Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Oneco 's Summer Reading Academy

I have just finished with Oneco Elementary School’s Summer Reading Academy. During our two weeks together, we spent half our day working with students and the other half of our day in  professional development (PD). This was the third year Oneco has held The Summer Reading Academy, but this is the first year I have taken part. This year's PD was centered around how to promote deep understanding in our classrooms through inquiry. Since, we have been working with Challenge Based Learning (CBL)an inquiry framework, within our laboratory for the past four years  the theme for our PD intrigued me. I believe that CBL serves as a complete framework, but there are some improvements and adjustments that need to be made on how we are utilizing it.  My new learning will work to both reinforce and enhance the CBL process within our laboratory. 
Much of the new learning revolved around my role as the educator in our laboratory This quote from John Hattie sums it up well-“ Fundamentally, the most powerful way of thinking about the teacher’s role is for teachers to see themselves as evaluators of their effects on students.” Truth is as individual educators, we are have very little influence on the system as a whole, but we do have influence on what goes on within our classrooms I truly believe that real learning is in the process and the choices we make, as educators, are the crucial keys to build a learning community that will promote students’ deeper understanding. These choices relate to every aspects of the learning process from planning through reflection and evaluations.

Throughout the two weeks of Oneco's Summer Reading Academy many wonderful teaching strategies were introduced, ideas about conferring were shared and we had some wonderful conversations related to authentic assessment.  However, I am a global thinker and I tend to view thing as a whole. As each new idea was  discussed I began to synthesis where it would fit into our learning process as a whole. This was ultimately illustrated in my project pictured above. At the start of The Academy, we were told to create an essential question for ourselves, given a blank piece of poster paper and told to forge our own path. If I were honest, I spent two whole inquiry work sessions attempting to figure out what I was going to put on my poster. I had not yet acquired enough learning to be able to form an inquiry question and all I could think about was that blank piece of paper. However, once I realized that I had put the cart before the horse, I was able to get some exploration under my belt and identify my question. Then the ideas for my poster flowed quite readily from there. My poster certainly was not the prettiest, but I stand behind its content. Also, I believe it really is important to share what one has learned.  Learning that is not shared seems a bit like the tree that falls in the forest and if there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? If learning isn't shared, did it really happen? With that said, the last day of our PD we had a gallery walk, which was great. However, I wish I would have had the time to explain the elements on my poster and why I put things where they I did. Throughout the last couple of years, my students have really taught me that some of the best insights into what someone else is thinking is in their answers to the question why

This is exactly why I am taking the time to do so here.

"How can the choices I am making help build a community that promotes deep understanding?”is what ended up being my essential question.  As you can see on my poster that my path leads to a building, which was left incomplete on purpose. I believe that learning is a lifelong pursuit and completing this structure would have given the impression that I have all the answers to this question. My learning is not complete and right now I am proud to be in the middle of this process. On each one of the bricks I listed one of the areas we discussed. Then on the inside of each brick I reflected on something specific I learned that related to that area. My door was there to represent the content areas, which I believe are the avenues in which our students enter into the learning process.  The two windows were made to represented the glimpses others have into our learning community. For instance, the first window represented administration feedback (observations, walk-throughs) and the other window represented data collected on students (Rti, FCAT, benchmark testing...).  Next, I put all projects and products (such as podcast, CBL solutions, posters) on the bush next to my building to serve as curb appeal. Yes, students need to share their work in creative ways, but these things have their place. If we want the focus to be on deep understanding then we shouldn't make the final product our focus. This kind of thing happens all the time in educational system, politics..... people just move ahead with a solution or create a product without truly taking the needed time to explore a problem or issue completely first. Isn't it just good problem solving to seek first to understand and then take action?  If I want my students to eventually be grown ups that listen, explore and not just rush to get a job done then don't I need to model (and promote) that now. Again, the moves we make are the crucial keys!

Before I close, I really would like to give a HUGE SHOUT OUT to The Summer Reading Academy's team of organizers. You all were wonderful and I thank you for all the hard work. To my partner throughout this process, Susannah Michalson, I enjoyed really getting to know you and I learned a ton through our conversations. Thanks for all the insight and debate. I loved it! 

