A Party Minus the Slumber

Tuesday, January 9, 2018
your pillow party planner, Suzanne

Back in the fall, I invited my ELAR teachers to an after school pajama party.  They could change into PJs, there was pizza, and we had about 45 minutes of serious synthesis.  What's not to love?!

Last year, I told myself that I wanted our campus to create a local scoring guide.  We get the scored essays back, so it takes the guess work out of it!  

About a week before, I placed an invitation and an article in teacher's boxes.  They were asked to read the article...this article- it's fantastic...and come with an ah-ha! or wondering to share.  We started with a brief discussion of the article.  

After that, I presented a copy of the rubric and we quickly discussed some characteristics of each score point.  (I might not always include this discussion, but I included non-STAAR ELAR teachers from our vertical team.  It was time well spent for us.)  I used a student friendly rubric that sticks with closely with the wording of the STAAR rubric.

From there, we split into groups.  I wrote slumber party-themed words on the corner of each rubric.  This gave me a random grouping and fit with the theme.  (You can do this with picture, a mix of words and pictures, or stickers.)  It's "random", but you can always exercise a little strategy when passing them out.  

*BEFORE THE PARTY*, I printed our PDF of released essays.  Our campus is not huge, so I had about 75 4th grade expository essays.  I chose 3 or 4 essays that were very characteristic of the score they received or that did something that I wanted to talk about. I also only worked with 2s, 4s, 6s, and 8s-- true 1s, 2s, 3s, 4s.  This eliminates some of the "high 3"/"low 3" discussion.  So walking into the party, I had a groups of essays for each score point ready.

Groups were given a stack of essays at the same score point.  I wanted them to become experts in that score point and defining characteristics that gave it away.  You could give them a mixed group of essays and it would work well too.  

At the bottom of each essay, teachers wrote a brief synopsis explaining how this essay fit within that score point and citing specific examples.  I was running short on time because I was not willing to face the firing squad for going over my time in an after school meeting, so this piece took a hit.  To be done well, I would give teachers about 20 minutes to read and write.  

We came back as a group and shared the defining characteristics of their given score point.  This conversation was brief, but I then had teachers meet in heterogeneous groups to share their take-aways from the essays they studied.  

I saw extreme benefit in this process!  I intend to do it annually with our new batches of essays.  This year felt rushed, so I want to find a time next year where we can delve deeper into the rubric and essays.  Any suggestions are welcome!

You are a campus leader (if you are reading this, yes you are...don't argue with me!), I would love to see you use and improve the ideas I shared here.  We have got to be more disciplined in reflection in order to inform our decisions and instruction.  

Something fun for the new year, let's use the hashtag #curlyclassroom to share what we're doing in our classrooms and campuses! After all, that's the whole purpose of this blog.  To share good stuff because instruction (especially reading and writing instruction) is hard!  Together we can make it a little easier!

Be sure to follow us on Twitter (@curlyclassroom) and Instagram (@thecurlyclassroom) so we can see all the awesome things you're doing!!

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