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References for Balanced Literacy
Course Outline

 

 

 

 

 

Final Assessment

For

Online Assessment

With Professor Datta Kaur Khalso

 

By Patricia Hutton

Spring 2007

 

 

 

 

A Course Outline for

Balanced Literacy in the Middle School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Course Outline for

Balanced Literacy in the Middle School

 

 

Introduction:

 

During the past thirty years or so in educational circles a debate has raged over the most effective method of teaching reading. Is teaching phonics more effective than whole language? Is whole language instruction more effective than phonemic awareness?  Classroom teachers who have been caught in the shifting tides of the debate have long known that both methods leave something to be desired. Students who are taught through the phonics first method develop strong rote skills. Spelling, grammar, and literal comprehension tend to be relative strengths for these students.  Students who learn to read through the whole language approach have a good grasp of story elements but often remain weak in spelling, grammar, and writing mechanics.

 

Finally, the National Reading Panel conducted a major study in 1996. The results of this study point to the development of stronger literacy programs by combining not only phonics instruction with whole language approaches but also combining elements of reading and writing instruction into one program. The resulting integrated whole is referred to as balanced literacy (Leu, & Kinzer, 1999).  Reading skills affect the development of writing skills and vice versa.  A balanced approach takes advantage of this and includes elements of word study, guided reading, silent sustained reading, interactive writing, and grammar and spelling as just some of its focus (Pressley, 2005).

 

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Description of the course:

 

This course will briefly explore the historical development of balanced literacy.  The majority of our work will center around the aspects of reading and writing programs that are included in balanced literacy and how to use those elements to create lesson plans appropriate to a specific teaching situation.  What does balanced literacy look like in the real world classroom? How can a teacher plan and prepare for balanced literacy instruction?  What elements of balanced literacy are particular to the middle school?

 

This course will examine a number of components within the reading section of balanced literacy. These include reading aloud which is often ignored at the middle school level, shared reading, guided reading where the teacher works on mini-lessons related to reading skills or strategies with small groups, and reading workshop which centers around silent sustained reading.

 

We will also explore the components of the writing portion of balanced literacy.  These include shared writing where the teacher and students work together to compose a piece, interactive writing, guided writing, and independent writing. Often at the middle school level writing instruction is almost entirely guided taking away the crucial element of choice for students.  This balanced model allows students the opportunity to choose the format and theme for independent writing (Walpole, 1999).

 

Upon the completion of this course, students will understand the relationship between all of the components of balanced literacy and identify the theoretical underpinnings backed by research that support this model (Honig, Diamond, & Gutlohn, 2000).  On a more practical level students will have a grasp of how to organize and plan for a balanced literacy class along with a unit plan which can be implemented immediately (Ivey, Baumann,, & Jarrard, 2000).   Students will gain hands-on experience in using four distinct tools for their own assessment but more importantly can be used by their future students.  These include a planning tool, an assessment tool, and a wiki and blog for more creative personal expression.

 

 

 

 

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Intended Student Population:

 

This course will benefit beginning teachers who have little or no practical experience in literacy instruction.  It is designed for future literacy educators, potential reading specialists, and even for current teachers facing a new classroom approach with little practical guidance.

 

Students will use a variety of online tools to explore materials that will clarify just what comprises balanced literacy (Alexander, 2007). They will then explore a variety of online tools and use these tools to create lesson and unit plans they can use.

 

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Online Tools for this course:

 

The following four tools are the primary tools selected for this course.  These tools will be used for both formative and summative assessments throughout the course.

 

A more important reason for the selection of these tools is that they can easily be turn keyed into use in literacy classes as well.

 

       Exam Professor

       Our Story

       Wetpaint

       Teacher Ease

 

Objectives for these tools:

 

       The learner will demonstrate an understanding of the basic activities included in a balanced literacy model and basic concepts related to balanced literacy by answering 8 of 10 multiple choice questions contained in an Exam Professor drill sheet correctly

       The learner will analyze, evaluate, and apply concepts from balanced literacy by addressing situations that correlate to an expected teaching position posed in 3 of 5 open -ended questions posed in an Exam Professor exam correctly.

 

       The learner will create a timeline/professional portfolio using Our Story to document learning throughout the course by telling the story through weekly personal reflection accompanied by photos/videos as appropriate.

