Create Language Arts Success at Every Grade Level
TEACH Observe Publish
by Jacqueline Rhoades
Teach, Observe, Publish (TOP) is a way to teach students language arts standards and apply them in a real-time practice situation. TOP heightens the student's awareness of his or her own behavior in a non-threatening way. This, in turn, accelerates learning.
The emphasis of TOP is on teaching and learning in a stress-free environment; therefore, it is recommended that participation grades, rather than academic grades, be given during the TOP activity. We eliminate the "gotchas" by:
- Telling the students what we expect them to learn by teaching the standard(s) at the beginning of the TOP activity.
- Giving students an opportunity to practice the standard(s) using a well-designed rubric
- Observing students as they practice and making a check mark on the observation sheet when specific rubric behaviors are noted.
- Providing positive feedback to students through the publishing of observations recorded by the teacher.
What curriculum do I use? It is not necessary to create new material. The TOP activity is intended to enhance the lessons you are teaching on a day-to-day basis. You can use TOP at ;any grade level, in reading classes or in content-based lessons in which reading is required. However, if not embedded in the existing curriculum, standards and rubrics should be written.
What is the difference between a standard and a rubric?
- A standard is a criterion or a measure of excellence. Standards define what students should know.
- A rubric is a rule of conduct. In other words, a rubric tells us specifically what the student must do to demonstrate mastery of the standard.
For example, during a science activity students may be working in pairs on a problem-solving worksheet and/or reading the textbook, the embedded language arts standard and rubric items are as follows.
Standard: Effective Communication (what the student should know).
Rubric: The teacher will choose from the pre-established rubric list one or two items to include in this lesson (what the student should do to demonstrate mastery of the standard).
- Looks at the speaker/listener,
- Speaks so others can hear.
Other items from the rubric list to be taught at a later date:
- Reads aloud with fluency in a manner that sounds like natural speech.
- Reads with expression appropriate to punctuation found in the text.
- Speaks clearly.
- Listens without interrupting.
- Uses an appropriate pace for the type of communication found in the text-such as reading a report, reading a story, or any type of assignment you choose.
Well-defined standards and rubrics, listed by subject and grade level, are often made available to teachers by state and/or local boards. They are also included in many text-books. Reading standards are often embedded in content areas, such as history and math, as well as in stand-alone reading curriculum. If standards are not available at your school site your home-state and board homepage are two of the first places to explore. Other sites, out of many, to obtain new ideas are:
- The National Center for Education Statistics at nces.ed.gov/nationalreportcard/reading. Click on explore sample questions.
- The Texas Education Agency at www.tea.state.tx.us has a list of Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills.
- The New Mexico Department of Education at www.sde.state.nm.us
- The Chicago Public Schools at www.intranet.cps.k12.il.us/Assment/
Ideas_and_Rubrics/ideas_and_rubrics.html has excellent information on rubrics and a step-by-step process for writing new rubrics.
What are the steps are required to integrate Teach, Observe, Publish (TOP)
into my lesson?
A thumbnail sketch of the lesson follows:
Before the Lesson:
- Select one standard and one or two rubric items on which to focus. Again, standards are usually selected from, or written for, curriculum you are currently teaching. Choose an assignment in which students have many opportunities to practice the standard selected.
- Write the standard and rubric items on the board or chart paper making sure the list is visible to all students.
- Decide on the type of observation to be conducted: Individual, Group, or whole class.
- Develop an observation checklist reflecting the type of observation selected:
- Individual Observation Checklist: One "quick and simple" way to create an Observation sheet is to copy the class list.
- Group Observation Checklist: Write the names of pairs on a sheet of paper.
- Whole Class Observation Checklist: A class list is all you need.
Create space for the rubric item(s) you are going to observe:
- One observation item: The copy of the class list will work "as
- Two observation items: draw a line about one inch to the right of the list
of names to form two columns. Title each column with the selected observation
items. For example:
Sample of Individual or Whole Class Observation Checklist
Look at Speaker
Sample of Group Observation Checklist
Asked Clarifying Questions
The Cool Ones
Distribute students into cooperative groups. Groups of two, three or four are suggested for this activity.
Assign students roles to each group as appropriate to the activity. Group roles may rotate during the activity giving all students an opportunity to perform each role: Examples of group roles are:
The Reader reads the assigned passage aloud as defined by the rubric.
The Listener silently reads along with the reader. When the reader has finished reading the passage the listener gives feedback.
The Recorder writes the group response when agreed upon.
