Category Archives: Tools

The Power Is In Their Hands

Sometimes the most elegant solution is a simple one.  Goal cards are a meaningful tool that can help students take a stepwise approach to independence.  Begin with a large index card, markers, and a vision. Teachers can make a goal card  on the spot during a research conference or have it prepared ahead of time for a coaching conference.  Whatever the student need, a goal card can break down the learning into manageable bits.  They are meant to be concise and easily put to use by the student. Pairing pictures and kid friendly prompts is a way to make learning both relevant and engaging.  For example:

Goal Card

Teachers and students can use these cards flexibly  to attain quick “mini-goals” that lead towards greater independence.  They can be used in a variety of ways: nonverbal just point to the card, they can be a source for formative data during a conference, or a way to facilitate conversation during partnership work.  The possibilities are endless. Think of them as a device to help the gradual release happen for students. Once the card is inserted into the work the teacher can take a step back and observe the student put it to use.  Was it effective? Did the student get what was needed?  Either way, they reveal what “next steps” need to be taken.

A simple tool  that is easily understood and readily put  to use by students is the solution we’ve all been looking for! Anchor charts and tools are becoming much more kid friendly than their wordy cousins. The card is powerful because it can be moved around, it’s small, it fits in students’ hands as they go to work at their own learning.  Its strength is in its simplicity and proximity.  This is a tool that is made for kids and is a device for agency.  The kids are manipulating it as needed.
We believe in creating openings for students to see themselves in their own learning. We can model and show examples, and then we can explore student thinking and allow them to reveal their thinking to us. Here is a better one, as we are going through this process with children, we are giving students the power, they are creating their own tools as they construct meaning for themselves.

We were thinking about how empowering this tool can be when used strategically.  An important question came to mind, how can we do more with this tool?  A student who creates  a goal card is working at the synthesis / evaluative level. Students are vested in their learning because it has relevancy.  Agency is realized by the student as the goal card represents their best thinking at the time of the learning.  

Meet Luka. He has created a goal card that gave him the language and the actions he needs to be successful. Consider his work, it tells a story about how he is approaching word solving through both word attack and meaning making:

Luka created this card back in February, he used the strategy independently yesterday.  He no longer needs the card but he can explain the strategy and teach it to other students. This is real learning and true ownership.  

Tools for Transfer

The challenge is to create tools that will promote independence.  Tools that will be meaningful to children, ones they can use with ease and utility.  The Wheel of Strategic Actions attempts to make the reading process visible through observational work.  Teachers can infer which actions are being flexed and attempt to provide instruction to bolster students’ efforts. Going deep into the Continuum to pull out potential teaching points and tools to match is very difficult work.   Putting this complex work into neat categories is daunting.  There is some overlap – so how to decide which tool goes where?  In the end we can’t sweat the small stuff and have to go back to our original intention: to give students a destination a place to go that will support their learning when they need it.   

Accountable Talk:  Click here

Promoting intellectual rigor begins with accountable talk.  In the classroom, children should be able to engage in conversation that will promote greater understanding in a social framework.  This tool is being used daily – the more children elect to use it the more sophisticated their classroom conversations become.  In other words – this is how we talk about literacy in this room.  One day a group of students were talking about spiders. The conversation went to all spiders being poisonous but after some meaningful dialogue students realized that not all spiders but some.  The tool allowed the teacher to observe this exchange of ideas and students did the work of discovery not the teacher.  The tool brought the readers back to the text.  Through this, children were able to connect the pages in a meaningful way.  They let the book reveal its content because they (the readers) were able to seek it out through discourse.

Thinking Tracks: Click here  

Reading is thinking- this is one of the most important things we teach our students.  Essentially, this annotating texts.  This simple system for annotating texts is easy to use and allows children to truly reflect on their own reading.  This is especially true for our current Informational UoS.  Today the children  paired this tool with another –  Fact, Question, Response (FQR)  Click Here The ‘Response” part can be difficult – the Thinking Tracks scaffolded that higher level thinking.  The Thinking Tracks gave a label for the authentic response to learning the fact:  was this confusing, did this make you wonder, or was it really surprising to learn…

This is the work that we are dedicating ourselves to because we know it works.  There are so many “programs” or “interventions” when the reality is everything that students need to be successful is predicated on the idea of transfer.  In Gravity Goldberg’s new book Mindsets & Moves she writes: “As teachers, we can begin to set students on the road to this kind of agency by thinking about how we can teach readers to make purposeful decisions for themselves.”   How we do that is going to rest on: explicit instruction, immediate corrective feedback, and diverse tools that help students to generalize strategic actions in meaningful ways – ways that promote authenticity and independence.