 

       The learner will complete an icebreaker activity with a fellow classmate during the first week of class by creating an interview through Our Story, responding to a partner’s interview questions, and then sharing the experience as well as the results through the story section of Our Story.

 

       The learner will collaboratively create, using Wetpaint with a small group of 3-4 students, 3mini-lessons that can be taught within the reading workshop portion of a balanced literacy classroom.

 

       The learner will, using Wetpaint collaboratively in a group of 3-4, create 3 mini-lessons that can be taught within the writing workshop portion of a balanced literacy classroom.

 

       The learner will create, using Teacher Ease, a unit plan for a balanced literacy classroom at the middle school level that includes a concept map, a physical layout for the class, a referenced list of leveled books, a time schedule, and a time line.

 

       The learner will, using Teacher Ease, explore the lesson plan database, select 2 lessons appropriate for the middle school, and write an essay defending the choice of those lessons based on sound literacy instruction theory and practice.

 

 

 

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Exam Professor

 

Features:

 

Exam Professor provides a hosted service that allows instructors to create and manage online drill sheets, quizzes, and tests. There is no software or hardware to install. It can be used to create a variety of drill exercises, quizzes, tests, and exams in a variety of settings, both educational and business training oriented. Questions ranging from objective multiple choice to open-ended responses can be selected randomly and both questions and answers can be scrambled. Editing occurs in real time with no refreshing of pages. Students will be able to use Exam Professor to create their own assessments. The experience as a student makes better informed test design possible for teachers to be.

 

Strengths:

       Installation is quick and setting up practice exercises, quizzes, tests, or exams is a simple process.

       The instructor signs in, creates a test, registers students and they can begin taking the test.

       A variety of pricing plans ranging from free, which lets you manage one exam, to $99, which includes an unlimited number of tests (All plans have a free 30 day trial)

       Can be accessed from any site with Internet access

       Grading and scoring can be automated

       Secure SSL encryption

       Pages on the site are Bobby approved, WCAG approved, and Section 508 approved for accessibility

       The instructor canview exam scores, number of retakes, graded exams, and send reports to students.

       Multiple teachers can track scores

       Graphic attachments can be uploaded in JPG, GIF, and PNG formats

       Includes tutorials to demonstrate various functions

       Exams can be paused and resumed later

       Graded exams can be reviewed and even retaken.

 

 

Challenges:

*         Price may prohibit individual teachers from consistently using Exam Professor, i.e. $9 a month for individual teacher and 25 tests

*         Because exams can be paused, multiple choice factual type exams may be less reliable for assessment. Students can look up or find answers rather than completing work themselves.

*         Exams are only self-checking when formatted as multiple choice within the program format. This enhances assessment at the level of knowledge and recall on Bloom’s taxonomy.  Questions requiring evaluation and analysis may also be written in a multiple choice format but this is more difficult to do.  Synthesis and application do not lend themselves to this format at all.

 

Objectives for Exam Professor in Balanced Literacy in the Middle School:

 

       The learner will demonstrate an understanding of the basic activities included in a balanced literacy model and basic concepts related to balanced literacy by answering 8 of 10 multiple choice questions contained in an Exam Professor drill sheet correctly

       The learner will analyze, evaluate, and apply concepts from balanced literacy by addressing situations that correlate to an expected teaching position posed in 3 of 5 open -ended questions posed in an Exam Professor exam correctly.

 

 

Application for this course:

 

In designing assessments for any course it is necessary to use a variety of tools  (Andersen, 2004) which can measure performance across the levels of Bloom’s taxonomy from the more knowledge specific recall level through the higher order thinking levels of application, evaluation, and synthesis of material.  Exam Professor, just one of the online quiz and test products, is a relatively easy tool for both instructor and student to use. It could provide immediate feedback to the student and thus guide the learner.  After self-assessing, the learner can make adjustments or review appropriate materials and exercises. 

 

Specifically, I would use Exam Professor in two different ways. First I would use this tool to create worksheets which are immediately graded on recall of specific information, for example, the elements included in reading workshop and writing workshop and their general definitions. Students need to understand the lexicon of balanced literacy and this provides them with a way to assess their own knowledge. Because this task is primarily knowledge and recall based I am not weighting it very heavily in my assessment. I am more interested in how students respond to the opportunities to self assess and adjust their future work.  Normally I would not use this level of assessment as a reliable measure because the opportunity to cheat is fairly high. But because the tool is being used here as a self assessment, I am not concerned with students asking for help or looking up information. If they choose to seek help, then the assessment actually becomes a learning strategy and that’s fine.

