authentic learning, Be the change, Personalized Learning, Reading, Reading Identity

Join the Global EdTech Academy – 14 Weeks of Free PD

Pernille Ripp Speaker GETA Card.png

This morning I received my final email alerting me that every single education event I am supposed to have been a part of between March and September have all been cancelled. While it was expected, my heart still sank for so many reasons. When I interact with others, I learn so much. When we learn together, we all grow. When we come together and share not just our accomplishments but also our moments of failure, we can continue on the path of learning we have been on for so long, together. I know I grow further when I walk with others and get to question my own practices.

So imagine my sheer delight at being invited to be a part of an incredible collaboration between CUE and Microsoft that will run for the next 14 weeks featuring global education speakers on a wide range of topics. Need ed-tech inspiration; there are sessions for you, need to further your pedagogy; there are sessions for you. There are so many sessions and so many speakers available, it is pretty amazing.

The 14 weeks will feature hour-long sessions from many international presenters at many different times, as well as master classes where you can go deeper into a topic with the speakers offering it (I am hoping to learn from Ken Shelton’s!). There will also be weekly office hours offered, a chance for you to collaborate and brainstorm with the speakers that you choose to work with. Bring your questions, they will try to help. The sessions will be live, but they will also be archived to be accessed later if you want. This is definitely helpful when it comes to navigating time zones.

But did I mention the best part? It’s free. Yup; FREE.

So how do you get signed up, well, this week’s sessions can be seen right now – note, that these are not the only speakers involved, just this week’s.

And what will I be doing? I will be offering three separate master classes, with one being repeated, the first one kicking off tomorrow at 11 AM PST! Join me there if you can or join me in the future when it works for you.

DateTimeSession Title
5/1911 AM PST/1 PM CSTMasterclass – How Do We Learn Best – Embedding Authentic Choice and Voice: Part 1
5/2611 AM PST/1 PM CSTMasterclass – How Do We Learn Best – Embedding Authentic Choice and Voice: Part 2
6/211 AM PST/1 PM CSTMasterclass – How Do We Learn Best – Embedding Authentic Choice and Voice: Part 3
6/107 AM/9 AM PSTMasterclass – Reimagining School Part 1
6/177 AM/9 AM PSTMasterclass – Reimagining School Part 2
6/247 AM/9 AM PSTMasterclass – Reimagining School Part 3
7/231 PM CSTPassionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child
7/291 PM CSTMasterclass: But They Still Hate Reading – Establishing and Cultivating a Personal Reading Identity Part 1
8/61 PM CSTMasterclass: But They Still Hate Reading – Establishing and Cultivating a Personal Reading Identity Part 2
8/131 PM CSTMasterclass: But They Still Hate Reading – Establishing and Cultivating a Personal Reading Identity Part 3
8/177 AM/9 AM PSTPassionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child
8/247 AM/9 AM PSTMasterclass: But They Still Hate Reading – Establishing and Cultivating a Personal Reading Identity Part 1
8/317 AM/9 AM PSTMasterclass: But They Still Hate Reading – Establishing and Cultivating a Personal Reading Identity Part 2
9/86 AM/8 AM PSTMasterclass: But They Still Hate Reading – Establishing and Cultivating a Personal Reading Identity Part 3

Thank you Microsoft and Cue for offering up this partnership and including me in it. I can’t wait to learn with all of you.

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page. I offer up workshops and presentations both live and virtually that are based on the work I do with my own students as we pursue engaging, personalized, and independent learning opportunities. I also write more about the design of my classroom and how to give control of their learning back to students in my first book, Passionate Learners.

authentic learning, learning, Personalized Learning

Great TED Talks to Use With Middle Schoolers and Other Ages Too

I wanted to immerse my students in thought provoking TED Talks and videos as one of the new options in our final round of “Choose Your Own Learning.” Watching these videos will allow us to continue the work we have done all year on expanding our world view and discussing “Whose Voices are Missing?” as well as allow students for a chance to work on their analysis skills. Students will watch one video a day and then either write or record a response to the video. While I wanted to draw in specific non-fiction skills, I also just wanted students to have a chance to connect and respond. To see my very much work in progress assignment, go here.

While I had several videos I knew I wanted to use with students, I also knew that there were many I had not yet discovered. Enter my incredible Twitter network. I sent out the following Tweet

87 replies later, still growing, and I could not believe once again the treasure trove of incredible videos that were suggested. My gratitude runs deep and so does my penchant for sharing, so without further ado, here are many of the replies given to me with thanks to those who shared them. I am so grateful for all of you. Some are not here that were suggested more than once. I have also ones that we have used throughout the year that have started great discussion in our classroom.

Jamila Lyiscott – Three Ways to Speak English

Jamila Lyiscott is a “tri-tongued orator;” in her powerful spoken-word essay “Broken English,” she celebrates — and challenges — the three distinct flavors of English she speaks with her friends, in the classroom and with her parents. As she explores the complicated history and present-day identity that each language represents, she unpacks what it means to be “articulate.”

NY Times – Growing Up Black in America

In this short documentary, young black men explain the particular challenges they face growing up in America.

Matthew Carter – Your Story is Your Superpower

When two teenage boys robbed Matthew at gunpoint almost 11 years ago in front of his own home, he spent many years being fearful of teenagers and feeling haunted by the memory of a cold gun barrel pressed against his head. He realized that living in a state of constant fear prevented him from living his best life, so he worked tirelessly to change his mindset and learn the difference between things he could control and things he couldn’t. Decisions based in fear often result in not being in alignment with our true selves. At its core, the majority of problems seen in most media outlets are stemmed in the emotion of fear. A child is not born afraid. These emotions are imposed on them from another’s fears or caused by life experiences which results in us building both emotional and physical walls to keep out what we’re so fearful of. Being in the “flow” of life allows our natural state of being – love – to be the driving force in our decision making. Matthew works at The Ohio State University and is working to follow his life’s purpose. He has survived two instances of gun violence. He visits schools throughout Ohio and across the country to share his story – a message of hope and perseverance.

Prince EA – What is School For?

Kandice Sumner – How America’s Public Schools Keep Kids in Poverty

Why should a good education be exclusive to rich kids? Schools in low-income neighborhoods across the US, specifically in communities of color, lack resources that are standard at wealthier schools — things like musical instruments, new books, healthy school lunches and soccer fields — and this has a real impact on the potential of students. Kandice Sumner sees the disparity every day in her classroom in Boston. In this inspiring talk, she asks us to face facts — and change them.

