Changing Roles: Opportunities and Challenges

by Melissa Dills and Tricia Ebner

As Ohio begins the 2017-18 school year, some educators across the state are not just updating lesson plans or trying new technology tools. Some educators are stepping into new roles, with new opportunities and challenges. Educator Melissa Dills, formerly a kindergarten teacher in a northeast Ohio school district, is moving into a role as a technology integration specialist serving grades K-6 in the same school district. Meanwhile, educator Tricia Ebner, formerly a gifted intervention specialist serving grades 6-8 in a northeast Ohio school district, is moving into a role as a consultant with an ESC. On the brink of their new roles, they’ve taken a few moments to reflect on these transitions.

Both Melissa and Tricia are excited about the impacts they can make in the coming year. Melissa says, “I’m most excited to have an impact on both students and staff at the elementary schools.” She is looking forward to being a resource and support for colleagues who may have been a bit hesitant to try new technology resources. Tricia is eager to support teachers and principals as they work with programming and instruction for gifted children. Both are also excited about their own learning in these roles. “Since Ohio adopted new operating standards for gifted education this past spring, we are all learning lots about how these standards will look in practice,” Tricia shares. Melissa adds, “I truly see myself as a learner and look forward to all that I’ll learn from everyone that I’ll be working with.”

While there is a great deal of excitement with a new role in education, there are also challenges ahead. In Tricia’s position, she’ll be working with several different schools and districts on a number of different professional development and program projects. “I’m going to be learning how best to organize my work and myself as I balance all of this.” Melissa sees a similar challenge in her work: “I anticipate there being a learning curve in all areas. Serving grades K-6 will be a challenge due to the sheer number of staff members I want and need to reach.”

Moving into these kinds of roles doesn’t mean student learning standards are no longer a concern. In Melissa’s role, she’ll be working with both content standards and Ohio’s newly-revised technology standards, which encompass three disciplines: information and communication technology, society and technology, and design and technology. Melissa is excited about how content standards and technology standards can be woven together into engaging lessons. She also sees an important principle in this: digital citizenship. “I look forward to helping elementary teachers introduce digital citizenship to our youngest learners to lay a foundation of responsibility in a digital world.” Tricia also has a strong focus on student learning in her work. Because she’ll be engaged in supporting teachers in their work with gifted children, she will be helping teachers craft differentiated lessons and activities aligned to Ohio’s standards while still providing an appropriate level of challenge. “The standards are the starting point; I’m excited about collaborating with teachers to support gifted children’s ongoing learning with the standards.” Student learning and growth, starting with Ohio’s learning standards, is still a key focus for these two educators.

Preparing for new roles also has been a focus this summer for both Melissa and Tricia. A conversation with a colleague gave her some insight into the preparations she needed to make. Melissa shares, “Recently, a fifth grade social studies teacher said she’d love to work on a map unit together, integrate technology into what they already do. As I asked what skills they’re working on at that time she replied, ‘simple map skills.’  In my mind simple map skills consisted of knowing the difference between land and water on a map and globe.  I realized very quickly that becoming more familiar with content in each grade level will help me better understand the needs of each grade level. Tricia talked about needing to learn much from the team she will be part of. “I know there are going to be elements of my work that I don’t have any idea about yet, and I’m so glad I’m going to be working as part of team because I know they’ll help guide and support me as I soak up all I need to learn and do.” Melissa also appreciates the support she knows she’ll receive from administrators and colleagues. Both educators also see value in connecting with others through Facebook and Twitter. “Having a terrific PLN (professional learning network) on Twitter has given me opportunities to interact with others from across Ohio and the country, all focused on doing what’s good and right for kids. My PLN is a terrific resource and inspiration,” Tricia adds.

Both Melissa and Tricia have sought advice from others in these transitions. At a summer conference, a teacher leader who recently transitioned to work at her state’s department of education encouraged Tricia to cherish the successes she has, because the feedback in these roles is different than the feedback at the classroom level. “That make sense to me,” Tricia said, “because in the classroom, I was constantly getting feedback from my students. In my new role, I’ll still get feedback, but it’s going to be different.” Melissa got some advice from a colleague when she had a moment of mixed emotions surrounding her move. She was packing up items in her classroom when she came across a much-loved book. “I had read that book for 12 years. (I can’t say many things in my room had been used for 12 years, but this was a great book!) Not only had I read it for 12 years but 12 years’ worth of students had heard that book!  As a few tears rolled down my cheek, a good friend and colleague walked in my classroom. I felt guilty feeling sad. I full heartedly wanted this new position and had worked for years to obtain it. She gave me the best advice in reminding me that it’s perfectly normal to feel sadness and excitement at the same time.” Having guidance, wisdom, and support from others will make the transitions into these new roles smoother.

