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Posts tagged teach

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!

#LATICinsights: Using Data As Your Driver

What drives a classroom in which students take responsibility for their own learning, are engaged in grappling with content, and are pursuing high academic standards towards higher achievement? Data!

The Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom is a data-driven learning environment. It’s a highly structured learning environment that allows students significant voice and choice in their learning. While students have the freedom to set their schedules, work on what, with whom, and when they want, the success comes from the fact that most decisions are data driven. Here are some of the data structures that should be in place:

  • Teachers review state and district standardized test data to determine individual student weaknesses. Given the student-driven nature of classroom activities, teachers can more easily guide individual students toward appropriate activities, offering the maximum level of differentiation.
  • Students use rubrics to continually self assess where they are and set goals. The teacher meets with individual students to confirm progress and goals.
  • Students use their rubrics, assessment data, and activity lists to select the activities they need to accomplish. Even kindergarten students can manage their day!
  • Teachers carry facilitation grids to capture formative assessment data; they also use the grids to capture data from quizzes and tests. They then use this progress-monitoring data to plan scaffolded learning activities and teacher-directed, small-group lessons.
  • Based on a topical assessment, students can opt into an advanced small-group, mini-lesson to push themselves beyond the expected.
  • Students use Learning Dashboards of standards and curricular objectives to track their progress across the year, using the data to select learning activities.

When students are in charge of their own learning, it’s easier for the teacher to differentiate instruction. With data as the driver, teachers can plan benchmark lessons; small-group, mini-lessons; and activity lists to ensure that all students’ needs are being met.

Put students in charge of their own learning; have teachers act as powerful facilitators; and let data drive the action!

IDE Corp. offers differentiated, online courses facilitated by our consultants for maximum success of all our our participants, including one on formative assessment.

Facilitation: It’s Not Data Gathering; It’s Teaching

What does the term “teacher as facilitator” really mean? Facilitating learning is what adults do naturally with young children. The parent observes the child and starts asking questions and making connections. When a child grabs a blue block, the parent says, “blue” perhaps followed by “what else is blue?” pointing to multiple items that are blue. Then the parent moves on to another color. Meanwhile the child is grappling with what makes those blue items different from these red items, and learning follows. If the sky grows dark with clouds, the parent may ask what that means and then follow with the idea that it means rain may be coming. The next time dark clouds appear, the parent prompts the child with a question as to what that means. Teachers need to mirror this process while facilitating learning at all levels.

While teachers will gather formative assessment data during facilitation and ensure that students are on task, the most important role in the facilitation process is helping students to learn. In the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom, much of the facilitation process involves teaching! When you enter the room, it should be difficult to find the teacher, who is invariably sitting among the students teaching through facilitation.

The “learning hourglass” (introduced in It’s Not What You Teach But How) depicts three stages of learning that should be addressed during facilitation.

Creating a “Felt Need” to learn: The first step is to ensure the student is motivated to learn the content. We learn best when we feel a need for a skill or concept. When you sit next to a student to facilitate learning, determine if s/he is ready to learn the next skill or concept. If so, you might ask a “what if?” question to trigger awareness on the part of students. For example, if a student is adding up pennies, you might ask what would happen if you took ten pennies and gave him a dime? He wants to make sure he’s not being cheated, so he has a “felt need” to figure out if it will be the same or not. If a student has determined that photosynthesis is the process through which plants produce energy, you could ask, “So how do you think the process is affected when you have a pine needle versus an oak leaf?” The key to teaching is to trigger a felt need so that the student’s brain is more likely to engage in learning.

Acquisition: The brain learns by making connections to existing knowledge. If I know how to add, then successive addition of the same number of items leads me to the concept of multiplication. In order to construct meaning, students need to “grapple” with content, exploring in terms of what they already know, identifying gaps in what they know, and figuring out what they don’t know. For example, if you understand the economic concepts of supply and demand, you might engage in a simulation where you realize that some product sales remain steady in spite of price changes (such as food and gas) while for other products, a price increase causes a drop in demand, because people view these products as a luxury. Thus you begin to understand the concept of elasticity. It’s important to lead students to grapple with content by asking them questions, for example: “Even though the price of milk went up by fifty cents a gallon, the store is selling just as much. Why do you think that is?” If a student is struggling with a skill or concept, you might suggest other learning resources such as a video, a learning center, or attending a small-group lesson. IDE Corp.’s Five Levels of Facilitation Questions can offer suggestions for asking questions that move toward higher academic rigor. The key is to help lead the student to learning.

Retention: Once the student “gets” a skill or concept, it’s important to ensure s/he engages in practice and application in order to increase retention. Ask questions that prompt applying content to a different situation. Look for opportunities to refer back to previously learned content. For example, as students learn about literary devices and find out that metaphors and similes are examples, ask to what other category they belong, to reinforce the concept of figurative language. The key is to help ensure that the learning is retained.

Print out a copy of this Guide to Facilitating Lasting Learning to use as a reminder during facilitation. The Facilitation Roadmap is also a helpful tool for identifying how to help a student learn.

