- Standard 6: Assessment The teacher understands and uses multiple methods of assessment to engage learners in their own growth, to monitor learner progress, and to guide the teacher's and learner's decision making.
Standard 7: Planning for Instruction The teacher plans instruction that supports every student in meeting rigorous learning goals by drawing upon knowledge of content areas, curriculum, cross-disciplinary skills, and pedagogy, as well as knowledge of learners and the community context.
- Standard 8: Instructional Strategies The teacher understands and uses a variety of instructional strategies to encourage learners to develop deep understanding of content areas and their connections, and to build skills to apply knowledge in meaningful ways.
As a teacher of both English and social studies, I strive to create meaningful and intentional interactions between the two subjects as often as possible. As a result, most of my assignments and assessments in my social studies class tend to be more writing-oriented, giving students abilities to practice their English skills through demonstration of their knowledge of social studies content. The driving motto for me this year in social studies has been “social studies, not history”. To me, this means that in order to challenge my students, and to engage my students in deep understanding of the content and create rigorous goals for my social studies students, they don’t need to know what year Hammurabi became king, or be able to rattle off the major pharaohs of Egypt, but rather they need to understand the impact of Hammurabi’s first law code and the spread of a normalized rule system had on ancient Mesopotamia and how that has developed into the government systems we have now, or why the pharaohs believed to have absolute power and how that affected civilizations to turn to revolt and move towards more autonomous cultures. This motto has carried with me throughout my planning and assessing of students, leading me to stray from traditional multiple choice assessments and DOK 1 identification, and move towards more DOK 3-4 projects and writeups where students are analyzing or creating information to demonstrate their knowledge. To demonstrate this, I would like to point out my first two pieces of evidence for InTASC standard #6, the GRAPES (geography, religion, achievements, politics, economics, social structure) civilization project and student responses, as well as a lesson on analyzing primary sources and deciding if Alexander the Great really was great. For both of these assignments, I encouraged students to synthesize past information and knowledge to create a product and demonstrate their understanding of the material.
My first piece of evidence, the GRAPES civilization project, was a final assessment at the end of a quarter which had encompassed three units about early humans and development of civilizations. This assessment was determined to be one that engaged students in their own growth because the students were demonstrating their knowledge and creating something that only they could have had the knowledge for. This required no recall, simply an understanding of the different concepts that we had covered. In preparation for this assignment, students needed to be following along with the work that we had been doing in class, and getting an understanding of what the GRAPES of these ancient civilizations were and how they affected them. In the responses provided, students demonstrated this understanding by not only creating their own GRAPES of their civilizations, but also explaining how those aspects affected their civilizations and why that mattered. As a culminating project, this provoked higher level thinking and showed me which students were able to fully grasp the impacts of GRAPES on a society and which students still had a hard time with it. As GRAPES is a tool that we use throughout the whole year in social studies, this was vital for students to grasp a full understanding of the future units.
In quarter 2 we study Greece and Rome. My second piece of evidence for demonstrating my assessment tools and strategies is an annotated lesson plan and student responses to a lesson that we did on Alexander the Great. Students were provided primary and secondary sources about Alexander the Great and were prompted to decide for themselves whether or not he was actually great. This was a two-day lesson which allowed students time to gain background knowledge and basic understandings, before moving into more specific demonstrations of understanding. The first day of the lesson was primarily assessed via formative assessments, checks for understanding, fist to five, completion of notes and a complete summary of their notes, and my visual confirmation of their highlighting their work. Since it is unrealistic to do a formal assessment every day especially when lessons tend to bleed into each other, these intermittent formative assessments are incorporated throughout my lessons to enable me to have a constant understanding of my students’ understanding of the material. After the formative assessments and lessons however, I make sure to have some sort of bigger assessment to demonstrate their knowledge of each concept. I social studies, as well as English, we use a formulaic writing device called the perfagraph (perfect paragraph), to introduce students into the concepts of topic statements, supporting body statements, and conclusions. Most of our lessons conclude with some sort of perfagraph or written response which students use to demonstrate their understanding of the learning target. In the Alexander the Great lesson we were looking at the learning targets of being able to cite evidence to make an inference about a subject, explaining the past in its own terms, and using historical research to make an informed opinion. These learning targets combine both English and social studies standards, to create a rigorous and meaningful assessment for the students. These are strategies that I use throughout all of my assessments, testing their ability to create comprehensive written pieces that back up their content knowledge in social studies. Another tool that I use to guide my understanding of students’ progress and to guide my decision making is student performance on daily classwork.
