Joy Kirr is a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. Her 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of their learning experiences... Want to have her speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is Joy's PORTFOLIO.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Learning Conferences - A Reading Snippet

At the end of each quarter, during our one-on-one conferences, I learn so many great tidbits from my scholars. This past week (I still have three days of conferring left), I learned that I STILL have to work on changing my vocabulary.  Here was how the conversation went after we talked about her eight point growth for her MAP assessment:

T = teacher / me       S = student

T - Eight points is further than what they predicted would be your score. How did you do on our own class tests?
S - Huh?
T - How did you do on our quizzes in ELA?
S - What? You mean our comprehension checks? Those?
T - (Chuckling, as I realized in my mind they are still called "quizzes," even though we call them "comprehension checks" each time we discuss them this year!! I even wrote about them earlier this year.)

I don't remember how I responded. I only remember that I was embarrassed. Are "comprehension checks" still "quizzes"? I had to look up the word...
Checking for comprehension through brief questions... Yes, I suppose it still IS a quiz. Who am I kidding, calling it a "comprehension check?" No one. I knew this going into it. HOWEVER... This name change helps my students stay calm about their score. It helps them see that this is a check of their comprehension of this ONE passage. It is not a label that will stick with them. When I go one step further to separate out the categories into literal and inferential questions, then we get even MORE information about their comprehension, and we can set goals to minimize confusion for the future.

Here were two goals students could choose from if they were having difficulty with their comprehension:
To improve with literal questions - Find the answer directly in the text and highlight it.
To improve with inferential questions - Find at least two clues to the answer you choose. If you cannot find two clues, you most likely have not chosen the answer yet.

During our conferences this quarter, students were able to use arguments such as, "My last three scores are my best, because I was really focusing on the text and finding the answers there." Or, "I have improved from first quarter to this quarter, because now I can prove that I understand more inferential questions than I have before." I love how our language has shifted over the past year. I love that the conversations are now about learning, and not about letters or numbers. I'll have to remember this feeling and look at it as a goal once a new batch of learners comes my way in August!

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