Tips for Using Exemplars
Exemplars makes it possible for schools, districts and teachers to implement excellent standards-based performance assessment and instruction.
To help you use our material, we would like to share some suggestions from experienced Exemplars users and workshop participants. The links below include ideas and tips to help teachers, schools and districts get started on the right foot.
In one California school, teachers all agree to do the same Exemplars task with their students. As a K-5 school, they select one task and differentiate it for different grade levels*. Teachers report that this generates meaningful conversations in the teachers' room and at faculty meetings. They discuss student response to the task, the strategies used, developmental differences, varying levels of performance and successful strategies for helping students understand and improve their performance.
*This strategy was used before Exemplars math material was formally differentiated at three levels.
In some schools and districts, the math or science committee selects several tasks that might be done across the district (or within the school) at each developmental level (K-2, 3-5, 6-8). Teachers then get together to assess the work and discuss their students' performance. The difference between this approach and the previous one is that here, students at different developmental levels might be working on different problems in relation to a given standard.
Teachers use Exemplars to help their students become better problem solvers, but they generally do this within the context of the content area they are working with. One of the reasons teachers like the "Best of Exemplars" CD-ROMs has to do with the way tasks can be searched for by curriculum area.
The same work can be done with any of Exemplars material by correlating the assessment/instruction tasks to parts of the curriculum or particular chapters in textbooks. You can make your own links to curriculum by committee or individually, or simply use the correlations in the Exemplars Matrix and Skills Indices (published in each subscription). These tools make it easy for teachers to find tasks that connect with particular units as well as state, national and Common Core standards.
Note: Exemplars is also aligned to several math texts, science kits and literature links.
The Exemplars Math Guide makes it easier for individual teachers to get started. One idea is to use the Guide as the focus of a study group for educators who use Exemplars. They can score and annotate student work together, discuss at what level students are performing and why, and determine the next steps for improvement.
The Exemplars Science Toolkit provides teachers with support for using Exemplars Science Inquiry Tasks. Teachers will get ideas on how to implement Science Portfolios, Peer and Self-Assessment, and Cooperative Inquiry in their own classrooms. Other helpful hints include teaching students to conduct fair tests and using the Science Exemplars Rubric. The Science Toolkit is designed to help teachers use performance-assessment tasks.
This is the very heart of what Exemplars is all about. Faculties can assess where their students are and how they might be helped using the information gained from working with Exemplars. This is how you will get the most out of our products.
Be sure your teachers are aware that Exemplars tasks are available and readily accessible for use in their classrooms.
At faculty and principal meetings, make sure everyone knows about Exemplars products and how they might be best used.
Exemplars subscriptions arrive in both hard copy and digital formats for easy copying. Your site license entitles you to duplicate our materials for distribution to everyone within your site-licensed school(s).
Many schools put the Exemplars hard copy in the teachers' room or next to the copy machine. In some schools, each developmental level (K-2, 3-5 and 6-8) has its own notebook, which makes finding tasks much easier, particularly when referencing the Standards Matrix and the Arithmetic Skills Index. In other schools, each teacher receives his/her own copy appropriate to the grade he/she is teaching.
Some schools put Exemplars digital copy on their school's private network, or they duplicate CD-ROMs for each teacher.
In the Jefferson County (Colorado) School District, Exemplars material is placed on their secure web site. Teachers can access the material with a pass code, ensuring that only site-licensed schools are using the tasks.
One of the most powerful methods of using Exemplars is as a vehicle for professional development. As one California administrator said, "Exemplars helps bridge the gap between standards on a page and students and teachers in the classroom."
When Exemplars conducts professional development workshops, we find it helpful to think about the needs of participants in terms of grade level and "expertise" level. We have developed separate categories of workshops at Apprentice, Practitioner and Expert levels. We have also created a new type of workshop that focuses on Classroom Modeling for Math and Science. These sessions take our workshops to the next level, by allowing teachers to observe Exemplars tasks being exercised by their students in the classroom, with the instruction of an Exemplars consultant.
In your own workshops, assess student work together and think about the results in terms of the implications for individual students as well as instruction and learning. Share strategies for making the implementation of standards-based instruction and assessment manageable in the classroom.
Many districts, (like Tacoma, Washington) have used the mentor teacher approach. These districts select one teacher (or a team of teachers) from each school and train them to assist their colleagues in getting started using Exemplars. Mentor teachers can assist in scoring student work, using results to improve performance and managing the standards-based classroom.
Exemplars also offers professional development opportunities for mentor teachers. The goal of these workshops is to better understand and support the standards-based work teachers are implementing.