Easing M-STEP Stress

Notes from the Classroom

M-Step-Logo_473059_7While all eyes are on spring break, just behind it lurks the dreaded, gray fog–the time when the use of technology in our building becomes dedicated to one purpose: M-STEP.

Our online standardized testing begins right after we return from a much-needed respite. However, as we are frantically wrapping up our informational unit of study and preparing for parent-teacher conferences, who has time to prep?

Thankfully, most of the “prep” for my students has already happened, thanks to our use of online reading and writing resources. Still, though we’re just two school weeks out, there is much that can be done in terms of online practice.

Reading 

Early in the year I created an account at ReadTheory for all of my students. This is a great online program that provides students with an experience that is very much like the M-STEP format: students read a passage and answer multiple choice questions.

What I love about ReadTheory is that it is computer adaptive when students pretest. It also gives them an explanation as to why an answer is incorrect. ReadTheory also offers free, printable assessments that can be used in the classroom if paper-and-pencil practice is needed. (Blogger Jianna Taylor describes how Edulastic addresses many of these goals as well.)

Newsela is another great resource for leveled passages. With Newsela, students can read passages online and answer questions. There are abundant resources on this site, which is also searchable by topic and grade level. (For more on Newsela, check out Amy Gurney’s post from 2016 about the site.)

Often, I find inspiration on other teachers’ sites. Mr. Nussbaum is one of them. His site is full of resources, and the reading passages are not only leveled, but they look very much like the screen that students view when taking the M-STEP.

Between these three sites (and in addition to the actual M-STEP prep site) students should be well prepared for the format, and comfortable with reading and answering questions in this online format.

Writing 

These days, there are many resources available for online writing. Many students at the elementary level are using Google Docs–sometimes even in kindergarten. Other online story creation sites have exploded over the years as well.

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hOne of my favorites–and, for my students, most beneficial–is blogging. Blogging is something we do all year long, but in the spring we also participate in the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Classroom Challenge. This challenge changes the game because now there are real people–not just teachers and classmates–reading our writing. Students begin to care more about how they write, what they write, and what other people think of their writing.

This lends itself very well to M-STEP. I tell my students to imagine they are writing for their blog audience. The feedback, I tell them, will come from your score. So use everything you know about good writing.

Bottom Line

I am so fortunate to teach in a district that does not place great emphasis on these tests. Our superintendent is very clear that this is one score, on one day, and does not begin to tell the story of who the child is as a learner. We all know that the true “prep” is in the good teaching that we do day to day.

However, ease of use with technology will allow my students to relax and get down to the business of showing what they know, the best that they can. To me, this is the perfect combination.

beth croppedBeth Rogers is a fifth grade teacher for Clarkston Community Schools, where she has been teaching full time since 2006.  She is  blessed to teach Language Arts and Social Studies for her class and her teaching partner’s class, while her partner  teaches all of their math and science. This enables them  to focus on their passions and do the best they can for kids. Beth was chosen as Teacher of the Year for 2013-2014 in her district. She earned a B.S. in Education at Kent State University and a Master’s in Educational Technology at Michigan State University. 

 

 

Edulastic: Authentic M-STEP Prep

Formative Assessment Literacy & Technology Oakland Writing Project

M-Step-Logo_473059_7With test prep season beginning and the M-STEP looming, teachers can become frustrated because there are not many M-STEP released items to use with students, in order to help them practice the item types. The items that are released are likely not related to the content being taught at the time, and, therefore, feel very out of context and inauthentic to students.  