 

The second way that I’d use Exam Professor is to have students answer open-ended exam questions. Because the questions would require a synthesis and application of information to a new situation, the students would be required to use higher order thinking skills of critical analysis as described on the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. This makes plagiarism much more difficult. It is the synthesis that is actually being assessed. This requires a new arrangement of knowledge and as such would be rated with a rubric given to students prior to the exam. This practice in using Exam Professor as a student would also be helpful for future tests the student might personally design.  This gives the student one tool that can be added to his/her own future teaching toolbox.

 

Exam Professor

 

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Our Story

 

Features:

 

Our Story is a web site where users can generate personal content in the form of blogging, photo sharing, and digital storytelling combined. There are many educational benefits to blogging in the literature (Cernohous, 2006) (Richardson, 2003).  All of these elements can play a vital role in a balanced literacy classroom. An interactive visual timeline, collaborative e-mail requests, privacy controls, and a library of interview prompts are all included features.  The content that is created on Our Story can then be preserved online, saved on a hard drive, printed in books, or saved on CD/DVD.  Unlike other social networking sites such as My Space, Our Story encourages collaborative story telling and a deeper level of sharing.

 

Strengths:

 

       Ease of navigation

       Privacy-you choose who you share your timeline and story with through e-mail invitations

       Can create a timeline that includes, photos, stories, videos, notes, letters

       Links to Yahoo image search for ease in finding photos

       Collaborative

       Free

       User can share information and gather comments

       Prompts are provided to start the story process

       Can interview family and friends

 

Challenges:

 

*         Public access could create security problems if students are unaware of audience

*         Public access means the focus is not primarily educational/professional

 

Objectives for Our Story in Balanced Literacy in the Middle School:

 

       The learner will create a timeline/professional portfolio using Our Story to document learning throughout the course by telling the story through weekly personal reflection accompanied by photos/videos as appropriate.

 

       The learner will complete an icebreaker activity with a fellow classmate during the first week of class by creating an interview through Our Story, responding to a partner’s interview questions, and then sharing the experience as well as the results through the story section of Our Story.

 

 

Application of Our Story for this course:

 

There are three main reasons why I selected a versatile tool like Our Story for this course.  First of all it is an easy tool to use for an icebreaker. Research shows that one of the key elements in an online course is establishing a sense of community and making the participants come alive for each other without the physical cues of the face to face classroom.  The interview section of Our Story provides an easy format for creating an interview. If students are not comfortable writing their own questions for a classmate, the included questions provide a good basis for an interview.  Furthermore the site contains an easy to use story section where the results of the interview process can quickly be posted, accompanied by photos if the students wish.  Because the site transfers all the information into a timeline format the icebreaker is automatically included in the course work.

 

Secondly, Our Story allows for collaboration. Any student can ask for additional comments, information, photos, or virtually any kind of content to be contributed by classmates.  Again this becomes part of the student’s record in the class through the timeline.

 

The final reason for choosing Our Story is that it can provide a template where students can use all the options of graphics and text to create their own professional e-learning portfolio with a timeline of ongoing activities. Such a portfolio provides a working model of authentic assessment. It can provide evidence for both summative assessment and formative assessment. The student’s actual applications of content are included thus making the content itself authentic. Because the portfolio is then open to public view, the feedback that results is also authentic, real world feedback.  The value of this type of assessment is that is definitely decreases the opportunity for plagiarism while focusing on the synthesis and application levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. Additionally, the student gains another tool that can be used with future students in a literacy class.

 

Our Story

 

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Wetpaint

 

Features:

 

Wetpaint is a web site that combines wikis, blogs, and forums. Blogs tend to be one sided because they are monologues. Wikis expand the capability to allow the reader to become a fact-checker and an editor.  The creators of Wetpaint had a friend who was diagnosed with cancer. He went searching on the Internet for personal stories of what the journey through cancer was like. From that experience the need for a simple click and type interface led to the creation of Wetpaint.  It provides an easy to use forum where individuals can connect with each other and collaborate. Transferring these capabilities to an educational milieu has many benefits (Borja, 2006).

