Exemplars for learning

Man, this is such a simple idea, but it really helped my students this year!

Earlier this year, I went to a 3-day personalized and blended learning conference hosted at my school. I was really impressed with the keynote speaker, a middle school social studies teacher who does amazing things in his classroom. Bill Ferriter shared so many GREAT ways to have students self and peer assess, as well as looking at exemplars of different types of activities to show students what you expect.

Let me pause here and say something wonderfully simple that I’ve been skipping over for years – students should look at exemplars that will help them understand your expectations. DUH.

How many of you have used the ACTFL IPA interpretive template? How many of you are frustrated by students not writing what you expected, or worse – leaving sections blank?! I mean, COME ON, the answers are actually in the text! Or, when asked to guess, they leave me a giant, “Idk!”

In my department, instead of the, “main idea,” section of the template, we ask for the “purpose” of the text, and the “audience,” both asking for specific textual examples. Last year, I had such an issue with students writing about the purpose and the audience – students were always writing, “for me to learn French.” I realized this year that even though I explained my expectations globally, I had only given individual feedback to students who had the same errors across the board.

This year, I decided that was no more! I used Bill’s template for high/low exemplars to communicate my expectations. (It looks like Bill’s link is broken, but I will share one from the conference here.)

First, I had my students complete an IPA-style set of questions in class. They finished for homework if necessary. The next day, we went through the answers for the key word section, and I told them how many I expect them to get correctly to meet expectations. Then, we looked over the guessing meaning from context section. I explained that as long as they guessed something that was vaguely as many words as the phrase, and they gave a reason that wasn’t, “because I thought so,” I would let them count it as “meeting expectations.” (I gave individual feedback after they turned them in!)

Next, we looked at the purpose section. I told them that a good purpose statement:

  • states an appropriate purpose
  • gives an explanation of the purpose (details)
  • cites evidence from the text

Then, we read two purpose statement that I created (but will replace with student examples for the future!) and completed the feedback grid. We evaluated if the two statements did each of the three things listed above. They also answer those questions about the purpose statements that they wrote for homework.

After they completed the grid, they shared their answers with a partner that they trusted, and talked about why. They also said how their purpose statement fared. We then had a few minutes to revise our purpose statements so I could give students individual feedback.

What did I learn? When we completed our first mini-IPA, students had AMAZING statements and they cited evidence from the text. It was beautifully amazing and I was beaming with pride as I graded them. We were reading 3 different “je me présente” (I present myself) posts to an online forum for teens.

Just look at this one, written by an eighth grader:

What is the purpose of this text? “The purpose of this text is that 3 people are describing themselves on a website, maybe for their followers to get to know them better, or to introduce themselves to a different user.”

How do you know that? Sandy (a user) tells about her interest, like rap music. Whiteberry (a user) introduces herself and tells her age (15). Doriane uses words that describe herself. (unique and tall)

And look at this one, written by a high school student:

What is the purpose of this text? “The purpose of the text was for people to give a description of themselves to others on their profile.”

How do you know that? “I know because the profiles are set up like a social media account and they are giving smalls facts about themselves. One person wrote, “J’adore la musique,” which means “I love music,” so they were describing things that they like to others.

WOW. I am so impressed by these, and excited to see how they go in the future. Next up, we’ll be looking at exemplars of an “audience” statement, because I’m so impressed by the results of this activity.

Resource time:

In case you missed them, or just scrolled past my explanation to look for resources (don’t worry, I’m guilty of this ALL THE TIME,) here they are:

As always, if you have questions or suggestions, I welcome them. I openly admit that writing IPAs is sometimes a struggle for me.

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