I recently came across a web tool called Edulastic that helps address this problem. Edulastic allows teachers to create assessments that mimic the look and feel of the M-STEP; they include online, technology-enhanced formative, interim, benchmark, and summative assessments. Some of the features of Edulastic include:

  • Instant and real-time data on student performance, in the form of many types of reports
  • The ability for teachers to create their own technology-enhanced items (30+ question types, including embedded multimedia items)
  • Google Classroom syncing
  • An item bank of over 80,000 standards-aligned items, some of which are user created, and some of which are from verified sources, like SBAC and PARCC
  • Free account for teachers; districts can purchase a district account with more features

Linking Test Prep with Coursework

Edulastic’s data reporting seems to be very robust and could benefit teachers and students in the long run. But the web tool’s immediate benefit to teachers is that it allows them to create technology-enhanced questions about the content they are teaching at any given time. Instead of teachers giving a traditional multiple choice test, Edulastic can help teachers mimic M-STEP style in any test at any time, with items like hot text, editing a passage, drag and drop, matching tables, re-sequencing, and more.

Below you will see a few comparisons of what M-STEP released items look like compared with what teachers can create with Edulastic. M-STEP is on the left, and Edulastic is on the right. You can click the paired images to enlarge them in a new window.

Sentence Response: students select a sentence(s) from a passage to answer a question

Sentence Response Item

Passage Based: students read a passage and answer questions about it

Passage Based Item

Multiple Select: students must select more than one answer option

Multiple Select Item

Multimedia Embedded: video or audio is included

Multimedia Embedded Item

Matching Tables: students select features in a table

Matching Tables Item

Essay/Constructed Response: students must type a response to the question

Essay/Constructed Response Item

Being able to create these types of questions for any content means that test preparation doesn’t have to be decontextualized and something “extra” we have to fit in. Instead, this practice can happen at anytime throughout the year on any given assessment. Rather than kids’ having to learn to navigate new types of questions shortly before taking a high-stakes assessment, they can practice all year. Not to mention that these question types often require a higher level of thinking, so they are more than just test prep–they are good assessment practices.

Screenshot 2014-09-26 at 12.44.07 PM Jianna Taylor (@JiannaTaylor) is the ELA Curriculum Coordinator for the West Bloomfield School District. Prior to this role, she was a middle school ELA and Title 1 teacher. She is a MiELA Network Summer Institute facilitator and is an Oakland Writing Project Teacher Leader. Jianna earned her bachelor’s degree from Oakland University and her master’s degree from the University of Michigan. She also writes reviews of children’s books and young adult novels for the magazine School Library Connection.

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Authentic M-STEP Preparation

Notes from the Classroom Oakland Writing Project Professional Learning

M-Step-Logo_473059_7Recently, I facilitated a webinar about preparing students for the ELA M-STEP. (You can access a recording, slides, and a handout online.) Preparing our students for the M-STEP, I believe, doesn’t have to be a tedious task, one that we scramble to find the time to do. Rather, it can be embedded into our daily practice, helping make it more authentic and more relevant for our students.

Before we can prepare our students, though, we need to prepare ourselves and have a clear understanding of the types of tasks students will be engaged in, and the skills they need to complete those tasks. To help in this work, sample-items sets for grades 3-8 are available on MDE’s website. This is a great resources for familiarizing both teachers and students with the task types and browser.

A careful analysis of the 7th grade sample-items set shows that students will be engaged in the following types of tasks:

    • Annotating
    • Choosing multiple options in multiple choice questions
    • Constructed response
    • Multipart questions (Part B contingent on Part A)
    • Writing samples, using information in the prompt
    • Editing a writing sample
    • Reading across texts
    • Choosing reliable sources and evidence

Many of the tasks above are different from the format of the MEAP test, so it’s very important that we take the time to carefully think about what students need to know and be able to do.

Sample 7th grade item

For example, in the 7th grade item to the left, students must be able to first distinguish between the content of the question and the directions. (You can click on the image to enlarge it.)

Notice that the item begins with directions to the students. Then there is some content that the students need to understand and use. Then, below that, there is the task. It is all in the same font and formatting, so students must learn to read carefully, to ensure they are not missing important information.

Practice Assessments

In addition to the sample-items sets, MDE has created a set of documents called the ELA Crosswalks. These documents were created to help teachers create classroom assessments that would be similar to those that students might see on the M-STEP, use the same kind of language as the M-STEP, and ensure that teachers are teaching and assessing particular standards.