So, sit down with a student, facilitate learning, and 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!

Three Levels of #LATIC Implementation

I have great respect and appreciation for teachers who work hard to shift their paradigms and practices to design Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classrooms. The multi-year process requires that they move through three levels of innovation implementation:

Level I) The Framework

As a foundation, the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom is a combination of Authentic Learning Units (ALUs) and a collection of structures. The first step in design is to create a compelling problem-based task for the unit, followed by a rubric to provide clearly-articulated expectations. Creating activity lists of required, choice, and optional activities builds student responsibility for learning, as do structures, such as: the Help Board, Peer Expert Board, and Resource Area. All of this becomes the first level of design in shifting to a Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom.

However, students may not show the desired achievement gains without . . .

Level II) Purposeful Learning Activities

As students encounter an unknown skill or concept on the rubric, they should be able to look at the activity list and find a variety of ways to learn, such as through: videos, how-to sheets, learning centers, and more. The challenge is that conventionally, a teacher presents the content to the whole class and then assigns activities to practice what they’ve learned. In Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classrooms, teachers minimize the amount of whole-class instruction; however, they must still provide direct instruction through a variety of venues, Therefore, once teachers have the foundation, they turn to creating and improving upon their library of learning activities. This improves student achievement, however, to raise the level of academic rigor so that students build deep understanding of content and can apply it to new situations, you need . . .

Level III) Masterful Teacher Facilitation

The role of teachers in Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classrooms shifts to engaging with students “in-the-moment” as they pursue learning goals. Teachers help students learn to self-assess, set goals, manage time, and select appropriate learning resources. They work from the Help Board to assist those in need of help. Most importantly, they probe students’ thinking through “what if?” questions and content-rich conversations. They observe and listen to students, synthesize the data, determine the natural next step for a student, and then provide guidance. It’s difficult to locate teachers because they’re sitting down with students.

 

It’s important to move through to include all three levels of implementation. Take the worthy journey to design classrooms that are the embodiment of Students Taking Charge, and change the world!

#LATICinsights – Avoiding the No-Man’s Land of Innovation

Innovation requires a shift in mindset and action, sometimes taking you outside of your comfort zone. As you design a Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom, you will no doubt find times that you are outside of your comfort zone. Your tendency might be to drop a structure that doesn’t seem to work for you or your students. Don’t do it!

In the game of tennis, players first played at the baseline. The ball would cross over the net, bounce in the court, and as it approached the back line, the player would hit it back. Over time, the game, and tennis racquet fotolia_tenniscourt_xstechnology, evolved, and the net game was born. The player would run up to the net and hit the ball as it crossed, not waiting for it to bounce first. For some players, this was natural and comfortable. For others, being at the net was stressful, and they would begin to back up, fearing they would miss the ball. The problem is that if they backed up to just the middle of the court, they would find themselves in what tennis folks call “No-Man’s Land” (the center of the court between the net and the baseline.) The balls would bounce at their feet and they could not hit them.

In the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom, if teachers back up and drop a structure here and there, they end up in #LATIC No-Man’s Land. The classroom will not run as smoothly and the students may not achieve to the desired levels. The key is, you can’t drop a structure because each one has an important reason for being there, and the structures support one another. Take a look at the list below. This represents just some of the many structures that make the classroom work.

latic-structures

As you innovate, be sure to lean in, embrace the change, reflect and adjust, but keep moving forward. When something appears to not work, it’s usually because a structure or strategy is missing. Rather than reverting to former methods, find out what’s missing that needs to be added. Avoid No-Man’s Land! Innovate and change the world!

Hour of Code for Raising Student Achievement

As a former computer programmer, who believes that programmers run the world, I have a particular fondness for the first full week in December, known as “Hour of Code.” Coding deserves a lot more respect than it gets for raising overall student achievement.

Coding is the art and science of giving commands to a computer to make something happen. For students, it often focuses on moving characters or objects around a screen to accomplish some task, or giving commands to a robotic device to have it carry out specific tasks, such as picking up an object or moving. The Hour of Code site has many coding activities in which students (and you) can engage.

You can think of Hour of Code as an introduction to the field of computer science. However, the academic skills students will build during that hour are powerful. First, they will be exercising many executive function skills. The highlighted skills below are just some that stand out; you could actually highlight almost every executive function skill as being addressed through coding. As you plan or use existing coding activities, map them to executive function skills to see how you robust your coding activities really are.

screen-shot-2016-12-04-at-5-52-18-pm

Coding also building reasoning skills, which are essential to student achievement. Here are just three types of reasoning supported by coding:

screen-shot-2016-12-04-at-9-54-34-pm

For a more comprehensive list of types of reasoning skills, visit the changing minds website.

Try some of this year’s Hour of Code activities and think through how each one builds executive function and reasoning skills, both key to increasing student achievement. Then consider building coding opportunities into your classroom or course throughout the year. Promote coding; change the world!

#LATICinsights: Inspire Big; Teach Small

Teaching should not be transactional; it should be transformational. The goal of teaching is to ensure that students gain a level of understanding of content that enables them to apply it to new situations, thus transforming them.

