When I returned to the U.S. in 2013 after teaching ESL for three years at the Bavarian International School in Germany, I began to hear the term close reading in every school I consulted with. I noticed many new books with close reading in the title; I heard teachers tell students, “Let’s do a close reading of this text”; and I saw sessions about close reading at every conference I attended. I felt completely out of the loop and wondered what I’d missed while I was out of the country. So I began to read about close reading, talk to my colleagues about the process, analyze the Common Core State Standards, and attend workshops on the topic.
“Mom, I got a 96 on the math test. What does that mean?” I had to laugh at my daughter’s innocent reaction to traditional grades and percentages after 11 years of schooling with alternative forms of feedback. Entering a traditional U.S. public school in Grade 10 gave her a bit of culture shock. Traditional quizzes, end of unit tests, homework for points, and percentage based grading policies were completely foreign to her.
I’m not a gamer. I’ve seen kids and peers play Nintendo, X-box, and Candy Crush, but these electronic games have never enticed me. I’d much rather play a board game like Clue, a word game like Scrabble, or a card game like Rummy. I spend enough time using the computer and my phone for work and personal connections that I’ve never wanted to add another reason to be in front of a screen.
Laughter echoed through the halls of the school as I walked toward the Fluency Fast Advanced Spanish class in Denver, Colorado earlier this month. My excitement for participating in this class grew with each step, as did my concerns that my intermediate Spanish level would not be sufficient. I knew the class was designed to give non-native Spanish teachers more confidence and fluency, as well as experience with the TPRS® language teaching method. Although I am not a Spanish teacher, I trusted the instructor, Jason Fritze, and the method enough to take on the challenge.
Teacher effectiveness rubrics, teacher evaluation systems, multiple books and many professional development workshops attempt to answer the question: What makes an effective teacher? The recent push in the US to evaluate teachers based on strict rubrics and students’ results on standardized test scores has challenged me to think differently about the answers to this question.
Reviewing the table of questions and answers inspired the teacher to make changes in his class that will hopefully make a significant positive impact on students’ ability to express their ideas clearly and justify their thinking. What do the questions and answers in your classroom reveal about students’ thinking and understanding?