As an instructional coach, I’m always looking for ways to move our practice forward without pitching people over the edge. It’s a tricky balance. I know classroom teachers have plenty on their overwhelming plates (TPEP, report cards, new classroom management systems, new district initiatives). I like to think of myself as a first adopter. I like to think of myself as someone on the cutting edge of education research. I like to think of myself as open to the best ideas.
Luckily, the teachers at my building (who have begged emphatically to remain anonyms) think likewise. We truly want to do the right thing for the profession and for the students we serve. We are deep thinkers but not curmudgeons. We are open to new ideas but not willing to jump on the flashiest bandwagon. We are willing to change, but are not swayed by trends.
In my earlier blog, I highlighted the great benefits of the Basal Alignment Project. Today I will tell you about your next step, if you are willing to take it.
Have you tried a Basal Alignment Project lesson that someone else has written? Have you tried a pre-written Literacy Design Collaborative lesson? Are you confident in your curriculum and ready to try something else? Are you less anxious about the CCSS than you were earlier in your life? Have you come to peace with the CCSS adoption and know you need to make some changes?
Have I got the answer for you: question stems!
If you are like me you mourn the passing usefulness of the MSP Question Stems. I even printed mine out and put them on a jump ring. These were a genius creation of OSPI. I could write MSP-like question for every story (or every day, for that matter!) with the greatest of ease. I just plugged in my content and Ta-Da: a question that would prepare students for the MSP and allow me to judge their ability to meet the standard!
With the adoption of the CCSS I felt adrift without these question stems. How was I to know what types of questions to ask? How could I check on student’s achievement of skills? If found the answer to these questions (and perhaps your questions as well) in a document called “ELA CCCSS Bookmarks” from Tulare County Office of Education.
Which brings me back to my school and the hardworking teachers that just want to do the right thing for the kids at our school. Many teachers use all the Basal Alignment Project lessons available. We were at a loss for what to do with the stories not included in the Basal Alignment Project? We also use a different series for our K-1 classrooms not even included in the BAP. Enter Question Stems/Bookmarks!
At an extended staff training, I introduced the Tulare County question stems. Here was our methodology:
- Determine the story we want to write a question for.
- Read said story.
- Decide the CCSS that best aligns with the story for this week. (This could lead me into a whole other diatribe about how current materials don’t match the CCSS, but that is a topic for another day.)
- Find the targeted CCSS on the Tulare document.
- Use the question stems to develop a question that matches the story.
- Answer the question, making sure there’s adequate evidence.
- Design an adequate rubric that scores the student answers.
Should we be spending so much time on this? Perhaps not. Should someone else be spending all the time writing these for us so teachers can focus on instruction? Perhaps. In any case, our staff feels supported with this document, and they could also take the next necessary step in the CCSS process.