8.20.17 blog post image

A new school year is filled with transitions. Students are transitioning into new grades and subjects taught by teachers new to them. Teachers and administrators face transitions to new technology, policies, and procedures while also getting to know new students. All of us, whether we are changing roles or not, are facing change. When we support each other, keeping our students and their learning as the top priority, we make the transitions smoother and easier. As John C. Maxwell said, “A word of encouragement from a teacher to a child can change a life. A word of encouragement from a spouse can save a marriage. A word of encouragement from a leader can inspire a person to reach her potential.” Whatever our role in education may be, let’s continue to support and encourage each other as we guide our students toward reaching their potential.   

How to Use A Logic Model For Evidence Based Action Planning Planning

By Char Shryock   Dir. of Curriculum and Instruction, Bay Village City Schools

Planning for action around learning goals or building goals can take many forms in the classroom and in your building.  Most traditional action plans include space for defining the goal, documenting what steps you are going to take to achieve it, and who will take the steps.  I have spent the past year working with a Logic Model as an evidence based approach to action planning.  What I like best is the focus not just on planning action, but collecting evidence that the action is complete along with evidence of the impact of that action.  Logic Models encourage you to have conversations around assumptions you are making about the work.  Often, these assumptions, when not discussed or addressed, lead to frustration and communication gaps.  For the past year, I have used Logic Models in planning for whole district initiatives, like our high school chromebook roll-out.  I have also used Logic Models for smaller goals, including keeping a focus on text complexity and writing good text dependent questions.  Logic Models could also be modified to be used as templates for Unit Planning or differentiating instruction for English Learners or Gifted Students.

The first step in starting a Logic Model is to identify your goal.  This might be a set of standards based learning goals that will be the center of an instructional unit.  The goal might also have a broader project or initiative focus.  Ideally, you should be collaborating with your grade level team, building leadership team or district team to frame your goal.  Next, connect that goal to the broader vision.  How does this work fit into the broader work of your classroom, building or district?  Once you have identified your goal, the next step is not to start planning action.  Instead, take time to talk through the assumptions you are making about the students or staff that are going to be impacted by the work.  What prior learning or experience are you assuming they will bring to this work? How are you going to connect this goal to their existing practices or beliefs?  The reflection on assumptions will also help you to identify possible barriers.  Identifying a true barrier that will need to be worked around, or an attitude or mindset that may need to be shifted in order for the goal to succeed, will help in thinking through possible action steps and evidence of outcomes.  Planning the action steps can be done next.  As you think through action steps, identify resources you have or will need.  Resources can be time, materials, human capital, or financial. If you don’t have access to the resources you need, include in your action steps a plan for acquiring that resource.  The real benefit of the Logic Model is in the last two steps.  Take time to identify what evidence will be gathered to show that the action has been completed.  This might be an agenda, minutes, emails, anecdotal records or student work.   More importantly, have a collaborative discussion on what evidence of impact or outcome of the work you will want to see or hear.  What will teachers or students or staff sound like, or act like if the action step in having a impact on moving them toward a goal?  

There are 4 levels of outcomes to think about when deciding on the mindful collection of evidence of impact.

Level 1: Reaction

At this level, evidence of impact might be pushback or a lot of questions on why we are doing this or learning this.  Often this evidence of impact is overlooked, or is seen in a negative light.  Really, it is evidence that the learners are having to re-examine their own thinking or beliefs and seeing how this new information or idea might fit or not fit into this.  Pay attention to the pushback comments or questions.  You may need to adjust or add an action step to help move this group forward.

Level 2: Learning

Evidence of learning might include a shift in questions from “Why are we doing/learning this” to “How do I…?” or “Maybe I could try…”  Much of this evidence will be anecdotal comments heard in a class or in a team meeting.  You might consider using a Google Form or a Reflection document to capture these comments and shifts in thinking.

Level 3: Behavior/Attitude Shifts

By the time students or staff start to show evidence of Level 3 outcomes, they are trying out the new skills, applying the new strategies in a small setting or as a pilot, or starting to grow their own learning around the goal. You might hear students expressing a more sophisticated approach to a task, or hear teachers talking about applying strategies or ideas to an upcoming unit.  

Level 4: Results

This is full buy-in.  There has been a change in attitudes or in skills that is evident across an entire class, grade level, building or district.  Students or teachers regularly demonstrate their new learning or skills in their daily work.  A common vocabulary has been developed and everyone now has incorporated the new skill, strategy or idea into their own belief system.   Evidence at this level might include shifts in district or grade level data, requests for additional “next step training”, increase in student success or the success of a subgroup.  