Noah Tavlin – How False News Can Spread

Dive into the phenomenon known as circular reporting and how it contributes to the spread of false news and misinformation.

Stephanie Buari – How Fake News Does Real Harm

On April 14, 2014, the terrorist organization Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok, Nigeria. Around the world, the crime became epitomized by the slogan #BringBackOurGirls — but in Nigeria, government officials called the crime a hoax, confusing and delaying efforts to rescue the girls. In this powerful talk, journalist Stephanie Busari points to the Chibok tragedy to explain the deadly danger of fake news and what we can do to stop it.

Asha de Vos – Why You Should Care About Whale Poo

Whales have a surprising and important job, says marine biologist Asha de Vos: these massive creatures are ecosystem engineers, keeping the oceans healthy and stable by … well, by pooping, for a start. Learn from de Vos, a TED Fellow, about the undervalued work that whales do to help maintain the stability and health of our seas — and our planet.

Jarrett J – Krosoczka – Why Lunch Ladies are Heroes

Children’s book author Jarrett Krosoczka shares the origins of the Lunch Lady graphic novel series, in which undercover school heroes serve lunch…and justice! His new project, School Lunch Hero Day, reveals how cafeteria lunch staff provide more than food, and illustrates how powerful a thank you can be.

Gene Luen Yang – Comics Belong in the Classroom

Comic books and graphic novels belong in every teacher’s toolkit, says cartoonist and educator Gene Luen Yang. Set against the backdrop of his own witty, colorful drawings, Yang explores the history of comics in American education — and reveals some unexpected insights about their potential for helping kids learn.

McKenna Pope – Want to Be an Activist? Start with Your Toys.

McKenna Pope’s younger brother loved to cook, but he worried about using an Easy-Bake Oven — because it was a toy for girls. So at age 13, Pope started an online petition for the American toy company Hasbro to change the pink-and-purple color scheme on the classic toy and incorporate boys into its TV marketing. In a heartening talk, Pope makes the case for gender-neutral toys and gives a rousing call to action to all kids who feel powerless.

Zak Ebrahim – I am the Son of a Terrorist. Here’s How I Chose Peace.

If you’re raised on dogma and hate, can you choose a different path? Zak Ebrahim was just seven years old when his father helped plan the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. His story is shocking, powerful and, ultimately, inspiring.

Kakenya Ntaiya – A Girl Who Demanded School

Kakenya Ntaiya made a deal with her father: She would undergo a traditional Maasai rite of passage, female circumcision, if he would let her go to high school. Ntaiya tells the fearless story of continuing on to college, and of working with her village elders to build a school for girls in her community, changing the destiny of 125 young women.

Shabana Basij-Raiskh – Dare to Educate Afghan Girls

Imagine a country where girls must sneak out to go to school, with deadly consequences if they get caught learning. This was Afghanistan under the Taliban, and traces of that danger remain today. 22-year-old Shabana Basij-Rasikh runs a school for girls in Afghanistan. She celebrates the power of a family’s decision to believe in their daughters — and tells the story of one brave father who stood up to local threats.

Monique W. Morris – Why Black Girls Are Targeted for Punishment in Schools – And How to Change That

Around the world, black girls are being pushed out of schools because of policies that target them for punishment, says author and social justice scholar Monique W. Morris. The result: countless girls are forced into unsafe futures with restricted opportunities. How can we put an end to this crisis? In an impassioned talk, Morris uncovers the causes of “pushout” and shows how we can work to turn all schools into spaces where black girls can heal and thrive.

India Hawkins – Facing the Real Me: Looking in the Mirror with Natural Hair

Growing up, 18-year-old India Hawkins was taught how to maintain her hair, but not how to love her hair. A tangled history of political oppression, irresponsible advertising and unattainable beauty standards meant she spent her childhood using chemicals, heat, and protective styling to “manage” the hair that grew naturally from her head. Until one day India decided to “go natural.” But she was in for a shock; India never knew how much she was hiding behind her hair, until the day she cut it all off. In her Talk, India describes the emotional sometimes difficult journey that led her to love her hair.

Haaziq Kazi – Cleaning Our Oceans

When 11-year-old Haaziq Kazi first prototyped his invention to clean plastic from the surface of the ocean, it lasted for about 7 seconds before coming apart in his bathtub. But that didn’t stop him! In fact, his invention just got better and more elaborate. In this Talk, Haaziq’s enthusiasm and creativity remind us that, when it comes to solving some of earth’s biggest problems, our imagination may be one of our greatest assets.

Susan Cain – The Power of Introverts

In a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. But, as Susan Cain argues in this passionate talk, introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.

Drew Dudley – Everyday Leadership

We have all changed someone’s life — usually without even realizing it. In this funny talk, Drew Dudley calls on all of us to celebrate leadership as the everyday act of improving each other’s lives.

Matt Cutts – Try Something New for 30 Days

Is there something you’ve always meant to do, wanted to do, but just … haven’t? Matt Cutts suggests: Try it for 30 days. This short, lighthearted talk offers a neat way to think about setting and achieving goals.

Shane Koyczan – To This Day

By turn hilarious and haunting, poet Shane Koyczan puts his finger on the pulse of what it’s like to be young and … different. “To This Day,” his spoken-word poem about bullying, captivated millions as a viral video (created, crowd-source style, by 80 animators). Here, he gives a glorious, live reprise with backstory and violin accompaniment by Hannah Epperson.

Ash Beckham – We’re All Hiding Something

In this touching talk, Ash Beckham offers a fresh approach to empathy and openness. It starts with understanding that everyone, at some point in their life, has experienced hardship. The only way out, says Beckham, is to open the door and step out of your closet.

Proud to Be (Mascots)

Watch the #BigGame commercial the NFL would never air.

Indigenous in New York

Where does history begin? New York’s infamous Columbus Circle memorializes the founding of a new world and perpetuates the myth of American exceptionalism, while denying the violence against Indigenous people—a will to ignorance. With a crew of Natives, we asked over 100 New Yorkers to identify the “origin” of our Native models to understand where contemporary Native lives exist in popular consciousness. The indigenous story is more accurate and a story that we all deserve to hear. Let us begin to write and speak a healing narrative that honors Native people, let us get to know each other, let us hug each other—you can and should #HugANative today.

Ron Finlay: A Guerrilla Gardener in South Central LA

Ron Finley plants vegetable gardens in South Central LA — in abandoned lots, traffic medians, along the curbs. Why? For fun, for defiance, for beauty and to offer some alternative to fast food in a community where “the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys.”