 Finally, if you would like to do some exploring on you own here is a list of resources:

-Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels
(I love this book! It has some great strategies to use within an inquiry framework. )

-Talk about Understanding by Ellin Oliver Keene

- Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding and Independence for all Learners by Ron Ritchart, Mark Church and Karin Morrison

-Mechanically Inclined  by Jeff Anderson   

(This book gives some wonderful insight and ideas for teaching the mechanics of writing. )

-Conferring The Keystone to Reader's Workshop by Patrick Allen and Debbie Miller 

-Confer App for the iPad -
(With this application you can customize your list of things you would like to confer with students on. There are some other wonderful features as well.)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Big Lots Lots2Give

Please vote and help my school earn new playground equipment. 
 Oneco Elementary is a Title 1 school that currently serves 580 students. The school grounds have limited space for physical education and recess. Students need recess for their physical and social development, but not the funds to make this happen. Just follow this link to vote Please note that you can vote three times each day until July 7th. Thanks in advance for your help.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Top Five Most Interesting Days of my Teaching Career (thus far)

Day # 5. Today was the last full day of the school year and we had Tornado Warnings. Yes, that is right two of them within about an hour of one another. Really didn't love the double dose of "The Duck in Cover" in the middle of our end of the year party. However, I do understand and of course I think it was important that we all stay safe. With that said, I have to give my students credit, they were in that position for about forty-five minutes and not one student complained.  

A couple of weeks ago we finished working on a Challenge Based Learning Project on natural disasters and although we did not directly study tornados they applied a lot of the knowledge we uncovered during our challenge to what was happening. There were questions about our school having a weather radio, disaster supplies and if we were indeed in the safest place. I loved that they made and applied those connections!

Days #3 and
#4. The two days that the Norwalk Virus travel through our school.  If you have witness this sort of thing you know what I am talking about.

Day #2. Watching the President's visit to Sarasota, Florida on 9/11, which turned into us watching something else all together. I am sure that day is one none of us will ever forget.

Day #1. Is an event that occurred on my very first day at Oneco Elementary, back in 1996. We had only been in my classroom for about five minutes when I went to sit at my desk to take roll.  To my surprise, my chair rolled out from underneath me and I ended up falling to the ground landing on my butt.  Quickly, I jumped up, threw my hands above my head and yelled 9.9. It was right after the Olympics and "The Magnificent Seven" had just won gold. I thought it would be funny, but my twenty-six third graders just stared at me like I had two heads. Meanwhile, I am standing there cracking myself up and having them stare at me like that only made the whole thing funnier. After I compose myself, we proceed on with our day. It was not really spoken of again until our report card pick up night when just about every parent whom I met with asked if I really had fallen out of my chair on the first day of school. I was bit embarrassed at that point, but being a woman of integrity all I could really do was own it. It was a good thing that most of the parents had a sense of humor about it, because at the end of that year I was chosen by my boss to pilot the concept of Looping.  During our three years together, this story was told to every new student who entered our classroom. It just became part of our class's history and in an interesting way helped to bond us as a group. I know it is totally ridiculous, but it is such a great memory for me. Still, after seventeen years just the thought of it makes me smile.

Friday, May 10, 2013

End of the Year Reflection of my Professional Development Plan 2012-13

As part of our teacher evaluation system we must develop a Professional Development Plan (PDP).  I chose to share mine here, due to the amount of time that was spent on it and the fact that my PLN has played such an important part throughout the year.

Goal 1:
By May, 2013 85% of third graders receiving gifted services will make a year or more progress in reading according to the Developmental Reading Assessment(DRA).

To what degree were you successful in meeting your goals? What evidence or artifacts support your reflection?

