Winding It Down While Ratcheting It Up


As you sat back and enjoyed the Memorial Day weekend, you probably could not help thinking about all that is left to do as the current school year begins to draw to a close. Relax. The most important thing you can do now is to help your students review all they have learned, strengthen what is needed, and celebrate how they have grown. Charts can help you do each and all of these things. Charts are like a scrapbook of the journey you and your students have traveled since the beginning of the school year. Like a scrapbook, there is much joy in revisiting each and every page. In this week’s post we revisit the idea that a picture is worth a thousand words and that charts can act as models and mentors.Back in the Fall we talked about teaching by example and using charts to create visions for what is possible, followed by models kids can strive towards and mentor themselves to while working in the writing workshop. Teaching by example helps review, reinforce, and highlight what is important to learn and know in each and every genre.

In many schools and throughout many grades, the spring season brought about science based studies and inquiries that inspired children to become curious scientists actively exploring their world. These “inquiring minds” questioned, wondered, experimented, explored, manipulated, and maneuvered in an attempt to find answers and open up further questions. As scientists they needed to record their questions, their findings and then write about their discoveries, so as to present to other scientists in the community. Writing well becomes very important in reaching this goal. In addition to pulling out craft charts from previous units of study and showing how these moves can be just as useful when writing about science topics, there are a few charts that can be created that show specific examples of how science writers teach about their topic in clear and concrete ways.

One question that came up as we visited school after school was the issue of children writing less as scientists than as narrative writers. This worry was exemplified by the fact that it was one of the last units of study and was to measure all the kids had learned. The following charts were created in response to this concern, revisiting the idea that charting can create visions for what is possible.

This chart highlights the questions science writers might answer and points to specific examples from a published text.

Elaboration continues to be a concern, no matter the genre, no matter the grade. Charts such as this give concrete examples of how writers can elaborate on ideas and knowledge by explicitly annotating the questions and providing examples from a published text. Keeping the five W’s, plus the How, in mind makes it much easier to elaborate because it gives kids possibly six ways to elaborate each and every time.

A closeup of the Questions chart that shows examples for the questions How? and Where?

Another goal for this unit was to teach children how to write well about their science topics. Writing was not just to record the results of experiments, but to turn this newly found knowledge into writing that would encapsulate all that was learned and could teach lots of folks about the topic. Once again, turning to mentor authors helps insure there is a clear vision of what is possible and how one might go about getting there. Yes, a picture is indeed worth a thousand words.

This chart annotates examples from published texts that can act as models for student writers.

The purpose of this chart is to provide clear examples, while also setting clear expectations of what science writers should include when writing texts designed to teach. The next step will be to have kids use this chart as a way of comparing their own writing to the writing on the chart. They can write their names on post-its and put them next to the types of craft moves they have tried. Teachers can also photocopy student examples and hang these next to the published authors, which furthers children’s sense of competency and accomplishment.

Close-up of Write like a Scientist chart

Close-up of Writing like a Scientist chart

This is an example of a chart that was created with students based on what they had noticed as they studied mentor texts. It also specifically highlights craft moves that have been taught and makes clear expectations for what writers should include in their own writing. It also provides multiple entry points for crafting writing. In other words, there is something for everyone. When asked to place their name next to strategies tried, everyone will be able to feel successful.

These types of charts can be used for any genre, any subject. If you are planning to end the school year with a unit on poetry, for example, you can imagine some poems you might annotate with the kids. You might highlight topic, title, line breaks, repetition, word choice, punctuation, last lines, and so on. This type of chart has endless possibilities, as do teachers!

Happy charting!

Marjorie Martinelli and Kristine Mraz



Oh My! More Ideas About Goals, Rubrics, and Groups

Here at Chartchums we are excited once again to have a guest blogger. This week we will hear from Bianca Adamo Lavey, a staff developer at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, who works with the teachers at Holbrook Elementary School in Long Island, New York. She and the second grade teachers had been doing a lot of work this year on developing children’s independence and were inspired by last week’s blog to make this work not only visual, but also interactive. What follows is her description of what the teachers thought and did as they continued this pursuit.

I am so excited to share how teachers at Holbrook Road School were inspired by the idea of goal setting and rubrics written about in the Chartchums blog post, Goals, Rubrics, and Bears…Oh My! posted last week. It struck a cord because they too had been thinking about ways to help their students reflect, self-assess and set goals, but weren’t quite sure how best to go about it. The charts and rubrics shared by the teachers at PS 277 and PS 109 were just the thing to get all of us thinking and talking about how we might create some versions that would work with our kids. The second grade teachers, along with the help of reading teachers, Jen DeHayes and Jen Groen, got together and began to articulate their wishes and wants for the students under their care.

One big goal the teachers had this year was getting the kids to make the best use of partnership time and seeing this time not just as a place to give your ideas, but as a place to get and grow ideas. The teacher in this classroom, Julie Kelly, outlined some of the big goals her class has accomplished so far this year and then explicitly told kids what she’s noticed as possible next steps. Readers first reflected on what partnership time was like for them, asking themselves what they felt like they were doing well and what they felt like they could work on, looking to the goals chart for help. Partners also provided some feedback to each other and many kids decided to set partnership goals for them to work on together, rather than set different individual goals. Then her teaching assistant, Arlene Leporati, helped organize this information on a chart so it was clear and easily accessible.