Sugatra Mitra – Kids Can Teach Themselves

Speaking at LIFT 2007, Sugata Mitra talks about his Hole in the Wall project. Young kids in this project figured out how to use a PC on their own — and then taught other kids. He asks, what else can children teach themselves?

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – The Danger of a Single Story

Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.

Ismael Nazario – What I Learned as a Kid in Jail

As a teenager, Ismael Nazario was sent to New York’s Rikers Island jail, where he spent 300 days in solitary confinement — all before he was ever convicted of a crime. Now as a prison reform advocate he works to change the culture of American jails and prisons, where young people are frequently subjected to violence beyond imagination. Nazario tells his chilling story and suggests ways to help, rather than harm, teens in jail.

Joy Buolamwini – How I’m Fighting Bias in Algorithms

MIT grad student Joy Buolamwini was working with facial analysis software when she noticed a problem: the software didn’t detect her face — because the people who coded the algorithm hadn’t taught it to identify a broad range of skin tones and facial structures. Now she’s on a mission to fight bias in machine learning, a phenomenon she calls the “coded gaze.” It’s an eye-opening talk about the need for accountability in coding … as algorithms take over more and more aspects of our lives.

Stacy Smith – The Data Behind Hollywood’s Sexism

Where are all the women and girls in film? Social scientist Stacy Smith analyzes how the media underrepresents and portrays women — and the potentially destructive effects those portrayals have on viewers. She shares hard data behind gender bias in Hollywood, where on-screen males outnumber females three to one (and behind-the-camera workers fare even worse.)

George Takei – Why I Love a Country that Once Betrayed Me

When he was a child, George Takei and his family were forced into an internment camp for Japanese-Americans, as a “security” measure during World War II. 70 years later, Takei looks back at how the camp shaped his surprising, personal definition of patriotism and democracy.

Judge Helen Whitener – Claiming Your Identity

Michaela Horn – Teen Stress From a Teen Perspective

A simple experiment to discover what stresses high school students leads to disturbing results that soon become a story on their own. Michaela Horn shares her journey, results, and the alarming turn of events that unfolded.

Mac Barnett – Why a Good Book is a Secret Door

Childhood is surreal. Why shouldn’t children’s books be? In this whimsical talk, award-winning author Mac Barnett speaks about writing that escapes the page, art as a doorway to wonder — and what real kids say to a fictional whale.

Brene Brown – The Power of Vulnerability

Brené Brown studies human connection — our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. A talk to share.

Kids on Race “Because I’m Latino, I Can’t Have Money?”

Hear some straight talk from middle-schoolers about race and what it’s like to grow up in such racially charged times.

Michael Jr – Know Your Why

Comedian Michael Jr. goes Off the Cuff at live comedy show and uses this completely improv moment as a great illustration for knowing your why and purpose in life. See what happens after he asks if he can sing…

Charlie Todd – The Shared Experience of Absurdity

Charlie Todd causes bizarre, hilarious, and unexpected public scenes: Seventy synchronized dancers in storefront windows, “ghostbusters” running through the New York Public Library, and the annual no-pants subway ride. His group, Improv Everywhere, uses these scenes to bring people together.

Phil Hansen – Embrace the Shake

In art school, Phil Hansen developed an unruly tremor in his hand that kept him from creating the pointillist drawings he loved. Hansen was devastated, floating without a sense of purpose. Until a neurologist made a simple suggestion: embrace this limitation … and transcend it.

Ed Thomas – What Will Be Your Legacy?

A short documentary for the 2010 ESPN Espy awards. This year the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage was presented to Ed Thomas and family of Parkersburg, Iowa.

Derek Sivers – How to Start a Movement

With help from some surprising footage, Derek Sivers explains how movements really get started. (Hint: it takes two.)

Maya Penn – Meet a Young Entrepreneur, Cartoonist, Designer, Activist

Maya Penn started her first company when she was 8 years old, and thinks deeply about how to be responsible both to her customers and to the planet. She shares her story — and some animations, and some designs, and some infectious energy — in this charming talk.

Adora Svitak – What Adults Can Learn From Kids

Child prodigy Adora Svitak says the world needs “childish” thinking: bold ideas, wild creativity and especially optimism. Kids’ big dreams deserve high expectations, she says, starting with grownups’ willingness to learn from children as much as to teach.

Rita Pierson – Every Kid Needs a Champion

Rita Pierson, a teacher for 40 years, once heard a colleague say, “They don’t pay me to like the kids.” Her response: “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.'” A rousing call to educators to believe in their students and actually connect with them on a real, human, personal level.

Richard Turere – My Invention that Made Peace With Lions

In the Maasai community where Richard Turere lives with his family, cattle are all-important. But lion attacks were growing more frequent. In this short, inspiring talk, the young inventor shares the solar-powered solution he designed to safely scare the lions away.

Fernando Pérez – The Importance of Bearing Witness

The importance of listening, and validating the stories of others, is demonstrated through an intimate look at Pérez’s great-grandmother who emigrated from Mexico to the U.S. and moved to Los Angeles in the 1920s

Paul Nicklen – Animal Tales from Icy Wonderlands

Diving under the Antarctic ice to get close to the much-feared leopard seal, photographer Paul Nicklen found an extraordinary new friend. Share his hilarious, passionate stories of the polar wonderlands, illustrated by glorious images of the animals who live on and under the ice.

Simon Sinek – Start With Why

Cole Plante – Getting Started as a DJ

DJ and producer Cole Plante is only 17 years old, but he’s already worked alongside industry superstars Skrillex, Avicii and Major Lazer (to name just a few). In this combination talk and DJ set, Plante shows off his mixing magic and gives tips to aspiring DJs.

CM Hall – Social Justice…In a Cookie

The social justice issue no one is talking about…

I, Pencil: The Movie

Beau Lotto & Amy O’Toole – Science is for Everyone

What do science and play have in common? Neuroscientist Beau Lotto thinks all people (kids included) should participate in science and, through the process of discovery, change perceptions. He’s seconded by 12-year-old Amy O’Toole, who, along with 25 of her classmates, published the first peer-reviewed article by schoolchildren, about the Blackawton bees project. It starts: “Once upon a time … “

Joseph Lekuton – A Parable for Kenya

Joseph Lekuton, a member of parliament in Kenya, starts with the story of his remarkable education, then offers a parable of how Africa can grow. His message of hope has never been more relevant.

