Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Celebrating Success

One issue which I have struggled with since the inception of the Marzano evaluation system in our district is the authentic celebration of student success. Part of this struggle was the lack of professional development surrounding the 41 Marzano elements in our district.  The other piece was the question how do you showcase or plan for that specific element to be observable in a meaningful way when administrators drop by.  You had to feature celebrating student success that first year because it was one of three elements that were being scored.

What developed from this determination to feature this element in my classroom and others was a high-five sporting celebration.  Some teachers developed a special celebration routine such as the fire cracker clap. It was off-putting to me because I reserve high-fives for the field.  My academic life was different from sporting life. In my classroom we charted our books read and hosted a reading celebration. We published a class anthology and celebrated our writing. We celebrated in ways that made sense in our academic community. On the field we charted personal bests and chanted, screamed, and cheered loudly. It seemed out-of-place in my classroom. Yet I do admit I've learned much about teaching from my work coaching track, volleyball, flag football, and cheer leading (the subject of another blog).

I was also influenced early in my career by Alfie Kohn's Punished By Rewards. Daniel Pink's Drive provides further insight into motivation as well and continues to hone my instructional thinking about  rewards. My challenge has been, like many other teachers, how to develop readers and writers who are internally motivated. I give erasers to my students because they need them, not because they won them. I don't like to give food rewards, but having food available to hungry students makes a difference. Also as adults we know the power of chocolate.

After three years of reading, practicing and sharpening my understanding of the implementation of the elements, I finally nailed it this past month during my formal evaluation without even trying to actually do so. As reading coach, I've spent the past month working in two tenth grade ELL classes teaching writing.  Due to the range of writers, many beginners, progress happens in tiny incremental steps each day. Sometimes invisible to the untrained eye or ear, especially to these students who struggle all day. I created an expert chart as a way to show kids who they can really rely upon when they need help during our small group writing time. It's colored-coded so I can keep track of when kids first demonstrated mastery of the skill.

Kids look at what we post on the walls. Kids look for their names. As my principal later shared, every single student sat up a little straighter in their seats that day. It built classroom community and immediate confidence in their new group members' value.  It also gave students the confidence that writers in the room, not in books and not the teacher were accomplished and could show them how.   Just this simple acknowledgement of these students honored their progress toward the writing goal and celebrated their success authentically.


  1. This is the best phrase I have come across this morning: fire cracker clap.

  2. I'll start with the positive. I love this idea! It also makes me happy to see you're still using DRAPES. I look forward to sharing this celebration idea with the teachers I work with.

    On the other side... wow, 41 elements? And they're looking/scoring for three at specific times? It all sounds frustrating.

  3. I really like how that chart worked. Like Kevin the fire cracker clap caught me. I appreciate how you tease apart the sporting life and academic celebration and distinguish between the two. I wonder how you decided on student's expertise --what distinguished their performance as "expert". I imagine the colors go by class period. Did you make sure to note everyone as an expert in something?


Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Your words matter!