Monday, February 22, 2010

What is UTIPS, and How Can I Use It in My L.A. Classroom?

Dear Colleagues, 

My friend Roseann Markham is the Secondary Language Arts Instructional Specialist for Granite School District. We often work together on a variety of State or Wasatch Front committees, and I greatly respect her knowledge and expertise. I recently asked Roseann if she'd be willing to "guest-author" a post for my blog, and she kindly agreed. 

Because Roseann recently trained some Granite teachers about the value of Utah Test Item Pool Service (UTIPS), I requested that she summarize that training here. I have been unable to copy and paste the included graphics, and so I created a link to this valuable information. I realized this format is better because the PDF creates a preferred printed copy. 

I know UTIPS isn't a flawless resource, but it can be more helpful than most teachers realize. If you don't know much about this service; if you've never used it; or if you didn't have much success when you did use it, read over Roseann's suggestions by clicking HERE. You will be so glad you did. 

And thanks to my friend for taking a great deal of time to create this helpful resource!

Best wishes,

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Couple o' Valentine Gifts for the World's Most Patient Teachers!!!!

Happy Valentine's Day, My Friends! 

Because of words, women can be romantic with Mr. Darcy, Heathcliff, Edward, or Jacob. And, Guys, you can be in love with ... uh, ManStuff?!?

In the spirit of V-Day, I have a couple of little gifts for you - wish they could insure job security - but, sadly, that is not the case. Sigh. Anyway, here are some ideas you might want to use in your classrooms. Gosh, students might even find them engaging!!! (One can hope!)


I admit I only saw the 4th quarter of the SuperBowl and only a few of the advertisements, but I stumbled onto this one by Google early this morning when I was searching for something else. The minute I saw it, I thought of one of my favorite short stories that REQUIRES the reader to make inferences like no other! "Ordeal by Cheque" by Wuther Crue was first published in Vanity Fair in 1938. If you haven't "read" it, do that right now by following the above link.

The plot does not unfold through sentences or paragraphs but rather through bank checks. Readers have to examine each of the 46 checks written on The Hollywood State Bank between 1902 and 1931 to determine the conflict, characters, climax, and resolution. VERY FUN.

Google's 30 second SuperBowl advertisement uses a similar premise to create a 21st Century love story. Viewers are required to "read between the searches" to fill in story details - the music and sound bites also help the inferencing process! Take a peek and see what you think:

With both of these "text" types, teachers can add a writing element that might require students to summarize the story (a good comprehension strategy, too), create a dialogue among the characters, extend the story, etc. Anyway, I hope you can see the possibilities!

Kelly Gallagher's "Article of the Week" ~

If you have read Kelly's book Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It, you know that he is very concerned about the lack of background/prior knowledge students bring to their reading, writing, inquiry, etc. "They can decode the words, but the words remain meaningless without a foundation of knowledge" (Gallagher, 2010.) 

To remedy that situation, Kelly assigns an "Article of the Week."

By the end of the school year I want them to have read 35 to 40 articles about what is going on in the world. It is not enough to simply teach my students to recognize theme in a given novel; if my students are to become literate, they must broaden their reading experiences into real-world text (2010).
The topics range from President Obama's educational philosophy to "thoughts regarding the disastrous earthquake in Haiti." Kelly's assignment directions require that students do the following:
  1.  Mark your confusion.
  2. Show evidence of a close reading on the page.
  3. Write a one-page reflection in your Writers Notebook.
I wish I could do A LOT more to lighten your day, but please know how much I appreciate and respect all that you do.

Have a great 3-day weekend, Friends.

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010

    UTIPS - a GREAT Resource for Creating Formative & Common Assessments

    Hi all!

    On February 6, 2010, scores of teachers from core disciplines  gathered at the Homestead Resort and Spa to work on revising and adding test items to the Utah Test Item Pool Services (UTIPS). (Sounds like a blast, doesn't it? By the way, USOE - NOT JSD - found money from somewhere to sponsor the event.) This test WRITING experience was actually very beneficial to us who attended as we learned a lot about analyzing standards, but it will be especially helpful to those who use this excellent resource.
    I do, however, think we need further education about HOW and WHEN to use UTIPS. As I recruited teachers to help me with this request, I quickly learned how many educators are unfamiliar with its existence. Many who knew about the resource did not use it. To learn a bit more, Utah State Office of Education (USOE) created a PowerPoint presentation that presents an overview of the service, and you can click HERE to review it.

    Dr. Hugh Baird of BYU organized the item writing project, and he charged the us language arts educators to create more questions for the inquiry strand of the State LA core standards. There are very few inquiry questions in the bank right now, and most of those reflect inquiry "implied" in the reading and writing standards.

    The process of writing questions for UTIPS required participants to "unpack the standards," a great exercise for understanding and analyzing objectives, indicators, and intended learning outcomes. "Unpacking" demands that teachers identify key concepts and verbs found in the standards.

    For example, the Inquiry objective for 10th grade reads, "Use the process of inquiry to problem solve and deepen understanding," HOW? Through application of the indicators - students must ...
    • Formulate essential questions that expose problems and explore issues.
    • Analyze information to determine relevance to essential question.
    • Evaluate the accuracy and relevance of information that reflects multiple points of view.
    The UTIPS questions need to reflect key concepts -  ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS, PROBLEMS, ISSUES, RELEVANCE, AND POINTS OF VIEW. Furthermore, the questions must also refer to actions - FORMULATING, ANALYZING, and EVALUATING.

    Hopefully, the new questions will be good ones and can be used to create formative and common assessments, thus easing teachers' work just a little bit!

    And now for your viewing pleasure ....


    Lis Thomas of Elk Ridge Middle School having SO MUCH FUN!

     Rumor has it that Diet Coke turns Heidi Barker into a MEAN LADY, 
    but Leslie Thompson says that may NOT be a BAD thing when writing test questions!

    Rosanne Markham, our friend from Granite School District,
    is a GREAT editor, AND she keeps us FOCUSED!

    After hours of work, we joined Kermit, the Homestead's golf pro for a round!

    Tuesday, February 2, 2010

    Speaking of GREAT Teachers ...

    I recently posted some poems about remembered teachers, and today I want to share a poem I received from my first, second, and third grade teacher. No, I didn't attend a one-room school house, but Mrs. Quidor told us that she just couldn't leave us, and so she moved up the grades with us until 3rd grade. I absolutely adored this woman even though she regularly sent me to the corner for talking and didn't let me dance in the PTA program. Nevertheless, she made EVERY day exciting, and I loved learning in her classroom.

    When Mrs. Quidor bid us farewell at the end of third grade, we were distraught because not only were we leaving her, she was leaving our school. I couldn't imagine Lewis and Clark Elementary WITHOUT her, and I wished I could transfer to Hawthorne Elementary WITH her. I knew she'd be teaching FIRST grade, and I'd be starting FOURTH grade, but at least I could drop by her classroom to visit.

    As she hugged us each goodbye, she slipped cards into our hands. Inside each was a picture of her in cap and gown, a testament that she believed in life-long learning. Not surprisingly, she penned also the enclosed poem as she often did. I've kept it all these years.

    God was very kind you see,
    When he gave you to me;
    To love and teach from the start,
    In discovering secrets of your heart,
    In this never-ending field of learning.
    Watching you daily unvold the beauty of God's gifts,
    Was an answer to year of my soul's yearning.
    Knowing the secret gained in sharing this art of giving,
    Is to help others enjoy the fun of living.

    Dallas Quidor
    Renae's teacher from 1954-1957