I have learned a lot about using Logic Models from the team at Bellwether Education Partners and the Collaborative for Student Success Teacher Champions Fellowship.  Using Logic Models has really changed the way I think about planning and following up on my own work, both as a Curriculum Director and as an educator leader.  I have now started to create 2 folders in my Google Drive at the beginning of each new Logic Model to help me gather evidence of the work I have done, and evidence of the impact of my work.  Focusing on evidence of impact at all four outcome levels has really nurtured my own positive mindset about my work and the work of the teams I am a part of!

This LINK will take you to a blank logic model in Google Docs.  Feel free to make a copy for yourself by clicking on FILE —MAKE A COPY.  

This LINK will take you to a Logic Model that has reflection questions for each component.

Blank Logic Model WIth Prompts



Using Model Essays: Writing Show-and-Tell

by Tricia Ebner, M.S. Ed.

During the past few days, I had the opportunity to attend a conference with teachers from across the country as we prepared presentations to showcase some work we have been doing over the past year. One of the comments I heard more than once was, “It helps to see what other presentations look like.” We like seeing examples or models as we work, so that we have an idea of the target we are aiming to hit.

Our students are no different. They, too, like to see examples of what their work my look like. When it comes to writing, we have two excellent sources of models for students to use. One is through the Vermont Writing Collaborative models available through Achieve the Core. This collection of student writing samples provides the student writing samples as well as annotated copies of the samples. Another is the Practice Test Scoring Guide for the Ohio State ELA test, available through the student resources page on the ODE web site. This provides a range of student writing samples to the prompt on the practice test, along with the scoring guide and rationale for the scoring level.

A good way to use these resources is to begin by providing students with the rubric used for that kind of writing. Consider using your building or district’s writing rubric, or you may want to use Ohio’s rubric for informative/explanatory writing or argumentative writing, depending on the student model(s) you’ll be using. Having students read through the rubric carefully, annotating key words and developing an understanding of what it means, is important. Once students have an understanding of the rubric, handing them student samples, without annotations or scores, and asking them to evaluate the samples against the rubric, is a powerful exercise. I’ve found it works well to have students work individually at first and then come together within small groups to discuss their evaluations. When I use a variety of student samples within the same class, I have the groups share their evaluations while I project the clean writing sample on the screen. The discussions around the qualities of these essays help students not only see model essays but also the process of how to go about reflecting and evaluating their own work.

As you’re beginning to think about organizing and preparing for the school year, consider including a lesson or two looking at model essays and evaluating them. By taking time in the first few weeks of school to do this, students will have a strong sense of the targets they are aiming to hit during the year. When we have an idea of what our work could ultimately look like, we can see more easily the path to reaching that goal.


Journeys: Vacations and School Years

by Tricia Ebner, M.S. Ed.

Summer often includes vacations for many of us, and in the past few weeks, I’ve been gearing up for our own family vacation. Today, as I worked on packing, I realized that preparing for a family vacation isn’t that different from the preparing for the school year. It takes reflection and planning to fully prepare for vacation, just as it takes reflection and planning to prepare for the school year.Travel

Lists: Preparing for vacation often requires making lists. A few weeks ago I started making the packing lists, ranging from the clothing we’ll wear to the recipes and groceries we’ll need at our destination. This isn’t all that different from what we do in preparing for the school year: we consider materials we’ll need as we begin gearing up for the coming year. It also takes reflection. For example, as a family, we’ve learned through experience that the weather in the valleys can be vastly different from the weather in the mountain passes. This means we have to pack for a range of weather conditions. Similarly, as we educators continue in our career, we learn that there can be a range of needs and considerations we must make in preparing for our school year.

Research: In preparing for vacation, we often take time to investigate the activities and sights we might want to enjoy while on our travels. We’ll check out web sites for various attractions, noting hours, activities, and costs. In preparing for the school year, we’ll also often research options. We may look at changing various lessons or units to make them more effective. Perhaps we want to use some new materials; this, too, may be require some research so that we’re making wise choices. We’ve learned through experience as traveler and educators that a little bit of research can help us use our time more efficiently and enjoy it more.

Planning: Preparing for vacation includes planning out the route. How will we get to our destination? What are our options? What might we stop and see along the way? We need to refer to maps or GPS to ensure we’re on the route to our destination. Similarly, preparing for the school year requires planning. We refer to our standards, curriculum maps, and past experiences to lay out the path we want to take to help our students learn, grow, and master the skills and concepts they need.

Packing: After all the preparation, it’s finally time to pack for vacation. We carefully follow our lists make sure we have our research notes and maps. We are ready to head out, anticipating a wonderful time of rest and relaxation with family and friends. Similarly, after all the preparation, it’s about time for the school year to begin. We have our materials, and we have our research and plans to help us focus our work with our students.