Vivian Connell – The Monti Video Series

After learning of her terminal illness, Vivian Connell sets out to take her ESL class to the Holocaust Museum.

Suki Kim – This is What It’s Like to Go Undercover in North Korea

For six months, Suki Kim worked as an English teacher at an elite school for North Korea’s future leaders — while writing a book on one of the world’s most repressive regimes. As she helped her students grapple with concepts like “truth” and “critical thinking,” she came to wonder: Was teaching these students to seek the truth putting them in peril? 

Kelvin Doe – Building a Radio

THNKR is proud to present the next chapter in the riveting story of 15-Year-Old engineering prodigy Kelvin Doe. THNKR has exclusive access to Kelvin as he returns to the United States to deliver a riveting talk at TedxTeen and grapples with the impact of newfound YouTube superstardom.

Kevin Alloca – Why Videos Go Viral

Kevin Allocca is YouTube’s Head of Culture & Trends, and he has deep thoughts about silly web video. In this talk from TEDYouth, he shares the 4 reasons a video goes viral.

Pamela Meyer – How to Spot a Liar

On any given day we’re lied to from 10 to 200 times, and the clues to detect those lies can be subtle and counter-intuitive. Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting, shows the manners and “hotspots” used by those trained to recognize deception — and she argues honesty is a value worth preserving.

Ann Makosinski – Why I Don’t Use a Smartphone

Imagine all the things you can do…off of your phone. Parents be warned.

Cameron Russell – Looks Aren’t Everything. Believe Me, I’m a Model

Cameron Russell admits she won “a genetic lottery”: she’s tall, pretty and an underwear model. But don’t judge her by her looks. In this fearless talk, she takes a wry look at the industry that had her looking highly seductive at barely 16 years old.

Grace Lin – The Windows and Mirrors of Your Child’s Bookshelf

What your child reads sets the path for their own self-worth as well as how they see others. Grace Lin is a children’s book author/illustrator whose book, “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon,” received the Newbery Book Honor. She shows how the books that are not on your child’s bookshelf are just as important as those that are.

Clint Smith – The Danger of Silence

“We spend so much time listening to the things people are saying that we rarely pay attention to the things they don’t,” says poet and teacher Clint Smith. A short, powerful piece from the heart, about finding the courage to speak up against ignorance and injustice.

Lindsay Malloy – Why Teens Confess to Crimes They Didn’t Commit

Why do juveniles falsely confess to crimes? What makes them more vulnerable than adults to this shocking, counterintuitive phenomenon? Through the lens of Brendan Dassey’s interrogation and confession (as featured in Netflix’s “Making a Murderer” documentary), developmental psychology professor and researcher Lindsay Malloy breaks down the science underlying false confessions and calls for change in the way kids are treated by a legal system designed for adults.

Laura Rovner – what Happens to People in Solitary Confinement

Imagine living with no significant human contact for years, even decades, in a cell the size of a small bathroom. This is the reality for those in long-term solitary confinement, a form of imprisonment regularly imposed in US prisons. In this eye-opening talk, civil rights lawyer Laura Rovner takes us to ADX, the US federal government’s only supermax prison, and describes the dehumanizing effects of long-term solitude on the mind, personality and sense of self. What emerges is an urgent case for abolishing solitary confinement — and evidence for how our tax dollars, public safety and values are implicated in it. “Prisons are administered in our name and on our behalf,” she says. “We have an obligation to bear witness.”

Aaron Huey – America’s Native Prisoner of War Camps

Aaron Huey’s effort to photograph poverty in America led him to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where the struggle of the native Lakota people — appalling, and largely ignored — compelled him to refocus. Five years of work later, his haunting photos intertwine with a shocking history lesson.

Bryan Stevenson – We Need to Talk about an Injustice

In an engaging and personal talk — with cameo appearances from his grandmother and Rosa Parks — human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson shares some hard truths about America’s justice system, starting with a massive imbalance along racial lines: a third of the country’s black male population has been incarcerated at some point in their lives. These issues, which are wrapped up in America’s unexamined history, are rarely talked about with this level of candor, insight and persuasiveness.

David R. Williams – How Racism Makes Us Sick

Why does race matter so profoundly for health? David R. Williams developed a scale to measure the impact of discrimination on well-being, going beyond traditional measures like income and education to reveal how factors like implicit bias, residential segregation and negative stereotypes create and sustain inequality. In this eye-opening talk, Williams presents evidence for how racism is producing a rigged system — and offers hopeful examples of programs across the US that are working to dismantle discrimination.

I know there are many more incredible videos out there to use, I know I discover new ones every year and have missed many here. So leave your favorite in the comments, and again, thank you to all who contributed to this list.

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page. I offer up workshops and presentations both live and virtually that are based on the work I do with my own students as we pursue engaging, personalized, and independent learning opportunities. I also write more about the design of my classroom and how to give control of their learning back to students in my first book, Passionate Learners.

authentic learning, Be the change, being a teacher, Personalized Learning, student choice, student driven, students choice

Choose Your Own Learning – 5 Opportunities for Learning as We Continue Emergency Remote Teaching

Note: Yes, you may adapt this to fit your own needs, please just make a copy because these are my original documents. Please give credit and also do not adapt it to sell it online or in any way benefit financially beyond your salary as an educator.

We got the the news yesterday; school will be physically shut until the end of the year. The emergency remote teaching will continue. I cried when I heard. I know it seems so silly in the grand scheme of things but I miss our community so much, we didn’t say goodbye, I worry about them, the work I am assigning and everything in between. While the year is not over, it still feels so final. Who would have thought that this was it when I told them to take care of themselves and have a great weekend on March 13th?

And yet, we have also prepared for this type of teaching and learning without even knowing it would be needed. As detailed in my book, Passionate Learners, we pursue independent choice-based learning in almost everything we do all year, not by happenstance but by design. We focus on creating opportunities for students to be independent while figuring out how they learn best as individuals. We focus on choice, personalization, and giving tools for students to speak up for their needs. We do self-paced learning throughout the year and have introduced tools to them as we need. We didn’t plan to finish the year apart, but we are as ready as we could be.

The first round of choose your own learning was fairly successful. Many students appreciated the choices, many students enjoyed the opportunity to pick something that would fit their own learning needs right now and then pursue it with different levels of support from their teachers. Many students clearly showed off their learning and found it worthwhile, fairly stress free, and interesting.

As I would in our classroom, I asked for their feedback before kicking off this second round and tweaked a few things. I also added a new option for them; the daily writing exercises as a way for students to flex their writing muscles without worrying about a long piece. I added better instructions a few places, added in a check-in virtually for others. I am sure there is still much that can be done.