My third piece of evidence for this standard, assignment graphs for the classwork done in social studies, is a formative tool that I use to check my students’ understanding of the material and ability to produce the work as we are going. My school’s online grading system allows me to look at the summary of each assignment that I grade, showing me a general understanding of what assignments were difficult for my students, and helping to guide my decision making in what content knowledge I may need to reteach. Assessment can seem daunting to any educator, but opportunities to assess students are everywhere, you just need to know when to take advantage of them. I am personally a strong advocate for many mini formative assessments and checks for understanding to make sure that I am on track to maximize student understanding of material, before a final bigger assessment provoking students to demonstrate their knowledge.
There’s no way around it, assessment is a key point to education. Like I stated previously: you can’t plan a lesson if you don’t know where it’s going. Assessments are one of the driving forces of my planning for instruction. I need to know what knowledge and skills I expect my students to gain at different points throughout the year. In social studies, long term planning for 6th grade at Wheeler Middle School has lead to being one of my biggest pet projects that I have ever taken on. I was offered the position of social studies department head last year after my apparent passion for social studies was highlighted. Through this new role, I was exposed to a deeper understanding of the role of social studies in schools and began to explore how it can be improved. This is how my motto, social studies not history, came to be. I found that the social studies curriculum at my school for time immemorial has been focused on the historical, chronological events, and getting students to learn about those. Needless to say, I was not satisfied, I believed that we could be better than that. Because of this drive and this passion, I worked together with my TFA instructional mentor to create a whole new long term plan for the school by synthesizing pacing guides from school districts on the continental mainland, with the Hawaii state standards for social studies that we were supposed to be covering. By comparing my school’s long term plan to other pacing guides, I found that our students were being robbed of about half of the knowledge that schools on the mainland were getting. 6th grade social studies almost nation-wide is world history, and 10th grade social studies is world history again, I felt that it was unfair to my students that they were not gaining this knowledge, especially considering the transient nature of their lives as military dependents.
To demonstrate my understanding of InTASC standard #7 and how I used this planning for instruction to support each of my students in meeting rigorous academic goals, I would like to highlight my four pieces of evidence: a 6th grade pacing guide from the continental US, the Hawaii state social studies standards (HSSS) with my notes and annotations, and the long term plan and standards checklist that I created as a result of these. In the past, Wheeler Middle School taught map skills and mesopotamia in quarter 1, Egpyt in quarter 2, Greece in quarter 3, and Rome in quarter 4, with a week or two of China thrown somewhere in there. By looking through the HSSS, as well as pacing guides from the mainland, I noticed that students were missing out on at least 4 other units of valuable social studies information. Taking this to heart, I set about creating a new long term plan. On the last page of my third piece of evidence, my final long term plan, I highlighted the physical creation that I made for the new long term plan. My instructional mentor and I spent two and a half hours in my classroom looking at the pacing guides from other schools, the units that are in the textbook for 6th grade social studies, and the standards that we need to cover, and created a long term plan for when and how we would address the necessary standards. From there, we went in and explored what content knowledge students would need in order to address those standards. For example, HSSS 6.1 prompts students to “examine the ways in which different cultures have influenced families and communities”. This is a very vague standard and it was now on us to interpret how that would be expressed, our collective content knowledge allowed us to identify that we could explore this through an examination of Athens and Sparta in Greece, through roles of women in Islam vs Christianity, and through filial piety in China. We went through each of the standards and drew on our content knowledge to create a comprehensive long term plan for the 6th grade students.
Despite the hours of effort and reading that I personally have put into my long term plan, I acknowledge that it is still a fluid document. It is currently the middle of quarter 2, and we are almost ready to move on to Rome. When I come back for quarter 3, I am going to find myself in the same position I was in my first year; I will have to learn as much as I can about Islam and Muslim empires, Africa, Early Americans, India, and Medieval Europe, all regions that we need to explore that I have never taught before. This is outlined in my annotations on my long term plan, we are still figuring it out as we go. Up to this point our standards covered and material has aligned well with the long term plan that we set up, likely because we have taught these subjects before, but I anticipate it changing as we learn more about the content we are exploring in the second half of the year. The four pieces of evidence that I have provided that have influenced my planning process, are all key contributors to the planning of instruction that I implement in my social studies lessons on a daily basis.