Just as vacation travels sometimes require adjustments and even detours, our progress through our school year will inevitably require adjustments. Most of the time, we have a number of options for how best to reach our destination, so we can switch routes if necessary. Having a plan, knowing our resources, and being flexible means we can still reach our destination, whether it’s vacation or the learning targets we have for our students. With a little preparation, we can have an enjoyable, rewarding vacation . . . and school year.

Review: Favorite Resources

by Ohio Teachers for Quality Education

Summer is a great time to investigate potential resources for use in the classroom. With the different pace of summertime, we have an opportunity to explore various web sites and tools. This week we’re taking a look back at some of our favorite blog posts about resources. Consider taking a few moments to check out some of these past posts and the resources they share. You may find something you’ve been wishing for!notes-macbook-study-conference

Technology Resources: No matter what we teach, there are apps that can support learning and teaching. In this post from January, Tricia Ebner shares five apps that can be useful in any classroom.

Literacy Resources: Selecting the vocabulary terms to focus upon can be challenging task; this post shares how the Academic Word Finder can be a great resource to helping make those decisions.

Text sets are useful not only in English language arts but also in science, social studies, and more. This post from November takes a look at how text sets can be useful in helping students develop deeper understanding.

Math Resources:  If you’re looking for resources that will help you deepen your understanding of math, Dr. Bryan Drost shares some of his favorite math tools and resources in this blog post from October.

Charesha Barrett shares how one public library put together a program to support kindergartners and their parents in working with math at home in this post.

Educator Char Shryock shares how manipulatives aren’t just for primary grades. Read here how they can be useful in high school classes, too.

English Language Arts Resources: Just as there are terrific resources for math, there are also great options for English language arts. Check out this post featuring resources for teachers.

A strategy for teaching tone is shared in this post from December. The ideas here are valuable to consider in teaching reading and writing, too!

If you’re looking for ideas to use in teaching writing, Char Shryock shares how two fourth grade classrooms partnered in this writing activity

Don’t forget that the Ohio Teachers for Quality Education web site has two tabs devoted to resources. If you’re just getting started in your teaching career, or you’re changing grade levels and/or subject areas, you may want to check out the Just Getting Started Resources. If you’re looking for tools to help streamline your work or change the routine, check out Our Favorite Go-To Resources.


Do you have favorite tools and resources you’d like to share with other Ohio teachers? Would you like to share a story of how you’ve solved problem related to standards, instruction, and assessment in your classroom? Do you have a specific problem you’re facing, and you’d like to know how other teachers have solved that problem? Use this link to share your ideas with us, and you could see your own blog posted here, or read about how others have solved that problem in their classrooms.


How to Bring Instructional Shifts Into Practice – Focus on Complex Text

By Char Shryock   Dir. of Curr. & Instruction  Bay Village City Schools

text_complexity_pyramid.pngAll students need regular access to complex text as a way to build knowledge and grow their vocabulary.
 There are three measures of a complex text: qualitative, quantitative and matching reader to task.  As you read through my reflection on this shift, think about your own classroom, building or district.  What does this shift look like and sound like?  What actionable step might you take that might have a direct impact on student learning? How will you share what you have done with your colleagues?

Literacy Shift 1 : Regular Practice With Complex Text And Its Academic Language.Key resource: Understanding Text Complexity (

Complexity is determined holistically by looking at these three features of the text:

  • Quantitative Measure
    • What is the academic & content vocabulary demand of the text?
  • Qualitative Analysis
    • What is the structure of the text?
    • What is the language demand?
    • What prior knowledge of content or culture does the text demand?
  • Matching Reader and Task
    • How is the text to be used by the reader?
    • What is the purpose for reading/listening to the text?


There are a number of tools that can help you to look at the Quantitative Measure of the texts you are using in your classroom. Teachers who are mindful of vocabulary demand will Close Read texts prior to assigning them to students to look for words that may need to be pre-taught, words that may be used uniquely in the context, or words that are keys to a student’s ability to unlock the content of the text.  Students might use Frayor Models to help construct meaning for key words.  Interactive word walls in the classroom may contain examples of words being used in context, and images that illustrate meaning or usage.

