FIP in Action: Social Studies and ELA

In the new FIP in Action: Social Studies and ELA, Grade 2 Biographies module, you’ll see what formative instructional practices look and sound like in Grade 2 social studies and English language arts. You’ll also see how teachers and students can use formative instructional practices to move learning forward.

This module features a first year teacher – Ms. Smith. Her perspective can be helpful for beginning teachers, and experienced teachers starting to teach in a new grade for the first time. In the module, Ms. Smith works with her team to pair learning targets together for social studies and English language arts, specifically in the areas of speaking and listening. See for yourself just how well these targets go together.

As a teacher, you’ll see how Ms. Smith learns some valuable lessons related to pre-assessment and planning learning to meet students’ needs. One of those lessons is simple: good teaching starts with good information. You’ll see real examples of student work, high-quality rubrics, modeling, student goal-setting, and effective grouping. Take this module to get concrete ideas that you can use with your students for pre-assessment, planning, and action. Speaking of action (this is FIP in Action after all), you’ll also learn how Ms. Smith intervenes with students who are struggling. Keep in mind that the goal of the module is not to teach you about FIP, but to help you put powerful strategies into action. At the end of the module, you’ll be guided to commit to action with your team, noting takeaways, practices to try, and practices to help your students try.

On a final note, this module is perfect for a student teacher. The timing is perfect, too, as many student teachers are about to begin their full semester of student teaching. Please share this module with your colleagues who are mentoring student teachers this year. It might help everyone – especially the students – get off to a good start. You can learn more about FIP in Action: Social Studies and ELA, Grade 2 Biographies here

As always, we’d love to hear from you. Do you have questions for us, or implementation success stories? We would love to feature them on the blog. Share your ideas below in a comment or email Nathan Okuley (

FIP Quote of the Day

“I have to be prepared at all times to check on my students’ learning. Sometimes I use plastic counters, timers, different apps, or simple observations to monitor student progress during instruction. Data – no matter how I choose to collect it - helps me determine where my students are struggling so I can plan to address the gaps in their learning.”  - Mrs. Wilhelm


Learn more from Mrs. Wilhelm in the Reaching Students With Disabilities module. This module is featured in the Reaching Every Student module series. 

All Aboard!

This blog post was written by Kathy Sturges. Kathy is a FIP Specialist for the Southwest Region, a part of a regional support system available to help your LEA advance the use of formative instructional practices. 


Port Clinton Middle School Charts a Course for Success

In the sea of school improvement, some ships have anchored in a protective harbor waiting for the storms of accountability to pass. Others have gone adrift, acting without a purpose or vision of excellence. Still others have gone aground, resting on the seafloor of negativity. The captain of the Port Clinton Middle School, Principal Carrie Sanchez, and her Co-Captain, Assistant Principal Troy Diels are navigating these occasional rocky waters with consistent, purposeful, supportive and on-going leadership. In the past four years, the school has increased its performance index score nearly 10 points, from 92.1 in 2011 to 101.7 in 2014 with these two leaders at the helm. In 2013, the Ohio Department of Education named the Port Clinton Middle School a “High Progress School of Honor.”

How did this ship survive these rocky waters? Persistence, a clear vision, consistent structures, a focus on the whole child and a mantra of “No Excuses” were modeled by transformative leaders. Effective communication is the ballast for this ship’s steadiness. It is frequent, consistent, purposeful, supportive, ongoing and non-contradictory. The master schedule was modified to rotate core classes, giving every student an opportunity to learn at their most opportune time of day. Teachers have flexibility to modify the daily schedule when needed, they have a daily intervention period where all teachers put all hands on deck in the name of student learning. Students are ability grouped to allow for greater degrees of individual differentiation.

Teacher teams, called “fleets”, meet daily and provide purposeful, sacred planning time for members. Training was provided on how to engage in effective team meetings. Administrators attend fleet meetings. Trust is extended to fleets to sail on their own when the time is right. If one fleet luffs its sails, the captain and first mate help pull in the sails to right the ship, followed by courageous conversations about how to “stay the course.”

Each fleet has a leader who facilitates the weekly meetings, encouraging collaboration among and between fleets by providing valuable insights and perspectives. In addition to fleet meetings, other building meetings occur to communicate consistent messages to all. Content meetings occur once per month to allow teachers to “talk shop.” Elective teachers are assigned to content meetings in order to communicate their perspectives about student learning. Rather than submitting lesson plans, the captains of this ship collect evidence of student learning monthly through “Fleet Overviews.”