This second round will last a little more than two weeks hopefully. If we need to adjust we will, if we need to change it mid-flight we will. And yes, I share so that perhaps others can use it, please adapt it to your own students as this is made for the ones I know. I will try to give links here to everything that I can.

I welcome the students every time with a slide show posted in Classroom. This is where they will see me welcome them back in a video, see the choices and also make their selection on the survey toward the end. To see the slide show, go here it is short and to the point on purpose.

Three out of the five projects require a weekly meeting with me, students are simply asked to sign up on a form that looks like this.

So what are the choices?

Choice 1:  The independent reading adventure.  

On this adventure, you will use a self-chosen fiction chapter book to further your reading analysis skills.  Read and either record or write answers to questions that show your deeper understanding of your chosen text.

Students are given a choice board where they select 4 “boxes” to do with their book. Every box has a video to help them in case they are stuck. These are mostly lessons from me so if you use this, i would encourage you to make your own lessons for your students using language that is familiar to them.

This used to be a much more art-based project, I modified it to fit a written response, only because I am not sure if kids will have access to art materials. However, kids can still choose to illustrate and use art to answer their selected questions. All of the questions are review, so we have done this work before but they get to practice by applying it to a new book. This was inspired by the one-pager project, my colleague does and I am grateful for her work. 

This required more independence from students then I think some realized and so a tweak I have made for the second round is that students need to check in once a week with me to discuss their progress.

To see the overall directions for teachers and for students to make their choice, go here

To see what students are given to do the project, go here

Choice 2:  The picture book read aloud.

On this adventure, you will listen to a picture book being read aloud every day by lots of fantastic people.  Then you will write or record a response to a specific question every day.

This was a popular choice the first round because a lot of students felt it was easy to manage; listen to one picture book read aloud, write a response a day. I love it because it honors the picture book read alouds we have done throughout the year, and it allowed me to gather fantastic picture book read alouds that have been shared. I tried to make sure that all choices here are following fair use and copyright guidelines as I do not want to harm any of the creators whose work is being shared. Sample questions can be seen below and the rest is found in the links.

To see the overall directions for teachers and for students to make their choice, go here

To see what students are given to do the project, go here

Choice 3:  The Inquiry Project.

Ever wanted a chance to just pursue a major topic of interest for yourself?  Now is the chance, craft a learning plan for yourself with Mrs. Ripp, learn more about your topic and then showcase your learning to our community. The students who chose this in the first round, really liked it and said this was easier than they thought, so don’t be afraid to try this project.

Project requirement:  

  1. Identify an inquiry question you want to pursue – remember, inquiry questions are not straight “Googleable,” they will need learning from many sources or experiences to answer.
  2. Fill in the learning plan to show what you will be learning and how you will challenge yourself.
  3. Do the learning on your own, checking in with Mrs. Ripp every week virtually.
  4. Create a product of your choice to showcase your learning – you have many choices of what to create.

Independence expectations:

  1. This is a project that will require discipline and focus. Because you will not be creating a day-to-day product, you are expected to produce a larger final learning product to share your learning.
  2. The inquiry question you choose to pursue can be one that you already know something about or one that you know very little about, it is up to you. 
  3. There should be NEW learning though that happens throughout, not just a summary of what you already knew.

Students will be asked to do a learning plan, so I can support them if they choose this project. It looks like this:

We have done two other inquiry projects so I have seen students navigate this before, I am hoping this will give kids a chance to explore what they would like to explore rather than all of their learning choices being dictated by adults. The few students that chose this the first round loved it and I hope their enthusiam gives other students a chance to try it as well. It was wonderful to see students immersed in learning that they chose again and also thinking about how to showcase it in a way that they may not have used before.

To see the overall directions for teachers and for students to make their choice, go here

To see what students are given to do the project, go here

Choice 4:  The Creative Writing Project.

Have a story to tell?  Here is your chance to use dedicated time in English to pursue your own writing craft and put some of those sweet writing moves you have been working on into action. Decide how you want to grow as a writer, discuss with Mrs. Ripp, and then start writing.  Teaching points will be based on what you are hoping to work on. 

The few kids that chose this loved it. They loved the choice in lessons and the feedback that allowed them to write something meaningful to them. To help with lessons, students are given a video bank of lessons that they can choose from every day, as well as the option to find their own lessons and post those. They are asked to create a daily writing lesson plan so that I can see they are working. The once a week check-ins worked well as well because they were just like the writing conferences we would have in class.

Project requirement:  

  1. Identify your areas of strength as a writer – what do you already do well in writing?
  2. Identify areas of growth in writing for yourself – how will this project challenge you?
  3. Actively work on those areas of growth through independent study of craft techniques and conferring with Mrs. Ripp.
  4. Choices:
    • If a mini-story:  Produce 2 or more pages of a full story.
    • If a longer story (part of a larger piece):  Produce a scene or chapter from beginning to end.
    • If poetry:  5 or more poems or a short story in prose form.
    • If a graphic novel or comic strips:  Discuss with Mrs. Ripp

Schedule a conferring time with Mrs. Ripp each week – that is twice over the two weeks.  These will be via Google Meet.

Independence expectations:

  1. This is a project that will require a lot of discipline and focus. Because you will not be creating a day-to-day product, you are expected to produce a larger final learning product to share your learning.
  2. The creative writing project you pursue should be meaningful to you and show growth in your writing tools.
  3. There should be NEW learning that happens throughout, not just a summary of the skills you already have.
  4. You will need to fill in a  learning plan and submit it to Mrs. Ripp for approval.  It will be posted in Classroom.

Those who chose it loved it but some chose to do poetry rather than story writing so I added some guidelines for that. I also added videos that were shared by students to our daily lesson video bank.

To see the overall directions for teachers and for students to make their choice, go here

To see what students are given to do the project, go here

Choice 5:  Daily Writing Exercises.

Have you wanted to expand your writing techniques and craft?  Here is your chance to be introduced to a new writing exercise a day and then trying it in your own writing.   

Project requirement:  

  1. Watch the video posted for each day (preview in the table below)
  2. Respond either in typing in the box or by submitting an image of your writer’s notebook if you are handwriting. 
  3. You will be given a separate document to record your answer in, this is what you will turn in.

I spent time pulling together ideas for stand alone writing exercises and am incredibly grateful to Amy Ludwig VanDerWater for sharing her daily writing exercises, as well as other resources out there.

