IDE Corp
Professional Development for Innovative Schools

Posts tagged Innovative Designs for Education

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

In Search of the Perfect Problem

Join us every Thursday night at 8pm ET for #LATICchat. If you’re new to Twitter chats, here’s a how-to sheet!

At IDE Corp., our “why” for the professional development services and consulting we provide is to assist schools in positioning students to change the world. To build student efficacy and leadership, schools must move beyond a compliance model to an engagement → empowerment → efficacy model of instruction. The Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom model drives learning through student engagement in solving authentic, open-ended problems. Let me give you an example from 8th grade science teacher, Jennifer Kaylor of Centennial Middle School, one of our STEM LATIC schools in Pasco County Florida:

 

When a rocket launches into outer space, it consumes significant quantities of fuel to get outside of the Earth’s atmosphere. Once up in space, it uses little fuel, except that it’s already expended so much! Watch this video to see! Rocket fuel is made from hydrogen and oxygen; it turns out we can mine that from asteroids. The company Planetary Resources is working to do just that. Imagine if you could launch from Earth and then land on the moon to refuel with hydrogen and oxygen mined from asteroids. The possibilities for space travel and living are limitless! The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is interested in this topic as well.

 

Jen has rocks from asteroids that students will test to identify chemical elements. They will explore this topic of space travel from a chemistry perspective and write proposals regarding which asteroids might be worthy of a visit from Planetary Resources. They can then send their proposals to the company.

 

I don’t know about you but if I were in that class, I’d be very motivated to use my growing knowledge of chemistry to contribute to the solution to providing rocket fuel in outer space, especially if I could send my proposal to a real company!

 

What makes a perfect problem, from kindergarten through college?

 

Open-Ended: When students are given a problem to solve, they are motivated to tackle the challenge. They get to develop and promote their own unique ideas, grappling with content. While closed-ended projects (such as making a dinosaur museum exhibition) can be fun, open-ended problems, such as designing a habitat to house a cloned dinosaur, have that additional “drive” factor by creating a “felt need” to learn.

 

Audience: Once students develop their solution, who are they going to tell? If the audience extends beyond the teacher or classmates, students will be more motivated to focus on the quality of their solution and presentation of that solution. It becomes a matter of personal pride.

 

Real-World: The extent to which the problem solution can change the world is also a motivating factor. Problems can be focused on the student, school, community, state, nation, world, and universe. All are important and should be addressed across the year. You’ll find that when students find they are making a difference, they rise to the occasion. Real-world problems lend themselves to using a design process for solution finding, building critical academic and executive function skills.

 

Standards-Focused: Given that schools operate within a system that expects mastery of certain content by certain grade levels, and sometimes even times of the school year, it is important to ensure that the problem is well-focused on that content. While other content will be reinforced and foreshadowed, key curricular content must be at the core of the problem.

 

In my second book, It’s Not What You Teach But How, I propose that we need students to become problem-finders, innovators, and entrepreneurs. As teachers grow more comfortable with their Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classrooms, they can move toward having students identify the problems they want to solve, rather than constraining them with teacher-created problems.

To get started on your own problem-finding, look in your own classroom or school, consider issues of your community, look at the world around you. Read the news! Check out great organization’s websites, like the United Nations, NASA, World Water Organization, World Health Organization, the World Economic Forum, CARE, and more.

Create great problems to build efficacious leaders and change the world!

 

A Classroom is Like a Swimming Pool

How do you create a culture of creativity and problem-solving while addressing all of the curriculum standards? As you may know about IDE Corp., we love using metaphors and similes to rethink “school” (e.g., “teacher as ferry; teacher as bridge”). So let’s consider the infinity pool: a swimming pool that gives the impression of endlessness and offers exploration while providing supportive boundaries.

The Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom is all about Students Taking Charge, that is, having choice and voice within safe boundaries. Let’s break down some of the structures and strategies:

 

  • Teachers consider the curricular standards and design a problem-based task students could accomplish if they mastered those standards. They design a rubric to provide students with clearly articulated expectations. Teachers present the task and rubric to students at the start of the unit, driving the learning! The task and rubric provide a certain set of boundaries, like a pool, to keep students safe within the realm of the curriculum (because, that is what’s expected in schools these days, unless you’re going rogue!).

 

  • An activity list offers a variety of differentiated learning and practice activities to support students in mastering the curricular goals; however, students decide which to use, when to work on them, and with whom they will work. Students have a lot of choice and voice as they “swim” around the learning environment.

 

  • Teachers facilitate learning, helping students make decisions about their learning paths, providing direct instruction, and probing thinking to move students to higher levels of understanding.

 

  • Every Authentic Learning Unit (ALU) that begins with a task and rubric results in students’ demonstration of knowledge through the creation of some sort of product or performance. If the product or performance itself is not a part of the curricular goals, teachers should allow students to present in a variety of ways. For example, if you’re teaching poetry writing, students may be limited to writing a poem; but if you’re asking students to present a solution to designing a zoo habitat for an animal, you can allow them to present that through a written proposal, video, multimedia presentation, scale model, or any other means, because your curriculum is about habitats, not presentations.

 

The structures of the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom are what enable the freedom. Within those structures, students are empowered to explore, make decisions, be creative, and invent. Make your classroom a swimming pool, metaphorically speaking, that is. Change the world!

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!