ELA Crosswalks

The image to the right, also clickable, shows a claim, targets, and standards for reading. These have been created for reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language.

Although there are now only performance tasks at 5th and 8th grade, it is worth preparing all students for different types of writing tasks of various lengths. Teachers College Writing and Reading Project has put together performance tasks for grades 3-8 that include readings, videos, writing prompts, and rubrics.  

While the first and best way to prepare for the M-STEP is through good instruction, we can help students do their best by ensuring that we understand what they will be asked to do, and help them develop ways to navigate various tasks.

Screenshot 2014-09-26 at 12.44.07 PMJianna Taylor (@JiannaTaylor) is an ELA and Title 1 teacher at Orchard Lake Middle School in West Bloomfield.  She is a member of the AVID Site Team and Continuous School Improvement Team at her school, among other things.  She is also a MiELA Network Summer Institute facilitator and member of the OWP Core Leadership Team.  Jianna earned her bachelor’s degree from Oakland University and her master’s degree from the University of Michigan.  She also writes reviews of children’s books and young adult novels for the magazine Library Media Connection.

 

Finding a Balance with State Testing

Notes from the Classroom

shutterstock_334073204As I write this, January is nearly over and we are starting to hear a little buzz about our state’s standardized testing. This buzz will likely turn to a loud roar as we get closer to April. In many districts, this testing is like a heavy weight that sits on the shoulders of students and teachers alike. Though I am blessed to work in a district that does not pressure us at all, I too feel the weight.

This year I am working on a webinar for Oakland Schools about Elementary M-STEP (our test), and it has caused me to think deeply about all of this: testing/not testing, prepping/not prepping, and my responsibilities as a teacher to my district and to my students.

First and foremost, I am here for my students. I need to provide the best education for them in ways that meet their needs as a diverse group of learners. I have a wealth of resources at my disposal, and I feel generally well equipped for the task at hand. I am able to teach my students about reading and writing in ways that push them to think deeply about text, and that move them to better understanding.

All of that comes first. Then I look at the test.

Here’s what I don’t do: I don’t consistently have my students read long passages of text online, where they have to scroll and scroll and scroll to complete it. I don’t have them read and answer questions by choosing the correct bubble. I don’t have them answer questions from screen to screen that connect to each other.

But maybe I should.

Why? It’s simply not fair to teach my students how to read and respond to text in long passages, but to never teach them how to read online and answer questions that are inferential. It’s not fair to give them copies of articles that they can read and highlight, along with graphic organizers to help them create a piece of writing, and then throw them into a test where they read everything online, and where they have a blank piece of paper to use in whatever way makes sense to them.

The teacher in me says I need to offer the best instruction for my students. But the teacher in me also says I need to give them exposure before test day to the format they will experience.

Prepping for the Format

shutterstock_142403371A colleague got me thinking about metaphors for all of this. The one that comes to mind for me is that we need to get students’ feet in the water, to ease them in before we throw them in alone and ask them to swim.

So, this year I will keep teaching our units of study and engaging my students in rich text. We will continue to have great conversations and write about our understanding and thinking.

But we will also go online and read and write. We will experience formats that are new and different.

On test day my students might not know everything, but when they look at the format, they will think, “Oh, I know about this. I can do this.” That’s the mindset that will unlock their best thinking.

To view the recent M-STEP Test Prep Webinar that Beth facilitated and to access the resources she shared, click here.

beth croppedBeth Rogers is a fifth grade teacher for Clarkston Community Schools, where she has been teaching full time since 2006.  She is  blessed to teach Language Arts and Social Studies for her class and her teaching partner’s class, while her partner  teaches all of their math and science. This enables them  to focus on their passions and do the best they can for kids. Beth was chosen as Teacher of the Year for 2013-2014 in her district. She earned a B.S. in Education at Kent State University and a Master’s in Educational Technology at Michigan State University. 

