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Posts tagged grit

Start the Year With a Priming Plan

In the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom students take charge of their own learning, guided by a masterful teacher who puts a bridge in place to ensure their success. That first week or two of school is your opportunity to prime your students for success in your classroom. The Priming Plan is the key to a powerful and rewarding school year.

 

There are three things you should accomplish in your Priming Plan:

  1. Have students build familiarity with all of the structures you will use to put them in charge of their own learning.
  2. Build in them a sense that they can succeed at high levels.
  3. Gather some assessment data regarding both academics and social interaction to use to make decisions.

 

Structures

Your classroom is outfitted with a resource table, help board, peer expert board, and other structures to support learning. Students will use rubrics to drive their learning, activity lists to access rich and diverse opportunities to learn what’s on the rubric, and folders to organize their work and communicate with you. They will sign up for small-group, mini-lessons and limited resources. They will negotiate with their peers to set times for group work, pairs work, and individual work, and note that on a schedule they’ll create to guide their actions. Your classroom will be set up with various areas, and maybe even flexible seating options, so that students will have a place to work quietly, join a small-group mini-lesson, have a discussion, work collaboratively, and more. Find a creative way to engage students in learning all of this. Consider a scavenger hunt with areas set up with how-to sheets or videos made by you or past students. Create an adventure where they have to find the clues to solve a mystery. Write a book or story about your room where students fill in parts related to how they work as they explore the classroom. Start with an easy rubric and activity list to help them through the early days. (For more on the structures of the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom, read Students Taking Charge.) 

 

Students’ Belief in Themselves

John Bargh conducted research in which he had college students walk down a hallway to a testing room, unscramble words into sentences, and walk out of the room and back down the hallway. Students who unscrambled words that related to old age, such as shuffleboard, bingo, Florida, and retirement, were primed with old age; they left the room walking more slowly than their peers who unscrambled words that did not prime them for old age. Malcolm Gladwell shares powerful stories from research about priming students in chapter 2 of his book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, referencing the phenomenon of “priming” — using auditory, visual, or tactile cues to nonconsciously shape behavior and thought. The words you use, whatever hangs on your walls, and the way you arrange your classroom all send messages to your students. How will you prime them for success? Have them pick out favorite quotes? Fill your room with gritty phrases? Have them write about the things they are good at? Consider using a Great Student Rubric (check out all three versions on the IDEportal) rather than hanging a list or rules to which they must comply. Spend time priming students to feel good about themselves and their prospects for the year.

 

Assessment Data

Your curriculum has prerequisites that you assume students have learned in prior grades. Find out! Offer short quizzes and activities to determine how prepared your students are for your curricular goals. Capture data on students’ learning habits and executive function skills. Rather than engaging a group of students for the entire Priming Plan, as you would in an Authentic Learning Unit (ALU), have students engage with one another through a variety of pairings and groupings. Get a sense of the students who work well together and whose styles complement one another. This will help you set your home groups for the first ALU.

While you may not dive into curricular content as quickly as you might otherwise, the time you spend ensuring the students understand how to use all of the structures of the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom and building a sense of ownership over their learning will leave you well ahead of your prior pacing after a month or two into the school year.

A well-designed Priming Plan will make your year!  Here’s a planning guide to help you. Go change the world!

 

See also, “Starting the School Year: Priming Plan vs. First ALU

Standardized Testing Super Bowl Style

Yesterday’s historic Super Bowl win by the Patriots was an amazing example of grit and the can-do attitude that students need to take the state standardized tests. The Falcons were poised to win: with 17 minutes to go, they were leading 28 to 3; no team had ever come back from that far down to win; they had the game in the bag. What happened?

The Patriots had grit; the Falcons’ confidence shook. The Falcons were highly capable, with great players who know how to play the game well; but they lacked the can-do, fail-forward, grit that the Patriots had. It’s a good time of year to reflect on this and make sure your students walk into standardized testing with great grit!

About that test! Please answer the following question:

Ciò che è due più tre?

The answer to “what is two plus three” is five. Chances are, you know that content, but you might have been thrown by the question being written in another language. If you know the romance languages, you might have worked somewhat to figure it out and arrived at the answer of five, but it took you more time than if it were written in your native language, assuming you don’t speak Italian.

I believe many students know far more than their standardized test scores indicate, but the act of test-taking is not natural for most students. It is, therefore, important to spend some time before standardized testing helping students build familiarity and grit, so that what they know in their heads actually translates to the paper or computerized test situation. Here are some ideas:

1- Build test-taking familiarity. Throughout the year, provide students with tests similar to the format and test-taking conditions they will encounter on the state tests. I was once struggling with an earth science course (I admit I didn’t pay attention in class). I bought the state’s practice book, took the first test and scored a 20%. Without looking up the incorrect answers, I took all of the tests in the practice book. I then went on to take the actual test and scored in the high 80s. Familiarity with the test helped me greatly. In the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom, students are used to working collaboratively, talking, moving around, putting their names on a help board. None of this resembles the test-taking formality of standardized tests. Teachers must simulate test-taking conditions prior to state tests to ensure students are not overwhelmed by the situation so much that they can’t put what’s in their brains on the answer sheet.

