Today we presented WV's NxG Standards to a small audience for county training. When we saw the numbers yesterday, we were discouraged: today, we only had two individuals attend training: one freshmen English teacher from our city school and one gifted instructor. Though slightly bothered by the low turn out, we still ended up having a very healthy discussionn regarding the standards during the workshop.

To begin, we had our participants try writing a six-word memoir as an introduction. The goal of this exercise is to, in six words or less, describe yourself. It's a strategy any ELA (or other content area) teacher could use as an ice breaker at the beginning of the school year or semester to get to know his or her students. And, approaching introductions in this manner causes students to really think about what words they could use: after all, they only can use six. Throughout the rest of the morning, we had our two participants examine each of the four standards (Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, Language) independently and then reflect back to the larger group. After exploring standards both of our participants came of with questions my colleagues and I had come up with when we attended the state training for NxG/Common Core Standards a few weeks ago. The following two questions were asked:

  • If we implement these new standards in detail this year with the Smarter Balanced Assessment in mind, how will that affect our WESTEST 2 scores? Will we be preparing the students enough for this test?
  • With the shifts in recommended texts by grade level, what do we do if a text is taught in multiple grade levels?
Eventually I will publish an entry explaining the Smarter Balanced Assessement to be taken in the 2014-2015 school year, but the answer to this question really is quite simple: regardless of the depth in which you apply the new standards into the classroom, you will still be preparing the student for WESTEST 2. Though the new standards are, indeed, different, they cover much of the same material as the old CSOs but cover them instead in a much more in-depth, detailed approach. The other two presenters and I (as well as representatives from the state) are confident that if you are teaching based on the new standards, you will be preparing your students for WESTEST 2.

Many ELA teachers in WV have also noticed the shift in  recommended texts for grade levels. Macbeth, for example, before taught in 11th or 12th grade, has become a recommended text for 9th grade. Romeo and Juliet is another text that has "shifted": it is now recommended that Romeo and Juliet be taught in 8th grade instead of ninth. My colleagues and I really had two answers for this: 1) You could accept that some teachers will want to stick to teaching a certain text in the grade level "it has always been taught" and teach a work comparable to such. Alternatively, a teacher of 9th grade could 2) teach excerpts from the initial text rather than the whole text. The example I cam up with was to teach Macbeth's "dagger speech" and then link it to a supplementary text with a similar theme or purpose.

During afternoon session we introduced our participants to the Performance Tasks the mirror what the Smarter Balanced Assessment's Performance Task/Constructive Response questions will entail and, like us, the participants realized a shift in instruciton must occur for students to be successful when taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment in 2014-2015.

Tomorrow, my colleagues and I decided to give teachers time to plan and collaborate, since collaboration is a HUGE part of the new standards. We will first introduce them to model units on the WVDE state site (which I can link to in the next entry) and then the freshmen teachers from both schools (me, the other presenter, and our participant) will begin outlining a 3-6 week unit plan. The goal is that students at the rural school (where I work) and the city school (where the two of them teach) could be (potentially) teaching nearly the same thing at similar times.

Overall, it was a very successful first day of workshopping: I'm anxious to get together with our participants tomorrow and continue to "put our heads together"...

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