Based on DRA data from Fall 2012 and January 2013 and Successmaker performance 100% of gifted students in the third will our on track to making a year’s worth of growth in reading. General education teachers have been kind of enough to share both their DRA scores and/or SuccessMaker data with me. Other evidence would include: rubrics, lesson plans, walk through and formal observations

List any targeted professional growth opportunities:
I have very active online Professional Learning Network (PLN). There is a lot of ongoing learning towards this goal that takes places in these arena: Twitter, Facebook, Edmodo, Discovery Educators Network and Challenge Based Learning (CBL) website. With that said, it is there that I have been exposed to many articles and discussions related to authentic assessments.  Some of the specific reading I have done this year regarding authentic assessment would include:

"Wrangle It with a Rubric" in Learning and Leading with Technology (November 2012) by Regina D. Royer and Jeffrey A. Royer -Learning and Leading

Marzano Research Laboratory Website article“Tracking Student Progress and Scoring Scales”

However, the most useful resources I have explored this year were :

Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything- Assessment and Rubrics

Jon Mueller-Authentic Assessment Toolbox                                                                                             

-Reflection on Goal 1:

For my first goal my strategies and behaviors were to develop and implement at least eight project related rubrics and four behavioral rubrics to use throughout the year with the gifted students. These rubrics were to be used to measure students' growth and improve instruction based on the goals found in the Florida Framework for K-12 Gifted Learners. Where this goal was completed, I feel I still have further work to do within the area of  assessment.  

After about halfway through the first quarter I began to see that some adjustments and/ or additions would need to be made to my original plan.  Since most of the goals found in the Florida Framework for K-12 Gifted Learners are process goals a fuller picture of students’ progress would need to be painted. With that said, I found it was important to keep anecdotals along with these rubrics. The notes on my observations have really helped me track students growth as well as areas of concerns for students in different areas in ways a snapshot rubric couldn't. My observations on students have always been something I could rely on in the past, but I have not been quite as good at writing them down. This process is a bit time consuming, but it has allowed me to look for patterns in students. I have recognized strengths in certain students that I am not sure I would have noticed otherwise.

Some of the other things, I have done in regards to assessment this year was to rewrite the quarterly gifted progress this report and sought out revision  advise from other educators from across The School District of Manatee County through email and Edmodo. This was done to better align the progress report to the Florida Gifted Framework. Through this process I was able to received some very good feedback adjusted accordingly.  There are several educators throughout the county who are also using this same progress report.

Finally,  I know I still have work to do, but I am proud of the progress made this year in this area. I truly believe that all true learning takes places within a process and feel I am in the midst such a process on authentic assessment right now. I know I still have more exploration and improvements to do in this area. However, one thing is for sure, how assessment has been done in Oneco's Gifted Program will never be the same.

Goal 2:
By May, 2013 85% of fourth graders receiving gifted services will make a year or more progress in reading according to the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA).

To what degree were you successful in meeting your goals? What evidence or artifacts support your reflection?
Based on DRA data from Fall 2012 and January 2013 and Successmaker performance at least 87.5% of gifted students in the fourth will make a year’s worth of growth in reading. General education teachers have been kind of enough to share both their DRA scores and/or SuccessMaker data with me. Other evidence would include: rubrics that are presented to the students before the task, lesson plans, walk through and formal observations.

List any targeted professional growth opportunities:
I have very active online Professional Learning Network (PLN). There is a lot of ongoing learning towards both goal that takes places in these arena: Twitter, Facebook, Edmodo, Discovery Educators' Network, and Challenge Based Learning. org. With that said, it is there that I have been exposed to many articles and discussions related to Constructivism Framework.  A few of the things I have read that related to subject of constructivism and inquiry are the following:

Inquiry Circles, Comprehension and Collaboration by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels
I refer to this book often. It is truly a wonderful resource.

Why School? by Will Richardson (eBook)
Premise of the book is that now with the internet students no longer have to wait for the teacher to dispense knowledge and education needs to be reformed. This book touches on many of the principles of constructivism. Also, I participated in a book discussion on this book via Edmodo for several weeks in January.

Challenge Based Learning Website

I have visited and gathered resources here often. 

Reflection on Goal 2:

My strategy was to add rigor to Oneco's Gifted Program by incorporating research based curriculum models (i.e. Challenge Based Learning, Big Six, Inquiry....) to promote students growth and improve instructions of the goals found in the Florida Framework for K-12 Gifted Learners

As mentioned before, I have very active online Professional Learning Network (PLN). There is a lot of ongoing learning towards both goal that takes places in these arena: Twitter, Facebook, Edmodo, Discovery Educators' Network, and Challenge Based Learning. org.