 

Strengths:

 

       Free

       Three easy steps to set up your site

       Variety of styles

       Just click and type to add content- no technology skills are needed

       Add as many photos, pages, and videos as you want

       Site reports track contributions

       E-mail notifications

       RSS feeds

       Control who can contribute to your site- editing controls

       Toolbox and navigation links are easy to follow

       Widgets are available

 

Challenges:

 

The primary caution with using Wetpaint is that it is open to the public and the content of other sites within Wetpaint may not be controlled. This is especially a concern when working with secondary students as using a site that is not limited to academic applications may seem to legitimize the other content available there.

 

Objectives for Wetpaint in Balanced Literacy in the Middle School:

 

       The learner will collaboratively create, using Wetpaint with a small group of 3-4 students, 3mini-lessons that can be taught within the reading workshop portion of a balanced literacy classroom.

 

       The learner will, using Wetpaint collaboratively in a group of 3-4, create 3 mini-lessons that can be taught within the writing workshop portion of a balanced literacy classroom.

 

Applications for Wetpaint in this course:

 

In addressing different learning styles and multiple intelligences the only fair assessments allow students to use a variety of formats to express their strengths. Collaboration is often an important element incorporated into classes as educators move away from the lecture model. This formative assessment can help create a picture of an individual student’s progress. But the problem is that assessing collaboration in a virtual environment is downright difficult. Wetpaint has a tracking mechanism for changes that can help assess the actual collaboration. Additionally, I’d have students track their changes in different fonts or colors and initial them. This allows me as the teacher an ability to assess the contributions and thinking processes of each individual student.  This type of assessment tends to be extemporaneous in response to the work of classmates and therefore reduces the opportunity for plagiarism.  The wiki format (McPherson. 2006) can also encourage evaluation and analysis of information so it is well suited to a collaborative exercise in creating mini-lessons. This practice can add a third tool that students can potentially include in their own literacy classes.

 

Wetpaint

 

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Teacher Ease

 

Features:

 

Teacher Ease is a web base instructional management system. The features allow users to manage all aspects of instruction, particularly at the K-12 grade levels.  There are online tools to accomplish a variety of tasks. These include tools for curriculum mapping, lesson planning connected to national, state, and district standards, a gradebook with parent and student access, and tools to format both standards based report cards and grade based report cards.

 

Strengths:

 

       Standards based curriculum maps can be created and distributed.

       Enhanced cross-curricular integration

       Lesson plan database

       Enhanced home/school communication-Parents are better informed and better able to support learning.

       Students increase motivation by accessing grades

       Teachers save time writing lesson plans, creating report cards, and accessing gradebook

       Secure login-Parent account must be set up by teacher or school administrator

       Real-time data-as grades are entered in gradebook they are available to students/parents

       Easy to generate reports on student performance- honor rolls, warning lists, etc

       Hosted service that handles technical details

 

Challenges:

 

*         Teachers or administrators must have some technological skills to create parent accounts.

*         Pricing may prohibit individual teachers from using the service- Yearly subscription is based on the number of teachers in a school who subscribe.  For 1-19 teachers the cost is $90 and that fee decreases in increments to $65 for 50-100 teachers.  There is a trial subscription that is free to the first three teachers from a school for one year and then for three months to additional teachers from the same school.  Individual teachers can purchase by the month and subscriptions include parent and student accounts. Incentives are provided for teachers who refer others.

*         Subscriptions run over the summer without interruption.

 

Objectives for Teacher Ease in Balanced Literacy in the Middle School:

 

       The learner will create, using Teacher Ease, a unit plan for a balanced literacy classroom at the middle school level that includes a concept map, a physical layout for the class, a referenced list of leveled books, a time schedule, and a time line.

 

       The learner will, using Teacher Ease, explore the lesson plan database, select 2 lessons appropriate for the middle school, and write an essay defending the choice of those lessons based on sound literacy instruction theory and practice.

 

Rationale for using Teacher Ease in this course:

 

There are two major components to balanced literacy, the reading workshop and the writing workshop.  In order for summative assessment to occur in this course it is necessary to use a tool that can address these concepts on the higher levels contained within Bloom’s taxonomy of evaluation, analysis, and synthesis.  These are the levels that are much less conducive to plagiarism because the student is required to create a new unit for a particular teaching situation after analyzing and evaluating other lessons.  The standards and lessons within the unit plan must be synthesized and developed in a logical sequence, again reducing the possibility of plagiarism.