M-STEP Prep Webinars: Test Literacy & ELA Curricular Connections

Grade Level(s): 3-5 & 6-8M-Step-Logo_474451_7

Description: Get your students ready! These hour-long, interactive webinars presented by teacher leaders will provide ready to use strategies for addressing test literacy, item directions and format, and MSTEP navigation with students. In addition, presenters will address how to integrate the content of M-STEP preparation organically into MAISA unit instruction.

SCECHs: no

Who Should Attend?: Elementary teachers and middle school ELA teachers interested in contrete ideas for addressing test directions, item formats, and test navigations as well as strategies for integrating M-STEP test prep into the MAISA units.

Dates & Times: 

Elementary Session – January 28, 2015  7-8pm

Middle School Session – January 26, 2015  7-8pm

Location: virtual, participants receive room link once registered

Event Contact : delia.decourcy@oakland.k12.mi.us

Presenter(s):
Beth Rogers, Clarkston Community Schools (elementary) & Jianna Taylor West Bloomfield Schools, (middle school)

beth cropped

Beth Rogers is a fifth grade teacher for Clarkston Community Schools, where she has been teaching full time since 2006.  She is  blessed to teach Language Arts and Social Studies for her class and her teaching partner’s class, while her partner  teaches all of their math and science. This enables them  to focus on their passions and do the best they can for kids. Beth was chosen as Teacher of the Year for 2013-2014 in her district. She earned a B.S. in Education at Kent State University and a Master’s in Educational Technology at Michigan State University.

 

Screenshot 2014-09-26 at 12.44.07 PMJianna Taylor (@JiannaTaylor) is an ELA and Title 1 teacher at Orchard Lake Middle School in West Bloomfield.  She is a member of the AVID Site Team and Continuous School Improvement Team at her school, among other things.  She is also a MiELA Network Summer Institute facilitator and member of the OWP Core Leadership Team.  Jianna earned her bachelor’s degree from Oakland University and her master’s degree from the University of Michigan.  She also writes reviews of children’s books and young adult novels for the magazine Library Media Connection.

 

More Details on Spring 2015 M-STEP Testing

News

M-Step-Logo_473059_7We have a few more details about the tests that will be given in the spring, including types of tests at each grade level. A batch of sample items is in production now. This sample will be available “shortly” to all schools and will demonstrate the online functions and tools of the M-STEP.

The ELA Spring 2015 M-STEP is a comprehensive ELA model:

·         Grades 3-8: Smarter Balanced content plus Michigan-developed field-test items. This will include a Computer Adaptive Test (CAT), a Classroom Activity, and a Performance Task.

·         Grade 11: Smarter Balanced content plus Michigan-developed field-test items. This will include a Computer Adaptive Test (CAT), a Classroom Activity, and a Performance Task. This is in addition to the ACT plus Writing and Work-Keys.

·         The M-STEP (grades 3-8, 11) will include items from the following Michigan Standards: reading, writing, language, listening.

The most current assessment transition document outlines the details for the M-STEP.  For additional information, click here.

To get up to date news on the state assessments, subscribe to MDE’s Spotlight on Assessment and Accountability Newsletter.

Literacy Webinar Archive

Questions? Contact andrea.zellner@oakland.k12.mi.us

Word Study, Vocabulary & Grammar: the Toughest Nuts to Crack Webinar Series 2016-17  

Thursday, October 27, 2016  7-8pm EST
Dr. Tim Shanahan, University of Illinois at Chicago
Complex Texts, Complex Sentences: Grammar and Comprehension in the Time of Common Core
recording and slides


Thursday, November 17, 2016  7-8pm EST
Dr. Laura Tortorelli, Michigan State University
Words in the World: Transferring Word Study to Everyday Reading and Writing
recording, slides, and resources


Thursday, December 8, 2016  7-8pm EST
Dr. Jonathan Bush, Western Michigan University
Grammar in Theory; Grammar in Practice: Language Use in Culture, Society, and Our Classrooms
recording, slides, and resources


Tuesday, January 17, 2017  7-8pm EST
Dr. Laura Tortorelli, Michigan State University
Cracking the Code of Early Literacy: What Is Phonemic Awareness and Why Does it Matter?
recording, slides, and resources


