White Papers

two male students working in classroom

Text-based Writing and Talk for the CCSS

by Anthony Petrosky

Writing and Talk

James Britton (1983) once wrote that "reading and writing float on a sea of talk." Talk, in other words, is the social media of the classroom and students can benefit enormously from thoughtfully designed and sequenced talk among themselves about texts.
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student working at a desk

Writing from Sources for CCSS ELA/Literacy Instruction

by Anthony Petrosky

Academic Language Enables Academic Writing

Thinking and writing from text sources is at the heart of the CCSS ELA/literacy reading, writing, and speaking and listening standards. When students talk and write about texts, whether they give opinions or develop arguments or explain ideas, they need to use textbased evidence. In order to work with text-based evidence from their reading sources, students need to know and use a repertoire of academic language to identify, cite, introduce, and explain their sources.
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students with magnifying glass outdoors

Why Does Science Matter in the K-12 Setting?

by Sam Spiegel

The notion of science education as a "luxury" or only for elite students is no longer valid. Science and scientific literacy are vital for today's citizens and for promoting a productive workforce. The research is becoming increasingly clear that students who are developing proficiency in science have improved learning results in English language arts and mathematics.
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female student writing

What Performance Assessments Do and Why We Need Them in Schools

by Anthony Petrosky

Performance assessments were originally created to assess people's abilities to do complex activities that are important to their jobs. Surgeons collect electronic portfolios of their surgeries on life-like mannequins or in computer simulations. Architects create plans for buildings in extensive portfolios of drawings. Designers make drawings to specifications for clothes and present them in portfolios to buyers. Camera operators put together reels of movie clips that demonstrate their abilities to frame scenes, follow focus, and track action. Flight control radar operators demonstrate their skills through computer simulations of challenging scenarios with multiple planes flying on various routes at various speeds.
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student in classroom at whiteboard

How to Develop Performance Assessments

by Anthony Petrosky and Vivian Mihalakis

The benefits of using formative performance assessments in the classroom instead of multiple choice, fill in the blank, or short answer questions have to do with their abilities to capture authentic samples of students' work that make thinking and reasoning visible. Multiple choice and short answer questions just cannot give us clear windows into students' thinking and reasoning no matter how their results are reported.
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females at desks in classroom

How to Enable Student-To-Student Talk in Class

by Anthony Petrosky and Vivian Mihalakis

Organizing for Talk: Group Size
We suggest a basic classroom routine that encourages accountable talk and is itself malleable with many variations. The routine structures instruction so that students work in groups of two or three on cognitively challenging tasks before they share their thinking with the whole group.
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stacks of books

Text Selection for Literature Discussions

by Vivian Mihalakis and Anthony Petrosky

Accountable Talk© discussions, particularly those that ask students to develop, support, and defend their own interpretations to literature, don't happen spontaneously. There's a great deal of advance planning to be done when we want students to talk with each other about their interpretations to texts. One of the most crucial aspects of that planning includes selecting the right text.
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student with microscope in classroom

Reasoning and Making Mistakes Like a Good Scientist

by Rebecca Grainger

A Disconnect in the Value of Failure

Scientists are inquisitive. The practice of science encourages deeper thinking, engaging in questioning, and the continuous seeking of information. A failed attempt or "wrong" answer does not stop the inquisition; rather it pushes the investigation further, deeper, perhaps in a new direction. Failed attempts push the field forward. If we hold the ability to persevere and problem solve as merits valuable to a scientific thinker, then we in turn should be engaging students in this practice. But are we?
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graphic with science-related drawings

The Faults in Frontloading Science Content

by Rebecca Grainger

Over the last year we've been collaborating with teachers in several districts around novel studies and incorporating young adult literature into their curriculum. We've been helping to identify readings for students that provide a steady diet of both windows-texts that allow students to see into events and lives different from theirs-and mirrors-texts that reflect students' cultures and personal experiences.
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girl with a book on her head

Motivating Students to Read Whole Novels Before Studying Them

by Anthony Petrosky

When my son was in eighth grade, he came home one fall day to announce that he hated reading. He especially hated novels. "They're killing me," he said. "This book is never going to end."

