An Activity to Help Students Write Conclusions

Have you ever struggled with helping students write a good conclusion?  This is a simple and powerful activity I designed to help students understand the difference.  Download the pdf of the strategy, which includes directions, a template, and an answer sheet for this activity.  I designed this for the elementary level, but this is easily adapted to the secondary level by using more sophisticated examples.  The Hot Miss phrase is from Amy Hooper, a wonderful teacher at Axton Elementary in Virginia.

Setting Achievement Bars

With the end of the school year comes time for district and school staff to determine how well students have learned.  School Boards do this also.  If you want to measure student achievement at higher levels, one way is to look at how your state sets its achievement bar on the state tests your students take.  By law, the state tests must measure what it is the state determined that students will learn.  I know, I know – that is a novel concept.  But let me share with you what we’ve learned and how that impacts student achievement in your school, district, and state.

I’ll use an example from Michigan here.  Michigan gives its state test in the fall of each year.  One of the things the state determines is what constitutes proficiency for each test – in other words, how many questions a student must answer correctly in order for a student to be considered proficient.  In 7th grade, a student has to answer only 34% of the questions correct in order to be deemed proficient.  Do you think that’s a problem?  I certainly do.  If we have students who we report as proficient when they are performing well on only about one-third of the test, how are we preparing them for high school?  For college?  For work?

Look at the graph on the left.  The blue line on the graph shows the percentage of questions a student must answer correctly in order to be proficient in mathematics on the MEAP test for grades 3-8.  The bar is set lower than most would like.  (I have yet to talk with an educator in Michigan who thinks the bar is just right or too low.)  This can be an issue in terms of school improvement because we can have 90% of our students proficient, but if the bar is so low, what does that really mean the students know?  Are they really showing proficiency?

District staff, building-level staff, and school board members can step up to the plate here and raise the bar.  How do you do that?  In addition to keeping a check on the percentage of students who are proficient on the MEAP test by the state’s standards, you can raise the bar and add another measurement that reflects your own higher standards.  The red line represents a bar in which a district says that to show success on the MEAP test, students must answer 75% or more of the questions correct.

So consider raising the bar and expecting more from the students for whom you are responsible.

MEAP Constructed Response Reading

I designed this handout to provide some ideas related to the Reading constructed response items for the Fall 2009 MEAP test.  In this short piece, I share the item descriptors for the reading constructed response items in grades 3 through 8, examples of the kinds of questions we can ask students when they read, a link to helpful documents, and specific action steps you can take now in relation to helpings students think about the things they read.

Download the document and see if there are some ideas that will be useful to you.

MEAP Constructed Response – Examples of Scoring Guides

Examples of Prompts for Reading Constructed Response

Download this document to get a feel for what the constructed response prompts and scoring tools look like.  In the booklet you’ll find four examples of passages, examples of prompts for the passages, and examples of scoring tools that go with the prompts.  These are good to help you get the overall picture of the constructed response scoring rubrics.

Fix That Graph – Sources of Revenue

Here’s the scenario.  A local school district has just released its proposed budget for the upcoming two-year period.  Within the 157 page budget document are two pie charts – one for revenues and one for expenditures.  The graphic on the left is the actual pie chart for revenues.

Take a look at the graph and see what you think.  What has been done well?  What would you recommend tweaking?

Of course I have my suggestions – just click here to download my analysis for this pie chart.  The last page of this handout even shows an example of how the finished product might look in a budget document.

Compare and Contrast – Roles of Government

Here is a lesson that supports the learning of comparing responsibilities between state and federal governments.  I’ve included a couple of things here:

A lesson in which students use manipulatives and a Venn Diagram planner to compare and contrast the responsibilities between the roles of the federal and state governments.

Additionally, a beginning list of analysis questions for the Venn diagram.  For those of you who know me, you know that I always recommend making sure that students have plenty of opportunities to talk about graphic organizers after they’ve developed them.

MEAP Item Descriptors

The MEAP Item Descriptors Books have just been released by staff at the Michigan Department of Education.  Stay in the know and download the booklets so you can use them for curriculum alignment purposes.

I’ve also written a few tips about how to use these booklets.  Just download my pdf and see if there’s an idea or two you can use.

Here are the links to the individual Item Descriptor booklets.

Grade 3 Reading

Grade 3 Math

Grade 4 Reading

Grade 4 Math

Grade 5 Reading

Grade 5 Math

Grade 5 Science

Grade 6 Reading

Grade 6 Math

Grade 6 Social Studies

Grade 7 Reading

Grade 7 Math

Grade 8 Reading

Grade 8 Math

Grade 8 Science