Tuesday, February 7, 2017  7-8pm EST
Dr. Troy Hicks, Central Michigan University & Jeremy Hyler, Fulton Schools, MI
From Texting to Teaching: Teaching Grammar Beyond the Screen
recording, slides and resources


Tuesday, March 28, 2017  7-8pm EST
Dr. Margaret McKeown, University of Pittsburgh
Cracking the Vocabulary Nut Requires Rich, Interactive Instruction
recording, slides and resources


Thursday, April 20, 2017  7-8pm EST
Dr. Dianna Townsend, University of Nevada – Reno
Who Is Using the Vocabulary?: Engaging Students in Active Practice with New and Important Words
recording, slides and resources


Tuesday, May 9, 2017  7-8pm EST
Sarah Brown Wessling, 2010 Teacher of the Year
Organically Integrating Vocabulary into the Secondary Classroom
recording, slides and resources

 


Revision: the Heart of Writing Webinar Series 2015-16

Dr. Jennifer Fletchershutterstock_86277058
Revising Rhetorically: Re-seeing Writing through the Lens of Audience, Purpose, and Context
recommended reading: Teaching Arguments: Rhetorical Comprehension, Critique, & Response
recording, resources, and slides


Georgia Heard
The Revision Toolbox: Teaching Techniques that Work
recommended reading: The Revision Toolbox: Teaching Techniques that Work
recording and resources


Marc Aronson
Revising Nonfiction: Dowsing for Depth
recommended reading: Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science
recording, slides and resources


Dr. Troy Hicks
Revising Digital Writing
recommended reading: Crafting Digital Writing: Composing Texts Across Media & Genres
recording, slides, and resources


Dr. Nell Duke
Not Like Pulling Teeth: Revision in a Project-Based Context
recommended reading: Inside Information: Developing Powerful Readers and Writers of Informational Text Through Project-Based Instruction
more information (recording and slides available in mi PLACE)


Penny Kittle
Revision: the Heart of Writing
recommended reading: Write Beside Them: Risk, Voice, and Clarity in High School Writing
recording and resources


Dr. Constance Weaver
Revising Sentences by Adding “Juicy Details”
recommended reading: Grammar to Enrich and Enhance Writing
recording & resources


M-Step-Logo_473059_7M-STEP Prep Webinars 2016

M-STEP Prep Webinar: Test Literacy and ELA Curricular Connections (elementary)
Beth Rogers, Clarkston Community Schools
recording    slides    resources

M-STEP Prep Webinar: Test Literacy and ELA Curricular Connections (middle school) 
Jianna Taylor, West Bloomfield Schools
recording    slides    resources


Reading & Writing in Digital Spaces Series 2014-15476127923 (1)

Small Bites: Research in the K-5 Classroom
Professor Kristin Fontichiaro, University of Michigan School of Information
recording, resources & slides


Small Bites: Research in the 6-12 Classroom
Delia DeCourcy, Secondary Literacy Consultant, Oakland Schools ISD, Michigan
recording, resources & slides


Digital Technologies and Expectations for Writing in College
Professor Jeff Grabill, Michigan State University
recording & slides


Mixing Sources, Amplifying Voices: Crafting Writing in an Information Age
Professor Troy Hicks, Central Michigan University
recording, slides & resources 


How Student Blogs Support Literacy Learning & the Common Core
Stephanie Dulmage, Technology/Curriculum Integration Specialist, West Bloomfield, Michigan
recording, slides & resources 


Reinventing Classroom Reading: What Digital Media Offer Us
Professor Sara Kajder, University of Georgia
recording, slides and resources


How Social Media Supports Literacy Learning & the Common Core
Stephanie Dulmage, Technology/Curriculum Integration Specialist, West Bloomfield, Michigan
recording, slides & resources


Integrating Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in Secondary Literacy Learning
Professor Liz Kolb, University of Michigan School of Education
recording & slides