  • Academic Word Finder –    This tool can be used as part of the Close Reading process the teacher utilizes prior to assigning passages to a student.  Look for passages that have a balance of words at, below and above grade level.  Passages with many words above or below grade level may still be appropriate to use with students depending on the purpose for reading the passage and the Qualitative Features of the text.
    • Create a free account on  to use this tool
    • Cut and paste text or type text into the Word Finder.
    • Select a target grade and run the tool
    • The Word Finder tool will highlight in colors words that are below, at, and above grade level within the text passage. Listed below the passage will be possible definitions of the word. The complete passage is visible with words highlighted in context.
  • Lexile Analyzer –  Lexile is one way to look at the Quantitative Measure of a text. Approximate Lexile ranges for each grade level have been included in the literacy standards.   Lexile can be compared to other quantitative measures like AR scores.  
    • You can cut and paste text into the Lexile Analyzer, but it needs to have all formatting removed.  
  •  WordSift looks more closely at academic vocabulary and content vocabulary.
    • Cut and paste or type text into the tool
    • A word cloud will be created, showing the highest frequency words. This is a good way to identify words that may be key to unlocking the content of the text.
    • The word lists tool will highlight in colors words that are specific to science, math, social studies and ELA.
    • A set of related images will appear for each word that is clicked on in the word cloud. You can use these images to add to your word wall or make visual dictionaries for ELL students or at risk readers.
  • Paired Texts by Lexile Range from can be found HERE

Qualitative features of a text can be looked at using a rubric or a checklist.  There are 4 areas to consider.  First, is the text structure simple or more complicated? Remember that text can also be a graphic, so look at the graphic features as well.  Are there text structures that are normally found in a particular content area writing style or in a genre?  When skimming the text on a first Close Reading, is the language more conversational or formal? Are terms contemporary or more unfamiliar? Teachers being mindful of the Qualitative features of the text will also take into consideration the knowledge that a text expects a reader to bring with them into the reading.  This can be cultural or regional experiences, content specific background or individual life experiences.  This particular aspect of text complexity requires the teacher to think carefully about how to scaffold texts for students who may be lacking some or all of the background knowledge a more complex text might require.  Ideally, the text is the expert and students will not need to bring large amounts of prior knowledge into their reading and discussion of the text.

Matching reader to task is often overlooked as the third component of complexity.  A text may be moderately or slightly complex, but be a primary source document that is important to helping a student understand the context of an historical event.  On the other hand, a text that is exceedingly complex may be a scientific paper a student is reading to get background information for a project.  All children should be given the opportunity to read a range of complex texts throughout the year. Texts should be high quality, be worth the instructional time to read them, and help students to build knowledge and vocabulary.   One strategy a teacher might consider when selecting informational and literary texts to use in a classroom would be to build expert text sets.  Students build content vocabulary and knowledge when they have an opportunity to read, listen too, or analyze multiple texts on the same topics.  



How to Develop and Use a Professional Text Set in Five Steps

By Tricia Ebner, M. Ed., NBCT

Summertime for many educators means more time for reading, including professional selections we’ve wanted to tackle all year long but haven’t been able to fit into the nooks and crannies of our school-year lives. For me, the challenge isn’t finding professional literature to read, but rather selecting that which I should read. Crafting my own professional learning text set is just the solution I need. A text set is a collection of articles, videos, books, blogs, and other material that allows students to build their knowledge and vocabulary on a particular topic. In a well-crafted text set, the selections being at the student’s entry point and then build in complexity as the student gains more knowledge, vocabulary, and confidence. It’s a powerful approach that is useful across all content areas. It can be just as powerful for us educators and our professional learning.

Step 1: The first decision is the focus to use for the text set. What is it you really want to learn about this summer? This can sometimes be the hardest decision. If you’re like me, there is so much still to learn about teaching and learning, and is seems like people are always writing more books that will be such excellent choices. The benefit of a text set is that rather than getting a smattering of this or snippet of that, we can develop a deeper understanding of our selected focus. (Suggestion: if you’re struggling to find a focus for your text set, consider checking out Achieve the Core’s Summer Reading Challenge.)

Step 2: Find the Texts: Now that you have a focus in mind, it’s time to start gathering those texts. Remember that the term text doesn’t refer only to the printed word. What about including that podcast you’d heard about a few weeks ago, but never got around to listening to? Does the Teaching Channel have a video on the topic? As for the printed word, books aren’t the only option. Consider blogs. Remember that the goal here is simply gathering the set of texts you will use–you do not have to read the entire work to decide whether or not to include it. Don’t make your text set so large that it is overwhelming. Text sets don’t have to be long. A set of four or five pieces might be just fine.

Step 3: Sequence the Texts: Putting the texts into a sequence is another important step. While you might be excited about reading that article from the professional journal, if your topic is brand-new to you, you might want to start with the video, podcast, or blog post. The goal is building knowledge and vocabulary, so starting with a good entry point will keep the reading interesting and even exciting. Starting at a point that is too difficult could make the text set turn into a chore.

