Yesterday, grade level PLCs worked together to calibrate their scoring of post-writing assessments. We began our time together looking at a shared piece of writing by one of our students at each of the grade levels and naming out the good and precious skills exhibited in those pieces – an idea suggested by my favorite “conferring guru,” Carl Anderson. It’s so important that when we examine student writing we note what our kids are doing well, within each of their developmental levels, and then create goals and teaching points that build upon those strengths.
Following this activity, we scored those same pieces of writing, individually, using the appropriate scoring rubric (genre/grade level) from Lucy Calkins’ Writing Units of Study. As we each added up our scores, we found that in some grade levels, as much as a nine point discrepancy (out of a total of 44 points) existed, thus showing the need to align our scoring of writing assessments. As we adjusted our thinking and did some consensus building around what constitutes writing proficiency in structure, development, and conventions, we entered into deep conversations about our teaching practices, student expectations, and the content of our lessons.
Great learning comes from collaborative conversations among teachers. Meaningful discussions, centered around student work, can be transformative – from the new ways in which we approach our teaching to the student learning that occurs as a result. Recently, I came across the following quote from Lucy Calkins that encapsulates the importance of teachers talking and listening to one another, learning from one another, and challenging each others’ thinking around focused topics:
Good teaching matters. Any effort to lift the level of students’ learning must begin with lifting the level of teachers’ teaching. The best way to do this is to create a community of practice within the school so that teachers can study together, observe each others’ teaching, and outgrow ourselves together.