Monthly Archives: January 2009

Intentional Vocabulary Instruction

One of the tasks that I have intentionally focused on this semester is vocabulary instruction.  Marzano’s Building Background Knowledge book is a good place to start.  
After looking at what he suggests, and considering my students’ strengths and weaknesses, I produced the following “form” to assist students in vocabulary development.  
The early results are in, and intentional vocabulary instruction seems to be working.  The students are interested and energized.  They are using the words in class discussion.  

I administered the first quiz today, and I am including that in this post as well.  


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Vocab 3A Test.doc (9 KB)

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Winter Sunset in Kazakhstan

Its only January, and the Kazakh snow is melting quickly, turning to mud. It feels too early for that! But a beautiful day anyway. And here, at the end of the day, just before a run to O’Neill’s Pub, is what it looks like.

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Essay Grading Form

Over the years, and with help from many people, I have created a grading/feedback form for essays.  I save it in voodoopad and can easily transfer it into my email.  

When I grade essays, I paste the form into an email, and then fill it in as I read and assess a student’s essay.   When I have completed my reading/assessment, I will email it to the student.  I will sometimes copy it to hand to the student in class if I am going to go over the essays in class.  

Persuasive Essay Grading Form
Core Structure
Thesis/Introductory Paragraph
Thesis fully addresses an important issue
Describes what author wants us to believe
Thesis takes a position
Is it persuasive
Thesis provides organizational categories (claims)
Considers the audience
Supporting Paragraphs
Use of Logos (logical arguments) to support claim
Use of Pathos (emotional arguments) to support claim
Topic Sentence
Use of Ethos (ethical arguments) to support claim
Factual Evidence
Use of Kairos (sense of urgency) to support claim
Use of big name to support claim
Use of research to support claim
Transition Sentence
Coherent in Presentation 
“Idiot Paragraph”
Acknowledges other  points of view/ sides of the question
Very strong, sophisticated argument (bonus)
Factual Evidence
Reinforces Thesis
Synthesizes clincher sentences
Addresses “So what?” (significance)
Generic Essay Rubric 
  • Has a clear, well-developed thesis that “answers” the question, takes a position and which guides the essay throughout 
  • Supports the thesis with substantial and relevant information 
  • Demonstrates an understanding of the complexity of the question 
  • Supports the thesis with many relevant, accurate facts and details 
  • Effectively analyzes, interprets, and makes inferences 
  • May contain insignificant errors that do not hinder the essay’s core structure or its content 
  • Is clearly organized and well written 
  • If responding to a DBQ, effectively uses all or a substantial number of documents and interprets them correctly. 
  • Contains a clear thesis which addresses the essay prompt 
  • Includes some outside facts with little or superficial interpretation 
  • Does not understand the complexity of the question 
  • Limited analysis; mostly describes 
  • May contain minor errors 
  • If responding to a DBQ, uses some of the documents or uses some facts 
  • Has a limited, confused or poorly developed thesis, may restate the prompt, or has weak organization and writing. 
  • Briefly mentions facts or documents, sometimes in a list format 
  • Lacks a thesis, or simply restates the question or confused or unfocused thesis 
  • Supporting information is superficial, missing, or irrelevant 
  • May contain major errors 
  • Has no thesis or a thesis that does not address the topic 
  • Shows inadequate or inaccurate understanding of the question 
  • Incompetent or inappropriate response 
  • May paraphrase the question 
  • Little understanding of the question
Y = Yes  |  N = No  |  NI = Yes, but needs improvement  |  NA = Not Applicable

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Choices for Students

Here is an email that I sent to a student recently, as well as her response.  I like the whole approach.
Here is your first monologue.  I have attached two different rubrics to this email.  You will need to tell me by which rubric you would like me to assess your performance.  Keep in mind that you will  have several attempts at a monologue grade.  I will use your highest grade as your summative assessment.  
Break a leg.  We will start tomorrow. 

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monologue rubric.doc (24 KB)

“GRACEFULNESS” by Adra Young
Words cannot describe the loving relationship I once shared with my grandmother. We’d drink our cola in a bottle together and laugh. Every night before I’d lie down she’d pray with me. As a little girl I would look at her fingers and say “Granny show me your rings!” Elegantly she would whirl her fingers around as if she were a queen. (Individual sticks her hand out to demonstrate.) Oh it made me so proud to see her wearing them. 
My Granny passed away at a rather young age and had willed me her beautiful rings. On my way home from work last week, I had discovered something bad. My duplex was broken into! All I really cared about in my place was “Granny’s Rings”. (States slowly, and in a very emotional manner.) 
Turns out my worse nightmare had come true. They had taken one of the rings my granny had given me. Hurt and devastated by this situation, I was fortunate that they did not take both. I vowed to myself that I would never let the other ring get away from me. 
No one knows where it is or, where I keep it. From time to time I put it on and I reminisce about my granny. Oh how she would elegantly and gracefully whirl her rings around her fingers as if she were a queen. 
Here is Matija’s response:

I like the second monologue rubric more than the first one because it’s easier to understandhas a simpler structure and summarizes bettertherefore I think you should use the second rubric.
Did you get that? I wrote it like a thesis…
See you tomorrow

(= (= (= MATIJA =) =) =)

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Winter in Atyrau, Kz

Well, today it is snowing heavily, however yesterday was high clouds combined with cold wind. Here are some photos taken from yesterday.  I am reasonably confident that the statue is not Natasha despite written assurance to the contrary.  Having said that, I am equally unsure who either the statue or the bust is meant to represent.  Any ideas?  





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Lesson/Unit Planning Support

Attached is a “template” that I use to design lessons and units.  The design of the template is heavily influenced by the process of “Understanding by Design” but it is also influenced by the excellent work of Paul Philp.  The result of using the template as a creation tool is invariably a plan that helps me do a much better job of teaching now than I used to do.  
I have many other forms posted on my website.  The website was created using Personal Brain.  

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Educating Students Not To Bully

Four ideas for educating in a way that may serve to decrease bullying:

  • Develop a school-wide focus on values that, while focusing on positive attributes of what it means to be human, implicitly discourage mistreatment of “the other.”  So, for example, my previous employer, the American International School in Hong Kong developed “Expected Schoolwide Learning Results” that focused on among other things global citizenship and well-rounded individuality.   My present school has something called “Success Orientations” that include trustworthiness, responsibility, concern for others, kindness and politeness, and group interaction.  
  • Permit students to develop their own set of classroom rules, as well as a “vision statement” for the class.  Here are my class rules (posted on the wall and signed by the students) as well as their vision statement:
  • Use Understanding by Design’s Facets of Understanding instead of Bloom’s Taxonomy, or some variant thereof, to guide instruction.  I like the Facets of Understanding because at its highest levels, it asks student to compare (Perception), empathize and explore self-knowledge.  Those endeavors are not only educationally valuable, but also encourage exploration of ideas that will eventually serve to inhibit bullying behavior.  The shift from Bloom’s to Facet’s of Understanding is subtle but important.  
  • Model empathetic behavior to students, and toward others as well.  This can be done through unit plans (developing essential questions such as “What is so special about the other?”), lesson ideas (exploring empathy toward post-classical Chinese efforts at unification, which cost thousands of lives), and by simply stopping the educational process when bullying happens to discuss why it happened, and what it means.  I do not think we serve our students well to pretend that there really is not an elephant in the room.  We should bring it out in the open and discuss it.  
These are four ideas that I use to discourage not just bullying behavior, but to also encourage positive behaviors such as compassion for those different from us.  What are your ideas?  

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