it was only as a tool for grading by the teacher.

    I’m 100% better at making the rubric at the same time I make the project.
    I’m mostly better at DISTRIBUTING the rubric at the same time I ASSIGN the project
    I’ve got a ways to go with helping the students understand the rubric
    I seldom/rarely develop rubrics with students because the conversation goes well the 1st section of the day, but with subsequent hours, the discussion feels more contrived because (a) I’m having the SAME EXACT conversation I had before, and (b) once the first and/or second hour gets all of their ideas out, I have a hard time going through the process with the 2nd/3rd hour because I know we probably already have a rubric they will be willing to take ownership of.

    Marzano has a list of cognitive verbs from the common core standards that I shared in a training last week that would probably be useful in your conversations with your students. There are several synonyms to go with each “formal” verb.

    • Thanks for your comment! I have done rubric work in many different ways–sometimes with kid-written rubrics, and sometimes with district-created ones. I hear you that sometimes it’s all about time. Regardless of who created the rubric, though, we always make sure that everyone understands both what it says as well as the steps we’ll take to get to where we need to be on it. Thanks for the link, as well. I actually just ran across it the other day again when I was looking through Ed Leadership for a class I’m taking. Seems like a great article! Keep up the great work, Mr. Baker! Your students are so lucky to have you! 🙂

  2. Jen,
    I’ve been thinking about this exact thing A LOT lately. I keep saying I want my 6th graders to take ownership of their learning and yet…. I still maintain control of that. Our school doesn’t use rubrics a lot, and if we do it’s more on the grading side for the teacher or for the student to know what to expect if it’s a project in science, etc.

    If I could only have about 3 days to be off from school and family I might be able to get this together. 🙂 I can’t believe we only have around 10-11 weeks left in this school year. It has flown by for me.

    At this point (and this is going to sound BAD) I’m not really wanting to put in a lot of extra time and effort (I mean I already do) because I’m worried I’m going to be moved to 1st grade. YIKES. 🙂

    I do need to take the ELA standards though and create a checklist if nothing else for my students-for the remaining standards for the rest of this year.

    Like I said, if I just had 3 days…..


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