I wanted this opportunity to be a way for kids to just have some fun with writing and also have a project that mirrored the manageability of the picture book choice, allowing them do one thing a day and not having to attend to a longer project. I am excited to see how this one will play out.

To see the overall directions for teachers and for students to make their choice, go here

To see what students are given to do the project, go here

A note on choices: Students will indicate their choice on the survey form – this will offer me a pathway forward so that I can send the proper resources to them. Because Google Classroom allows me to only give certain things to certain kids, I can easily provide them the next steps in their choices such as learning plans or other tools. I am encouraging them to choose something else than what they did the first round but have already discussed with one student who would like to continue working on their story. There will be exceptions made as needed in order to make sure this is meaningful to all kids.

A note on grades: You may have noticed that these projects encompass different standards, this is okay because both of these. rounds will be counted toward the same standards. I have also decided that if a child shows any kind of effort then it is an automatic “3” or higher. This is not the time for me to do deep assessment because all I am assessing then is their access to the learning, it is not fair to students, there are way too many inequities playing out for me to pretend that grades would be fair or objective. As far as if a child does not “show effort” then I will be reaching out and discussing with them.

A note on support: I will be individualizing support for my students. For some this will mean just check-ins, for others it will be sharing further resources for their learning. Most kids were successful the first round, some were not, so I will adjust support accordingly. I also have support from an incredible special ed teacher, as well as para educators that I can ask for help from.

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page. I offer up workshops and presentations both live and virtually that are based on the work I do with my own students as we pursue engaging, personalized, and independent learning opportunities. I also write more about the design of my classroom and how to give control of their learning back to students in my first book, Passionate Learners.

authentic learning, being a teacher, choices, Personalized Learning

Choose Your Own Learning – 4 Learning Options As We Go Virtual/Online

Note: This has been updated to have 5 options in the second round as well as to clear up any confusion for students, please see this post to see the updated version. The final round had 9 different options and the slides for that can be seen here.

Yes, you may adapt this to fit your own needs, but please give credit and also do not adapt it to sell it online or in any way benefit financially beyond your salary as an educator.

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned how I wanted to honor the work we have already been doing in our community as we switch to virtual learning starting next week. Because this shut down of our school does not come with an end date at the moment, I am pacing out instruction by weeks rather than days. If we go back sooner than I expect, which would be incredible, then I can switch this particular project to in-class as well.

We were also given guidelines yesterday from our district; plan for about 35 minutes of learning time for each class, I have a double block but am trying to keep it to around that time still, instead with the extra time, I am hoping kids will find the time to read. Kids are not expected to sit in front of a computer all day. We have guidelines in place for making sure kids are connected to us with virtual office hours. We also need to check in if we are not hearing from kids or seeing them do any learning. We are trying to think of things we cannot even think of yet.

We are trying to keep it relevant, accessible, and not overwhelming.

We are trying to help kids continue their learning even when we are not right there with them.

So, for our students, I have created a “Choose Your Own Learning” two-week exploration. This, hopefully, continues the honoring of their individual needs and desires, while still helping them with their growth. There are different levels of independence for them to choose from, as well as choices for recording or writing their responses. There are different levels of teaching involved that will unfold once they select their choice.

From a longer letter welcoming kids into our project

Choice 1:  The independent reading adventure.  

On this adventure, you will use a self-chosen fiction chapter book to further your reading analysis skills.  Read and either record or write answers to questions that show your deeper understanding of your chosen text.

The connect-four template we use for this.

This used to be a much more art-based project, I modified it to fit a written response, only because I am not sure if kids will have access to art materials. However, kids can still choose to illustrate and use art to answer their selected questions. All of the questions are review, so we have done this work before but they get to practice by applying it to a new book. This was inspired by the one-pager project, my colleague does and I am grateful for her work. To see the project guidelines, go here.

Choice 2:  The picture book read aloud.

On this adventure, you will listen to a picture book being read aloud every day by lots of fantastic people.  Then you will write or record a response to a specific question every day.

I wanted to honor the picture book read alouds we have done throughout the year, so I gathered picture book recordings for the students to listen to – one a day – and then created questions to go with it such as the one below.

While I love all of the picture books I am finding, I am still changing some of them out to have a wider representation of creators shown. I am also still working through questions, so this document is very much a work in progress. To see the project guidelines, go here.

Choice 3:  The Inquiry Project.

Ever wanted a chance to just pursue a major topic of interest for yourself?  Now is the chance, craft a learning plan for yourself with Mrs. Ripp, learn more about your topic and then showcase your learning to our community.

Project requirement:  

  • Identity an inquiry question you want to pursue – remember, inquiry questions are not straight “Googleable,” they will need learning from many sources or experiences to answer.
  • Fill in the learning plan to show what you will be learning and how you will challenge yourself.
  • Do the learning on your own, checking in with Mrs. Ripp every two days.
  • Create a product of your choice to showcase your learning – you have many choices of what to create.

Independence expectations:

  • This is a project that will require a lot of discipline and focus. Because you will not be creating a day-to-day product, you are expected to produce a larger final learning product to share your learning.
  • The inquiry question you choose to pursue can be one that you already know something about or one that you know very little about, it is up to you. 
  • There should be NEW learning though that happens throughout, not just a summary of what you already knew.

Students will be asked to do a learning plan, so I can support them if they choose this project. It looks like this:

We have done two other inquiry projects so I have seen students navigate this before, I am hoping this will give kids a chance to explore what they would like to explore rather than all of their learning choices being dictated by adults . To see the project guidelines, go here.

Choice 4:  The Creative Writing Project.

I know some of us have longed to do some creative writing, so here is your chance.  Decide how you want to grow as a writer, discuss with Mrs. Ripp, and then start writing.  Teaching points will be based on what you are hoping to work on. 

Project requirement:  

  • Identify your areas of strength as a writer – what do you already do well in writing?
  • Identify areas of growth in writing for yourself – how will this project challenge you?
  • Actively work on those areas of growth through independent study of craft techniques and conferring with Mrs. Ripp.
  • Produce 2 or more pages in a coherent writing form, you choose the writing form.
  • Schedule 2 conferring times with Mrs. Ripp each week – that is 4 times over the two weeks.  These can be via Google meet, email discussion, chat, or some other mode of communication.

Independence expectations:

  • This is a project that will require a lot of discipline and focus. Because you will not be creating a day-to-day product, you are expected to produce a larger final learning product to share your learning.
  • The creative writing project you pursue should be meaningful to you and show growth in your writing tools.
  • There should be NEW learning though that happens throughout, not just a summary of the skills you already have.

