Last week, Laurie and I came up with a new tweak in the drawing-pictures category as we taught embedded readings. I was trying to give people a visual of embedded stories, but Laurie immediately figured out the assessment and success potential of the system. Have I mentioned that Laurie is the most brilliant teacher I know?
Usually I have kids draw a picture across the board as we’re telling a story or reading one. That means all the events and additions are in consecutive order as we’ve added them…an important point. Laurie says her kids often do murals, which are an improvement on the consecutive pictures, so I will try them. The problem with consecutive pictures for the concrete thinkers is that if they run into something they don’t know, they stop instead of leaping over the picture and getting to something they can talk about.
With a mural, students point at the parts of the picture they can talk about, so they don’t get stumped by missing something. But then, given the reality of a classroom full of kids to assess, the teacher might have problems remembering what the target structures were and whether the kid hit them. If part of the assessment is demonstrating use of those structures, it’s also not obvious to the kid what they’re supposed to nail and what is cream on top.
So here goes. Set up in your mind a table with as many columns across as there are required structures. Let’s say the base/skeleton story with the critical structures is, “Laurie likes pizza. Michele looks at the pizza. Where did the pizza go?”
Your artist draws pictures across the top of three columns: one picture for each sentence so that when it comes to identifying the sentences as you read them or (later) the student is going to retell the story, the three structures are there on top like a rubric for both teacher and student: this is the required content.
Now, as you continue through the next level of the embedded reading, you add the details as they relate to each sentence underneath that picture. If your next sentence were “Michele also likes pizza,” the drawing would go in the first column, second box down. If another one were, “Laurie looks at Michele,” it could go in the middle column. Then you might add that “Michele likes chocolate pizza with lima beans,” and those details would again go into the first column, into another box below the first two.
As you add details about the story, the pictures fill in more and more boxes underneath the original story outline. When you are re-reading the story with the students, they have to point at the pictures, or even at details within those pictures, but they can’t just move their pencils across the page. They have to look at the pictures and figure out which ones relate. And when it comes to oral (or written) assessment, the teacher can judge to what extent they are exceeding the goals of a simple retell just by watching how often they dip below the target structures at the top of the page.
Let me know if this makes sense (especially if you weren’t in our session at NTPRS). I think it has enormous potential as a means of assessment, and I want it to be clear for others.