2 – Build a “can do” attitude about strategic test-taking: looking for clues and insights to reading the questions and answering them; knowing where to place an emphasis. Use a superhero approach that fits for the age level, like _____ School’s Mutant Ninja TestTakers. Imagine if students considered the characters and their strengths, and related that level of grit to test-taking success! Imagine if they went into the test with superhero powers on their mind.

3 – Inspire your students with positivity! The worst thing you can do to a losing team is tell them they’re losers; that just demoralizes them. Coach Belichick didn’t go into the locker room at half time and tear down his team; he told them to “keep doing what we’re doing; play like we know how to play and not to think about what happened.” He inspired them to achieve the greatness he knew was inside them. Pump up your students to let the world know how much they know. You may have heard of the teacher who wrote inspirational #growthmindsetmessages on students’ desks. On test day some schools are known to have their teachers line up at the entrance and high-five students as they’re walking in.

4 – Get students learning from students! Students in Jessica Lutzke Heck’s class at Chester W. Taylor Elementary School take their roles as peer experts very seriously. They must first be vetted by Jessica to ensure that they know the content well enough to teach it. (Create a vetting quiz of questions like those on standardized tests.) Then they must submit a lesson plan consisting of four items:

  • The example they will use to instruct the group in the skill and the points they will make
  • The example they will use for guided practice
  • The example they will use for independent practice
  • How they will assess their group’s mastery of the skill

Identify key content and set up your students to teach one another through a week or two of small-group, mini-lessons using a student sign-up process. Imagine just lots of small group sessions run by students. Students learn well from one another; and they learn by teaching others. Ensure all students have the opportunity to conduct a small-group, mini-lesson.

5 – Prepare for greatness! Share with your students how great athletes prepare for competition: get a good night’s sleep; eat a good (non sugary) breakfast; and drink water (all good for the brain.) Inspire them to be as great as they are. In preparation for the test, try this activity. First, cover your desks/tables with butcher paper on which to write. Then put students into groups of 3-4 and ask them to recall everything they’ve learned this year about the subject, discuss it as a group, and write it on the paper. Challenge them to see how much they can fill in within 15 minutes. Then ask one student at each table to stay while everyone else moves to new tables. Let the remaining student answer any questions about what is on the paper for the others, then have them all continue to add content. After three rounds, bring the group together and comment on your observations: how much they remembered, key insights they may have had, and talk about any content that was glaringly missing. Let students know that they know what’s on the test: they just have to let it out!

Sometimes it’s not a matter of students not knowing content; it’s a matter of familiarity with the situation, and grit! OK, as the state tests approach, go change the world!

#LATICinsights: The Sounds of Engagement

What does engagement sound like? Allowing students to have a say in their work is not enough to build engagement. Adam FleSVnotSEtcher writes a great blog on engagement, including this entry:  voice and engagement are not the same.

In the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom (#LATIC), engagement refers to the state in which students are thoroughly engrossed in their work, intrinsically motivated, with a purposeful destiny and path. Here’s one way to assess engagement.

What do you hear in the classroom? As students are working, walk around for about five minutes and jot down what you hear them saying to one another. Then categorize those as:

  • Clarification (asking for or giving)
  • Help (asking for or giving)
  • Organizing
  • Analyzing
  • Brainstorming
  • What-If?
  • Aha Moment
  • Grit
  • Facing Failure

You should hear them all! These are the sounds of engagement. While theScreen Shot 2016-10-11 at 1.23.40 PM first few might indicate mere compliance, as you move down the list and as you hear them all, you’ll know you’re observing higher levels of engagement. (Use this tool to make your assessment easier.) 

When students are asked to solve authentic, open-ended problems; self-assess; collaborate with others; manage their time; manage learning resources; and advocate for their own learning, these are the sounds of success: the sounds of engagement.

You can increase engagement by ensuring that:

  • Your problem-based task is driving instruction; that it hooks and motivates students to want to solve the problem
  • Students use the rubric first to determine their learning goals and then look to the activity list for opportunities to learn
  • Your activity list has learning activities that promote engagement over compliance; that is, that they connect closely with the task and rubric: no worksheets without a task-related purpose!
  • You’ve read Students Taking Charge: Inside the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom. 😉

Engaging students is an important step in positioning them for higher achievement and a rewarding life. Go change the world!