We have done creative writing in small spurts throughout the year but not enough in my opinion, so this is our chance to do it more. I am hoping this will offer up those who choose it a way to sink into their writing and create something meaningful. To see the project guidelines, go here.

A note on choices: Students will indicate their choice on a survey form – this will offer me a pathway forward so that I can send the proper resources to them. Because Google Classroom allows me to only give certain things to certain kids, I can easily provide them the next steps in their choices such as learning plans or other tools.

A note on grades: You may have noticed that these projects encompass different standards, this is okay because all of the work we are doing right now is formative as per our district guidelines. As the closing continues, we will be given updated guidelines. What this means is that when the two weeks are over for this project, I will either recycle the options and ask students to choose a different option or brainstorm further learning with my students. If we switch to live school in the middle, then once this project is done we will go back to our regular scheduled learning, which is debates and Shark Tank presentations.

A note on support: I will be individualizing support for my students. For some this will mean just check-ins, for others it will be sharing further resources for their learning. I teach 76 students, I am not sure how this will look, but we will make it work.

Want to connect with me? I am going to do a Facebook live in the upcoming week in our Passionate Readers Facebook group to take questions and share book recommendations. Join me!

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page. 

authentic learning, being a student, being a teacher, being me, Personalized Learning

Re-thinking Our Learning to Infuse More Joy and Choice

One of many things I love when on break is the chance to simply reconnect with amazing people, and when said amazing people are fellow educators, you can bet that it doesn’t take long for the conversation to turn to how to make the educational experience better for all kids.

After dinner, I was left thinking about how often we get so caught up in all that we need to do that so many of those grand ideas, the ideals we dreamt up this summer or whenever we have room to be inspired seem to be forgotten as the year starts and the pressure resumes. That while we implement many things, tweak many others, there are many notions and ideas that simply don’t happen. And who can blame us? There are so many days that I am just keeping my head afloat trying to stay a few steps ahead of the students in order to create and sustain relevant educational experiences.

Last night, the conversation turned to joy and play. How little there seems to be purposefully implemented throughout especially older students’ daily routines in school. How the minute they come to us in the upper years there are few opportunities for infusing joy and allowing more creative approaches to learning. And while both of those concepts are foundations of learning I hold dear, I also look back at my own curricular choices for the year and see how easily those two tenets of learning get siphoned away as I feel the need to do more, dig deeper, and make sure that the learning is “serious.” However, the siphoning itself relies on a untruth – joy and creative choice does not equate easier learning and is serious business, in fact, often purposefully creating moments for joy and creative choice requires a broader commitment and self-reliance within the learning happening. So with this in mind, I have done some restructuring of a few upcoming units and also rededicated efforts in other places, so what might that look like coming up in room 203?

The main questions I focused on in my reflection is: how might this spark joy and engagement and how do students have creative choice?

Re-committing to picture books. I usually read a lot of picture books aloud to my 7th graders and also use them in a variety of ways throughout our curriculum and yet, this year, I feel like with the busyness of it all, picture books have been less of a central tenet to us. It’s time to change that. In a little more than a week we kick off our Mock Caldecott unit for the year, a two week investigation into twelve incredible picture books for the year that will lead into a persuasive speech in which students will try to sway others to their choice of winner of the Caldecott. Reading picture books together is something that we already see as joyful and doing it in small groups will hopefully bolster that. Creative choice comes in how students want to persuade their peers – how will they deliver a message that is persuasive in nature and which tools will they use?

Bringing back our immersion project. Two years ago, I did an extended genius hour project in which students got to pick something to learn for themselves in order to teach others about it through a mini-lesson. This consisted of identifying an area to immerse themselves in and then spending time figuring out how to create an enticing lesson for others to learn from them. The topics were broad: How to do a card trick properly, what integration methods are necessary to integrate any function and how are they used, how do you play guitar and so on? These were all catered to student interests and were very broad on purpose. We then infused note-taking skills, how to find sources to teach them how to do the skills, and how to engage an audience in order to help them understand a concept, as well as created a speech rubric in order to practice public speaking. This year, I will finetune it with a few more scaffolds for those who are not sure what they would like to teach, as well as opportunities to tandem-research. This project sparked a lot of joy the first time we did it because students got to self-select their learning, immerse themselves into something they found relevant, as well as show off their knowledge in a fun way. There was a lot of natural choice embedded throughout.

Re-thinking our TED talk unit. Every year, the students get an opportunity to create a TED talk on a chosen topic and then give it to the class, and while the unit itself is solid, I want to spend more time helping students choose topics that they are invested in already. This year many of our students have expressed a deep interest and commitment to social justice work, as well as the overlooked history we have explored. This will, therefore, be my starting point in reminding students of what they already know and which questions they may have to push their thinking further. So often we push students into new learning without realizing how much work it is to research and then synthesize and process all of the information into a brilliant short speech. With the re-introduction of our immersion project, I want to implement more time for students to dive into their identity and what they are already interested in so that their TED talk work can be more focused on filling in knowledge gaps, rather than starting all over with research. This will also be an opportunity to jump into persuasion, how advertisement plays on our biases, and how we are influenced by social media. Choice plays into topic, as well as the angle they want to take in their talk.

Asking for more student input and taking the proper time for it. In the Enriched English class I teach, we have 6 vocabulary lessons consisting of 25 vocabulary words each that we need to somehow process, understand, and implement into our vocabulary. While I have gamified it in the past and also allowed for choice in how students show mastery, I have never really loved what we did. The words seem like a chore no matter how I spin it This year, I plan on showing students the vocabulary and then having them come up with opportunities for how we can learn it together. While there will undoubtedly be traditional methods for students to choose from such as rote memorization with a quiz, I also want to give them the opportunity to come up with other methods for learning that they will be able to choose from as we move into the vocabulary. While I already try to get as much student input as possible, I feel it often gets rushed, so this is a reminder for me to slow down and let it take the time it takes, and this goes for all classes, not just the Enriched English class.

Re-committing to free writing. We have been dabbling with free-writing throughout the year but due to book clubs in December, we changed our process. While students continued to write on their own, the community piece was lacking and so as we enter into January, I want to bring back the prompts and self-selected choice and the time to then share the creations we have. I also want to bring back the notion of playing with writing that so often gets lost as we write. Students so often fear that they have to write great pieces every single time which is an incredibly damaging notion for anyone trying to work through the emotions of writing and so I want to model my own not-so-great writing that tends to happen when we do a free-write. Students don’t need perfect role models, they need real ones.

