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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

School Of The Future

Grades 6-8 | New York City, NY

Making Sure They Are Learning

Sticky notes coalesce into high-level analytical thinking in Sarah Kaufmann's 6th grade humanities class, where complex concepts are broken down into manageable pieces that help students master challenging assignments.
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Making Sure They Are Learning (Transcript)

Sarah Kaufmann: I think of authentic assessment as my ability to teach each student where they actually are. I'm Sarah Kaufmann. I teach sixth grade humanities at School of the Future. In order to know where they actually are, I have to be able to assess them really specifically and in a variety of ways that are appropriate for that student, so that what I'm doing is every day giving that child an environment where they're challenged, where they feel good about what they're learning and they feel like they're learning.

Stacy Goldstein: What's been amazing to watch in Sarah's class as a sixth grade teacher is also, she just is extremely rigorous in what she demands from the kids. And so her class really has high standards.

Sarah Kaufmann: A lot of that work started with myself when I would think about reading and I would do Post-Its while I read to figure out what I was actually asking the students to do. And that led me to really break down the skill work into smaller pieces so that I could manage it, because if I don't do that, my brain can't focus. So then, what I do is assess the kids on skills on a continuum. So like what we saw this morning was I collected a bunch of the kids' work on Friday. I'd seen their reading labs. I'd seen Post-Its that they'd been making while they were reading that were observing, inferring, you know, visualizing and summarizing. I took that work, I compared it to data I had already collected on the students by, you know, taking a Post-It, comparing it on this continuum. And then I looked over the whole class and I thought about who needs what work where, and then used that to make groups. And then because I made that continuum, I could then pull the lessons that each group needed, so that eventually all of that becomes high level, analytical thinking.

Eamon McCormick: We always work in groups, whether it's working off of writing or working off Post-Its. Like even today, in class, you guys saw how we were working in Post-It groups. It really helps, 'cause you have someone to talk to and they share their ideas, or you can take off theirs, and you can have positive feedback and help a lot.

My name's Eamon McCormick. I'm a sixth grader student at School of the Future.

Student 1: I just borrow Owen's description--

Sarah Kaufmann: I started with kids that were struggling more and or had a more difficult task because of it. So that was the first table I went to. And at that table, I knew that they would need more upfront instruction, because it was a harder skill for them. So then I could start there, but by the time I got to the third table, all of those kids had already done one Post-It. So with the nice thing about that was, it allowed me to first, before I even talked to the kids, knowing that those kids were stronger in that work, I could then look and see what they had done before even speaking to them. Giving them multiple opportunities to practice really allowed me while I was going round the class to maybe change the plan as needed. I try to structure a lotta time that way, so that they have a little practice first, and then I can assess it as qui-- if possible.

Eamon McCormick: It's really great to just think about what we've been reading, and it just lets you like recap and not forget anything and find the real purpose of what's going on. And it lets you like get the true meaning out of the book.

Sarah Kaufmann: Eamon is a really strong student. You know, in class today, he was talking about how he was really struggling to feel like he could find depth there in his thinking process. And it was like, "Well, what if we observe characters across books and in patterns? Like what are we seeing over and over and over again, and we use that as the basis of your observation work? What does that free up?" So even though he's very bright and like, you know, very capable, he's still eleven, you know. And like there's still things that he need to work on. I do as much as I can to make him feel like he's got something new to try that day.

>>In eight minutes is when you're going to have a break to talk to a partner, to tell them, "What are you going to write on your Post-It that matches the work at your table?"

Stacy Goldstein: She's an amazing sixth grade teacher, because she really pushes the reading, she pushes the volume of writing and reading her class is amazing. I think it's made such a difference in the tone that like has come

on-- off of the kids after they leave here to seventh and eighth. Like it establishes that tone that we were reader and writers in here and continues that a lot from elementary school, but really takes it to the next level.

Sarah Kaufmann: I've seen a lot of success as a teacher with kids who are really, really struggling. And they're so relieved that someone finally validated the fact that they are working really hard and it doesn't make sense. And then you can say, "Great, let's work on making it less hard, and like, here's how we're gonna do it." And as long as I think you have a plan, kids feel okay. It's when you just sorta like, "Yeah," and then you don't have a plan for them, that they really struggle. But when you have a plan and they go, "Oh, great, you've thought about this. You care about me. You know what I need. You're gonna help me." And then they can just allow themselves to do the work that they need to do.

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This installment of Schools That Work was produced in collaboration with The Digital Learning Group.

Comments (13)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Mary Pratt Lobdell's picture
Mary Pratt Lobdell
8th Grade E/LA teacher at a rural school near Covington, LA.

I'm loving this...hope to see it work with my "noncommittal" 8th graders!

Robert Ryshke's picture
Robert Ryshke
Executive Director of Center for Teaching

This was a very well done introduction to how a classroom teacher uses formative assessment in the classroom to improve instruction and influence student achievement in positive ways. It was also nice to have a comprehensive set of resources that match the video. I have shared the resources and video with teachers at Westminster School and Drew Charter School. Thanks for sharing this!

Bob Ryshke

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