Improving Writing and Language Skills using SchoolCity



    Improving Writing and Language Skills using SchoolCity

    Posted by Kimberly Reynolds, B.A.Ed., M.A.Ed., Ed.S. on Apr 23, 2018

    I am excited again to share with you another monthly update to showcase some of the great work going on in District 6 as we continue to partner with SchoolCity. In this blog, you’ll hear about a recent common question among teachers: What about the grammar? What resources do we have to help expose our students to all parts of language within writing prompts and within other forms of questions?

    As an elementary instructional coach, I keep hearing this common concern from teachers. How can we strengthen the grammar skills and writing skills in the elementary classroom and be consistent? Creating writing prompts can be tricky for teachers to develop and score especially if there are no common guidelines or rubrics. Within SchoolCity there is a new update called “Creating a Writing Prompt Item” where teachers can create a writing prompt as an item type. The students respond to the prompt and then the teacher grades the prompt using a rubric with standard aligned objectives to really zero in on what writing skills are strong and which ones need instruction. All students then can be assessed on the same objectives which the teachers create. Once these writing prompts are graded, the teachers can focus on a quick immediate analysis as the objective report shows below and make the next steps in instruction.

    Teachers often ask: where does the grammar fit when writing to prompts? So once these prompts are scored then teachers can have immediate feedback conversations with students about the grammar standards. Grammar can be taught in isolation but also within text. The language standards need to be mastered just as how to organize a paragraph. Students still need to know the conventions of standard English in speaking and writing. The knowledge of language is crucial when choosing the correct words to use in speaking and writing. An area that we use often with the SchoolCity item banks is the Language Standard 4: Vocabulary Acquisition and Use. Can our students choose the correct meaning or usage of a word by looking at the content? We know the word meaning standard students see often and are able to utilize the highlighting tool when taking assessments in SchoolCity to help them find context clues to aid in the meanings of unknown words as shown in the picture below.

    What about strengthening the other language standards skills within SchoolCity like punctuation and using correct grammar? We absolutely love using the Rapid Response bank in our district which focuses on one skill that the teachers can administer after the explicit instruction and practice. As our school moves towards competency based mastery we find that using the resources in SchoolCity is a great tool to use with language. We don’t have to create our own formative assessments since they are so easy to find within SchoolCity. Here is just a sample of some checkpoints on one language standard.

    Patterson User's Group Pics_5.jpg

    As we help prepare our students to become successful in the language standards, we have to allow time for application and check for understanding with formative assessments. Using multiple question types within the language standards is also key for success on state tests.

    This month I am honored to spotlight a teacher and her experience with the next steps using SchoolCity. This is our fourth year of implementation of SchoolCity and we are continuing to find new resources within the SchoolCity platform. Let me share with you her story as we talked together about an end of the year English Language Arts assessment with grammar embedded in the test.

    Amy teaches a group of 4th graders at various levels. She knows that her students are weak in the 4th grade language standards as we approach the end of the year. She asked me: What now? We also needed to find a summative 4th grade ELA test that would show what the students have learned all year and the growth they have made across all tests within SchoolCity. As her coach, I shared with her the Inspect bank interim tests as well as the Inspect Grade 4 ELA Comprehensive Assessment. I printed off both sets for her and explained to her the difference between the two sets. She loved that both had language standards on them in addition to the other key standards. As a best instructional practice she took the Inspect tests back to her teammates to take the test as adults and discuss more as a team. They all agreed...we need to use the premade Inspect tests within SchoolCity and expose the students to not only the reading informational and literature standards but also the language standards. Here are just some of the premade assessments available to our team that we are so excited to implement this year and next year.

    How has using tests within SchoolCity impacted your own teaching?

    Using SchoolCity makes Amy’s job easier!! Since her students have learned all the crucial reading standards and language standards at the fourth grade level, then it would only make sense to give them a summative test at the end of the year. The summative tests can be the already premade tests or the Writing Prompt tests that the teachers create for their students. All the tests we give our students are not based on a curriculum but on the standards. This is what we live by...mastery by standards not by a curriculum.

    Topics: language arts, Writing Prompts

    Kimberly is an Instructional Coach at Monfort Elementary and a SchoolCity champion in Greeley-Evans School District 6 in Greeley, Colorado. She is passionate about the resources inside SchoolCity and the assessment platform that benefits teachers, district leaders and students. This is her fourth year using SchoolCity as a tool to assist teachers at her school in assessment and instruction as well as supporting district leaders with SchoolCity to drive student achievement. She has been instrumental in creating district wide assessments using the item banks in SchoolCity as well as implementing district wide SchoolCity trainings. For the past 28 years, she has been an innovative, results-driven educator in the states of Washington and Colorado. She has her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education from Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington, and she also has her Masters of Arts Degree in Reading from St. Martin’s College in Lacey, Washington. When moving back to Colorado she obtained her Educational Leadership Degree from University of Northern Colorado in 2014. She strives to support teachers and students on a daily basis with the best instructional practices that meet the needs of ALL learners.

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