Skyping with authors. Talking with actual authors is magical at any age and the advent of World Read Aloud Day reminded me to sign up to bring authors into our classrooms more. This is something I used to do a lot but once again seem to have gotten away from. I cannot wait for students to hear from Kevin Sylvester, Juana Martinez-Neal and Ishta Mercurio as they discuss their writing process.

Participating in Global School Play Day again. I love this initiative created by Scott and Tim Bedley with the idea to infuse more play into schools again. I have done this day before with 7th graders and while I am not able to do it the day it is scheduled for this year, I will do it instead on February 7th where students will get all of English to simply play with each other. You should sign up as well.

While this is not an exhaustive list, I am glad to be bringing this lens back to our work together this year to hopefully create experiences where it is not just students learning from me, but more from each other. Where there is more cooperative problem solving, more relevance, and more choice. Where maybe, just maybe, students can think of English class as a class that is meaningful to them beyond developing a love of reading and writing and helping them find themselves. Who knows, but I will keep trying.

I posted the following question on Twitter last night and the responses are definitely worth checking out – so many great ideas for infusing more play and creativity into our work.

And now I ask you as well; how will you restructure or continue to reinforce the notion of play and creative choice in your class these upcoming months?

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.. If you like what you read here, consider reading my latest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students

assessment, assumptions, grades, No grades, Personalized Learning

Using the Single Point Rubric for Better Assessment Conversations

A few years ago, I read the following post discussing single-point rubrics from Jennifer Gonzales on her incredible blog Cult of Pedagogy. The post discussed the idea of using a single-point rubric for assessment rather than the multi-point rubrics I was taught to use and how they were not only easier to create, but also offered up an opportunity for students to understand their assessment in a deeper way. Intrigued, we started tinkering with it over the last few years as an English department, developing our process as we went. The other day, I realized that I have never shared that work on here and thought that perhaps if someone had missed Jen’s post or was wondering what this looks like implemented, a blog post may be helpful.

So first of all, what does a single-point rubric look like? Here is an example of one we used with an assessment after finishing the book Refugee for The Global Read Aloud.

We operate on a 1-4 standards-based assessment system, so the difference between multi-point and single-point is the descriptive language found for each score. Where under a multi-point rubric you would fill in the description for 1 through 4, with a single-point rubric you just focus on what you would expect an at grade-level product to contain. This is what sets it apart in my mind; it allows us to focus on what we are specifically looking for and recognizing that students don’t always fall into the other categorizations that we set, no matter how much we broke them down.

This is one of the major reasons why I have loved using single point rubrics; it allows me to leave more meaningful feedback for students when they are either not meeting the grade-level target or are exceeding it. Rather than trying to think of all of the ways a student may not be at grade-level, I can focus on what would place them there assessment-wise and then reflect on when they are not. This has allowed me to leave more meaningful, personalized feedback, while also really breaking down what at grade-level thinking contains.

So what is the process for creating one?

  1. Determine the standards or learning targets that will be assessed. Students should be a part of this process whether through discussion and creation of the rubric or at the very least seeing and understanding the rubric before anything is turned in, after all, we want students to fully understand what we are trying to discover as far as their learning.
  2. Once the standards have been determined, decide what “at grade-level” understanding will contain. While the rubric shown above shows only one box per standard, sometimes our rubrics are broken down further within the standard in order for students to see exactly what it is we are hoping to see from them. (See the example below).
  3. Discuss with students if you haven’t done so already. Do they understand what at grade-level understanding looks like and what it contains? Is the rubric a helpful tool for them to take control of their learning? If not, go back to the drawing board with the rubric.
  4. Add reflective questions for students so that their voice is heard and further ownership is created over the learning process. This is important because too often assessment is something that is done to students rather than a process that allows students to fully see what they are able to do independently, as well as set goals for what they need to work on.
A few reflective questions – to see the original rubric, go here

Using the single-point rubric is a breeze for me compared to the multi-point rubric. First of all, it takes less time to create because we really just focus on that “at grade-level” understanding. Secondly, and this is the big one for me, it allows me to deeply reflect on why my gut or the rubric is telling me that a child is not showing “at grade-level” understanding or above it somehow. I have to really think about what it is within their understanding that moves them into a different category. One that is not limited by the few things that I could brainstorm before I saw their work. I then have to formulate that into written or spoken feedback in order to help that child understand how they can continue to grow. This allows our assessment conversations to change from grades to reflection.

Tips for implementing:

  1. Discuss it with students before using it the first time. Our students had not seen a rubric like this before and so we took the time to discuss it with them before we used it. This would happen for any assessment rubric, but it took a little bit longer because it looked different.
  2. Set the tone for assessment. I have written extensively about my dislike of grades and how I try to shift the focus, and yet I work within a system that tells me I have to assess with numbers attached to it. So there are a few things that need to be in place with the biggest one being the ongoing conversation that assessment is a tool for reflection and not the end of the journey. This is why students always self-assess first in order to reflect on their own journey and what they need from us. This can be messy in the beginning but through the year it gets easier for students to accurately reflect on their own journey and what they need to grow. They then hand that to me in order for me to look at their work and then it culminates in a final discussion if needed.
  3. Break it down. It is easy to get caught up in too many things to assess, using the single-point rubric has allowed us to focus in on a few important things. This is important so that students can work on those skills specifically rather than feel overwhelmed by everything within the process.

What do students think?

Our students seem to like them, or at least that is what they say. They understand mostly what they are being assessed on and they understand the feedback that is given to them. Having them self-assess and reflect prior to our assessment is also huge as it shows students that they are in charge of their assessment and their growth and that we want them to fully invest in their learning. It gives them an opportunity to see how they are growing and what their next step is before I add my opinion in there. This can also help reduce the “shame” factor that is sometimes associated with grades. When we discuss repeatedly with students that there is nothing wrong with being below grade-level and instead let the assessment guide us to the next steps, it shifts the assessment process, as well as the internalization of grades.

Overall, the single-point rubric has been another tool that allows us to help students become more reflective learners, while also helping us get to know the students’ needs more, resulting in a more impactful assessment experience for everyone involved. While we started small, the single-point rubric is now almost exclusively the only type of rubric we use in English and for that I am grateful. If you haven’t tried it yet, I would highly recommend you do. If you have any questions, after all my brain is tired from traveling, please leave them in the comments.

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page. If you like what you read here, consider reading my book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.