Scroll through the Units of Study in Reading and Writing Facebook groups, and you’ll see a few topics that emerge often: one is what to do about assessment, and another is how to get better at conferring. Happily, one set of tools can help with both of these: the reading and writing learning progressions.
Learning progressions are maps of sorts, pathways of learning along which students are expected to travel. They are typically broken down into granular skills in a subject area, and organized in a way that shows development over time in each skill. Many describe grade level expectations. Because learning progressions are progressive and precise, they are an invaluable tool for teaching and for assessment. Teachers can use them to assess whether students are meeting grade level expectations and, if not, how far above or below a student is in a particular skill area. More importantly, a teacher can use them to determine next steps for a student no matter the students’ level. Learning progressions also help teachers to communicate progress with students themselves, parents, and other teachers about where a student is and where she needs to be.
When you watch an expert confer, it is often as if they pull the perfect teaching point and next steps for a student out of thin air. They quickly assess what a student is doing well and give a compliment that reinforces this good work, and then teach something that nudges the student a bit further toward mastery. Conferring with a learning progression in hand is a bit like having that expert by your side. Imagine you are conferring with a student to help her get better at analyzing characters in her reading. You have the narrative reading learning progression from Reading Pathways from the Units of Study for Teaching Reading series by Lucy Calkins and colleagues with you. You can tell from the student's reading notebook that she is thinking about how a character is changing over time. This is important work, is highlighted on the progression around level three, and warrants a compliment. But what to teach next? You could study level four of the progression to determine that you could teach the student to consider possible causes of the character’s changes, thus moving her work up a notch.
Alissa Reicherter and Kara Arnold will lead this week’s TCRWP Twitter chat on ways to maximize the reading and writing learning progressions in your classroom. Join this chat to get plenty of tips on integrating learning progressions into your teaching in ways that will have a tangible, immediate impact on your students’ work. Whether you are new to learning progressions or you’ve been using them for some time, you’re sure to get some fresh ideas you can implement immediately. While this is not at all necessary for you to be able to participate in and get a wealth of information from the chat, you may want to familiarize yourself with the learning progressions from Writing Pathways or Reading Pathways beforehand if you have access to these so that you have a sense of these tools.
Each Wednesday night at 7:30pm eastern, The Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project hosts a Twitter chat using the hashtag #TCRWP. Join @missalissanyc & @karnold022 to chat about ways to maximize reading and writing progressions in your teaching tomorrow evening.
Anna Cockerille, Coauthor of Bringing History to Life(Grade 4) in the Units of Study for Teaching Writing Series, was a teacher and a literacy coach in New York City and in Sydney, Australia, and later became a Staff Developer and Writer at TCRWP. She served as an adjunct instructor in the Literacy Specialist Program at Teachers College, and taught at several TCRWP institutes, including the Content Literacy Institute, where she helped participants bring strong literacy instruction into social studies classrooms. Anna also has been a researcher for Lucy Calkins, contributing especially to Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement (Heinemann 2012), and Navigating Nonfiction in the Units of Study for Teaching Reading, Grades 3–5 series (Heinemann 2010). Most recently, Anna served as an editor for the Units of Study for Teaching Reading, K–5 series.