Posts Tagged ‘Marzano’

Delivering Critical Messages

January 5, 2010 2 comments

As we approach the end of the first semester and anticipate the beginning of second semester, it is important to make sure that we continue to cultivate a We-Expect-Success attitude with our students. Some of our students are beginning to look for excuses to explain their failure. We must keep sending the message that their efforts are important and that their efforts will impact their performance.

Robert Marzano (2003), in his meta-analysis of research on motivation, identifies five lines of research that explain our motivation to learn. One line of research is attribution theory, which focuses on what students perceive to be the cause of their success or failure, such as ability, effort, luck, task difficulty, etc. Of the factors named, Marzano concludes that effort is the most useful because a strong belief in effort as a cause of success can translate into a willingness to engage in complex tasks and to persist.

The National Mathematics Advisory Panel weighed in on the importance of an effort-based belief system in the 2008 report Foundations for Success. The report states:

“Children’s goals and beliefs about learning are related to their mathematics performance. Experimental studies have demonstrated that changing children’s beliefs from a focus on ability to a focus on effort increases their engagement in mathematics learning, which in turn improves mathematics outcomes: When children believe that their efforts to learn make them “smarter” they show greater persistence in mathematics learning.”

Jonathan Saphier is another of the many researchers who writes about the role of beliefs and effort-based ability. He concluded that a student’s belief in his or her efforts rather than his or her innate ability is the most important determinant of student learning. He also stated that these beliefs can enable all students to do rigorous academic work at high standards. According to Saphier, schools that recognize and celebrate effort-based ability communicate three critical messages to all students:

1. What we are doing here is important.

2. You can do it.

3. I’m not going to give up on you—even if you give up on yourself (DuFour, Eaker, & DuFour, 2005, pp. 89-90).

What message are we sending to our students if we communicate to the class, either explicitly or implicitly, that we expect final grades to follow the bell curve?

Many students will interpret this message as, “Only a few of you can expect to get A’s in this class.” This is hardly a We-Expect-Success message.

Contrast this example to the message that students receive when a teacher announces that he or she expects grades to cluster at the lower end of the grading scale at the beginning of instruction, approach normal distribution as different students master content and skills at different times, and follow the “J” curve, with most students earning high scores by the time summative grades are posted.

By using the formative assessment strategies that we are learning during our professional development, we can continue to show students that their efforts are directly correlated to their academic success. Formative assessment is another means to communicate the message that we expect success.

Thank you for your willingness to send critical messages to our kids that communicate the importance of their effort and our belief in them.  Recognizing and celebrating the fact that the effort that they put in will result in their academic success will not only help our students become more motivated but also help them realize that they can be successful.


Westerberg, T. R. (2009). Cultivating a we expect success attitude. Becoming a great high school: 6 strategies and 1 attitude that make a difference (pp. 7-10). Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.


Non-linguistic Representations to Create Meaning

November 29, 2009 Leave a comment

To back up slightly, last week’s blog posting shared that knowledge is stored in two forms: linguistic form (as language) and nonlinguistic form (as mental images and physical sensations). The more that we can teach our students to use both types of representations, the better they are able to reflect on and recall knowledge. When we branch out from linguistic form and ask our students to use nonlinguistic representation as well, the effects on student achievement are significant (Pitler, 2007).

Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) makes the following five recommendations for classroom practice using nonlinguistic representation:

  1. Use graphic organizers to represent knowledge.
  2. Have students create physical models of the knowledge.
  3. Have students generate mental pictures of the knowledge they are learning.
  4. Use pictures or pictographs to represent knowledge.
  5. Have students engage in kinesthetic activities representing the knowledge.

According to Marzano’s original meta-analysis (1998), using graphic representations had one of the highest impacts on student achievement, with an average effect size of 1.24, the equivalent of a gain of as many as 39 percentile points. As you begin a unit or a lesson, provide your students with a matrix or another graphic way to organize the information they are about to encounter.  Students’ attempts to complete the structure as a pre-learning activity can prime their brains and create anticipation. The following anticipation guide is an example of how we can help to structure students’ initial thinking about All Quiet on the Western Front before they begin the novel.