Step 4: READ! Once the focus, texts, and sequence are decided, it’s time to dig into the reading. As you work through your set, be flexible. Maybe you’re ready for that journal article earlier than you thought–read it earlier, then! Or maybe that blog post looked like it was going to be great, but by the second paragraph, it’s clear that it’s not really focused on your topic. In that case, set it aside and move on. It’s your professional learning text set, and it needs to be practical and useful for YOU.

Step 5: Reflect: Just as we want our students to consider what they’ve learned and then apply it in some way, so we need to do the same with our learning. How does what we’ve learned change our perspectives? What changes will we make in what we are doing in our classrooms and roles as educators? Reflect, envision, and plan for how to implement what you’ve learned in the year to come.

If you’re interested in collaborating with others, why not set up a professional text set for a small group study? If you have two or three topics you want to consider this summer, try crafting smaller text sets. Creating and using a professional text set and using it is a great way to deepen your learning and practice the process of developing text sets for students.



Carnival of Evidence – A Different Approach to End of Year Elementary Portfolios

By Char Shryock, Dir. of Curriculum, Bay Village City Schools and Mrs. Lindsey Bragg, Kindergarten Teacher, Normandy Elementary School, Bay Village, Ohio.


It is a Friday near the end of the school year.  For Kindergartners in Mrs. Bragg’s room, it is Carnival Day.  The game centers are ready to go, prizes are arranged on the counter, popcorn is ready to be put into bags, and the camera is ready to capture student reactions as they enter the room.   The Carnival Day is a tradition. It is a chance to celebrate all that the students have learned, and give the students a chance to show what they know to their parents.

Mrs. Bragg feels that the time and effort that goes into planning for this day is well worth it.  “My students love it and remember it, but each year I wonder if I have the energy to do it again. And then, I hear from the students comments like, ‘There’s a lot more than I expected’, and ‘This is so fun’, and  that’s why I will do it again.”

What makes Carnival Day a unique way for students to demonstrate their learning are the games themselves.  All are standards based. All have extension questions or challenges to let students really show a deeper level of mastery.  Mrs. Bragg starts by identifying the central standards for the year in math and literacy.  Once she has mapped out the concepts, she takes a look at what game would best let students show evidence of their learning around each concept.    Seven game centers seems to be the just right number. This allows a class of 22 students to be divided into groups of 2-3. She tries to pair students with others who they will work productively with.  Parents help to facilitate the games and have a chance to watch students work with words and numbers. 

Mrs. Bragg has found that each year she has had to add increasingly more complex enrichment questions to each game.  “My students are able to show much higher levels of mastery than when I first started Carnival Day.  For example,  instead of just reading a word, my students are now reading sentences.”   In the Pick A Duck game, students use a fishing rod to catch a carnival duck from the pond. Each duck has a word written on it. Some students may read the word. As enrichment, students may be prompted to name a rhyming word, identify diagraphs or count syllables.  In the Plinko game, students drop 2 tokens into the Plinko board. They then write number sentences using the 2 numbers that the tokens land on.  Extensions include asking students how many more would they need to add to the answer to make 10, how could they right the number sentence another way, or can you change the number sentence by adding 3 to one of the numbers?  Spin to Win is a chance for students to identify numbers, count on to 20, and identify a number that would be 2 more or bigger or less than.  Face painting is a time for students to demonstrate their speaking and listening skills by talking about what they would like to have  painted on their face, and why.  Students collect tickets as they spend approximately 10 minutes at each game. Tickets can be exchanged for small prizes. The students are proud of the skills they have learned.  Parents have a chance to actually watch and listen as their students demonstrate their Kindergarten skills, rather than look through a traditional portfolio of student work.  Because each game has multiple entry points, all students are able to confidently demonstrate their mastery level, in an environment that is celebrating everyone’s learning.


The Carnival Day is a unique way to think about a summative assessment of student learning and how to communicate learning to parents.  The concept could certainly be applied to other grade level classrooms.  Carnival games could be replaced with game show style games or a set of problem solving challenges.  Not all parents may be able to attend.  Sending home directions for how to do at home games that would allow students to demonstrate the same skills, along with facilitating questions and a set of parent friendly mastery level descriptors could accomplish the same goal.  


The Standards Revision Process: Lessons Learned for the Classroom

Tricia Ebner, Co-Chair of the ELA Advisory Group

Char Shryock, member of the Operational Working Group – Science Revisions

Over the past 18 months, Ohio has been involved in a cycle of standards reviews. Per state law, Ohio’s standards must undergo a revision process every five years. Teams of Ohio teachers, administrators, college professors and content experts have volunteered their time to do this work. In 2016, the math and ELA standards went through this process. During the 2016-17 school year, the science and social studies standards have experienced this same process.  This five year review and revision cycle enables educators and stakeholders to reflect and consider how well the standards are working and what improvements might be necessary.