The Port Clinton Middle School is definitely charting a course for success! If you’re sailing by Port Clinton, a stop at this port is well worth it!

FIP Video of the Week

Responding to Evidence Through Differentiation

Watch as Mrs. Graf uses several strategies to differentiate her classroom for continued learning.


  • What evidence does Mrs. Graf use to differentiate her instruction?
  • Mrs. Graf groups students based on their current achievement and skill. How is this different than tracking or strict ability grouping?
  • How does Mrs. Graf scaffold the learning?


  • Do your students understand how you differentiate your instruction? Could they describe how you keep the learning moving forward for all students?
  • What do you do to prepare ahead of time, to be able to respond “just-in-time” to the different learning needs of students?


  • What will you do to enhance how you currently scaffold learning for students?
  • What will you do to build student ownership of learning to master learning targets and then go beyond?

Let us know your thoughts by using #OHFIP using your favorite social media platform. 

OIP 5-Step Process is the Framework, FIP is the Work

This blog post was written by Sandra Sanderson. Sandra is a FIP Specialist for the Central Region, a part of a regional support system available to help your LEA advance the use of formative instructional practices. 


The 2014 OLAC Action Forum confirmed everything I believe about the ability of formative instructional practices (FIP) to increase student learning and achievement when implemented through the Ohio Improvement 5-Step Process (OIP). In the sessions I attended, teachers and school leaders shared stories of how they developed exciting new practices and implemented them through collaboration. Their stories were full of anecdotal evidence about how they didn’t just complete the required OIP 5-Step forms as a matter of compliance, but instead used this process to make real changes in their teaching practices and their students’ learning practices. Yes, you read that right, I really did mean to say “students’ learning practices” not just student learning. It was evident that these teachers and school leaders collaborated in their TBTs to find ways to encourage students to take ownership of their learning. As every practice shared was based in the four core components of FIP, it further confirmed that the work we have done in the past three years with teachers and school leaders to embed FIP has made an impact, but our work is not yet done.

As a FIP Specialist, some of my work involves collaborating with teacher-based teams (TBTs) who are implementing the OIP 5-Step process. As such, it is imperative that teachers and school leaders understand that FIP really is the work of the OIP 5-step process at the teacher-based team level of implementation. When TBTs are first learning how to move through the OIP 5-Steps, this connection is sometimes unclear. I help to bridge the two together by showing them the formative work they need to do at each step of the OIP 5. This helps them to see practical ways to implement FIP in their classrooms without making it feel like “one more thing” to accomplish. The following bulleted points represent a summary of how I encourage teachers to connect the dots.

Step One: Teachers collect and chart pre-assessment and baseline data to identify how students are performing and progressing. During this step, teachers need to connect the data with learning targets based on standards. The practice of auditing an assessment to identify those learning targets helps teachers make this connection. In addition, teachers need to organize clear learning targets in a logical learning progression that shows mastery for the grade level. This progression must also include differentiated learning targets for students who need either “laying the base” or “going beyond” targets. The FIP goal for this step: Teachers connect assessments with the learning targets for the cycle of instruction.

Step Two: Teachers analyze student work specific to the data collected and charted in step one. They must consider students’ strengths, challenges, misconceptions and what it will mean for students to master the standard. Teachers begin to make their assessment plan which includes a test blueprint. The FIP goal for this step: Teachers create a test blueprint that will align all instruction and assessment.

Step Three: Teachers establish shared expectations for implementing specific effective changes in the classroom. This is a time of collaboration during which teachers select instructional strategies based on best practices. They plan lessons that include formative instructional practices that will monitor student learning during the instructional cycle, and create assessments from the test blueprint. The collaboration at this step will support teachers’ efforts to align instruction and assessments during the cycle of instruction. The FIP goal for this step: Teachers create learning activities and assessments based on learning targets using the test blueprint.

Step Four: Teachers implement changes consistently across all classrooms. Step four is a time of action for teachers and students. Teachers implement the instructional strategies, lessons and assessments created in step three of the process in their classrooms and create opportunities for students to take ownership of their learning. Students set goals and are engaged in analyzing their formative data and keeping track of their progress towards mastering their learning targets.. Teachers create opportunities for students to work collaboratively giving peer-to-peer feedback as in addition to self-assessment. The FIP goal for this step: Teachers implement the plan decided upon in step three and encourage student ownership of learning through formative instructional practices.

