Assessing literacy growth with 4 Ms

Smart Brief | April 18, 2017 

By Billy Spicer

When reading text on a digital device, I address the level of engagement with my students by using some of Gravity Goldberg’s work as inspiration. Her recent book Mindsets & Moves helped provide authentic structure with the 4 M framework.  My students love reading on iPads and Chromebooks, and our personalized literacy platform, myON, has helped make adopting the 4 M model seamless for my students! Here’s how we’re doing it.

Miner: Uncovering students’ reading processes

In this stage, I was focused on observing their processes by noting their visible behaviors, how they reacted to the text, and what they were writing. In addition to observing the reader in action, the platform provides insights into text selection, time spent reading, and how students are performing in terms of comprehension. I can also provide students with writing prompts and organizers so they have a pathway to articulate their thinking while reading.

Mirror: Giving feedback that reinforces a growth mindset

Feedback is most valuable when it is specific to the individual. This is a perfect example of one way to, “work smarter, not harder.”  myON allows a constant flow of dialogue between individual students and the teacher. I can send digital sticky notes that are embedded into the text to provide feedback on what the reader is doing and focus on the process. It’s amazing how students will “puff up” a bit when they know their teacher will not only see the visible work they are doing, but will get a response!

Model: Showing readers what we do

This stage was the game changer for me. I realized I was missing the before modeling piece—I was jumping straight in and expecting my students to sort it out on their own! Being a model requires an explanation of what I’m going to be showing, but more importantly, explaining the why along with a clear purpose and when they may implement such a strategy.

Mentor: Guiding students to try new ways of reading

The final stage is when students begin to take ownership of the strategies I highlighted in class. The Writing Task feature in myON allows teachers to create personalized checklists for students. Depending on the strategy I would create a checklist that served as a guide to assist students in trying out a new strategy in an independent manner. These checklists can be saved and used on future activities so that I can differentiate based on each reader or even within small-group instruction.

Applying the 4 M framework has had a huge impact in reaching all my students and meeting them where they are in their own reading growth. At the same time, it has allowed me to take a step back in terms of driving instruction and instead, truly allowed my students to show what they are capable of, where they’re headed next, and how we are collectively going to get there.

Billy Spicer is a fifth-grade teacher at Isaac Fox Elementary, part of the Lake Zurich Community Unit School District 95 in Chicago, IL. He can be reached at mrbillyspicer@gmail.com

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