The process is thoughtful and thorough. The review starts with a period of public comment, where teachers, parents, administrators, college and university faculty, and community members can provide comments, recommend changes, and point to research supporting those comments and changes. Then a revision advisory committee made up of teacher leaders and content experts examines each and every comment, with a goal of coming to consensus on the proposed change.  If the consensus is that the comment is relevant and will potentially clarify or strengthen the standards, it is passed along to the standards operational working group.  This second team of teachers, professors and content experts then work to make the revisions if they agree they are necessary. These revisions are then sent to the public for a second round of feedback, followed by the advisory committee reviewing those comments and sending any standards still needing work back to the working group.

As members of the advisory committee for ELA and the operational working group for science, we have been involved with standards review for the past two years. We’ve gained some insights into Ohio’s standards:

  • The vertical progression is key. As educators, it is critical that we know and understand the vertical progression within the standards. In the work with the ELA standards review, it didn’t take long to see that a change made in sixth grade, for example, would have a ripple effect running towards both kindergarten and grade 12. One important strand in the ELA progression is writing opinions/arguments. Standards help to frame the increasing sophistication of students use of evidence to support their argument. In science, this progression helps to map out how students build an understanding of a concept, like force and motion, starting with simple pushing and pulling in kindergarten and going all the way up to calculating force in physics. As a teacher, It is important to understand the foundation students have as they walk into your classroom.  It’s also important to understand that if that foundation is shaky, intervention needs to happen with an eye toward the requirements of the standard in previous grades. Additionally, knowing the vertical progression  of the knowledge and skills students will be working can help educators make decisions regarding students who have already mastered standards at a particular grade level. In this instance, a teacher can make a decision as to whether to broaden the student’s experiences with the skills in that standard, or accelerate the student into the next grade level’s work on that particular standard.
  • Knowing the vocabulary is also important. As we worked through the standards review process, it became clear that some terms used within the language arts standards, for example, needed a glossary, so that all educators in Ohio can work from the same definition in addressing those standards. As we prepare to transition into the revised standards, it is important to pay attention to the glossary to ensure each standard is clearly understood. These are the definitions the model curriculum writing teams are using in their work, and because the test blueprints will be developed based on these standards, the assessments will address these terms as defined in the glossary. In math and science, content specific vocabulary was also carefully looked at to be sure that correct terms were used consistently throughout the standards.  In science, the operational working group had many discussions over exactly the right word to use within each standard being reviewed. Many laundry lists of terms were replaced with a focus on a few key terms, keeping the standards language based in the building knowledge of science concepts and skills, not just memorizing lists or tables.  Beyond vocabulary for students, essential vocabulary was also clearly defined or explained as a support for the teachers who will be working with the standards.
  • Standards build from grade level to grade level, and they also work in conjunction with other standards at the same grade level.  Part of the work of standards review and revision is to be sure that the standards articulate across grade levels and within grade levels in a way that will make sense to teachers and to students. While we as educators need to break the standards down to understand their component parts, that is not the way we should be teaching our students on a daily basis. The standards aren’t meant to be taught as separate, isolated skills and concepts. While we may need to focus students’ attention on one aspect of a standard to deepen their mastery, it is also critical that we have them then work with the standard as a whole.  One way to look at the Ohio Learning Standards is to think of them as the story of the learning that we would like students to master at each grade level.  Within each story, there are a number of strands. In ELA, these include literature, informational text, writing, foundational reading, language and speaking and listening.  The science standard story begins with the nature of science statements, and weaves in Earth/space, physical and life sciences.  Just like any good story, the standards have connections to each other.  Look closely at the literature and informational text standards for reading, and you will see the writing standards reflected in the wording.  Spend time with the physical science standards and you will see that they can be taught through the lens of life science.  Going even further, it is also possible to teach many of the language arts skills through the context of the science concepts!
  • The standards are the floor, not the ceiling, of what students can and should be doing in Ohio classrooms. The standards don’t limit us to only the skills embodied within them. We can stretch beyond those standards. For example, I’ve heard concerns expressed that letter-writing is not specifically named in Ohio’s ELA standards. There is nothing preventing a teacher from addressing letter-writing skills in his or her classroom.  One creative teacher had students write letters to an author, another had students write letters to a story character, from another character.  In science, the working group worked hard to write standard language that would encourage teachers to let students explore the world around them, use authentic data, and find real world situations to build their understanding of science skills. This allows teachers to find science in their local community or their school yard and set students up to become lifelong scientists.  The science working group spent time revising the nature of science descriptions for grade bands k-2, 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12 to be sure teachers would have the flexibility to let students be actively involved in doing science.  people-woman-coffee-meeting

Perhaps the greatest take-away we have had from the work of directly helping to review and revise Ohio’s Learning Standards is the power of teachers from various grade levels and backgrounds working together to really unpack standard language together.  If time could be spent in teacher based teams, grade level teams, professional learning communities having the same kind of focused dialogue, teachers at all grade levels would grow in their own understanding of the the standards, and begin to share best practices for how to help students to master these standards.  