Step Five: Teachers collect, chart and analyze pre/post data and determine effectiveness of practices. They collaborate during TBT time to share formative and summative data collected during step four. The focus will be on the summative data with teachers comparing pre and post assessments to assess students’ growth in learning of the identified learning targets for the cycle of instruction. They will also analyze effectiveness of the instructional strategies, lessons and assessments from step three and discuss their students’ effectiveness in taking ownership of their own learning. The FIP goal for this step: The sharing of assessment results, effectiveness of instructional strategies, lessons and assessments, and students’ success in taking ownership of learning will impact teachers’ work in the next instructional cycle as they begin the cycle again at Step One. 

Formative instructional practices help teacher-based teams use best practices in leadership and work through Ohio’s Five-Step Process for improvement. Watch the video to learn how these practices inform each step of the process.

Learn more about the Ohio Leadership Advisory Council.

The Proof is in the Pudding

This blog post was written by Mary Wolf. Mary is a FIP Specialist for the Southwest Region, a part of a regional support system available to help your LEA advance the use of formative instructional practices. 


Growing up, I remember when my mom would place a bowl of her warm, homemade banana pudding on our dinner table. Our eyes would light up in great excitement, and many gleeful remarks and anticipatory “mmmmm”s would be heard. Each time, she would proudly proclaim, “The proof is in the pudding”, relying on our taste test to determine if her latest recipe tweak was an improvement. And trust me, I was always more than happy to help with the tasting.

As I recently listened to three teachers from Milton-Union School District explain how they are refining their FIP practices, I was reminded of mom’s old adage, “The proof is in the pudding”. Trying a new practice or making an existing one better, these teachers are guided by the results. Does the practice motivate and engage students? Does it reveal where students are in their learning? Does the practice assist students in seeing the next step and provide them with an opportunity to take ownership of their learning?


A Taste of FIP in an Elementary School:

Angie Avey and Jennie Walters are third grade teachers who collaborate extensively to refine their formative instructional practices. This year Angie and Jennie are improving their tools to receive feedback from students. The “thumbs up or thumbs down” strategy, is replaced with “What stuck with you today?” Students write down a thought or concept that they understood from the lesson. Angie and Jennie use this evidence to decide whether to reteach or expand upon the lesson. This year, students self-assess their level of understanding on a scale from 0 (Even with help, I still don’t get it.) to 4 (I can teach it!) Angie and Jennie find they are now gleaning more useful information of where students are in their learning.

Angie and Jennie use quizzes more formatively now rather than every quiz being graded. Correct items are identified and errors are circled. Students are then given opportunities to correct their mistakes or work with a peer prior to taking a final assessment for a grade. Students are showing more progress in mastering learning targets.

Commercial programs (STAR, Study Island, Rocket Math) are used to help students set their own goals. Students track their progress and are required to analyze their progress quarterly to set new goals. Angie and Jennie are seeing more student engagement when students work toward their own personal goals. When students take ownership of their learning they get excited about it and frequently exceed their own goals as indicated by the extension on the tracking chart.

A Taste of FIP in a High School:

Megan Bryson, a high school ELA teacher, posts learning targets on her board and refers to the targets during and at the end of the lesson. She finds that it makes the class more targeted and focused on the learning because kids know what they are to be focusing on. With major learning targets Megan uses consensograms to have her students self-assess by marking “Not at all”, “A little”, or “I can teach it.” After further instruction, students reassess so they can see how they’ve grown over time.

Megan also uses for her students to engage in peer feedback. With this tool, she finds her students give much better peer feedback than when they are evaluating each other using pencil and paper. Technology helps this process by not making it so cumbersome.

Students in Megan’s class are given opportunities to self-grade where they think they are and why.  “It’s another opportunity for students to self-reflect on how much effort, time they put in, and decide if it is their best work.”

This year, students in Megan’s class are sharing their learning with parents at parent/teacher conferences. Each quarter the students plan a group presentation that includes what they have done and learned. Every student has a speaking part. At the end of first quarter, students created a PowerPoint; in the second quarter students created an info-graphic to articulate their learning. Megan found that feedback from parents indicated they really liked hearing directly from their child what they were learning.

These three teachers are motivated and persistent as they seek to continue honing their FIP practices. Gaining more useful information to inform instructional decisions, increasing student ownership, and seeking improved results in student learning guides their FIP refining process. And, much like my mother's kitchen, there is always space for experimenting with new recipes and additional flavors. The same goes for your classroom as you challenge yourself and your students to seek continued improvement. Because the proof really IS in the pudding!

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