Julie then looked to the chart as a way to form some small groups. She realized that although many of the readers in her class were quite aware about what things they needed to work on, they probably didn’t know exactly how to work on them. The strategy card above was given to the readers who wanted to work on “keeping the conversation going” during partnership time. Before partnership time they reflected on which of these strategies they had used in the past and made a plan for which ones they wanted to try today. During partnership time, they took the card out and referred back to it for tips.

Another goal the 2nd grade teachers had centered around getting kids to think in more sophisticated ways about their books and to show these thoughts with their jottings on sticky notes. So, we decided to look to what kids were thinking and jotting, create a rubric designed to help the kids work in more sophisticated ways, and then have kids look to their sticky notes to reflect and set goals. You’ll see from this chart that it is designed in a way to make it easy for the kids to think about where they are on the rubric. It also makes it easy for the kids to learn ways to move up to the next level. Once they match up their post it to the one on the chart, they can look to the next level and read the strategies listed to learn how to deepen their thinking and even set new goals. I feel honored to share what these awesome, thoughtful teachers are doing to create such reflective, involved students.

And we are honored to hear from all of the teachers out there who are doing so much to make teaching matter. We are also thinking about how the above ideas can easily be applied to other subject areas where children talk with partners and create goals for themselves like, math, social studies, gym, art, music, science . . . the list is endless. 

Happy Mother’s Day and Happy Charting!

Kristine Mraz and Marjorie Martinelli

Goals, Rubrics, and Bears… Oh My!

Hello Again!

Your eyes are not deceiving you–we are back again with a new post! This particular post is less about instructional charts, and more about the role of goal setting and rubrics in classrooms. Many schools and districts now look for students to have clear goals in each area of the day that students know and can name. Think about yourself for a moment, do you do better when you know what exactly it is that you are striving for? Do you keep goals in mind for work? For exercise? For life? A to-do list is a perennial set of goals that falls under the bigger goal (masquerading as a New Year’s Resolution), “Be more organized.” Most people like goals, especially ones that are specific, clear, and attainable within a reasonable amount of time.

This is true for students too! It makes perfect sense–if I know what I am working towards, it will be easier to get there. The tricky part is: how do you help 5-, 6-, and 7-year olds set goals? It is an important life skill that primary teachers can support with tools and scaffolds.

First up: RUBRICS! Rubrics are not easy to make and even trickier to communicate to children. What follows are some attempts to create child friendly rubrics that will support children in becoming stronger readers and writers. As with all things here on Chartchums, these are meant to serve as inspiration and conversation starters–not as tools to print out and use with your own children. Each of these rubrics was designed by teachers with their own class, keeping in mind the ways that class needs to grow.

A Kindergarten Reading Rubric

You will notice that this rubric is divided into sections or parts. It is assessing three habits of readers: look-say-read, pointing, and getting your mouth ready. Since this is for kindergarten, the majority of the information is in pictures. The teachers in this classroom built the rubric with the students so that they would understand what the rubric said. When making a rubric for children it is wise to  involve them in the process and use visuals they know and love, as opposed to making a text heavy rubric.

The top of the chart

This is a chart from a second grade writing unit about fairy tales. From top to bottom it is clear they are studying fairy tales. The fairy tale heading, “In a land far, far away…” leads right into the purpose for the chart, “We show not tell feelings.” Then they include an example that uses a vivid vocabulary word, petrified, to describe how the character feels. Earlier in the year we might have stopped there, thrilled at the use of such a word, but not now. In this class the second graders are being challenged to go even further to show such strong feelings through descriptive language. Then at the bottom of the chart is the heading of the rubric: How much magic did I use? Below are close ups of each section on the rubric:

First column on the ‘magic’ rubric

Second section

Third section

Last Section

This rubric was also created with the students during lesson times. It is attached to the chart that children need to use to move along on the rubric–which shows the relationship between what was taught and what is assessed. The clear, explicit examples provide models children can refer to as they try themselves to show not tell. It also gives them exemplars they can hold their own writing up against as they self-assess using the rubric. And what would you rather strive for: one wand or four?

Finally, the rubrics will help you and your children identify goals:

Rubric and goals, side by side

Note how the goals and the rubric are aligned in this kindergarten classroom by both color and physical placement. This again shows the relationship between instruction, assessment, and goals. Additionally, keeping the goals public helps children (and you) keep track of what is important to work on throughout the day:

Second grade goals with popsicle sticks

This teacher has her goals broken up: getting started, writing, editing. Then, each area has specific goals written on library pockets. Every child has one goal. Each popsicle stick has a name, and that name is placed in the goal. This is clear, flexible, and easy to change once children have met goals.

Goals chart with sticky notes

This teacher has goals for reading. The children have their names on a sticky note with the goal they are currently working on. The teacher has added goals as children have changed: retelling and acting out, keeping her flexible as the needs of the children have changed.

Although the following is not a long-term goal. The teacher has used the idea of setting goals for writing to help children be more specific about their work:

Choosing a type of book

The relationship between goals, rubrics and instructional charts is firmly braided together. Your rubrics help you set goals for children, your goals for children help you see what is important to teach, what you teach gets charted, how children use what you taught gets assessed against the rubric and so on and so on…. The fundamentals of effective charting are true also of rubrics and goal setting: make these with students using language they know and understand, use visuals and color that help children see connections and understand content, and finally, think carefully about placement in the room so children understand this is important work.

Thanks to the teachers at  PS 277 and PS 109 for opening up their classrooms once again!

Until next time, happy charting!

Marjorie Martinelli and Kristine Mraz