 Different verbiage is used in the different constructivist frameworks, but the principles and concepts are very much the same. I believe one author said it best-"Well, as long as real, student-driven inquiry is at the core, what's in a name?" I have been using the Challenge Based Learning frameworks for the last  several years now, but feel I have only begun to scratch the surface. 

 In November, I was asked to present "Challenge Based Learning in the Gifted Classroom" at Gifted After Hours for other teachers of the gifted from around the district. From there several educators ask if I could work with them on implementing CBL into their classrooms. We decided to collaborate on CBL challenge during the second half of the year. This experience has been so beneficial the communication and collaboration on our struggles and the sharing of ideas has been so beneficial. We set up another Edmodo group for this challenge and have used Skype on occasions for communication. I have been part of other global collaboration in the past, but working towards the same goals with the same standards has proven to be invaluable.  We are already discussing getting together to create a few things to help hone our process for later challenges. It is my hope that this experience mirrors my favorite quote from  Steven Wolk’s  article "School as Inquiry"-Inquiry-based schools at their very best do not just practice inquiry with their students, they also invite -even expect- teachers to use inquiry to improve their practice.

Also, one component of CBL is Reflection and at mid-year review time I was struggling with getting quality reflections journal entries  from my students. Dr. Stancil spent some time looking at samples and helped redirect my role in the reflection process. I am not sure if the qualifies as professional development, but there have been a few conversations about different elements of our process that I have discussed with administration that have been very helpful. Unfortunately, I am not here half my week and miss most of the meetings, but I really do appreciate them taking the time to discuss my instruction specifically.

One final note, I do believe that these framework (esp. CBL) have played an enormous role in my classroom over the last four years, but there is always room to improve.  Next year, I need to seriously evaluate when and where explicit mini-lesson need to be taught. For example,  giving some explicit instruction on things like organizing and prioritized task, which is a necessary skills for any endeavor.

Friday, March 22, 2013

CBL Across the District -Part 3/ Multimedia and Language Arts Common Core Standards

I have said in an earlier post that the Common Core K-5  is chalked full of standards that focus on strategies rather than specific content and incorporating them into a Challenge Based Learning (CBL) challenge is quite natural. Honestly there are a lot of programs and frameworks out there making these claims, which should leave us all with questions about how. Since which standards are covered in during the CBL process are based on the  activities chosen it is impossible effectively communicate about all of them that maybe covered within a challenge in just one blog post. For this post, I am going to focus in on using multimedia in the mist of student research or guiding activities.

 Like so many of our challenges, Discovery Education has played on huge role in our guiding activities and we found a ton of helpful videos and other resources. It can never be just quality of the information in each video, but what skills students can hone while interacting with that information that is important. Many of the same skills used in create Strategic Readers  and laid out The Common Core Language Arts Standards  should be considered when guiding students through using any multimedia content. 

With those principles in mind, I have chosen to explore and adapt many reading comprehension lessons and activities found in Strategies that Work by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis, Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action  by Stephanie Harvey and Daniel Harvey and for me the most practical The Comprehension ToolKits . These thinking skills need to be explicitly taught and video is just another avenue. These lessons and/or activities might include; organizing information and taking notes using Fact Question Responses (FQR) Chart, determine importance and the use of many graphic organizers. 

 I am not trying to suggest that students shouldn’t be required to read. I am suggesting that the thinking behind some of the comprehension skills can be taught and honed through the use of multimedia. It is stated throughout much of the literature on reading comprehension that a readers job is to make meaning from that text, which relates as much to a students' thinking as it does to being able to read the words on the page. It is my opinion, that having students use these skills when interacting with multimedia can only strengthen our students' thinking. 