Reflecting On Your Assessments – 4 Steps To An Honest Conversation

By Char Shryock  Dir. of Curriculum and Instruction, Bay Village City Schools

When was the last time you had an honest conversation with yourself about your class assessments for reading and writing? Before you hand out your last test of the school year, take a close look at the passages you have chosen.  Are they worth reading? How about the questions? Are they worth answering? What verbs are at the center of the test?  Here is a 4 step process for reflecting on your assessments.

Step 1: Check That It Is A Text Worth Reading

Read the passage(s) you selected as the base for the assessment. Are there sticking points within a passage that will introduce new information, challenge the students’ beliefs or cause them to dig into the text more deeply? You want students to use the text as the expert they can refer to as they build their argument, write their narrative or gather information. For multiple text passages, ask yourself if the content will support questions that can go deeper than asking students to find the similarity between the texts.  Students need to be able to analyze different points of view or synthesize information to support a claim. It is hard to do this if the texts have only a shallow connection to each other or are simplistic or lack text for students to really struggle with.   Read the text again.  Do you see something new you didn’t consider the first time through? What words are key to understanding the passage or supporting the claim? How would your use questions to point students to those words or key information?  Are you able to think of more than one writing task that could grow from the text(s)? That is an indicator of a rich text worth working with.   

Resources for Identifying Texts Worth Reading

Step 2: Do A Question Audit

Above all else, do the questions all relate to the central idea or important details of the text and will they provide you with evidence of student mastery of a standard or set of standards? A well designed test has questions that help the students to build their thinking toward a final writing task. In order to do this effectively, the questions should be text dependent. This means that students should be able to go back to the passage(s) to build an answer.  Questions about each passage should help students focus on what is important in the text. Researchers have shown that items that assess peripheral details actually encourage students to do superficial “skim” reading to quickly find answers for filling in blanks rather than reading deeply to find evidence to support ideas.  Highlight the verbs in your questions. Are you asking students to analyze, integrate, determine, and evaluate or are you asking them to list, define, identify or pick from a list?  Take the time to revise your questions. Questions should be a scaffold that leads to a final task, not a series of gotchas and traps to see if a student has memorized information or can remember isolated details from a text.

Resources for Identifying Questions Worth Asking

Step 3: Questions Should Expect Students To Use Evidence From The Text

An assessment worth giving expects students to demonstrate a command of evidence. How does your assessment consistently require students to use textual evidence  to analyze, evaluate, and make inferences around the use of text structures, author point of view, the central idea or important details? Students who have a command of evidence are adept at selecting details from a text to support their ideas and arguments or write a cohesive informational piece. Ohio’s Learning Standards for ELA/Literacy are meant to help students be college or career ready. The ability to make claims that are developed with appropriate evidence is a college career ready skill.  Not all evidence based questions need to be short answer. It is possible to write evidence based selected response questions. These can be two part multiple choice questions or questions that ask students to select or highlight multiple quotes taken from a passage to support an answer choice.  As you read through your passage and questions, are they written and ordered in a way that supports the use of text based evidence?

Resource That Shows The Use of Evidence

Step 4: Check Alignment To The Standards

It is worth the time to make a blueprint for any summative test or final exam you are going to be using with your class.  A blueprint is a map of the questions that includes for each item on the test, the standard(s) it is meant to collect evidence of learning on, the type of question, the depth of knowledge required by the standard, and how the question connects to the major focus of the unit or class. Just a reminder, all text dependent questions should allow student to use evidence from the text and should be based on appropriately complex text.  Have you allowed for multiple entry points into your test for students who are at varying levels of mastery of the standards?  You can also look at how your are going to provide feedback on this assessment to students. Will you be using points? Partial Points? A rubric? Will there be opportunities for the students to correct or revise answers to receive full credit? Do not rely on the publisher of your book series or program to create standards based questions. Take the time to review those questions too.  Ohio’s State Tests are matched closely to Ohio’s Learning Standards.  There are blueprints for the tests as well as specific test spec documents.  You can also look at the answer documents for the released test items to see the connection to standards, and rationale for the distractor items.

Resources for Checking Alignment To Standards