Cooperative groups are an important component of TOPS because the research validating the use of Cooperative Learning is indisputable. Students who participate in cooperative learning groups demonstrate increased learning, retention, self-esteem, acceptance of differences as well as positive attitudes toward teachers, their school, and others in the classroom. Information about, and references regarding, Cooperative Learning teaching strategies and research can be found on the International Association for the Study of Cooperation in Education website at http://www.iasce.net.
During the TOP Lesson:
- Teach the subject area content contained in the lesson,
- Teach the selected standard and rubric items through description and demonstration,
- Teach the observation process and inform students if they are going to be observed individually, as a group or whole class.
After students have a clear understanding regarding the task at hand, instruct students to complete the assignment.
- As students are working on the assignment, walk around the room completing the observation form. Make a check mark after the name of the student or student group when you observe the targeted rubric behavior.
- It is not necessary to observe one student working for a long period of time. Usually thirty seconds to a minute will give you a good idea of the student's performance. If you have any doubts, walk away and go back another time. There are times you can stand at a distance and observe a particular student or group.
- The observation of all members of a class takes between thirty to forty minutes.
Total the number of checks in each rubric category after each student or group's name. If you are providing whole class feedback, total the number of checks in each rubric column.
Publishing the observation data should occur at the conclusion of the assignment or when the teacher has observed all the students in the class. There may be instances when several sessions may be needed to complete a thorough observation. It is important, however, to publish results as soon as possible to achieve the greatest impact.
There are certain guidelines that will facilitate the effectiveness of feedback:
- Positive feedback only is the rule. For example, "Mary and Roberto, you have 5 checks."
- Individual and pair feedback should be done in a confidential manner by walking over to the student(s) and giving feedback as they work on other assignment(s). If a student has no checks in a particular rubric column, skip over his name to avoid embarrassment. In most cases the student will make every effort to checks during the next observation session.
- Whole group feedback may be given to the entire class. For example, say to the students, "In this observation out of the fifteen students I observed twelve were using fingers, line markers or erasure tips to keep their place." Continue the process until all observation information is shared with the class. In most cases, classroom feedback will increase on task behavior of all students in the class.
- You may choose to keep a running record of the feedback checks for the whole class. For example, write on the board or chart paper: Monday, the total class received 40 checks, Tuesday 50 checks and so on. Individual records, kept in the students notebook or desk, are also a motivator.
Running Record: Mr. Smith's Class
Rubric Item Observed: We complimented readers on one aspect of delivery
After the TOP Lesson:
Evaluation is a very important part of a TOP lesson. Students often feel pressure to learn all the standards as fast as possible because they are on the line for passing benchmarks, proficiencies, state boards, graduation or other required assessments. Students need to understand that passing through the material does not necessarily lead knowing and doing. The self-evaluation and reflection tools taught in the TOPS lesson are decision-making tools students can use for life.
Honest student evaluation assists the teacher in future lesson planning. Take time to have students reflect on their own behavior immediately after each lesson. Evaluation and reflection may take 3-15 minutes depending how much time the teacher chooses to schedule. The time spent leads to the reward of increased student ownership and participation in learning.
Evaluation and reflection feedback can be given by individuals, groups or by the whole class. It is a good idea to alternate between written and discussion formats because many students don't feel comfortable sharing these important thoughts with the whole class. The teacher should make a point of asking questions that will assist in planning future lessons. Student evaluation can assist the teacher in deciding if the class is ready to move on to the next set of standards. Sample evaluation questions are:
- One thing that went right in this activity, one thing that went wrong,
- During this session I learned…
- I/we need more practice on…
- One idea/concept I would like to have re-taught is…
- The rubric I understand best is…
When teachers use TOP, student retention rates are increased by: 1) creating a safe, stress-free environment, 2) breaking the list of standards into small teaching units, 3) providing a rubrics to help students understand what they must do to achieve mastery of the standard, 4) providing clear task directions, 5) providing multiple practice opportunities in a cooperative environment and, 6) creating a process for student self-reflection.
When teachers use TOP they reduce the risk of moving too fast or too slow through the curriculum. Observation data is an effective tool in lesson planning and ensures an effective learning pace. In addition, completed observation forms can be filed to be used at a later date to reflect on class progress.
Teach Observe Publish, a strategy that can be used by new and veteran teachers, adds "spice" to everyday activities. Students learn faster because they are seriously focused on the skill(s) they are required to learn. They become actively involved in their own learning and the learning of their classmates. Teachers have a better understanding of what students know and what needs to be taught or re-taught.
With an established curriculum, it takes less than five minutes to prepare the TOP lesson- a very good trade-off for the rewards gained.
©Jacqueline Rhoades 2003
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