These grade wide planning strategies have been present in both my English and my social studies classrooms. Though we have these big long term plans for both English and social studies, it is the weekly and daily implementation of these concepts that will promote deep understandings of content areas and their connections for my students. To demonstrate my understanding and implementation of a variety of instructional strategies, and how I use those to encourage my students to develop a deep understanding of content areas and their connections, as well as build skills and apply knowledge in meaningful ways, I would like to point out my first piece of evidence for InTASC standard #8, four lesson plans for a section of the novel that we read as a class in quarter 1. Throughout the four lesson plans provided, I have annotated to highlight some of the strategies that I might incorporate at any given point throughout my lessons. As with social studies, every section revolves around a type of essential question. Grant Wiggins articulated in his 2007 piece on essential questions that “by actively exploring such questions, the learner is helped to arrive at important understandings as well as greater coherence in their content knowledge and skill”. Having a guiding question like “what defines the human experience” is a huge contributor to having a successful unit, and even a successful lesson, because at all points you have something to come back to, to guide student thinking. In addition to an essential question, I focus on incorporating strategies that appeal to different types of learners’ needs, as well as students’ needs to move around. By appealing to students’ basic needs of differentiated content input, and physical needs for motion, students are able to focus better and apply their energy to their understanding of the material.
In addition to the instructional strategies that I plan for students, student production of work is just as important in providing students with those opportunities to build skills and apply their knowledge. To address this aspect of the standard, I am highlighting my second piece of evidence, my teacher created worksheets and student work demonstrating how this content knowledge builds from day to day and can be applied. These worksheets show student work from three of my students from the four lessons provided in my first piece of evidence. The progression of this week was focusing in on how authors use word choice to create meaning whether it’s with characterization, connotation, sensory language, or finding the theme. Students were able to make the connections from day five to day eight because of the way that the lessons could reference the previous lessons’ coverage to better understand the material, for example: word choice creates stronger sensory language, which creates better characterization, which helps readers to find themes of what they are reading. By culminating this week’s work with students being able to describe their fears, students were compounding their information to practice meaningful and useful writing strategies. Another tool that I use to better understand my students’ comprehension of the materials and what strategies work well, is by looking at the data that I collect from my students’ performance on the assessments of the lessons. For this I would like to highlight my third piece of evidence, the student data from the four lessons in this week’s lesson plan. By looking at the student data, I noticed that the second day, word choice and connotation, had a high number of successful student performance. This was a day that incorporated a lot of group work, teacher-lead modeling, and student interaction. This data supports my understanding that when students are provided lots of opportunities to work together, and to have the information modeled, they generally get a better understanding of the material being covered.
Teacher growth is something that I am constantly striving for. Whether through independent research, discussions with colleagues and veteran teachers, school assignments, or other methods, my growth and development as a teacher is key to my performance in the classroom, and ultimately my students’ abilities to build skills and knowledge that they can apply in meaningful ways. The process of planning, assessing, and teaching, are all aspects that I can constantly improve on, and through reflective processes and discussions, I am able to improve and better my skills within these aspects. The best part about teaching though, is the fluid nature and individuality within each classroom and each day. I sometimes find that what I plan to implement in a classroom on any given day, may not be exactly what the students need at that time, and I find myself molding the lessons and plans that I had to meet my students’ needs, and at the end of the day, that is okay. My students need me to be able to mold and bend to meet their needs whenever possible, and I need to make sure that they are able to rise to the occasion and meet my high expectations for them. That is what I strive to do on a daily basis, that is how I will challenge both myself and my students.
Standard 6 Evidence 1
Standard 6 Evidence 2
Standard 6 Evidence 3
Standard 7 Evidence 1
Standard 7 Evidence 2
Standard 7 Evidence 3
Standard 7 Evidence 4
Standard 8 Evidence 1
Standard 8 Evidence 2