Learning comes from making sense and meaning of content (Sousa, 2011) and is enhanced when students have:

  • a felt-need for the content
  • time to explore and grapple with the content
  • direct instruction in skills at the appropriate time in the appropriate modality
  • time to practice skills and content application

The first bullet speaks to a teacher’s ability to inspire students. In the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom, that comes from the teacher providing students with an authentic, open-ended, real-world problem to solve, and from whole-group lessons that present concepts that leave students on the edges of their seats. Teachers can inspire through whole-class lessons: inspire big!

The remaining bullets are not accomplished through whole-group instruction, but through small venues: a small-group, mini-lesson offered by the teacher; one-on-one or small-group facilitation by the teacher; independent learning activities; and peer assistance. screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-12-07-33-amThese are critical structures in a Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom as they provide the most meaningful instruction and learning opportunities for students.

When you stand before the entire class, inspire! Trigger students’ awareness of new content they can use.

quotePlan your lesson well; present for no more than 15 minutes; use a combination of voice and visuals. Do not teach skills! Skill development is a verycomplex process, taking place mostly through internal cognitive processing. Can some people listen to a teacher, cognitively process the information, and learn without missing the next sentence? Maybe. Can an entire class? Absolutely not; not even if they are all homogeneously grouped. Inspiration grabs students’ attention, focuses them, and causes them to generate questions they want answered. So you can inspire big! But . . .

Teach small! Provide ample opportunities for students to engage in a variety of learning activities. Offer small-group, mini-lessons on targeted content aimed at varying levels of ability. Rather than a lesson on “perimeter,” offer lessons, such as:

  • What Is Perimeter? (for beginners at the concept)
  • Calculating Perimeter of a Square or Rectangle
  • Calculating Perimeter of Various Polygons
  • Understanding Circumference: The Perimeter of a Circle (advanced mini-lesson that requires passing an entrance quiz to receive a ticket)

Also consider what videos are available or can be recorded to present lessons. Students who need more time to think than the pace of the lesson can stop and rewind.

Following are some classroom snapshots where you can see the “teach small” concept in action:

Inspire big! Teach small! Change the world!

 

#LATICinsights True North

Illustration of old fashioned nautical compass, isolated on brown background.

In navigation, “true north” is the direction to the Earth’s axis. It differs slightly from a compass’ magnetic north, and from a map’s grid north. So it takes some reflection, calculation, and adjustment to find. In life, the metaphor plays out to mean finding one’s authentic life and living it to one’s fullest potential. So I thought I’d relate it to the plight of a teacher running a Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom, in relentless pursuit of the greater purpose of ensuring learning for all students.

In #LATIC, true north would be a set of beliefs to which you are striving, always pointing. They include:

  • All students can learn at high levels; it is a teacher’s job to help them figure out their personal path to success.
  • Engagement is key to learning: not compliant engagement merely through activity choice, but that which comes from grappling with real world problems that give purpose to instructional activities.
  • Students must be empowered through responsibility and choice in order to build executive function and be prepared for life beyond school.
  • Direct instruction in rigorous content is essential and is provided through carefully crafted learning activities; web-based activities; how-to sheets; and small-group, mini-lessons.
  • A teacher’s role during class is to facilitate: ask probing questions, challenge thinking at deeper levels, gather assessment data to drive further activities, and be a key part of a student’s learning process.

As you continue to design and perfect your classroom learning environment, keep your sights on true north. Check the daily decisions you make against the beliefs held by Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Teachers.

 

#LATICinsights: Driving Achievement Through a Product or Performance

What would most motivate you to learn how to calculate the perimeter of a space?fence-bubble

  1. Someone tells you to learn it.
  2. You want to fence in an area of your yard and need to know the distance around it.
  3. Someone tells you you’ll need it for your future.

I don’t know about you, but I would pick b! Clearly, I learned a lot in school just because someone told me to learn it; and I also forgot it after the test.

David Sousa’s research on the brain, from his book, How the Brain Learns, points to the need for information to make sense and have meaning in order to be stored in long-term memory. Concepts and skills out of context make no sense and have no meaning to the brain, thus, the reason I promote the use of problem-based learning to drive instruction.

The core of the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom is driving instruction through an authentic, open-ended, problem. Real-world problems are the best! The purpose is to ensure that learning makes sense and has meaning. The keys to designing a powerful, motivating task are to make it:  

  • Standards-aligned (It’s too easy to have a great task that doesn’t get the job done!)
  • Open-ended, meaning there is no one right answer
  • Authentic, meaning the situation occurs in real life
  • Have an audience, that is, someone to whom the student could present the solution
  • Ensure that the task is aligned well with students’ interest so that they are engaged (grappling) rather than compliant

You might have students:

Once you have your problem, and have your students hooked, you must then fill their days with rich and diverse opportunities to learn, so they can, in fact, design the product or performance. Your problem-based task is your strong foundation. Create great problems for your students to solve; change the world!