He was talking about To Kill a Mockingbird. He was on his fourth week with it and they still weren't pages away from the end. You see, his teacher broke the novels into chunks. During class she read aloud or the students took turns reading aloud. Then they answered her questions one after another after another.

Sometimes she asked her questions orally and other times she presented her questions in packets that were almost as thick as the chapters themselves.
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student writing in notebook

Personal & Culturally Relevant Reading in the Era of the CCSS

by Sara DeMartino and Anthony Petrosky

Personal & Cultural Connections to a Text

This past January a group of New York City master teachers and their interns were invited to collaborate with the Institute for Learning (IFL) through Blue Engine, an organization that partners with high schools in New York City. Blue Engine's goal is to help teachers provide high-quality instruction and increase the percentage of low-income minority students who graduate both high school and college (blueengine.org/). We worked together over a number of one day meetings with the goal of developing cognitively challenging tasks for worthwhile texts that would interest high school students. Through our collaborative work with these teachers, we rediscovered the importance of inviting students to move between the text and their personal and cultural experiences.
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kids in a classroom

Keeping Students at the Center of Text Selection

by Sara DeMartino and Anthony Petrosky

Over the last year we've been collaborating with teachers in several districts around novel studies and incorporating young adult literature into their curriculum. We've been helping to identify readings for students that provide a steady diet of both windows-texts that allow students to see into events and lives different from theirs-and mirrors-texts that reflect students' cultures and personal experiences.
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two female students writing on whiteboard

Using Talk to Make Sense of Mathematics

by Victoria Bill and Laurie Speranzo

When students talk about their solution paths and other's solution paths they learn the most.

The students below in the classroom vignette are learning a great deal because they are talking about models and making sense of mathematics. The teacher is also learning about student thinking and reasoning. See what you understand about student understanding for division of a fraction by a fraction.
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students working at a desk

Problematizing a Discussion: A Means of Digging Deeply into Mathematics

By Victoria Bill and Laurie Speranzo

How do we avoid the "show and tell" situation and instead keep students motivated and interested in wrestling with the mathematics in the task? Openended tasks that have a high level of cognitive demand have multiple entry points as well as multiple solution paths.
As a result, strategies, different representations, and even more than one mathematical concept and the relationship between the concepts can be shared and discussed in a whole class discussion. Sometime the sharing might look like a show and tell instead of a true discussion and often students stop listening after one or two solution paths have been shared, or some students a busy mentally preparing their own presentations.
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teachers working at a desk

Mathematics Learning Goals Serve as a Guide

by Victoria Bill and Laurie Speranzo

Teachers are asked to regularly plan for instruction. Frequently, the lesson plans are focused more on the activities that will be completed for the lesson rather than on the mathematical goals of the lesson (Clark 2003). The plans often focus on a list of events to occur during the lesson; rarely do teachers give thought to a necessary change in the lesson on the basis of student thinking (Kagan and Tippins 1992). By setting clear goals as the basis of the lesson, teachers can plan for and then assess student learning during instruction and make corrections to better meet the needs of students (Huinker and Bill 2017). Stein argues that setting mathematical learning goals provides teachers with guidance on how to design and structure their lesson, making clear to students what they are to grasp and make use of from the lesson (Stein 2017). In the recent IES study of math coach-teacher discussions in Tennessee, when coaches focused on having deep and specific discussions of mathematical goals, teachers had an increased chance of engaging their students in deep and specific math discussions (Russell et al. 2015).
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hand holding pen and notebook

Reading to Write & the Common Core State Standards

by Anthony Petrosky and Vivian Mihalakis

We begin by saying the obvious: the CCSS are standards, markers in a big universe of teaching and learning. They define spaces in which essential aspects of teaching and learning occur. But they need to be built into something bigger: disciplinary curriculum.
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