 

Teacher Ease has easy to access tools that can address standards for literacy as well as the specific elements contained within individual lessons.  Therefore the students can create a unit plan which may be very practical for a course they are currently teaching or will soon teach.  The opportunity to explore this management system also gives students a chance to explore the tool itself.  Each student just might find that the features contained in Teacher Ease make their jobs as teachers a little easier (New technologies help build learning communities, 2006) (Richardson, 2005).  For me as the instructor, Teacher Ease provides one platform for a summative assessment of the student’s grasp of the critical elements of balanced literacy and the student’s preparedness to use those elements in his/her own class.

Teacher Ease

 

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Conclusion:

This course is designed to prepare both beginning and experienced teachers to use a balanced literacy approach in teaching language arts literacy at the middle school level.  The activities, which will include readings, small group discussion, large group discussion, research of materials and strategies, an individual project applying tools and strategies explored in the course, and the creation of an e portfolio (Wickersham, & Chambers, 2006) that can be used in the classroom, are created to match the course objectives.  The four tools that are used for both formative and summative assessment in this course, Exam Professor, Our Story, Wetpaint, and Teacher Ease, serve a twofold purpose. They provide the course instructor with feedback connected to the core objectives on the enrolled students and additionally are tools that could easily be added to any middle school curriculum.   The main purpose of this course is to give teachers some practical skills and tools to use as they teach literacy.

 

Helpful Links:

 

Balanced Literacy organizer

NJ Language Arts Curriculum Framework

Detailed description of components

Alternative set of definitions

Comparison of Moodle and Teacher Ease

 

 

 

References

 

 

 

 

Alexander, B. (2007). Using technology in teaching and learning. College & Research Libraries News, 68(2). 96-101.

Andersen, J.D. (2004). An electronic leap: quizzes on the web. Teaching Professor. 1, (3), 4.

Borja, R. (2006). Educators experiment with student-written 'wikis'. Education Week, 25(30), 10.

Cernohous, S. (2006). Considering a new avenue of communication: The Weblog. Athletic Therapy Today, 11(4), 32-33.

McPherson. (2006). Wikis and student writing. Teacher librarian, 34(2), 70-72.

New technologies help build learning communities. (2006). Distance Education Report, Retrieved Friday, March 02, 2007 from the Academic Search Premier database.

Richardson, W. (2005). The educator's guide to the read/write web. Educational Leadership, 63(4), 24-27.

Richardson, W. (2003). Web logs in the English classroom: more than just chat. English Journal, 93(1), 39.

Wickersham, L.E. & Chambers, S.M. (2006). Eportfolios: using technology to enhance and assess student learning. Education, 126(4), 738-746.

 

These references are specifically for balanced literacy:

 

Honig, B., Diamond, L. & Gutlohn, L. (2000).  Teaching Reading: sourcebook for kindergarten through eighth grade. Emeryville, California: Arena Press.

Ivey, G., Baumann, J.F., & Jarrard, D. (2000). Exploring literacy balance: iterations in a second-grade and a sixth-grade classroom. . Reading Research and Instruction, 39(4), 291-310.

Leu, D.J., Jr. & Kinzer, C.K. (1999). Effective Literacy instruction, K-8. Fourth Edition. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Merrill.

Pressley, M. (2005) Striking a balance: the quest for effective literacy instruction. Education Canada, 45(4), 6-10.

Walpole, S. (1999). Balanced literacy: making it work in a real school. Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of Education.

 

Bibliography

 

Blogging and RSS--The 'what's it?' and 'how to' of powerful new web tools for educators. (2004). Information Today, 11(1).

Buchanan, T. (2000). The efficacy of a World-Wide Web mediated formative assessment. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 16(3), 193-200.

Chat wrap-up: teaching and the new internet. (2006). Education Week, 26(9), 41.

Dickey, M. (2004). The impact of web-logs (blogs) on student perceptions of isolation and alienation in a web-based distance-learning environment. Open Learning, 19(3), 279-291.

Doe, C.G. (2005). A look at …web-based assessment. MultiMedia & Internet@Schools, 12(3), 10-14.

Harper Jr., V.B. (2005). The new student-teacher channel. T H E Journal, 33(3), 30-32.

Lievens, F. (2006). The ITC guidelines on computer-based and internet-delivered testing: where do we go from here?. International Journal of Testing, 6(2), 189-194.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spring 2007
 
Patricia Hutton