Themes in the Book My Opinion My Group’s Opinion The Author’s Opinion Additional Comments
Nature is indifferent to mankind’s pain and decisions.
“To no man does the earth mean so much as the soldier.”
Cruel trainers make the most useful trainers for soldiers about to go to war.
War forces people to reject the traditional values and civilized behavior.
“This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure.”
“Every soldier believes in Chance.”
Friendships endure all.

Similarly, the row headings in the analysis matrix below show students what to look for as they read an article on the components of blood—and the cell contents show how one student might complete it after having read the assigned material.

Questions to Ask Red Cells White Cells Plasma Platelets
Size and Shape?
Where Formed?

Analysis matrices are also great for helping students to develop patterns of understanding. The completed matrix below is designed to help students apply the pronouns. The fill-in-the-blank organizer at the bottom is designed to help students apply the understanding that subjunctive pronouns always perform the action of the verb, and the objective pronouns always receive the action of the verb.

Analysis Matrix and Application:  Personal Pronouns
Personal Pronouns Subjunctive Objective Possessive Reflexive
Singular 1st I Me MyMine Myself
2nd You You Your(s) Yourself
3rd HeSheIt HimHerIt HisHersIts HimselfHerselfItself
Plural 1st We Us Our(s) Ourselves
2nd You You Your(s) Yourselves
3rd They Them Their(s) Themselves
1st person singular: __  hit the ball.  The ball hit ___.  The ball is ______.  ____ looked in the mirror ball and saw __________.2nd person singular: __  hit the ball.  The ball hit ___.  The ball is ______.  ____ looked in the mirror ball and saw __________.3rd person singular (masculine): __  hit the ball.  The ball hit ___.  The ball is ______.  ____ looked in the mirror ball and saw __________.






As you may remember, during our staff development last year, Heather Mullins and Donna Murray shared many examples of multi-purpose graphic organizers.  This might be a good time to revisit some of the strategies from last year’s training or to contact Heather or Donna for a refresher.

You may want to check out Donna’s delicious links for graphic organizers.  She has tagged 38 different sites that provide a variety of organizers for classroom use.

Summarization-Lingusitic and Non-linguistic

November 22, 2009 Leave a comment

Summarization Pyramids

A summarization pyramid is a versatile tool that comes in many formats, has many sizes, and can be used with many prompts. It’s easy to adapt the basic foundation of this technique to your curriculum and your students’ needs.

Basic Sequence

Construct a pyramid of lines on a sheet of paper. When first playing with this format, begin with eight lines, as shown below.

Summarization Pyramid













For each line, choose prompts that yield one-word or short answers for the shorter lines and longer responses for longer lines. If you have a large pyramid and a prompt that requires a lengthy response, consider asking students to use more than one line of the pyramid for their response. Consider these prompts and add your own as you experiment with this strategy:

• A synonym for the topic
• An analogy between the topic and a sport
• One question the topic sparks in you
• Three attributes or facts about the topic
• Three words that best describe the topic
• A news headline that would capture the essence of the topic
• One or two other topics related to this topic
• Causes of the topic
• Effects of the topic
• Reasons we study the topic
• Arguments for the topic
• Ingredients of the topic
• Personal opinion of the topic
• Demonstration of the topic in action
• The larger category from this topic comes
• A formula or sequence associated with this topic
• Insight gained from studying the topic
• Tools for using the topic
• Three moments in the history of the topic
• One thing that we used to think about the topic that we’ve discovered to be incorrect
• Samples of the topic
• People who use the topic
• What the topic will be like in 25 years

This list could go on forever. As you decide on prompts and pyramid sizes, challenge yourself to choose experiences that will allow the students to interact with the topic in several ways. Your goal is to have your students learn something from more than one angle in order to promote retention of the concept or skill.


Variations and Extended Applications

Consider asking your students to create a visual related to the topic as they respond to your prompts. For example, use clouds with various forms of precipitation to express information about the water cycle, a ziggurat to express information about Mesopotamia, or a bar graph or pie chart to express information about graphing data.


Research on the “dual-coding” theory of retaining knowledge suggests that knowledge is stored in two forms-a linguistic form and an imagery form. The linguistic mode is semantic in nature. The imagery mode, in contrast, is expressed as mental pictures or even physical sensations, such as smell, taste, touch, kinesthetic association, and sound (Richardson, 1983). The imagery mode of representation is referred to as non-linguistic representation. The more that we ask our students to use both systems of representation—linguistic and non-linguistic—the better they are able to think about and recall knowledge.