At the core of a CBL challenge is a real world problem and along with that comes an authentic solution that is generated from student research. With each lesson or guiding activity we move closer to fulfilling what is stated in the Key Design Considerations for Common Core English and Language Arts:

 ”To be ready for college, workforce training and life in technology society, students need the ability to gather, comprehend, evaluate, synthesize and report on information and ideas, to conduct original research in order to answer questions or solve problems, and nonprint texts in media forms old and new. “


Monday, March 11, 2013

My MineCraft Experience -Lesson 1

For about six months now, my students and I have been engaging in many conversations about MineCraft. Due to their interest, I thought it might fun to put myself in role of the learner and allow my students teach me how to learn MineCraft Pocket Edition (PE). Please note, that I am not what anyone would call a “Gamer” and my experiences with gaming really stops somewhere around Pac-Man.  So I was both nervous and excited for my first MineCraft Pocket Edition (PE) lesson last week. 

 As teachers, we do a lot of critical thinking before and during the process of teaching something to another. Which is why I chose to make myself vulnerable and allow students to be the teachers here.  A ton of critical thinking goes into deciding what, when, and how information will dispensed. Based on the nature of game and my abilities, my students discussions quickly became very focused on teaching me how to move around and build within MineCraft PE. When one student went to tell me about the hissing spiders and other aspects of the game, another politely reminded us that I need to remember to take one step at time. As he put it,"We don't want to freak her out or overwhelm her." Personally, I loved that at least one of them was reading my body language and the lost look on my face.

 After that, the conversation became more about what to practice building and why. More critical thinking appeared as they justifying each of their strategies for building to stay safe. Due to the things that come out at night we talked about adding height, putting in doors, and using fire. I do believe some of my students might be adjusting how they play based on that discussion. 

In reality, I am not expecting to be an expert at MineCraft PE, but that was never the real objective. However, let 's just not tell my students that quite yet.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

CBL Across the District- Part 2/ From Our Big Idea to Our Challenge

 I mentioned in the earlier post we are participating in a  Challenge Based Learning endeavor between a group of schools within our district. Before the holidays we chose the Big Idea of natural disasters. We felt the topic had the scalability we needed and desired. At that point, we did not want to define our Challenge any further than that, because there are just too many valuable problem solving skills built into each key element of the CBL process to skip any steps.  Below is a revised post I put into our private Edmodo group in hopes of helping others get started breaking down our big idea and moving into a challenge. 

I will be starting with all my groups right off the bat so I wanted to share a bit of what we are doing to break down The Big Idea of natural disasters. The first thing we are going to do is define what a natural disaster is and what is it is not. We will be starting by watching a basic video on Brain Pop (our school has a subscription) entitled "Natural Disasters-Sometimes Bad Things Happen". From there we will be working with a Frayer Model to define and make sure we all know what a natural disaster is. For Grades kindergarten through second we will be working on the Frayer Model together, but grade three and above will be working in triads or pairs to complete the Frayer Model.

Using our Frayer Models we will make a list of our examples of natural disasters on the board. We will then have a discussion about the fact that one of our goals in a CBL project is to help others and based on our location some of the natural disasters on our list might make better choices than others. I will ask the students to consider both their experiences and who our audience might be. We will then take a vote on which natural disaster we want to focus on. 

* A Portable Document File (pdf.) version of the Frayer Model could be put into an app like Notability on the iPad and students could record their responses that way.

After we have chosen a disaster we will be working on an "All Write Round Robin".

-First, take several pieces of chart paper each with one of the following questions in its center: What you know about ....? What you would like to know about......? What do you think we might need to know about ....? 
-Next, the students will be given different color writing utensils.This is done to track individual student's comments, thinking and involvement.
-Students then write down what thoughts they have about the question without talking. Letting students know that they can piggyback on thoughts and comments of others. 
-Students rotate between chart papers until all students have been at each piece of chart paper.
-We will discuss and consolidate "All Write Round Robin" information.  
-Finally, model and guide students to recognize patterns in this consolidated information. It is through those patterns that a challenge should begin to arise. 

*This same process could be done in a Google doc., Wiki or any online program that allows multiple editors. However, due to the fact that we are dealing with elementary school age students (some as young as five years old) I felt it best to use chart paper. 

 Please note: A variety of graphic organizers (including graphic organizing software and/or applications) can be used to help students to break down a big idea.