Marzano, R. J., Pickering, D. J., & Pollock, J. E. (2001). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Wormeli, R. (2004). Summarization in any subject: 50 techniques to improve student learning. Alexandria, VA: Association For Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Summarization Techniques that Work

November 7, 2009 2 comments

As we continue to make adjustments to our instruction based on the results of the 6-week benchmarks, pacing guides, and formative assessments, retention is a common area of concern. Putting strategies in place to assist students with comprehension and retention of lesson concepts will decrease student and teacher frustration.

mnemonicsConsider poor old Aunt Sally. She’s constantly making mistakes in the mathematical order of operations. You will have to excuse her if you already understand when to perform each order of operation: parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction.

“Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” is an extension of PEMDAS, the angry-old-ladyclassic acronym for the order of mathematical operations. This mnemonic device assists students daily in understanding what to do and in what order. When you think about it, PEMDAS is also a summarization strategy. Creating acronyms for concepts, cycles, protocols, sequences, and systems is a great way to allow students to summarize and retain information.




writing3One way to begin is by asking students to list the essential attributes of something that you have been teaching. For example, say that you have been focusing on how to write good introductions to essays. In response to your prompt, students might generate a list that includes the following:

• Hook the reader with an interesting attention getter that provides background information to set the stage for your thesis.
• Add your thesis statement.
• Provide an organizational hint to serve as a preview for the content of the essay.
• Use a clincher to transition from the introduction to the first body paragraph.

Classroom Instruciotn Book

Great information on summarization can be found in this book. See me to borrow a copy.

Then, ask your students to examine each attribute and identify a single term to serve as a key word for remembering that attribute. This group activity involves discussing and deciding on key words, providing yet another opportunity for summarization. Key words for remembering how to write good essay introductions might be attention getter (AG), thesis (T), organizational hint (OH), and clincher (C).

Now it’s simply a matter of sequencing the letters in an order that makes sense. If the attributes are things that do not need to be in a specific sequence, then all the students have to do is move the letters around until something coherent and meaningful emerges. If the sequence is set, such as the steps in a math problem, the process of how a bill goes through Congress, or the metamorphosis of mealworms, the order of the letters is nonnegotiable, and creating a memorable acronym can be a bit more challenging, but it is certainly a worthwhile task.


thesis_funnelThis technique can also work as a pre-assessment activity. You might ask your students to create an initial list of attributes as a whole class activity. Then, have the students revise the lists on their own (another opportunity for summarizing). As mnemonic devices, acronyms can be even more powerful when created by students themselves. Consider asking each student to design his or her own acronyms for something to be studied, and then vote on the top three. The voting criteria might include clarity, accuracy, and how easily the acronym can be remembered.


wormeli book

See me if you would like to borrow this book.

Summarization is not only a technique proven to improve student achievement, but it is also a method of formative assessment that can help you assess where your students are and help them self-assess. By implementing various summarization strategies, we can help provide students with yet another exposure to higher-order thinking activities.



Marzano, R. J., Pickering, D. J., & Pollock, J. E. (2001). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Westerberg, T. R. (2009). Becoming a great high school: 6 strategies and 1 attitude that make a difference. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Wormeli, R. (2004). Summarization in any subject: 50 techniques to improve student learning. Alexandria, VA: Association For Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Helping Students Process Information

September 27, 2009 Leave a comment


An excellent resource for more information on summarizing

An excellent resource for more information on summarizing

Last week we explored “chunking” or presenting new information in small, digestible bites followed by summarization strategies. This week I challenge you to examine how you are scaffolding and providing time for students to interact with your content. Whereas chunking involves the size of the bites for the new content, scaffolding involves the content of the bites and their logical order. For example, if you were teaching your students a strategy for how to edit an essay for overall organizational logic,  you might organize the steps into three chunks. The first chunk would be comprised of the steps that deal with determining whether the composition has good transitions from paragraph to paragraph. The second chunk would involve steps that address whether the major sections of the essay (beginning, middle, and end) logically flow into one another. The third chunk would be steps to determine if the essay as a whole sends a unified message. In other words, each of the chunks sets up the next chunk.


 Scaffolding is a form of differentiation that helps meet the needs of all learners.   In the video clip below, the teacher provides scaffolding exercises on the concept of  “loyalty” within Julius Caesar.  Students are asked to connect content to their personal experiences, use their mathematical skills, and justify and evaluate the content of the text.   Students are expected to interact with the content and one another to gain a greater understanding of the curriculum.  Retention of lesson concepts improves when students have the opportunity to use the information they have learned in a meaningful way.

Interacting refers to how students process the information in each chunk. An easy way to facilitate processing is to organize the class into small groups and ask each group to summarize the content in the chunk, identify anything that was confusing, try to clear up the confusion, and predict what information might be found in the next chunk. You are already familiar with many formative assessment strategies to facilitate this process. A few I have seen you use include:

  • Plus, Minus, Intriguing                                           computer girls
  • Brain Dump                                                         
  • Quick Writes
  • Graffiti Write
  • GIST


When you have explored one level of the scaffold and are ready to move on, use formative assessment strategies to determine the level of mastery of your students. Concentrate on having as many students as possible respond. You may want to have students use Response Cards to agree, disagree, or add to a response. Another technique you may want to try is to use one of our voting technologies. The “clickers” will allow students to electronically cast their votes regarding the answer to a question. Student responses are immediately displayed on a pie chart or a bar graph, enabling you and your students to discuss the different perceptions and/or misconceptions regarding the questions. If technology is not available when you want to use it, why not use small white boards to get students actively engaged and allow you to assess your students without giving a grade.

Once you have determined student understanding, then you will know whether to reteach or accelerate before moving to the next chunk.




Marzano, R. J. (2007). The Art and Science of Teaching: A Comprehensive Framework for Effective Instruction. Alexandria, VA: Association For Supervision & Curriculum Development.

Wormeli, R. (2004). Summarization In Any Subject: 50 Techniques To Improve Student Learning. Alexandria, VA: Association For Supervision & Curriculum Development.

Summarization in any Subject

September 21, 2009 7 comments


Students today must learn facts, of course, but they must also be skilled “information archeologists.” They must dig for information, make sense of it, and attach meaning to what they have learned. They must identify the main ideas, as well as the supportive details, the principle arguments as well as their evidence.

One of the greatest gifts that we can give to students is to teach them (1) how to identify salient information, no matter what subject that we teach or how we present it, and (2) how to structure that information for meaning and successful application” (Wormeli, 2005). The ability to summarize indicates students comprehend material, and this is the goal of learning.

Classroom Instruciotn BookMarzano, Pickering, and Pollock (2001) cite extensive research studies in their book Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement to prove summarization is one of the nine research-based strategies that have the greatest impact on student achievement. Often our students struggle with summarization. They would rather copy information from an Internet resource than actually take the time to restate the essence of the text or an experience in as few words possible. Many of us make the assumption that summarization must be done in writing— either with pen and paper or on a keyboard.

boys with teacherThis week and during the weeks to come, let’s explore the versatility of summarization. Summarization is a form of formative assessment that can be written, oral, dramatic, artistic, visual, physical, musical, and digital. Students can summarize individually or in a group. We must make a commitment to use summarization strategies as often as we can to promote comprehension and retention of concepts.

When we do not use summarization strategies, we must ask ourselves “Am I teaching so that students will learn, or am I teaching so that I can cover the required material?

Chunking, direct instruction that is delivered in “chunks,” instead of one long whole, can result in a tremendous amount of information moving into long-term memory. Chunking a lecture means that the teacher speaks for approximately ten to fifteen minutes, then pauses and facilitates a summarizing or processing experience about the information just presented. Summarization/processing activities can last from 1-10 minutes, as needed. Then the teacher continues the lecture and selects another summarization/processing strategy.

LiteracyBlocks_000During our professional development last year, we focused on Vocabulary and Literacy strategies. Several summarization strategies were shared including:
Graphic OrganizersCornell Notes / Q – Notes
–  F-I-T Sheets
–  “What I know…” sentences
– 3-2-1

– Admit Slips
– Ticket out the Door

Please contact Heather Mullins, our Curriculum Specialist, if you need more information on how to implement these strategies in your classroom.